Matthew Continetti argues somewhat counter-intuitively with more than a taste of sour grapes that “…this has been a long campaign. The reason has nothing to do with when the primaries were scheduled. The early primaries were a symptom, not a cause. The cause is Bush.”
Starting with Hurricane Katrina, a large portion of the country simply wrote off Bush’s presidency. That grew worse as the Iraq war worsened and the Democrats took Congress in 2006. As Jeffrey Bell has pointed out, Bush’s dismal popularity has driven all politics ever since. It is the country’s desire to move beyond Bush, as well as his lack of a successor, that has made this election last so long and propelled Barack Obama to the edge of the presidency. For these reasons alone, George W. Bush is one of the most consequential presidents in history.
No matter who wins today, Bush has only two-and-a-half months left as president. The Bush effect on American politics will vanish. His successor will determine the next debates, issues, controversies, and scandals. And he will likely be far more popular than Bush 43. The next campaign will not be as long as this one.
Obviously, Continetti does not advocate primary election reform.
Jeffrey Bells’ long-winded redirection effort tries to save Bushism while tossing overboard its inept vehicle. It’s a piece with the media meme, that the nation is still “senter-right”. I would tend to argeu that the national electorate and districts are becoming balkanized, and logrolling winning coalitions will still remain a Sisyphean task. Continetti’s last sentence has an even bitterer snap: what if the “center-right” nation is repulsed by an Obama administration? Instead, I think the choice is between a transformational presidency, like 1972, or the various factions, social conservatives, Hispanics, libertarians, unions, etc. will again be up for grabs. It also undermines the role Barack Obama and his campaign played in his election: it was his best resume bullet. And, in four years, the Obama administration’s performance will determine the nature of the 2012 election.
David Brooks on the Online Newshour also disagrees with this thesis right as I type. He blames the failure of the Gingrich revolution to cement the advantage of the Republicans well before George W. Bush starting screwing up.
Still, this is a rather tall way to make George W. Bush important.
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