All right. It’s less than a month from the midterm elections. It’s getting wild out there. Here’s the situation.
Republicans have won both major national elections since Sept. 11, 2001. They’ve done so for two reasons.
One is that centrist voters, including women inclined toward Democrats on domestic issues, have worried most about national security and trusted George W. Bush and the Republicans to be tougher and more effective on defense.
The other is that evangelical churches put out the word subtly and otherwise that the Democrats were secularists who would make a Sodom or Gomorrah of our country by licensing homosexual marriage and assorted other abominations to traditional family values.
The security advantage set the Republicans up to win. The religious right fueled the sprint in the stretch run.
So now — today, as we speak — both those vital elements of Republican triumph are gone. Iraq is a tragic mess from which extrication seems impossible by any pleasant or successful scenario either for Iraqis or Americans. North Korea turns out to be a member of Bush’s famous “axis of evil” that actually possessed weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea apparently has tested underground, with a semi-dud result, some sort of nuclear bomb. Since North Korea has never before possessed a weapon it didn’t sell in the international market, we find ourselves faced with the prospect of terrorists possessing a nuke and that a semi-dud might be plenty for the terrorists’ purpose, which is our calamity.
Bush now calls for, and is wholly reliant on, the very international alliance against a clear and present enemy, North Korea, that he eschewed against a guy with no al-Qaida ties whose country he invaded only because growling old Dick Cheney thought it would be a good place to flex some old-fashioned American muscle.
We have but one good option, which is for the world to strangle North Korea economically. But that has risk, of course, and we can’t do it without China.
Centrist voters are thinking their security-conscious votes were miscast for a guy and party who put their sons and daughters at high risk of death and maiming while he let the rest of the world go to heck in a handbasket.
Then we have Mark Foley, who was the Republican congressman representing a religious conservative hotbed in Florida. It turns out that he was homosexual and that all the Republicans in Congress knew it, which, truth be known, is bad enough in the minds of evangelical voters.
Beyond that, he was a predator of young boys and the Republican leadership had at least a good idea about it and didn’t do anything for fear of losing his seat and inviting broader electoral repercussions.
Some evangelical voters are deciding that, when it comes to God’s will for traditional family values, Republicans must not be much, if any, better than Democrats. They intend to disengage from the hopeless cesspool of politics to try to save souls some other way.
Some number — any number — would be pivotal in a nation split so evenly.
Do the Republicans have a prayer? Yes. Bush offered it up the other night.
He reminded a partisan audience that, if Democrats win the midterms, Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House and Charlie Rangel chairman of Ways and Means. That’s both a direct message and a coded one.
The direct message is that both are liberals who would not let the recent tax cuts become permanent. The coded one is that Pelosi represents San Francisco, which is, you know, heavily gay, and Rangel is a black man who represents New York, and, well, that’s all we’re going to say about that.
On one side is the disaster of Iraq, the terror of North Korea and the demise of Mark Foley. On the other are the Republican poster children, Nancy and Charlie.