Tilting At Windmills
George W Bush speech writer Michael Gerson takes to the pages of the Washington Post to make his second attempt to explain to the Republican Party what they have to do to become relevant again. He thinks the Republican party is stuck in the 1980s:
This stunning reversal of electoral fortunes has taken place for a variety of reasons: changing demographics; the end of a GOP foreign policy advantage during the Cold War; a serious gap in candidate quality; the declining relevance of economic policies that seem better suited to the 1980s; and an occasionally deserved reputation for being judgmental and censorious.
At the national level, Republicans have a winning message for a nation that no longer exists.
In his Op Ed at Commentary he and Peter Wehner had this to say:
First, and most important, is focusing on the economic concerns of working-and middle-class Americans, many of whom now regard the Republican Party as beholden to “millionaires and billionaires” and as wholly out of touch with ordinary Americans. This is a durable impression—witness Bill Clinton’s effective deployment of it more than 20 years ago and its continued resonance during the 2012 campaign when Team Obama portrayed Mitt Romney as a plutocrat who delighted in shutting down factories and moving jobs overseas. Sure enough, in November exit polls, 81 percent of voters said that Barack Obama “cared for people like me”; a mere 18 percent said the same of Romney. They also showed that a majority of Americans (53 percent) said Governor Romney’s policies would generally favor the rich, versus only 34 percent who said he would favor the middle class.
Daniel Larison points out that Foreign Policy has also become a problem for the Republicans that is not really addressed in Gerson and Wehner’s Commentary piece:
At most, Gerson and Wehner acknowledge that the GOP’s advantage on
foreign policy and national security has vanished, but they still rely
on the assumption that Republicans should normally have an advantage
that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not bolstered. A
proper reckoning of the state of the party’s reputation on these issues
would admit up front that it has suffered enormous damage, and the
party’s new disadvantage on these issues has existed since 2006.
Republicans need to recognize that the Iraq war was a debacle, but they
also need to understand why it was and then learn to avoid making
similar errors in the future.
There would need to be an end to constant threat-hyping and threat
inflation, which contributed greatly to the paranoia and fear that
warped the debate over Iraq in 2002-03. There should also be a
repudiation of preventive war. Ideally, it would be rejected because it
is illegal and wrong, but it would be good enough if Republicans
rejected it because it is an imprudent, reckless abuse of U.S. power. No
less important, Republicans need to learn to be much warier of
executive power when one of their own is in power. That is probably the
hardest thing to learn, since many partisans tend to tolerate awful
behavior from “their” presidents that they would otherwise condemn, but
it would be essential to Republicans’ resistance to new wars in the
But for the foreseeable future Gerson, Wehner and Larison are simply tipping their hats at windmills. The lunatics have taken over the asylum and as long as the conservative media machine is in charge that’s not about to change.