1. Separate from the Tea Party
The worst (and best) thing that would happen is that these extremists would form their own party. It would be a fringe party, attracting the type of controversial figures that have damaged the Republican brand (Akin, Bachmann, Mourdock, etc.), and that embarrassing subset of voters that have become synonymous with religious extremism, racism, and ignorance.
2. Reclaim Moderates
Led by big money, the push to rid the Republican party of its moderates has been a mistake. The speculation can be made that corporate donors hoped that if they backed social (and often religious) extremists, that they would be given a blank check on regulatory and other policies, but it has resulted in an almost schizophrenic break within the party. (Jesus, it seems, doesn't really mix well with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, or punitive measures against the poor.) While extremists create a lot of media buzz and controversy, it has historically been the case that moderates -- those who can reach across the aisle to form alliances and find common ground -- are the ones who actually get things done.
3. Stop Being the Party of No
In 2012, Republicans blocked Obama's Bring Jobs Home Act. They blocked the Veterans Job Corps Act. They united against the Lily Ledbetter Pay Equity bill. While disputes over specifics in legislation are nothing new, the Republicans brought nothing of value to the table. They didn't have a plan of "yes" or seemingly any interest in adding anything to their zero contribution. Representatives are not voted in so that they can idly stand guard at the gates, making sure "the enemy" gets nothing through. It is not enough to be against something, particularly in a challenged economy in need of jobs and economic growth. Instead of continuously saying "no," Republicans need to stop seeing compromise as loss -- especially when it might be at least a partial win for the public. They need to develop plans that stand the best chance of receiving a "yes" in a divided Congress.
4. Get Out of Wombs & Relationships
The party of "small government" was complicated by Reagan's courting of evangelists. Since then, the Republican party has morphed into one that oftentimes seems obsessed with women's reproduction and the 10% of Americans who are part of the LGBT community. It is antithetical at best to make claims for a small government that doesn't intrude on the civil liberties of its citizens, while at the same time making the case that it should have the right to dictate over the personal realms of birth control, abortion, sexuality, and marriage.
5. Work on Actionable Plans, Instead of Seeding Controversies
It almost seems to have become a Republican strategy that when the party suffers from a dearth of new, workable ideas, they lean on controversy as a way to "punish" their opposition and rally their base. We saw it in the Clinton years, through endless and costly investigations, and we're seeing it now with Benghazi. Embassy attacks are not new. They happened in 1979, 1983, 1998, 2004...there were three attacks alone in 2008, under George Bush's watch. Intelligence, as so brutally pointed out by these events, as well 9/11, is not infallible. Hindsight can only inform the future; it cannot change the past. Using disaster to create or expand controversy, and score political points, is a negative approach. It is transparent and wasteful. Instead of seeding and growing controversies for perceived political gain, the Republican party should work on creating plans and programs that would actually benefit America and its citizens.
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In order for the Republican party to get its groove back, it's going to have to stop clinging to the extreme right-wing fringes and find its center again. It's going to have to actively disavow the backwardness that has become so unfortunately and inexplicably attached to the tenets of small government ideology, such as religious fundamentalism and racism. It's going to have to stop starving its ideology of cherished American values, like equality, compassion, and compromise. It needs to take a step back from lockstep kowtowing to big money interests and examine, from a rational standpoint, which concessions, regulations, and policies will truly benefit the majority of the American populace.
I am not suggesting that Republicans become conservative Democrats, nor am I suggesting that they return solely to their pre-Reagan era roots. I am saying that in order to have a chance at thriving, those roots need to be replanted in friendlier, more fertile, and less hostile soil than the fringe elements offer. The branches that are dying, or poisoning the whole tree, need to be pruned in order to allow for new growth.