Republicans have been having an interesting debate over how their party should change -- interesting, because even Republicans now recognize that Republicans need to change.
Like any discourse that threatens existing power, the conflict is primarily between the establishment -- represented by Karl Rove -- and various insurgencies -- including one that's hilariously led in part by Clarence Thomas' wife.
The insurgency that's being taken most seriously, perhaps because it's framed by the biggest words, is "libertarian populism."
Jonathan Chait points out that many of the key talking points were employed by Mitt Romney -- admittedly a terrible messenger for anything that involves a word related to "popular" -- in the last campaign, and Matt Yglesias suggests that libertarianism can't be populist, but populism can be libertarian.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing how any libertarianism, a philosophy that has had its own party and multiple book clubs for decades, could ever sweep this nation. I'd love to see this wing of the party weigh in on a decision to, say, invade Iraq, but I wonder if they would support George W. Bush's imperfect but noble effort to fight AIDS in Africa, which has saved millions of lives.
Matt Lewis doesn't think that libertarian populism is going to save his party, either. He's worried by the movement's stated desire to take on everything big -- big banks, big corporations, Chris Christie. To him this smacks of division, icky Elizabeth Warrenism and class warfare. Lewis would like to see a Compassionate Conservative redux. Meanwhile David Brooks is actually calling for a renewal of neoconservatism, at least on a domestic level. These are establishment suggestions that should make anyone who remembers 2001-2008 at least slightly nauseous.
It is worth noting what Republicans do not want to change, given what they do want to change.
They don't want to accept that man-made climate change is a scientific reality. They don't care that there are ways we can and should be combating it, and the main reason we don't do so is because "Our richest people don't want to, because it would reduce their wealth somewhat," as Bill McKibben noted.
They don't want to stop (or even cop to) the obvious attempt to suppress the votes of groups that have historically been prevented from voting.
They don't want to admit that there are ways to make health care entitlements more affordable that don't involve asking seniors to pay more, and that these models are in place right now, all over the industrial world.
They don't want to recognize that denying millions of Americans the basic ability to marry the person they love damns their party as hypocrites, at the least, or bigots, at worst.
They don't want to see that if they are intent on making abortion difficult to attain, it's horrendously cynical to block sex education and family planning wherever possible.
They don't want to recognize that their party's reliance on propaganda via Fox News and AM radio is different from plain old media bias for a basic reason: Implicit in these right-wing channels is the message that anyone who questions the right hates America and is a vicious communist, socialist, fascist, Maoist or Muslim, depending on which page Glenn Beck is up to on Conservapedia that day.
They don't want to see that their contempt for people outside their constituencies -- especially when those people are historically those who suffered the most in this society: the poor, minorities, the LGBT community -- makes it impossible for their party to grow.
In fact, I'd argue that's why it's shrinking.
Republican Party... if you really want to change, here's what's actually holding you back: the things you won't even admit you need to change.
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Cross-posted from Eclectablog.