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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Two powerful House members—Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL)—are throwing their support behind Donald Trump.
There are not "ongoing, direct conversations between" the Bernie Sanders camp and the Hillary Clinton camp regarding "the platform or rules changes," but Sanders "is already making his opening arguments" about those issues on the stump. Sanders is putting "complaints about closed primaries" atop his stump speeches lately, and figures to start a "conversation about the role of superdelegates in the nominating process." He said, “Our goal, whether we win or we do not win, is to transform the Democratic Party."
Well, this is unsubtle. Former Speaker John Boehner called Ted Cruz "lucifer in the flesh," adding that he "never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." Boehner has endorsed John Kasich, but he said he'd vote for Donald Trump over Cruz. He also praised Bernie Sanders, calling him the most honest politician in the race, and predicted that Joe Biden may yet have a role to play in the Democratic contest, especially if Hillary Clinton runs into legal trouble over her emails.