Okay, some folks have asked me lately for my take. Here it is:
Texas tends, on the ideological spectra, to lean strongly libertarian. In other words, a Texan “moderate” is, for the rest of America, a mild libertarian (not an ideologue like me). The average Texan wants as much local governance as is possible, and as little federal governance as is prudent… and will debate what constitutes “prudent” in a calm and seemly manner. That said, Miers, a fairly squishy liberal at SMU who found God and went literalist, is certainly not going to satisfy conservative ideologues. SMU isn’t where you go to school because you’re smart… but it’s not stacked up with imbeciles, either. You can get a very good education there if you’re one of the few who actually tries.
However, if one takes a look at who she’s replacing, Miers is likely to be a *vast* improvement over O’Connor. I personally tend to think that a lot of the Evangelicals’ dispensationalist theology hews to evidence of forebrain-removal, but somebody who is inclined to take texts at their face value, with as little interpretation as possible, may be precisely the corrective required for O’Connor, who frequently subjected the Constitution to incredible convolutions. It may not be a bad thing at all to have an un-brilliant literalist reading “what the words say” when it comes down to understanding the Constitution. After all, that description fits me pretty well.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sean Hannity I’m not. I don’t “trust the President” as far as I can throw a piano. Geopolitically, his response to the Islamofascists has had some real hitches in execution, but is the only credible response to it available to us politically. The teams the Dems would put forward for the job are a disaster (remember Madeline Not-So-Bright?) — and don’t think I’m happy about having my nose continuously rubbed in that fact. In terms of civil liberties, the big intrusive bills have been passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and cheerleeding on both sides of the aisle: a pox on both their houses.
(And yes, it’s one side or the other on this. My ideological party of choice, the Libertarians, have a position that would be absolutely perfect if we were working from a historically-clean slate. But we’re not, and abandoning our treaty partners and the high seas to military pacifism/isolationism would result in a global bloodbath within six months.)
Domestically, I think he’s been an almost-unmitigated disaster. The areas in which I think he’s done okay are union-busting and spending political capital to push tax cuts. Tiny tax cuts, for sure, but tax cuts, and cuts across-the-board, not little social-engineering credits that the Democrats put forward, that you only do if you rearrange your life the way the guys in power want you to. In terms of the unions, actually keeping at least part of DHS from turning into a union sinecure for bureaucrats was good, and using the combination of ridiculous costs from hurricane Katrina relief as a means of utterly discrediting, rather than merely temporarily suspending, the Bacon-Davis Act is the sort of slippery, twisted, political sleight-of-hand genius that I’ve come to expect from and admire about the President. Heck, they’re now debating that one in Salon, of all places.
We need more of that underhanded brilliance. Miers may be part of that. Don’t know. But I don’t think the President and Miers are all that relevant to the 2006 elections. Rather, I think that the Congressional Primaries are where the real ideological battles are going to matter. After all, if you care about pork and spending in Congress, chances are you have a pretty good idea where your Congress-critter stands. Mine, Pete Sessions, isn’t nearly as good as I’d like, but is tons better than anything the Dems have come up with. There are Republicans out there who have not been afraid to take serious friendly fire politically in order to stand up for fiscal discipline.
The Democrats are the same way. Everybody knows that Hillary will still be the nominee in ’08, no matter who Hollywood and the hyper-rich leftists (insert irony here) push on the party. But in 2006? The Democratic Party honestly believes that it is moderate and ideologically neutral — which is obviously not so, since all those “neocons” they currently despise are nothing other than JFK Democrats who’ve been effectively booted from the party for ideological impurity, and certainly not heartless Republican “realpolitik” wonks. Party activists who hold moderate liberals like Lieberman to be a DINO (Democrat in name only) need to seriously examine where they sit on the ideological spectrum, and how they can stretch themselves to appeal to their own axis, let alone a very different center.
In short, both parties are undergoing serious identity crises, and what the President does to achieve and to fail may hold down Republican turnout somewhat — but it may also be a serious spur for each side to get “their man” on the ticket. It’s far more complicated than it looks at first blush.