It was a bad week for Republicans – those who want their party to appeal beyond the ever-shrinking core of true believers, that is. Take a peek over at the website of The American Spectator and you’ll appreciate why, as dispiriting as things may look right now for the GOP, they’re likely to get worse. Several articles – "The National Socialism of Obamanomics," "The Facts on Fascism" – suggest without irony that we are gliding down a path toward dictatorship, courtesy of Obama’s expansion of government and effort to deal with the implosion of the economy.
Elsewhere, Doug Bandow makes the case that the way forward for the GOP is to make it clear to the American people that it stands for… smaller government. Republicans became unpopular, Bandow contends,
because they cheerfully spent money faster than the Democrats going back to Lyndon Johnson. The GOP further federalized education, added a massive new welfare program, bloated virtually every federal department, initiated an unnecessary war, and demonstrated all-around incompetence.
In other words, Republicans fell out of favor because they behaved like 1960s liberals, an argument that has rapidly congealed into the conventional wisdom among conservatives trying to understand what went wrong under Bush. According to this theory, the tens of millions of Americans without healthcare, the millions more whose houses have been foreclosed, the working parents who can’t afford childcare or who wonder how they will be ever be able to afford sending their kids to college simply want the Leviathan state to stop interfering in their lives and constricting their freedom.
I can understand Bandow’s desire for the GOP to stand for something: progressives have long voiced the same complaint about Democrats. But standing for something that is radically out of touch with what most people want, that suggests you still think it’s 1980 and that nobody has noticed deregulation and unfettered faith in the market has brought the US and global economy to the brink of collapse, is a recipe for defeat and further self-marginalization, not revival. The tiny hint of self-doubt at the end of Bandow’s article ("Ideological purity might not be the answer") suggests a part of him knows this, but, even so, would rather wander in the wilderness among his right-thinking allies than face the inconvenient truths of 2009.