Can The GOP Find Its Way?

Jan 23 2013 @ 11:50am

Douthat thinks so:

[J]ust because the G.O.P. looks like it could spend a generation in the wilderness doesn’t meant that it actually will. National parties exist to win national elections, and that incentive alone often suffices to drive changes that the party’s interest groups and ideological enforcers dislike. For every case like the Republicans of the 1930s and the 1940s, the Carter-Mondale-Dukakis Democrats, or the British Tories between John Major and David Cameron, there’s another case where a party that seems to have lost its way completely turns out to be one successful campaign, one appealing nominee or one change of circumstances away from a comeback. In modern G.O.P. history alone, the Goldwater rout was swiftly succeeded by the Nixon realignment, and the various Gingrich-era debacles by the rise of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” We are only one presidential term removed from the latter rebranding, and the idea that it cannot happen again (albeit hopefully along somewhat different lines) seems ahistorical and naive.

Well: duh. It’s possible, of course. It has happened before. There does seem to be some inching toward reality among some Republicans in Washington DC. Maybe a Rubio will be able to erase the memory of Obama’s providing universal healthcare, comprehensive immigration reform and an end to nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe a Christie will build on Obama’s legacy and reform it in a conservative direction with the smart, pragmatic thinking of Reihan and Ross and Ramesh and Yuval et al. Or maybe not. I remember in the 1980s how Kinsley’s New Republic had “Recriminations Issues” planned well in advance of successive Democratic defeats. I recall how Margaret Thatcher won three successive elections because the British left went as bonkers then as the American right is now. I recall how it took from 1997 all the way to 2010 for the British Tories to convince Middle England that they weren’t the “nasty party.” How did they break through? Shifting dramatically on gays and the environment, something unlikely in the GOP.

And if one of the two revivals of American conservatism Ross heralds includes the catastrophe of the Bush-Cheney administration … well, maybe a little longer to recover might not be such a bad thing, after all.