You're What's Wrong the GOP. No, You Are.

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Let's drill down a bit in the Erick Erickson analysis I mentioned yesterday:

While the media has been filled with stories about the socons ready to bolt from the GOP if Rudy is the nominee, the real story and the untold story is that the business community is even more ready to bolt from the GOP. For the last eight years they've watched as the socons have scored every significant win on the right — stem cells, judges, etc. Only against Labor have the fiscal guys scored wins. But there have been no budget cuts, no culling of pork, steel subsidies, etc.

The fiscal guys see the writing on the wall. They see Hillary's position. And they are just about ready to cut a deal. And then you have the Republican libertarians who are just about ready to really vote for Ron Paul, doing to the GOP in 2008 what Ralph Nader voters did for the Democrats in 2000.

Of course social conservatives could argue it exactly in reverse, pointing out that stem cells and Terri Schiavo were symbolic gestures with little practical import; that Bush invested far more political capital in his (successful) first-term tax cuts and and his (failed) second-term push for Social Security reform than he ever did in, say, the stillborn push for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; and that the GOP Congress passed bill after bill larded with giveaways for various favored industries. (Those conservative judges Bush appointed tend to be relatively business-friendly as well.) Obviously, the various interest groups in the "fiscal con" coalition - business interests, supply-siders, deficit hawks, and libertarians - have policy goals that cut in different directions, and the latter two groups, in particular, have plenty of cause for disappointment with Bush. But it's far from clear that the last six years have been a net win for the social right and a net loss for everybody else in the coalition; it might be more accurate to say that both social conservatives and small-government conservatives have taken a back seat to supply-siders and business interests.

Meanwhile, a friend writes:

I find it fascinating that the major players in the Republican coalition, the SoCons and FiscalCons, instead of attacking the neo-cons and hawks, are spending their time fighting with each other.

It's true: As in the Cold War, foreign-policy hawkishness has become the glue holding the fragile GOP coalition together, even as Iraq has made foreign policy a general-election liability for the Right, instead of the asset it was in the Reagan years. Which is one way to explain the weird aftermath of the '06 debacle, in which social conservatives and fiscal conservatives each blamed one another for the defeat, when it was perfectly clear that the Iraq War had more to do the party's degringolade than the corruption of the small-government movement or the excesses of the religious right.

Update: I should note that the title of this post owes a substantial debt to the Dougherty Doctrine, which holds that all debates about the future of the GOP boil down to the following: "If it were more like me, the Republican Party would be better off. It’s failing because it’s like you."

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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