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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs