Monday, October 06, 2008

Why the Republicans will lose in November

Nobody has come right out and said it, but the Republicans are going to lose in November for one very simple reason: they are divided among themselves on the most important issue in the election, the economy.

The bailout debate simply splintered the Republican Party. In my state of Kentucky, the six most prominent Republicans in the state are right down the middle: three-three, with the two senators, Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell, finding themselves on opposite sides. This is going on around the country.

The split is not only the effect of confusion, it is the cause of confusion among the electorate, who are sensing that the Republican Party doesn't know what it is about. You simply can't win an election without a coherent message, and you can't have a coherent message without a coherent philosophy--and the Republican Party no longer has one. The Republican Party uses the image of Ronald Reagan the way Kentucky Fried Chicken uses the image of Colonel Sanders: not because they cook food the way he did (they don't), but because his image give the general impression that they do.

In the case of the bailout plan, a Republican president proposed the plan; on the other hand, a Democratic Congressional leadership helped promote it. On the one hand, the majority of rank and file House Republicans opposed it; on the other hand, the Republican nominee for president supported it. And both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates took the same position on the issue.

The only recipe here is for total electoral confusion, a confusion the Democrats benefit from because at least their consistent--consistently wrong, but consistent.

The Republicans had nothing politically to gain from supporting the bailout. Support for the plan just means that they are indistinguishable from the Democrats. They can talk all they want to about how the Democrats were responsible, but confused voters will still wonder why they both have the same solution.

Here's the chief problem for the Republicans: their chief domestic policy themes for decades have been fiscal restraint and free market economics. These were the positions that marked them off from their Democratic opponents and that brought them success with Ronald Reagan. But George W. Bush scuttled the first issue by massive increases in federal spending during his two terms in office, and McCain, although feigning support for fiscal restraint, has scuttled the second issue by supporting the bailout.

Republicans are left confused about what exactly they are supposed to stand for economically, and why they should vote for Republicans over Democrats. The Democrats on the other hand, with a few exceptions, they are united on the bailout bill. And why shouldn't they be? It is a pure big government solution--completely consistent with everything they have stood for for years.

How can the Republicans win when the chief economic crisis of our times (which crested, ironically, right in mid-presidential campaign) was resolved on liberal Democratic economic principles, and half of the party that supposedly stands on conservative principles joined arms with them?


Anonymous said...

Actually, Martin, I have to disagree. Its the economic crisis itself that is going to cause McCain to lose, not the GOP response to it. Its come in the eighth year of an already unpopular Bush Administration, so no matter how hard the GOP tries to blame the crisis on the Democrats, blame is going to fall on the people who have been in power all these years. AFAIK, the conservatives' alternatives to the bailout would have been to either do nothing, let banks fail and the free market sort things out, or to propose another massive tax cut for rich people, which would then somehow trickle down to the people losing their jobs and homes. Neither alternative would have provided much comfort to people who have already lost their jobs and/or homes, or are scared that they will soon.

What should really worry you is that the Reagan coalition has run its course, and politics for the next generation could be dominated by a new coalition of socially conscious urban youth which cuts across racial, regional and religious divides-call it the "Obama Nation" if you like. This coalition reaches into the GOP's southern and western strongholds where huge numbers of newly registered Democrats make formally safe red states like Va, NC, Mo, Co, and Nv into battleground states. Through a flood of small donations over the internet, they have also given Obama nearly unlimited financial resources to challenge McCain in states he never thought he'd have to defend. Its 1932, and since Bush is unavailable, McCain's been cast in the role of Herbert Hoover (or Jimmy Carter in 1980, if you like).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we need four or five parties instead of two.

J.John said...

What about McCain, who in a commercial said, "Washington is broken and John McCain wants to fix it," in more eloquent terms. Couldn't this division between the Republicans be boost to McCain is saying? Couldn't he say,"This is one more example where Washington is in turmoil and I, as President could help fix." Just a thought.

Martin Cothran said...


As a political reality, I agree with most of what you say: people are blaming Bush, and, by association, McCain. Our difference probably comes in whether they should.

Not that I think Bush in anything but a poor excuse for a conservative, but the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the Carter administration, and, in more immediate terms, to the Community Reinvestment Act. Much of the problem is the attempt to make mortgages affordable for people who couldn't afford them. I don't know how anyone can honestly deny that the push for this came primarily from Democrats.

The Republican's chief culpability here is going along with the idea and not protesting it, for which they deserve blame.

Anonymous said...

"...benefit from because at least their consistent..."

Hi Martin,

Please pardon my boldness, but did you mean, "they're?"