Consensus among the nation’s political elite is a recipe for disaster – just look at Iraq, the war on terror and deregulation.
This weekend they held a conference in Washington entitled “Republican for a Reason”, where it rapidly became evident that nobody was entirely clear what that reason was. Having set out as social conservatives, they ended up as conservative socialists – big spenders who made the first moves towards nationalising the banks.
The party elected Michael Steele as its national chairman. Promising outreach and renewal, Steele – the party’s first African-American leader – claimed Republicans have an “image” problem. That’s true. According to a recent Pew survey, the Democrats are enjoying the greatest favourability advantage it has ever recorded. Republicans trail in every demographic group apart from white evangelicals.
The problem with the party’s image is that it is a faithful reflection of its policies and culture. Steele, who once compared stem-cell research to concentration camp experiments, was the moderate in the election. He defeated the South Carolina chairman, Katon Dawson, who became politically active in protest at racial integration of schools and was a member of an all-white country club for 12 years before leaving last year. It was a close run thing. Steele won 91-77 on the sixth and final ballot.
According to a recent Rasmussen poll, almost half of Republicans think their problem is not that they have been too rightwing, but too moderate. More than half think the Alaska governor and defeated vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin offers the best model for their party. To the extent that they have learned any lessons from their defeat, they seem to be the wrong ones.