Good piece (link only good for a week for non-subscribers) by political analyst Ron Brownstein on the National Journal's web site. He talks about the need for the GOP to adapt to a new era in politics or take big hits at the ballot box. Quite simply, he thinks they need to focus more on new ideas than on ideological uniformity. Kevin Drum observes (correctly) that following every election cycle the losing party seems to face a crisis of identity:
Every two years the losing party has this exact same conversation: (a) move to the center to appeal more to swing voters, or (b) move left (right) in order to stay true to the party's liberal (conservative) heritage? My sense is that (b) is almost always the choice after the first loss or two, after which (a) finally wins out.
This year, though, we're in a historically odd position. The Republican Party is still in stage (b), but to a smaller extent, the Democrats are back there too. The Democratic Party spent so long in stage (a) during the 90s, moving aggressively to the center after years in the wilderness, and the GOP moved so far to the right under Gingrich and Bush, that Democrats have the luxury of being able to move modestly to the left and yet still be moving relatively closer to the center than the Republican Party. On a scale of 1 to 10, it's like the GOP is moving right from 8 to 9 while the Democratic party is moving left from 4 to 3.5. The lunacy of the conservative base is providing a huge amount of cover for liberals to make some modest progress this year.
As far as the Republicans go, it is clear that they have reflexively leaned back on their outdated philosophies for government instead of doing the far more difficult task of soul-searching. The fact that all the Republican candidates for president are still spouting supply-side rhetoric, ignoring the threat of global warming, and advocating the stay-the-course approach to foreign policy, when these policies are precisely the reason President Bush is so unpopular, is a clear sign that the party is intellectually bankrupt.
I have just finished reading Matt Bai's book The Argument, which basically chronicles the Democratic party and the progressive movement from 2004 through 2006 (review coming shortly). Bai's conclusion is essentially that the movement doesn't have much of an argument for how it wants America governed in the age of a global economy, stateless terror, YouTube, etc. Instead, he contends, it falls back on defending old New Deal policies that are under constant assault from conservatives but that are outdated and no match for the challenges of the 21st century. I've got to say that, for the most part, he's right. But if that's true for progressives/Democrats, boy is it true for conservatives/Republicans. More on that later.
In 2008, for the first time since 1928, no incumbent president or vice president will be seeking the executive office. This gives both politicians and the American people a terrific opportunity to look towards the future and to propose bold ideas, if there are any to offer. In short, to paraphrase from Bai, it will be the first 21st century election in the 21st century. I think politicians, activists, and commentators on both sides owe it to future generations to take Brownstein's words to heart. Democrats want to win the election, but they also should be interested in winning the future.