WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS
Fred Barnes has a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Can the GOP Make a Comeback?" After imagining various things that simply aren't going to happen -- a turnaround in Iraq, a serious GOP effort to crack down on corrupt party members, a serious White House embrace of fiscal discipline, an end to Republican demagoguery on immigration -- Barnes gives us this:
As Karl Rove has noted, Republicans need a big idea. The best available is the one Mr. Bush abandoned: ownership. Allowing private investment of payroll taxes for Social Security would only be a start. An Ownership Society would allow individual Americans, rather than government, to control how and where their health care, public education, 401(k) and IRA funds are spent.
Oh, please. Please please please please please please please.
Please, Republicans -- embrace the "ownership society" idea again. No, don't just embrace it -- brandish it, fly it from the tallest mast, spell it (as Barnes does) with capital letters. Please come to the conclusion that this is your way out of the wilderness.
Most Americans have absolutely no desire for an "ownership society." We have enough paperwork to plow through with our taxes and mortgages and 401(k)'s -- we don't want to shop for a Social Security plan. Those of us who have company-paid health care (which is confusing enough) don't want to be thrown on the open market (with an inadequate tax credit) and asked to buy a policy. And even people who like the idea of school vouchers don't want to think of primary and secondary education as consumer products.
No, wait, Republicans -- forget I said all that. The actual reason I don't want Republicans to push an "ownership society" is that I know it will be really, really appealing to the public -- and I fear that that will doom my party! Yeah, that's it! So, gosh, I really hope they never catch on!
(Think they'll fall for that?)
By the way, if I seem surprisingly pessimistic about the GOP's near-term chances, this isn't an unexpected burst of optimism -- I still think a Republican will win the White House in '08, though I also think the country's trending Democratic, at least for now. Divvided government is, of course, what we've had most years since 1952 -- we pick Democrats to run one or both houses of Congress and we pick GOP Daddy to go to the White House.