No one cares to rise above.

I certainly share Andrew Sullivan’s “good riddance” sentiment regarding the imminent departure of Karl Rove from the White House. Seriously, good riddance. While I think Mr. Sullivan correctly summarizes the blown opportunity that Republicans allowed Rove to deliver, he incorrectly hypothesizes the damage Rove caused:

Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war – and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president’s eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul.

The first two sentences are the perfect short epitaph for Rove’s tenure. But I’m not convinced that he’s turned an entire generation off the conservative label. It wasn’t too long ago that Republicans were crowing about the permanent Republican majority. Rational people could understand this for the ridiculous hyperbole it was, precisely because politics gets in the way of principles. Politicians can’t set their egos aside long enough to do what’s right. History shows almost nothing but that.

The problematic missing part is who will occupy the new political vacuum created by Rove’s mess? And that’s where the Democrats step in to demonstrate that neither side is particularly adept at statesmanship. It’s all politics, all the time. We’re not eight months into Democratic control of Congress and the surrendering to political cowardice is already rampant. Nothing will change in the likelihood that a Democrat wins the White House in 2008. The Democrats don’t have the same issues, but they are carrying their own full set of luggage. “Permanent” majority, anyone?

In the end, Rove achieved little more than the further coarsening of American political discourse. Surely he’s not the only person we can blame for this. And far too many partisans on both sides of the aisle have been perfectly complicit. The partisans will be alright, as this is all they’ve wanted anyway. It’s the newly indifferent idealist who must recover.