Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist at the New York Times (given David Brooks’ frequent forays into non-ideological common sense, it would not be inaccurate to say he is THE conservative columnist there). This morning’s column displayed an interesting combination of obtuseness and dawning recognition of political reality.
Douthat joins other conservatives who simply cannot fathom why Romney isn’t walking away with this election. He goes through several possible reasons–identifying “villains” like the “liberal education establishment” that has shifted the culture to the left–before settling on the likely culprit. And that culprit is…George W. Bush! He’s the one who destroyed the party’s brand!
Now, Bush clearly deserves a good deal of blame for the electorate’s distrust of GOP competence. But nowhere does Douthat suggest that the ham-handed Romney campaign with its wooden candidate might have something to do with the current status of the race. And only at the very end of his column does he grudgingly admit that the party doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the disaster in Iraq and the rape of the middle class by the bankers and other Masters of the Universe.
Conventional political wisdom tells us that “it’s the economy, stupid!” So Douthat and other conservative pundits are mystified by the increasing likelihood of a second Obama term. What seems to have escaped them is yet another timeworn political adage: “you can’t beat something with nothing.”
You can’t beat a sitting President with a deeply flawed candidate whose only persuasive argument is that he isn’t Obama. And you can’t beat a party that reflects the ideas and aspirations of a diverse and ever-changing electorate with a party composed mainly of rigidly ideological old white guys.
As the GOP keeps reminding Obama, you can’t blame George W. Bush for everything.