A awhile back, Peggy Noonan stopped echoing the Party Line and started taking jabs at her party instead. Today, she hits Republicans hard with a truth that’s becoming more and more apparent:

What happens to the Republicans in 2008 will likely be dictated by what didn’t happen in 2005, and ’06, and ’07. The moment when the party could have broken, on principle, with the administration – over the thinking behind and the carrying out of the war, over immigration, spending and the size of government – has passed. What two years ago would have been honorable and wise will now look craven. They’re stuck.

Mr. Bush has squandered the hard-built paternity of 40 years. But so has the party, and so have its leaders. If they had pushed away for serious reasons, they could have separated the party’s fortunes from the president’s. This would have left a painfully broken party, but they wouldn’t be left with a ruined “brand,” as they all say, speaking the language of marketing. And they speak that language because they are marketers, not thinkers. Not serious about policy. Not serious about ideas. And not serious about leadership, only followership.

This is and will be the great challenge for John McCain: The Democratic argument, now being market tested by Obama Inc., that a McCain victory will yield nothing more or less than George Bush’s third term.

That is going to be powerful, and it is going to get out the vote. And not for Republicans.

I’ve emphasized what I think is the key thought here. One of the legacies of George W. Bush is the transformation of government departments into marketing wings for the Republican party. This is what you get with an MBA president. To Bush-era Republicans, presentation matters more than substance. If Bill Clinton’s great sin was lawyerly equivocation, then Bush’s great sin is the creating of marketing-driven false realities.

But the problem with false realities is that, like the mirages they are, they don’t last. There’s only so long that Republicans can pretend they are for smaller government and a stronger nation when they are bloating budgets and exhausting our military in what began as an unnecessary war. Even if you strongly support limited government and even if you think the Iraq conflict is worth pursuing, it’s hard to trust the Republican Party to handle either.

This is, mind you, no endorsement for Democrats. That party still has its own issues to resolve. But they aren’t Republicans. And that’s why they will likely gain greater power this November. Republicans will have no one to blame but themselves. And those of us who might otherwise be Republicans will be left wondering who we can look to for serious pursuit of a modernized version of conservative ideals.

Politics Another Republican Harshly Criticizes Republicans