David Ignatius writes:
Now, the Republicans have taken over as the “tut-tut” party, and they are unwittingly embracing the narrative of America as a nation in decline. That’s never a good bet. Last week’s goofy anti-tax “tea parties” were a sign of a party chasing its own tail, ignoring the public desire for an activist government that can solve problems.
That’s precisely wrong in nearly every respect. Republicans both in and out of office do not think and do not argue that America is in decline; they argue that Obama’s policies will make America a weaker and poorer country. That is why they so vigorously argue against a bullying government, a massive spending spree, and a set of policies which inhibit flexible labor markets and limit growth. If they believed America was in decline or its people feeble they would not argue to restrain the impulse to micromanage every aspect of our lives.
As for the tea parties, he tags them as “anti-tax” — which is only partly true. They are, as he then seems to grudgingly concede, an effort primarily to address the spending side of the equation and to hold back the “activist” tide. Ignatius contends that public opinion is fixed and immovable on the subject, that people are not amenable to reason and that it is foolhardy to resist. But polling shows the primary weaknesses for Obama, especially among independents, are the public’s unease with spending, its aversion to bailouts, and its concern that government not extend itself beyond the immediate needs of our current economic predicament.
Ignatius clearly would prefer that Republicans and those hundreds of thousands of tea party attendees pipe down and go along with the wave of statism. Generally, the way parties out of power revive is by making clear their objections to overreaching incumbents, resisting bad policies, and offering an alternative if things go poorly. The Republicans have done the first two. Whether they drift off into oblivion or come storming back largely depends on whether Obama’s economy (and it is his now) recovers, whether his agenda is perceived as too ideologically extreme, and whether Republicans can offer a sane alternative.