The Bush administration and its heavyweights spent the latter portion of this past summer trying to explain to themselves, to one another, and to American voters why the policies it has inflicted on the nation have not really been the unmitigated disaster they have proved to be.  Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to defend the PATRIOT Act and similar internal-security measures that have managed to alienate both the ACLU left and the mainstream right.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Princess Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Dick Cheney (not to mention the President) were unleashed to defend, explain, and invent new justifications for the murderous Iraqi quicksands into which they have dragged the country.

Yet even their fertile imaginations proved inadequate.  Most of what the administration’s spokesmen claimed was virtually identical to the distortions, exaggerations, unsupported speculations, and outright lies—about WMD’s, the Saddam-September 11 link, the bucolic happiness of Iraqis with the American Global Democracy that has now swallowed their country—that the same people served us before the war and before they had been disproved by experience (as opposed to the common sense that rejected them originally).  On top of these difficulties, the U.S. economy sputtered and sighed, with unemployment at more than six percent and the number of workers unemployed for more than six months at its highest level since 1992—an ominous year for presidents named Bush.

By mid-October, political tea-leaf readers in Washington were discerning signs that the administration’s leaders were starting to turn on one another, measuring their own colleagues to see who looked good to take the blame for the boondoggles.  CIA Director George Tenet, who probably had less to do with concocting the lies about the nonexistent WMD’s than most in the Bush high command did, seemed to be the logical candidate.  Mrs. Rice suddenly emerged as the commissar responsible for the “reconstruction” of Iraq after its glorious liberation by the Yanks last spring, taking that choice morsel from Mr. Rumsfeld’s own platter (the secretary seemed none too pleased, snapping angrily at reporters who asked too many questions about it).  Then there was the little matter of which neocon munchkin in the administration leaked the identity of Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife as a CIA agent to erstwhile “unpatriotic conservative” Bob Novak, a deed that could earn the perpetrator a federal prison sentence.  (Inside dopesters pointed either to convicted felon Elliott Abrams in the National Security Council or to some other neocon in the Vice President’s office.)  In the nation’s capital, as well as in parts of the country where the truth can still be expressed, the suspicion was that the Bush administration was starting to crumble from within.

Aside from internal Cabinet food fights, the most obvious crumble was within the GOP, with even the dittohead stalwarts of the Stupid Party grousing about the $87 billion Mr. Bush requested to complete the cakewalk to global democratic utopia in Baghdad.  Eventually, the administration got most of the swag, but not without some embarrassing moments and unpleasant back talk from Congress.

Then came California, and everything was OK again.  Arnold ousted the odious Gray Davis, beat the preposterous Cruz Bustamante, and even won some 30 percent of the Hispanic vote.  The latter accomplishment caused the pundits on the East Coast to warble cheerfully.  In the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes gabbled about the impending “Republican realignment” that the California recall confirmed beyond doubt.  The illustrious Novak proclaimed that California now proved that Bush could win the state next year and thereby salvage himself from oblivion.  “The principal reason to think that Bush can carry California in 2004 after losing it so badly in 2000,” he wrote, “is the changing Latino vote. . . . Latinos are in play politically.”

Latinos are not “in play politically.”  They gave 30 percent of their votes to Arnold this year in California.  In 2000, California Latinos gave 28 percent of their vote to Mr. Bush, who had pandered sedulously to them and did not have Schwarzenegger’s “baggage” of having supported Proposition 187 in 1994.  A two-percent gain (assuming it is outside the margin of error of the exit polls) is insignificant: Hispanic voters have consistently delivered about 30 percent of their vote to Republicans in most elections since at least 1972.  There is no evidence that any more than that are leaning Republican.

Yet winning the Latino vote is a straw at which Republicans and the neoconservatives who have shamelessly exploited the pitiful President to pursue their own wars and policies abroad have to snatch.  George W. Bush won the election in 2000 only after protracted and probably extralegal shenanigans over the Florida vote, and he lost the popular vote outright.  Had Ralph Nader not been on the ballot, Al Gore would have won the election easily, and Mr. Nader probably will not be in the race next year.

What remains for the Bush boys is the white vote.  Steve Sailer, a veteran political analyst for United Press International and a frequent contributor to, has long argued (as have I) that the key to Republican victory lies in capturing as much of the white vote as possible, not in pandering to minorities who will not support any right-of-center ticket anyway.  Schwarzenegger won California with a majority of the white vote this year, and Mr. Bush won with 54 percent nationally in 2000.  He needs as much or more to win again, and, as long as the Democrats have to prostrate themselves before their own minority constituencies, he has a good chance of getting it.

If the Democrats are smart (and they are—nobody ever called them the Stupid Party), they will understand that all the “compassion”; all the denunciations of the Confederate Flag; all the chatter about amnesty; all the affirmative action, welfare, and hate-crime laws will not help if they cannot take more white voters from the Republicans.  The real legacy of mass immigration and the overt racial demagoguery that has animated American politics for the last 30 years is a political culture in which the political dynamic of race drives both voting and the campaigns that compete for votes.  How that dynamic works itself out next year will determine whether this President Bush will stay in office any longer than the last one.