I felt like I mostly read respectful disagreement with Peter Beinart's notion that the right needs a Republican version of the DLC, but I thought it was way off base. The GOP has shown itself over the years to be quite adept at standing for social conservatism just insofar as standing for social conservatism is politically expedient. Yes, every once in a while they missfire like with the Terry Schiavo business, but that was genuinely a mistake -- lots of people thought that the GOP was making a savvy play there until the polls starting coming out -- not the base driving politicians to do something they didn't want to do. Meanwhile, once some aspect of social conservatism becomes politically untenable, the GOP drops it like a rock. Nixon's "southern strategy" didn't promise resegregation any more than George W. Bush advocated federal criminal penalties for sodomy.

The Republicans' strength as a coalition is that the movers and shakers behind it in the business community have a much more coherent agenda than does the interest-group coalition behind the Democrats. The formula isn't fool proof, and it can hit stumbling blocks every once in a while like a recession (1992) or a badly misfiring war (2006), but over the long run if you think of the modern Republican Party as an organized conspiracy for the purposes of concentrating America's wealth and income in the hands of the smallest possible number of people, it's been wildly successful for the past 30 years and we've yet to see any really clear evidence that the basic formula has stopped succeeding.

Maybe the Republicans will lose in 2008, but prove capable of blocking a progressive agenda anyway just as they were in 1993. Maybe not. Or maybe they'll be punished at the polls for obstruction in 2010. But the time for the sort of reconfiguration that Beinart's talking about would be then -- in 2011 or 2012 if there were actual reason to believe that the party was failing to achieve its core purpose.

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