Last year (look for it yourself) The Washington Monthly wondered if the Republican party could survive a second term of Bush. They compared the times to the Democrats situation in the late 60s.
The New Deal coalition fractured over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. When McGovern, the candidate of amnesty, abortion, and acid (as someone who now resides in the lower circles of hell once put it) won the Democratic nomination in 1972, it allowed for the definition of Democratic party as weak on defense, weak on the economy, and weak on the family.
Of course, that definition is and always was patently absurd. Defense spending rose under every 20th century Democratic president except Clinton and shrunk under every Republican 20th century president except Reagan. The stock market performed better under 20th century Democrats, and the microstructures of the family are fracture much more forcefully by the economic pressures on the working class requiring two incomes than they ever were by the microscopic portion of spending that went to welfare programs (which were in themselves aimed at trying to keep families intact).
The enemies of the rump Democrats after 1972–economic libertarians, hawks, and christian neo-fascists, and the rich–all found common cause in the Republican party. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as they say in the Middle East.
Of course, these different groups have little else in common. Economic libertarians are not at all concerned with the microstructures of the family, at least not primarily. They of course contend that Darwinistic economic processes will ultimately make more people prosper, but only as a consequence, not as a first principle. They are even less concerned with Biblical injunction, no matter how transcendental their faith in the invisible hand may seem.
Christian neo-fascists are concerned mainly with restoring the illusory “traditional family” whose breakdown they see as the root of all evils. But they also are unconcerned with the microstructure of the family as a first priority because homosexual or otherwise untraditional families are not allowed. A certain perfect order is their priority. They seem to be concerned with life, but at least tacitly sanction the use of war to further their worldview, and also tacitly sanction the death penalty (not universally, however).
The rich have no social agenda per se. They simply don’t want to be bothered with taxes on their estates and find the economic libertarians a convenient ally because they provide a pseudo-scholarly rationale for their selfishness.
But now, what was designed as yet another wedge issue to box in Democrats has turned into a lever to deepen the cracks between these groups within the Republican party: Terry Schiavo.
Bush and Congress have violated so many intellectual precepts of the Republican party in their action to “save” Terry in addition to the embarassing reality that they have lost. They violated “states’ rights” a key issue used to wedge away southern whites from the New Deal coalition. They violated the supposed sanctity of marriage by interposing the government’s decision making for the family’s decision making–“family” is only valid when it meets the definitions laid out by certain elements of the christian faith.
And the socially moderate Republicans — the wallet Republicans — want no piece of this. They are probably thinking a lot about Bill Clinton, and missing him.