The Next Republican

In a very smart post, Yglesias writes:

Election outcomes are largely determined by the fundamentals, and there’s a large element of chance and uncertainty associated with the whole thing. The best way to become president is to (a) win a major party nomination and (b) hope for luck. In other words, anyone who secures a major party nomination has a decent shot of winning. And over the long haul, the tendency is for power to alternate between the parties. And under the circumstances, one wants both parties to nominate the best possible people. For example, any Republican would have won in 1988. We are fairly lucky, as a country, that we got George H.W. Bush who managed foreign affairs competently and on domestic issues proved willing to reach pragmatic compromises with progressive legislators on some fronts. If instead of Bush we’d gotten someone with more of a Newt Gingrich attitude, the whole situation could have been much, much worse. He could have, like his son, really trashed the country.

I think if you’d have surveyed Republican strategists in December 2004, and asked them whether they’d rather run the next Presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, Obama would have been the near unanimous winner. After all, Clinton had been a national figure for overa decade, had an enormous power base and politcal machine, and was closely associated with a period of economic prosperity and a popular administration. Obama’s name (yes) rhymed with Osama, his middle name was Hussein, he’d just been elected to the U.S. Senate, and (yes) he was black. Of course, as events bore out, as the situation in Iraq really cratered, as the economy got worse and worse, and crashed right before the election, the landscape played out in such a way that made it likely any credible Democrat was going to win.

And there’s nothing say that events might not play out badly in the next 4 years. I think Obama will do quite well in office, but not everything is a direct reaction to policy. Sometimes you just get unlucky. And even if it doesn’t happen in 2012, sooner or later Republicans will be back in power, if not in the White House then in either chamber of Congress. Democrats are going to have to defend their 2006 and 2008 Senate gains in 2012 and 2014, and that’s always an uphill battle. And given that inevitability, I want the Republican people to not only include, but to be led, by people who are at least competent. And who won’t do what the brand of Republican that has dominated the party since 1994 have done. So anyone who’s really concerned about good governance and the well being of the country should be hoping that the Republicans put forward a competent, tough, challenger in 2012. If Obama deserves a 2nd term, he’ll win it, but we need a legitimate, serious, opposition party no matter who’s in power.