Sunday, May 18, 2008

David Brooks On The Republican Party

Not breaking news. But a smart rundown of what is happening with the GOP (especially in and around Washington)

From Friday's NewsHour:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the Republicans have some problems of their own. They lost, David, this week, what, the third special election in a congressional district this

DAVID BROOKS: Barack Obama has got problems, but the Republicans have a cataclysm. I mean, to lose there is just a disaster.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This is Mississippi.

DAVID BROOKS: In Mississippi. I was up on Capitol Hill with the Republican troops this week. And I told them, hey, when the Democrats get 100 senators and 435 members of the House, at least they'll extend unemployment benefits for you people, because you're going to need them.

And they are scared. They know there's a sense of real doom, the sense of the party is in real trouble. It's going to take years and years to recover. McCain might be OK, but the Republican Party as a brand is contaminated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do they think went wrong?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they're blaming campaign strategy; they're blaming this and that. But fundamentally they know it's a long-term problem, that the Republican Party has been in slow decline for years. Iraq and the unpopularity of Bush have just dropped it off a cliff.

And I think they understand, or at least they should understand, that it's going to be a long, slow climb. And right now, a lot of people in the Republican Party are looking at the British Tory Party, the Conservative Party, which was out of favor for a decade-and-a-half before they slowly came back.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What can the Republicans do?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think what they should do is just totally re-brand themselves, but they haven't done that. I mean, they -- and I was struck. I've been meeting with Republicans for years. Five years ago, they knew the problem was coming. There's some immobility there that they're not adjusting to.

And they've tried to -- maybe the problem is we weren't conservative enough. But if they were more conservative, they'd be in worse shape. I mean, they really haven't adjusted to the post-Reagan era. It's still, who's the next Reagan? What would Reagan do? And I think it's just mental blindness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That ended quite a few years ago.

DAVID BROOKS: And this...


DAVID BROOKS: It took the British Conservative Party a while to realize, "We're not distinguishing ourselves only from Labour, but also from Margaret Thatcher. That was good for that era, but now it's new."

And I don't think they've done it. Frankly, I don't think the conservative think-tanks have done it. I just think it's a fundamental problem. It's not a short-term problem.