A Party Past Its Prime

by Dish Staff

Despite serious misgivings about the current state of the GOP, David Frum hasn’t given up on the party. But he understands just how big the GOP’s problems are:

Three big trends have decisively changed the Republican Party over the past decade, weakening its ability to win presidential elections and gravely inhibiting its ability to govern effectively if it nevertheless somehow were to win. First, Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population — a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. Second, the Republican donor class has grown more ideologically extreme, encouraging congressional Republicans to embrace ever more radical tactics. Third, the party’s internal processes have rigidified, in ways that dangerously inhibit its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The GOP can overcome the negative consequences of these changes and, in time, surely will. The ominous question for Republicans is, How much time will the overcoming take?

Why he still believes conservatism will be reborn:

For every action, whether in physics or in politics, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The liberal surge of the Obama years invites a conservative response, and a multiethnic, socially tolerant conservatism is waiting to take form. As the poet T. S. Eliot, a political conservative, once gloomily consoled his readers, “There is no such thing as a Lost Cause because there is no such thing as a Gained Cause.” The message reads better when translated into American vernacular: “It ain’t over till it’s over. And it’s never over.”

However, it’s unclear to Chait how the GOP will find its way:

The Republican Party constructed a geriatric trap for itself. Just how it will escape is hard to see. It is a small-government party whose base is wedded to the programs that constitute a large and growing share of government. The inability to touch the benefits of any old person, in combination with its still-extant support for defense and fanatical opposition to tax hikes in any form, have driven Republicans to propose massive cuts to the small share of government that benefits struggling workers. This priority has, in turn, saddled the GOP with the (correct) image of hostility toward the unfortunate.