Michael Stafford is hopeful:
Now, as the GOP regroups from its electoral debacle, public criticisms of conservative dogmas have expanded beyond a small circle of dissidents. Prominent conservatives are saying heretical things that would have gotten them tarred, feathered, and banished a few months ago. The long night of strict doctrinal conformity – a period when dissidents were condemned for the slightest deviations in the equivalent of media show trials, purged, and then airbrushed out of old CPAC convention pictures- shows signs of ending. The high priests of the conservative infotainment industry are both discredited and politically vulnerable. Their agenda has been exposed as a bankrupt fraud – a Potemkin village, a path to nowhere.
But he also cautions:
The window of opportunity for reform could shut quickly. The Conservative Spring might be followed, swiftly, by dour Brezhnevian repression, and another round of purity purges. Authoritarian elites, after all, have a nasty habit of regrouping and reasserting control. And it is unclear whether reform ideas can be effectively communicated to a base that believes in movement conservative inerrancy, is cut off from other information sources, disdains intellectuals, is dangerously misinformed, and is accustomed to the confrontational, schoolyard bully-style of talk radio.
Until the GOP accepts its cultural and intellectual dead-end, it will not endure for long as a national party. They’ve lost three generations of voters – those who came of age under Clinton (and liked him), those who came of age under Bush-Cheney and are still nauseated by the memory, and those who have come of age in the Obama era. I propose two places to start: a commitment to developing conservative ideas for environmental protection and a volte-face on gays. That was one way the Tories climbed back to electability in Britain. But David Cameron didn’t have a fundamentalist religious movement and a far right media-industrial complex to overcome. And it took the Tories three consecutive losses to get real.