Campaigns/Elections

Rx for Republicans: Patience

Some lessons from the 2008 election

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It was the aftermath of the presidential election and everyone was explaining why the losing party lost. It was out of step with ordinary people. Its voters were too old. It was too identified with hot-button issues like abortion. It had a problem with Hispanics, young people and independents. It was increasingly confined to a limited number of states.

For all these reasons, commentators across the political spectrum agreed that Republicans were "emphatically ascendant" and that Democrats were pretty much hopeless, in need of drastic measures to ever win again.

But that was a long, long time ago. Four years, to be exact. The drastic measures were not taken, yet lo and behold, the consensus is that Democrats are now poised for a generation of dominance and the opposition is stumbling toward extinction like a befuddled brontosaurus.

The evidence: The GOP has in two years lost both Congress and the presidency. This year's presidential defeat was the worst it has suffered since 1964. Matthew Continetti of the conservative Weekly Standard notes that it's strong only in groups (whites, the elderly, rural voters) that are a shrinking slice of the electorate. It's in trouble in states that were once redder than an angry lobster.

Just about everyone agrees that Republicans had better make some big changes: move to the right, move to the center, emphasize social issues, de-emphasize social issues, focus on trying to cut spending, give up trying to cut spending, embrace Sarah Palin or forget Sarah Palin.

But all this amounts to gross overanalysis. The best advice for the GOP is simple: Don't be at the helm when the economy hits the rocks. There is no better way for an incumbent party to assure its defeat than a recession. Richard Nixon proved that in 1960, Jimmy Carter confirmed it in 1980 and George H.W. Bush removed all doubt in 1992.

A corollary and equally obvious piece of wisdom is one the party learned in 2006 when Democrats swept the congressional elections: Don't preside over unsuccessful wars. The progress that followed the surge in Iraq largely solved that problem. But instead of becoming a Republican asset, Iraq became a political irrelevancy.

The difference between 2004 and 2008 is not that Americans became more liberal. It's that the issue of greatest urgency changed. Four years ago, the top concerns were moral values and Iraq. Only 21 percent of Americans ranked the economy as their biggest worry. This year, 63 percent put the economy first.

It also doesn't help to have an incumbent president who is widely reviled. Before the 2004 election, half of Americans approved of his performance. This time, three out of four didn't.

The good news for Republicans? Despite the powerful undertow of the economy and George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate got more than 46 percent of the vote. That doesn't look like a party that has no fundamental appeal. It looks like a party whose fundamental appeal was overwhelmed by transient calamities.

Barack Obama was a good candidate who ran a smart race. But in the fall campaign, his biggest asset was being kissed by fortune. With this economy Hillary Clinton would also have beaten John McCain. Heck, John Kerry could have won in this environment.

Given my own ideological preference for a government of modest ambitions at home and abroad, it is tempting to say that what the GOP has to do to regain power is swear off unnecessary wars, violations of privacy, and fiscal bloat. But the truth is not so congenial. Republicans did just the opposite in Bush's first term and won in 2004. Substitute a terrorist attack for the September financial meltdown and Obama would have gone down in history as the black Michael Dukakis.

How can Republicans come back? Easy. All they need is for the incoming president to fail at reviving the economy, make a mess of Iraq or suffer some other major setback in the next four years. On the other hand, if the Obama administration can point to a respectable recovery, a successful departure from Baghdad and no unexpected disasters, putting Abe Lincoln himself on the ticket won't restore Republicans to power in 2012.

In the next four years, they certainly should look for salable policies, attractive candidates, and fresh themes. But mainly they need patience and luck. Those worked for the Democrats.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. But in a depression, the incumbent stays put…

  2. For all the talk of “Republican dissaster” this year, one thing you haven’t heard in the mainstream media, is the fact that the GOP actually gained seats, and even majority status in a number of State Legislatures nationwide.

    Tennessee is the shinging example. For the first time since the Civil War, the Republican Party has gained majorities in both the TN House and Senate.

    The Oklahoma lower House is now Republican for the first time in over 100 years.

