The Republicans after the 2008 elections

Written by  //  November 15, 2009  //  David/Terry Jones, Politics, U.S.  //  No comments

 
Governor Crist Becomes a Right-Wing Target
A raft of conservative groups, commentators and politicians are supporting a primary challenge to Mr. Crist by Marco Rubio, a telegenic former speaker of the Florida House christened a Reaganite’s answer to Mr. Obama by The National Review.
6 November
David Jones on Election Day USA: Virginia and New Jersey
(The MetropolitaIn) Obama’s personal popularity remains strong, but he isn’t strong enough to lift misguided wagons out of ditches. The “message” from November 3 is more for the ears of the federal congressional 2010 elections than for the presidential election in 2012.
5 November
Huckabee, Romney, Palin See Most Republican Support for ’12
(Gallup) PRINCETON, NJ — Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential election, 71% of Republicans say they would seriously consider voting for Mike Huckabee. This gives Huckabee a slight edge over Mitt Romney (65%) and Sarah Palin (65%) in this early test of the strength of several potential Republican contenders. A majority of Republicans also say they would seriously consider voting for Newt Gingrich, but far fewer say they are currently ready to support the lesser-known Tim Pawlenty or Haley Barbour.
4 November
Brooks & Collins: Reading the Election Tea Leaves
(NYT) Republicans Bask in Glow of Victories in N.J. and Va. , however Conservative Loses Upstate House Race in Blow to Right in a Republican stronghold for generations … the party has represented parts of it since the 19th century.
David Jones writes:
While I don’t think that it is the “end of the ‘Age of Obama’” neither do it think that it is irrelevant. The more important of the two elections is the NJ result (Obama pretty much wrote off VA several weeks ago) in which Obama invested rather heavily on a personal level in a state he won by 16 percentage points in 2008 with an incumbent Democrat billionaire willing to spend any sum of money to win. But he didn’t.
Democrats will be appreciating the limits to which the president’s charisma can be harnessed to drag dead candidates across the finish line. Reps will be appreciating the utility of “centrist” candidates. Off year elections are always bad news for ruling national leadership; we will probably see more-of-the-same in the 2010 congressional elections.
What Did the Election Mean?
In Tuesday’s elections, Republicans won big in governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia. Democrats prevailed in a high-visibility contest for a Congressional seat in upstate New York, but lost ground to Republicans in several suburban races. Local issues, anxiety over taxes and frustration over the economy seemed to dominated voters’ thinking.
22 October
Conservatives roar; GOP trembles
(Politico) Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party’s chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives. Congressional leaders talk in private of being boxed in by commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.
2 October
McCain Campaign Manager: Palin In 2012 Would Be Catastrophe for GOP
(HuffPost) She is someone who has a passionate base that constitutes millions of Americans,” Schmidt said. “But in the year since the election has ended, she has done nothing to expand her appeal beyond that base into the middle of the electorate where elections are decided.”
David Brooks: The Wizard of Beck
So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.
They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.
The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.
14 May
The Republicans could learn a lot from the Democrats
(The Economist) THE Grand Old Party is getting less grand by the day. It failed to return a single congressman from New England in 2008. Republicanism is about as popular as celibacy among 18-30-year-olds. A recent Wall Street Journal-NBC poll revealed that in the party’s heartland, the South, there are more self-identified Democrats than Republicans.
Regaining their reputation for competence is the most difficult task Republicans face. It is also the most important. The party’s current strategy is to argue that Mr Obama is too soft on America’s enemies and too loose with the purse-strings. But this is hardly likely to reassure people who associate Republicanism with military adventurism and hypocritical spending. The Republicans need to demonstrate that they understand the importance of self-restraint, both at home and abroad. They need to prove that they are more interested in solving practical problems than in ticking ideological boxes. This suggests that the party’s revival is likely to start in the same place as the Democratic Party’s revival—among the ranks of post-ideological governors out there in purple America.
1 May
Tobin Harshaw: Souter, Specter and the Future of the G.O.P.
Will a senator’s defection and a justice’s retirement spur the G.O.P. into action or greater torpor?
(NYT Weekend Opinionator) An odd week. While Barack Obama celebrated his 100th day in office, the headlines were pretty much dominated by the opposition party, albeit not in the way many Republicans would have liked. Still, for the hard-core on the right, the exits of Senator Arlen Specter (from the party) and Supreme Court Justice David Souter (from the national stage) were probably occasions of celebration, as both had been considered Republicans-manqué for a long time now (if, indeed, Souter, who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush, was ever really a Republican at all).
