Ross Douthat wants to preserve the good aspects of Republican populism while getting rid of its self-destructive habits:
It’s clear, right now, that the populists can’t be trusted not to drive their party into a ditch. But neither can Republican leaders just declare war on their own base, as some moderates and liberals would have them do.
Instead, Republicans need to seek a kind of integration, which embraces the positive aspects of the new populism — its hostility to K Street and Wall Street, its relative openness to policy innovation, its desire to speak on behalf of Middle America and the middle class — while tempering its Kurtzian streak with prudence, realism, and savoir-faire.
As Douthat says earlier in the column, that will require someone in the party to discover “how to take the energy driving the shutdown and redirect it to more constructive ends.” The difficulty in finding such a person (or group of people) is that virtually every elected Republican interested in what the new populism has to offer has embraced the ruinous tactics that have brought us to the present impasse. Another problem that has become impossible to ignore over the last few weeks is that the “energy driving the shutdown” is fueled by the belief that gradual reform and incremental gains should be dismissed for the sake of seeking maximalist and unachievable goals right now. Take away the promise of achieving the impossible, and the energy could easily begin to dissipate.
So long as would-be populist leaders are able to mislead their supporters into believing that failure is success, there will be little incentive for them to change. Conservative voters need to stop applauding flattering falsehoods from their leaders, and unless they do that they and their interests will continue to be shortchanged. Cruz et al. abused the trust that conservatives placed in them, but unless they are held accountable by conservatives most of them will see no reason to do anything differently.