    But the GOP also gained seats in the Legislatures in New Hampshire (17), Arizona, and amazingly even ultra-liberal Washington State.

    For the latter, the gain was very tiny, 2 seats in the House, and 1 seat in the State Senate. But it kept the Democrats from reaching their coveted supermajorities in both chambers.

    Oh, and in case anyone didn’t hear yet, the Sec. of State late last night, certified that John McCain and Sarah Palin have won the State of Missouri. That brings their Electoral vote to a final 173 count.

    Not great, but definitely not the “landslide” or “blowout” that the pundits had been predicting.

  3. Shorter Steve Chapman: Don’t just do something, pray for failures.

    Well, it is partially faith-based, so a lot of us conservatives will like it.

  4. how about some fiscal and foreign policy responsibility?

    ditch the fucking fundies. ditch the anti intellectualism (or deliberate stupidity. that’s the creationism part).

    stop giving a fuck about what two people do in their bedroom. and keep your fucking hands off of my grandkids’ wallets (based on your “spend and spend and borrow and spend” plan).

    there are some starting points

    oh… awik? was that you? yeah – ditch him, too.

  5. Yawn! Conventional wisdom! So boring, and so often right! Yet as a liberal, I have to chuckle, or at least I will, at the confusion of my enemies.

    To get where it is today, the Democratic Party had to abandon its passionate love of welfare, its passionate hatred of guns, and its complete uninterest in defense and foreign policy. Democrats are still passionately divided over “Rubinomics” free-market types (I’m pretty Rubinistic) versus the Thomas Frank “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” populists.

    Republicans face long fights over immigration, abortion, and gay marriage. Republican moderates, at this point, are embarrassed to be Republicans. But, as David Brooks points out, it’s the country boys who control the party machinery.

    But I concede that the GOP will be kicking major ass in Tennessee. Thanks for the heads up, Eric!

  6. oh yeah, don’t fucking nationalize/bail out businesses. don’t do fucking steel tariffs. don’t expand the gov’t in our daily lives more and pretend you’re “small gov’t” “free marketeers”

  7. Thank you, Eric. Now some news from the real world.

    Before the elections, Republicans controlled 21 state legislatures, Democrats 18.

    The Democrats picked up 5, while the Republicans lost 8. As of January, Democrats will control 23 state legislatures to the Republicans’ 13.

    Wipeout at all levels.

  8. Democrats have now won the popular vote in four of the last five elections. The one time they lost, they ran John Kerry against an incumbent president during wartime, and his margin was the lowest of any sitting wartime president in American history.

    Judis and Tiexeira were right. Some oddball shenanigans in 2000 and the rally-round-the-flag effect after 9/11 masked a larger, inexorable trend.

  9. Steve Chapman, the windsock, is sorta blowing around and not really pointing in a direction. “Well, the GOP might need to change, except if they don’t and get lucky, or they also might get unlucky. It really depends.” Gee, thanks Steve!

  10. DONDEROOOO!
    *shakes fist*

  11. Heck, John Kerry could have won in this environment

    Now, let’s not resort to too much hyperbole here.

    Steve Chapman’s argument sounds decent if you don’t consider that much of the country doesn’t want to buy what the republicans are selling. It’s like the difference between losing a lot of money gambling or losing a lot of money buying stuff you don’t need and spending it on gifts for other people. At least when you buy stuff you get something for your money, while the alternative is that the house wins and you get nothing for your money.

  12. It’s in trouble in states that were once redder than an angry lobster

    Chapman is an idiot. Lobsters don’t get angry, they get even.

    It’s good to see that Chapman is back to form writing pointless, stupid articles with zero content. All is right with the world now.

  13. Once again, Chapman hits a home run … folks, this is astute political analysis. Your Chapman-hate is beyond scrutiny or comprehension … he is merely stating self-evident truths. Given the state of both political parties and the accompanying economic circumstances, it stands to reason that Republicans will wander in the wilderness in a few years, gain a socially palatable message, and come back.
    Not that the comeback or message is one that we libertarians will necessarily agree with … to believe that is the point of this article is to miss the point. It’s just a cold prognostication of what should occur.

