“The shattering fact of 9/11 pretty much overwhelmed and subsumed philosophical differences within the party for eight years. Differences between libertarians, social conservatives, and moderate suburban Republicans were not in the forefront of thinking among party activists,” former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan told BuzzFeed. “Suddenly in 2009, with the GOP out of power in Washington and the economy collapsed and two wars unwon, the old philosophical disagreements, in their modern iteration, came to the fore.
“Republicans are working out these tensions through the current nominating process,” she said in an email.
Others blame the candidates, not the movement.
“A dominant conservative candidate has not been able to emerge in recent years. There have been a series of flops,” said Jeffrey Bell, a movement veteran who is policy director at the American Principles Project in Washington. “And this year we didn’t have soup-to-nuts, fully funded presidential candidate. All of them lacked money except for Perry, and Perry wasn’t ready to run for president.”