2016 is the Republicans' to lose. That doesn't mean they won't. They seem to be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with remarkable ease, especially in presidential years. But they start this time with a big advantage. Liberalism, to paraphrase the late Preston Sturges (he was referring to chivalry), is "not only dead, it's decomposed."
Liberalism n'existe pas -- and almost everybody knows it. It is completely out of ideas. Obama was the last gasp of a dying ideology. All they have left is some pathetic and teetering identity politics. That is why the Democratic Party was so flummoxed over the last few days over the words of their stalwart Chuck Schumer, when he criticized the risibly titled Affordable Care Act. The New York senator said his party (and Obama clearly), rather than trying to reform healthcare, should have concentrated on improving the state of the middle class. But crucially, Schumer didn't say how. That's because in his ideology, there is no more how. It's all been tried and shown to be useless or, worse, destructive of the people it pretends to be helping. At this point, we no longer need Gertrude Stein to tell us there's no there there. It's over. As Edward Luce wrote in yesterday's Financial Times:
As it stands, whatever coalition is expected to carry Mrs Clinton over the finishing line is likely to result from a calculated process of addition. In politics, winning is ultimately about ideas. In the absence of new ones, Mrs Clinton’s bridge to the White House looks rickety.
The Democrats have been reduced to the party of the rich elite (George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Hollywood, Jonathan Gruber-types, edit al.) and the party of the poor exploited by those elites -- a lethal combination that takes society exactly nowhere. In essence, they are the party of racism and sexism -- that's about it. Oh, and climate change. There's a winner for you.
Meanwhile, our country's power is waning. Most Americans don't want that. They know it is not only bad for us, but for the world, possibly even disastrous. Americans associate the current administration with this decline, as well they should.
This should make us happy, but it's better that it make us fearful. As Glenn Reynolds often points out, don't get cocky. If the Democrats succeed in winning in 2016, holding the presidency and regaining a significant amount of the Congress, with no more to thank than this rancid identity politics, then our country may never recover. The way to prevent that is to play offense. A good sports team pours it on when it is ahead. It does not lay back and play defense, relying on the opponent's mistakes.
Go directly after the Democrats' core constituencies -- blacks, Hispanics and women. I'm sure a surprising number of them are ready to come over to our side. How could that not be? They just need a little prodding, a sense that they are included. The period after Ferguson is more than ever the time to do it. Another supposed Democratic constituency, the millennials, are with us already. They know the failure of liberal economics first hand. They have lived it more than most of us. (But if you want to keep the millennials, leave gay marriage off the agenda. It's already a done deal for them.)
Most of all, come up with fresh ideas, even if not all of them are good. They can't be. That's the nature of new ideas -- to be tested like the market. The Democrats are bankrupt. That doesn't mean we should be. Be fearless. Be original. Be new. One of the great mythologies is that Democrats and liberals and progressives are the party of the modern. Conservatives are, well, conservative, the party of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are, to paraphrase Virginia Postrel, the enemies of the future. Their ideology is so old it indeed has, literally, decomposed. 2016 will be the tipping point in our culture -- the fork in the road. Be friends of the future and 2016 will be yours.