Steve, I feel the frustration you are coping with. At a very basic level though, I think what you are wrestling with is actually the realization that your assumptions about the Republican Party have been fundamentally different from the reality of the party itself.
Your reaction, very understandably, is to try to re-appropriate the title under the fundamental values that you hold most dear. But your voice may very well be representative of a minority view in the party, perhaps even a deeply marginalized view. So when you say “this is not what we stand for as a party” the fundamental difficulty is defining the “we” part. If “we” constitutes the Republican voters who are currently making their voices heard in the primaries, then, I am sorry to say, yes, this is precisely what “we” stand for at this moment in time. If “we” means a small and disenfranchised portion of the GOP, then by what credible argument can we claim that “we” constitute the truest vision of the GOP? True by who’s standard? Our own? As opposed to all the other “true” visions held by the other factions of the GOP, all of whom also feel that their view is the true spirit of the party?
Don’t get me wrong. I desperately want to believe that these views are not minority views, and that there is a great, unheard or untapped core within the GOP that simply hasn’t yet come into its own. But it is very hard to know at any moment what the true spirit of the GOP really is.
Social conservatism, economic conservatism, evangelicalism, libertarianism, populism, minarchism, interventionism, isolationism…. all of these divergent instincts have ebbed and flowed in their own time as part of the philosophical underpinning of the GOP, some occasionally coming into fashion as others have faded, cyclically changing the nature of what the GOP actually “is” at any given moment. This particular moment in history may reveal that we are passing another transition point, a generational realignment, where the fundamental principles of yesterday’s GOP are shown to already be in a state of deep transition. Or not.
When I read your post, it sounds like you are pining for a a version of the Republican Party that was only briefly ascendant, and I don’t think you can reverse the path of the party on nostalgia alone, nor by insisting what the Republican Party “is not.”
The hard truth is that the vision of the Republican Party you are describing differs from the mainstream of the Democratic Party only in that you are calling for “limited” government. But here’s the void worth really staring into: There are also a lot of Democrats who would support “limited and efficient government.”
So which is more difficult? Convincing mainstream Democrats to consider limited and efficient government? Or convincing mainstream Republicans to embrace the expansion of civil liberties into areas morally controversial to conservatives, embrace broader immigration for all, accept the supreme court’s rulings on issues such as Roe v Wade, and commit to a serious philosophy of inclusiveness.
I don’t know the answer.
I do know that if the GOP is to change from where it is today, it will need louder, more courageous voices who articulate a more positive future for the party, and who can delineate a coherent philosophy bound by tangible policy suggestions that can help define a persuasive and inspiring vision for the country.
I’m glad that more people within the GOP are raising their voices, and asking for some soul searching on the identity of the Republican Party itself.