Whilst looking over some old articles on the old site, and reading one of Sharon’s, I found an interesting reference to an article by Jason330 of the Delaware Liberal. It was dated on Saint Valentine’s Day of 2009, but was certainly never meant to be a love letter to the GOP.
February of 2009 certainly was a good time to be a Democrat. The recession was deep and getting worse, and being blamed completely on the Republicans. President Obama was just starting out, and was enormously popular: the Gallup presidential job approval poll of February 12-15 indicated that the President had a 66%-23% approval/disapproval rate. The media were full of articles telling Republicans that the GOP was doomed, pretty much consigned to the ash heap of history. Sister Toldjah, on May 10, 2009, said, not so fast:
The Reagan White House’s political director Jeffrey Lord pens a piece in today’s Philly Inquirer that talks about how past predictions of the demise of the GOP have proven to be way off (via ST reader GWR):
A former GOP presidential nominee claims conservatives “want to drive all the moderates and liberals out,” which would mean that “the Democrats would win every election.” An ex-Republican National Committee chairman agrees, saying the party’s “image has been badly disfigured.” A rising-star moderate GOP congressman says his party is on its way to being “extinguished” and “reduced to ashes” by conservatives, adding that he sees it as his job “to help the GOP rebuild and to help give it proper direction.”
In a post-election book The Future of the Republican Party, a Washington journalist offers a startlingly bleak assessment, based on reams of data, and interviews with political scientists and Republican politicians. Republicans are doomed to lose at least the next six presidential elections in a row, he writes. The party is in “sad condition” and “grievously weakened” in the Northeast, the once solidly Republican New England states bolting to the Democrats. In the historically Republican Midwest, trouble brews. California is gone. In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, “town and country; city and suburb; black and white; rich and poor; Catholic, Protestant and Jew” are lost.
The ex-nominee quoted here was New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey – in 1950, two years after the moderate lost his second run1 for the presidency. The national GOP chairman was Meade Alcorn, who ran the party from 1957 to 1959. The congressman? John Lindsay, who was elected mayor of New York in 1965, the same year Arlen Specter was elected district attorney of Philadelphia. Lindsay was denied renomination by the GOP in 1969, narrowly won reelection as the Liberal Party nominee, left the GOP to become a Democrat, and lost runs for president and senator.
The journalist was Robert Donovan, Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. His book was published in December 1964.
More at the link, but what follows is pretty obvious: the Republicans who were “doomed to lose at least the next six presidential elections in a row” won five out of the next six.2
When Jason wrote his article, the good times were rollin’ for the Democrats. The Congress had just passed President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, 246-183 in the House, and 60-38 in the Senate, the attempted Republican filibuster having been defeated.3 Jason said:
Now Republicans are out in the wilderness, but rather than treat them like pariahs and the fringe regional losers that they are, Obama insists that he wants their input. It might be a laudable ideal, but Republicans have decided that the way back to power is to offer contrasts with the ruling Democrats. That’s smart! Where they screw up is that their ideas are so terrible that no one wants anything to do with them. But who knows, at some point they might stumble onto something good.
Jason actually got something right: it was smart. As for “they might stumble onto something good,” they already had, but a change was needed. Republicans had, for many years, run on a platform of conservative economics: lower taxes and lower government spending, and, unfortunately, kept half of their promises.
The answer for the GOP was obvious: keep the lowered spending half of their promises as well. It was obvious because for the few years that they actually did, following the 1994 election, they were resurgent. A poor Republican candidate in 1996, and a Democratic president who was getting much of the credit for the Republicans cutting back on spending and tightening welfare laws, cost them the White House following the 1996 election, and the misguided effort to impeach President Clinton in 1998 cost them more seats. They still had the majority, but the worst problem was that they allowed federal spending to increase too much during the presidency of the younger George Bush.
What the GOP got, in 2010, was the discipline not from above, but from below, as the grassroots TEA Party movement unseated some Republican incumbents in the primary, to replace them with real conservatives, and a clear message from the voters: cut spending!
But they’re not going to get back to power being Democratic lite, and they’re not going to get credit for any of Obama’s successes, and all the love kisses from Broder are irrelevant to them as soon as they have to deal with a Club for Growth-backed primary challenger.
Another Democrat from Delaware might want to read that part! Then again, that particular Democrat was never the least bit interested in the Republicans actually winning anything.
This is political survival 101. Democrats have always had the better ideas, yet they prolonged their time in the Congressional minority by thinking that playing the “bipartisanship” card was going to pay any benefits.
Voters will look for the differences in the parties, and then they’ll vote for the ideas they like better. For the GOP, good luck on the latter, but they’ll never even have a chance if they don’t create the former.
Jason was never interested in bipartisanship, and has been quite honest about that. He certainly does not like the fact that the Republicans are doing exactly what he said they should do, offer real alternatives to the Democrats, but he doesn’t like it for one reason: the alternatives the Republicans are offering are popular.
In 2006, Republican credibility was pretty well shot. Republicans campaigned on the same things they always did: lower taxes and lowered spending, but by 2006 the voters were obviously tired of their failures to keep the second half of that promise. That deficits skyrocketed after the Democrats took control of the Congress wasn’t all that important, because, as always, it is the President who gets the blame for that, and President Bush was a Republican. Come 2008, and the start of a deep recession, and the Republicans’ promises meant nothing: President Bush was being blamed for everything, as Presidents are always given the credit or blame for good times or bad, and the Democrats won a huge victory.
But Jason was right: the Republicans surged in the 2010 elections because they actually stood for something, something different from the Democrats, and because the TEA Party voters threatened to hold the Republican candidates responsible if they didn’t keep their promises.4
Even so, it would all go for naught, if the Democrats’ policies had actually worked. If the American Recovery and reinvestment Act had actually held unemployment to a maximum of 8% — and I’m sure that the electorate would have given President some wiggle room on that, maybe up to 8.5% — and gotten it down to the 5.6% projected for June of 2012, the Republicans would be scrambling for something, anything new, because the Democrats would be virtually guaranteed of another electoral victory. But the Democrats’ programs did not work, not at all in keeping with their promises, and that has given the GOP the opening needed to have its arguments listened to seriously. Jason surely does not like that part of it.
- While the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline from 1948 has made Mr Dewey’s 1948 presidential run famous in history, Governor Dewey was also the nearly-forgotten Republican presidential nominee in 1944, where he lost to President Franklin Roosevelt. ↩
- The lost race being Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and even in that race, President Ford was quickly gaining on Governor Jimmy Carter (D-GA) and might have won if the election had been a couple of weeks later. ↩
- President Obama had not yet signed the bill, but would do so on February 17, 2009. ↩
- The Republicans were greatly aided by the Democrats, because the Democrats virtually refused to fight. Speakess of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never even attempted to pass a budget or keep their promises on taxes, somehow thinking that they had a big lead and could run out the clock. And the biggest losers were the more conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, who provided the margins that the liberals needed to get their most important legislation passed, even though they were more instinctively opposed. Being from more conservative districts, they were the ones who lost to strong Republican candidates. ↩