Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have glaring weaknesses as presidential nominees, but that’s only the beginning of the GOP’s problems. Just as important, the current mix of top issues is simply terrible for Republicans in general and conservatives in particular.
The country moved noticeably to the right starting in the early 1980s with Ronald Reagan and continuing through the presidency of Bill Clinton (“The era of big government is over”) and even the first years of the George W. Bush administration.
That isn’t to say that Republicans always got their way. But issues like taxes, welfare reform, crime, wasteful spending, and national security and foreign policy dominated the national debate. And that gave Republicans the upper hand with an electorate unhappy with President Jimmy Carter’s weak leadership, a Democratic Party held captive by organized labor, and a federal government that had been expanding since the Johnson administration.
Cultural issues also worked to the Republicans’ advantage as many Americans tired of the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s.