Jonah Goldberg

Obviously, the analogy to the GOP isn't perfect. For example, last I checked, Domino's didn't get bogged down in an unpopular war.

But the GOP's troubles over the last decade have a lot to do with the fact that Americans didn't stop liking what the Republican Party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered.

As a conservative who cares more about policies than partisan success, I would hate to see the GOP abandon conservative policies in order to be more popular. That would be like Domino's listening to critics and then deciding to get into the Chinese food business. Indeed, by my lights, that's what George W. Bush tried to do with his "compassionate conservatism." He surrendered to liberal arguments about the role, size and scope of government on too many fronts. In effect, he said you can have your pizza and Kung Pao chicken all in the same dish. That's not a good meal, it's a bad mess.

Moreover, abandoning conservatism would be silly. According to Gallup, Americans identify themselves as conservative over liberal by a margin of 2-1, the same proportion as just after 9/11.

So what would a GOP-turnaround recipe look like? That's a subject for any number of other columns. But for starters, I'd look to young political chefs like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). He's been the leader in attacking "crony capitalism" -- the corrupt merger of big business and big government, a hallmark of the Obama administration. For too long Republicans confused supporting big business with supporting free markets, when big business is often the biggest impediment to fair competition. Other fresh new ingredients would almost surely include pro-family tax policies and the de-linking of legal and illegal immigration as interchangeable terms.

But first, the GOP needs to admit it screwed up. That's what Democrats did with Bill Clinton, and it gave the "New Democratic Party" a new lease on life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn't have been more wrong when he said there are "no second acts in American lives." More than any nation on earth, America is about second acts. We love contrition and redemption. We love it in pizza companies and politicians alike.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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