Monday, August 04, 2008

McCain's Problem Isn't His Tactics. It's GOP Ideas.

By Greg Anrig, in yesterday's Washington Post.

Anrig writes:

    But now, seemingly all of a sudden, conservatives are the ones who are tongue-tied, as demonstrated by Sen. John McCain's limping, message-free presidential campaign. McCain's ongoing difficulties in exciting voters aren't just a tactical problem; his woes stem largely from his long-standing adherence to a set of ideas that simply haven't worked in practice. The belief system and finely crafted policy pitches that enabled the right to dominate the war of ideas for the past 30 years have produced a relentless succession of governing failures, from Iraq to Katrina to the economy to the environment.


    As I listen to leading voices and thinkers on the right pondering the condition of their ideology, it is increasingly clear to me that they face a fundamental dilemma -- one that cannot be resolved anytime soon and that might well leave the conservative movement out to pasture for as long as we progressives have been powerlessly chewing grass. That choice is whether to stick with rhetoric and policies wedded to free markets, limited government and bellicose unilateralism, or to endorse a more robust role for the public sector at home while relying more on diplomacy and international institutions abroad. Either way, conservative Republicans seem destined to have a much harder time winning elections for the foreseeable future. Just ask McCain how much fun he's having.

Me, I think it too early to be ordering the funeral spray. People like to be told what they like to hear--part of the reason I like Anrig's essay!--and are very good at filtering out inconveniences like "doesn't work." As Anrig himself points out. And once people have invested themselves emotionally in an idea, the abandonment of that idea--or ideology--becomes near-unthinkable.

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