Day By Day

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Out of the Past

One of my Pennsylvania correspondents wrote to express his amusement that the "Party of Change" was embracing half-century old Camelot images and ideals. Here's my response:

For what it's worth, here's my take on the Florida results.

Both parties have their iconic figures from the not so recent past. For Republicans, it is Reagan -- for Democrats, it is Kennedy. Both men, as they are currently portrayed are fantasies -- idealized, larger than life images rather than the complex, fallible human beings they really were. Both images have a powerful emotional hold on the imaginations of the core partisans who yearn for a return to the glory days of yesteryear. In that sense the activist elements of both parties are reactionary, no matter how much they might prattle on about "change".

But history keeps on keeping on, and neither Kennedy nor Reagan really fits today's world very well. In Florida we saw voters in both parties decisively reject the images of the past to embrace a new vision of the world. Democrats rejected Kennedy-style naive idealism for Clintonian amoral pragmatism while Republicans rejected the Reaganite ideal of limited government for a guy who will expend a lot of loot on the military and will not object to liberal proposals for massive social spending. They rejected Huckabee's evangelical populism and Rudy's urban weirdness decisively, and as for Paul's radical libertarianism, it didn't even register a blip on the radar screen. The big loser all around on all sides was the ideologically driven, "politics of principle".

What struck me most is that the ghost of Tom Tancredo is beginning to take its toll on the Republican candidates. Latinos turned out in large numbers to vote for McCain, whom they saw as an opponent to immigration reform. That was probably decisive. It was certainly a big factor in Gov. Crist's decision to endorse McCain and Jeb's refusal to endorse anyone.

Exit polls also showed that the Republican "base" turned out for Romney, but that wasn't enough to beat McCain, or even to make the election very close. Another poll, shown on MSNBC, affirmed that better than two-thirds of the voters were "satisfied with" or "enthusiastic" about President Bush. He is by no means the pariah the MSM has made him out to be.

I have said it before, and I say it again -- the Republicans should quit looking for the next Reagan, and instead start looking for the next Dubya.