The GOP and the last 16 years

Charles Cooke in the National Review discusses the strategy the Republican party should adopt with the 2016 Presidential elections in mind.

It should by now be obvious to conservatives that the last American Golden Age obtained not during George W. Bush’s rather disappointing tenure, but in the mid- to late- 1990s, when the Republican party ran both houses of Congress and Democrat Bill Clinton ran the executive branch. If they are to run a successful campaign — and, crucially, if they are to capitalize upon the electorate’s present dissatisfactions — Republicans will need to acknowledge that they are not only running against the Obama administration, but against a broader national melancholia to which they themselves have contributed.

What Cooke is arguing is that if is the GOP nominee (considered the frontrunner by many) will that force the GOP into defending the George W Bush Presidency?

Despite his early wins, moreover, both Barack Obama and his agenda have descended into unpopularity and into fatigue. But it would be a considerable mistake to conclude from this that there is any great yearning to return to 2005. If they are offered a choice between “Clinton” — a name that evokes peace and prosperity — and “Bush” – a name that has been rather run through the mud – they will almost certainly choose the former.

I don’t agree that is a near certainty to defeat Jeb Bush but in a ‘back to the future’ style contest between the two she wouldn’t be without a realistic chance of winning. The Clinton political machine is looking rather clunky at times, but is the Bush machine any better?

So what does Cooke think the GOP should do?

Instead, the conservative play should be to put up an attractive newcomer and to hope that he can persuade the electorate to turn its back on the established machine. Who should that be? Well, that depends primarily on aesthetics rather than policy. I take no pleasure in writing this: In an ideal world, our elections would be held on paper, our candidates would be expected to eschew the superficial, and the president would be heard from only if there were a war or a tsunami. Policy, and not television commercials, would rule the political roost. In the real world, however, messaging matters a great, great deal. If they are serious about winning in 2016, conservatives should make sure that they pick a candidate who is capable not only of tapping into the contemporary dissatisfaction, but of breaking with his own party’s past, too.

An ‘attractive newcomer’ as Cooke calls them would also I think need to have some sort of executive experience and be able to motivate conservatives AND moderates/independents to go the polling booths and vote for them. Neither Romney nor McCain excited the conservative base in their respective campaigns for President.

Finally to come back to the premise of Cooke’s article, I agree with him that the GOP should run against the last 16 years. They also need to come up with some sound new policy ideas and not just for the next year and a half rail against Obama and Hillary Clinton (assuming she is the nominee).

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