Gene Robinson notes this ironically, with a comparison to a Reaganesque conservative icon:
In his bid to be remembered as a transformational leader, President Obama is following the playbook of an ideological opposite, Margaret Thatcher. First you win the argument, she used to say, then you win the vote.In fact, since Republicans can't give up on Ronald Reagan (he won! To Republicans, that's everything you need to know) and despite the fact that Reagan would be rejected as a big government spender, many of the most mournful voices are Reagan-era Republicans, establishmentarians who have no current place at the tea party table. Here's Reagan biographer Craig Shirley discussing why Obama is winning the battle of ideas:
The GOP is hardly positioned to have that debate. What is left of the national party is a smoking hole in the ground with millions, possibly billions, of dollars wasted and establishmentarians lashing out against the very conservatives who helped build the party. Because Romney never understood conservatism, he could never explain to swing voters how a limited-government philosophy could make the country more secure and their lives better.As you probably guessed, Romney wasn't a conservative and Bush was a big government spender, so how could they make the case for Reaganism? But how could anyone these days?
We'll take a closer look at the state of the GOP with Mike Gerson, Peter Wehner and others below the fold.
EJ Dionne notes the problem for the establishmentarians:
There is also the tale of Tommy Thompson, who as governor of Wisconsin in the 1990s tried to broaden health insurance coverage with his “BadgerCare” program. Early in the debate over Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Thompson called it “another important step” toward achieving reform.But there's more that ails the Republican Party, helpfully outlined by Bush-era stalwarts Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner in this Commentary piece:
Thompson had to eat those words when he sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate last year in the face of tea party opposition. The rebuke of Thompson from Chris Chocola, president of the conservative Club for Growth, was representative. “The world has changed since he was elected to office,” said Chocola, who had endorsed one of Thompson’s primary opponents. “Now we’re talking about how much less we’ll spend rather than how much more we’ll spend.” That was right-wing ideology speaking.
The 2012 election was not only a dismal showing for the Republicans but the continuation of a dismal, 20-year trend. Out of the last six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 210 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to the Democrats’ 113. In three of those contests, the Democrats failed to muster even 50 electoral votes.Here, in a nutshell, is their analysis: Romney was awful compared to Bill Clinton's and Obama's political skills, the GOP has lost the Soviet Union and a position of strength in foreign policy [thanks to Bush and Iraq, poorly replaced by Sens. McCain and Graham on Benghazi - ed.], and their agenda fits the 1980s, not the 21st century. More:
What is the reason for this swift and stunning reversal of electoral fortunes? The answer lies in a variety of factors—and in their confluence.
In addition, on a number of these issues the Republican Party has developed a reputation—mostly but not completely unfair—as judgmental and retrograde. It didn’t help that, during last year’s primary season, one of the final two major candidates in the field (Rick Santorum) promised that if elected he would speak out against the damage done to American society by contraception, or that just prior to the general election, two ultimately failed candidates for the Senate spoke with stunning insensitivity about female victims of rape.What do they need to do? A Sister Souljah moment with the tea party, say the authors. Commit to the middle class and reforming financial institutions (yes, Virginia, Occupy won the battle of ideas and 99 percent trumps 47 percent). Welcome immigrants. And commit to the common good (see EJ Dionne's Our Divided Political Heart for a history of that idea).
In combination, all these factors have left many in the GOP in a demoralized state, convinced that the challenges confronting them are not superficial, cyclical, or personality-oriented but that prevailing political forces, as well as prevailing public attitudes, present enormous obstacles to the national success of their party. They are right to be worried.
I have a suggestion for that Sister Souljah moment: John McCain can refudiate Sarah Palin as the worst possible decision made for his party and the country, and not in that order.
Will they listen? Well, that remains to be seen.
I'm optimistic that eventually they can move forward. But that's a big hole to get out of, especially when you haven't stopped digging. And that, like E.J., makes me optimistic for a second term Congress that's a hairsbreadth more reasonable than the last two years. After all, even Republicans get that their current strategy isn't working.