All of which raises an interesting question: Does anyone in the Republican Party actually believe the whole package of libertarian economics, neoconservative militarism and religious right social reaction? Outside of the professional conservative establishment—Fox News journalists, right-wing radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, career conservative think-tank apparatchiks—are there any voters or donors who are true believers in the right-wing catechism?
The evidence suggests otherwise. The Republican donor class tends to be libertarian and globalist. The Republican voter class tends to be populist, protectionist and nationalist. The legacy movement conservative machine finds it increasingly difficult to straddle these divides. The stale formulas of 50-year-old movement conservatism may not prevent a Republican from winning the White House. But even if Republicans control all three branches of government in 2017, they cannot govern on the basis of inherited conservative ideology.
Even if Republicans achieve a supermajority at all levels of U.S. government, the right-wing program will not be carried into operation. Social Security and Medicare will not be abolished and replaced by some elaborate system of savings accounts dreamed up at the Cato Institute. These middle-class programs are too popular, not least with Republican voters…
I point this out as an apostate and an outsider. But at some point, iconoclasts within the Republican Party are going to rebel against the legacy of the dead ideas of the age of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan. They will not necessarily be progressives in any sense. They may call themselves conservatives. But their conservatism will take new forms, relevant to the early 21st century, not the mid-20th century.