In the wake of Tuesday's GOP meltdown, there is no shortage of advice on how the party can rebuild itself, and reverse the losses of 2006 and 2008. We offered our own advice yesterday; so far, the RNC hasn't requested a detailed briefing. Go figure.
Over at Slate, a panel of Republican luminaries--Tucker Carlson; Ross Douthat, Doug Kmiec, Jim Manzi, Kathleen Parker and Christine Todd Whitman--offered a dialogue on the party's future. Some of their advice is rather obvious; Mr. Douthat says we have "no one to blame but ourselves." Tucker Carlson echoes something we suggested--nominating someone who is articulate, for a change.
In terms of policy, Mr. Manzi offers a pair of detailed suggestions; fix K-12 education, and once the southern border is secured, offer some sort of comprehensive immigration policy, allowing the world's best and brightest to settle in our country.
Both proposals sound eminently sensible, but ultimately, both are fatally flawed. Republicans have been trying to claim the education issue for more than two decades, with only marginal success. Under his proposal, Manzi suggests a federal role in education equivalent to that of the Securities and Exchange Commission in financial markets. Parents and students would enjoy greater choice in schools, and funding would follow their selections.
In terms of oversight, the government would develop (and administer) standardized tests measuring student achievement. Schools would be required to publish performance data, which would be marketed by private sector information firms, akin to rating services for mutual funds. Manzi believes this would lead to better educational choices, and acculturate more Americans to a market economy.
Mr. Manzi also believes that immigation should be less of a law enforcement issue, and more of a recruiting process. With our borders secure, he opines, the U.S. could open immigration centers around the world, targeting individuals with the skills and education needed for our economy. If nothing else, it solve the talent problem facing our high-tech industry.
Unfortunately, both ideas are DOA, at least for now. Democrats are prepared to gut "No Child Left Behind" because it demands accountability for local schools. To keep the NEA happy, the Obama administration will increase federal funding, while decreasing requirements for performance and oversight. This may be the time to propose a new approach for our schools, but the idea won't get much traction with the Democrats in charge--and their media allies touting Obama's "new approach."
The immigration proposal will also be rejected because it's far too restrictive. Despite overwhelming public opposition, the Democrats remain in favor of open borders, and they'll pursue that policy over the next four years. Illegals represent an irresistable mass of Democratic voters, so the party (and their president) have little incentive to seal the borders, short of another terrorist attack.
Mr. Manzi is correct in demanding that Republicans stand for something, and articulate those views to the American people. And, he's correct is asserting that a return to Reaganism simply won't work. But his ideas are a little too advanced for a party in need of basic reform. Before considering something as esoteric as education or immigration reform, the GOP must return to Reaganism, and the timeless beliefs that form the foundation of the party's ideology.
The party needs to believe in something, and the maxims of Mr. Reagan are a good place to start. What Manzi proposes are tactical policy shifts, allowing the GOP to stake out territory not far from the Democrats. Ronaldus Magnus would be appalled. Policy differences, he once observed, should be painted in bold colors, not weak pastels. As Republicans stumble forward, the simplicty--and boldness--of Mr. Reagan is clearly lacking.