Those Great GOP Ideas of 2012

As it happened, my friend Mike Tomasky wrote a Daily Beast column on Marco Rubio the same day as my own at TPMCafe. We pretty much reached the same conclusion: anything interesting or party-changing the Floridian might stand for or propose is already being bleached out of him by the competitive pressure of the GOP nominating process, dominated by people who have zero interest in change or outreach or anything else other than raw power in the pursuit of uncompromised goals.

But the headline of Mike’s piece–“The GOP Primary Is Where Ideas Go To Die”–got me thinking. What sort of “ideas” emerged from the last GOP presidential nomination battle, in 2012? No, I don’t consider the desire to oppose and repeal anything the president proposed or enacted an “idea.” Nor do I consider the various pledges the candidates were handed to sign–on abortion, the federal budget, or taxes–exactly “ideas” either. So what’s left? Maybe I’m having a senior moment, but all I remember is Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposal–a spin on the old Fair Tax scheme–and Mitt Romney’s talk of “self-deportation” for undocumented Americans. This latter “idea” was ingenuous because it perfectly captured where most Republicans were–unwilling to countenance “amnesty” but not quite ready to call in the police dogs and cattle cars and ship 11 million people to the border. The thought of just making life so miserable for them that they’d “self-deport” sounded just, fiscally prudent, and maybe even fun, at least to the average Republican activist.

Am I missing some brilliant idea Michelle Bachmann or Newt Gingrich brought to the table? And what do you think the 2016 primaries will produce in the way of new ideas? Share any thoughts you have in the comment thread, please.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.