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
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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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