To prevent the party tearing itself apart, conservative members like chairman Michael Steele are suggesting a new 'ideology test' to approve membership of the GOP.
They believe nobody's a 'true' Republican unless they support the ten 'essential' Republican positions, as laid out below.
- We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;
- We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;
- We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
- We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
- We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
- We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
- We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
- We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
- We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
- We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership;
Or to put it another way, if this new ideology is adopted, will it doom to the Republican party to political irrelevance?
I say 'yes', but I've had people disagree with me on this. CK and other conservatives argue that the way for the Republicans to win the next election is to migrate further to the right, not try to take the middle ground back from the Democrats. This simply can't work, though.
The further right you retreat, the more voters you separate yourself from. You need to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum to win, not a core elite.
Since I like making diagrams, I made a diagram to explain my point:
This is what the American electorate looks like. There are clumps that are die-hard Democrats and committed Republicans and never vote any differently. Then there are the undecided voters - the ones who actually get to pick the next president. As you can see, they're largely moderate, but definitely have a bias to the right.
Here's what last year's elections probably looked like. The blue is the Democratic 'position' and how many voters in encompassed. The red is the Republican position.
In any given election, a party's policies can only appeal to a certain 'stretch' of these voters. Last year, the Democrats had a fairly liberal agenda, but appealed to just enough undecided voters to achieve victory.
The Republicans started out fairly moderate and retreated further to the right (with the selection of Sarah Palin as Vice Presidential candidate, and by forcing McCain to back down on certain principles) and this alienated some of the moderates - costing them the election.
If the Republicans retreated even further to the right, here's what will happen in 2012: They'll lose.
The further right they go, the further they retreat from those undecided voters - and they aren't making up the shortfall anywhere else. Conservatives don't vote Democrat; by appealing more to the core of the conservative movement, you're not winning any more support. You're actually losing it.
The only way this tactic can work is if the electoral layout of America dynamically changes - if voters themselves become more right-wing. That's certainly a possibility (a dark, terrifying possibility) but it won't happen by 2012.
Instead of adjusting something they can control - their policies - the Republicans are relying on changing something they can't control - the will of the general population. This is a recipe for failure, every time.
Instead, Republicans should head back towards the center - to soften their rhetoric on controversial policies (like abortion and the war) and strengthen their resolve on the issues that they have majority support on (like small government and low taxation.)
What would this result in? I think it would look something like this:
By shifting slightly further to the middle - and not much, because American voters naturally have a bias towards the right - the Republicans could put themselves in a position that it would be damn near impossible for the Democrats to oust them from.
But the loudest voices in the party present - conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh - are too stupid to realize this. They're willing to sacrifice political victory in order to preserve 'ideological purity' and as long as they continue to do that, America belongs to the Democrats.