There aren't enough rich people to create a majority, so plutocrats have to bind voters to their interests some other way than merely droning on about their aversion to taxes and regulation. Social conservatism is the glue that has made majorities possible for the Republican Party. The problem over the last two presidential cycles has been that the old coalition isn't big enough anymore. Rich folks are looking for a new coalition, and gay and Latino-bashing isn't part of their calculus. Some Republicans are more conservative on racial matters than sexual ones, and vice-versa, but there is also considerable overlap… It's obviously true that it is easier to convince gay people to vote for you if your party isn't openly hostile to gay rights. And it's easier to get Latinos to vote for you if your party isn't making anti-Latino pronouncements on a daily basis. But it's much harder to get social conservatives to vote for tax cuts for millionaires, if they aren't being primed with alarmist rhetoric about the destruction of traditional white culture. And the economic policies of the Republicans aren't necessarily any more attractive to the average Latino or gay or lesbian person than they are to the average evangelical Christian. The problem remains the same. The middle class and the poor vastly outnumber the rich. It's not enough to moderate the Republican Party's positions on social issues. They need to moderate their economic positions as well.The problem is not resolvable on terms any Republicans are actually willing to contemplate, not least because every adjustment for long-term viability will cause acute short-term pain and party politics has a year by year attention span (when it's not a newscycle by newscycle attention span). My guess is that the GOP will opt instead to continue to cheat its way to a superficial appearance of viability for a while still via disenfranchisement schemes and false promises and splashy symbolic spectacles for the dumb-dumb bigot base. Needless to say, given the demographic realities everybody is talking about, both of these strategies will exacerbate the reaction against the Republicans in America's pluralizing secularizing planetizing majority and in turn exacerbate the very crisis in the GOP bigot/plutocrat coalition of minorities already yielding electoral failures.
A whole lot of plutocratic cash plus the built-in "legitimacy" accorded the GOP simply by way of the instituted party duopoly is pretty much all they are working with. (To pre-empt the inevitable Third Party chorus occasioned by this sort of comment: Given the fact of the existing duopoly third parties function as spoilers making votes for most progressive outcomes functionally votes for least progressive outcomes. The legal, institutional, and normative force of the duopoly creates the paradoxical situation in which efforts to reform the duopoly to overcome its blatant limitation of democracy in the service of more progressive outcome is always more difficult and less likely of success than are efforts to accomplish the more progressive outcomes instead through organizing within whatever happens to be the more progressive party in the existing duopoly. This is, by the way, another reminder, for those who still need them, that political pragmatism is not at all the same as logical reasoning.)
I have been pointing out the instability of the GOP coalition since this blog began, even in the belly of the beast of the killer clown administration of George W. Bush. It was clear even in those terrible days that absent a successful translation of our institutions into literally fascistic ones, the best rightwing hopes for which died in the 2006 midterms -- and, believe me, I don't mistake our present institutions for more than notionally democratic ones, but I do think even notionally democratic institutions enable real democratic works -- America was on a demographic trajectory, coupled with a coming crash of neoliberal pieties and environmental catastrophes, that would ultimately end the Movement Republican epoch.
I expect a more conventionally conservative default to emerge eventually in the GOP, more populist and conservationist, in which class politics are stealthed through conservative pedagogy, elite institutionalism, and virtue discourse. The plutocratic minority will discover that they are still plutocrats after taxes become progressive enough to maintain infrastructure and a sustainable safety net, while the bigot minority will mostly die (but not before a whole lot of ugliness takes place) to the extent that they cannot hide behind plutocratic piles of cash.
Strangely enough, the big news is that the Democratic Party will have to move to the left, thereby pushing the political norms of Washington as a whole to the left, to create the institutional and conceptual space in which the GOP can manage its own necessary reorientation. Obama has unquestionably begun this necessary shift, outrageous extrajudicial assassinations and unitary executive extension notwithstanding (one can easily recognize that Obama is the most progressive President since FDR while at once realizing that the chief significance of this recognition is that the US Presidency has never historically managed to be particularly progressive), and it is to be hoped that Hilary Clinton, should she run and in running inevitably win, would continue the work of this indispensable leftward shift (as Biden more surely would) rather than resuming too forcefully her husband's catastrophic fin-de-siecle neoliberalism. We shall see, and we shall insist.