Well, if Ross Douthat is the benchmark, I’d say something like zero (further reflections on the uselessness of beltway moderates by Stacy McCain can be found here).
As McCain points out, what Republicans need is fewer backseat drivers, and more mechanics: “A Republican resurgence in 2010, if there is to be one, will in large measure be a function of candidate recruitment and fundraising that are only now getting underway in the aftermath of the last election.” The beltway echo chamber would have us believe that Republicans need more roustabouts out there expanding the size of the tent - based on the theory, I suppose, that if you don’t have any good ideas, you ought to at least make room for a lot of bad ones. Bottom line: if you want to win like Democrats, you need to do like Democrats – only not so much. In which case, the obvious question (obvious to me, anyway) is why bother having a Republican Party at all? If its purpose is only to serve as a mass of barnacles on the hull of the ship of state, in the hope of slowing down (but not altering) the latter’s voyage to European-style social democracy, why bother?
We all know the obstacles in the way of building a sustainable conservative majority, and they don’t begin and end with the electoral process. There is the leftist chokehold on higher education and the bias of the media, just for starters, both of which combine to create and maintain an artificially high level of ignorance among literally tens of millions of people. This ignorance plays into the hands of left-wing (now practically synonymous with “Democrat”) propagandists. But even these obstacles were not sufficient to thwart conservative men and women of vision, such as Ronald Reagan and Jean Kirkpatrick, because there was a critical mass of voters who could be moved by appeals to common sense and enlightened self-interest. I am convinced that that critical mass is still out there, waiting for leadership – and I don’t mean for a man on a white horse, I mean thousands and even millions of leaders who are willing to make their voices known, who are willing to roll their sleeves up and get busy with the unglamorous nuts and bolts of local politics, who can develop the thick skins necessary to weather the slurs and animosity of an increasingly sociopathic Left, who adamantly refuse to let the radicals capture the language and frame the arguments.
Or shall we sit around pointing fingers at each other, deluding ourselves that Arlen Specter’s departure from the Republican Party is a calamity rather than an opportunity?
Update: Chris Buckley continues to be a stick-figure caricature of his father.