Republicans a Damaged Brand
Political Wire has advanced excerpts from Charlie Cook’s latest National Journal column:
“Republican campaign consultants have been publicly expressing a great deal of concern that the ‘GOP brand’ has been damaged, or at least tarnished. For top strategists to be so candid about their party’s problems is fairly unusual, and it reflects just how urgent they consider the party’s need to redefine itself as it prepares for the 2008 campaign.”
GOP pollster Glen Bolger explains: “We’re still good on taxes and values, but have big problems on ‘less spending’ and ‘less government,’ and there are cracks in the wall of our strong national security fortress. The other tarnish is that for a long time, Democrats were the party of the professional politicians, while Republicans came to Washington to fix the mess and go home. The scandals and the way Republicans ran the House mean that we have been more interested in power than in doing what is right — which means we are no different than that which we replaced in 1994.”
Full disclosure: Bolger is managing partner at my wife’s firm. That said, he’s right.
Many of us on the right side of the blogosphere have been saying much the same thing for a while, arguing that the GOP needs to re-dedicate itself to fiscal discipline (the Porkbusters project is a notable example) and put fresh faces in the leadership. The Senate has done that, mostly because Bill Frist always intended to honor a two term limit, but the House has not.
The DeLay/Abramoff/K Street Project scandal, egregious pork spending (exemplified by the Bridge to Nowhere), and malfeasance in handling the Foley scandal hurt the party badly and cost it the majority. To be sure, being tied to an unpopular president and supporting an unpopular war already put it in danger of losing seats, but abandoning its core principles demoralized the base and energized the apathetic middle.
The damage is reversible, to be sure. Indeed, there are signs that the party has rediscovered its belief in limited government and spending restraint now that they’re in the minority. A significant number of the House seats lost last November will be very much in play come 2008 and, while the set of Senate seats up that cycle favors the Democrats, picking up two seats to regain the majority is hardly out of the question.
The silver lining to being the minority party is that, not only does it force needed self-examination, it shines the spotlight on the excesses of the opposition. While the Democrats are riding in on a wave of reform, they will soon start engaging in most of the same practices they for which they criticized the Republicans. Sadly, that’s what politicians and political parties do. Power has a way of undermining commitment to one’s principles.