Tue 25 Nov 2008
A couple of themes have dominated my postings of the last few weeks. One is the sorry state of the GOP and the likelihood that the party will ignore the calls to reform and will instead hunker down with the same old brand of conservatism that’s failed it the last two elections. The other theme pertains to my view that the Obama administration needs to plot a relatively centrist course, ignoring calls from the left (particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives) to pursue a decidedly “progressive” agenda. The concern is that if Obama does otherwise he will invite a voter backlash in 2 or 4 years. My nightmare is a scenario where the GOP hunkers down with its same old message and Obama is unable or unwilling to pursue a centrist course and suffers massive losses in the 2010 or 2012 elections, or both. The result will be but a swing of the pendulum from left to right with a damaged or destroyed Obama presidency and a resurgent but unreformed Republican Party.
In his November 22 column in the National Journal, Charlie Cook engages in a fascinating, and I consider a must-read, analysis of the how the Republican Party has gone from a party that represented a number of key principles (anti-communism, strong national defense, balanced budgets, moderate sized government, low taxes, law and order, relative social and cultural conservatism) to party that represents only two (low taxes, strident social and cultural conservatism). He concludes that the party may well win the next election, but not because it deserves to win, but because the Democrats have failed–my nightmare. The piece is entitled Missing: Seller’s Remorse.
While I agree with virtually everything Mr. Cook says in this column, I was particularly struck by his assertion that the GOP’s extreme stands, for instance on embryonic-stem-cell research and in the Terri Schiavo case, caused many “centrists” to begin to regard the GOP as the “radical” party, not the Democrats. I could not agree more. The Schiavo case was a clear turning point for me where I began to ask myself: ”Who are these people?” “Is this still my Party?” This reality was only reinforced by the vote of the majority of Republicans last month rejecting the Rescue Bill in its first vote in the U.S. House.
For me to be able to have a chance of fully embracing the GOP again, it needs to stand as it once did on a number of principles, most, if not all, of which I can agree upon. Otherwise, may Obama stay a centrist course.