Share This Page

Time to toss GOP's playbook

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

The beginning of a new year often is a time to look forward and look back. The way the future looks, I prefer to look back — and depend on my advanced age to spare me from having to deal with too much of the future.

If there are any awards to be given to anyone for what they did in 2012, one of those rewards should be for prophecy, if only because prophecies that turn out to be right are so rare.

With that in mind, my choice for the prediction of the year goes to Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal for his column of Jan. 24, 2012, titled: “The GOP Deserves to Lose.”

Despite reciting a litany of reasons why President Obama deserved to be booted out of the White House, Stephens said, “Let's just say right now what voters will be saying in November, once Barack Obama has been re-elected: Republicans deserve to lose.”

To me, the Republican establishment is the 8th wonder of the world. How Republicans can keep repeating the same mistakes for decades on end is beyond my ability to explain.

Back at the beginning of 2012, Mitt Romney was one of the “hollow men,” and voters “usually prefer the man who stands for something,” Stephens said.

Yet this is not just about Romney. He is only the latest in a long series of presidential candidates backed by a Republican establishment that seems convinced that ad hoc “moderation” is where it's at — no matter how many of their ad hoc moderates get beaten by vulnerable, unknown or discredited Democrats.

Back in 1948, when the Democratic Party splintered into three parties, each one with its own competing presidential candidate, Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey was considered a shoo-in.

Best-selling author David Halberstam described what happened: “Dewey's chief campaign tactic was to make no mistakes, to offend no one. His major speeches, wrote the Louisville Courier Journal, could be boiled down ‘to these historic four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. The future lies ahead ... .'”

Does this sound like a more recent Republican presidential candidate?

Meanwhile, President Truman was on the attack in 1948, with speeches that had many people saying, “Give 'em hell, Harry.” He won, even with the Democrats' vote split three ways.

But, to this day, the Republican establishment still goes for pragmatic moderates who feed pablum to the public instead of treating them like adults.

It is not just Republican presidential candidates who cannot be bothered to articulate a coherent argument. Have you yet heard House Speaker John Boehner take the time to spell out why Barack Obama's argument for taxing “millionaires and billionaires” is wrong?

What we all should be worried about are high tax rates driving American investments overseas, when there are millions of Americans who could use the jobs that those investments would create at home.

Yet Obama has been allowed to get away with the emotional argument that the rich can easily afford to pay more, as if that is the issue.

Some people may take solace from the fact that there are some articulate Republicans, such as Marco Rubio, who may come forward in 2016. But with Iran going nuclear and North Korea developing missiles that can hit California, it may be too late by then.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.