The Republican party rode the wave of right wing anger the last two years to take over the House of Representatives. But they could over-read their mandate and put forward extremist candidates for the 2012 presidential election. Gingrich is unelectable because he is perceived to be a radical, egotistical loose canon whose main goal is destruction, not construction. And Huckabee is a likable, charming opportunist who actually seemed to think that Obama was raised in Kenya, or he pretends to give such nonsense credibility.
George Will made the point recently that the right wing extremists who flood the media with strange anti-Obama paranoia are killing the Republican party simply by asking candidates like Huckabee conspiracy loaded questions that the candidates treat as if they were representing legitimate points of views. To the question of whether Obama is an American citizen, or has a Kenyan anti-American view of colonialism, the correct answers are to be totally dismissive and scornful. But, to candidates running for the Republican nomination, it must seem to them that they need to agree with the premises of such nonsense and score points with such deranged paranoia in order to get the nomination.
Conservatives represent an intellectual argument against the perceived elitism and collectivism of East coast liberalism, which aims America ever more toward the social democracies of Europe. But, the Tea Party movement is an emotional cultural reaction against the culture of liberalism, and over-reads its intent as an attempt by Obama and liberals to radically transform America into not just Europe, but Soviet or Maoist communist tyrannies that micromanage all aspects of people's lives, including, for God's sake, what they eat! Thus the angry opposition to Michelle Obama's attempts to improve the diets of our children in schools.
The fundamental value of conservatism is liberty, and the emotional statement of that core is "don't tread on me" or more simply, "stay the hell out of my life."
Michelle and liberals, of course, are simply trying to solve America's terrible obesity problem. And, of course, their approach is to use government to solve the problem. Liberals believe in government and turn to it reflexively for any societal problems they see. Conservatives believe in individualism and reflexively distrust an ever more powerful government trying to micromanage ever more aspects of their lives.
It is an oddity, to my mind, that liberals are convinced that we can't force democracy on the Middle East by invading Iraq, but they seem to think they can force healthy eating on Americans by government mandating of food choices in cafeterias. Whereas, conservatives think that overthrowing Saddam and setting up elections in Iraq will kick start a democratic movement in the Middle East, but fight the notion of the U.S. government mandating diet in schools as a way to change people's beliefs and attitudes about healthy eating.
Back to Will's point, the Republican Party will eventually nominate a sensible, center-right candidate to run against Obama in 2012, or they will go down in flames in the same historical proportions that the left wing George McGovern did '72 when the Democratic Party over-read the country's anti-Nixon sentiment at that time.