Michael Brendan Dougherty explains why he doesn’t think a Romney loss would compel the Republican Party to change much in advance of 2016. Doug Mataconis explains why he thinks a Romney loss would up the chances for the GOP to nominate a candidate more ideologically pure in 2016.

My question to the room: How should the GOP change? 

Please don’t say, in effect, “Become the Democratic Party.” Let’s be serious. Try also to answer in a way that challenges your own views — in other words, don’t fall back on assuming that all would be well with the Republican Party if they only thought like you.

I would like to see the Republican Party become far more realistic and less imperial in its foreign policy convictions and intentions. I would like to see it become far more interested in economic reform that breaks up big banks, and reduces the influence of finance (e.g., “Main Street, not Wall Street”). I think these would be popular turns, and indeed conservative ones.

Media people who answer this sort of question usually say the Republicans ought to ditch social conservatism — this, because they are social liberals who tend to be free marketers, and they have no particular problem with the bipartisan imperial foreign policy. There ought to be a socially conservative party. As a social conservative, I will concede that the coming demographic tsunami compels the GOP to start making changes on its staunch opposition to same-sex marriage. This dog ain’t gonna hunt for much longer. I wish it weren’t so, but nobody who has spent any time reading the polls or talking to anybody under the age of 30 should have illusions about this.

I would be willing to accept the party liberalizing somewhat on this issue, provided it adopted a staunch position of defending religious liberty in the coming pro-SSM legal environment. Many younger conservatives who support SSM may find it acceptable to firewall religious institutions from civil rights laws, if that is possible. Liberals, of course, would howl about this, but this could be the kind of compromise that younger conservatives could accept and defend. I can see wanting your gay friends to have the right to marry and enjoy the benefits of marriage, but also not wanting the Catholic school in town, say, to suffer legal sanction because of it.

So, that’s my wish for the Republican Party: more realist on foreign policy, more populist on economics, and, despite my personal convictions, more flexible and creative on the most contentious social issue of our time.

I don’t expect to see this.

Your ideas?