Rand Paul today says that the GOP’s “war first” brand sucks. But this is pretty much only relevant to the Iraq War. Lefties get wet for this because they hate all war even if it’s necessary or justified. But if you think that have two viable parties is good for the country, Paul’s kind of rebrand for the GOP won’t help you.
I figured after the wipeout in 2008, the national Republican party would do some soul searching and decide that, due to the electoral college map, they would have to start recruiting more moderates for their primaries and stop alienating people like Jim Jeffords, Arlen Spector, and Linc Chaffee. They did the reverse, of course, because it seems they are content to rely on gerrymandered control of the House and the occasional fluke to gain control of the senate for a while.
One could even argue that the Republican party is doing more of what it wants now than it could if the situation were reversed and Mitt Romney were President, the Democrats controlled Congress and most of the states. But are they really willing to admit they are giving up on the White House for the foreseeable future?
Of course not. But given who is running in 2016, they must think that their best shot is to get a “purer” candidate in 2020 and bet on voter fatigue with Democrats. But that seems almost conspiratorial. None of the candidates they have now are anything other than cartoons or also rans. There are a couple that might be tolerable, like George Pataki, but I think he might be running for 2020 in reality. Maybe, he thinks, they will finally be ready for a blue state Republican that gives them a punchers chance.
The problem isn’t that the electorate sees the Republicans as hawks, as Paul suggests. In fact, being hawkish is generally quite popular unless and until their current war fails. (This doesn’t make it good, but it makes it helpful to winning.) The next war is usually popular.
The problem with the Republicans isn’t that they are largely for the Patriot Act and mass surveillance. In general, that too is popular at least while people feel threatened and see terrorism still going on everywhere.
Also, the problem with Republicans isn’t that they are pro business. Most high level Democrats are pro business. The problem with the Republicans is that they hate the poor.
The problem with the Republicans is also that they are too aligned with the politics of white male resentment. Being mad about affirmative action, feminism, gay marriage, and everything else gives them little room not to look just plain “mean” when they try to argue that, say, hating the cops is a path that leads no where. Even if they are making a good point, all we hear is “down with darky.”
The problem with Republicans is that they ask us to suspend our disbelief on one too many things while being credulous on so many others. They don’t believe in climate change, evolution, vaccination, but they seem to have no such skepticism for any number of other things, like Clinton conspiracies, Benghazi, or Obama being born in Africa. You can ask us to be credulous or you can ask us to skeptical, but it’s hard for most people to selectively adapt to that.
This is because the Republicans have largely surrendered to the bases of their coalition. They won’t argue with the evangelicals, with certain industrialists, or with old white men.
The Democrats, for all of their innumerable flaws, are much better at at least extracting patience from their base, at least at the national level. (This is not how it used to be, before you drop CW on me.) The ACA is a great example. For many in the Democratic base, anything shy of single payer was a defeat, but the ACA was never in danger of being blocked from the left, to the point where the House, when given a choice between no bill and the Senate’s bill, chose the Senate’s bill.
Life can be tough on a Democrat who is not a creation of labor, or of the environmental movement, or of minority group politics, but they aren’t impossible and both Clintons, Obama, and all but a few senators are none of these.
If the Republicans could come up with a candidate that was at least somewhat moderate, they would have a chance. By “moderate” I don’t mean liberal. I mean, someone who is credibly moderate, even while being pro-business, pro-military, pro-cop or whatever. As long as they are willing to accept compromise and deal with reality from time to time. (You know, someone like Reagan!)