Bob Herbert: Out of Touch
(NYT) The economy has imploded, the auto industry is in danger of being vaporized and more than half of all working Americans are worried that they may lose their jobs in the next year. So what’s the Republican response? To build a wall of obstruction in front of efforts to get the economy moving again, and then to stand in front of that wall chanting gibberish about smaller government, lower taxes, spending cuts and Ronald Reagan.
It’s not a party; it’s a cult. I’m no fan of Arlen Specter, but if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t be shoving him out the door and waving good riddance. This is the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt (“I’m trying to rise from the ashes”) Gingrich, and the dark force who can’t seem to exit the public stage or modify his medieval ways, Dick Cheney.
29 April
G.O.P. Debate: A Broader Party or a Purer One?
WASHINGTON — A fundamental debate broke out among Republicans on Wednesday over how to rebuild the party in the wake of Senator Arlen Specter’s departure: Should it purge moderate voices like Mr. Specter and embrace its conservative roots or seek to broaden its appeal to regain a competitive position against Democrats?
16 April
Obama derangement syndrome
(The Economist) A recent Pew poll showed that public opinion about Mr Obama is sharply divided along party lines. Some 88% of Democrats approve of the job that he is doing compared with only 27% of Republicans. The approval gap between the two parties is actually bigger than it was for George Bush in April 2001. Bush loyalists, led by Karl Rove, have duly over-interpreted this poll in order to soften their former boss’s reputation as America’s most divisive president. Today’s Republican base is significantly smaller than the Democratic base was in 2001, so surviving Republicans are more likely to have hard-core views. But there are nevertheless enough people out there who dislike the president to constitute a significant force in political life.
2 March
Rush Limbaugh Vs. Michael Steele: Is Steele Asking for a Rush Attack?
(U.S.News) It began today already when radio talk show hostess Laura Ingraham took a shot at Steele, who in his CNN interview said this about Limbaugh: “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh—his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.” Republicans are concerned that a feud between the national party and conservative talk radio would upset donors, who would stop giving to the party. “One possible outcome is that giving by the base, sickly for the last few years, could get even worse,” said a key GOP donor. Steele’s supporters, however, say that he is not trying to pick a fight with conservative radio and is just trying to counter Democratic charges that Limbaugh—who has engaged in a verbal war with President Obama—is the de facto boss of the party. He is also trying to put the word out there that the GOP is open to other viewpoints.
3 February 2009
John Parisella: The Party of Lincoln and Eisenhower
(Maclean’s) The most significant transformation the Republican party has undergone has been its shift from a broad-based, moderate conservative party to an exclusive, narrow-based, populist political organization. This new GOP has been able to win five of seven presidential elections between 1980 and 2004 and control both Houses of Congress from 1994 to 2006. Leaders like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were able to put a more inclusive face on their party—though it was sometimes betrayed by their policies—while George W. Bush relied on a sales-pitch of compassionate conservatism to attract independent voters. By 2008, however, the sham was up. America was changing, but the GOP had not kept pace. Conservatives like David Frum now see a bleak future for the GOP unless it changes and learns from its defeats in 2006 and 2008. This is why the selection of a new Chairman of the RNC was so noteworthy. Choosing former Maryland Lt.Governor Michael Steele, an African-American, indicates that the GOP may be ready to change course.
19 November 2008
WASHINGTON — Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted last month on federal ethics charges, lost his bid for a seventh term as final ballots were counted on Tuesday. More
18 November
Beyond Joe Six-Pack
Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute and David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute diagnose what’s ailing the Republican party.
Hagel, Unrestrained, Lashes Into Bush, Rush And The GOP
Appearing at a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the outgoing Nebraska Republican leveled harsh criticism at his own party, the lack of intellectual curiosity among some of his colleagues, the Bush administration’s handling of nearly every aspect of governance and — perhaps most bitingly — the conservative radio voices that often dictate the GOP agenda.
10 November
Sparring Starts as Republicans Ponder Future
WASHINGTON — One week after the Republicans were routed in the presidential election, the fight is on over who will be the new leaders of the party. Republicans are debating how to position themselves ideologically and how aggressively to take on President-elect Barack Obama. The competition to fill the vacuum left by Senator John McCain’s defeat — and by the unpopularity of President Bush as he prepares to leave office — will be on full display at a Republican Governors Association meeting beginning Wednesday in Miami.
