ASPEN, COLORADO--In a panel here devoted to the "Future of the Republican Party," the skeptical might have at least expected the Know Nothings to know the same old, same old was getting painfully old.
With Karl Rove, Michael Gerson, and Elaine Chao under the tent, there seemed to be at least a chance that a stray idea or two might sneak its way into the big top at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Despite the demographic hammering that was the 2012 election, this particular power trio was happy to preach hope and change without the blip of a new idea to go with it--unless you count Rove's bumper sticker phrase promoting "the right to rise."
Rove and Gerson emanate from the George W. Bush campaign and White House, the Administration that left the economy in sub-prime shreds. Elaine Chao, Bush's former labor secretary, is a slavish devotee to Republican cant. At least Gerson insisted the country "requires a governing vision that includes everyone.... It shows you care about the whole." In the Republican Party, that still passes for Bolshevism.
What about social issues?
Aside from Gerson's tweet, there was not a peep about gays, diversity, or anything until a question from the audience from the journalist Tom Korologos prompted Gerson to re-affirm...pro-life.
Alert the media!
The Tea Party?
Rove defended Marco Rubio and "Tea Party Senators" as if he had invented them. Chao defended the right wing of the Republican Party with a nifty rant on "the left wing of the 'Democrat' Party."
Stop the presses!
Once the sweet spot of the neoconservatives--remember them? Remember when?--none of the three Republicans could come up with anything remotely novel given the role of the GOP and neocons in the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rove reasserted the party's support of Israel.
Sweetheart, get me rewrite!
Here we go again and away they went, with Chao complaining of taxes "casting a pall over all employers" and the usual plaints about "too much regulation." To her credit, Chao admitted the taxes argument had become flat-out boring. Perhaps that explains why the Republican Party is relentlessly boring as well.
Much of the discussion centered on Rand Paul and libertarianism and the problems "conceptual" politics poses for the more "practical" strain of Rove's party bacteria. Chao came up with: "There's a whole swath of the country that does not agree with California or New York." Really? Since when do states have opinions?
In the end Rove concluded the future of the Republican Party is "fundamentally sound." The Democratic Party can only hope that he keeps saying that over and over wherever he goes. Not even a SuperPAC can buy that kind of publicity any more.