Most voters would rather have a president who focuses on “moving America forward” than a president who focuses on “protecting what has made America great.” Does this mean the GOP is doomed if it doesn’t change its ways? That’s the argument political analyst Charlie Cook makes in a recent National Journal column:
One thing that jumped out of [the latest NBC/WSJ poll] spells bad news for Republicans—and it’s only bound to get worse. It boils down to the two Americas we have now—how the differences in outlook are generational and how Republicans should worry about aligning themselves in ways that, over time, will increasingly put them at a disadvantage. Nostalgia is great in its place. But in politics, getting caught up in the past is perilous.
Look at the responses of 828 registered voters when they were asked, “in thinking about the next president,” which of two statements came closer to their point of view. The first choice: “It is time to have a president who will focus on progress and help move America forward.” Or: “This is a time to have a president who will focus on protecting what has made America great.” I must confess that the wording bothers me a bit, because people can define “progress” and “move America forward” in different ways. Not surprisingly, 60 percent of the respondents preferred to “focus on progress and help move America forward”; just 38 percent chose “protecting what has made America great.” […]
Republicans, in other words, risk isolating themselves from younger voters and independents, in particular, if they’re seen as clinging to the past.
But which party is more guilty of “clinging to the past?” Perhaps because the Democrats have energetically deployed phrases like “making progress”, and “being the right side of history”, and perhaps because issues like immigration and same-sex marriage have taken center stage in the last few elections, Cook seems automatically to associate Republicans with a politics based on the past. But as we have always emphasized on this blog, it’s not nearly that simple.
One of the major issues of our political moment is the ongoing collapse of what we call the mid-20th century blue social model. Thanks to globalization, new technologies, and demographic changes, this model is on its way out, and a more entrepreneurial, competitive, and unpredictable system is taking its place. And on many issues related to the decline of the blue model—propping up public sector unions, for example, or stifling the sharing economy—it is actually Democrats who are more likely be caught up in outdated approaches.
That’s not to say Republicans have a fully formed economic program for addressing the decline of the blue model, or that they are doing a good job pitching a forward-looking agenda to voters. Redsters who just focus on cutting programs and government functions don’t have a holistic policy vision. But they have at least made some promising noises (like Marco Rubio’s speech in New York yesterday about the “on-demand” economy), while the Democrats’ economic agenda often amounts to doubling down on the 1950s economic model at all costs. So its not at all clear which party is stuck in the past.