Thursday, December 02, 2004

Rove Unleashed

Here's what to expect over the next four years of Bush's reign, from the horse's mouth:

For now, Rove's goals are at once more immediate and more lofty: to design a legislative and philosophical agenda that will lead to further GOP gains, and beyond that to a political dominance that could last for decades, as FDR's New Deal did. The core principles are clear to anyone who listened to a Bush stump speech. They are drawn from a well of conservative (and, in the 19th-century sense, "liberal") dogma: that only free-market democracies respectful of traditional moral values can bring us a planet of fulfilled citizens secure from terror. In fact, Rove's formulation is a new hybrid, willing to use big government in the service of markets and morality. Asked to name Bush's biggest accomplishment thus far, Rove replied in a flash: "His clear-eyed explanation of how to win the war on terrorism. It was the defining moment of our time." In other words, the Architect plans to be fully engaged in formulating foreign policy--and, while he isn't thought of as a leading neocon, his views are squarely within that camp.

On domestic policy, Rove has a theme at the ready: "the ownership society" he says the president wants to build. It's a bland phrase, but the ideas behind it are hardly status quo. One is to consider abolishing the income-tax system, replacing "progressive" (meaning graduated) rates with a flat tax or even a national sales tax or value-added tax. Another is to rechannel massive flows of tax money from Social Security to private savings accounts and into expanded medical savings accounts. Yet another is a crusade Bush and Rove have been pursuing since Texas: a national cap on damage awards in lawsuits.

In all cases, Rove wants to force Democrats to defend taxes and lawyers. Trained in the ways of direct-mail targeting, he doesn't want to seduce the whole country, just an expanded version of what he's already got. He's aiming at fast-growing exurban areas, where small-business entrepreneurs--mostly Gen-Xers--tend to distrust the New Deal paradigm of government. "We want to pay increased attention to those vibrant small-business climates," says Rove.

And it is in these places, where suburbs meet what's left of the countryside, that the GOP's conservative stands on social issues are welcome even (perhaps even especially) among younger families searching for stability and reassurance in a world of Darwinian economics. In the next term, Rove said, Bush will push--hard--for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union of man and woman, and for "strict constructionist" judges. "Voters like the president because he doesn't blink and he doesn't waver," says Rove, "and he isn't going to start. He says he values life, and he means it." The cold calculus: force Democrats to defend gay rights and unfettered access to abortion.
(via daily kos)