09 January 2012

The Stop-Romney Movement: personality, principle, pragmatism, and the lack thereof

I seem to have misdated the upcoming conclave of social conservatives in Texas, which will take place this coming weekend, but you can hardly blame me. It would have made sense for these people to come together behind a candidate on the weekend before the New Hampshire primary, but according to this Washington Times piece the sorting out might not take place until the end of the month, which might well be too late. The problem seems to be that supporters of the three most likely coalition candidates -- Gingrich, Perry and Santorum -- still want to try their strength in the South Carolina and Florida primaries, and want to defer negotiations until they can bargain from positions of presumably greater strength. Of course, if Romney wins these states, no one will be in a position of strength, compared to where any stand now. The "bain" of the movement could by then have unstoppable momentum. It would seem, then, that personal ambitions and personal animosities have compromised the solidarity of the social-conservative anti-Romney movement if none of the three papabili is willing to step aside now. Perry and Santorum are no less ego-driven, from this perspective, than the reputed egomaniac Gingrich. Nor are their backers' calculations grounded entirely on ideological urgency. Santorum would seem the most satisfactory to evangelicals in many respects, but the Times article notes some skepticism of his ability to raise money at the same time that a Las Vegas mogul has just donated $5,000,000 to a pro-Gingrich "Super-PAC." But if the evangelicals and social-conservatives got behind Santorum and said he was the only alternative to Romney, wouldn't a lot of the money going elsewhere not have to go his way? Are there social-conservative Republicans and donors who hate Santorum for some reason, the way so many seem to hate Gingrich? It's more likely that the selfish ambitions of his rivals are keeping the money from the Pennsylvanian -- which isn't to say that Santorum's own ambitions aren't selfish. But selfish ambitions are all the movement is stuck with so long as the grass roots play the consumer role, allowing different advertisers to pitch candidates to them, instead of generating a candidate from their own ranks. If the movement doesn't want Romney, but ends up stuck with him, it has only its own passive dependence on the Republican party to blame. Social and religious conservatives may imagine that they control the GOP, but it seems almost certain that they'll once again be proved wrong.

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