Whatever happened to the Republicans? In a recent syndicated article, my friend John Baden of the Montana think-tank FREE has some suggestions.
First, he suggests, it's the economy, stupid. Years of boom eventually turned to bust. In response to various problems like the dotcom crash and 9/11, the Fed flooded the markets with so much credit that the bankers were able to buy themselves fancy houses in private streets while ordinary people are now struggling to keep hold of their homes. It causes resentment, and people feel the Bush administration is to blame.
Then of course there is the long list of senior Republicans who have been caught with their hands in the public till, using their power to win themselves favours and financial gains. That's bad enough in itself, but the Republicans have always preached financial probity and honest government, so it's hypocritical as well as venal.
Lastly and most importantly, thinks Baden, the Republicans lost their intellectual roots. Ronald Reagan owed a debt to the ideas factories of Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Heartland, National Centre for Policy Analysis, Reason, and many more. But since Reagan the focus has been more on power and position at any price. Principle has given way to tactics. Economic promises were broken, moral legitimacy has been lost. And when that happens, public support collapses – for the public has rather greater judgement than politicians often suppose.