Wednesday, September 28, 2005

W and the Realignment of 2004--why the GOP can be confident about winning in 2008

2004: W and the September 11th coalition

1896: McKinley and the Realignment of 1896.

Fred Barnes is worried about the GOP's chances for the White House in 2008. So is Hugh Hewitt. They shouldn't be. 2004 was a in all likelihood a realignment election and one of the great decisive realignments of American history.

Realignments are not quirks of fate. They come almost as regularly as clockwork, occurring almost exactly every 36 years:

1788: Washington.
1824-28: Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian democracy.
1860: Lincoln and the Civil War coalition.
1896: McKinley and the system of'96.
1932: FDR and the New Deal coalition.
1968: Nixon and the Sunbelt coalition.
2004: W and the September 11th coalition.

In each of these realignments the victorious party took control of the nation, and retained it for 6-7 of the presidential elections in the cycle. There is every reason to think that W's victory in 2004 constitutes a similar watershed election. In the relative closeness of the election--and the amazing intensity and polarization of the public--it resembles McKinley's 1896 victory which redefined American national politics for a generation (see the maps for the close similarities).

The most serious challenge is rather whether W and the GOP can do anything constructive with their new position of leadership. Nixon squandered his leadership and failed in virtually every one of his objectives: Viet Nam was a defeat, his price controls and fiscal policy helped ruin the economy, and his disastrous Supreme Court appointments led to another generation of judicial activism.

The challenge for the GOP is whether it has the wisdom and the statesmanship to meet the challenges of the War on Terrorism, a new global economy, and the ongoing erosion of American social values. The debate over W's successor will play a key part in the process--as will the need for courage and determination in the next four years of the War on Terror.


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