I’d say this diagnosis from David Frum is largely right:
It’s been evident for a long time, for example, that the average American worker did not benefit much from the Bush economy. Real wages stagnated between 2000 and 2006, while prices of essentials, such as food and fuel, rose. But the Republican party and the conservative movement asserted against the facts that everything was fine — that the Bush economy was the “greatest story never told” and that those who thought otherwise were “whiners.”
Had McCain attempted a more innovative and responsive economic policy, he would never have won the Republican nomination. By the time he got the nomination, he had so firmly locked himself to the Bush economic legacy that he had no space to pull off a Sarkozy. In the same way, had McCain chosen the running mate he wanted, he would have faced a walk-out from the floor of the St. Paul convention center.
I’m going to have more to say about this later, but that’s the basic shape of things. Meanwhile, if there’s a sense in which a spell in opposition will be “good for” Republicans, it’s this. In the opposition, you’re under no obligation to become apologists for the status quo — you can accept that problems are real problems and really problematic. Maybe some Republicans will come to embrace at least some progressive solutions to some of these problems. Or maybe they’ll try to devise new, distinctively conservative solutions to those problems. But it’ll be a situation where, at a minimum, acknowledging the existince of some of these problems would be the natural course of action.
Conversely, this is your progressive mandate right here. Not just for this policy or that, but for solutions and an end to the politics of denial.