Matthew Continetti has a terrific column about how the Center for American Progress was able to connect liberal fundraisers, grassroots activists, intellectuals and Democratic politicians to move the Democratic party and the political culture to the left. By 2008, even though the various Democratic presidential candidates were divided by their ambitions, they had very similar policy platforms.
The center-right is curiously divided. You have one nexus of influence rooted in Jim DeMint’s Heritage Foundation and the Senate Conservatives Fund and whose popular constituency is more likely to be influenced by the more combative talk radio hosts. A competing center of influence is loosely organized around the business lobbies and old school Republican consultants like Karl Rove and their Super PACs. This group also tends to get better coverage in the mainstream media when the subject involves intraconservative disputes. The first group pushed for the shutdown plan to defund Obamacare. The second group comprised much of the right-of-center support for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill. The Republican congressional leadership ends up having to balance between these two groups without fully joining itself to either of them. That is part of the reason why the strategy of the Republican congressional leaders often seems so incoherent.
My sense is that the best thinking on the center-right is being done at the American Enterprise Institute and the Ethics and Public Policy Center. AEI and EPPC lack the John Podesta type who will hook the thinkers like Yuval Levin to the grassroots and the donors. If that could happen, we would be in a much better place.