A blistering op-ed from Craig Shirley in today's Washington Post, "How the GOP Lost Its Way":
The immigration reform debate has highlighted a long-standing fissure in the GOP between the elitist Rockefeller business wing and the party's conservative populist base. Whether the two groups can continue to coexist and preserve the Republican majority is increasingly doubtful as conservatives begin to consider — and in some cases cheer — the possibility that the GOP may lose control of Congress this fall.
He outlines the populist vs. establishment tensions in the GOP that this blog has been yammering about for a while. He also illustrates one of the perennial weaknesses of the populist Right — wishful thinking. "The revolution of 1994 has been killed not by zeal but by a loss of faith in its own principles," he says, but that isn't true. The revolution of 1994 was always less than it seemed — Newt Gingrich had little in the way of principled objections to big government, and those of the Republican freshmen class of '94 who did were swiftly sidelined, defeated in their re-election races, or co-opted. From the start, power was its own top priority.
I suspect that Shirley is right, though, when he says that "The tragedy is not that we are faced with another fight for the soul of the Republican Party but that we have missed an opportunity to bring a new generation of Americans over to our point of view." It's no tragedy, but the Republicans certainly have lost the goodwill of a lot of intelligent young conservatives — many of whom are now ex-conservatives. I'm often surprised to come across the blogs of casual acquaintances who were once program officers at conservative youth organizations and have now become trenchantly critical of the GOP's ways. (Eric Langborgh, for example, was a program officer with Accuracy in Academia; Gideon worked for the Leadership Institute's student publications division.) This shouldn't worry the GOP too much, though. There'll always be careerists and opportunists enough to replace critically-minded defectors.