  14. The one major flaw in Chapman’s plan is that as the core base shrinks and the GOP keeps losing elections they will be increasingly marginalized as a brand and even if the Dems fail miserably nobody will see the GOP as a viable alternative.

    Also noteworthy is that Chapman left fundamentalists off the list of the core constituency. This demographic is also shrinking and increasingly seen as radioactive by educated, enlightenment values voters. Either the GOP will remain the party of god, or they’re going to have to do a public purge.

    But it’s a damn good strategy for insulating themselves against the reality of their increasing irrelevance and inevitable demise (if they keep on the current path). Going gently into the dustbin of history (sorry).

    Oops, almost forgot to “Donderooo!”

  15. What punk7 said. I don’t get the Chapman-hate, either.

    Except the lobster thing. That’s inexcusable.

    Seriously, the Republicans’ best hope for now is to nominate Dewey/Eisenhower-type candidates. Rock stars who are greately respected across party lines and have little in the way of a discernable governing philosophy, but significant accomplishments that demonstrate competence and personal integrity.

  16. Stupid joke name.

  17. Now “Joe,” it is indeed possible that a real person might have the name Joe P. Boyle, and that that person might have some ideas of merit. Not you, of course, but someone…

  18. For what its worth, lobster most red when it’s cooked.

  19. Yes, yes, and the Democrats were destroyed in 1994. And in 2000. When will you people learn that these parties are not beings that live symbiotically with the people but undead, parasitic, brain-eating zombies?

    The GOP may very well recover fully if the Democrats preside over (and possibly worsen) a bad economy and suffer through any foreign policy failures. Our national character or politics haven’t changed, we just wanted a changing of the guard. I’m fine if the new government does smart things, but most of us don’t expect that this time around any more than we did in the last few administrations. Unfortunately, the GOP knows this and will likely just hunker down and bide its time, issuing the occasional reform or libertarianesque statement, and wait for the tide to turn.

    There is a tiny possibility that the limited government rhetoric will give the limited government arm of the party enough clout to actually get a seat at the party table, but I doubt it’ll work out that way. Their best chance is if the Democrats’ Mandatopia goes to their heads and they overreach in the mistaken assumption that America wants to be Europe.

  20. Either the GOP will remain the party of god, or they’re going to have to do a public purge.

    I think this will require a GOP civil war. Which I would really, really enjoy, especially if the fundies lose. Bloodbath, please.

  21. Shorter Eric Donder:

    “T’is but a flesh wound!”

  22. Here is my prediction … the fundie message gets pushed aside while the economically libertarian line is pushed to the fore … Republicans win big in 2010 on the small-government message, and the fundies regain power and esteem a few years later … the same old cycle.

  23. “Seriously, the Republicans’ best hope for now is to nominate Dewey/Eisenhower-type candidates. Rock stars who are greately respected across party lines and have little in the way of a discernable governing philosophy, but significant accomplishments that demonstrate competence and personal integrity.”

    You know, that would fit Mitt Romney perfectly before he contorted himself into being Mr. Social Con and “doubling Gitmo”.

  24. You know, that would fit Mitt Romney perfectly before he contorted himself into being Mr. Social Con and “doubling Gitmo”.

    Androids do not make good rock stars.

  25. One problem with Chapman’s article is that he writes about “presiding over a failed war” and “a bad economy” as if they were comets that just happened to strike the Earth during George Bush’s term.

  26. As a liberal, I think Steve Chapman has adequately though vaguely touched on the bigger picture here. The electorate did not reject the Republican party, they rejected status quo. A vast portion of voters voted for “change”. Change, in this case, refers to not-Bush and not-Bush’s party. To suggest that most voters have a defined sense of their own political values and the ability to match their values to D or R is patently rediculous.

    The republican received an ass-whupping long time coming. We liberals know, not “hope” that any “change” will be better than the last eight (8) years.

