The second step is to reject the path down which they were led by the father of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckley, who supported a fusion of conservative ideologies. But by doing so, they ceded much of the leadership of the Republican party to the religious right. The Republicans would do well to remember once more the admonitions of Barry Goldwater:
"I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism.""
"Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."
Goldwater's words were eerily prescient and illustrate perfectly what led to today's state of the Republican party. I disagree with Republican dogma on so many levels, but their social conservatism is especially repugnant. If they are able to take the two steps I described above, if they can learn that public criticism of each other is not just healthy, but essential, and if they can suck out the poison of the religious right, then they should be able to return to being a big-tent party; and I hope they do, even though I know it would mean a more politically-powerful Republican party that is hidebound to the Austrian school of austerity politics. I hope the GOP is able to get back on their feet not because I want them in charge, certainly not, but because even when the Democrats are in charge, I want (and America needs) a loyal opposition that is powerful enough to force my fellow Democrats to negotiate, to bargain, to meet halfway, and to compromise. Without a powerful opposition party, corruption sooner or later infests whole the party in power, so as much as I disagree with the Republican party, we Democrats need them, and all America needs them as the loyal opposition party, not a pushover party to be ignored, but one with bite.