Herewith, the bulk of Paul Krugman’s recent column in the New York Times.

(But wait – isn’t it time you subscribed to New York Times Select – both because it’s great, and because the world needs a healthy New York Times? You can start with a free trial; you can give subscriptions as gifts; if you’re a student or faculty member, you can get it even cheaper. Click!)

It suggests that the rightwing stranglehold on our government may have begun to crack.

Things Fall Apart
The New York Times
October 2, 2006

. . . At its core, the political axis that currently controls Congress and the White House is an alliance between the preachers and the plutocrats – between the religious right, which hates gays, abortion and the theory of evolution, and the economic right, which hates Social Security, Medicare and taxes on rich people. Surrounding this core is a large periphery of politicians and lobbyists who joined the movement not out of conviction, but to share in the spoils.

Together, these groups formed a seemingly invincible political coalition, in which the religious right supplied the passion and the economic right supplied the money.

The coalition has, however, always been more vulnerable than it seemed, because it was an alliance based not on shared goals, but on each group’s belief that it could use the other to get what it wants. Bring that belief into question, and the whole thing falls apart.

Future historians may date the beginning of the right-wing crackup to the days immediately following the 2004 election, when President Bush tried to convert a victory won by portraying John Kerry as weak on defense into a mandate for Social Security privatization. The attempted bait-and-switch failed in the face of overwhelming public opposition. If anything, the Bush plan was even less popular in deep-red states like Montana than in states that voted for Mr. Kerry.

. . . James Dobson, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, accused Republicans of ‘just ignoring those that put them in office.’

. . . In any case, just as the religious right was feeling betrayed by Mr. Bush’s focus on the goals of the economic right, the economic right suddenly seemed to become aware of the nature of its political allies. ‘Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from?’ asked Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, in an interview with Ryan Sager, the author of ‘The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party.’ The answer, he said, was ‘blatant pandering to James Dobson.’ He went on, ‘Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies.’

Some Republicans are switching parties. James Webb, who may pull off a macaca-fueled upset against Senator George Allen of Virginia, was secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. Charles Barkley, a former N.B.A. star who used to be mentioned as a possible future Republican candidate, recently declared, ‘I was a Republican until they lost their minds.’

So the right-wing coalition is showing signs of coming apart. It seems that we’re not in Kansas anymore. In fact, Kansas itself doesn’t seem to be in Kansas anymore. Kathleen Sebelius, the state’s Democratic governor, has achieved a sky-high favorability rating by focusing on good governance rather than culture wars, and her party believes it will win big this year.

And nine former Kansas Republicans, including Mark Parkinson, the former state G.O.P. chairman, are now running for state office as Democrats. Why did Mr. Parkinson change parties? Because he ‘got tired of the theological debate over whether Charles Darwin was right.’


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