  27. Yeah, everybody here can raise his self esteem by saying how much he hates “the fundies” but are there really enough secular free-market types in the US to make a viable political party on their own? Is there any point to a Republican party that consists of like 15% of voters? In the two party system that we have, and presumably will have for the rest of our lives, the parties have to be coalitions. Who should the secular free market types form a coalition?

  28. as if they were comets that just happened to strike the Earth during George Bush’s term

    and you don’t beleive that?

    As a conservative, beleiving in limited government with BIG WARS I know for a fact that the economic failure of recent times was in fact caused by the liberals who wish doom to America.

    The power of prayer is real, and the collective wishes of failure on the part of the liberals in this country brought down that comet of pain. Wishing for failure generates failure.

    By the grace of providence, this too will pass. This IS and WILL FOREVER BE, a CENTER-RIGHT NATION!

    morans!

  29. The significant other says, the other night, “You Libertarians caused Obama’s victory so you’ve got no complaints with whatever tax-heavy, socialistic, ‘gimme gimme bailouts’ are coming down the road.” Says I,
    “all the libertarian votes put together could not have put McCain over the top.” Says she,
    “But by leaving the GOP to the fundies, you have left the Party in the hands of interventionist government believers. By being outside the two party system – like it or not – most people aren’t going to consider your ideas seriously. To compete for the hearts and minds of the American public – and the only way to turn around the slide to government control over all aspects of our lives – is to be seen as a legitimate part of the debate. Casting yourselves as above the fray outsiders, wandering in the wilderness if you will, gives you leave to feel morally superior but will do little to change society.
    Ron Paul had some measure of success because he did it from within an established party. If he tried to do it from a third party position, he is just another kook that won’t break 1%.” This is about what the Libertarian Republican Caucus has been preaching for years, with little effect, however. What say you? Is it time for all Libertarians to jump into the slime that is the GOP and fight for libertarian values within a “real” political party?

  30. 1) Ditch Palin.
    2) Let consenting adults do what they want in private.
    3) Stop the borrow and spend which is worse than tax and spend in the long run.
    4) Faith and folksiness are no substitutes for rational thought and intelligence.

  31. One problem with Chapman’s article is that he writes about “presiding over a failed war” and “a bad economy” as if they were comets that just happened to strike the Earth during George Bush’s term.

    Not to mention that he’s at least half wrong, if by “failed war” he means Iraq. In case nobody noticed, we won.

  32. joe,

    The Iraq war I certainly put in Bush’s lap, though 9/11 wasn’t anything you can blame him for. However, the economy is hardly attributable to his policies.

  33. Mitch,

    Purging the fundies doesn’t mean that they’d have to become aggresively secular. It only means that they’d have to ditch the SoCon agenda. They could focus on other, popular, winning ideas and leave social policy out of the picture.

    Epi: “Night of the Long Knives” Ahhh….

  34. R C Dean,

    I think we might have a current success of sorts in Iraq, but I’m not sure we can bank on Iraq remaining stable. And, of course, there’s the question of whether what we’ve achieved was worth the money and the lives lost. I rather think it wasn’t. Then again, I can’t figure out why we meddle in the Middle East in the first place. We get less than a fifth of our oil from there.

  35. All four Republican incumbent governors won re-election. They’ll gain one in Arizona as well. Most presidents come from this pool.

  36. RC,

    You might not be aware of this, but most Americans don’t share your opinions about Iraq.

    By a pretty wide margin.

    You might have come across this information in your travels at some point.

    You too, Pro Lib. Bush and the Republicans are taking the lion’s share of the blame for the mortgage meltdown sending the economy into the toilet.

  37. Of course, revitalizing the Republican party with libertarian values is the most optimistic and valuable outcome for one important reason.

    There would finally be a clear and distinct difference between the two parties! That would be exciting! Debates would be substantial and invigorating as people battle from genuinely different schools of thought! One can dream…

    I heard this somewhere around here, but I’ll repeat it ’cause it sounds accurate. The Republicans lost because they were the shoddy, off-brand, version of the Dems. The voters couldn’t see the difference and so voted for “the real deal”.

    If the two parties were actually interested in engaging in disciplined discourse from real opposing viewpoints, well, I’d be a happy camper.

