Politics

Liberal advice for GOP: Surrender now

Liberal advice for GOP: Surrender now

If we’re to believe the poll above, these days it’s extreme to believe that the United States “stands above” nations like Chad or Peru. It’s radical to believe that most — not all — corporations make a fair and reasonable profit (whatever that’s supposed to mean). It’s absolutely bonkers to argue that a highly regulated and coerced health-care system may not be the best thing for the country moving forward.

You are a nut.

So what can be done? Most conservatives, it’s fair to say, believe that the Republican Party needs a makeover, a reinvention, a reboot – whatever you want to call it. What that rebirth should look like, is another story. You’ll notice, too, that there’s been a stampede of exceedingly helpful liberals offering their own prescriptions for GOP renewal. Most often, amazingly enough, the answer entails Republicans acting just like Democrats. If only life were this easy, we could have one party and everyone would be happy.

A particularly irritating subset of this genre is the partisan hit job masquerading as thoughtful social science. Take this long Washington Post op-ed by Andrew Kohut, founding director and former president of the Pew Research Center.

And Kohut’s core argument? The Republican Party will likely be on the outs for a very long time because of “the outsize influence of hard-line elements in the party base.”  This faction is doing to the GOP what supporters for Gene McCarthy and George McGovern did to the Democratic Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They’re standing in the way of a rebirth and allowing radicalism to grow like a cancer. (I don’t want to spend too much time quibbling with historical analogies, but Richard Nixon won the Electoral votes 520-17 in 1972. Barack Obama won the vote 332-206. Nixon carried 49 states. Obama carried 26. Nixon won the popular vote 47,168,710 to 29,173,222 while Obama won it 65,907,213 to 60,931,767. More like Clinton-Dole than Nixon-McGovern.)

Every party has its “staunch” element (and according to Kohut’s definition nearly every Republican is a member of this crowd). What’s unique about this one?

According to our polling, three factors stand out in the emergence of the GOP’s staunch conservative bloc: ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the changing face of America and the influence of conservative media.

So let’s break it down the unique elements of this group:

1. Staunch conservatives want their party to resist the policies of a liberal president.
2. Stanch conservatives have a conservative disposition – in social and economic policy.
3. FOX News and Rush Limbaugh.
4. Racism

That last one is added into the mix later by Kohut.

To the conservative base, Obama, as an African American in the White House, may be a symbol of how America has changed. Unease with him sets conservative Republicans apart from other voting blocs — including moderate Republicans, who have hardly been fans of the president. For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall and 40 percent of moderate Republicans.

Stanch conservatives are angered more by a progressive president who has advocated for and passed wide-ranging liberal policies more than moderates and Democrats. There is only one conclusion to reach. And one of America’s leading pollsters, an impartial observer, has that answer: Racism.

So Republicans, then, could be popular once again if only …

1. They supported the liberal president’s policies.
2. Stopped going to Church and reading Hayek.
3. Watched CNN.
4. Stop pretending not to be racists and not be racists for real.

Even then, it’s going to be tough for the GOP. Democrats were able to overcome all their obstacles in the 1970s, but it took Watergate, an oil embargo and Jimmy Carter’s the pardon of Nixon to secure victory in 1976. “Not even the most frustrated Republicans could hope for a similar turn of events,” Kohut says. Indeed, not.

Then again, since we’re re-living the 1970s, it took only four years of stagnation to allow a pro-growth Republican to sweep into office when it was all over. Surely, there are some generational issues, and some demographic ones, that will be difficult to overcome. Surely some changes in tone and in policy are a prerequisite to any hope of the GOP expanding its reach. Perhaps, though, if Republicans started offering smart and compelling ideas on tax reform, deregulation and economic growth, they could bend these polls in their direction.

Just a thought before taking the advice of concern trolls and offering a complete surrender.

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Follow David Harsanyi @davidharsanyi.

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