Feature

The GOP: Where lies the future?

How will the conflicts within the Republican party be resolved?

The battle for the Republican soul has begun, said Greg Hitt in The Wall Street Journal. This election revealed “severe stress fractures” along the party’s different wings, with culture warriors, national security hawks, and economic conservatives accusing one another of sabotage. Those conflicts will grow only more bitter now that the party has lost the White House and seen the Democrats increase their majority in Congress. One wing of the GOP is represented by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, “who carries the mantle of economic populism and blue-collar voters, many of whom are committed social conservatives.” Another is headed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who “has emerged as a spokesman for economic conservatives focused on small government and low taxes.” As Republicans debate what comes next, many agree with the diagnosis of Michael Steele, chairman of GOPAC, a conservative group: “We didn’t have anything to say to the American people other than, ‘We’re not Democrats. We’re not Obama.’”

Yes, conservatives have a problem, said GOP consultants Craig Shirley and Tony Fabrizio in Politico.com, and its name is George W. Bush. The conservative agenda has been “sullied and misshapen into something unrecognizable” by this administration. President Bush claimed to revere Ronald Reagan, but sold out to social conservatives and big corporations, and put the federal government at their disposal. We need to get back to the basics of low taxes and limited government. “The future debate inside the GOP boils down to ‘Bushism’ vs. ‘Reaganism’”—and we just found out how popular Bushism is.

“Recriminations have their place,” said National Review in an editorial. But what conservatives need most is an agenda—“on health care, on taxes, on transportation, on energy”—that appeals to middle-income Americans. It won’t be easy to create new policy ideas, but “we will, alas, have plenty of time.” First, though, comes a fundamental question, said former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards in the New York Daily News. Do we Republicans “believe in government or not?” Our party has been exiled because our officeholders had contempt for government itself, substituting partisanship for competence. That’s why we botched Katrina and Iraq and transformed the Justice Department into Karl Rove’s right arm. If Republicans are to have a future, we must nominate principled professionals instead of angry partisans. “Even conservatives will have a hard time entrusting their government to people who have no intention of doing their jobs properly.”

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