Can 2016 be 1992 for the GOP?

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By Jennifer Rubin,

from The Washington Post,

The GOP is supposed to be the party in trouble if you listen to the mainstream media. It has a demographic problem, a message problem, an agenda problem and a tone problem. There is something to all that, but maybe it is the Democratic Party that is the one really in peril.

Consider that faith in government is dropping like a stone. President Obama’s second term looks bleak and interminable.

The Democrats may lose the Senate. The 2016 “inevitable” nominee doesn’t generate much news and has little, if any, distinctive message or agenda; she is running on her own sense of entitlement. Democrats have taken a beating in gubernatorial and state legislative elections. And worst of all, the Democratic Party has a fundamental problem at the core of its philosophical underpinnings: It cannot sustain the government it wants with the economic policies (high taxes, big deficits, uber-regulations) it favors.

In 1992, the Democrats beat the exhausted GOP incumbent not with a standard-fare liberal, but with a forward-looking, can-do governor who eventually would declare the era of big government to be over (he hadn’t yet met Barack Obama). So, too, the GOP in 2016 would be wise not to revert to what Obama defeated twice — a stodgy, remote version of conservatism that is reactionary on social issues and regurgitates economic platitudes without addressing the day-to-day needs of voters. You can’t beat something or someone with nothing.

The test then in the next few years for the GOP is not whether it can find a single presidential-caliber presidential contender. In fact, it has a few of them. It is whether it can, in the same way Clinton did to Bush 41, paint an alternative, more contemporary vision that can offer voters something better than shopworn ideology of the incumbent president. If the alternative is screechy confrontational partisanship without substance, then Hillary Clinton will be good enough, I suspect, for most voters. It is only a GOP that is not your father’s GOP that can win and capitalize on the left’s intellectual and political exhaustion. For that, just as for the Democrats in 1992, the answer will come from the states. That is where conservatism ideology tempered by voters’ needs and divided government are producing the most effective brand of conservatism in a generation.

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