Something else unnerved me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Luckily, Ramesh Ponnuru did:
[Republicans] are happy about every sign that the Democratic party is lurching leftward, since they think a left turn would create the possibility for a Republican landslide. It will be 1972 all over again ... I write here to suggest that those Republicans who are conservatives ought not to be so cheery about what's going on. Conservative and Republican interests converge quite frequently, but not entirely. The resurgence of the Democratic Left is one of the places where they don't. It is something that would indeed help the Republican party, but not the conservative cause.It is, after all. I remember debating a Republican in college, a real party guy who liked the shock value of sticking up for Nixon. (This was a bit before Nixon became an "elder statesman" and was still just a discraced former president.) But Nixon, I said, was a liberal. I get the same liberal feeling from Bush. I'm rather fearful of a duplicitous lefty like Dean in power, but if Bush will only offer a slightly reduced-fat version of the Dem platform, what's the difference, really?
One of the reasons that parties benefit when the other party becomes extreme is that it allows it to hug the center. But if Republicans are moving to the center and Democrats to the left, that means both parties are moving leftward-that the center of gravity of American politics is moving leftward. Isn't that, too, part of the story of 1972?
I've never voted for the Republican, and it looks like 2004 won't threaten that streak. If Bush can swing Social Security reform, I might give him a look -- but so far he's given me nothing but soft soap tax cuts (ahem, maybe some tax reform, please?) and Democrat-lite rhetoric.