It Was The Result, Not The GOP Politics that Did Them In

I wish Matt Yglesias would start writing more about this point (he has made it well and repeatedly), because a false meme is beginning to gain traction among Democrats - to wit, that the GOP lost because of their politics, not their results of their policies. Here are two examples of that faulty thinking. First, my friend Ed Kilgore:

[w]e now have the clear example before us of the failure of a GOP strategy that so very recently looked compelling and perhaps invincible, based on a political map of the country that proved to be no more permanent than, I suspect, the one we see today.

This is just wrong. Republican politics failed because Republican policies failed. Similarly, Nate Silver argues the GOP lost the art of persuasion. This is also wrong. Look, Bill Clinton explained it in simple terms:

[O]n the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America's leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years, a philosophy we never had a real chance to see in action until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and Congress. Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades were implemented.

They took us from record surpluses to an exploding national debt; from over 22 million new jobs down to 5 million; from an increase in working family incomes of $7,500 to a decline of more than $2,000; from almost 8 million Americans moving out of poverty to more than 5 and a half million falling into poverty - and millions more losing their health insurance.

Now, in spite of all the evidence, their candidate is promising more of the same: More tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that will swell the deficit, increase inequality, and weaken the economy. More band-aids for health care that will enrich insurance companies, impoverish families and increase the number of uninsured. More going it alone in the world, instead of building the shared responsibilities and shared opportunities necessary to advance our security and restore our influence.

They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more. Let's send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America: Thanks, but no thanks. In this case, the third time is not the charm.

Republicans lost the last two elections because their policies stink. All this talk about Center-Right, and Talk Radio, and movements and the rest of it is nice and all but it ignores the elephant in the room - Republican rule of this nation has led us to calamity. That is why they have been losing elections.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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  • Display: Sort:
    How does he do it? (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by mogal on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 08:43:41 PM EST
    Nobody can take complicated issues and simplify them and yet remain eloquent like WJC. Again, how does he manage to do this?

    It's a gift. (5.00 / 10) (#2)
    by oldpro on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 08:58:28 PM EST
    As with all great teachers, great writers, great thinkers, 'the gift' is a combination of a superior native intelligence, a solid basic education in liberal arts, an inquiring and facile mind and knowing what you think about a subject after acquiring the information you need to give it some thought.

    This is why we should be soooo (5.00 / 11) (#3)
    by oculus on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 08:59:41 PM EST
    frightened if Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State.  What if Bill Clinton opens his mouth and spouts out words that make sense?

    Not only their policies were lousy, (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by oldpro on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:04:06 PM EST
    their performance was lousy.

    People are fed up with incompetence and stupidity...in government anyway...(not their own, of course).

    Please (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:53:26 PM EST
    let's remember that Obama won by 6 percent or whatever it was. Hardly a sea change in the electorate's consciousness.

    Enough to tip the scales, but not much more than that.  Damn near half the country didn't see it this way.


    Even Bob Dole did about that well (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:01:38 PM EST
    against Bill Clinton.

    This is as close as you get to a landslide these days.


    Enough people. (none / 0) (#17)
    by oldpro on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 11:44:42 PM EST
    I should have said "enough people."

    Clearly not everyone is fed up with incompetence and stupidity.  Some people relate!


    Yea but (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Jjc2008 on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:09:53 PM EST
    if Bill Clinton says it, then it must be the root of all evil, wrong, and motivated by triangulating and manipulating.

    The so called progressives would rather giving any excuse and rationalization rather than listen to Bill.

    WTF? (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by kaleidescope on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:20:20 PM EST
    I don't see why you all couldn't be right.  The Republicans lost because of the failure of their so-called policies AND because they had an inept strategy.  

    After all, Bush's policies had already failed by 2004, but he still won the election.

    Triple double bingo (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by gyrfalcon on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:51:12 PM EST
    Exactly.  It's never, ever any one thing.  The economy tanked while these people were obsessing about gay marriage and "San Francisco liberals"
    and McCain was flitting around making a fool of himself.

    Goolsbie was right on target on that (5.00 / 4) (#10)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:46:51 PM EST
    this morning on one of the Sunday shows - Bob Schieffer I think?  Reiterated a few times about how the Republican economic philosophy has failed. More of that, please.

