Of course, attacks on Clinton’s age are likely to produce a backlash. But let’s say Republicans manage to walk a fine line: hit her for having “old ideas” and being around Washington too long without directly invoking her age.
The strategy still doesn’t make any sense, because the Republicans are the party of old, tired ideas.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) provided the most unintentionally ironic quote in the Times piece:
“The reality is, when you look at the Democrats, they’ve got old, tired ideas being produced by old, tired candidates,” Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, 42, said in an interview this month, citing “more government and more spending” for the ideas but not referring to any candidates by name.
O.K. So where are Republicans’ new, non-tired ideas?
They didn’t come from Mitt Romney, whose “five point economic plan” to get America out of its economic slump consisted entirely of ideas rehashed from Republican platforms in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
They’re not coming from Jindal, who wrote this month that conservatives don’t need to change at all because Democrats are imposing a “reign of politically correct terror,” including a desire to “ban red meat,” against which voters are sure to rebel any second.
They won’t come from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who would purport to increase “opportunity” by tightening monetary policy, privatizing Social Security, and putting more guns in the hands of residents of inner cities.
They’re not emerging from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose State of the Union response speech re-upped the same old agenda of lower taxes and less regulation. That’s probably why a poll out today shows Rubio performs just as dismally with Hispanic voters as much Republican presidential candidates—he’s Hispanic, but he’s not advancing an agenda that is any more appealing to Hispanics than Romney’s.
The new ideas could theoretically come from Gov. Chris Christie. In New Jersey, he has adapted his policies to economic conditions and forged non-traditional coalitions that have made him broadly popular across the political spectrum. But achieving that popularity has required Christie to do many things that have upset national conservatives, like accepting the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare and making nice with the president. And he hasn’t yet talked in detail about national economic issues.
Some other Republican governors, like Michigan’s Rick Snyder, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and (yes) Arizona’s Jan Brewer, have shown an ability to be innovative and interesting at the state level. But the policy issue set faced by the president is very different from the one faced by a governor. No Republican governor has presented a national economic agenda that responds to middle-class concerns.
And the Democratic ideas that Republicans are attacking as “old and tired” actually do respond to middle-class concerns. Democrats have a plan for addressing rising pre-tax inequality, stagnant middle-class wages and the risk of economic crises that create prolonged high unemployment. The centrepiece of their plan is higher taxes on the rich to finance a more robust safety net, including a universal health care entitlement.
Republicans might not like that plan, but recent economic events have made it more appropriate for our times. Not every idea gets tired just because it is old. They won’t beat that agenda with nothing in 2016 any more than they did so in 2012.
Instead of hitting Democrats for “old, tired ideas” Republicans should focus on coming up with good ideas of their own. But that’s hard work the party is not yet willing to do.
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