Can the GOP Make a Comeback?
The recipe for Republicans is to stop acting like, well, Republicans--that is, Republicans of recent vintage.
12:00 AM, Aug 22, 2007 • By FRED BARNES
IT'S NOT PARTICULARLY visible at the moment, but there is a road to political recovery for Republicans. Chances are they won't get far enough down it to recapture the House or Senate or even hold the White House in 2008. But they might.
Three things have to happen for Republicans to recover--in effect, a political hat trick. Events must work in their favor, notably in Iraq. Democrats must screw up badly. And Republicans must change their ways, in a compelling fashion. This last requirement may be the toughest.
Let's start with events. The debate over whether a war gone bad in Iraq was the primary cause of sweeping Republican losses in last year's midterm election will never be resolved. Clearly the war hurt, more than a little. Just as clearly, a turnaround in Iraq would help enormously.
It's not immutable, however. What if military success by Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander, is matched by a political breakthrough engineered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? Or matched by the acceleration of political reconciliation at the provincial rather than the national level in Iraq? Either scenario is possible.
Grass-roots reconciliation is already spreading at a pace not far behind military gains. And this, after all, is the formula on which the surge was based--that success in fighting al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias would be accompanied by, or lead to, political progress. Should the situation continue to improve, American attitudes about the war, President Bush and Republicans, would surely improve, marginally at least and perhaps a bit more.
So would a serious confrontation with Congress over spending, assuming Mr. Bush and Republicans win public approval as thoughtful budget cutters. And so, too, would the absence of an economic downturn as the president prepares to leave office enhance the reputation of Republicans for pursuing sensible economic policies. In short, a positive turn of events, while unpredictable, is the best hope of the GOP.
On taxes, Democrats appear confident there's no trap at all, so long as they don't raise taxes on the middle class. Thus congressional Democrats have felt free to pass tax hikes this year on energy companies, foreign corporations and cigarettes, and they're poised to repeal the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $200,000 a year.