Before you turn away, I'm going to say loud and proud that despite all the people crying "I can't wait until this is over!" in the last few weeks, despite the Bronco Bama girl, despite the torture endured by the citizens of Ohio, I am sorry the election is over. Sort of, anyway. Why? Because I write about politics for a living. When the World Series ends, we don't expect sportswriters to say, "I sure am glad that's over!" So yes, even though in the coming months and years I'll be writing a lot about policy, I'm also going to write about politics, including upcoming elections. Deal with it.
Now that that's off my chest, Benjy Sarlin makes an interesting observation about the suddenly moderating Republicans who are publicly saying their party has to find a way to be more friendly to more kinds of people if it wants to win back the White House in 2016: "It's hard to believe now, but the popular punditry [after the 2008 election]—as now—was that Republicans needed to moderate their policies and tone to compete with Obama. Several Republicans considered likely presidential candidates made big bets on this new era of bipartisanship and went bust." The ones who took a stance of implacable opposition ended up leading their party, none more so than Mitt Romney. So is the same thing going to happen over the next four years?
Probably, yes. A truly clever candidate might find a way to court Latinos or come up with some innovative policy ideas, but opposition to and visceral dislike of Barack Obama is still going to be the defining feature of Republicanism. Try to remember how you felt in 2008, as the eight-year reign of George W. Bush was coming to a close. It was a combination of joy and residual anger, and you wanted nothing more than to give him a good swift kick on his way out the door. I just went back and re-read the column I wrote on the occasion of Bush's departure, and holy cow was I still mad. I'm sure lots of people felt the same.
And that's how Republicans are going to feel in 2016. They're going to want to be practical, to find a candidate who can assemble a majority to lead them out of the wilderness and back to the White House. But they're also going to not just want but need someone who shares their contempt for Barack Obama. The successful candidate is going to have to spend the next four years demonstrating that he can do both.