<p>Interesting article by Thomas B. Edsall. I never knew any of this stuff about Rove.
Karl Rove was not yet a celebrity in 1997 when he told me the following story. In December 1969, during his freshman year in college, his father left his mother; and, shortly thereafter, his mother largely withdrew from his life. She "packed up the car, had the house on the market, and moved to Reno and said good luck," Rove recalled. After that, he was on his own. Rove put himself through two years at the University of Utah, working part time, earning a partial scholarship, and living in a makeshift bedroom under the attic eaves of his fraternity house. His father sent support checks, but his mother kept them, never telling her son. "My mother was one of these people who really thought often of what it was that she wanted in life, and not necessarily what was good or right for her family," Rove said. "And that was just her way. She never grew up. She could never think long term. She was always in the moment." When he was 21, Rove discovered that his father was not, in fact, his biological father and that he was the offspring of an earlier relationship. His real father had disappeared, and the man he knew as his father had adopted him. (Years later, he would track down his biological father, who refused to acknowledge that Karl was his son.) When Rove was in his mid-20s, his mother would call to borrow money. Occasionally, she sent him packages with magazines from his childhood or old, broken toys. "It was like she was trying desperately to sort of keep this connection," he recalled. Finally, in 1981, his mother "drove out to the desert north of Reno and filled the car with carbon monoxide, and then left all of her children a letter saying, don't blame yourselves for this." It was, Rove said, "the classic ****-you gesture." </p>
<p>The story of Rove's dysfunctional family tells a lot about the Republican Party machinery he would later help to perfect. Unlike baby-boomers, who smoked dope, protested the war, and lived with a succession of girlfriends before becoming middle-age liberals, Rove understood the longing of many Americans for a traditional nuclear family and a sense of social order. He grasped the values crisis brought on by the sociocultural revolution of the '60s and '70s because he himself had lived its worst consequences. And--like previous Republican strategists, including Kevin Phillips, Pat Buchanan, Charlie Black, and Lee Atwater--he realized that these sentiments, however crass they sounded to the ears of liberals, held appeal to many voters and could therefore be harnessed to his party's advantage. </p>
<p>At a moment when Democrats appear once again to be ascendant, they would do well to remember that the political majority Rove and his predecessors constructed was meant to withstand difficult moments like this one. In recent decades, the GOP has survived setback after setback--the Goldwater debacle, Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal, the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the failed bid to oust Bill Clinton from office, the loss of the popular vote in the 2000 election--and, on each occasion, has emerged stronger than before. Watergate may be particularly instructive as a historical parallel. In the scandal's aftermath, 1974 became a banner year for liberals: Democrats gained 49 House seats and added four Senate seats for a commanding 60-vote majority. Two years later, when Jimmy Carter won the White House, Democrats appeared to have solidified control of the country. Everyone knows what happened next. </p>
<p>Today, the philosophical and practical infrastructure on which the GOP constructed its majority remains as sturdy as it was in 1974--perhaps, thanks to Rove, even sturdier--and there is little reason to believe Democrats are in a better position to reestablish credibility with the electorate than they were three decades ago. Democrats may win back the House or the Senate this year, but, even if they do, the majority that Karl Rove helped to construct remains formidable. Whatever happens this November, no one should be fooled: The Democrats are still in deep trouble.
(cont.) May have to register (free) to continue article.</p>