Sunday, December 9, 2012

Two reasoned, moderate columnists addressed the resurrection of the Republican party this week.  E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post offers a liberal slant and David Brooks of the New York Times a conservative one.

Dionne: In particular, some are realizing that the tea party surge of 2010 was akin to an amphetamine rush — it produced instant gratification but left the conservative brand tarnished by extremism on both social and economic issues. Within two years, the tea party high gave way to a crash.

It’s true that the early signs of conservative evolution are superficial and largely rhetorical. The right wing’s supporters are already threatening primaries against House and Senate Republicans who offer even a hint of apostasy when it comes to raising taxes in any budget deal. Many Republicans still fear challenges from their right far more than defeat in an election by a Democrat.

Brooks: The Republican Party has a long way to go before it revives itself as a majority party. Over the past month, the Republican Party has changed far more than I expected. First, the people at the ideological extremes of the party have begun to self-ghettoize. The Tea Party movement attracted many people who are drawn to black and white certainties and lock-step unity. People like that have a tendency to migrate from mainstream politics, which is inevitably messy and impure, to ever more marginal oases of purity. Political activists spent more time purging deviationists than in trying to attract new converts.
But that mania has passed. There are increasing signs that House Republicans are willing to unite behind Speaker John Boehner so he can cut a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.” There has been an epidemic of open-mindedness as Republicans try to win minority votes and create a version of their party that can be competitive in states like Connecticut and California.
Dionne and Brooks both point to speeches by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Paul Ryan using much more inclusive rhetoric as signs of a shift in the party.  Rhetoric will need to be followed by policy shifts.  It will be interesting to see if that more substantive movement occurs. 

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