Friday, March 13, 2009

grand old party's exemplar...,

Time | Some conservatives have always winced at Limbaugh's in-your-face style. But the debate today has a special charge because, like the similar debate over Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a few months ago, it is tied up with questions about the future of the Republican Party.

In one camp there are those who believe the Republican Party must modernize its message to account for changing circumstances. The columnist David Brooks has called these people the "reformers." Against them are the "traditionalists," who believe that Republicans need only recommit themselves to Ronald Reagan's agenda to succeed again. (Read "Can Michael Steele Broaden the Grand Old Party?")

The traditionalists push for upper-income tax cuts. The reformers want to cut the payroll taxes paid by the middle class. Traditionalists often deny that global warming is real. Reformers just want to make sure that our answer to it is cost-effective. Traditionalists want to hold the line on government spending. Reformers think it's more important for Republicans to advocate market-friendly solutions to problems such as rising health-care costs and traffic congestion.

Limbaugh, needless to say, is a traditionalist, and some reformers have become fierce critics. The debate has gotten pretty hot over the past two weeks, with those critics going after Limbaugh's girth and his outraged fans accusing them of being closet liberals.