Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Toward the Economic Middle

Ramesh Ponnuru has an interesting essay on what has gone wrong for the GOP electorally:
Republican weakness emerges even more clearly when we look at a longer timescale. From 1896 through 1930, Republicans were the dominant party, holding the White House and Congress most of the time and losing the presidency only when they split, as in 1912 and 1916. The Great Depression made the Democrats into the dominant party until 1968. Only one Republican won the presidency during that period, and under highly unusual circumstances: He had won World War II, the Democrats had held the presidency for five consecutive terms, and the country was beset by inflation, corruption, and an unpopular war in Korea.
The Democrats lost majority status in 1968 — they would lose five of six presidential elections from that year through 1988, and win one by a hair — but Republicans did not gain it. They never held the House and rarely held the Senate during that streak of presidential wins. Why didn’t Republicans become the dominant party then? It wasn’t because of foreign policy: That boosted them during the second half of the Cold War, when the Democrats became the relatively dovish party. That’s a big reason Republicans did better at the presidential than at the congressional level. It wasn’t because of social issues: The hippies and McGovernites helped make Republicans the party of middle-class values.
What they did not do is make the Republicans the party of middle-class economic interests. Most Americans associated the party with big business and the country club, and did not agree with its impulses on the minimum wage, entitlement programs, and other forms of government activism designed to protect ordinary people from cold markets. Americans came to be skeptical of government activism mainly when they thought it was undermining middle-class values (as they thought welfare undermined the work ethic). And even when voters thought Republicans were better managers of the economy in general, they thought the GOP looked out for the rich rather than the common man.
 (Via David Frum.)

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