Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Path to Republican Revival

The Path to Republican Revival - Peter Wehner/Commentary

At some point about five years ago, America became a “One-Party Country”—and the party in question was the GOP. Such, at least, was the conclusion of Los Angeles Times reporters Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten in the book they wrote under that title following the 2004 presidential election. Bizarre as their claim may sound today, it stood on solid ground. In November 2004, George W. Bush had won re-election with the largest number of votes up to that point in American history while racking up the seventh Republican win in the previous 10 races for the White House. Republicans, moreover, were in control of the Senate by a margin of 10 seats, and of the House by a margin of 30. To complete the sweep, they also boasted a majority of the nation’s governorships and a plurality of state legislatures.

In short, Republicans had reached their most impregnable point of strength in the modern era, a fact hardly lost on their glum and battered adversaries in the Democratic and liberal camp. As “euphoric” as were Republicans, wrote the New Republic’s Peter Beinart at the time, “the intensity of their happiness can’t match the intensity of our despair.”

But then came the reversal, sudden and swift. Today, after two punishing election losses in 2006 and 2008, in the course of which Democrats gained 15 Senate seats, 54 House seats, and the White House, the GOP is now the minority party, Democrats are rejoicing, and many Republicans have lapsed into a state of near panic. “Are the Republicans going extinct?” Time asked in a dramatic cover story. “And can the death march be stopped?”

It can—though it is indisputably true that the challenges facing Republicans are the stiffest since the years immediately following Watergate.