Those of us awake and paying attention when the Soviet Union collapsed may have learned a few things from it. One, it happened without warning; or, more to the point, the warning signs were not broadly seen for what they were. Two, it happened really quickly; one crack - provided by Gorbachev's policy of glaznost, which was mainly an official acknowledgement of how rotten things had become - was all it took. Three, it was pretty thorough.
The imminent implosion of the Republican party, an ongoing process which got underway after Katrina hit, will begin in earnest on election day and should be over in November, 2010. Yeah, I know I'm going out on a limb here, but I've been right about a few things lately and I'm feeling good.
First of all, don't expect TV to bring you any notice of this, well at least for another couple years. The television networks are chock-full of amoral, pay-for-play sociopaths greatly in tune with the way the Repubs have done business for the last ten years. Indeed, later sociologists may find rich territory examining how the image-conscious, poll-driven, self-absorbed values of network TV migrated to the Republican machine after Goldwater's loss. (Say what you will about ol' Barry, he was guilty of none of the above.) No, network TV, all network TV, not just FOX, is a part of the creaking apparatus that is coming down.
How, you might ask, is all this happening? Beyond an unpopular president and the hateful goons around him who prosecuted a pointless war, beyond the hard economic times for most Americans - the school loans and credit card debt, the healthcare costs, the low-paying jobs, the expensive and bad transit systems, the penniless school districts - beyond the corrupt, do-nothing congress; all such torments have been survived in the past, why should things fall apart now?
One, people reliably loyal to the old system, that is those who felt good about Ike as a general and president, who thought Nixon had just the right tone, who watched Ronnie on TV since Death Valley Days die by the thousands every day. They are not being replaced. Two, the corporate contributors to the Republican party no longer employ enough Americans to make the companies' wider interests politically agreeable. When corporations like Ford, U.S. Steel, the Bell System, Burlington mills bought access and contracts in Washington, one could argue that benefits did accrue to the working stiffs who made those companies great. You tell me, Mr. GOP, how many voters can Bechtel, Halliburton, Black Water, the Chase Bank, etc say they directly benefit?
Which brings us to Three, the religious nuts used to mobilize votes. These useful boobs are ultimate poison to a political party; moody, fractious, not-especially-bright in their broad numbers, and - more to the point - utterly intolerant of compromise. When the chips are down, as they are now for the GOP, these people are gimlet-eyed liabilities when it comes to appealing to the broad electorate. If your coalition mainly relies on religious nuts, you are done for.
Finally, what is pressing all this together in a gruesome reaction is Four, the nature of digital media. Events move very fast now, inner lives are more exposed, feelings are more important, individuals have greater visibility. This is a strange, in some ways a more shallow and less private world. But it is where we are now, and all the old political assumptions of the GOP (based on an absurd melange of flinty independence, repressed emotions and blind loyalty) mean less with each passing day.
Now why isn't this happening also to the Democrats? I will address that shortly, I swear.