They’re not dead yet…

May 12, 2009

Since the 2008 election, one of the topics du jour in the major media and the political blogosphere has been the question of whether the Republican Party can survive in the wake of a crushing defeat. A recurring theme has been the idea that there’s been a tectonic shift in American politics, one of those things that happen only every generation or so, and that the nation has moved from being Center-Right toward Center-Left: more accepting of a managed economy, a large federal role in everyday life, and a  less assertive foreign policy. Thus, the argument suggests, the Republican Party must abandon its principles* and itself move Left in order to survive.

Not so fast.

Moe Lane has been following Rasmussen’s surveys that measure which party the public trusts more on particular issues and sees trends that should give Republicans hope. For example, in October at the height of the financial crisis the public preferred the Democrats 51%-38% over the Republicans as stewards of the economy. After 100+ days of wild spending, borrowing, and the promise of higher taxes, they are now essentially tied, 44%-43%. Other issues show the same trend: national security has gone from 47%-44% to 41%-48%; taxes from 47%-42% to 41%-47%; and even abortion, a signature Democratic issue, the trend has move toward the Republicans, from 47%-38% to 41%-41%. As Moe puts it:

As you can see, back in October it was fairly clear that Democrats were enjoying consistent leads over Republicans when it came to how much the public trusted them on various issues.  It’s also fairly clear that in most cases, those leads have been savaged.  Leading in four categories and tied in one may not sound wonderful; but compared to zero-for-ten that’s not half bad – particularly since it’s looking as if the Democrats are in the process of thoroughly squandering their existing trustworthiness with regard to the economy.

So it may not be time for the elephant to head to his graveyard, just yet. I maintain this is still a Center-Right nation, but that the Democratic victory represented a "perfect storm" of several factors: the Republicans alienating their own base by moving away from their principles and who were being rightly hammered for corruption; a Democratic candidate who could carry himself well in set-piece speeches and who had the entire MSM operating as his marketing department; and an economic crisis under Republicans that sent voters scurrying to the other guy, who promised to make it go away.

As time passes and the public realizes just how radical are the policies of the President and his allies in Congress, I think these numbers will head more and more back toward that Center-Right balance point, to the benefits of the Republicans — if they can once again convince the public that the party is worthy of the public’s trust.

That remains to be seen.

ADDENDUM: Spot the Republican:

Rolling on the floor