The GOP dumps the Gipper

Mired in anger and vituperation, seemingly hell-bent on becoming a small-tent faction rather than a big-tent governing party, Republicans have betrayed the leader they ritually canonize. The GOP is now the party of malaise.

Robert Shrum

Ronald Reagan was a prophet of the conservative faith, not its grand inquisitor. That truth is lost on the Palinized Republicans who whacked their own moderate nominee in New York’s 23rd Congressional District in favor of a hard-shell, third-party conservative. Newt Gingrich is right (a sentence I don’t often write): "If we get into a cycle [like this]," he said of the fratricide, "we’ll make Pelosi Speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s reelection." Win or lose on Tuesday, Republicans lose.

The true believers claim they’re Reagan conservatives, but their politics are a betrayal of the leader they ritually canonize -- a betrayal not just in strategy, but in spirit. Ronald Reagan didn’t just tolerate moderates in his party; he valued them. Reagan knew that to be a governing party, rather than an ideological faction, the GOP needed to run and win outside conservative strongholds. So Reagan’s GOP gave all-out support to pro-choice candidates like Pete Wilson in California.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.