If ever there were evidence that President Bush has become a lame duck, it would have to be Karl Rove’s departure from his administration. A man Bush has referred to as “the architect,” Rove was exactly that. Where Vice President Cheney wields immense power in the foreign policy sphere, Rove managed what he so lovingly called the “permanent Republican majority” here at home. Alas, that did not come to pass.
Rove’s legacy in the federal government will hopefully not long endure his exit. He was far more adept at being a political strategist than he was a public servant. He was instrumental in engineering Bush’s rise to the presidency in 2000, painting the candidate as a “compassionate conservative” when Bush was anything but, full in the knowledge that, in the 2000 campaign, an ideologue of Bush’s stripe would repel many voters who split their beliefs between liberalism and conservatism. The strategy was successful, as it were, getting Bush close enough to victory for the Supreme Court to step in and decide the issue.
In the White House, Rove maintained his close ties with the president, and brought his political acumen to bear on the civil service. One of the widespread problems in the Bush administration has been embracing loyalty over competence, and indications are that this has been the result of Rove’s efforts. From the politicization of science, the gutting of FEMA, the Republicanization of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, to the firings of United States Attorneys who showed a sufficient lack of Republican loyalty, Rove has been the public face of an effort to purge Democratic and independent-minded administrators from the ranks of the federal government, to the wide detriment of the operating of said government. The watchword for the Bush administration has been, and always will be, incompetence, and this has to do with the complete competence that Rove showed in gutting the federal government in favor of political cronyism.
Rove is one face among many that believe the Republican Party should hold a monopoly on government in this country. Like many conservatives, he believes that government should be used to further the political and financial aims of like-minded friends and lovers, the wider public be damned. As many a pundit has put it before, how can a party full of individuals who hate government be expected to run it well? Karl Rove stands out among the rest of his party as singular in his drive and ambition to marginalize political debate in this country. In Rove’s world, we would all march in lock step in service to our benevolent leaders, and those who question their leadership would find themselves cut out of opportunities for advancement in our society. If that sounds like an outlandish exaggeration, it is, but only because Rove’s efforts have led to such public disaster that he was partly responsible for the losses in the 2006 midterm elections. If the permanent majority had been successful, it would only have been a matter of time before the political controls in Washington extended to society at large.
Permanent Republicanism is not just a political revolution, but a social one. One that seeks to crush debate through withholding favors and influence, and seeks to impose far-right conservatism under an umbrella of ever-widening power. Rove’s departure, short of the completion of Bush’s last term, shows that it has failed. No party should have, or deserves to have, a monopoly on power. The dangers of one party rule are evident. Increased corruption, ideological patronage, and leadership surrounded by a closed circle of yes men have combined to create a perfect storm of bad government, at exactly the time we need good government the most. The country has not emerged unscathed. We are a more polarized society than we have been in a long while, due to the machinations of Rove and others like him. The faster the men and women who led us down this path ride off into the sunset, the better.