Republicans have fallen prey to one of the favorite tactics of just the sort of heedless, improvident, twenty-first century capitalism they revere. Their party has been outsourced.
For decades, Republicans have recruited outside groups and individuals to amplify their party’s message and its influence.Baker frames this "outsourcing" as a strategic choice by the Republican Party, but one that has caused it to lose control of its message. And if the focus is solely on using conservative media (Fox News, Limbaugh, etc.) to echo or even generate its messages, then yes, this is a disproportionately Republican phenomenon. But outsourcing vital party tasks goes well beyond having news outlets echo talking points. Both parties have seen outsiders take over the key roles of fundraising, staffing campaigns, generating media strategies, and organizing volunteers over the past half century.
The recently departed James Q. Wilson noted the rise of the "amateur Democrat" back in the late 50s and early 60s. These liberal activists were taking over the party roles that had previously been filled by patronage workers in the old party machines, until a series of court cases and law enforcement crackdowns made it impossible for mayors and governors to keep all those party people employed on the public's dime. And it's not like the only people generating Democratic legislative and public opinion strategies are directly employed by the Democratic Party. A broad coalition of liberal interest groups famously worked together to craft a strategy to defeat the Bork nomination in 1987. Conservative interest groups helped defeat health care reform in 1994, and their liberal counterparts helped make another version law in 2010.
And as for fundraising, please read Karen Crummy's recent analysis of 527 and Super PAC spending in the Denver Post. Crummy finds that in the 2010 election cycle in Colorado, Democratic-leaning groups outspent Republican-leaning groups by a margin of 150 to 1. This helped Democrats retain control of the state senate and a U.S. Senate seat in an otherwise strongly Republican year. The people running this Democratic effort are mostly the same ones who organized in 2004 to get around campaign finance restrictions that hampered the formal parties but not the outside interest groups.
Now, one may legitimately quibble with the whole concept of party outsourcing here. Arguably, interest groups and prominent private citizens have always been key components of the major political parties. This is a key point that I and my co-authors (Kathy Bawn, Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller) argue in "A Theory of Political Parties." But to the extent that there has been a change in recent decades, it's really affected both parties.