If the following is true, it would be refreshing. Mostly because it’ll hopefully bring about good ideas instead of tired rhetoric.
Still, the plan is fraught with peril, mostly because Republicans lost power because of their ideology. Some say it’s because they didn’t adhere to that ideology closely enough, but how many conservatives do you know fully supported the war and the spending that went into it? Yes, exactly.
I just got off the phone with a very plugged-in Republican strategist who told me that Republican reaction to President Obama’s speech, which the party will roll out in the next few days, will mark the beginning of a new GOP approach to opposing the president’s initiatives. (No, Bobby Jindal’s ineffective response was not part of that new approach — everyone seems a little embarrassed about that.) The Republican leadership in the House has concluded that in the stimulus debate, the GOP succeeded in dominating a number of news cycles but failed to score any points on actual policy. That, the leaders believe, has got to change.
“You’re seeing a major doctrinal shift in how Republicans are going to focus all these debates,” the strategist told me. “The key is to focus on winning the issue as opposed to winning the political moment. If you win the issue, people will think you are ready to govern.”
I asked him to elaborate a little. “With the political moment, it’s how can you find the one thing that gives you the momentary upper hand in terms of the coverage for the next six hours — as opposed to engaging the electorate in creating a structural change in their opinion on which party is better able to handle an issue.”
During the stimulus debate, the strategist argued, Republicans had an actual alternative but were unable to direct much attention to it — in part because they were focusing so much of their rhetoric on the massive and unnecessary spending in the bill. The debate became a question of an up-or-down decision on the Obama/Democratic plan — not a choice between the Obama/Democratic plan and a Republican plan. “The coverage of the stimulus bill focused on the difference between the House and Senate versions,” the strategist told me, “which were basically two sides of the same coin.” The Republican role was limited to a) saying no to the Obama/Democratic bill, and b) having three moderates in the Senate approve of the bill as long as it offered a little less than what Democrats proposed. The idea that Republicans, mostly in the House, had an actual full-scale alternative, was lost. “On the Sunday talk shows, right after it passed, find me one person who mentioned the Republican alternative,” the strategist said.
So, basically, it’s not enough to keep pushing your ideas if they’re tired and Americans have lost faith in them. You have to reinvigorate the electorate somehow with a truly unique philosophy and until that happens I think conservatives will find themselves frustrated and see their power slipping further away.