Here’s a post from W.W., on The Economist’s Democracy in America blog. You won’t get any argument from me, except over the author’s assumption that religions other than Mormonism are not equally “weird and made-up”:
Pundits keep talking about the “non-Romney” candidates, but what they really mean is the “non-Romney, non-Paul” candidates. Mr Paul, who clinched a close third-place finish Tuesday night, filled Iowa’s airwaves for months with ads aimed squarely at social conservatives, but he didn’t win anything close to Mr Santorum’s support from evangelicals or tea-party movement symps, despite the fact that Mr Santorum barely advertised at all. Why? Because Ron Paul is anti-war.
Mr Weigel, citing Sarah Posner, is spot on; the tea-party movement is “a new framework for the same conservatives who dominated the GOP a month before the Tea Party began.” Which is to say, the tea-party movement is just another expression of the American right’s signature brand of identity politics. It’s overriding concern is elevating the power and social status of those who hold dear a certain conception of American authenticity — white, evangelical, exceptionalist nationalism — and it does this, bizarrely, using the rhetoric of constitutionalism, limited government, and free markets.
Actual laissez-faire constitutionalists, such as Mr Paul, don’t stand a chance as long as they insist on leavening their exceptionalist rhetoric with the insistence that it is appropriate to evaluate American foreign policy by the same standards we use to judge others. Mr Romney’s desperate, almost lunatic jingoism keeps him in the running, but the suspicion that he is a squish on zygote murder and gay nuptials, in addition to his membership in a weird, made-up religion, keeps American-authenticity conservatives casting about for a better champion.
Mr Santorum may or may not have the talent necessary to obscure his brand of big-government, right-wing paternalism with tea-party rhetoric. But it’s certain he can’t obscure his Catholicism, which isn’t nearly as bad as Mormonism, but sure isn’t great. I reckon a combination of Mr Santorum’s popery and unusually explicit hostility to freedom will do him in. That’s why Rick Perry’s staying in the race, I think. American-authenticity conservatives don’t mind that much if their man can’t utter a non-mangled sentence, as long as he’s right with God, and it’s the right sentence.