The Next Right
Jon Henke, Patrick Ruffini, and Soren Dayton are launching a new initiative they’ve dubbed “The Next Right.” It’s apparently yet another attempt to create a right-of-center counterpart of the Netroots. Not yet launched, it purports to be “an online community for change-minded activists and hardcore political junkies in the conservative movement.”
All three of the founders agree that a lot has changed since 1980 and that the GOP is no longer the party of Reagan but rather, as Soren puts it, “at a transitional point.” Jon laments that the Iron Law of Oligarchy has set in and that, “Much of the DC-based infrastructure on the Right – Republican politicians, the advocacy organizations and non-profits, the massive, campaign-oriented fundraising machines that spring up in each cycle – has become the entrenched bureaucracy seeking its own promulgation.”
They also agree that the Republicans have fallen way behind the Democrats in reaching out via the Internet. As Patrick writes, “Netroots activists on the left have built critical mass around an idea that regular people on the Internet can get their hands dirty and remix Democratic politics. They not only raise money. They recruit candidates. They fund full-time investigative journalism to ambush Republicans.”
Beyond that, the three admit they have little agreement. That’s not surprising, really. Jon’s a neo-libertarian who has worked for George Allen and Fred Thompson. Pat’s a longtime Republican activist who has worked for George W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani. Soren briefly worked for John McCain.
And therein, methinks, lies the problem. While most Republican-leaning intellectuals think the party needs to change after seven years of Bush and after a GOP-majority Congress became the kings of pork and fiscal irresponsibility, there’s not a whole lot of consensus on the nature of that change.
Sure, we want leaders with a gift for communication and inspiration, as we had with Reagan. We’re tired of earmarks and “politics as usual” and all the standard complaints. But there’s not a whole lot of agreement beyond that.
- Should we continue a foreign policy of “American greatness” and trying to democratize the heathens through military power? Or should we retrench to a more traditional Realist posture?
- Should we get more serious about the social issues and improving public morality? Or should we become more libertarian, get government out of the bedroom, and focus instead on economic policy?
- What do we do about immigration? Social Security? Health care? Sustainable energy? Terrorism?
Our choices on those issues will determine the future of the party and radically impact its demographics.
The Netroots have been united by opposition to Bush, the neocons, and the war. It’s not at all apparent to me what it is that will unite the “Rightroots” (or whatever term we coin).
To the extent that The Next Right is a platform for having this discussion, it’ll be interesting. My guess, though, is that we’ll continue talking past one another.