They will need to answer fundamental questions: What does it mean to be a Republican? Do Republicans support laissez-faire or nationalized banking? Do Republicans support a balanced budget or half-trillion-dollar deficits? Do Republicans want a "humble foreign policy" like George W. Bush, or preventive war against countries that pose no threat, like, umm, George W. Bush? Are Republicans the party of limited government or a vast Medicare prescription drug benefit? Are they wary of Big Brother or eager to expand warrantless wiretaps? Do they support Christian values or torture? Are they the party that believes that cutting-edge technology can shoot a missile out of the sky or the party that believes humans and dinosaurs walked the earth simultaneously?
This schizophrenia has been coming for a long time. To find my Republican parents, who are thoughtful people with legitimate concerns over taxation, in bed with theocratic nutjobs who want to replace the Constitution with the New Testament, exemplifies the strange bedfellows idea. Not that the Democratic Party isn't without its share of weird combinations. The extreme leftist welfare-state guys like Kucinich and centrists like Clinton and Obama, Peaceniks like Kucinich (again) and hardscrabble warriors like Jim Webb, or cap-and-trade advocates like Obama and hard-core environmentalists like, well, Kucinich. In fact, it does seem like Kucinich is in a world of his own, doesn't it? No matter: Democrats, unlike Republicans, do not eat their own. When times were tough for Dems prior to 2006, you generally did not find them requiring lock-step conformity with the Democratic message (mostly because there wasn't one central message that all Dems could embrace). Now that it's clear that the McCain/Palin campaign has revealed the deep and almost irreversible rift in the GOP, the only logical next step is self-immolation and rebuilding, perhaps as two parties. The Christianists can and should "secede" from the Republicans and start a new party -- a militant party of big faith-based, war-based, and intolerance-based government spending that does not see a problem with torture so long as it is in support of God's will for God's people.
It's first presidential nominee? Not the soon-to-be-washed-up secessionist Sarah Palin. Not the Nutri-System poster child, Mike Huckabee. No, this one will have to come from outside of government, from deep within the religious community, currently on the radar of only a few well-connected individuals. Like a Curt Schilling.