Beginning with Nixon, and continuing with Reagan, the Republican Party took over the southern white racist vote, eventually assuming control of the South. The crazies of the Democratic Party -- or at least the children and grandchildren of the reactionary Southern Democratic crazies -- migrated into the Republican Party. Reagan and Bush 41 used the moderates and conservatives in the Democratic Party to gain majorities for their policies. Bipartisanship continued, in a fashion, and it continued to marginalize some in each Party; liberals were marginalized in the Democratic Party and the most radical reactionary elements in the Republican Party were given limited scope, as long as moderate Democratic votes were needed.
But, the Republican Party has been progressively ejecting its own moderate elements. Those Republican moderates were once the keys to power, but, under Bush 43, they became redundant.
Kevin Drum has summarized the progression:
"Over the past 30 years the Republican Party has gone from Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney — i.e., from conservative to reactionary to crazy to batshit insane — and Rove's 'two T's' are further evidence that they have no intention of rowing this back. They're obviously getting more desperate in the face of possible electoral defeat this November, but other than that they're just doubling down on the same old strategy of cultural bloodletting in the service of economic plutocracy.
For all the talk of Joe Lieberman being 'purged' from the Democratic Party last month, that was a one-off deal. It's the Republican Party that's been steadily (but relentlessly) purging moderates for the past couple of decades, swearing electoral death on anyone who refuses to accept Grover Norquist's screwball economic ideas. The result is that there's virtually no one left in the party who can be described as a moderate, and the party's continued existence depends wholly on nurturing the most radical elements of its base and then radicalizing them even further.
. . . I think the party's leaders know perfectly well that if they were to pause their project of radicalizing the conservative base for even a short while, the party would literally implode."
The Republican Party has becoming mostly crazy, and the passionate intensity of that craziness has become the key to power in turnout, replacing the moderate or liberal Republican, whose literature touted their compassionate conservatism and business experience.
There's a realignment going on in American politics. Moderates in the Republican Party are drifting, some of them very reluctantly, some with righteous indignation, into the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is growing among the politically aware -- admittedly a minority population in the U.S. in 2006, and the part, which is growing is the Democratic Right. It is a new Democratic Right -- not the racist faux populists of yesteryear, or even the corrupt DLC types of the Clinton years. These are people, who are genuinely upset by what the Republican Party has become, and where it is leading the country. And, there is a growing recognition that bipartisanship -- especially the corrupt and destructive bipartisanship of Joe Lieberman and other Vichy Democrats -- is no longer appropriate. The new Democratic Right is being defined by the Irate Moderates, who do not want to compromise with Republicans, and who are willing to risk sharing power with -gasp- liberals in their own Party, if they get only persuade the voters to grant them power.
Irate moderates are usually the key to successful realignments in American politics. Abraham Lincoln's base was not the relatively extreme abolishnists, but the moderates and conservatives, who had had enough of the Southern Slavepower's arrogance and intransigence, and who no longer wanted to elect politicians to compromise with them. The same was true of FDR's election; a patrician by birth, FDR campaigned and governed on moderate principles, often isolating the liberals and socialists in his own Party, but keeping the populists and machine politicians; he attracted a lot of people deeply frightened by the Great Depression and deeply frightened by the enthusiasm of some for revolution, as well.
There's a new element, though, and it is not encouraging. The Republicans are turning out a lot of people, who are not well-informed about politics. And, that becomes a problem for those hoping for a political storm and a shift in power as well as realignment. Political awareness is actually declining, especially among young people. The Republicans have control of the corporate Media, which is all Media, and they have successfully dumbed down news content, to reduce awareness and leave voters seriously confused and ill-informed.
It will be a close contest, between the well-informed irate moderates and those able to motivate the far more numerous know nothings, in 2006. (I expect the Democrats may just manage to gain control of the House, but not the Senate.) In 2008, after abject failure in Iraq, the exposure of a string of huge corruption scandals, and a nasty recession at home, it might not be such a close contest.