Alex Massie

Traditionalists vs Reformers

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Ramesh Ponnuru disputes my suggestion that he is on the side of the Traditionalists in their battle with the Reformers over the future of the GOP. His view is that:

The point of my column was to question the wisdom of drawing the battle lines in those terms. Those of us who think that the conservative message should be modernized will fail to do so if we proceed by insulting traditionalists rather than trying to persuade them.

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Or to put it another way, my sense is that the Traditionalists fear that change may cause conservatives to stay at home; the Reformers worry that no change means no hope of attracting centrist and young voters in the future. Here too, it seems to me that the Traditionalists take a shorter-term view than the Reformers. There is obviously something to be said for not ditching the old message until you can be sure that the new one will attract as many, and in fact more, voters; but there's also something in the notion that a party that does not modernise is not likely to thrive in a changing America. That is, you might need to risk some short term defections (stay-at-homes really) for the sake of longer term growth.

The weight you give these various notions is likely to determine  - I think! - which side of the Reform vs Tradition fence you fall and the urgency with which you feel the need to debate these issues.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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