04/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mirror, Mirror: Today's GOP Resembles 1981's Democrats

If history is repeating itself, it's watching itself in a mirror. Listening to the right-wingers weep and wail and gnash their teeth against Barack Obama and his initiatives at the CPAC convention this past weekend, one heard a party that was befuddled and confused. They could not believe that their time in the sun had passed, that their policies resulted in failure, and that the approaches and tactics upon which they had relied for so long and which had brought them many victories simply no longer worked. By reaching deep into their past and invoking the dire threat of socialism -- admittedly, not authoritarian Soviet-style socialism, but a Frenchier, more Euro socialism -- they seemed to be screaming ``Why aren't you people listening?'' And the way they painted Obama as a gifted politician who promised only catastrophe underscored the depth of their panic. In short, they seemed like nothing so much as the Democrats of 1981, when we were blind to our own shortcomings, when we were incapable of recognizing why voters wanted Ronald Reagan.

Well, good. It took us a long time to acknowledge our mistakes, to recognize where Reagan had better ideas, to express our values and policies in positive and appealing ways. As a result, we have lived in Ronald Reagan's world for nearly three decades, for good and for ill, and the best of what he offered is now spent. As Marjorie Connelly reported yesterday in The New York Times , the percentage of people identifying themselves as Democrats now outnumbers those who define themselves as Republicans by ten points (38-28), and the gap is widening; the Republicans seem to have estranged a generation of voters. The hysteria at CPAC offers all the proof anyone needs: we are entering a new era of progressivism. Let's make the most of it.