Small Precuations went on the record years ago with the observation that Bush will go down in history as "the Lyndon Johnson of the right": that is, as a President who, by pushing for the maximalist ambitions of his party's base, exposed the problems of the underlying political vision of that base, and, specifically, by embroiling the country in an endless land war in Asia, destroyed the dominant political coalition of the previous generation which he had inherited.
The 1968 Election: A Precedent?
Assuming this is a correct general analysis, it suggests that the 2008 election may have strong parallels to the election of 1968, the election which determined LBJ's successor. In that election, the defining issue was what to do about the needless, immoral war that President Johnson had presided over. The Texan president was massively unpopular, and the struggle among the Democrats to succeed him was between the establishment candidate, Hubert Humphrey, who represented the moneyed wing of the party, and who vowed to carry on the President's legacy, and Eugene McCarthy, who represented the animal instincts of the party base and who in many ways repudiated the sitting President. This struggle infamously culminated in the disastrous party convention in Chicago, at which the Democrats ultimately settled on the establishment candidate, Humphrey.
On the other side of the aisle, the party of opposition, the GOP, had to choose between an anti-war candidate of change (George Romney) and a scheming, unlikable man whose candidacy was rooted in claims of experience based on eight years as an understudy in the White House a decade earlier (Richard Nixon). Nixon generally managed to be evasive about what his real position was that epoch's land war in Asia, namely Vietnam.
In the general election in 1968, Nixon of course beat Humphrey handily, partly aided by a third party candidate splitting the vote. Once in office, he chose to continue the war that his Democratic predecessor had begun, while in general driving the opposition Democrats into deranged paroxysms of loathing. Four years later, the party establishment having been completely discredited, the Democrats gave in to the base’s desire for a candidate that represented their true feelings, nominating George McGovern, who was then eviscerated in the general election by the Nixon, despite his personal unpopularity. Of course by 1972, Nixon wasn't merely unlikable; he was an outright political criminal.
Will History Rhyme in 2008?
Certainly the Republicans in 2008 seem to be having the same struggle over the soul of their party that the Democrats did in 1968. They are currently ripping themselves apart trying to decide between candidates who represent the moneyed wing of the party, who vow to carry on the President's legacy (e.g. Mitt Romney, Rudy Guiliani), and ones who represent the animal instincts of the party base and who in many ways repudiate the sitting President (e.g. Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul).
Prediction #1: My guess is that the GOP of 2008 will ultimately reach the same conclusion that the Democrats did in 1968, and go with the establishment candidate, Romney (or, outside chance, McCain).
In the meanwhile, the Democrats in 2008 have to choose between a clear anti-war candidate, Barack Obama, and a scheming, unlikable woman whose candidacy is rooted in claims of experience based on eight years as an understudy in the White House a decade earlier, and who inspires intense loathing among Republicans—that is, Hillary Clinton. In another odd parallel to 1968, Clinton seems to be generally getting away with the Nixonian strategy of being evasive about what her real position is on this epoch's land war in Asia, namely Iraq/Afghanistan, while questioning the experience of her competitor.
Prediction #2: Just as Nixon prevailed among the Republicans in 1968, so Clinton will grab the nomination the Democrats in 2008.
Prediction #3: In a Romney-v-Clinton general election next year, Clinton will win handily (possibly aided by a third party candidate splitting the vote!).
Prediction #4: Once in office, I have little doubt that Clinton will choose the Nixonian route of continuing the Asian land war that her Republican predecessor has begun, while in general (again, like Nixon) driving the opposition into deranged paroxysms of loathing.
Prediction #5: If all this happens, moreover, it seems likely that the Republicans, their party establishment completely discredited, will in 2012 give in to the base's desire for a candidate that represented their true feelings, and actually nominate a real candidate of the religious right—who Clinton will then eviscerate in the general election despite her personal unpopularity.
It remains to be seen whether Clinton will also replicate Nixon's other political traits. What we know for sure is that it wouldn't come as a surprise to a lot of people on the right.