  38. Americans don’t think Iraq was a success because of the liberal drive-bys in the MSM!

  39. “Yeah, everybody here can raise his self esteem by saying how much he hates ‘the fundies’ but are there really enough secular free-market types in the US to make a viable political party on their own?”

    When “libertarians” run the party, religious freedom is a major part of the formula. When religious fundamentalists run the party, religious fundamentalism is the whole formula. Of course non-fundamentalist conservatives feel betrayed. And really, we shouldn’t feel “betrayed.” We should feel like it was a mistake to give the keys to our retarded brother.

  40. Come to think of it, joe, wasn’t John McCain a rock star widely respected across party lines with no real governing philosophy?

  41. LGF Fan,

    I think most average Americans don’t give a damn whether you term Iraq a “success” or not. It was never our problem and we should never have thrown away billions of hard earned dollars and thousands of young American lives on it.

  42. The Republicans lost because they were the shoddy, off-brand, version of the Dems. The voters couldn’t see the difference and so voted for “the real deal”.

    I don’t think that Gramm/McConnell or anything similar would have hit 42%. People want “a choice, not an echo,” but at the same time, they’re not buying what the Republicans are selling.

  43. BDB | November 20, 2008, 10:04am | #

    Come to think of it, joe, wasn’t John McCain a rock star widely respected across party lines with no real governing philosophy?

    He used to be. Like Kerry, he allowed his advisors to turn him into a thoroughly conventional candidate, and a partisan Republican to boot, by election day. Both men let their campaigns bleed them of everything that had once made them interesting candidates.

    But even so, he managed to score 46% of the vote THIS YEAR. Like Kerry losing to an incumbent wartime president, just looking at who won and who lost doesn’t tell you as much as how they performed against the spread.

  44. Epi: “Night of the Long Knives” Ahhh….

    Flake versus Huckabee in the Thunderdome! Two men enter, one man leaves. If one of those men can be exposed as a retard and then killed by Auntie Entity, all the better.

  45. There was once something interesting about John Kerry? O RLY?

  46. Two years from now, the Democrats blaming Bush will get them exactly nothing. Even with most of their base. The only hope for them is a quick turnaround and some restraint in starting new spending programs.

  47. joe

    Bush and the Republicans are taking the lion’s share of the blame for the mortgage meltdown sending the economy into the toilet.

    Who people blame doesnt determine who was at fault.

  48. We won the war in Iraq at the point that the Baathist government was out of power and Saddam was captured.

    The post war occupation, on the other hand….

  49. Reagan started with a shitty ewconomy in 1980 that was still in a deep recession in late 1982.

    In 1984, he won. Why? Not because the economy was exactly booming, but because he could say things were at least moving in thw right direction.

    That is all Obama and the Dems have to do by 2012.

  50. There was once something interesting about John Kerry? O RLY?

    He killed a GOP senator in order to steal his wife/money. Thats kind of interesting.

  51. Pro Libertate,

    Is that what they did in 1934?

    I agree that the Democrats will have to have something to point to and saw “We did this,” but it could probably be something other than “a big turnaround.”

    Even modest improvement combined with some popular small-scale successes in other areas would keep the party going. If the “Throwing Long” grand bargain over the economy, entitlements, health care, and infrastructure happens without things continuing to plummet, they’ll be in the catbird seat, even if the economy merely levels off.

  52. creech, your significant other makes some good points. But I’m serious in asking, why join the Republicans? Why not the Dems?
    They seem just as close to me on any number of issues as the Republicans. Libertarians couldn’t have LESS success changing the Dems to their viewpoint than they have with Republicans.

  53. Who people blame doesnt determine who was at fault.

    This is a thread about electoral politics – specifically, about the Republicans’ standing in electoral politics.

  54. It also doesn’t help to have an incumbent president who is widely reviled. Before the 2004 election, half of Americans approved of his performance. This time, three out of four didn’t.

    This always intrigues me. What did Bush uniquely do after 2004 that would negatively change anyone’s opinion of his performance? It was revulsion-worthy from Day 1, certainly well before his second term.

