StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Bruce Bartlett on the Future of the GOP

01 May 2009
Posted by Andrew Samwick

In a word, dismal.  Here is the conclusion:

I think Republicans desperately need a group that will do for them what the DLC did for the Democrats. Unfortunately, I see no such organization or any resources available for those that might start one. Those with such resources are either turned off by Republican pandering to its right wing and have left the party or they agree with it. Either way, no one in the Republican Party seems to have any interest in victory, and they prefer to wear defeat as some kind of badge of honor.

Eventually, Republicans will tire of being out of power just as Democrats did, and they will do what it takes to win. But I fear that Republicans will have to at least lose in 2010 and again in 2012 before they start to come to their senses. Perhaps by 2014, some leader with maturity, resources, vision and discipline will find a way of leading the GOP out of the wilderness. But I see no one even in a position to start that process today.

Read the whole thing.

The demise of political parties is always greatly exaggerated

Nobody should worry about the Republicans being condemned to wander the wilderness forever (as if Democrats worried about that). What's going on is just the normal course of events in two-party politics.

I'm old enough (barely) to remember Johnson crushing Goldwater, giving the Democrats a stranglehold on power with the White House and majorities in both Senate and House that dwarf today's, and such as we will probably never see again. Democrats ran the govt like it was divine right inherited directly from Lord FDR himself. But lo! In just four short years Nixon was running things.

Then after a 49-state sweep(!) that made Republicans look invincible Nixon imploded in scandal, and the economy went south at the same time, and the Democrats were quickly back on top again with even more Senate votes than today -- but then in only four more years Reagan was on top and the Repubs had the Senate back too. Reagan left Bush I in office with a 90% favorable rating, and people were saying the Democrats were doomed to be the permanent minority party.

But in the very next election Bush barely avoided coming in 3rd, and magazines like Newsweek were asking "Can the Republican party survive"? The Dems had the White House, Senate, House *and* commanding majorities in state governorships and legislatures across the entire nation. What could the poor Repubs do?

Well, just wait two years to take Congress. By the time Clinton left office it was the Repubs who had the White House, Senate, House *and* commanding majorities in state governorships and legislatures across the entire nation. What could the poor Dems do but face being a permanent minority party?

And here we are.

Hey, I was in Britain when the Labor party consisted of extremist political lunatics and clowns such as we have never seen in either major party here, thankfully. Margaret Thatcher said at that point: "In our two party system it is inevitable that the other party will return to power someday. It is our job to stay in power long enough for them to regain their sanity before they do". Which is just how it worked out.

When her Tories collapsed it was so total that Labor came in with a majority so dominating it looked like it would last 100 years. But now Labor looks like it is heading for a collapse just as total ... and the cycle rolls on. Every party that gets stomped looks like it has been condemned to the wilderness forever --but it never works out that way.

The interesting thing is that in each and every one of these power switches the dominating factor was that the voters were *sick of the incumbents* -- not that the challengers had reformed themselves and come roaring back with great new ideas (though that is usually how they market themselves, even to themselves). The party in power self-destructed, at least partially, and also got blamed for whatever were the problems of the day (can't blame the ones not in power!). VietNam for the Johnson Democrats, Watergate and a rotten economy for Nixon.

Carter had the worse economy since the Depression, the Iran hostage, an oil crisis, a cancelled Olympics, Soviets expanding into Afghanistan and elsewhere, and his own bungling of everything -- and still the great Ronald Reagan, armed with all the great new Rebublican ideas of the 80s, just barely squeaked by him.

In Britain Thatcher came in not because anybody *liked* her, but because people were sick and tired of the irresponsibility of Labor ... then eventually they got sick of her, and a little later of the rest of her party ... and now they are looking just as sick of Labor again. It's not because of anything the Tories have done that they look set to take over once more, they haven't done anything, they don't have the power to do it -- people are just sick of Labor again.

In big swing elections power is usually lost, not won. Obviously it's the same with the Democrats today, they came in on the "sick of Dubya & Republicans" vote, not because they suddenly came up with so many great and popular new ideas that they didn't have during the prior eight years.

So the Republicans don't have to reform *so much* to get back in the game. Clean up their act a bit, yes. That will happen. Incentives will create new candidates who want to win in marginal districts and thus who will make themselves marketable there -- economists should understand that. It *always* happens, no matter how dead a party looks at the moment.

Obama and the Dems are still enjoying their "We're not Dubya and the Republicans!" honeymoon, successfully blaming all their problems as inherited from Dubya and the Republicans. That's impossible for Republicans to fight, so they look helpless and hapless today. But like all honeymoons this one will end.

For instance, the Dems now are running up massive deficits, far larger than Dubya ever did, due to their own big spending increases both short term and long term.

And about three years from now -- when they aren't able to blame that on anyone else -- they are going to have to square that circle by reneging on some major political promises they've made: either by increasing taxes on the *middle class* (not just "the rich") which will make a lot of voters very unhappy ... or by cutting their own spending program promises, which will lead to internecine party warfare ... or by doubling the national debt in one short Administration. Any of which will refresh the Republicans with an arsenal of new political charges, even if they've only modestly reformed themselves.

That's just arithmetic, something has got to give -- and there are a lot of other issues that will become trouble for the Dems once the honeymoon is over and the public gives them "ownership" of things.

It will take a few years, sure, that's OK, it should. We have a two party system. Each party goes in and out.

But it will happen, don't worry about it, the Repubs *will* be back, *because* the Dems now are the dominating party. It is a variation on Lord Acton's "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". (Or maybe not a variation but the actual thing.) Dominating political parties always do themselves in.

If they didn't we wouldn't need a two-party system.

Be in the right place, at the right time, with the right stuff

I'm with Jim. I even remember participating in a debate in a high school social studies class in 1965: What is the Future of the Republican Party.

This guy--who I strongly suspect Andrew knows--can put on a happy face:

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