E.J. Dionne has written an insightful column about the Republican party and its discontents. However, I think Dionne probably gets it wrong in his final paragraph:
This could be the new Republican Party in the making: a disappointed, dissatisfied and inward-looking coalition that abandons Reagan’s hopefulness and tries to hang on by playing on fears of terrorism and anger about immigration. If Fred Thompson’s job is to restore optimism to a dispirited bunch, he faces a task that might have overwhelmed even Ronald Reagan.
For one thing, Dionne ignores the optimistic strands of the Republican party which all of its leading presidential contenders share — belief in pro-growth economic policies and the power of freedom. For another, he overlooks the likelihood that new defining issues for both parties are around the corner.
It’s also worth noting that the “instability” in the the Republican presidential campaign is at least in part the product of a diverse field of accomplished and fairly popular figures. This suggests that the future coalition may be less “inward-looking” than Dionne believes.