I learned years ago that politics is essentially the art of compromise. No one really gets exactly what he/she wants. Legislation is cobbled together. There is give and take from all sides, and then you push forward with something that can appeal to the broadest segments of your constituency. It makes perfectly good sense, even when some of the compromises seem maddening (the best current example is the Democratic sponsored House health insurance legislation, and that was just compromise among Democrats).
I raise this because I simply don't understand this current push to make the Republican Party into a purely ideologically conservative political party. There is a cool story in the Washington Post today that zeroes in on what happened in New York last week, with the solidly Republican New York 23rd congressional district voting for a Democrat for the first time since the Grant administration (yep, Grant). The GOP choice, Dede Scozzafava, came under fire from her right, and eventually withdrew from the race, and endorsed her Democratic challenger. Meanwhile, the conservative candidate went on to lose the race on Election Day.
There is an even better interview that Michael Smerconish (very bear-like, by the way) did with Scozzafava on his radio show. In the interview, Scozzafava presented what she felt were eight primary principles of the Republican Party: "...less government dependency, promoting self sufficiency, believing in lower taxes, believing in fewer government regulations, believing in less government spending, or believing in individual liberty, individual freedom, and less government interference in the lives of people." Why do these principles not somehow jibe with conservatives?
I simply do not believe that the GOP, as a party, can thrive on basically the ideology of a conservative straight Christianist white male Southerner (and those who love them). That seems to me what this push for "purification" of the party means. It's binging on a very narrow perspective of the world. And it is remarkable that the idea of having a variety of positions within a political party is so offensive to conservatives. Liberals within the Democratic Party certainly complain about their more conservative colleagues, but conservatives are literally prepared to boot their moderate (are there even liberal Republicans anymore?) colleagues out of the party altogether. Remember those comments about Colin Powell?
Some of the aforementioned principles named by Scozzafava were reasons why I considered the GOP when I was younger, reasons enough to join the party. The fact that the rising conservatives within the party seemed not remotely to be about many of those principles genuinely turned me off with the quickness, and I left. Conservatives were horrified, for example, by Scozzafava's pro-choice position, and by her support of gay marriage. Those two issues, I think, actually fit the principles of Republicanism she articulated, specifically individual freedom and less government interference.
Maybe what conservatives need to admit is that they would really rather have a theocratic, fear-based defense state, where the people they don't like would suffer at the hands of government, and the people they like would benefit financially (if they have the right credentials, associations and networks) or be placated by having people around them to look down upon and bully.
The GOP cannot survive as simply a party of conservatives, but I think the party will do its best, in the end, to prove me right.