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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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.