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The Long Shadow of the Bush Era

Michael remarks on the aftermath of Romney’s loss:

But in reality the more pressing problem is that Republicans are still a party badly damaged by the George W. Bush years. The GOP has traditionally held huge advantages on foreign policy and the economy. That advantage is gone now. And Mitt Romney was the wrong candidate to give the party a refresh on those issues, particularly when the gettable voters were downscale whites. It isn’t that Republicans aren’t reaching enough voters; voters simply don’t believe the GOP is competent to govern.

Put another way, if the public had much confidence in Republican leadership to conduct foreign policy responsibly or act as competent stewards of the economy the party’s demographic woes would be substantially alleviated. The GOP is failing to win adherents outside of its core constituencies, but a key reason for this is that it has proven itself manifestly unfit for government. The Bush era was a disaster for the Republican Party, and it isn’t going to be able to recover until it recognizes this, repudiates the failures of that era, and demonstrates that it has learned from the experience. If it can repair the damage that Bush-era Republicans did to the party’s reputation on managing foreign policy and the economy, it might be given a second chance and receive a hearing from people who have learned to distrust its representatives.

Michael said earlier in his post:

Because changing demographics are such a huge part of Obama’s, it is going to cause Republicans to discuss how they can attract a more diverse pool of voters. Inevitably this will focus on Hispanics. I expect tonight’s results will be used as an argument for automatically nominating Florida Senator Marco Rubio for 2016.

Michael is correct that Republicans will believe that they can expand their coalition to include more Hispanics, and he’s probably right that Rubio will be promoted as the sort of candidate able to do this. While the desire to make the party more competitive is understandable, this would be the wrong way to go about it. As I’ve said several times before, Rubio’s ability to appeal to Hispanics outside Florida is illusory, and it’s not even that reliable inside his home state. Not only will Rubio’s Cuban background be an impediment to this effort, but his overall profile as the super-hawkish favorite of movement conservative activists is one that does not appeal to anyone outside of a very narrow band of opinion. The answer to the GOP’s problems is not to elevate another John McCain on foreign policy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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