It goes without saying that the GOP is taking a dreadful thrashing right now. Conservatives are unmotivated, Democrats are obliterating Republicans in the fundraising arena, and the GOP's poll numbers have dropped off a cliff.
George Bush, the face of the Republican Party, has an approval rating of 30% and according to Rasmussen Reports, one of the best polling agencies in the business, 41.4% of Americans consider themselves to be Democrats while only 31.4% say they are Republicans. Worse yet, voters trust the Democrats more than Republicans on the economy, government ethics, the war in Iraq, health care, Social Security, education, immigration, and abortion. Yes, the GOP still has an edge on taxes and national security, but how are Republicans going to compete in 2008 if they cede all those other issues to the Dems?
That's something Republicans in Congress are just going to have to figure out. How do you win elections when your supporters are unenthusiastic, people are sick of your political party, and money is in short supply? Unfortunately, in 2006, the answer was, "You don't."
In 2006, Republicans lost 6 seats in the Senate and 30 seats in the House. Although it's far too early to say for sure, judging by the direction the political winds are blowing, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the GOP loses another 4-6 seats in the Senate and an additional 10-15 House seats this time around.
So, why does the GOP seem to be trapped in this recurring political nightmare?
There are a plethora of different reasons for it: the war in Iraq, gas prices, a soft economy, George Bush's lack of communication skills, corruption scandals, the illegal immigration brouhaha, nominee John McCain, out-of-control spending -- you can go on and on.
However, there is one overriding problem that dwarfs all the others, a problem that few people in the leadership of the Republican Party seem to have come to grips with. That problem is that conservatives, who are the heart and soul of the Republican Party, no longer believe that the GOP has their best interests at heart.
That's not to say that there's no difference between the two parties -- because there is. That's not to say that the country would be better off if John McCain loses; it most certainly wouldn't be. That's not to say that the Republican Party isn't more conservative than the Democratic Party; without question, it is.
In other words, to many conservatives, the Republican Party has ceased to be an organization that serves their interests and has become merely an allied organization that shares many, but not all, of the same critical goals.
That may seem like a small distinction, but it's an important one. Conservatives will stay up late volunteering for a campaign, give until it hurts, and crawl over broken glass to put candidates in Washington who're "on their side."
However, it's a totally different ball game when we're talking about mere allies. Why give money and spend precious time volunteering on the campaigns of people who are going to turn right around and cut you off at the knees on spending and illegal immigration once they get to DC?
In other words, the attitude towards the GOP has become, "He may be a son-of-a-b*tch, but he's my son-of-a-b*tch." That's what today's Republican Party is to most conservatives: our sons-of-b*tches.
........Which brings us, as conversations of this sort usually do, back to Reagan. Why did conservatives love Reagan? Certainly, he was a great President, but he departed from the conservative orthodoxy on more than a few occasions. Reagan signed an abortion bill when he was governor of California, the debt exploded under his watch, he raised taxes, he signed an amnesty bill, and Iran-Contra was certainly a big scandal. Yet conservatives, who were just as serious about their principles back then as they are today, supported him ferociously when he was in office and revere the man's memory.
Simple: because there was never the slightest doubt in the minds of conservatives that Ronald Reagan shared their values and was doing everything within his power to use conservative principles to make our country a better place. So, when Reagan did something that conservatives disagreed with, they figured he was just doing what he had to do for the sake of politics and didn't hold it against him.
Republicans today don't have that luxury because the assumptions that conservatives made about Reagan have been reversed. If a Republican does something that pleases conservatives, they often assume that it is being done for political purposes while deviations from the conservative norm represent what Republicans really want to do.
Until the Republicans can repair that breach of faith and convince conservatives that the GOP has the same goals as conservatives do on issues like spending, the size of government, and illegal immigration, the Party may win some battles, but it's going to slowly, but surely lose the war for the future of our country.