When Did The GOP Become Lousy At Politics?

From a purely political viewpoint, Republicans have dominated the political world for most of my voting life. I have always thought of them as politically superior to the hapless Democrats. They always seemed to be more organized, had better talking points, and more able to control the overall debate. They always seemed to have the upper hand. Things have changed as of late, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Michael Tomasky:

In the years of my adulthood—the years, that is, since the Reagan ascendance—it has generally been assumed by the elite media and other arms of the country-running establishment that the Republicans knew what they were doing. Yeah, they may have been extreme or obstreperous or this or that, but they were good. Newt Gingrich was whip smart. Karl Rove was an out-and-out genius. Tom DeLay, you didn’t mess with. Why I even remember when Bill Frist was limned as some kind of great sage. And so on.

…So they just looked like the team that knew how to play the game.

That was true for a generation anyway, and during that time, the media learned the habit of assuming that, whatever the issue, the Republicans were going to win; they were surely in possession of some secret, devious master plan of genius that they were just waiting for the exact right moment (because needless to say, under this theory, even their timing was above reproach) to spring on the unsuspecting Democrats, who would melt like cheese at the sight of it.

Tomasky feels that allure of superiority has not worn off in the minds of Democrats. To him, the Dems are still intimidated. They still look at the GOP as led by political masterminds who are just waiting to spring their ultimate trap and crush the unsuspecting and clueless lefties. Tomasky urges the Dems not to buy into the hype they’ve created:

They [Republicans] botched the fiscal-cliff talks in any number of ways. Obviously, John Boehner’s Plan B fiasco was the most visible manifestation, but there were more. New Year’s Day—Eric Cantor splitting from Boehner; first there’s no vote; then there is a vote—was absolute mayhem. And, this is crucial, Boehner broke the Hastert Rule and permitted the cliff deal to pass with a minority of Republicans. It is true that Mitch McConnell pushed Obama’s supposedly firm $250,000 amount on taxes up to $450,000, and that was a point in his favor. But the bottom line is that the Republicans emerged from New Year’s Day angry and divided—and defeated.

We’re living in strange times now that the GOP has become bad at the game of politics. It has, in fact, always felt like they were politically superior to the Dems. That was before it was filled with Tea Party ideologues. They have hurt the GOP more than the left ever could.

If you need more evidence that the Republican’s have lost a step, may I remind you of Carl Rove’s episode on election night:

The good news in all of this is that the power vacuum opens up the chance for moderate, reasonable, and normal conservatives to take some ground back from the crazies. Running against your own party could be a winning plan for a moderate conservative. I see openings for Jon Huntsman and Chris Christie that didn’t exist in 2012.

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3 Responses to When Did The GOP Become Lousy At Politics?

  1. Jarret R. says:

    I’m not sure I agree with this entirely. I mean, the GOP, and movement conservatism more broadly, still gets the unwavering support of just-short of half of the politically active people in the United States, regardless of the sheer amount of insanity the movement espouses. I think this has to do with both the reverence for authority that is inherent in conservatism, combined with the fact that many conservative shibboleths: tax cuts always lead to across-the-board growth, trickle down economics, Protestant religious fundamentalism, etc., have become rock-hard beliefs. The people in Alabama who support the GOP no matter what their candidates or platform will do so because they “believe” in a set of religious-like dogmas, and as you know, shaking such beliefs from people who cherish them even in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence is no easy task. Of course, shifts in politics happen, I mean, who would have ever thought in 1865, for example, that Alabama would one-day vote solidly Republican? But those shifts move at a glacial pace.

    • I think the larger point is that the GOP is losing the persuadable voters. That’s what the game of politics is really about – persuading those who can be persuaded. And right now, we’re pretty awful at that.

    • I think the idea that they have become bad at politics speaks more to the GOP’s overall strategy leading into the upcoming debt ceiling debate. They have no grand strategy. No master plan. They are in disarray.

      This could obviously change, but for right now they have lost a step to the Dems.

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