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Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60480-2004Sep3.html?referrer=email Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party Concerns Include Changing
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2004
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60480-2004Sep3.html?referrer=email
      Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party
      Concerns Include Changing Electorate, Lack of Heir
      Apparent

      By Dan Balz and John F. Harris
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Saturday, September 4, 2004; Page A08

      NEW YORK, Sept. 3 -- Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a man
      known for frank talk, offered a blunt description of
      the state of his party, which broke camp here Friday
      after nominating President Bush for a second term.
      "The Republican Party," he said, "has come loose of
      its moorings."

      Hagel was not referring to Bush's leadership or his
      prospects for reelection but instead to the impact of
      a presidency that has seen the party embrace the
      largest deficits in U.S. history and a foreign policy
      that has put the United States at odds with many of
      its closest allies and heightened suspicion of
      institutions such as the United Nations.

      Hagel expects recrimination and worse if Bush loses to
      John F. Kerry, but he predicts that, win or lose, the
      GOP faces a period of introspection and debate over
      its future. "I think you've got a party that is in a
      state of uncertainty," he said.

      While many Republicans attending the convention
      dismissed Hagel's prediction as unduly pessimistic,
      there is likely to be a series of intraparty debates,
      starting after the election, over the size and role of
      government, the U.S. role in the world, and how
      Republicans can expand their coalition.

      Some Republicans believe that, if Bush is reelected, a
      second term will put a fresh face on the party and
      resolve some festering disputes. "I just don't feel
      that . . . a lot of these disputes between deficit
      hawks and supply-siders or between social and economic
      conservatives are going to create nearly the level of
      fissures or the number of fissures that they might
      have in the past," said Ralph Reed, former chairman of
      the Georgia GOP. "I think it's very hard to go back as
      a party once you've had a transformational figure."

      Yet Reed's conclusion is the opposite of the argument
      Republican speakers advanced throughout their
      convention, as they portrayed Kerry as a Democrat who
      would take the country back to a pre-Clinton liberal
      mind-set. Whether that is true or not, Democrats
      learned after the Clinton presidency and Republicans
      learned after eight years of Ronald Reagan that
      seemingly settled arguments suddenly reappear and that
      parties regularly face internal warfare over their
      direction.

      The future of the GOP will be shaped by party
      intellectuals, think-tank fellows and constituencies
      seeking to alter the balance of power within the
      party, as well as by battles in Congress over spending
      and taxes. But added to that is the battle for the
      party's 2008 presidential nomination. With Vice
      President Cheney already ruling out a run for the
      presidency, there is no heir apparent.

      Throughout the convention week, prospective candidates
      diligently made the rounds of delegation caucuses,
      with the Iowa and New Hampshire delegations particular
      favorites, and several of the party's brightest stars
      who might be candidates -- particularly Sen. John
      McCain (Ariz.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W.
      Giuliani -- lit up Madison Square Garden with their
      speeches.

      Change will also come from outside forces, most
      notably two powerful demographic trends that will have
      an impact on both parties -- the coming retirement of
      the baby-boom generation and the rapid growth of the
      Latino population.

      The boomers' retirement will strain the government's
      ability to fund Social Security and Medicare and will
      heighten the debate within the party about the federal
      deficit. "The day of reckoning is getting closer,"
      said John J. Pitney of Claremont McKenna College in
      California.

      The growth of the Latino population threatens to
      reshape the presidential electoral map in the
      Democrats' favor unless Bush and others in the GOP
      begin to increase their share of the vote in a
      constituency that remains strongly Democratic. That
      task is complicated by the traditional Republican
      instinct -- heightened in this security-conscious era
      -- to be tough on immigration. Still, Republicans say
      Hispanics should be attracted to the party's
      conservative values.

      While Republicans have rallied around Bush's
      leadership, a defeat in November will probably trigger
      a major reassessment of where the party went wrong. On
      both fiscal policy and foreign policy, Bush has defied
      the instincts of a significant segment of the party.
      Deficit hawks have been in retreat, as have those who
      favor realism, not moralism, in foreign policy.

      "The interventionists in the party will be in
      trouble," Pitney said. "If Bush goes down, so will
      Wilsonian rhetoric. A lot of Republican thinkers are
      going to be dusting off their Henry Kissinger books."

