John Fund in OpinionJournal today joins the lament about the implosion of the congressional GOP, as earlier discussed in this post. He, too, is correct. And Rich Lowry at NRO makes some good suggestions on the subject. But what it really comes down to is, as Morton Blackwell often argues, good principles ARE good politics. If we fight for our principles and explain them well, we win. All too often, elected officials spend so much time trying to figure out HOW to be popular, and what positions to take and how to spin those positions, that they don’t realize that the public A) tends to agree, more often than not, with conservative principles and B) tends to respect officials more if they (the public) sense that the officials are acting out of conviction, even if they disagree with their stance, than if they think the officials are pandering.
E.g., on spending and on keeping the debt low, Republicans actually WON the battle with Clinton in 1995 and 1996, even while utterly blowing the tactics. The public generically supports less government, not more.
On judges, conservatives win, because we win on the related issues of law and order, partial birth abortion, reasonable nods to faith in the public square, eminent domain, the Pledge of Allegiance, etc.
On defense in general, Americans choose conservative strength and pride to liberal weakness and blame-America-firstism.
And so on.
Ronald Reagan understood this. He wasn’t just a “great communicator,” he was a firm believer that standing on principle was also good politics. And he proved it again and again. Since at least 1998, the congressional GOP leadership has forgotten Reagan’s simple lessons. They can still salvage their majority if they start applying those lessons again.