May 11, 2010

THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON IS, OBVIOUSLY, THAT THE GOP NEEDS TO BE THE SOLE THIRD WAY PARTY:

Lessons for the GOP from the UK Election (Fred Barnes, May 9, 2010, Weekly Standard)

[S]imply being the opposition party, and nothing more, often minimizes the size of a party’s victory. It’s the easy we’re-not-them approach. Relying on it – and a bad economy, in the British case -- a party is prone to neglect the importance of making a strong case for itself.

In the British election, this was one reason Labor was able to turn out its core vote and keep Conservatives from winning a majority. The lesson for Republican, facing an unpopular Democratic Party, is obvious: don’t expect circumstances to win for you. You need to run an aggressive campaign.

· Conservatives took a softer tack as the election neared. Though Britain’s budgetary crisis was worsening and everyone agreed the deficit must be cut, Conservatives “spelled out relatively little in the way of expenditure cuts,” Andrew Stuttaford wrote in THE WEEKLY STANDARD in March. They emphasized their vow to protect spending for the National Health Service. In the three presidential-style debates, Conservative leader David Cameron talked about serious “differences” between his party and Labor and the third party Liberal Democrats, but the differences didn’t sound dramatic.

·Conservatives “failed to make a compelling case how to restore an environment of growth and opportunity capable of bringing Britain out of its profound economic doldrums,” wrote Ryan Streeter of the London-based Legatum Institute. That they were “vague on economic fundamentals is particularly astounding.”

The problem, in short, was a failure to put sufficient distance between themselves and their opponents. Voters didn’t think Conservatives were much better than Labor in fixing the economy. The result, despite the economic distress in England: no majority.

What does the mean for Republicans? They have to make certain voters understand how different their agenda is from that of Democrats and President Obama. Republicans followed this strategy in 1980, when Ronald Reagan campaigned on a 30 percent across-the-board tax cut and in 1994 with the Contract for America.

This year, a “distance” strategy would require Republicans to emphasize their plan to repeal Democratic health care legislation, not merely to tinker with it. Also, they would benefit from adopting most or all of the reforms in Congressman Paul Ryan’s “A Roadmap America’s Future.” Those would put daylight between Republicans and Democrats.


Labour had the benefit of still being associated with Tony Blair. Democrats have thoroughly distanced themselves from Clintonism. And the Liberal Democrats, though their politics is a hodge-podge, advocate many Thatcherite policies and just by being the third party seem Third Way. The Tories and Lib-Dems between them got roughly 60% of the vote to Labour's 30%.

A GOP that ran on the Ryan agenda--essentially finishing W's agenda--would have the Third Way to itself in opposition to a consciously and determinedly Second Way Democratic Party. That is our 60-40 formula.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 11, 2010 5:41 AM
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