Opinion

The Great Debate

GOP: Blame message not the messenger

Here’s what’s supposed to be happening:  After losing two presidential elections, Republicans are supposed to be re-evaluating what their party stands for.  Are they out of line with mainstream America?  Does the party need to change?

The answer is yes.  So the party moves to the center and searches for candidates with broader appeal.  Republicans don’t need another spectacle like the 2012 primaries, where the contenders ran the gamut from a panderer to the right (Mitt Romney) to the far right (former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum) to the extreme right (Representative Michele Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry) to the lunatic fringe (Herman Cain, Representative Ron Paul).

There was one moderate in 2012 — Jon Huntsman.  Huntsman didn’t make it past New Hampshire, where he came in first among the tiny number of Democrats who voted in the Republican primary.

After conservative Senator Barry M. Goldwater lost in 1964, Republicans turned to Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon had been defeated for president in 1960 and then for governor of California in 1962.  He was politically dead — dead as Jacob Marley.  But Republicans resurrected Nixon and dusted off his centrist credentials. Nixon won.

After liberal Senator George McGovern lost in 1972, Democrats turned to Jimmy Carter, a moderate Southern governor who had nominated Scoop Jackson for president at the 1972 Democratic convention.  Carter won.  In 1992, after three losses in a row, Democrats came up with another moderate Southern governor, Bill Clinton, who had been chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.  Clinton won.

Chasing the Reagan Legacy

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, like so many Republicans today, continually try to grab onto Ronald Reagan’s legacy and call it theirs. They might know my father’s politics — but they didn’t know the man.

After the first Republican presidential debate last September at the Reagan Library, I wrote a piece for Time.com about how all the candidates seek to stuff themselves into my father’s image. Ironic, since he never tried to imitate anyone.

What set my father apart was his character – the very thing that can’t be successfully imitated or cobbled together in strategy sessions or rehearsals.

Subsidizing people instead of corporations

Reaganomics is so well established that state officials, both Republican and Democratic, don’t call it that anymore. They simply call it smart policy.

Even so, the idea of boosting supply to raise demand, instead of the other way around, is hardly uncontroversial. States spend billions annually on economic development subsidies to try and create jobs. But recent evidence suggests tax breaks, “forgivable loans,” and the like don’t work as well as hoped.

Up to now the thinking went like this: Devoting public funds to pull companies into the state will eventually yield returns, which is to say, yield jobs. Those jobs stimulate spending, which raises demand for the very products and services of the corporation that brought the jobs in the first place. And thus the virtuous cycle is sent into overdrive. That, at least, has been the theory.

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