  55. Citezin Nothing, good point. There are way more hot chicks that are Dems. From here on out, I’m going to be going undercover as a liberal. You know, for purely noble reasons.

    It’s in my rational self-interest.

  56. The stars aligned and the the Republicans got thumped. Fortunately the doomed GOP candidate was a moderate, hopefully putting to rest forevermore the idea that Dem lite is a good political strategy.

  57. swillfredo,

    If you look at Bush’s approval rating on a line graph, it’s remarkable how steady and long his fall was from the Fall of 01 through last year. There was a slight bump just around the 04 election which kept him right around 50% when it counted, but it’s a blip.

    He was dropping steadily before 9/11, rocketed up to 90+%, then resumed falling steadily. It’s really remarkable – almost no actual, job-related swings at all, just the steady trend of his supporters turning into opponents.

  58. “The stars aligned…”

    I thought my “comet” comment was a joke.

  59. The stars aligned and the the Republicans got thumped.

    Twice in a row (06 and 08). What the chances?

  60. What are the chances?

    In hindsight, about 100%.

  61. It’s not just what silliness the Democrats might or might not do; it’s also the nature of economic cycles and political reactions to those cycles. We’re likely to be in this recession for 18-24 months (probably the shorter end of that). Since realization that we’re in a recovery lags the actual recovery, 2010 has a probability of looking like a bad economy, not improved by the government. Which was going to be bad for the GOP if they’d won this round.

    2012 is harder to predict, of course. What’s bad about all of this is that the GOP can just move a little bit towards reform rhetoric without actually ditching the parts most of us would like them to ditch. There’s no sea change here, just like the era of big government isn’t really over.

  62. There are the two extreme positions:

    (1) Election outcomes are completely controlled by campaign strategy/policy positions.

    (2) Election outcomes are completely controlled by the winds of fate

    Chapman champions the less-popular position (2)

    Both positions are stupid because they are extreme and cartoonish.

    The answer in a democracy is pretty clear: move towards the center. This has been called the “median voter hypothesis” and has been known for a long time.

    Now, you can change what’s “center” by adjusting the axes or the poles of the debate. That’s the place for policy creativity.

    Republicans should support:

    – Congressional term limits
    – Fundamental tax reform/simplification.
    – No more stupid wars
    – President must address Congress once a week, a la UK’s Prime Minister’s Questions
    – More seats in the House of Representatives

  63. It wasn’t just the stars. The media drumbeat of certain defeat in Iraq between 2004 and 2006 also helped beat Republicans. Iraq might not be won yet, but the disgraceful, lose a war to save a Democrat reporting is nothing short of treason in my book.

  64. Like Kerry losing to an incumbent wartime president, just looking at who won and who lost doesn’t tell you as much as how they performed against the spread.

    Who were we at war against in 2004, joe?

    And do you mean he spread based on the elections of 1812 and 1944? Those are the only elections during wartime where the incumbent was running for reelection. I suppose you could include 1864 if you consider crushing an insurrection to be war, so that’s three. Still a pretty tiny sample size.

  65. Astrology, media bias, and treason.

    Come, now, I think you’re giving short shrift to THE REAL RACISTS. And voter fraud.

  66. Twice in a row (06 and 08). What the chances?

    Sort of like the Dems in 02 and 04. What’s your point?

  67. pmp,

    It’s obvious a blend of the two, though the latter is more important in most years. The 1994 “revolution” occurred in large part because of the public being receptive to it, though Gingrich and the GOP leadership marketed their campaign promises in a very savvy way.

    This time around, the GOP is suffering from the war to some extent (more in 2006 than today, granted), but the real issue is the economy, of course. I think government regulation and meddling have more to do with the financial services meltdown than anything else, but even if that can be blamed initially on the Democrats, the GOP did nothing to stop or mitigate that problem in its six years in control. We typically punish that sort of thing, rightly or wrongly. In general, however, the public and the media are foolish to think that the president or even Congress really are responsible for economic cycles.

