November 10, 2008

Jennifer Rubin Gets Practical.

Well, if we don't like losing, what can we do to start winning? We could use some soul-searching, a little new blood. Oh, and—we could stop behaving like assholes (my word; not Rubin's). From her latest at PJ Media:

The Republicans have just taken a beating. They lost the White House, at least six Senate seats, and approximately twenty House seats. They have not a single House member from New England. They have no West Coast senators (other than Alaska). So what do they do?

Well, in the days following the election they engaged in the same petty, irrelevant. and ultimately self-destructive behavior which got them into the political ditch to begin with.

Let’s start with the petty. The RNC spent its time sending out “oppo” memos as word of President-elect Obama’s White House staff picks (e.g., Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod) came out. “Too partisan!” screamed the press releases. “He’s hiring political people!” Oh, the horror! Not many people in the country, other than staffers at the RNC with too little to do, begrudge the new president selecting competent political advisers, especially ones which proved discreet and capable during the campaign. And even the Wall Street Journal editors were not buying the hysteria — correctly noting that Emanuel was a free trader and economic moderate.

Next, we were treated to the sight of a group of old Washington insiders meeting at a Virginia estate to discuss the future of the GOP. This hardly seemed the way to refreshen, revive, and enliven the party. And by shutting out young conservative bloggers, they ensured that the most significant impact of the confab was to start another intra-party fight.

But much of the week was taken up by former McCain staffers, snooty columnists, and unnamed sources continuing the vendetta against Sarah Palin. It seemed utterly incomprehensible why they would want to tear down the favorite 2008 Republican candidate and an able spokeswoman for reform, one who actually still holds office.

Nor did Congressional Republicans fully appreciate the need to clean house. Young Turk Eric Cantor (R-VA) did step into the position of minority whip. But John Boehner (R-OH), hardly the model of reform and innovation, remained ensconced as minority leader. Was this the way to communicate to Republicans and the country as a whole that it would no longer be business as usual? If so, it was a strange way to show it.

None of this suggests that those inside the Beltway appreciate the predicament the GOP is in. The election returns were filled with bad news: Republican lagged in party identification (39-32%), got a fraction of the Hispanic vote (31%), and lost multiple red states (e.g., Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida). Young people are flocking to the Democratic Party. Sniping at the new president’s White House staff, circling the rickety wagons of Washington insiders, and attacking their former VP nominee are not going to ameliorate any of those problems.

There were a few isolated signs of life. Mitt Romney gave an interview which provided a cogent assessment of the economy and outlined sound fiscal policies, without engaging in a trace of partisanship. And a group of young bloggers put forth a game plan for web organizing and communication. These hints of progress and forward-looking thinking suggest that the best ideas won’t be coming from Washington, at least not from the Old Guard of leaders who led the party into ruin.

In the weeks and months ahead Republicans will need to craft a tone which does not reek of excessive partisanship. Republican strategist Todd Harris explained: “In terms of the long-term prospects for our party, the tone we take now is in many ways even more important than the tone we took during the election. The country has spoken and pretty overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama president. We can either learn from our own mistakes, in terms of the things we have done in the past that compelled a center-right nation to elect a liberal Democrat as president, or we can do what some seem to want to do, which is to point fingers, double down on failed strategies and leaders, and continue our decline.”

Unfortunately, from pundits there was too little of the gentlemanly tone which Bill Kristol displayed: “We pledge our support for those of his policies we can support, our willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt in cases of uncertainty, and our constructive criticism and loyal opposition where we are compelled.” Republicans will need to develop an agenda in Congress which distinguishes them both from their own past (e.g., pork barrel spending) and the new administration, should it go down the tax-and-spend road preferred by Congressional Democrats. Will they support a bailout of the auto industry or sound the clarion call about creeping government ownership? Will they oppose a stimulus package filled with pork? In these and many other questions they will need to determine whether to oppose the Obama administration at all costs or try to carve bipartisan compromises.

As for the aspiring 2012 contenders, they would do well to follow the lead of both Palin and Romney. For Republicans who still have jobs, they should perform them well and demonstrate that some Republicans can competently govern and legislate, make bipartisan deals, and remain politically popular. For Republicans who are no longer in office, they would do well to explain, educate, and bolster rather than sneer and back-bite.

My emphasis.

Amen, sister. (Though we do need to talk about this "which for that" verbal tic of yours.)

This reminds me of a Glenn Reynolds observation about the Emanuel appointment:

Emanuel will serve as Obama's hatchet-man and Dr. No, but the main targets will be Congressional Democrats and Democratic interest groups. Obama realizes that he's promised a lot more than he can deliver, and Emanuel's job will be to stave off all the claimants who—as they realize that too—will try to get to him before it's too late. Obama can stay the good cop, while Emanuel will be the bad. Republicans flatter themselves if they think they'll be the focus of Emanuel's attentions; they'll be an afterthought.
Posted by Attila Girl at November 10, 2008 05:22 AM | TrackBack

The Republicans were not nearly as badly defeated as the above picture relates. Obama was massively funded, was running against an unpopular president, had an opponent who squandered most opportunities to position himself as an effective alternative, was reaping the inherent advantage of a challenger in a sour economy, had record turnout from some core base elements, and had the MSM in his corner.

And yet he garnered only 52% of the popular vote. Two of these advantages will be GONE in 2012, and it will only be worse if he does not govern to the right of Jimmy Carter.

Many of the defeated Republican Congressmen were tainted by some form of scandal, association with Bush, or ran inept campaigns (Elizabeth Dole). That may be a problem for the Senate in 2010, but the House is not going any farther to the left unless the next two years show improvement for the typical American.

Posted by: John at November 10, 2008 03:35 PM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

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