While some whine about the imminent demise of the Democratic Party, it's the Republicans who are actually in real trouble. Their Congresscritters continue to throw in the towel, and it's beginning to seem like none can handle the reality of remaining the minority for the foreseeable future. Poor Karl Rove has destroyed his own dream, and the American people continue to favor the Democrats on most values and issues.
In an article appropriately titled "Dead Party Walking," Gary Kamiya pulls no punches:
The GOP race is great fun to watch -- if you're a Democrat. The uninspiring candidates wander hat in hand from state to state, each being ritually humiliated in turn. If this process continues right up to the convention, the whole snooze-inducing crew may quit in disgust and the GOP will have to hold a mass séance to conjure up the spirit of Ronald Reagan.
Whatever Barack Obama said or meant, the fact remains that it is the Republicans who desperately cling to a legacy that has gone the way of hair bands and whiney Brit-pop. However much some decry the possibility of a Clinton restoration, the Republican fantasy of a Reagan restoration harkens back two decades, when Russia was the Soviet Union, Germany was split in two, Saddam Hussein was our friend, and almost nobody had heard of an internet or global warming.
After watching a Republican debate, Al Hunt quantified the absurdity:
The six aspirants cited Ronald Reagan 34 times; they mentioned George W. Bush once -- Rudy Giuliani extolling tax cuts and citing ``the Bush program, the Reagan program, the Kennedy program.''
The Republicans are trying to recapture a past that many voters only vaguely recall, while running away from the present. That is challenging for a party that values good organization and heirs-apparent.
But it's even worse than that. Because even as the Republican candidates attempt to embrace the ghost of Reaganism, and separate themselves from the Commander Guy, their policy proposals are only so much more of that of which the American people are so desperate to escape. As Kamiya writes:
But what really makes this group pathetic is that instead of trying to make up for their inadequacies and appeal to voters by taking new positions, these candidates are running on the same platform as George W. Bush -- the lamest of presidential ducks, whose policies have failed and whose approval ratings are abysmal.
Even Bob Shrum could beat these Republicans.
The GOP's campaign mess reveals just how big a disaster Bush's presidency has been for the party. At a time when the electorate is urgently demanding a new direction, Republican candidates, chained to a rigid party line and a ruinous war, can only flap their arms and pretend they're flying.
And the ideological chasm between the leading Republicans is not likely to be bridged. McCain is not trusted by the theocrats, Romney is out of touch, out to lunch, and incapable of holding an opinion beyond the time necessary to campaign on it, and Huckabee terrifies a Republican establishment that has long relied on theocratic voters, but realizes that the nation is not actually enthused about a return to Medievalism.
Observing the desperate attempts to invoke the magical name of Reagan, Hunt concludes:
More significant, this reflects the reality that the party's conservative governing coalition has run out of steam. The cohesion that held Republicans together -- anti-communism and tough foreign policy, small government and tax cuts, traditional values -- has become unglued.
During much of the past half-century, the most divisive issues in American politics have plagued the Democrats: civil rights, the Vietnam War, abortion. Today, the schisms are greatest among Republicans: immigration, gay rights, Iraq, and even the size of government. In none of these areas has Bush left a legacy with which his potential successor would wish to associate.
And yet they are. Not by name, but by actual policy.