DES MOINES: For years, Republicans in the US have adhered fiercely to their bedrock conservative principles, resisting Democratic calls for tax hikes, comprehensive immigration reform and gun control.
Now, seven weeks after President Barack Obama won a strong re-election, some party leaders are signalling a willingness to bend on all three issues.
What long has been a nonstarter for Republicans — raising tax rates on wealthy Americans and on capital gains — is now backed by Republican House Speaker John Boehner as he negotiates with Obama to avert a potential fiscal crisis at the end of this year.
Party luminaries, including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, have started calling for a wholesale shift in the Republicans’ approach to immigration after Hispanic voters shunned the party’s candidates.
And some Republicans who previously championed gun rights now are opening the door to restrictions following the school shooting in Connecticut earlier this month.
“Put guns on the table. Also, put video games on the table. Put mental health on the table,” Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia said last week.
Other prominent Republicans echoed him in calling for a sweeping review of how to prevent tragedies like the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre.
Among those who were open to a re-evaluation of gun policies were Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
“You’ve got to take all these things into consideration,” Grassley said.
And yet, the head of the most powerful gun-rights lobbying-group, the National Rifle Association, has proposed staffing schools with armed police, making clear the Republican-leaning group will continue pushing for fewer gun restrictions, not more.
Meanwhile, Boehner’s attempt to get his party members on board with a deficit-reduction plan that would raise taxes on incomes of more than $1 million crashed and burned last week, exposing the reluctance of many in the House Republican caucus to entertain more moderate fiscal positions.
It’s too soon to know whether the party that emerges from this identity crisis will be more or less conservative than the one that marched so confidently into the 2012 election.