"It seems like a century ago now, but it was only in 2005 that a National Journal poll of Beltway insiders predicted that George Allen, then a popular Virginia senator, would be the next GOP nominee for president. George who? Allen is now remembered, if at all, as a punch line. But any post-mortem of the Great Republican Collapse of 2008 must circle back to the not-so-funny thing that happened on his way to the White House.
That would be in 2006, when he capsized his own shoo-in re-election race by calling a 20-year-old Indian-American "macaca" before a white audience (and a video camera). "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," Allen told the young Democratic campaign worker for good measure, in a precise preview of the playbook that has led John McCain and Sarah Palin to their tawdry nadir two years later.
We don't know yet if McCain will go the way of Allen in a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1964, when LBJ vanquished another Arizona Republican in a landslide. But we do know that Obama swept like a conquering hero through Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, last week and that he leads in every recent Virginia poll.
There are at least two larger national lessons to be learned from what is likely to be the last gasp of Allen-McCain-Palin politics in 2008. The first, and easy one, is that Republican leaders have no idea what "real America" is. In the eight years since the first Bush-Cheney convention pledged inclusiveness and showcased Colin Powell as its opening-night speaker, the GOP has terminally alienated black Americans (Powell himself now included), immigrant Americans (including the Hispanics who once gave Bush-Cheney as much as 44 percent of their votes) and the extended families of gay Americans (Palin has now revived a constitutional crusade against same-sex marriage). Subtract all those players from the actual America, and you don't have enough of a bench to field a junior varsity volleyball team, let alone a serious campaign for the Electoral College."
Get the Story:
Frank Rich: In defense of white Americans
(The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/28)