Past predictions of GOP’s demise way off

 The Reagan White House’s political director Jeffrey Lord pens a piece in today’s Philly Inquirer that talks about how past predictions of the demise of the GOP have proven to be way off (via ST reader GWR):

A former GOP presidential nominee claims conservatives “want to drive all the moderates and liberals out,” which would mean that “the Democrats would win every election.” An ex-Republican National Committee chairman agrees, saying the party’s “image has been badly disfigured.” A rising-star moderate GOP congressman says his party is on its way to being “extinguished” and “reduced to ashes” by conservatives, adding that he sees it as his job “to help the GOP rebuild and to help give it proper direction.”

In a post-election book The Future of the Republican Party, a Washington journalist offers a startlingly bleak assessment, based on reams of data, and interviews with political scientists and Republican politicians. Republicans are doomed to lose at least the next six presidential elections in a row, he writes. The party is in “sad condition” and “grievously weakened” in the Northeast, the once solidly Republican New England states bolting to the Democrats. In the historically Republican Midwest, trouble brews. California is gone. In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, “town and country; city and suburb; black and white; rich and poor; Catholic, Protestant and Jew” are lost.

The ex-nominee quoted here was New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey – in 1950, two years after the moderate lost his second run for the presidency. The national GOP chairman was Meade Alcorn, who ran the party from 1957 to 1959. The congressman? John Lindsay, who was elected mayor of New York in 1965, the same year Arlen Specter was elected district attorney of Philadelphia. Lindsay was denied renomination by the GOP in 1969, narrowly won reelection as the Liberal Party nominee, left the GOP to become a Democrat, and lost runs for president and senator.

The journalist was Robert Donovan, Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times. His book was published in December 1964.

Just like then, in the aftermath of the Specter switch to the Democrats, the media are predicting catastrophe for national and Pennsylvania Republicans. But there is remarkably little analysis of history in all this.

The next six presidential elections that Donovan saw as looming disasters? Five were won by Republicans. Beginning in 1976, when conservative Ronald Reagan challenged moderate GOP President Gerald Ford and lost, Republican presidential nominees who ran as moderates managed to lose Pennsylvania six out of six times. It was the conservative Reagan who won two back-to-back national landslides, carrying Pennsylvania twice. In 1980, Reagan won more Pennsylvania votes than moderate Senate candidate Arlen Specter, with whom he shared the ballot. George H. W. Bush, campaigning as Reagan’s heir, won Pennsylvania and the presidency in 1988 – yet lost both in 1992 after governing and running as a moderate.

Make sure to read the whole thing. 

There’s been a lot of talk about forming a “third party” because of the leftist direction the GOP has been headed the last several years. Some “Republicans” like Colin Powell are suggesting that the best way for the GOP to “become relevant” again is to acknowledge that people want “more government” in their lives, and say and/or imply that as a result, the GOP should modify their platform accordingly.  Others say the GOP must get back to its conservative principles. Do you feel at this point that that “fixing” the GOP is a hopeless task and that a third party is the best way to go, do you agree with Powell that the party must become “more moderate” in order to remain viable, or do you feel the best way for the party to repair and expand its political clout is for us to work within it to get it back on track – back to its conservative principles?

Cross-posted to Right Wing News, where I am helping guestblog for John Hawkins on Sundays.

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