You’re looking at a political party that has lost the popular vote in five of the past six elections; whose one winning presidential candidate achieved the White House thanks to a fluke; and whose prospects for the future seem doomed by demography and geography.
No, it’s not today’s Republican Party you’re looking at—it’s the Democratic Party after the 1988 elections. And the past (nearly) quarter-century is an object lesson in the peril of long-term assumptions about the nature and direction of our political path.
And here is a crucial parallel to what Democrats had to learn in the late 1980s: If voters believe you do not respect their values, they will not care much about your programs. Back then, the problem for Democrats was a sense that they had contempt for traditional values. Today, the problem for Republicans is that when people hear Rush Limbaugh call a young woman a “slut” or watch Sheriff Joe Arpaio wage a campaign against Hispanics, they think they’re hearing the voice of the Republican rank and file.
Third, sooner or later some leading figure in the Republican Party will have to begin talking back to the Rush Limbaugh-Sean Hannity-Dick Morris-Grover Norquist Axis of Drivel that has made the GOP so unattractive to so many who might well embrace its policy agenda. In this past campaign, the people who might have taken on that job—Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels among others—chose to stay on the sidelines. They will do so again at great cost to their party, and the country.