As November approaches, memories seem to get very short. Where just a few years before there was loose talk of thirty-year dominance of the Presidency on the model of the early 20th century GOP, there is now the fear of a long sojourn out of power. To avoid this, disaffected conservatives are supposed to “come home,” but in November just as in 2006 it will not matter whether McCain succeeds in retaining the GOP core. Every tactic McCain has employed has been part of a strategy to retain and mobilize that core, and it will not succeed, because this reflects a complete lack of comprehension about why the GOP is in its current predicament. Republicans and conservatives generally rallied to the flag with almost the same reflexive loyalty in 2006 as they had done in previous elections, and the GOP was still routed because previously GOP-leaning independents fled the party in droves and the left was better mobilized and organized. The Palin selection and the enthusiastic reaction to it have been disheartening because they suggest that conservatives will continue to bind themselves closely to the GOP and its obsession with short-term objectives.
The cause of the current predicament being of course that the modern GOP isn't actually interested so much in substance as they are in power. The fact that every minor policy decision in the Bush administration was political was not an anamoly; it was the result of GOP electoral strategy, which succeeded in that it picked a candidate in Bush (and his advisor in Karl Rove) who, as Brooks explains, perfectly encapsulated this approach. Every decision was aimed at bettering the chance of Republicans to win elections, and since such an approach will eventually result in policies that are damaging to the nation, it was only a matter of time before the GOP drove away more moderate voters. Personally, I value the two-party system; we're hardly as democratic as a nation as we should be, but one-party dominance is a recipe for disaster (and this is true even when more competent Democrats may be running the show.) I don't wish for the destruction of the Republican Party so much as I wish for the excision of its right-wing base, or at least the destruction of their dominance of the party. Don't expect this to happen overnight if McCain loses, but Republican candidates will spend two long years wondering how to get back what they are almost certain to lose in the Congressional elections in November, and they will be forced to realize that-at least to a greater degree than they've been willing to accept for eight years-substance wins elections.