How the GOP Destroyed Its Moderates — The New Republic
DESPITE THE MISERY of continuous political defeat, moderate Republicanism—moderate by contemporary standards, at any rate—is not intellectually dead. Quite the opposite, in fact. The movement in recent years has seen a flowering of bright, creative, deeply empirical thinkers, who grapple with liberal arguments rather than retreat into an ideological cocoon, and attempt to re-fashion a program for their party that responds to real-world conditions rather than treat anti-government dogma as an eternal and axiomatic truth.
Ronald Reagan supplied to conservative activists proof of the hypothesis that they had eagerly put forward through Goldwater: that a natural conservative majority existed among the public. For the last three decades, Reaganism has dominated the party’s self-conception to the degree that it is not possible within the party to dispute an idea identified with him. Intra-GOP arguments often divide over which side can more rightfully claim to be his heir, but like a religious text the merits of Reaganism itself lie beyond dispute. Alumni of the Ripon Society—the most influential of the moderate Republican organizations of the 1960s—took an informal poll of themselves in 2002 (a year when the GOP’s prestige had reached a recent apogee in the wake of the 9/11 attacks), and they discovered that three-quarters identified themselves by this point as independents or Democrats.