In all my writings on this subject, I’ve stressed the fact that the contemporary conservative movement—and particularly its increasingly dominant “constitutional conservative” wing—is unusually resistant to changes in its ideology, policies and messaging, for the rather obvious reason that they believe in a fixed, timeless government model located somewhere in the 1920s that reflects not only the Founders’ design but a divine imperative communicated through the Declaration of Independence, natural law, and scripture. So of course they will look high and low for evidence that they don’t have to “change to win,” and even if that pursuit fails, they’ll argue for holding out for a perfect electoral storm to avoid any compromise in their “conservative principles.”That's one theory. I think, with all due respect to Kilgore, who is a long-time smart political observer, that it's wrong.
I'm not convinced, to tell the truth, that Republicans are unusually resistant to change. I think they are unusually resistant to moderation -- that is a particular type of change.
And my explanations for it are structural and institutional, rather than based on something inherent in conservative ideology. Specifically, I think that what matters are (1) the conservative marketplace, which is driven more by resentment than by ideology; and (2) a series of examples/historical accidents/mythology that have allowed people to convince themselves that purity is a better general election strategy.
What I believe about the "fixed, timeless government model located somewhere in the 1920s that reflects not only the Founders’ design but a divine imperative" is that the fixed model is constantly undergoing revisions, and that most of the adherents to that model are extremely open to even very large revisions, as long as they are always presented as part of a fixed, timeless, government model.
Now, what I don't have is any way to show that I'm right and Kilgore is wrong. Or maybe we're both correct, or both partially correct. But I'm fairly convinced of it -- Republicans will move on policy when they think it's in their interest to move on policy, and at that point the divine origins of their former policies won't stop them.