The next great Republican will have to be someone we know but haven't seen. I'm imagining that person today.
The thing that the next great Republican will need to know, that quality that will distinguish him most has everything to do with his ability to draw a strong line between the role of morality in life and the use of moral power by the government. It is because this line has been blurred that Republicans have failed the Conservative movement. It is because this line has been blurred that Republicans are making mortal enemies of the center. It is because of this failure that the GOP is currently tearing itself apart.
What Conservative leaders seem to have failed to grasp is the extent to which they draw upon Christian themes and personal morality enables and empowers multiculturalism and the politicization of everyday life. When Conservatives insist that one's personal demeanor is integral to the effective morality of any office, they have breached a wall of modernity. They have broken a rule that is evident but unwritten. A man who swears and drinks may be a fine father, so long as he confines his salty personal behavior to appropriate times and places. But to accept and expect that the strengths of character attach to efficacy of leadership or respect for standards destroys in both directions.
We live in a time of cynicism - we are searching for heroes. This is a consequence of the fact that we have been betrayed. Reagan betrayed us by trading arms for hostages, and Oliver North betrayed us by running rogue operations in Central America. The slack we were willing to give these men because of their otherwise fine public character is exactly what gave them license to do dirt. William Casey's polluted ethos of plausible deniability showed its ultimate limits. What compartmentalization works for spies does not work for public figures. So there is a fine edge that cuts both ways. Too little comparmentalizations makes the personal political and give us license to behave as though a black man cannot know what a white woman knows. Too much compartmentalization gives rise to imbuing too much stake in appearances.
The successful party must seek to inform its constituency better on the proper conduct of the business of government. It is in this regard that the GOP has the advantage, but that advantage has been squantered by its opportunism once in office. Strongarm tactics used for party advantage rather than in fulfillment of a pledge to public service has tarnished whatever reputation the GOP might have had gained from its Contract With America, matters of term limits and its fresh approach to 'throwing the bums out'. That sentiment lies firmly with the Democrats, not because they have shown any brighter, bolder or more innovative ways and means to run government and get it to respond to the needs of the people, but because in the ways that ultimately mattered more, the Democrats appeared to be on the side of transparency whereas the Bush Administration seemed to cover up. In fact, both parties conduct their business in plain view of the public, but the one who can outwit the press and put the attention on dealings that can be roundly condemned will have the upper hand.
Most importantly, the Republicans need to take the Culture Wars in a new direction. At the moment, there is no way they cannot do so without putting a visible minority front and center. That is because the GOP needs the assistance of the major media in putting such issues in front of the people. Only by bringing issues of race, class and gender onto the front burner can Republicans overcome those stereotypes placed at their feet. The inevitable contradictions that will surface, whether they be obvious or of disengenuous faint praise, the boulder will begin rolling downhill. This augments the momentum initiated by what remains its own movement, the energy around Sarah Palin.
The Republican Party itself, in its various leadership councils needs to energize its various constituencies and establish an e pluribus unum around center-right priorities. Whenever the Republican Party can be stereotyped when it is convenient, the Left can rule the soundbites. When Ralph Reed ran the Christian Coalition, his role within the Big Tent was clear and had to be dealt with separately. These days, the coalitions have become ill-defined for their general support of the Bush agenda in various ways. So all Republicans had to be vaguely supportive of Bush, of the War, of pro-Life issues, of Second Amendment rights, against illegal immigration etc. The Republican Party needs individuals out front on each of these issues which appeal broadly to the Right without everyone being responsible for everything. This makes a robust Republican party which handles its own differences better and provides a variety of intelligent dissents which cannot be stereotyped.
That's what I see.
See also Posner.
...In the Republican Party these fall into three main groups: believers in (1) free markets, low taxes, and small government; (2) believers in tough criminal laws and a strong foreign policy; and (3) social (mainly religious) conservatives, who are hostile to abortion, gay marriage, pornography, and gun control. Groups (2) and (3) converge on hostility to illegal immigrants. Groups (1) and (2) are in some tension because a national security state requires big government and therefore high taxes. Group (1) is in tension with (3) because (1) is libertarian and (3) is regulatory.