A lot of people, even the odd Republican herself, are indulging in the thought experiment of imagining what the GOP should do to get its groove back. Open the doors to moderates! Throw social conservatives under the bus! Go back to basics! Stay the course! Unless I’m missing something, though, no one has proposed readjusting the anti-regulatory, tax-cutting, government-is-the-problem orthodoxy that has been in command since the Reagan era. Take Mike Huckabee, he who once dared to question said orthodoxy (a little). In a recent discussion of religion and politics, he wouldn’t go anywhere near there. The result is that you’ve got Republicans in Congress prepared to vote for measures cracking down on credit card shenanigans and predatory housing lenders, but against the position of their leadership and without an articulated adjustment of philosophy. So sure, dial back on the social conservatism; but while you’re at it, dial back on the laissez-faire too. In a pragmatic country, a party wedded to ideology has no place to go but down.
Update: RealClearPolitics’ David Paul Kuhn has a column up about how social conservatives are feeling all aggrieved about being scapegoated by the GOP establishment. But why the hell aren’t any social conservatives proposing to broaden the party by softening its economic conservatism? Does Grover Norquist have them by the short and curlies? Are their leaders just a bunch of clerical frontmen for the hard-eyed money guys? It’s been a century since William Jennings Bryan led the social conservatives of his day on a crusade for economic justice. Has that gene been surgically removed from the evangelical body politic?