    My personal politics aside, I’d prefer that the GOP and Democrats present clearer alternatives. If the Democrats actually have moved more to the left, then a GOP that is more firmly committed to less government and freer markets would make the battle lines more clearly drawn. I’ve been around long enough not to expect anything libertarian-like to spring from the forehead of Leviathan.

  68. Who were we at war against in 2004, joe? Is this a joke?

    And do you mean he spread based on the elections of 1812 and 1944?

    You seem to have an odd definition of “wartime.”

    1864? 1972?

  69. Sort of like the Dems in 02 and 04. Neither of those elections produced large swings in the composition of Congress, or turned the party in power out of the White House, or generated a significant Electoral College victory. While there were huge Democratic gains in both houses in both of those years, and they retook the White House by an electoral romp.

  70. The post war occupation, on the other hand….

    Was, let us say, sub-optimal, but has nonetheless finally just about gotten across the finish line.

  71. There are way more hot chicks that are Dems.

    True. Hot, but loopy.

    Feel my pain: Dem guys tend to be total wusses or smelly hippies (nonexclusive “or”). GOP tends to have the real men, but they’re all straight. The closeted fundie types are just too creepy, damaged and self-loathing to touch with a ten-foot pole.

  72. 1864 wasn’t a war, it was a crushing of a rebellion. But even if you include that (and ’72, I forgot about that), it’s still only four elections, spanning over 150 years, each with their own idiocyncracies. For instance, in 1812 the war had just begun; in 1864 and 1944 the wars were going very well and the end was in sight; and in 1972, well, Nixon was up against McGovern for Christ’s sake. Not the stuff you want to be basing projections on.

    And isn’t saying that Kerry outperformed Wendell Wilkie and George McGovern just damning with faint praise?

  73. RC Dean,

    I think the point is that just because we won the war doesn’t mean the invasion was a success.

    If you subscribe to the revisionist history belief that the goal of the invasion was just to depose Saddam without creating long-term instability in the region, I don’t think the American people would have considered 3000+ American lives, trillions of dollars, and five years and counting, an acceptable cost for such a modest goal.

  74. The Civil War wasn’t a war, and the Iraq War wasn’t a war.

    I’ll make sure I go back and revise my knowledge of electoral politics right away.

    You betcha.

    it’s still only four elections, spanning over 150 years And the record is 4-0.

  75. The good news in Iraq is the security pact must be damned near perfect. If not, Reason would have already posted all of the bad things about it.

  76. If you subscribe to the belief that the goal of the invasion was just to depose Saddam without creating long-term instability in the region, I don’t think the American people would have considered 3000+ American lives, trillions of dollars, and five years and counting, an acceptable cost for such a modest goal.

    And if you subscribe to the belief that the purpose of the war was to make us safter from the threat of WMD attacks, spread democracy throughout the greater Middle East, establish permanent bases in the heart of the Arab world to replace those in Saudi Arabia, increase the security of our energy supplies, consolidate our position of global military and political dominance, and deal a defeat to a Muslim society so overwhelming that, as per George Bush’s favorite historian, they will see the error of their ways and come to accept our superiority, the war was a complete and utter failure.

  77. I think it’s premature to talk about the occupation of Iraq failing to create a liberal (or liberalish) government in the Middle East, as much as I’m skeptical about such an outcome myself. Let’s see what happens when we leave. Things do seem more stable now, but we’re still there in force.

    This is not to suggest that even that good outcome was worth the costs of the war. I don’t agree with our constant intervention in the Middle East in the first place, except to strike back when bestrucken (e.g., Afghanistan).

  78. joe, your semantics are impressive. But just because something is called by a name that includes the word “war” does not mean it’s a war, just like killer whales aren’t whales and black panthers aren’t panthers.

    In any case, the Iraq War was a war, but it was over well before 2004. If you consider what was going on there in 2004 to be a war then Jimmy Carter beat a wartime president, too.

  79. Tactically, I suppose, any libertarians migrating back to a major party should pick the one with minority status where they live.
    They are far more likely to be welcomed and affect the debate than in the majority party.
    For example, a “blue dog” democrat might sell well in any area where standard liberal dems get 35% of the vote. Or a libertarian Republican where fundies get whipped regularly. In either case, of course, it is an uphill fight against entrenched foes who may not appreciate your wolf in sheep’s clothing approach.

