November 17, 2008


The Republicans are where the Tories were in 1997 (James Forsyth, 12th November 2008, The Spectator)

The Republicans are down the same hole the Tories were in 1997: out of office, out of ideas, their reputation for competence gone and fighting against the best politician of the generation. This bad news for the Republicans is bad news for the Tories too. The British Right has not developed a proper ideas infrastructure in recent years. It has made up for this by borrowing heavily from America. For instance, the Tory social justice agenda was largely inspired by George W. Bush’s Texas governorship. In the 2005 leadership race, David Davis and David Cameron were, in policy terms, running to be the heir to Bush — albeit the inclusive governor not the divisive president — rather than the heir to Blair. Indeed, there are few areas of Tory policy where you cannot see an American influence. Their welfare reform agenda owes much to Wisconsin, their policing reform agenda to Giuliani’s experience in New York, and the success of Mike Bloomberg’s schools policy is an underappreciated element of Tory thinking on education. [...]

Polls always put down immigration as important, but the Republican experience of 2006 and the Tory defeats of 2001 and 2005 show that it doesn’t actually win votes. If the Republicans decide that sending illegals back across the Rio Grande will propel them back to the White House, they could destroy themselves as a viable political force. As Steve Schmidt — who effectively ran the McCain campaign — has warned, the Republicans will not win again nationally until they increase their share of the Hispanic vote.

Third, the Republicans must not be seduced by the turnout myth. Norman Tebbit persuaded many in the Tory party that they lost so badly in 1997 because millions of their voters stayed home; disappointed that the party wasn’t more Eurosceptic or robustly right-wing. Already, some Republicans are beginning to push a similar message. They point to the fact that in the crucial battleground state of Ohio Bush received more votes in 2004 than Obama did in 2008, that Republican turnout was down this year while Democratic turnout was up, and speculate that if McCain had revved the base up more then he could have kept the race competitive. The appeal of this argument is that it suggests the party doesn’t really need to change but just needs to shout louder and be more assertive. The Tory campaign in 2001 showed that what this leads to is not victory but a shrill populism that isn’t even popular.

...the Tory resurgence is a direst function of following the W template (the Blair one too, though the British Right can no more admit that than we can admit W aped Bill Clinton). The GOP will win again when it returns to Bushism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2008 6:44 AM
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