The January 2013  issue of Commentary asked 53 writers and conservative leaders What is the Future of Conservatism?

This is part of the response from Linda Chavez,

Movements cannot sustain themselves without appealing leaders and coherent, compelling ideas–and at the moment American conservatism is deficient in both. As a former Democrat who watched her party wreck itself in the 1960s and 70s, I have felt a sense of deja vu as the Republican Party has followed a similar path in recent years. The 2012 Republican primaries were a contest among candidates to appease distinct interest groups within the GOP: Tea Party populists, pro-life activists, anti-immigration zealots, and anti-tax die-hards. The wildly erratic swings in popularity of the primary candidates demonstrated a Republican electorate with no clear sense of what they were looking for beyond someone whom they believed could defeat President Obama. The result was a flawed presidential nominee and a failed election.

Ironically, Barack Obama seems to have learned more from Ronald Reagan’s success than conservatives have. Obama had big ideas and articulated them well. Not since FDR has a Democrat offered a comparably comprehensive view of the role of government. Obama promoted the progressive understanding of “social justice,” the idea that society, acting through government, is responsible for providing for man’s needs. Unfortunately, conservatives–or at least candidates who purport to speak for conservatism–offer up no alternative based on a different conception of justice. Neither Presidents George H.W. Bush nor George W. Bush hewed to Reagan’s principled conservatism. Nor has any candidate since. Until conservatives begin to focus once again on fundamental principles and put aside the temptation to appeal to the factional and sometimes conflicting agendas of special-interest groups, conservatism will struggle to compete successfully with liberalism. And without leadership, ideas–even good ones–dissipate.


Chavez observes the volatility of the GOP primary candidates. It does indicate a party that does not know what it wants.  The GOP often brags that it has a big tent.  Perhaps it is too big.  When you stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing.