Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but one effect Obama has had on the right is to galvanize its small government, balanced budget wing and cool off the Christianist boilerplate. I haven't noticed the tea-partiers going on and on about gays getting married for example, or cracking down on drugs. Yes, abortion remains an issue for some - but it is hardly front and center. And yes, there are the Dobbsian slights at illegal immigrants. But again, this is a minor theme. All of this, to my mind, could be healthy in the long run. Heaven knows what else would have pushed the GOP off its theocratic rails, but Obama's cultural conciliation has worked in a way. Economics is again the focus. And a small-government party that is not just an expression of cultural panic could conceivably wrestle its way out of the Bush legacy in time.

Of course, the right is a large coalition; and I'm not saying that the tea-partiers wouldn't accept any number of anti-gay moves if they won back power with the religious right. Many are anti-gay, but many who aren't accept the demonization of gays as the price to pay for political power in such a coalition. Nonetheless, to see the parties re-orient around the critical questions of the size and role of government is encouraging. More encouraging than distant wars in countries we occupy indefinitely and constitutional amendments to curtail civil equality.

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