One of the main reasons bandied about for the GOP's decline is its lack of ideas. According to this re-telling, conservative think tanks once kept the idea pipeline freshly stocked, and it was this intellectual revival that underpinned GOP victories in 1980 and 1994.
The fact that this argument gets made internally shows that conservatives care more about ideas even when they (supposedly) don't have any than Democrats do when they are ascendant and (supposedly) chock full of them.
Witness my daily e-mail from the Center for American Progress: The New New Deal.
We are now engaged in a full-on debate over the return of nearly eight decades old economic policy, with George Will and Tyler Cowen weighing in on one side of the new New Deal debate and Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, and OpenLeft arguing on the other.
But no one is pointing out that having a debate over the New Deal in 2008, much less recreating it, is patently absurd. The New Deal began 76 years ago. The New Deal is about as relevant today as the economic policies of John Quincy Adams were at the turn of the 20th century or Reconstruction was in the post-World War II period. Republicans should be mocking the fact that "change" apparently means 76-year-old economic dogma that first burst onto the scene a few years after the Talkies became all the rage.
The age of liberalism's ideas should be at issue here. The agenda of the incoming Obama administration is looking remarkably similar to an unfinished to-do list from the time Democrats last had complete control of the government 16 years ago: an economic stimulus (albeit one 30 times as profligate), national health care, and gays in the military.
Don't they have any new ideas?
Democrats have made an electoral killing off the idea that Republican ideas are old. One of their major memes in the last election was that John McCain was too old and couldn't use a Blackberry. So it is ironic that their new, young, and fresh! President is directly modeling his agenda off that tried during a decade-long prolonged depression older than the man he defeated.