Dreher reads NR, and finds an interesting article by Lowry and Ponnuru.
So while Republicans are depressed these days, their condition is actually worse than they think it is. The deepest cause of the party’s malaise is not the inadequacies of the presidential field. It is that the party’s base is out of step with the public. On issue after issue, polls find independents lining up with Democrats.
Take the economy. Republicans are much happier with their economic circumstances than Democrats: 81 percent of the former, and only 54 percent of the latter, express satisfaction. Independents are exactly where the Democrats are. At their recent economic debate, however, most of the Republican candidates essentially advised dissatisfied Americans to look up some economic statistics to see how well things are going. The ones who acknowledged public gloom proffered protectionism as a remedy. (This may change shortly, as the "R" word gets bandied about--and not from the Lefty press, but from more reliable sources...)
Or take global warming. The public thinks it is real and worrisome, but is not ready to embrace liberal policies that would drastically reduce economic growth. Republicans would have an opening here, if so many of them had not persuaded themselves that global warming is a hoax.
If the public debate is confined to a choice between people who brush off public concerns and those who offer bad solutions, the latter group will win. Conservatives, right now, are not offering better solutions. And because the Republican base is not demanding those solutions, the competitive dynamic of the primary is not producing them. (Real, yah---but remediable by converting to bicycles and charcoal-fire warming? Nope. Real, yah--but within previously-established norms.)
For most of the year, the Republican presidential debates have featured barely a word about health care, the public’s most pressing domestic concern. The leading GOP candidates have belatedly put out plans (except for Thompson, who still hasn’t) — to the seeming indifference of rank-and-file conservative voters. (There ARE proposals which are intriguing--Bush's tax-credit plan was one. Hello??)
Instead, the competition is taking Republicans farther and farther away from a connection with the public. Giuliani has broken with the base of the party, but only in ways that will not help with the larger electorate. And to make up for those deviations on social issues, he is projecting a bring-it-on bellicosity that conservatives like but that most voters simply do not feel. Romney and Thompson, meanwhile, are fighting over who is the most conventional, paint-by-numbers conservative circa 1987. Creative domestic policy is off the table. (Giuliani may well lose by virtue of his bellicosity, which is not restricted to terrorist states. Romney is "paint by numbers," yah, but he's also cardboard. And Thompson is at least playing with alternatives to the current IRS system, not to mention proposing a solution to the onrushing Social Security bankruptcy.)
But in general, I agree with the thesis of these guys. There's little imagination.
Here's the answer, according to the authors:
In past periods of Republican weakness, such as the late 1970s and early 1990s, conservatives were able to revive the party by yanking it to the populist right, especially on taxes. The next Republican revival, if it takes place, will involve a change within conservatism as much as an increase in its power over the party.
They are right, of course. I've been saying stuff like that for a year.
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