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8.1.06

2005 Was Good To The GOP

I don't know why everyone seems to think 2005 was such a rough year for the Republican Party. Or rather, I do know, but it's based on a unjustifiably large helping of wishful thinking. Let's take a look at two things widely claimed to indicate the GOP's difficulties last year:

1. Falling poll numbers. What happened in 2005 was actually worse than high poll ratings for the Republicans. If Bush was getting 60% approval, we could still tell ourselves that things would get better once we convince another 20% of the people that the GOP is evil. In 2005, the polls bottomed out, and nothing changed. 2005 was the year that we learned that it doesn't matter how many scandals the government gets involved in, they can still do whatever they want. The only disapproval that matters is armed rebellion. And the GOP has figured out that it can get what it wants without making anyone mad enough to push them over the line from telling a pollster that they don't like things to buying ammo and a bus ticket to DC. Indeed, they've become skilled at creating the kind of disapproval that makes people get fed up with politics and focus on Desperate Housewives, rather than the kind that energizes active opposition.

2. The failure of Social Security privatization. The problem with this idea is that Social Security privatization didn't fail. Sure, it didn't make it onto the lawbooks. But you wouldn't call a 30-yard pass a failure just because it didn't score a touchdown. 2005 was the year that privatization became a respectable position. An idea that a few years ago was the province of a handful of wild-eyed libertarians is now a mainstream viewpoint. It will be reintroduced again and again as long as the GOP controls Congress (i.e., for the forseeable future), until President Romney signs it into law perhaps early in the next decade.

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