Frank Rich ponders the GOP's exasperated Mugwumps and its seemingly insurmountable demographic challenges (at least in the short run) and its irresolvable rebranding conflicts and he concludes:
[T]he party controls far more of American governance, federal and local, than it did after Goldwater’s defeat. It has continued to push the country--and both the current and previous Democratic president--incrementally to the right.... It could not be rebranded even if it wanted to change--and it does not want to. A cosmetic face-lift would fool no one. Its current leaders are more faithful than ever ... to the principles laid down by Goldwater and Reagan. In the end, the party’s best bet may be not to do something but just stand there until history cycles back to it once more.
Whether or not one agrees that's the best bet, it is potentially a winning one and at any rate, it seems, the party's default position.
The most convincing aspect of Rich's scenario is that in the immediate post-Goldwater era the commentariat really did deliver the party's eulogy--the GOP was gone, destroyed, dead, murdered at the hands of far-right extremists, never to return. A mere four years later, it retook the White House; and 12 years after that it entered its 30-year phase of ideological dominance.
The least convincing aspect of Rich's scenario is that in the immediate post-Goldwater era the GOP had essentially the same American electorate to cycle back to in four years or 16. Today's GOP won't. By 2020, even Texas will have turned a rather deep purple through browning, and other one-time GOP strongholds, such as Virginia and even Georgia, are bluing, demographically, by the day.
So clearly, some adjustments will have to be made--at least in tone, which does lend some credence to the GOP's modern-day Tone Police, such as Gov. Bob McDonnell. If, while waiting for history to cycle, Republicans persist in their dark deliveries of hysteria and hostility, then we'll know that even they have given up the national game. For while h & h works splendidly on old angry white guys, it'll never take root among emerging demographic groups who see government as a positive social force.