Thursday, November 29, 2007

A brief glimpse of reality at NRO

Most neutral observers of American politics already know that Republicans are going to get their butts whooped next year. But you generally don’t hear that sentiment being expressed or acknowledged in rightwing circles.
But apparently the National Review breached that topic earlier this month with a lead article in its Nov. 19 print edition that is unfortunately not available online. The article by Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru gives a surprisingly harsh assessment of GOP election prospects in 2008 spelling out in no uncertain terms that things are even worse for Republicans than they imagine.

Here is an excerpt:

So while Republicans are depressed these days, their condition is actually worse than they think it is. The deepest cause of the party’s malaise is not the inadequacies of the presidential field. It is that the party’s base is out of step with the public. On issue after issue, polls find independents lining up with Democrats.

Take the economy. Republicans are much happier with their economic circumstances than Democrats: 81 percent of the former, and only 54 percent of the latter, express satisfaction. Independents are exactly where the Democrats are. At their recent economic debate, however, most of the Republican candidates essentially advised dissatisfied Americans to look up some economic statistics to see how well things are going. The ones who acknowledged public gloom proffered protectionism as a remedy.

Or take global warming. The public thinks it is real and worrisome, but is not ready to embrace liberal policies that would drastically reduce economic growth. Republicans would have an opening here, if so many of them had not persuaded themselves that global warming is a hoax.

If the public debate is confined to a choice between people who brush off public concerns and those who offer bad solutions, the latter group will win. Conservatives, right now, are not offering better solutions. And because the Republican base is not demanding those solutions, the competitive dynamic of the primary is not producing them. For most of the year, the Republican presidential debates have featured barely a word about health care, the public’s most pressing domestic concern.

The thing that Lowrey and Ponnuru are not acknowleding is that Republicans HAVE put forward ideas on these issues for the past 12 years and they simply have not worked. That is why they are ignoring the problems now and trying to focus on other things, because they don’t know what to do next since their ideas flopped.

As you can see from this excerpt, Lowrey and Ponnuru still think “free-market policies” and tax cuts for the rich are the cure all for everything and assume that we just haven’t pushed those ideas hard enough.

That task will force conservatives to explain how free-market policies can address the economic anxieties of this group of voters. We don't have to support "universal coverage" on health care. But we ought to talk more about health care than about the budget; and when we talk about health care, we should explain how Republican policies will help people keep and control their own health care. We don't have to abandon attempts to reform the tax code and to drop the top tax rate. But we should put much more effort into providing tax relief for middle-class parents. We don't have to open the borders. But we should make it clear that our immigration policy isn't based on anger. We don't have to give up on the idea that sometimes the U.S. must fight wars, even going it alone; but we need to persuade people that we see unilateral military action as a last resort -- that we're not spoiling for a fight.

The bad news for conservatives is that we can't blame other people for our troubles. The good news is that if our problems are of our own making they are also within our control. If we address them now, we may not need to undergo a stretch out of power to right ourselves. But the first step toward recovery is admitting that we have a problem.

Republicans do indeed have a problem and it is not that their ideas have not been tried. It is good that they are ready to admit to having a problem, but they aren’t ready to accept what that problem really is yet. There is a disconnect going on somewhere. Whenever a Republican policy such as tax giveaways, deregulation of industry and crony capitalism is instituted resulting in one disaster or another - record deficits, Enron collapse, poor response to New Orleans flood, etc. - rightwingers are quick to shift the blame as with this commenter the other day who dismissed a lengthy critique of Republican policies:

Ah, you are confusing Republicanism with Conservatism.
The Republican party is losing because they are drifting away from Conservatism.

So, when they present an idea it is “Conservatism,” but when it fails to have the desired result it suddenly turns into “Republicanism” and the answer is to push harder for more “Conservatism.” And round and round the circle goes.

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