Republicans try to rediscover themselves, and puzzle over Sarah Palin’s fate

WHEN a party is defeated at the polls after a long spell in office it is usually time for a bout of soul-searching. A typical question is whether the right man led the campaign, but the Republicans are in the odd position of fretting, less about John McCain, and more about the woman who ran next to him, Sarah Palin. The pro- and anti-Palin factions do not represent the only split in the Republican Party, but they may show the most important fault line.
Stevens Still Narrowly Ahead As Alaska Counts Ballots
A win for Stevens will not ensure him another term, since Senate Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have called for his expulsion or resignation. Speculation is rife that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who also urged Stevens to resign, is a likely replacement.
7 November
Lessons for Republicans
Ottawa Citizen Special, By David Jones
This was always the Democrats’ year to win — and they did.
To be fair, if Democrats had lost, they wouldn’t qualify as a political party. They had a scare in September when the McCain-Palin personal legends provided a domestic Surge, but the Democrats opened their coffers and kept their cool while the media (and the economy) hammered the Republicans.
Frankly, with the history of two-term rotation, the most unpopular incumbent in living memory, a grinding and unnecessary Iraq war, and the worst economic crisis in two generations, not even a “Second Coming” endorsement could have saved the Republicans. (God would have been denounced for interfering in temporal affairs.)
That said, and appreciated, there are still lessons to be drawn for the Republicans.
First, Republicans are to blame. Get used to it. With partisan Democrats controlling the executive branch and Congress, Republicans are the goats to be scaped. For the indefinite future — and certainly as long as Democrats can play the game — every economic, political, social, environmental problem will be the fault of the (supply your expletive) Republicans. The Democrats ran against Hoover for more than 20 years; they will do the same to “Dubya.”
It is possible that the current economic recession will persist, despite the wide array of financial tools being employed domestically and internationally and the brilliance of the tool handlers. But they thought they were so smart in 1929 — and the Depression didn’t really end until the Second World War. So as long as it continues, the Republicans will be blamed.
And, if the recession is relatively short and shallow, the Democrats will claim credit for “turning things around.” And the spin will seek to prevent Republicans from regaining power to screw things up again.
The history books may share the blame more equitably; but history is a long time coming and Republicans can’t count on it. So:
– No more old war heroes.
Three times in the past 20 years, the Republicans have run old war heroes. They all lost. To be sure Bush 41 (the youngest U.S. naval aviator in the Second World War) won Ronald Reagan’s third term, but running on his own in 1992, he was defeated after orchestrating the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Then Robert Dole, a Second World War veteran handicapped by combat wounds, was defeated in 1996. And most recently, John McCain, whose personal heroism in a Vietnamese POW camp and commitment to America are compelling, was beaten.
Americans respect their military and their veterans — but these old men made them uncomfortable in an era where foreign challenge is ambiguous. The Democrats have learned this lesson; they haven’t run a winning warrior since JFK.
– Recruit more women and minorities.
It was embarrassing to see the 2008 array of Republican presidential candidates: an assortment of white-bread males with nary a female (not even of the token Libby Dole type) to be seen. There were attractive and personable female senators (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine; Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas) and governors (Linda Lingle of Hawaii and Jodi Rell of Connecticut). The invisibility of visible minorities could be alleviated by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
None of these are likely to crack the Democrats’ strangle-hold on African- or Hispanic-Americans; however, they will demonstrate that minority and female Republicans are not incipient suicides.
– But Sarah Palin is not the answer.
Unfortunately for Republicans, Ms. Palin leads back into the Goldwater ghetto of small tent, angry conservatives. It is possible Republicans will conclude that Mr. Obama is unbeatable in 2012 and run Ms. Palin as a “forlorn hope” if only to pound it home to axiomatic fundamentalists that Republicans must move beyond guns and God if they wish to govern again. Or wait 20 years for the Democrats to comprehensively foul their nests.
– And clean up their act.
Republicans controlled Congress for more than a decade before 2006. Unfortunately, the increasing impression was that they had both feet in the trough with trousers unzipped. Senator Ted Stevens, recently convicted of ethics violations, was just the last plank in a bridge to oblivion. Even appreciating the reality of “gotcha” journalism and that politicians are human, Republicans badly need a clean-as-a-hound’s-tooth image.
Still there is comfort that in a democracy, the day of victory is the first on the path to defeat. And the day of defeat is the first on the road to victory.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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