Sunday, March 8, 2009

Can the Republicans Come Back?

Mike Warren over at Vandy Right argues that the Rush Limbaugh dust-up over the past week has been good for the GOP:

I want to take a quick step back and say how helpful and important this debate is for the Right. Some will definitely disagree, but I see this tug-of-war as the culmination of a whole lot of frustration with a great number of things on our side. Some are worried about how this looks to voters, and perhaps that Obama is winning his game; perhaps, perhaps, but before our side is ready for primetime, we gotta work out these real issues within our movement.
While Patrick Ruffini warns against unloading alleged conservative apostates off the stage too quickly:

Conservatives need to decide who we want to see succeed and who we want to see fail. We then need to calibrate our reactions to the inevitable missteps from either camp accordingly. If someone we want to succeed comes under attack, we hold our fire and close ranks - unless it's clear they've become a long-term liability. If it's someone we want to see fail - like Jim Bunning - we unload until they get off the stage.
Ruffini is of course talking about Limbaugh, Michael Steele, and Bobby Jindal, but he could have just as easily been refering to Patrick Frey or David Frum.

I'll be commenting more on this debate later, but for now I wanted to share Jay Cost's essay with readers, "
Can the GOP Come Back?":

To listen to some Democrats, you'd think that George W. Bush has destroyed the Republican party, American conservatism, or both. Please. The fact is that the Republican party was around long before George W. Bush, and will be around long after him. Simply put, the GOP is bigger than Bush.

Consider the Republican platform of 1860. That document couched its demand for free soil in the language of individual liberty. It demanded frugal governance. It called for the protection of settlers against the government and the expansion of private property via the Homestead Act. It advocated high tariffs to advance American business, and government support for a transcontinental railroad to facilitate the development of the nation.

Obviously, specific policies have changed since then, but contemplate them from a broader perspective: individual liberty, opposition to wasteful spending, protection of private property, pro-business policies, and the development of infrastructure to enhance economic growth. This sounds a lot like 21st-century Republicanism, and it is helpful to remember that the party of today has a connection to the party of the past.

Republicanism is bigger than any one individual. The GOP has prospered for more than 150 years because the country has had use for its principles. The party will prosper in the future because the country will have use for them once again. This is despite the fact that the GOP has had its share of unpopular leaders. The same goes for the Democrats. The country has had continued use for the Democratic party despite the unpopularity of Presidents Wilson, Johnson, and Carter.
I've made similar points here, for example, when I suggest that the Republicans are likely to be in the wilderness for some time, since we're pretty much in an epochal period of political change right now. This is not to suggest that folks on the right throw up their hands. I'm simply noticing intense internecine backbiting largely from the shock and frustration of being out of power.

In any case, what I'm not seeing enough of is specific disussion of doctrine and ideas. So, if Mike Warren's point above is to have some deeper truth to it, the current debate we're having on the right is going to have to rise above "personalist" jockeying for leadership of the movement (
Frum comes to mind here more so than does Limbaugh) into the realm of innovative proposals.

I'm particularly interested in clarifying the divisions on the right between small-government conservatives and neoconservatives (I hesistate to include David Brooks in the latter bunch, but
some of his previous arguments are in play).

Note: While we're at it, take note of
this smear against the GOP by Frank Schaeffer:

You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired - President Obama - to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created.
I sense a bit of "ligherworkerism" there, but that kind of sentiment's prevalent on both left and right (Schaeffer's a former Republican).

More later ...


Joubert said...

Differences of opinion are not what should be dividing us but we can't afford incompetent "leaders" such as politicians and pundits.

Amber Kasbon said...

I just wanted to say that I think your blog is fantastic, keep it coming.

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Patrick: There's going to be a lot more of these "differences."

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks for reading, Amber!

JBW said...

Amber, I read your comment over at Suzanna's place. I love your latest post; I'm a huge James Bond fan (super secret: my middle name is Brian but how cool would it be if it were Bond? Yeah, I've had that thought all my life). Check out Brain Rage if you like. People with different ideas shouldn't be scary. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

To listen to some Democrats, you'd think that George W. Bush has destroyed the Republican party, American conservatism, or both. Please. The fact is that the Republican party was around long before George W. Bush, and will be around long after him.

Absolutely! Look at how well the Whig party is doing nowadays.