The Possibly Not Coming Storm

Ross Douthat previews the next great conservative crack-up:

It's true that the current conservative intelligentsia, forged in the crucible of Ronald Reagan's successes, is heavily invested in keeping the triple alliance intact - hence the Thompson bubble, the anti-Huckabee crusade, and the "rally round Romney" effect. And it's true, as well, that if the Republican Party recovers its majority in the next election the alliance will be considerably strengthened. But such a recovery is unlikely, and already, in the wake of just a single midterm-election debacle, it's obvious that the Norquistians and neocons and social conservatives aren't inevitable allies - that many tax-cutters and foreign-policy hawks, for instance, would happily screw over their Christian-Right allies to nominate Rudy Giuliani; or that many social conservatives don't give a tinker's dam what the Club for Growth thinks about Mike Huckabee's record. (So too with the neocon yearning for a McCain-Lieberman ticket, which would arguably represent a far more radical remaking of the GOP coalition than anything Chuck Hagel has to offer.) The "movement" institutions, from the think tanks to talk radio, have resisted these fissiparous tendencies, and if Mitt Romney wins the nomination they'll be able to claim a temporary victory. But if the GOP continues to suffer at the polls, in '08 and beyond, the (right-of) center can't be expected to hold, and the result will be a struggle for power that's likely to leave the conservative movement changed, considerably, from the way that Tomasky finds it today.

To which I say: Maybe!

Seriously, I sometimes do think that'll happen. Alternatively, maybe Romney gets the nomination and Romney gets beaten pretty badly. Then maybe conservatives say he was done in by (a) flip-flopping, (b) anti-Mormon bias, (c) bad political headwinds and decide nothing really needs to be done. Then, the congressional GOP just realizes that the conservative movement is really more comfortable in a quasi-opposition role, sets about using the filibuster and the timidity of the remaining southern Democratic senators to make the country ungovernable, does well in the 2010 midterms, and everything just kind of keeps on keeping on. It could happen. One's natural desire, as an observer of the political scene, is for something dramatic and interesting to happen. And sometimes something dramatic and interesting does happen. And it really might happen. The signs are there. But then again, it might not.