The huge Democratic turnout in the Iowa Caucuses, over twice that of the GOP, and the stampede by independents to vote in the Democratic precincts, suggests that Iowa, a swing state carried by President Bush in 2004, may be lost irretrievably to the GOP in 2008.
Why is Iowa walking away from the GOP? Why did Barack Obama win almost as many votes as all the Republicans put together?
First, Iraq. Parties that march nations into what the people come to see as unnecessary or unwinnable wars face the inevitable consequences.
Truman found that out when he was trounced by Estes Kefauver in New Hampshire in 1952. Lyndon Johnson found that out when Sen. Gene McCarthy captured 42 percent of the vote in New Hampshire in 1968 and was about to humiliate LBJ in Wisconsin. LBJ stood down, before the country threw him down. Richard Nixon took the helm.
The GOP lost Iowa because of its persistent failure to recognize and its refusal to address the anxiety and insecurity of the middle class.
George H.W. Bush's failing in 1992 is the failing of son George W. Bush. With the sole exception of Mike Huckabee, the GOP seems unable to comprehend how throwing U.S. workers into Darwinian competition with foreigners earning one-fifth or one-tenth their wages impacts the Reagan Democrats now deserting the GOP. A party that used to admonish one and all, "There is no free lunch," cannot see that free trade is no free lunch.
Moreover, the party is mired in the past, looking back to the time of Reagan. Reagan was a good man and a great president, but our time is no more his time than the Eisenhower 1950s were like the 1920s.
While the GOP is in grave trouble, defeat in 2008 is not foreordained. The Democrats are winning not because of the superiority of their candidates or ideas but because the Republicans are perceived as failing. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has the answer to what ails America. Both, and Barack especially, have moved far outside the mainstream of the nation.
"I am the change agent," each of the Democrats proclaims. But when this country is facing an entitlements crisis with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- unfunded liabilities adding up to scores of trillions of dollars -- is it not madness to promise 50 million people, half of them immigrants, legal and illegal, national health insurance?
Who is going to pay for this when the states are heading back toward bankruptcy, the economy is slowly sinking, U.S. companies are being taxed up to 40 percent and the most successful Americans are already paying half their income to local, state and federal governments?
Does anyone think Democrats have an answer to the immigration crisis that now grips every great American city? The amnesty, the "path to citizenship" they favor, will mean the next invasion will be the last and decisive invasion that makes America unrecognizable.
Does anyone think the Party of Government that depends on government workers and unions at election time can make government more efficient? Does anyone think that a party that depends on teachers unions and the NEA can reform the social Katrina that is inner-city education in America? Was it not Democrats who ran the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana in the time of Katrina? But the American people want change, and Democrats represent change.
On issue after issue, the Republican Party, if it stood true to its beliefs and purged the twin heresies of neoconservatism in foreign policy and Wall Street Journal ideology in trade and immigration policy, would still stand well with Middle America.
Most Americans are traditionalist on right to life, homosexual marriage, a polluted culture and Hollywood values. Most Americans believe in a defense second to none, while staying out of wars that are not our quarrels.
Conservatives never believed in the United States going into nation-building abroad because they never believed in government nation-building at home. Nations grow organically. They rise from the soil of their own history, culture, faith, traditions.
Republicans believe in conservative judges and strict-constructionists justices like Antonin Scalia, who do not write the laws, but interpret the laws we have written through our elected representatives.
Democrats know this. Thus, they are not promising us any new Ruth Bader Ginsburgs.
What has alienated America is the Bush bellicosity, the my-way-or-the-highway free-trade ideology, the refusal to defend the border with the implication that anyone who wants to preserve the country he grew up in is some kind of bigot. The Party of Reagan is losing the country because it is no longer the party of the principles, policies and persona of Reagan, as applied to the problems of our time.