When a Political Thesis, a set of myths and values underlying power, loses its hold on the vast majority of people, those in the party of power face hard choices.
Generally the party in power splits. This happened three times to the Democratic Party — before 1860, 1896, and 1968.
This did not happen to the Republican Party when it last faced collapse, in 1932. Herbert Hoover was nominated for re-election, virtually by acclamation. The resulting campaign was hard on him. He was pelted with eggs and rotten fruit. He truly needed Secret Service protection. Yet he did not withdraw, and his party did not retreat. They were both stomped — thoroughly, totally, completely.
It would be 14 years before Republicans gained a sniff of power again, in the Congress, and the only Republican President of the next generation, Dwight Eisenhower, would be an AntiThesis politician, seeking only to moderate the New Deal thesis of government that beat Hoover, not to set a wholly new direction.
Now, Hoover did have his revenge. He helped found the Hoover Institution
at Stanford, which helped develop the Nixon Thesis of Conflict. He had
the longest retirement of any U.S. President, passing away in 1964
after 32 years of service. He was given a state funeral, and by the
time of his death the Republican Party was on its way back to the
ascendancy, a place it still holds today.
Hoover, in other words, did fine, but his party lost the political
initiative for a full generation, and on his death it was about to
undergo its worst defeat ever, Barry Goldwater’s loss in 1964.
In many ways, the Republican situation in 2007 is worse than it was in 1932. President Bush is term-limited. Given the position of the 10
Republicans running to succeed him I doubt he could be denied
re-nomination if he were able to seek it. There are very few
differences, on any issue of importance, between the current President
and his supposed Republican successors. Democrats, meanwhile, are
united. There is no valid third party movement around, which might keep
the margin of defeat down.
Today’s Republicans, like Hoover, intend to invoke the past in
order to attempt to gain the future. They will talk about Ronald Reagan as Democrats a generation ago talked up Harry Truman and FDR, as Hoover himself talked up Teddy Roosevelt.
That trick never works.
If you’re a young person with any political ambitions, history advises that you be a Democrat