I belong to a segment of diehard constitutionalists, libertarians, and others who've been anxious to get rid of phony, big-government conservatives and replace them with bona fide limited-government advocates like Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. At the present time, Cruz is in a runoff with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. For some of my more radically libertarian friends, the Texas solicitor general isn't conservative enough. I strongly disagree, but I certainly prefer that point of view over the one shared by the Republicans who believe U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is a conservative.
The Left's contention that the Republican Party has been "hijacked" by a bunch of limited government "extremists" is partly — and thankfully — true. A Daily Caller story in June titled "Obama to portray Romney as a libertarian extremist" quoted the president saying, "We [Democrats] haven't moved that much ... What's changed is the Republican Party."
Obama is right. The Democratic Party's agenda since the New Deal has been to make America as socialist as possible, but under Bush, the government doubled the size of the Department of Education through No Child Left Behind, created the largest entitlement expansion since President Lyndon Johnson with Medicare Plan D, and accrued the largest national debt in American history up to that point. For most of the last decade the Republican Party has been as socialist as the Democrats.
This is why when John McCain lost to Obama in 2008, I cheered. Not because I wanted Obama to become president, but because I wanted the Republican Party to get its ass kicked. The GOP desperately needed to hit the reset button. This is finally happening.
Something I've learned after living in Washington, D.C., for nearly a year now is that most of the people who work in and around politics in this city are not that ideological. Of course, there are serious conservatives, libertarians, and limited-government champions, just as there are serious progressives and liberals. But by-and-large, most who seek to work within either major party are first and foremost interested in becoming staunch partisans. If Obama defines the Democratic Party, that's what liberalism is. If Bush defines the GOP, that's what conservatism is. The thinking of most Beltway types really doesn't go much beyond this.
Obama's contention that Romney is a "libertarian extremist" is just plain dumb. But Democrats are recognizing a real shift happening within the GOP, as the Republican Party is now undergoing a serious re-examination of what it really means to be a conservative.
When it comes to government spending, more Republicans are asking for substantive cuts than at any time in recent memory, and when it comes to war and civil liberties, the neoconservatives are slowly but surely losing their once-exclusive rights of defining what a conservative foreign policy looks like. Why? Because perpetual war costs money we simply don't have.
Neoconservative Sen. Marco Rubio has noticed this ideological shift to the Right in the Republican Party, and he doesn't like it. As Rubio explained in a speech to The Brookings Institution in April, "When I arrived in the Senate, I found that the sides and debate had shifted, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan and staying out of Libya ... Today in the Senate on foreign policy, the further you move to the Right, the likelier you are to wind up on the Left."
The Republicans should assess what a conservative foreign policy is. They should think about what is truly Right and what is Left. Rubio and a small handful of diehard neoconservative ideologues want Republican foreign policy to remain right where it was during the Bush administration — on the Left.
Unfortunately, the establishment types who actually run the party don't really care about what's Right and Left. Their idea of "conservatism" is simply whatever the last Republican brand was. They're always playing catch up. If being like Bush means they can win, they're all for it. If being like Ted Cruz and the Tea Party means they can win, they're all for that too. The worst thing about the Republican establishment is that they stand for nothing. The best thing about the Republican establishment is that they stand for nothing.
The ideologues battling within the GOP right now are the neoconservative old guard and these new, rising constitutional conservatives as exemplified by Cruz. This battle will undoubtedly continue. But for the first time in a long time, it looks like old-fashioned, limited government conservatism could actually win.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.