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Monday, October 18, 2004

[+/-]
 Like the Democrats of the 1970s, today's GOP is sounding its death rattle

From the latest Washington Monthly:
[F]or all its apparent strength, the modern Republican Party has worked itself into a position of profound and growing decay. Worried Republicans are right to look to the past to help sort out their future. But the right date isn't 1994 or 1904. It's the late 1970s--and the party to look at isn't the Republicans, but the Democrats. Like the Democrats of that period, the current version of the Republican Party is supremely powerful but ideologically incoherent, run largely by and for special interests and increasingly alienated from the broader voting public. Today's GOP is headed for a profound crackup. The only questions are when, exactly, the decline will start--and how long it will last.
It's a longish read, but a good one. Here's a snippet illustrating the author's comparisons between the Republicans of today and the Democrats of the 1970s:
Jimmy Carter fought against his party's worst instincts, lost, and in losing made himself look weak. His failure to win reelection convinced his party's liberal wing not that they should have been more open to Carter's reforms, but that they had been right all along. In 1984, Democrats rejected the progressive centrist presidential bid of Gary Hart in favor of liberal stalwart Walter Mondale, who in turn chose as running-mate a liberal New York congresswoman, Geraldine Ferraro, to form a ticket that carried one state in 50. By 1988, the Democratic landscape started to shift; the party nominated a pragmatist governor, Michael Dukakis, and a conservative Texas senator, Lloyd Bentsen, as his running mate. But Dukakis, tone-deaf on crime and defense, fit too easily into a right-wingers' caricature of a Northern liberal, and he, too, lost badly. It wasn't until 1992 that the party finally put a Southern centrist, Bill Clinton, at the top of the ticket. And it took Clinton eight years of cajoling and fighting with his party's liberal base (who put up big fights over welfare reform and the president's fiscal conservatism) to put the Democrats more-or-less squarely behind moderate policies. Changing a party takes time.

By contrast, George Bush has embraced his party's worst instincts, thereby winning its support and making himself look strong. This image of strength, plus an ineffective opponent, might be enough to win him reelection. But ironically, a Bush win will have the same effect on the GOP as Carter's loss had on the Democrats: It will convince the ideologues that they were right. For that reason, moderate Republicans who truly want to take back their party must secretly hope--indeed, many do--that Bush loses.

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