David Horsey wrote recently that Mitt Romney was the only adult in the GOP Kindergarten Race. He's probably right. However, will it matter?
Since the Republican Party was taken over by the Conservative Movement in 1964, they have a different criteria for a leader than simply the ability to win an election. You have to be a devout conservative, dedicated to their three pillars of military might, a free market economy (which includes dismantling the welfare state) and forced morality, mainly on the issues of homosexuality and abortion.
The surges have come and gone in this race, with Herman Cain now tanking, and Newt Gingrich picking up what Herman Cain and Rick Perry have lost. This despite the fact that a recent poll suggested that Romney could beat Obama.
I just finished reading Rick Perlstein's, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. He goes into great detail how the conservative movement, which actually began in the 1940s, was rejuvenated with the help of William Buckley Jr. and the conservative youth, who secured Goldwater's nomination.
The Republican Party at the time, was gravely concerned with this force, because the ideals it represented were not party policy. Moderates, who had rallied around Nelson Rockefeller, saw their hopes dashed when he became embroiled in a scandal, leaving his wife for a younger woman.
So with Eisenhower leading the way, they encouraged other moderates to step up, including ironically, George Romney, Mitt's father. Of course we know what happened. Goldwater won the nomination, but was trounced by LBJ.
However, this was not seen as a loss by the movement, but in a crazy way, as a victory. They now had a catalyst. Something that would help to establish an "us vs them" political argument.
Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), a member of the New York Intellectuals, wrote of the reactionary nature of the new conservatism:
Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.I quoted Trilling because he is one of the scholars hated by the New Right. Not that he was a "leftie", believing instead that "between" was "the only honest place to be."
A comment made by Buckley in 1964, validates the idea of the creation of a reactionary force, rather than a political party.
Buckley had had a conversation with Richard Clurman, Time's chief of correspondents, who wondered just what was Barry Goldwater's appeal to an urban scholar like Buckley, to which he replied: "Barry Goldwater is a man of tremendously decent instincts, and with a basic banal but important understanding of the Constitution and what it means in American life."
"But what would happen if he were elected President of the United States'?" Clurman asked, to which Buckley responded: "That might be a serious problem."
The Conservative Movement was building a base, and they needed the Goldwaters of the nation to do it for them. Someone who could reach into the banality of the masses.
I've visited several right-wing websites in the past few days, to get some idea of how the "banal" forces feel about the candidates, and there appears to be a common concern. The East, as represented by Romney, is trying to take over the Republican Party. They didn't care if he could win, only that he is deemed to not be a "true" conservative.
It reminded me of those Pace picante sauce commercials, with the "New York City??!!" line. Very effective marketing. Change the sauce to the GOP race, and those ads could be revived. Romney is not from New York, but it doesn't change anything.
This is not a race for a Republican leader, but for a Conservative leader.
And if someone like Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann won, well ... "that might be a serious problem" for all of us. They are now debating, not whether there should be an attack (even a nuclear one) on Iran, but who should strike first, the united States or Israel.
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr.