Time will square the Douthat-Limbaugh circle

Ross has an excellent analysis of what the near future of the Republican Party looks like. A bloodbath between several different views of the party is coming. He characterizes Rush’s:

For Rush, there are only two kinds of people in Republican Party: True conservatives like him, and "moderate Republicans." The latter is an ideologically-inclusive category: You can be pro-choice or pro-life, David Frum or Colin Powell, a Rockefeller Republican or a Sam’s Club conservative; indeed, the only real requirement for moderate-Republican status is the belief that the Republican Party needs to reach out to voters who don’t agree with, well, Rush Limbaugh on every jot and tittle of what conservatism is and ought to be.

Ross is right that "the whole argument collapses" while "it has a certain surface plausibility" to "many, many conservatives eager to be convinced that the ’08 outcome had everything to do with John McCain’s heresies and the treason of the Beltway elites, and nothing whatsoever to do with them". Earlier today, I noted a particularly bewildered form of this analysis out of John Ensign. Ross notes that "moderates", in this framework believe that "the Republican Party needs to reach out to voters who don’t with with" … us.

That’s a very nice static analysis. But the good news about politics is that the goalposts always move. A Barack Obama presidency would undoubtedly overreach and create the conditions for the political unraveling of his experiments, probably long after leaving the White House. The tax rates would probably be too high. Healthcare reform would probably go too far. Too much regulation would probably stifle financial services. Obama would probably go too far in addressing (sometimes) legitimate grievances about crime, welfare, etc.

But the next powerful, dominating conservativism will likely be different. It will be responsive to those overreaches. Reagan responded to high-teens inflation, confiscatory taxation, a marginalization of faith in public life, an overreach of the sexual revolution, insufficient defense of western liberal (as in market, not sexual, liberalization) values, an insufficient defense of public safety, etc., which were either the product of policy or "progress." Reagan’s critique was relevant, while Rush’s (and, sometimes, McCain’s (staff’s)) is not.

A part of me thinks that we need to just let this play out. I cannot identify the leaders who will bring us back to a majority. They have to learn and prove themselves, through things like pension and tax fights. The two parts of the coalition Rush and Ross speak for will, inevitably, come back together in some form. In the meantime, they will fight over who is in control of the process first. (and sells more books, sells ads, books more consultanting contracts, places friends in jobs, etc.)

Our focus needs to become identifying talent, solving problems, and providing the intellectual and mechanical tools to help people when the time comes.

Some perspective is desperately needed.