Saturday, October 01, 2005

Michael: A Finger in the Air

Political change is an odd duck. When the winds of change sweep in and rearrange the landscape like so much lawn furniture, it sometimes takes awhile before people realize that the world has been made anew. We may marvel the specific events that have transpired -- Katrina sank New Orleans, New Orleans sank Bush, DeLay drowned in corruption, Frist drowned himself, and the outing of Plame hovers like a political tsunami just off-shore – but we may not immediately recognize that these discrete changes add up to something much bigger.

That something is a political realignment in 2006 that will dwarf 1994 or 1980. Everything the conservative movement has built over the last 30 years has been upset in the space of merely a month. The narrative of a mighty morality play has fallen into place; it’s just a matter of time before the actors realize what scene they’re in.

The tale is about people who promised reform, conservative government, smaller government, responsible government, and instead delivered big-money corruption, secret deals, inept governance, the largest strategic blunder in American history, and a ballooning deficit. The players are ready to play their starring roles in this political tragedy; the Congressional leader who bought influence with corporate cash, the Senatorial leader who put his personal interest ahead of his ethics, the President who raised expectations for once in his life and spectacularly failed to meet them, the political hatchet men standing behind it all selling out the nation’s vital interests to carry out a petty political vendetta, and an entire Administrative chorus line so out of touch with reality that they lost a war and didn’t even realize it. Like all great tragedy, one fatal flaw links the protagonists: hubris.

This isn’t a matter for argument. It is just a feeling. It is a sense of momentum following the pause at a tipping point. It isn’t just a few enumerated things; it’s everything. There is a new feeling in the air. Certain truths that once had to be argued over are now eye-poppingly obvious. There is a wrong-footedness in everything the Republicans do, complementing nicely their perennial wrong-headedness, that wasn’t there before. Where once there was cunning, there is now only mean. Where once there was a formidable foe, there is now just a ham-fisted Bluto, whom it’s hard to take too seriously. Not everything is going the Democrats way – indeed, there is little evidence that our Popeye has yet swallowed his spinach – but bits are starting to fly off the Republican spin machine with alarming regularity.

The month of September now has an undeniable political resonance for all Americans. A September morning in 2001 changed the political fortunes of a floundering George W. Bush forever. As he put it, he “hit the trifecta” on that day. How fitting then, that it is September of 2005 that will be remembered by history as the month that undid the conservative movement and set the stage for the political sea change of 2006?

UPDATE: Now that I'm looking for more signs, I think one of the most promising trends is the likely pickup of major Governorships in 2006. This could broaden our future Presidential bench, and most importantly, ensure that the redistricting following the 2010 census is fair to Democrats and undoes the recent mid-term gerrymandering of the GOP.

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