Republicans all at sea

This new column for the FT gauges the depths to which the Republicans could sink:

One thinks of the British Labour party's reaction to Margaret Thatcher's victory in 1979. Labour lost because it had not been socialist enough, was the party's diagnosis: it needed to be truer to itself. Having forgotten how you win elections - namely, by occupying the middle ground - the party then lost its desire to win them. Better to be true to your principles and out of power than to compromise. True to its principles, it was out of power for nearly 20 years, and the Thatcher revolution transformed the country.

The Republicans' emulation of this proven model of political failure takes on an even more farcical aspect when you consider the conservative ideas to which party purists say they want to return. Labour under Michael Foot at least had an alternative programme of policy and a leader - almost any is better than none - to enunciate it. Republicans have neither. Their platform, if you can call it that, is a compendium of slogans and prejudices, bound together by disgust at the Obama administration. With the economy in its present state, this is no time to be saying "government is the problem" - especially if you have nothing further to add and the economy's troubles are universally understood to be the legacy of a Republican president.

The party needs to frame practical, coherent, and above all centrist alternatives to what Mr Obama and his congressional allies are doing. Instead, it wants to shore up its base, chant its slogans and purge its moderates. You have to laugh. Yet this gleeful suicidal tendency is sad as well as funny. There is plenty of scope for calm, centrist criticism of Mr Obama's bold progressive agenda. The country needs exactly this.

The rest of the article is here.