The Architect

The most fascinating section of Jeffrey Goldberg's look at the GOP in the summer of their discontent is the bit where erstwhile boy genius Karl Rove outlines his long-term vision:

Rove thinks that more voters now are being influenced by technology and religion. “There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” he said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.” As for spirituality, Rove said, “As baby boomers age and as they’re succeeded by the post-baby-boom generation, within both of those generations there’s something going on spiritually—people saying it’s not all about materialism, it’s not all about the pursuit of material things. If you look at the traditional mainstream denominations, they’re flat, but what’s growing inside those denominations, and what’s growing outside those denominations, is churches that are filling this spiritual need, that are replacing sterility with something vibrant, something that speaks to the heart of the individual, that gives a sense of purpose.” Rove believes what he has always believed: that the Christian right and, to a lesser extent, tax- and regulation-averse businessmen will continue to assure Republican victories.

The shallowness of the thinking here is striking. Ross observes that Rove seems unfazed by the fact that this vision of an increasingly market-oriented, increasingly non-materialistic society at least seems to be contradictory. Nor does Rove seem to have given any real thought to his eBay factoid; what are these people selling?

More to the point: where's the evidence? Ronald Reagan wracked up huge majorities. George Bush has much smaller ones, and needed to soften the conservative message in order to do it. I'd say the fact that it's now more feasible for people to "run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur" means people are more interested in seeing the development of a policy agenda -- federal guarantees of health insurance, elder care, and basic child services -- that facilitate that sort of lifestyle.