The "Republican base" was against Bush before they were for him!

Recent events bring to mind a famous political maxim,

"Never interfere with your enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself."

While I've often seen the quote attributed to Machiavelli, Sissy Willis (in a comment here) traced it to Napoleon, who first said it in war:

never move when your enemy is destroying himself.
(I'm sure similar thoughts were uttered by Machiavelli, though.)

This is from the MSN biography of Lyndon B. Johnson:

In retrospect, it seems clear that the election of Johnson over Goldwater was almost unavoidable. Even so, Johnson made heroic efforts to win by as wide a margin as possible. Leading Republicans were courted and some of them won over. By the end of the campaign only four major newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Los Angeles Times, and the Oakland Tribune supported Goldwater. Senator Humphrey’s whirlwind campaign portrayed Goldwater as an enemy of social legislation and as a trigger-happy militarist. Humphrey emphasized Goldwater’s votes against the Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Johnson, meanwhile, campaigned as “President of All the People.” As the journalist Theodore White put it, “Never were Republicans denounced as such; the opposition was involved in its own civil war, and the president obeyed Napoleon’s maxim: ‘Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.’”

The result was an enormous landslide.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, political analyst Dick Polman is not interfering:
If the Republicans had cracked down too much on illegal immigrants - as suggested by the House GOP - then they would have risked alienating the fastest-growing electorate in American politics, one that Karl Rove has been coveting for years. Illegal immigrants can't vote, of course, but legal Hispanic voters have already demonstrated, most notably in California, that they view GOP attacks on illegal immigrants as a blanket insult on their ethnicity.

Yet if the Senate Republicans had managed to pass a program that would have paved a road to citizenship, they would have risked infuriating their core conservative followers - who have been agitating for the GOP to show some guts on border enforcement. In terms of short-term politics, it's probably just as well that the Senate's compromise bill collapsed Friday, because any plan that looks remotely like "amnesty" would be an invitation for the GOP conservative base to boycott the 2006 congressional elections.

In other words, Republicans risked alienating either the voters they want to have in the future, or the voters they have right now. Hence their paralysis.

But the problem now is that, by doing nothing, they risk alienating both groups.

It's a sound political analysis, and I think it's very wise of Polman (a Democrat) not to offer advice to Democrats. (It's also nice of him not to gloat.)

Far be it from me to offer advice to anyone. While I understand why some Republicans might see the need to run against an unpopular president, I do think it's a little unfair the way Bush is being pilloried for "betraying" his "base" on the immigration issue, because he's been entirely consistent all along. Whether you like it or not, there's nothing new about Bush's guest worker amnesty stuff.

In conservative Republican circles, I've noticed that attacking the president from the right is usually considered a form of political orthodoxy, while attacking him from from the left is heresy, and will lead to an immediate accusation of RINO! Which means that if I defended the president's position on immigration, I'd probably be called a RINO.

(Don't worry; I'm a RINO, but I disagree with amnesty idea. I think the present do-nothing system -- bad as it is -- remains better than legalizing people who came here illegally.)

When the "Reconquista" meme insinuated itself into those demonstrations a few weeks ago, the Republicans almost had an opportunity to do nothing, but either the Democrats or the demonstrators were too smart, and the crass anti-Americanism was toned down.

Both parties contributed to this problem, though. It's only because the Republicans are in power that they're stuck holding the bag.

It's a classic no-win. And now that Newt Gingrich has made opposition to the Iraq war a viable option for Republican candidates, candidates from both parties will be able to run against lame-duck Bush.

If I were a Democrat, I wouldn't interfere.

UPDATE: According to this story, the Republican leadership is running away from most of the immigration proposals.

Not that I blame them for running away. They are in a no-win.

(But because they're the minority party, the Democrats are in a no-lose.)

posted by Eric on 04.12.06 at 07:20 AM







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Is there a split among Democrats that is being underreported? You see, when there are factions among Republicans, this was touted by the paper as a split and weakness among the GOP. But the papers didn't particularly pay attention to the fact that th... [Read More]
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