Several columns look at the current circus like state of the GOP presidential contest in the wake of Herman Cain's suspension of his campaign. A campaign that in saner days in the GOP would never have been launched in the first place. The Republican problem with finding an electable nominee boils down to the fact that past party leaders were only too willing to sell out to the Christinaist/Tea Party extremists in the hope of short term gains. No thought was apparently ever given to what would happen once the inmates were in control of the insane asylum that is now the GOP. Personally, I find no sympathy for the few moderates left who were in many cases were only too happy to close their eyes and hold their noses and let unfit individuals gain control of the party apparatus. Paul Krugman has a good piece in the New York Times on this prostitution of principle and its aftermath. Here are some highlights:
There are two crucial things you need to understand about the current state of American politics. First, given the still dire economic situation, 2012 should be a year of Republican triumph. Second, the G.O.P. may nonetheless snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — because Herman Cain was not an accident.
Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).
And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.
So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless. Mitt Romney embodies the first option. . . . . Mr. Romney’s strategy, in short, is to pretend that he shares the ignorance and misconceptions of the Republican base. He isn’t a stupid man — but he seems to play one on TV.
Unfortunately from his point of view, however, his acting skills leave something to be desired, and his insincerity shines through. So the base still hungers for someone who really, truly believes what every candidate for the party’s nomination must pretend to believe. Yet as I said, the only way to actually believe the modern G.O.P. catechism is to be completely clueless.
And that’s why the Republican primary has taken the form it has, in which a candidate nobody likes and nobody trusts has faced a series of clueless challengers, each of whom has briefly soared before imploding under the pressure of his or her own cluelessness.
Many observers seem surprised that Mr. Gingrich’s, well, colorful personal history isn’t causing him more problems, but they shouldn’t be. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, conservatives often seem inclined to accept that tribute, voting for candidates who publicly espouse conservative moral principles whatever their personal behavior. Did I mention that David Vitter is still in the Senate?
The larger point, however, is that whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate. And these flaws won’t be an accident, the result of bad luck regarding who chose to make a run this time around; the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.
[T]he realities of government in the 21st century bear no resemblance to the mythology all ambitious Republican politicians must pretend to believe. And what will happen then?