For years we’ve thought of Democrats as the Mommy party and Republicans as the Daddy party. A crude division, but useful. Republicans were stronger on defense and fiscal discipline, Democrats were more compassionate and willing to spend money.
Let us recall that one of the big reasons the Democrats won in 2008 because the Republicans did a bad job at being the Daddy party. True, like good daddies, they prevented us from being attacked after 9/11 (although how they dodged even meta-responsibility for it, or for failing to catch bin Laden, I just don’t know), but they got us into a war that they managed disastrously, and they spent all the money Ma Clinton had prudently left in the cupboard–and in a fairly unwise fashion..
Now they’ve spent a full year fighting against a real mommy proposal, health care reform. And they made their attacks partially in a responsible daddy way, saying “We can’t afford this right now.” But as all dads know, when mom says we really need something for the kids, dad can’t just say No. Dad has to produce an option–something now, more when the time is right. Otherwise he appears to be small, mean, selfish and uncaring.
The Republicans also attacked in a Bad Daddy way, mentioning death panels and getting insulting and behaving in the wild, emotional ways Bad Daddies do when they’ve been drinking.
The Republicans may have looked like responsible daddies of they had won, and most people would have dismissed their high strung excesses. But they didn’t. They lost. And yet they continue the mean, uncompromising, wild and insulting Bad Daddy approach.
How do you think that is going to work for them? Especially when the death panels don’t assemble in the town square. Especially with more real moms earning more real money and having more real jobs, while more real dads sit on their unemployed hands. In real life, when Bad Daddy asserts himself too obnoxiously for too long, Bad Daddy moves into short-stay accommodations and maybe looks into a program, until everybody is ready to give Good Daddy a chance again. But the Republicans don’t seem very keen on doing that. They seem to prefer the idea of spending all their time at in the comforting, welcoming environs of Limbaugh’s Saloon.
Writing in <em>Slate</em>, Anne Applebaum looks at Britain’s Tories and warns the Republicans of doubling down:
“After almost two decades in power, the British Conservatives lost in 1997 to Tony Blair‘s slicker, smoother, Labor Party—a party that had accepted the basic premises of Thatcherism and moved on. At the time, the Tories reckoned they would be in opposition for a couple of years at most. All they had to do was return to their basic principles and declare them with greater fervor and more self-righteous anger than ever before. . . .[T]hey ran two angry campaigns that reeked of xenophobia. The result: The Tories have been out of power since 1997. Thirteen years.
After the second, decisive election loss, the Conservatives finally made some changes. They elected a new leader, younger and “modernizing.” They changed their social policies to match the views of the majority, supported the green movement . . . .accepted the basic premises of Blairism, and moved on. Above all, they changed the way they spoke: No more shouting. No more anger. No more arrogance.
And the result? The Tories are once again real contenders. But only barely. The latest polling shows that even now, with Britain ruled by one of the most unpopular prime ministers in recent memory . . . .the Tories’ nasty public image—arrogant, mean, small-minded—is proving very, very difficult to discard.”
Republicans were never so successful as when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Floating on gauzy kindliness, he managed to enact his hard line. If it turns out that Republicans have damaged the Dad brand beyond recovery, they may have to revive the Grandfather model.