It’s the August “silly season” for pundits, so it’s more common now, but diagnosing problems and prescribing solutions for your political opponents is never out of style.
Think-pieces regularly run in newspapers, and on websites, telling the GOP what it must do to survive — as if the writers truly have the Republican Party’s future at heart.
But author and newspaperman Seth Lipsky’s prescription is different, and worth considering. He says what the GOP really needs is a good dose of optimism.
“The thing to remember about the cataract of woe that has befallen our country is how fast things can be turned around,” he wrote last week. “We may be in retreat overseas, with riots simmering in Missouri and the economy stuck in second gear. With the right policies, the right leadership, all that can be overcome. It can be turned around, and fast — a fact we’re not hearing pointedly enough for my taste.”
Lipsky said he likes most of the Republican presidential hopefuls, but he’s not hearing what he wants to hear from them — “that we can pull out of this dive quickly.”
He recalled a speech given by Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal in 2002.
“The stench of 9/11 was still over Manhattan,” Lipsky recounted. “Our war strategy had not yet been fully formed. Things were grim.”
But that’s not the tone that Bartley took.
“Bartley sounded a jaunty note,” Lipsky wrote. “He said he didn’t want to hear about the good old days — since our troubles were nothing compared to what we faced in the 1970s. He was referring to defeat in Vietnam, Soviet expansionism, the collapse of the gold-based monetary system, the rise of world inflation, economic stagnation, the Arab oil embargo, war in the Middle East, soaring unemployment. ‘My message today,’ he said, ‘is that things could be worse. Indeed, they have been worse.’ Optimism, he said, pays.”
Lipsky said he wants to see that kind of “absolute optimism” today.
“Ronald Reagan … ran on the slogan ‘morning in America,’” he noted. “This is the missing element in today’s politics. In 2008, President Obama promised hope and change. But he lacked the policy chops. The GOP today has the policy chops, but nailing the optimism is key. The candidate who does that — and the point about how quickly things can be turned around — will be the one who emerges from the GOP scrum.”
Reagan took office during tough economic times and when American’s standing abroad was at a low point.
But Reagan passed tax cuts, and “wow did the economy respond,” Lipsky adds.
“Soon we had close to full employment,” Lipsky says. “Within nine years of when Reagan was sworn in, the Soviet Union was gone — voosh.”
The party really has only itself to blame for the gloom; election after election is described as the “most important,” and the consequences of loss are declared to be apocalyptic.
But things can turn around, as Lipsky points out, and they can get better quickly.
The GOP should re-learn this lesson about optimism.