Ramesh Ponnuru: Republicans Lose Way by Misreading Bush History

Roundup: Media's Take

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist and a senior editor at National Review.

In 2006 and 2008, voters inflicted on Republicans the worst back-to-back electoral drubbing any party has received since the Great Depression, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt all but destroyed the Party of Hoover. Republicans quickly reached a consensus about why they lost so badly: They had failed to be sufficiently Republican.

This consensus still moves the party -- and since it is false, it moves them to make mistakes.

“We lost our way” was the cliche that expressed the Republican theory. “I believe we did not just lose our majority, we lost our way,” said Congressman Mike Pence, of Indiana, as he ran to replace the House Republican leadership after the 2006 elections. “In recent years, our majority voted to expand the federal government’s role in education by nearly 100 percent, created the largest new entitlement in 40 years, and pursued spending policies that created record deficits, national debt and rampant earmark spending.”

So widespread did this view become that the Republican leadership itself embraced it. Eric CantorPaul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy -- high-ranking House Republicans all -- wrote in a 2009 op-ed, “By the fall of 2006, it had become abundantly clear that Republicans had severely lost our way.” Among other mistakes, “we had significantly increased federal spending.” SpeakerJohn Boehner has said the same thing: “Republicans lost our way on fiscal responsibility.”..

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