Douthat discounts Palin:
It is extremely unlikely that the political landscape in the winter and spring of 2012 will resemble the political landscape in the autumn of 2010. Even setting aside the unpredictability of economic developments, foreign-policy crises, and everything else that could shift the ground beneath our feet, the reality of having a more empowered Republican Party in Washington and a weaker President Obama in the White House will almost certainly work profound changes on the country’s mood and yes, in the mood of the Republican base as well. (It’s hard to be quite so fired up and furious about socialism when Washington is mired in gridlock, and it’s hard to be quite so outraged at RINO perfidy when you’ve kicked a lot of the RINOs out of office.)
The temper of conservative politics in the fall of 1994, the off-year election cycle that most resembles this one (it was a year, as Rich Lowry notes, when a former homeless man defeated the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee), bore little resemblance to the temper of conservative politics in 1996, when Bob Dole cruised to the Republican nomination over more base-pleasing candidates like Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm.
Ross may be right, but I think he ignores just how much more radical the GOP base has become since 1994, how enraged they have become over the years by what they see as condescension and betrayal by their own elites, and the rise of Fox News and the Malkin/Reynolds blogosphere and Levin-style talk radio. I also think that the people to whom Palin appeals will be as economically distressed in 2012 as they are now, since their jobs are overwhelmingly the ones that are gone for ever.
Ross has fed and ridden this tiger for a while now. He cannot pretend it's a pussycat any more.
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