  80. internet definitions for dummies

    semantics (se-MAN-tics): arguments I can’t refute.

    For example “The Civil War and Iraq War were wars.” Semantics.

    “The Civil War and Iraq War were NOT wars.” Not semantics.

    If you consider what was going on there in 2004 to be a war then Jimmy Carter beat a wartime president, too. What warzone did Jimmy Carter have 170,000 troops engaged in combat, taking 1200 deaths per annum, again?

  81. just like killer whales aren’t whales

    Fail. “Killer whales,” more properly known as Orcas, are indeed cetacians (the order of marine mammals which includes all whales and porpoises).

    Not that this invalidates your premise, but your examples suck. Also, Black Panthers — WTF???

  82. That’s a good question: How many troops were still in Southeast Asia during the Ford administration?

  83. I have little hope that the GOP will turn to small-government principles as its way out of the wilderness. And honestly, even if it did make such a turn, I would doubt the sincerity of the GOP leadership. They’ve lied about being for small government before; I have to assume they’ll do it again.

    That being said, one small reason for hope that a sincere move in the libertarian direction will be made is the GOP need for differentiation. Without credible libertarian credentials, the GOP is not sufficiently differentiated from the Democrats, and such differentiation as it possesses works against it. Basically you have two big government parties, one of which wants to jam God down your throat. “We want to jam God down your throat – oh, and we want to get in lots of wars – but other than that we’re Democrats too!” will not be a successful branding strategy for the GOP. It remains to be seen if they will realize that.

  84. That’s a good question: How many troops were still in Southeast Asia during the Ford administration?

    We left in 73, so my guess is zero. Embassy troops and advisers, maybe?

  85. The Government Power Party Rulez!

    So shall it ever be.

  86. Are Okinawa and Seoul considered parts of Southeast Asia?

  87. We left South Vietnam, but we were still hanging around, as I recall, until the fall in 1975. I’m not sure what our troop deployments looked like. Maybe we just bombed a few locations now and then by the time Ford was in office.

    Okinawa and Korea don’t really count, except that those troops could have been quickly moved into Vietnam or Cambodia. We had bases in Thailand though, didn’t we?

  88. I don’t remember specifically, but I think the Navy spent a lot of time hanging around that part of the world, even after our strtegic withdrawal from Saigon.

  89. -a-

    use as needed

  90. P Brooks,

    I think that’s right. And I think we had AFBs in the region, too.

  91. According to Wikipedia, Nixon stopped all bombing just before the peace accord was signed in January of 1973, and withdrew all ground forces within 60 days of the signing of the accords. So it looks like the only role Ford had in the war was refusing to intervene when the North invaded the south in 75.

  92. “Killer whales,” more properly known as Orcas, are indeed cetacians (the order of marine mammals which includes all whales and porpoises).

    If membership in that order is sufficient to be a whale, that would imply that porpoises are whales. So FAIL right back.

  93. Fluffy,

    Okay, I can’t really remember. All I recall is that people talk about the war ending for us in 1975, but that must be a more abstract end than us actually leaving.

  94. Also, Tonio, I was talking about the animal black panthers, not the human ones. They are actually leopards.

  95. SOP,

    If membership in that order is sufficient to be a whale, that would imply that porpoises are whales. So FAIL right back.

    Er, porpoises as cetaceans definitionally ARE whales. I’m using MW New Collegiate 1979 ed as my confirming ref for this.

    Also, re panther (the cat, not the political movement): the term “panther” is variously used in different areas to describe several different members of the family felidae. Ie if one is in africa it refers to the leopard, if one is in the americas it refers to either a pumas or a jaguar.

    Game, set and match.

  96. Tonio,
    I think you love you. 🙂

  97. While all this is true, I hate this advice. The US can’t survive business as usual, ever bigger government politics for much longer.

  98. What will pur Republicans back in power?

    A war with Mexico.

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