John Podhoretz puts Republican travails into the context of the rise and fall of the party’s technological superiority. In his New York Post article today, Republican sclerosis: How the party fell behind, he begins (entertainingly to those of us who were politically conscious during the fall of the Soviet Union):
These days, Republican political professionals seem to feel rather like Mikhail Gorbachev did in 1983 when he toured farms in Canada two years before he would become premier of the Soviet Union. Stunned by how productive a certain agribusiness was, Gorbachev asked how many farmhands had brought in the crop. “None,” came the answer; the farm was entirely mechanized.
From this one conversation, Gorbachev instantly understood the depths of the Soviet crisis and the desperate need for a new approach. For Republicans, the November 2012 election proved their technical inferiority in exactly the same way — it all came home to them in one day, Nov. 6, as President Obama’s campaign demonstrated a degree of technological superiority above the GOP’s efforts as shocking in its way as the mechanized agribusiness was to the hidebound ways of Soviet agriculture.
He goes through the GOP’s technical advantages, from direct mail in the 1980s, through talk radio, to the rise of Fox News along with the early internet and the influence of Drudge. And he concludes:
The unexpected success of the GOP’s efforts in the 1980s and 1990s created a profound complacency among the leaders of the Right, who did not see just how powerful the newest media approaches — social media primarily — could be. In this respect they were no different from those on the Left who’d been blindsided by Limbaugh, Fox News and Drudge.
Liberals now need to guard against the seductive power of their own successes. They seem to think they own the technological future because they own the technological present, but it is precisely this sense of ownership that creates complacency. Desperation and a sense of exclusion are the drivers of change, as Gorbachev’s example proved.
Of course, Gorbachev’s reforms ended the existence of the Soviet Union. But then, a break-up of the sclerotic union of entrenched interest groups and paid consultants that runs the Republican Party today would only benefit its voters and the right-of-center ideas to which they subscribe.
Right on, John Podhoretz. I’m not sure how that break-up is going to happen. But the future of America depends on it.