11.12.2008

Another Dispatch from The GOP Civil War

The lines are drawn, according to Brooks.

He breaks the party down into Traditionalists and Reformists, including himself at the moderate brink of the latter group.

While his observations are useful in assessing the movements of the party, I think he demonstrated the party's real problems without knowing it.  Even a movement to the moderate Reformist position isn't the solution for the party's long-term health - it fails to account for what will truly cure the GOP - as far as a return to first principles and possibly even electorally - a play to the libertarian independents.  This would also help with the party's long-term ID problem with young voters.

Such a shift toward a more libertarian approach would mark moderation by the party on some issues, but not in the sense that Brooks lays out.  It would likely mean adopting some of his common sense posture and tone related suggestions - 
Moreover, the Reformers say, conservatives need to pay attention to the way the country has changed. Conservatives have to appeal more to Hispanics, independents and younger voters. They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts.

But some of the summarized policy shifts Brooks proposes as part of the Reformist agenda will not be palatable (and they shouldn't be seen as necessary prerequisites for effectuating the more open tone outlined above): The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.

As I noted in an off-blog email discussion among friends yesterday:

Interestingly, though, Brooks' dichotomy doesn't really include Anne Wortham - or those who think along her lines - in either of his two categories. If you ask me.

He paints the stalwart, oblivious bad guys. And then the reformist good guys - who rightfully disagree with them in some regards, but aren't necessarily looking to move toward something resembling a libertarian position so much as a moderate one.


The Anne Wortham referenced as a stand-in, emblematic libertarian wrote this rather remarkable piece - "No He Can't."

The GOP shed libertarian voters during both of the Bush elections, and, from what I've read thus far, the trend continued this year - again, based largely on the legacy of Bush, though he wasn't actually running.

Then again, the ultimate question may be something along the lines of...can a shift in the GOP stressing individual responsibility really take hold with the electorate...when it seems such a large part of the electorate doesn't mind/desires movement toward a more statist culture?  

As one small government-minded writer points out, by the time Obama's first term closes, nearly half the country will likely be on the government dole in some form.  Still, I'm waiting to see to what extent the Obama and coattails win was a rejection of Bush as a figure, as opposed to an ideological and party-ID shift.  

As I stated repeatedly throughout the race, I believe Obama faced a very low hurdle coming on the heels of Bush.  Which means a GOP rebound is more of a possible in the course of a few years.