Republicans are likely to take a pasting in next years election. And its really going to hurt. Heres why:
President Bush is unpopular. The Democrats have a significant fund-raising advantage.
Candidates are beating the drum for a tired platform. The partys would-be presidential standard-bearers are living in the past, making wholly unconvincing arguments that they are the worthy political heirs of Ronald Reagan.
These conclusions are not from a secret memo squirreled away at the headquarters of Hillary, Inc. They are the very public conclusions of Rich Lowry, one of the bright lights of the conservative commentariat. As editor of National Review, Lowry co-authored a cover article recently saying that Republicans plumbing the reasons for the doom that awaits need only look in the mirror.
And not just the politicians either. Lowrys article provocatively tells the partys base that its the biggest part of the problem. The base is turning off the independent voters who can make or break a campaign. The indies are trending for the Ds because the Ds are telling them things that resonate, even if their proffered solutions arent good.
Lowry lists a few issues where the base is out of touch. One of them is global warming. Heres a statement from his article that will set veins a throbbing among talk radios fire-breathing dragons: The public thinks (global warming) is real and worrisome, but is not ready to embrace liberal policies that would drastically reduce economic growth. Republicans would have an opening here, if so many of them had not persuaded themselves that global warming is a hoax.
Give this man a prize. Politicians, hard-core partisans and their pundit enablers who are preaching climate change denial will scornfully blow off Al Gore as a self-serving medicine show salesman. But when the editor of National Review tells them to get real on global warming, the cognitive dissonance could set off car alarms for miles around.
In fairness to ordinary Republican voters, however, a substantial number accept the findings of climatologists and support action to lower greenhouse gas emissions. A poll taken last summer by Ayres, McHenry & Associates, a Republican opinion research firm, found that three-fourths of queried Republican voters believe that the climate is changing. The number of respondents who believe that human activities are a significant cause exceed those who do not.
Heres the political opening that Lowry mentioned: GOP voters in the Ayres survey agreed, by a greater than 2 to 1 margin, that reducing CO2 emissions would create jobs at home. By nearly the same margin, they agreed that carbon emissions reductions would help the nation by lowering dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
There you have it. Talk about climate change as part of a broad energy strategy that also folds in economic opportunity and strengthening national security.
Obsessing over Al Gore wont help Republicans become credible voices on climate issues. As Lowry wrote, If the public debate is confined to a choice between people who brush off public concerns and those who offer bad solutions, the latter group will win.
GOP candidates who convince voters that they share their global warming concerns, then offer carefully crafted solutions that fit with conservative values may find one of the pathways out of the shadows. Choose wisely, ladies and gentlemen.
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