A February 9 Washington Times article about the search for a new Leader of the True Right-Wing Faith includes this remarkable assertion:
The conservative movement has been without a leader since Mr. Reagan
Without a leader? Wow. I'm reminded of the old Soviet Union -- in the textbooks it appears that George W. Bush (and Newt Gingrich before him) have been airbrushed from all the photos of past True Conservative party conferences. Any evidence that W and Newt were ever movement leaders has been expunged from the official record.
To be fair, I should give you the whole sentence:
The conservative movement has been without a leader since Mr. Reagan, and has faced competition from conservatism usually preceded by such adjectives as "big-government," "compassionate" and "neo."
Oh. So now "neoconservatism" is some weird offshoot of "conservatism." Funny how no one on the right was desperate to distinguish neoconservatism from conservatism back when, say, Bush was landing that plane on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln in '03. In fact, just using the word "neoconservative" to refer to ideas all True Conservatives embraced meant you were trying to smear the True Faith in an anti-Semitic way.
And I know my memory contradicts what the Ministry of Truth is telling me, but was there any "compassionate conservatism" after No Child Left Behind passed (a transparent attempt, it seems now, to lull potential opponents into somnolence so Bush could get his tax cuts passed) and after the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives passed into irrelevance with the departure of John DiIulio? Back then, it didn't seem to matter because 9/11 had Changed Everything and the "compassionate conservative" leader had become the "neoconservative" leader -- except it was all considered "conservative," before it dropped to 30% approval in the polls.
Regarding "big-government" conservatism, I won't even bring up the size of Reagan's deficits.
Steve Benen cited this article because it tells us about a gathering of prominent right-wing activists who seek a new True Faith leader -- and it appears that that leader may be Mitt Romney. No, I'm serious -- the shape-shifter wants to head the Orthodox branch of the faith.
As Steve notes, Romney's trying to do what Ronald Reagan did after he failed to wrest the GOP presidential nomination from Gerald Ford in 1976: He's setting himself up for a run four years from now, as the True Conservative.
Talk about "the second time as farce." I say that for three reasons:
(1) Romney is still a Mormon. The population that finds that unacceptable is a large subset of precisely the population he's trying to appeal to.
(2) Reagan changed a lot of his political positions over the course of his career, just like Romney, but after he'd done so, voters heard him talk about his new positions and actually believed he was sincere. Only desperate conservatives think Romney is sincere.
(3) Many people found Reagan likable. Nobody actually likes Romney.
One more point I want to make here. There have been approximately nine thousand articles and blog posts in the past couple of weeks decrying the alleged belief on the part of some Obama supporters that Obama is the Messiah. I just want to remind everyone that the Republicans are fighting among themselves right now precisely because this year they couldn't find a Messiah, or at least a candidate seemingly touched by the hand of the Almighty. The worst rhetorical excesses on the part of Obama's most zealous supporters are something like the median right-wing belief regarding Bush at the height of his popularity, and regarding Reagan to this day. Remember General William Boykin?
"Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him. He's in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this."
Hard to imagine a Mormon inheriting this mantle.
UPDATE: TS at Instaputz has a related thought.