Karl Rove's obsession with permanent Republican control of all three branches of government was evident when he and the author were both just high school students. Now Rove is closer than ever to fulfilling his lifelong dream of a Republican Empire.
Liberals have much to be depressed about in 2012. The radicalization of the Republican Party has dragged the country's political center of gravity sharply to the right, with only weak resistance mounted by the Democrats. The Citizens United ruling is playing out exactly as they had feared, unleashing a carpet bombing of the electoral process with "money of mass destruction" launched by a handful of billionaires whose lives and worldviews seem like even more of a caricature of callousness and greed than Gordon Gekko. Even if Obama survives the money blitzkrieg, it will undoubtedly drive the outcome in countless Congressional and state races.
In addition to historically liberal causes such as minority rights, middle-class jobs and environmental protection, today's liberals are beside themselves over our likely reaching the point of no return on the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the Republican Party holds the country hostage, doubles down on the same energy formula that has brought us to the brink in the first place, and mocks the majority of the population that believes in, well, science.
While there are multiple villains in the Republican Empire, the one person who has done more damage to American democracy in the last 30 years, and has the greatest potential to do further long-term damage, continues to fly largely under the radar. The closest thing America has had in modern times to a real life Darth Vader was not Dick Cheney, but Karl Rove, his marshmallow physicality and lack of helmet notwithstanding.
Karl and I went to high school together. At age 17, I was Karl's first political opponent, yet he was one of the few people whose friendship I valued enough to have him sign my yearbook. My first published op-ed piece in 2004 examined the early, emerging signs of Karl's character and political machinations, which I observed in high school.
Several books have been written about "Bush's Brain," most recently "Boss Rove" by Craig Unger. These books offer sordid details of Rove's long, highly successful, dirty-tricks political career, which started only a few years after I last spoke to him in 1968, in the halls of Olympus High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. For decades, he destroyed his opposition, specializing in tactics devoid of ethical, moral, factual or even legal restraint. The evidence is still swirling in Ohio that the Republicans are quite likely to have stolen the 2004 election by a Rove Internet consultant tampering with the computer vote tally in Ohio. That computer guru, Michael Connell, conveniently died in a single-engine plane crash on December 19, 2008. He had been deposed by attorneys investigating Rove, and there was credible evidence he had been threatened by Rove. Many people believe he was about to provide crucial information that would have implicated Rove and others in the Bush administration in fixing the vote.
After Rove resigned from his post as Bush's deputy chief of staff under the shadow of scandals and subpoenas, his political career was clinging to a thin lifeline thrown by Fox News. Then came the Leviathan from the Supreme Court, the Citizen United ruling, opening the door for Rove's resurrection. Unger makes a compelling case that behind the scenes, Rove has manipulated the Republican Party's multibillionaire donors to place him in charge of the enormous political war chest made possible by Citizens United.
But what should be added to Unger's exposé of Rove's rebirth is mention of the footprint that has been recently stamped all over the Romney campaign bearing the distinctive markings of Rovian ethics.
Liberal pundits, and a sizable portion of everyone who reads newspapers, have been left gasping for words at the dishonesty of the Romney campaign: ads making claims that are patently false, eager contradictions of the facts by Paul Ryan immediately upon entering Romney's inner circle and an even more brazen refusal to back down on their mendacity after being called on it. Romney's refusal to have his campaign restrained by "fact checkers" is classic Karl Rove.
Rove, in fact, launched his own political career suppressing the votes of delegates for his opponent in the election for chairman of the College Republicans in 1973. The 2012 nationwide voter suppression campaign by the Republican Party is now the fully baked strategy that Rove put in the mixing bowl decades ago. That the states that passed voting restriction laws just happen to be the same key electoral college swing states is part of his signature strategy to rig the national election for the Republican Empire.
If Romney continues to lag in the polls, you can count on Rove coming up with a last-minute, 2012 version of "Swiftboating" Obama, or worse.
In previous essays, I have made raw indictments of Romney's lack of honesty and dysfunctional moral compass, based partly on my experience attending the same church as Romney. Even so, I believe Romney has enough of a conscience that he would reject outright cheating on counting the vote. Virtually no one, from either party, would put Rove above that. What I do believe is that Rovian ethics have been adopted en masse by the Romney campaign, perhaps by direct influence or consultation with Rove. If the election came down to cheating once again, Romney would likely step away from direct involvement in that decision, but he would also rationalize willfully ignoring whatever Rove did to make it happen.
Virtually everyone but the extreme right recognizes how money, epitomized by Citizens United and seized upon by such billionaires as the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, is extinguishing representative government. But now, with towering mountains of money at his disposal and no legal constraints, Rove is free to assemble the Death Star to American democracy.
I saw the first glimpses of Karl Rove's obsession with permanent Republican control of all three branches of government when we were both just high school students. He is closer than ever to fulfilling his lifelong dream of a Republican Empire "crushing the rebellion."