Speaking of the Prospect, check out Paul Waldman's piece surveying the bleak intellectual landscape of the 2008 Republican presidential primary. The GOP, as Waldman observes, has become the "party of no ideas." Not a single candidate has proposed a genuine policy innovation of any kind (save for McCain's immigration bill, which Republicans wish had never happened) -- not in the debates, not on their websites, not anywhere. Not even in the area of national security, which is supposed to be party's strong suit (yes, I know -- stop laughing), but which instead has served as a stark example of reverse-evolution:
The national-security discussion coming from the candidates resembles nothing so much as the dominance displays of lower primates ("Ooog! Ooog! Me double Gitmo! Ooog!"). Anyone looking for a serious analysis of our security challenges in the coming years will be sorely disappointed.While it's true that candidates generally prefer to be coy about policy specifics, the deafening silence on the Republican side is noteworthy, particularly since this is a party that has, in recent decades, been fed a steady diet of policy advice from its network of conservative think tanks.
As with most of the Republicans' problems, this aversion to anything resembling an agenda can be traced in no small part to George W. Bush. Like a Bizarro World King Midas, everything Bush has touched has turned to garbage, with the consequence that the standard Republican agenda is almost irredeemably tainted by its association with the last six years.This isn't to say that there aren't any ideas on the conservative side. In fact, there are a number of interesting young conservative intellectuals grappling with the policy problems facing their movement. What's notable, though, is how little connection they seem to have to the various presidential campaigns. In part this might be to do with the fact that the most interesting ideas on the right these days look, to establishment conservative eyes, suspiciously like variations on the dreaded "big-government conservatism" of the Bush administration.
Tax cuts? We tried that, and got huge deficits. Gettin' tough with terrorists? Not working out so well. Protecting the family? That song's getting older by the month. Nearly anything a Republican proposes can be answered with, "That's just another version of George W. Bush's plan for [insert issue here]. We don't need more Bush."