By normal way, I mean the path that every post-1970s Republican primary campaign has ultimately taken, in which a candidate who seems reasonably electable, performs well with “moderate conservative” primary voters (to use Henry Olsen’s helpful typology) and wins the blessing of the party’s donor class successfully fends off a more right-wing challenger, and sometimes a more moderate challenger as well.
Douthat is a typical Gentry GOP loser.
Let’s look at his magic template a bit more closely.
First, “post 1970s.” That means 1980s, and that means, in order: Ronald Reagan (a huge winner and most definitely not the choice of the GOP establishment, then or ever, or any kind of fit for Douthat’s magic template; George H.W. Bush, a big winner on RR’s coat-tails (and for no other reason), who then squandered the highest Presidential approval ratings in history while reneging on his promise not to raise taxes at the behest of the Gentry, and then losing to…B.J. Clinton in 1992.
In 1996, a perfect fit for Douthat’s template, Robert Dole, was crushed by Clinton, even though BJ was weakened by a continuous wave of scandals. In 2000, another perfect fit, George W. Bush, managed to lose the popular vote but squeak into office by virtue of the Electoral College. In 2004, Bush managed to beat by a whisker one of the most leaden Democrats ever to run for the office, a guy with arguable instances of high treason in his past. And then came two more perfect Douthat templates, John McCain and Mitt Romney, both of whom lost handily to a guy whose total experience at the national level consisted of a few months as a non-functional Senator from Illinois, and, in Romney’s case, the figurehead on a namesake health care bill hated by the majority of Americans.
So, there is Douthat’s magic template, which he apparently hopes the GOP will continue to hew to: “Since the 1970s,” its record is one solid win, and since that win, it has only managed to capture the popular vote one time.
That’s a record of success that certainly should require the GOP to continue doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result, right?
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