William F. Buckley, Jr.
The GOP caught a fatal disease in 1980. It was called the Bush Family. The party stayed vital and relevant throughout the 1980s, but began to grow anemic and sickly in 1992. Once rid of the first Bush generation, it recovered slightly in 1994 and could have been on the mend. However, a relapse in 2000 really sealed its fate. By the time 2008 rolls around, the biggest question will be when the corpse will begin to stink.
The current incarnation of the Bush disease is insidious. It has used the war on terrorism to silence criticism from the right on the rank socialism that is the crux of the Bush domestic policy. It has used evasion and euphemism to avoid the charge of nation-building and flatly ignored the very accurate charges that Iraq was more about Bush pride and the Saudi Royal family than it was about terrorism and democracy. It has put the GOP faithful in the bizarre position of having to defend a surreal political position. For the last thirty years, one of the GOP's primary strengths was operating from a position of reality and firing on the breadth of wishful thinking that makes up the rhetoric of the Left. Bush has changed all that and forced the party to defend the indefensible. The result will be fatal.
If no less than the likes of Bill Buckley are doubting the survival of the GOP, one wonders if its death is not imminent. GOP True Believers hold out a great deal of hope for salvation by, variously, a liberal lawyer from New York or a right-of-center Tennessee lawyer-turned-actor. It will be amazing if the party manages to survive tidal forces of that magnitude. My inclination is to say that it is done and we can simply stick a fork in it, but I believe that someone of principle (like Ron Paul for example) could pull off a Reagan and confound the machinations of the party elite by pulling off a grassroots victory, there could be hope.
It is a slim hope at best. I certainly wouldn't wager anything of value on it.