As the conventional wisdom goes, the Republican Party is in the midst of an identity crisis. Should the party stick with the socially conservative values of its older base, or should it embrace the new rash of libertarianism?
If a document drafted this week by party leaders is any indication, they aren't exactly giving their views a makeover. At a secretive event Thursday, conservatives gathered in Tysons Corner, Va., to plot their strategy for the election year. As Robert Costa reported, the group gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the GOP establishment. But going by the ideas that this meeting produced, they shouldn't be too worried — their goals are virtually identical to Conservative Classic.
Now, Time's Zeke Miller is reporting that the tea party has retaliated with its own manifesto:
Attendees agreed on a nine-page document outlining the "constitutional conservative" principles for which they believe the Republican Party needs to stand, including lower taxes, a stronger military and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Lower taxes, a stronger military, fighting abortion, and opposing same-sex marriage — how new, exactly, are these tenets of the Republican Party? If the GOP were a soda company, its slogan might be: "Great new look, same great taste!"
Even Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been openly walking back his position on gay marriage — avoiding talk of a federal ban in favor of the "constitutional" argument to let the states decide. Judging by recent actions in Idaho and Arkansas, that might be an unwise bet for social conservatives to make.
Another piece of conventional wisdom is that both parties need to appeal to young voters if they want to win elections. A recent Pew poll found that half of millennials now identify as independent, but they still tend to vote along Democratic lines.
There is room for the Republican Party to seize upon young people's desire for a more moderate political alternative, if only party leaders would tone down their rhetoric on social issues. Opposing gay marriage and abortion may be part of the conservative conscience, but they are also political losers when you're trying to target young voters.
This manifesto isn't a document that lays out conservative platforms so much as shows how confused Republican leaders are about which values they should trumpet and which they should put on mute.