The Republicans are struggling now the way the Democrats were in the 1980s.
Politicians often are inclined to brush aside suggestions and advice from media and academic people, and many times they are wise to do so. Some rather bizarre and impractical offerings are presented by attention-seeking reporters, analysts and professors.
But right now, the members of the Republican Party leadership might pay some heed to a recent USA Today opinion piece by Ross K. Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University and a member of USA Today’s board of contributors.
Baker points out how the Democratic Party spent the 1980s “wandering in the wilderness.” Their comeback is well-documented, and it is now the Republicans who are facing the prospect of a lost decade. Writes Baker:
“They (the Republicans) cower in the shadow of a popular Democratic president and have but one string to their bow: reflexive opposition to everything the president stands for.
“In President Obama, we see the 21st century version of the sunny Ronald Reagan of 1984; in today’s Republican Party we see the angry, gloomy Democrats of that era who could do little more than pick at Reagan’s cloak.
“The Democrats’ salvation finally came in 1992 in the form of a remarkable small-state governor named Bill Clinton, who refashioned the party and captured the presidency. It will be a test of the survival instincts of the GOP if it were to identify and, even more important, put to use the guile of such a transformative leader.”
One of the most important points made by Baker is that the Republicans have no chance to be credible and effective if they continue to automatically oppose anything that comes out of the White House. This is a time when the nation needs all the cooperation of talents that can be generated in Washington.
Obama and Co. fall far short of perfection, but nothing will be gained by continued rejection of everything by the “loyal opposition.” It’s statesmanship rather than politics that America desperately needs. Too often there is knee-jerk negativity by Republicans rather than compromise and consideration.
Not that the Democrats don’t also play politics, but the Democrats are in power, the Republicans are desperately trying to play catchup and the country suffers from blind parochialism, regardless of which side of the congressional aisles it comes from.
Where the Republicans can find a Clinton or another Reagan is the key to all this, of course. Without such a leader, the party is doomed to continued frustration. Ross Baker says they need to be reminded regularly that Clinton’s formula for success “was understanding that the differences between liberals and conservatives are not nearly as significant as the gap between romantics and realists.”
As of now the Republican Party and its leaders seem to be trailing in both of those categories. It is now the GOP that is wandering in the wilderness of non-productivity.