Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Republican Party

Why would Rush Limbaugh be so willing to suggest that Colin Powell join Arlen Specter in abandoning the Republican party? Can the Republican Party really afford to lose such distinguished members and still remain a nationally important party? Perhaps Rush Limbaugh really believes, as Barry Goldwater did, that in their hearts, most Americans feel that he is right. I keep hearing Republican spokespeople saying that the majority of Americans are conservative, or that a large proportion of Americans are unhappy about the direction of change (or the change of direction) in Washington. Based on election results, this would seem to be wishful thinking on their part. To give Limbaugh and his followers more credit, perhaps they believe that by narrowing their focus and regrouping into a core band of die-hard true believers in their principles, the Republican Party will come back in a stronger and more dynamic way. Or perhaps Limbaugh is just enjoying the current void in Republican leadership, making him an even bigger frog in an ever-smaller pond.

One would think the more logical strategy would be for at least some Republicans in Congress to try to reach out to the administration in power and exert some influence in exchange for support of some policies. Several Republican governors (including mine) have adopted this strategy and it may be paying off for them. But most Congressional Republicans come from safe districts, and seem to feel no pressure to support any Democratic programs. That means the Republicans will continue to keep their appeal narrowly focused on their base. That strategy can only work if the new administration's policies are perceived to be complete failures. Rush Limbaugh has already publicly stated that that is what he is hoping for.

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