My timing was spectacularly bad. I don't recall if this little epiphany occurred before or after the 1994 election and the full Gingrichization of the GOP. But in the intervening years, the GOP has hardened into the party of unlimited tax cuts and unlimited deficits, reckless unilateral warmongering, relentless immigrant-bashing and destruction of core civil liberties.
In recent weeks, as I've watched Obama go into post-election remission while the Republicans seize the whip hand on the Bush tax cuts and shamelessly hold New Start hostage, a kind of mirror-mantra has taken shape: the country can't afford another Republican president. That is, not until the GOP has been chastened by further electoral setbacks and forced to acknowledge a few elemental truths: you can't fix the structural deficit without increasing tax revenue, democracy can't survive nonstop further concentration of wealth, the U.S. can't remain the world's sole wealthy country that fails to offer universal healthcare or afford to leave medical inflation untamed, our response to every threat abroad can't be a unilateral preemptive strike, and our civil liberties can't survive long-term when the government sanctions torture and shreds the fourth amendment (Obama has helped sustained the latter outrage, but as long as Republicans bay relentlessly for terrorist blood, Democrats will never roll back the all of Bush's infringements).
Such a movement to restore Republican sanity is not going to happen any time soon. Candidates now at the front of the Republican pack would all make George W. Bush look like moderate -- if not by personal proclivity then by the imperatives of appealing to their base (cf. Romney: double Guantanamo! Trash New Start! Repeal
Ergo...I take the possibility that 9/11 precipitated a permanent U.S. decline more seriously than I did a few months ago, before the Republican electoral tsunami took full shape. I would be less worried if President Obama showed any awareness that he is up against a completely irrational and implacable, malign opposition and showed any indication that he would block their insane initiatives as relentlessly as they have blocked his modest and moderate ones. But as of now, it looks like mendocracy is in process of enabling a new wave of fiscal recklessness, militarism and authoritarianism. Electorally, it's the fire next time.