FIRST STEP: ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM…. For a while, there was a question as to which party deserved the label of “party of ideas.” The debate, such as it was, is obviously over. Republicans lost.

It’s certainly not the only reason the GOP has suffered badly at the ballot box of late — the wholesale failure of Bush’s presidency may have had something to do with it — but the inability to craft a policy agenda has no doubt contributed to the Republicans’ inability to dig themselves out of their ditch.

An interesting observer wrote a memo this week arguing that the Republican Party has grown “stale,” “does not deserve” the party-of-ideas label, has grown too quick to “fall back on ideology alone,” and has lost the “American people’s trust.” As it turns out, the observer is Republican National Committee Chairman Robert “Mike” Duncan. Greg Sargent reports:

In a frank and private memo sent today to Republican National Committee members, the RNC chairman acknowledges that the GOP has grown too addicted to ideology, places politics before policy, and is bereft of ideas — and that it’s imperative that the party shift towards a genuine effort to develop concrete policy solutions to people’s problems in order to rescue itself.

The memo, which we obtained from a Republican operative. was written by RNC chief Mike Duncan to explain the RNC’s decision — first reported by Politico — to create a new in-house think tank called the “Center for Republican Renewal,” which is devoted to coming up with new policies and ideas to chart a new direction for the party after November’s devastating losses. […]

The assessment by Duncan, who’s running for re-election as RNC chair, is a more straightforward acknowledgment of the party’s deeply-rooted problems than we’ve heard from many of his opponents in the race.

Quite right. As we talked about the other day, Duncan is at least prepared to admit his party has a problem.

But what is less clear is whether Duncan realizes that the conservative ideology limits the party’s ability to be constructive, or even coherent, on most of the major policy disputes that matter.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.