Since Barry Goldwater, the central Republican narrative has been what you might call the Encroachment Story: the core problem of American life is that voracious government has been steadily encroaching upon individuals and local communities. The core American conflict, in this view, is between Big Government and Personal Freedom.
While losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, the flaws of this mentality have become apparent. First, if opposing government is your primary objective, it’s hard to have a positive governing program.
The problem, as Brooks sees it, is this lack has led to the inability of conservatives to offer their own solutions. The can only oppose, not govern. In order to offer their own vision of government that solves real problems, Republicans will probably have to discard the Encroachment narrative. Brooks sees this as unlikely:
Can current Republicans change their underlying mentality to adapt to these realities? Intellectual history says no. People almost never change their underlying narratives or unconscious frameworks. Moreover, in the South and rural West, where most Republicans are from, the Encroachment Story has deep historic and psychological roots. Anti-Washington, anti-urban sentiment has characterized those cultures for decades.
It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast. It’s smarter to build a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton…
…It would be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power, but who don’t share the absolute antigovernment story of the current G.O.P.
I think that’s a pretty reasonable suggestion. The GOP is a big party with many interests and sub groups within it. One group typically sits in the drivers seat, for George W. Bush’s presidency it was generally the neocons. Why can’t a moderate Burkean wing of the party achieve the same dominance? The far-right ideologues have had their day. The Tea Party is in decline. They have ruined the party, leaving a power vacuum. If the people Brooks is writing about can step up, we might have a whole new dynamic in the party, and that would unquestionably be a positive thing.