There are two Republican parties. One is fairly liberal, it is hostile to the left but it also believes in stealing their thunder by adopting moderate versions of their policies.
It is loosely conservative, but disinterested in social issues. It thinks that the left has gone too far in upending traditional values, but has no interested in combating it and finds those who do embarrassing . It adapts to changing mores with an uneasy smile and tries to pretend that it was with it all along. It has no strong religious feelings and it believes that all religious, including Islam, are basically the same.
It is strong on national defense spending, but mainly to maintain stability and national influence, not because it believes that we face any real threats. It believes that America has a responsibility to the rest of the world and that we are obligated to give back through the United Nations and other international organizations allowing us to spread our values of free enterprise and democracy to everyone.
It is a big believer in the American Dream of economic opportunity, but is unable to think of any other national virtues beyond that. It maintains a strongly Federalist legacy and while it agrees that the Federal government has overreached itself in interfering with the business of states, it has no real interest in rolling back its powers, only in making certain that they are used "wisely".
The only area where it actively rolls back the left's program is its deregulation of businesses, but even this is limited to spheres that are objectionable to specific industries which lobby for deregulation. Small businesses can expect much less help, unless they band together and forcefully make something into an issue.
It has no passion for anything beyond deregulating a few specific industries. It supports the right to bear arms, not because it passionately believes in it, but because the political costs of not doing so are too high. It opposes abortion for the same reason, though its opposition is mainly a formality. It believes that gay marriage is inevitable, but isn't willing to pick a fight with its base over it.
Its leaders and members consider themselves rationalists and believe in Global Warming because "the science says so." They sneer at those Republicans who deny what they think is the obvious. While they are skeptical of government solutions to Global Warming, they are prepared to accept an approach that does not cause too much harm to business and is routed through private companies.
It does not believe that Obama is bad, only inexperienced and misguided, but basically well-meaning and its lack of support for him is not due to a firm belief that his agenda is destructive, but to political calculations and the need to appease their base.
This Party is not particularly worried about the future of the United States except as a place to do business. And even then it will easily move operations offshore to Dubai or Singapore. Overall it is optimistic that things will go on as they have, with a gradual process of reform advanced by the left and moderated by the right in the political process resulting in a workable center.
Then there's the other Republican Party. This party is deeply worried about the future of the country, and not just as a place to do business. It is socially conservative, strong on national defense because it believes that we do face real threats and enemies, it is opposed to amnesty and very skeptical of Federal power.
This party is more new than it is old, it's a party that evolved in response to the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the left. It is the base from which the Republican Party draws much of its support, particularly away from the Northeast, and it is struggling to force the party to match its deeds to its words.
It does not believe that most of the national debates are a tempest in a teacup that can be settled amicably behind closed doors. It is uninterested in bipartisan great compromisers, it seeks fighters who will stand up for its agenda. It is not interested in the progressive voyage to the national future that has been taken up by both parties, what it would like is independence from their reign of policy terror. It would like to roll back the progressive policymaking of both parties.
It is concerned for its ability to earn a living, for the values of its children and the basic freedoms that it can see being lost every day. It remembers a time when people had more freedom and less rules hanging over their heads. The tide of paperwork, the omnipresent regulatory state infuriate it and lead it to vote for people who claim to want Washington off their backs. But next year there are even more regulations and paperwork to deal with.
It is deeply worried about the Bill of Rights, its right to bear arms, its right to speak freely and to practice its beliefs without interference from the government. It is worried about them because it has already witnessed the dramatic erosion of its freedoms and it expects the process to continue.
It is unenthusiastic about deploying troops to maintain global hegemony or aid other nations, it is however vigorous about defending the country from enemy attack. Its members often have a tradition of military service and a skeptical view of how the politicians have used and abused the military for their own purposes.
Its skepticism of authority transcends government and extends to elites in science, academia and the entertainment industry. It recognizes the major gap between its values and theirs, and accordingly distrusts them. It is much less subject to being cowed by absolute truths presented by the elites and often seeks out alternative opinions.
What it wants most is independence from outside regulations that impinge on its way of life. It has little interest in positive rights and a defense of its rights by the government, what it would like is the ability to defend its own rights, to maintain a separation from the elites and its own property and family.
Between an establishment committed to moderate progressivism and a base that is unwilling to accept less freedoms and more regulation for their own good, is a massive divide. It is a cultural, economic, social and regional divide that needs to be talked about.
Too many establishment candidates have cakewalked into office by paying lip service to the concerns of the base without believing a word of it. Each time the process repeats itself, the collision becomes more explosive until something has to give.
Either the Republican establishment needs to step up to the plate and honestly repudiate its base or it needs to step aside and decide which it cares about more, deregulation or its version of the progressive agenda, because it cannot continue as a contradiction in terms without a meltdown. The current ugliness is a manifestation of that yawning gap between the two parties that cannot be bridged without an honest dialogue about the different values of those at the top and those at the bottom.