A Garden of Ideas

William Kristol points to past experiences in the minority to give the party some sage advice about how it should spend its time in the wilderness. From the Weekly Standard:

Everyone looks back nostalgically to 1993-94, the last time Republicans were out of power, but that example is a bit misleading. In 1992, Clinton had won only 43 percent of the vote, and the Republicans had gained congressional seats. The successful Reagan years remained fresh in voters’ minds. The task was simply to reclaim and revivify the Reagan agenda. The task today is both harder and less well defined.

The situation is more like 1977. For one thing, given the unlikelihood of Republicans taking back Congress in 2010, it requires a four-year horizon rather than a two-year one. More important, it requires serious rethinking in fundamental areas. Consider how far the party moved from 1977 to 1980. It was a period of vigorous, even hectic, political, policy, and institutional entrepreneurship, among conservatives both old and new. Thanks to the controversial efforts of backbenchers like Jack Kemp and Bill Steiger, the party rejected green eyeshade budget-balancing and embraced pro-growth supply-side economic policies. Thanks to the emergence of the neoconservatives, Kissingerian détente gave way to Reaganite freedom-fighting. Religious conservatives moved en masse to join the ranks of the GOP. All of this in four years.

For those of you who are looking for order, patience. Good ideas are never born out of easy solutions.

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