A mere one day after the election, a number of Republicans are encouraging Sarah Palin to prepare for the 2012 presidential run. Rush Limbaugh has gone so far as to call her “The next Ronald Reagan.”
This is a clear indication that there are some deep and underlying problems within the party—something that’s particularly revealing considering what just transpired in the recently concluded election.
The party itself is a pale imitation of what it used to be. Modern Republicanism has regressed to petty populism—it’s now all about apple pie, Joe six-pack and anti-intellectual sentiment. Sure, it can be a great way to get elected, but as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s no way to run a country (actually, given the GOP defeat, it’s not even a good way to run an election any more—though it was disturbingly close).
Another problem is that the GOP keeps looking at the rear view mirror; post-election punditry from the Republicans have been filled with calls for a return to good ‘ol fashion Reaganism. Well, Reagan’s coalition was built on the issues of crime, welfare, taxes and the Cold War. These are now old battles and and old ways of thinking about how to mobilize the electorate.
A number of Republicans have clearly not learned from their defeat in this election about where the party needs to go (in terms of reform and modernization) and how they need to speak to the needs and pains of the American people; it’s quickly becoming the party of the previous century. The Democrats, meanwhile, are looking to become the first true administration of the 21st Century.
As an example, the GOP must catch up to Democrats in online organizing and fundraising - a shortcoming made clear in this election. “The Republican Party is teetering on the brink of irrelevancy,” argues Professor Lawrence R. Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “This is about as close to a repudiation as you can get.”
Negative reactions to recent dissent from within the party further reinforces the notion that the Republicans are uninterested in doing any soul searching; columnist Kathleen Parker has been drowning in hate mail on account of her criticisms of Sarah Palin, Chris Buckley, the son of the late William F. Buckley Jr., lost his position at the National Review, and Colin Powell is most certainly now persona non grata among the Republicans.
Mind you, not all Republicans feel this way, of course. There are already calls for reform in some quarters. At any rate, they’ve got lots of work to do. The only question is: in which direction will they take the party?