It has occurred to me that both parties increasingly dislike their bases, but for different reasons and to different degrees. By both parties I mean the leaders and representatives of the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. I believe I correctly observe that they feel an increasing intellectual estrangement from and impatience with the activists who people their base of support.
In the past, Republican leaders in Washington bowed either symbolically or practically to the presumed moral leadership and cleanness of vision of the people back home. They understood the base wanted tax cuts and spending cuts, and for serious reasons. The base had deep qualms about abortion. The base intuitively recoiled from big government: They knew the best arrangement was maximum possible power to the individual and limited, policed, heavily checked power to the state. Or, as some back home might have put it, Don't put your faith in governments, which are made by men; put your faith in individuals, who are made by God.
Republican leaders in the capital bowed to this wisdom--if not in their actions, at least quite often in their hearts.
Now they seem to bow less. They know the higher wisdom on such issues as immigration. They feel less fealty to the insights of the base. They know more than the base, are more experienced than the base, have a more nuanced sense of reality. And as for conservative social issues groups, the politicians resent those nagging, whining pushers-for-the-impossible who are always threatening to stay home or go elsewhere. (Where?)
Some Washington Republicans have been in leadership so long they've learned--they've learned too well!--that politics is the art of the possible. It is. But this is not an excuse to be weak, or ambivalent, or passive, or superior.
Here is my read on a lot of Democratic senators: They think they know more than their base and they think they're more--how to put it?--stable in their view of the world than their base. In their hearts, in fact, they don't really like their base. (They like--they love--the old base: old union guys who drink Schlitz and voted for FDR and JFK. But today those old union guys are mostly dead, dying or Republican.)
Democratic leaders in Washington are in a worse position than Republican leaders in Washington. Neither likes their base, really, and both think they are smarter. But the Democrats think, deep down, that their base is barking mad. The Republicans don't. They just think their base is a bore.
Interesting analysis that I think is spot on. The Democrats are in a tough position because their base is rabidly anti-Bush. However, that rabidity turns off a majority of the voters so it they appeal to it too much, they will continue to lose. It's why you see so many Democrats talk about setting a timetable to pull out of Iraq only to vote against it when given the opportunity.
Meanwhile, the GOP ignores its base quite frequently. They're starting to get their act back together, but they've got a long way to go to make us happy.