Moving to the Right
After Kerry's loss in 2004, many many people blamed the "Howard Dean" wing of the party for the loss. It wasn't true then and, with Dean's solid leadership of the DNC, it obviously isn't any more true in hindsight. The pundits seemed dismayed that the Dems would embrace, as Paul Wellstone so famously put it, "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." What those pundits failed to understand is that Democratic-style Populism is what most Americans want. Healthcare, education, a distrust of Wall Street and large corporate entities, etc... are all things that resonate with the working class. After 2004's election and the abject failure of the Bush Administration in the following years, the Democrats are stronger than ever, much to the chagrin of those who predicted their imminent downfall in the winter of '04-'05.
So, with all this in mind, I am trying to figure if the same thing could possibly happen with the Republicans after their likely humiliation at the ballot box on Tuesday. We are already hearing reports of a revolt in the conservative branches of the party. Both social conservatives (aka hard right, fundies, etc...) and the fiscal conservatives are declaring that the Republican Party needs to get back to basics.
But I am not so sure that "the basics" will appeal to middle America. Shrinking the social safety net and dismantling the social-contract that helps ensure accessible college tuition and healthcare to poor pregnant women, etc.... is not exactly populist. On the social side, things like denying gay citizens equal protection and making abortion the single most important issue isn't quite as effective as it used to be at wedging voters.
Is the GOP in danger of ripping itself apart by becoming the party of the Palins and Limbaughs of America? Will people like Jane Swift, Christie Todd Whitman, John McCain circa 2000, Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell, etc... even be welcome under the tent of something that resembles the John Birch Society rather than the mythical party of Reagan?
I guess, to summarize my thoughts on what will likely happen, I'll paraphrase the late Lloyd Bentsen, "I knew Howard Dean. I worked with Howard Dean, And Governor Palin, you are no Howard Dean."