These are tough times to be a Republican. An unpopular president, an unpopular war and a trio of ideologically impure 2008 front-runners have left the party in a funk. And running through it all is one debilitating weakness: The GOP no longer has a unifying populist cause.McCarthy, Nixon and Reagan were popular because they opposed (or were thought to oppose) big government in some form or another, not because they stoked resentments of the people as cynical demagogues. The GOP is in trouble today because Bush and Rove have abandoned the party’s small government/free market tradition to embrace the big government liberalism Peter Beinhart loves.
Since World War II, perhaps the Republican Party's greatest political achievement has been to marry conservatism -- once considered a patrician creed -- with anti-elitism. The synthesis began with Joseph McCarthy, who used conspiratorial anti-communism to attack America's East Coast, Ivy League-dominated foreign policy class. It grew under Richard Nixon, who exploited white working-class resentment against campus radicals and the black militants they indulged. It deepened under Ronald Reagan, who made government bureaucrats a focus of populist fury.
I guess explanations such as Beinhart’s are stories liberals tell one another to make sense of how Americans could oppose the welfare state that they hold as unquestionable.