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But creative policy proposals, while essential, are insufficient. Something deeper needs to occur. The party must shake off an intellectual rigidity that has set in. Some examples of this include declaring that not raising taxes is an inviolable principle rather than a reasonable policy judgment and insisting that global warming is a hoax. And a self-confident conservative movement would not bar the gay group GOProud or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from its events, as the Conservative Political Action Conference has done. The theory of addition through subtraction doesn't work in mathematics or politics.
There is an alternative conservative tradition to draw on that seeks to accommodate timeless principles to shifting circumstances, that rejects unyielding orthodoxy and believes prudence, not purity, is the cardinal political virtue. And while it believes in limited government, it is not carelessly antigovernment. The 19th century economist Alfred Marshall elegantly described government as "the most precious of human institutions, and no care can be too great to be spent on enabling it to do its work in the best way. A chief condition to that end is that it should not be set to work for which it is not specifically qualified, under the conditions of time and place."
Now for the good news: There is an unmistakable, if far from complete, movement in this direction since the 2012 defeat. An intellectual unfreezing is taking place. It's actually a pretty interesting time to be a Republican. The Democratic Party found itself in a similar moment in the early 1990s. The party was open to a New Democrat--and out of this emerged William Jefferson Clinton. The GOP awaits its version of the man from Hope.
Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, worked in the past three GOP administrations