The Nation (emphasis added), on what happened when the Republicans had all the marbles. They lost them.
Although the Democrats may still find a way to lose the election in November, no serious observer would suggest today that it would be because they succumbed to an indomitable foe. Less than a full election cycle after Rove’s “permanent majority” was said to be upon us, Bush’s approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of any President since presidential job-approval ratings were introduced. Republicans in Congress are streaming for the exits. Surveys show young voters identifying as Democrats over Republicans by double-digit margins, and the 81 percent of Americans who believe the country is seriously “on the wrong track” have conservatives wondering aloud whether Rove’s dream has become a nightmare.
For forty years, the most important trait of conservatives of all stripes has been their unshakable conviction that their vision and their ideas are right. Moral permissiveness, a feckless foreign policy, a welfare-dependent underclass: all the viruses that had infected the body politic under the stewardship of liberals would be cured if only conservatives were given a chance. The right was united above all in its belief that a new Eden would dawn when Americans were liberated from the tyranny of government, whose intrusive hands reached unwarrantedly into every aspect of citizens’ lives (save, of course, the bedroom, where those hands were needed to prevent overly liberated citizens from indulging the wrong impulses). When Bill Clinton ended welfare and declared that the era of big government was over, the argument seemed to have been cinched: at long last, even Democrats had come to realize the folly of their ways. But something funny happened on the way to making the revolution complete: when Republicans were finally given the opportunity to free the citizenry from the chains of the Leviathan state, the result was crony capitalism, fiscal recklessness and bumbling incompetence on an unprecedented scale. The opportunity to govern without interference from liberals came, and the consequences–in New Orleans, in Baghdad, in neighborhoods ravaged by housing foreclosures, in levels of inequality unmatched since the Gilded Age–have been calamitous.