A political party is an empty vessel that takes on meaning only through the policy advocacy and the policy actions of those people who join it and lead it.
Today, the Republican Party is the main representative in the public policy process for the conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, strong national defense and traditional family values.
Because those principles have deep roots in America, the Republican Party has remained a major party, even in periods of liberal Democratic dominance.
There used to be many conservative Democrats in elected office. Those days are gone. Today, conservative Democrats in office are like ivory-billed woodpeckers. Everyone has heard of them, but no one has actually seen one in years.
Millions of conservatives previously inactive in politics have poured into Republican activity, as the Tea Party movement helped create the Republican landslide in 2010.
The 2012 Republican Platform just drafted in Tampa advocates conservative public policies clearly, which will play well to an electorate shown by many national polls to be 40% conservative and 20% liberal.
Policy actions, though, count more than policy advocacy.
Political success inevitably comes with some problems. Opportunists instinctively understand that feigning conservative principles could be their path to political power, so some of them try to jump on the conservative Republican bandwagon. If elected, they can confuse the public about what the Republican Party stands for. Conservatives and their libertarian allies must learn better how to cope with hollow Republicans.