Two weeks ago, I attended the National Review Institute's post-election conference, titled "Whither Conservatism?" The final forum of the day was on the future of the conservative movement, and included some fantastic panelists with different perspectives on the question we've all been trying to answer: where do we go from here?
David Brooks was the moderator. He has stated that the Republican party right now is split between the "reformers" and the "traditionalists" - with the reformers dedicated to moving the party forward and the traditionalists wanting to "go back" to the old ideas of the 80s and 90s.
He's taken a lot of flack for this. But he's hardly the only person to try to corral the various parts of the conservative movement and the GOP into two factions.
Others have claimed the grand struggle is between between moderates and conservatives, social cons vs. libertarians, etc...
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, Chairman of the House GOP Policy Committee, probably had the most interesting way of splitting us up, identifying the principle struggle as being between "globalists" and "traditionalists":
Globalists tend to view America as an economy, not a country. The traditionalists tend to view it as a country — a very delicate microcosm, a collection of individuals with different hopes, dreams, aspirations.
I would take a different tack and say that, fundamentally, the conflict in the GOP is between the people who were satisfied with where we were as a party in 2003-04, and those of us who weren't. Between the people who are satisfied with the GOP holding power and stopping a liberal agenda, and people who actually want the GOP to push a serious plan to reduce the size of government.
But we shouldn't spend too much time thinking about dividing ourselves up into camps. Thats not a constructive way to move forward.
On the panel at the National Review Institute, Ross Douthat spent some time talking about how to appeal to suburban voters, with increased child tax credits and the like. Jonah Goldberg, on the other hand, and the representative from CATO stated that it was the duty of conservatives to speak truth to power, even when going against popular opinion. And more to the point, that we aren't going to inspire people to get involved and believe in the conservative movement with a increased child tax credit.
But these two ideas aren't mutually exclusive. There are different roles in this for different members of the coalition. Social conservatives aren't standing in the way of libertarians pushing for a reduction in the size of government. Many of the most libertarian-minded elected officials in the GOP are also pro-life (even Ron Paul). Nor are the Ross Douthats of the world who are trying to lay out winning strategies for appealing to suburban voters preventing think tanks from developing grand plans for reducing the size and scope of government.
We're all in this together, and we all have a role to play. Be wary of anyone trying to tell you that you have to fight someone else in the party or the movement in order for us to succeed. Thats not how we're going to rebuild the party.
Crossposted at SavetheGOP.com