    Regardless of whether voters rejected the policies or the politics, the Democratic message has to be that the policies failed. Any Dem with a microphone or a keyboard in front of him or her needs to be making that case. Remember how Republicans made 'tax and spend' a synonym for Democrat?  Well, 'failed economic policies' needs to become synonymous with the GOP.

    is that all you have jim? (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 08:34:25 AM EST
    That's a lot to screw up in 17 months but the Democrats managed to do it.

    not even a nice try. i suppose you're going to blame the democrats for the failure of the bush administration regulators to actually regulate too? frankly, i'm surprised you didn't.

    the issues leading up to the recent economic debacle had little to do with the brief democratic congress, and everything to do with republican "conservative" philosophy, translated into action by bush and a republican congress. this gave us the current crisis, fueled by the sub-prime mortgage market, which was largely unregulated by bush appointees.

    as well, gulf hurricanes gave us not only botched responses by FEMA, but decreased refinery capacity, leading to marked increases in price for gas & diesel (supply availabe vs quantity demanded = price). how, exactly, did the democrats have anything to do with that?

    as usual, you spout nonsensical republican talking points, wholly unsupported by the facts.

    It will be interesting to watch (2.00 / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:50:22 PM EST
    the Democrats discover that the voter is just as unforgiving with them over a poor economy as they were with the Repubs.

    All this other stuff is posturing and people talking to hear themselves talk.

    Clinton was lucky. He received the peace dividend and rode that to two terms. The dividend ran out early in 2000 as the Internet bubble burst - check the NASDAQ starting in March 2000 - and that doomed Gore. Bush cut taxes and that created a boom but that ran when the housing market and oil prices created chaos in the markets. That doomed McCain.

    What boom did Bush's tax cuts create? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:58:07 PM EST
    I must have missed it. Real incomes have declined throughout his whole term, and job creation was almost non-existent.  The stock market did well for a while on erroneous fund valuations - I guess that is what passes for a boom in Bush's 8 years.

    So?? (2.00 / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 07:57:12 AM EST
    Your average income argument falls into the same category of why the Repubs lost. Of interest to fans but of no interest to the people who elect or defeat.... the average middle of the road voter who doesn't pay a lot of attention. Thus they did not know:

    When the Demos took control in 2/2007 un-employment was below 5%, the stock market was around 12,000, oil was around $55.00 a barrel and gasoline was around $2.00 a gallon.

    By mid July, last summer. a short 17 months later, unemployment was above 6% and climbing, the stock market was in collapse and falling below 8000, oil was $146 and gasoline was above $4.00.

    That's a lot to screw up in 17 months but the Democrats managed to do it.

    And Jane and Joe Six Pack didn't care. They will always blame the President of the party in power, and the candidate of that party.


    persuasion? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Salo on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:05:24 PM EST
    oh me gawd, they failed to convince? Rather than demonstrate their unfitness to lead and legislate?

    ha - they failed to convince (none / 0) (#11)
    by ruffian on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 10:49:16 PM EST
    that their unfitness to lead and to legislate was really utter brilliance in leadership and legislation. Really, it was a hard sell.

    what terrifies... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Salo on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:13:17 PM EST
    me about the poblano opinion is that the press decide if you are persusive by choosing to use your talking points or making fun of them...it's really that crude.  The pol has little control over this process.  

    all that happened... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Salo on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 09:16:28 PM EST
    is that McCain lost the press that bush found in 2000

    politics and policy (none / 0) (#21)
    by edkilgore on Mon Nov 24, 2008 at 11:17:59 AM EST
    Have to say I was surprised to see my post cited in support of a proposition I don't agree with at all.  Au contraire: of course GOP policies were their undoing, and that's why their political strategy didn't work.  

    I made this clearer in an earlier post (http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2008/11/the_anatomy_of_conservative_se.php) which suggested that there's nothing like a popular majority for core conservative policy prescriptions.  Because they don't believe in a principled role for government in domestic policy, but don't have the support or guts to be honest about it, conservatives tend to use government for patronage and targeted vote-buying, which leads to incompetence and corruption.  

    More generally, I think political strategy is always ultimately about governing, which is why the success or failure of the Obama administration will have a greater impact on future Democratic prospects than anything else.  And that's why I don't fully share the "demographics is destiny" approach, and why I think, as I said in the post in question, that nobody's strategic "map" is permanent.

    Ed Kilgore