The only certainty in this year’s GOP nomination battle has been uncertainty (that, and “Whoa nelly, has this been a ride or what?”) Republican primary voters have hopped from Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich and now seem to be settling into a confused Gingrich/Romney/Paul split. Part of this is because the entire race, so far, has been a farce (though Paul’s recent ascendency leaves one to hope it’s not entirely a farce), but I think another part is the increasing heated and intense Republican litmus test being applied by those within the “conservative movement.”
I’ve noted here previously that “We’re All RINOs Now,” citing Dan Drezner and David Frum. As I wrote there, using Drezner’s language, the Republican Party has turned into a “cargo cult,” moving farther to the right on several points, especially on LGBT issues, and I think it’s beginning to place itself outside of the “Overton Window,” the selection of policies considered politically acceptable by the public. Gay bashing, abortion banning, and putting a greater emphasis on religious morals in government may appeal to a segment of the conservative movement, but compared to the general populace, that is gradually disappearing.
This narrative is quite popular among the left, who want to paint the Republican Party as more and more radical and opposed to the general beliefs of the American population, but as I pointed out, a lot of people you would consider conservative feel the same way. One explanation is to place the blame at the feet of talk show pundits like Hannity, Limbaugh, and O’Reilly. I think, however, there is a much better explanation to be had.