A Bush Realignment?



Whether it's reforming the national government pension system, Social Security or promoting freedom around the world, many analysts see a unifying theme in President Bush's vision for the future.

According to David Keene who heads the American Conservative Union, the nation's oldest and largest grassroots conservative political organization, the President plans to turn his agenda into Republican Party victories at the ballot box for years to come.

Mr. Keene says, Mr. Bush "has defined it as this 'ownership society' and a society in which individuals get to make choices and have control over their own lives. Social Security is part of that. And a lot of the other things he's doing are part of that. He's also trying to make certain that his party gets the major share of the demographic shifts that are taking place around the country that will allow him and his party to dominate the politics of the next few decades. But that's what the game is about."

Many observers say President Bush and the Republicans plan to reshape the U.S. political landscape by weakening support for the Democratic Party.

Just last week, the Republican-dominated Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation that would limit jury awards against doctors and businesses. The Bush administration says the goal is to cut down on what it calls "frivolous" lawsuits. Critics argue that it's part of a strategy to choke off campaign contributions to Democratic political candidates by the nation's trial lawyers.

Perhaps one of the biggest threats to the Democrats' base is the Bush administration's plan to reform Social Security. Since its creation during the Great Depression, the 70-year-old pension and benefits system has been a pillar of Democratic politics. While the President's proposed reforms address the system's financial problems, many analysts say these changes would also create a new generation of private investors and Republican supporters.

"There's no question about it. I think this is the Bush project," says Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute, which seeks to define and promote liberal politics in the United States.

 Mr. Marshall says, "This President is trying to bring about a partisan realignment and is very cleverly and systematically offering proposals that raid the other party's voters and territories. The President has fashioned his proposals on Social Security for 18-to-29 year old voters. They also happen to be the group that voted strongly for [Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry in the 2004 election. There's no question that this White House has systematically gone after Democratic constituencies in a bid to realign American politics with the Republicans in the majority."

Will Marshall predicts there will be a major showdown in Congress over the president's policy agenda. He expects a nearly unified Democratic opposition with some dissenting Republicans.

In addition to the President's Social Security reforms, some moderate Republicans oppose the Bush administration's budget deficits and the President's stance against abortion and homosexual marriage. And without solid support in Congress for the President's agenda, many analysts say any effort to forge a national political shift toward the Republican Party could be in jeopardy.

From the mid-1990s through the 2000 election, American voters were nearly evenly divided in their support of the two major parties. But David Keene of the American Conservative Union says last year's elections may have been a major turning point for the Republicans.

"The indicator in this race was that you had a relatively narrow, but very deep Republican win that went all the way down to the counties," notes Mr. Keene. "And that is the indicator of the kind of partisan change that Bush is now trying to accelerate."

Historically, the major accomplishments of two-term presidents have tended to occur during the first term. But some observers argue that President Bush's first term was short circuited by the September 11th terrorist attacks when he was forced to shift his focus from domestic policy to national security. Now Mr. Bush may be returning to his first term goals. But his chance for success may be fleeting.

Republican strategist, David Keene says, "At some point, people are looking not to you, but to who is going to succeed you in your own party and in the White House itself. So Bush has a couple of years in which he can make some real impact on these things and lock in the kind of majorities that he has been looking for."

But Congressional elections are less than two years away. And many members of Congress may have to focus more on what voters back home want than on the President's agenda. That, most analysts say, could dampen hopes for a Republican realignment in American politics.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs