The ‘New Conservative Manifesto’ Doesn’t Sound New at All

Meet the new GOP, same as the old GOP.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recite the Pledge of Allegiance at a rally supported by military veterans, Tea Party activists and Republicans, regarding the government shutdown on October 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was centered around re-opening national memorials, including the World War Two Memorial in Washington DC, though the rally also focused on the government shutdown and frustrations against President Obama.
National Journal
Emma Roller
May 16, 2014, 12:50 p.m.

As the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom goes, the Re­pub­lic­an Party is in the midst of an iden­tity crisis. Should the party stick with the so­cially con­ser­vat­ive val­ues of its older base, or should it em­brace the new rash of liber­tari­an­ism?

If a doc­u­ment draf­ted this week by party lead­ers is any in­dic­a­tion, they aren’t ex­actly giv­ing their views a makeover. At a se­cret­ive event Thursday, con­ser­vat­ives gathered in Tyso­ns Corner, Va., to plot their strategy for the elec­tion year. As Robert Costa re­por­ted, the group gathered to ex­press their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the GOP es­tab­lish­ment. But go­ing by the ideas that this meet­ing pro­duced, they shouldn’t be too wor­ried — their goals are vir­tu­ally identic­al to Con­ser­vat­ive Clas­sic.

Now, Time‘s Zeke Miller is re­port­ing that the tea party has re­tali­ated with its own mani­festo:

At­tendees agreed on a nine-page doc­u­ment out­lining the “con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ser­vat­ive” prin­ciples for which they be­lieve the Re­pub­lic­an Party needs to stand, in­clud­ing lower taxes, a stronger mil­it­ary and op­pos­i­tion to abor­tion and same-sex mar­riage.

Lower taxes, a stronger mil­it­ary, fight­ing abor­tion, and op­pos­ing same-sex mar­riage — how new, ex­actly, are these ten­ets of the Re­pub­lic­an Party? If the GOP were a soda com­pany, its slo­gan might be: “Great new look, same great taste!”

Even Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been openly walk­ing back his po­s­i­tion on gay mar­riage — avoid­ing talk of a fed­er­al ban in fa­vor of the “con­sti­tu­tion­al” ar­gu­ment to let the states de­cide. Judging by re­cent ac­tions in Idaho and Arkan­sas, that might be an un­wise bet for so­cial con­ser­vat­ives to make.

An­oth­er piece of con­ven­tion­al wis­dom is that both parties need to ap­peal to young voters if they want to win elec­tions. A re­cent Pew poll found that half of mil­len­ni­als now identi­fy as in­de­pend­ent, but they still tend to vote along Demo­crat­ic lines.

There is room for the Re­pub­lic­an Party to seize upon young people’s de­sire for a more mod­er­ate polit­ic­al al­tern­at­ive, if only party lead­ers would tone down their rhet­or­ic on so­cial is­sues. Op­pos­ing gay mar­riage and abor­tion may be part of the con­ser­vat­ive con­science, but they are also polit­ic­al losers when you’re try­ing to tar­get young voters.

This mani­festo isn’t a doc­u­ment that lays out con­ser­vat­ive plat­forms so much as shows how con­fused Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are about which val­ues they should trum­pet and which they should put on mute.

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