The War for the Soul of the GOP
If you remember Ron Suskind's article in the New York Times Magazine from October 17, 2004, you should recall that Bruce Bartlett predicted that a victory for Bush would lead to a civil war inside the Republican party to counteract the messianic fervor of the evangelical right. My response then was that the Bartlett side would find that they were badly outmatched by the true believers that made up Bush's shock troops and the Bush true believers would target the apostates within the party just as strongly as the Democratic traitors outside the party who dared to oppose Bush - the one true arm of Christ.
Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.
''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .
''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''
So, consider the fact that as Steve said, Bush was stoical about hearing he was about to lose the election on November 2nd. But then late afternoon, the tide turned and the legions of God showed up in sufficient forces to overcome the armies of voters that went to the polls to vote for someone else. What did those around Bush tell him about this miraculous turnaround? Did they tell him that God had intervened to save him? And if no one said that explicitly, did Bush still assume that God had once more shown that he was God's instrument in the battle between good and evil?
And what are we to make of the fact that there are hundreds of stories in the media about how the Christian evangelicals showed up in droves to vote for George W Bush? After all, 22% of the voters declared that their most important issues were moral concerns and this led them to vote for Bush. And now we are learning that hundreds (if not thousands) of evangelical churches actively worked to elect Bush. (And all of this was part of Rove's ground war - get the evangelical vote out for Bush.)
Nevertheless, why so many stories about these voters right now? Is it to reinforce that Bush is the candidate for those who are religious? Do they believe that Bush was annointed by God (and therefore infallible and untouchable)? If the battle for the soul of the Republican party has been engaged, then I'd say the "reality-based" contingent of the Republican party has been put on notice that the "faith-based" side is going to get theirs this time.
Is it true that Bush got his edge from the fundamentalist Christians that believed he was the arm of Christ? Or is this just another mindgame from the Rove machine to convince Americans that Bush is inevitable - annointed by God and the winner of the most votes ever gotten by a President?
And if Rove's game is to consolidate power for the next 50 years for the Republicans, what do you think are the consequences of letting Bush, someone who has shown he is susceptible to meglomania, believe that God miraculously intervened in his 2004 election? If he really believes God tells him what to do, is there anything he would not do if he believed it was God's plan (even if it was really given to him by Satan)? What restrains Bush today? Is it possible that the demand for purity becomes so great that Rove would find himself the next Robespierre? And what happens to those Republicans that voted for Bush believing they would "fix" the problems after he and his goonish followers are given their "mandate"? If he really believes he is the arm of God, then all of us will find out soon enough.