President Bush is in the midst of dealing with something that his critics have longed for throughout his presidency: a potential crackup of his Republican base. While the evidence of disarray among Democrats is legion and likely stymies their party’s efforts to reclaim political dominance nationally, most disconcerting for their strategists has been the overwhelming unanimity of rank and file Republicans.
Whether it’s Pew, Time, CNN or Gallup survey after survey over the last 10 years has revealed a growing level of discontent among Democrats. Whether it’s because their coalition of liberals, Big Labor, minorities, environmentalists, and feminists is inherently unstable, the discontent has made policy, strategy and communication development far more difficult for the national party. On the other hand, over the same period a remarkable phenomenon has developed: Republicans have become consistently more united and cohesive in their outlook and expectations of their party to the point where a bedrock of 85% of the party regularly registers approval of the party and their elected leaders.
In the wake of President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers as a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor progressives are hopeful that the GOP will become just as disorganized and divided as the Democrats are. But as the facts begin to spread among GOP activists these dreams will likely be dashed.
While it’s true that the Supreme Court’s activist tilt has been a key issue for Republicans, and thus selections are considered to be of critical importance, the party’s base is far more interested in the actual performance of a potential Justice than they are interested in Washington’s cult of personality. Many GOP’ers would have loved to see Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia named as Chief Justice, either individual was someone with a demonstrated track record of conservative jurisprudence. But that personal preference is more than offset by an appreciation that at the end of the day Chief Justice Roberts will be just as able in that role.
This is also the case with Harriet Miers. When all is said and done, the face of the Supreme Court Justice won’t be nearly as important as the actual vote on the critical issues coming before the Court. President Bush recognizes this and that’s why he selected her.