      Hagel, who has differed with Bush on Iraq and foreign
      policy, sounded ready to start the debate. "The
      Republican Party after . . . World War II was an
      internationalist party," he said. "We reached out. . .
      . We developed consensus in the world. That was done
      through many avenues, associations, coalitions and
      common interests."

      Today, Hagel said, many Republicans question the value
      of working so closely with those institutions,
      including the United Nations and NATO. Hagel also said
      that he fears the protectionist instinct within the
      party and that it could threaten the Republican
      commitment to free trade.

      Vin Weber, a former House member from Minnesota,
      dismissed Hagel's concerns about trade. Although the
      GOP has gone through a series of debates about trade
      since conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan
      first ran for president in 1992, Weber said, it "has
      been the party of free trade, it will remain the party
      of free trade, and I don't think there is a big debate
      over that."

      But on the question of the United States' relationship
      with the rest of the world -- on when, if ever, the
      United States should go it alone, on whether
      international institutions inhibit or enhance U.S.
      interests abroad -- Weber predicted a coming debate.
      "I think there is a division between the parties and
      maybe within the Republican Party," he said.

      Even more likely is a debate over fiscal policy and
      the role of government. Bush has presided over a
      significant expansion in the size and power of the
      federal government as he has built up the Defense
      Department and the new Department of Homeland Security
      to wage two wars abroad and protect the homeland. But
      coupled with his tax cuts, the deficit has exploded,
      and the long-standing tensions between deficit hawks
      and the tax-cut wing of the party have intensified.

      The tax-cut wing occupies a dominant position within
      the party, a shift over the past two decades from a
      time when what was known as the "green eyeshade" wing
      held sway. Republicans have accepted the growth of
      government under Bush as a necessary cost of dealing
      with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but
      party members predict a big fight over spending and
      deficits, either in a second Bush term or in Bush's
      absence.

      The party's problems attracting support from minority
      voters present another challenge that could spark
      debate. Bush strategists long ago identified the
      demographic time bomb of the Latinos' surging growth
      numbers and have said Republicans must improve the
      party's performance among Hispanics or suffer
      significant political consequences.

      Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) describes the party's
      racial gap in moral terms. Graham said the book "A
      National Party No More," written by Sen. Zell Miller
      (D-Ga.), whose biting critique of his party and Kerry
      produced one of the most riveting moments in New York,
      could just as easily be about the Republicans, given
      the GOP's limited support among Latinos and paucity of
      support among African Americans.

      "We're at the height of the Roman Empire for the
      Republican Party," Graham said, predicting a Bush
      reelection and expanded majorities in the House and
      the Senate. "But the tide slowly but surely goes out."

      A decade from now, Graham said, the party could be in
      terrible shape: "If we continue to lose 90 percent of
      the African American vote -- and I got 7 percent -- if
      we continue to lose 65 percent of the Hispanic vote,
      we're toast," he said. "Just look at the electoral
      map."

      Social issues present another concern for the party.
      Some of the most enthusiastically received speeches in
      New York were delivered by Republicans at odds with
      the party on abortion and gay rights, particularly
      Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

      Some Republicans see this convention as evidence that
      there may no longer be a social-issue litmus test that
      prospective presidential and vice presidential
      nominees must pass. Others, such as Weber, note that
      conservatives have won the social-issue battles
      decisively and that, in 2008, the party "is going to
      nominate a social conservative."

      McCain has differed with his party often and opposed
      Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to bar
      same-sex marriages, but on abortion and guns, he has a
      voting record in line with the current Republican
      orthodoxy.

      Giuliani has no such record to point to, but Whit
      Ayres, a GOP pollster, said Giuliani has the kind of
      political personality that transcends ideology. "He's
      got an image that's larger than life almost, which
      makes him a fascinating potential candidate," he said.

      Few dispute that a Bush loss will result in intraparty
      warfare, but with an open fight for the party's
      presidential nomination looming in 2008 and no obvious
      successor, it appears inevitable that the divisions
      Bush's leadership has bridged or overshadowed will
      reappear as his presidency reaches its final years.
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