An Analysis of Roveology

By George Will

An Analysis of Roveology



Republicans have lost two of the last four presidential elections; their congressional majorities are small and vulnerable. So Hamburger and Wallsten’s intelligent book has a dumb title. This is a closely divided country, and its divisions seem to be hardening. It is not close to being a “one-party country.” Still, Ken Mehlman, GOP chairman, wonders: "If you get 51 percent, 51 percent, 51 percent, is that a durable majority?"

Durability is a matter of degree. The Republicans’ post-Civil War dominance, and the Democrats’ long ascendancy during and after the New Deal, ended. But 51 percent in presidential elections gives a party 100 percent of executive-branch power, 100 percent of the power to nominate members of the federal judiciary and ample power to help elect congressional majorities.

Hamburger and Wallsten know that “all presidents, at least since John Adams,” have rewarded friends and handicapped adversaries, but they credit “Rove and his lieutenants” with an unprecedentedly ambitious politicization of “the day-to-day functioning of the executive branch.” Republicans theoretically favor much less government. But they use business skills of market segmentation to defeat Democrats by mastering the favor-dispensing and constituency-assembling power of the sprawling government that Democrats did so much to build and justify. Conservatives might say that while Democrats, whipsawed by Republicans wielding the power of big government, are getting what they deserve, Republicans do not deserve the dominance they are thereby achieving.