Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich made high-profile appearances at last week's southern conservative conference, offering somewhat conflicting ideas of the Republican agenda. The spectators in New Orleans apparently bought neither argument. In the latest presidential preference straw poll, they preferred the ambiguous Mitt Romney (of Massachusetts "Romneycare" fame) by one vote over the persistent outrider, Ron Paul. Romney did not speak to the gathering. Gingrich ("Party of Yes," if you'll recall) and Palin ("Party of No") were tied for show at 18% apiece. No one was close to a majority, of course, but that's to be expected at this stage of the process. Supporters of politicians other than Romney and Paul have accused those men's acolytes of packing the conference, but it may speak to a weakness in the Gingrich and Palin camps that they were unable to pack the gathering with their own adherents. In any event, the monolithic negativity the GOP and movement conservatives present in opposition to the Democrats conceals the reality of a party that doesn't yet have an idea, as Gingrich seemed to realize, of what it wants to stand for. The real problem facing Republicans in the months and years to come may not be that they're seen as a "Party of No," but that they'll prove themselves to be a "Party of Nothing."
Note: Paul deserves extra credit for daring to say the obvious to the obtuse: the President is not a socialist. In the congressman's opinion Obama is a "corporatist," a label with which many on the left might agree.