[Posted by Karl]
TIME magazine has a piece from Michael Grunwald, “Republicans in the Wilderness: Is the Party Over?”, that is so packed with Democratic talking points that David Axelrod could have faxed it over from the White House. The result is cognitive dissonance:
That’s the problem. The party’s ideas — about economic issues, social issues and just about everything else — are not popular ideas. They are extremely conservative ideas tarred by association with the extremely unpopular George W. Bush, who helped downsize the party to its extremely conservative base. A hard-right agenda of slashing taxes for the investor class, protecting marriage from gays, blocking universal health insurance and extolling the glories of waterboarding produces terrific ratings for Rush Limbaugh, but it’s not a majority agenda. The party’s new, Hooverish focus on austerity on the brink of another depression does not seem to fit the national mood, and it’s shamelessly hypocritical, given the party’s recent history of massive deficit spending on pork, war and prescription drugs in good times, not to mention its continuing support for deficit-exploding tax cuts in bad times.
In short, the GOP’s problem is the unpopular, hard-right agenda it didn’t pursue. For that matter, a majority of Americans oppose gay marriage, favor harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, and are unwilling to pay higher taxes for government healthcare. If I spent more than the three minutes it took to discover that much, I could probably find that Grunwald has nothing backing his claim about tax cuts for the “investor class,” though there’s a far amount of debate as to how that class gets defined in the first place. A solid majority still see big government as a bigger threat to the country than big business. As unpopular ideas go, Grunwald’s list seems pretty popular.
It is tempting to view Grunwald’s piece as yet another attempt at setting The Narrative to demoralize the Right. But Grunwald’s regurgitation is so shoddy that it is just as likely the lazy repetition of conventional wisdom, intended only to meet a deadline.
After all, it was only four years ago that Grunwald’s TIME colleague, Joe Klein, was bemoaning “The Incredible Shrinking Democrats”:
“Progressive” Dems—and I use the term advisedly, since liberals seem more interested in preserving the past than in discovering the future—are right to admire Roosevelt. But the Roosevelt they worship is a bronze sculpture, frozen in time. The real F.D.R. was a gutsy innovator. The current Democrats resemble nothing so much as the Republicans during the 25 years after Roosevelt’s death—negative, defensive, intellectually feeble, a permanent minority. There are reasons to oppose this President —arrogance abroad, crony capitalism at home—but undifferentiated opposition is obtuse and most likely counterproductive. The Democrats’ current crudeness is a function of their desperation, and the imminent ratification of Howard Dean, the least charming presidential candidate in recent memory, as their party chairman only serves to punctuate the problem.
It is the sort of piece I remember when I read people arguing about Reagan nolstalgia, or debating the merits of GOP chairman Michael Steele, or claiming permanent minority status for the GOP. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The conventional wisdom of the establishment press covers only the first half of that formula.