Michael Gerson, a center right editorialist on the Washington Post, pointed out yesterday that it is something of a miracle that the candidate who is decisively winning the Republican nomination is the relatively moderate candidate rather than one of the extremists.
This is the Republican Party that has become the most conservative I have seen it in my lifetime. They have been completely uncooperative and obstructionist when dealing with Obama and the Democrats over the last three years. They give every indication that they would look at both Bushes and even Reagan as too moderate to suit them. The Republicans in congress have been fanatically right wing with no give or compromise to them at all.
Beyond Washington, the conservative commentariat are loudly and passionately extreme. Rush Limbaugh rails against the liberal media for promoting the non-conservative candidacies of Romney and Huntsman. Who knows what extremes Glenn Beck is spouting? but one certainly imagines that he has no regard for RINOs like Romney.
So, what is going on? I think the Tea Party's moment has come and gone. I think that the Republican primary voters are revealing that they are not as extreme as they are portrayed to be. Certainly, the loud ones are on the extreme in the Republican Party, same as the loud ones are on the other extreme in the Democratic Party. But, to borrow an old phrase, it may well be that there is a "silent majority" in the Republican Party that is tired of the extremist polarization and paralysis wrought by the Tea Party, the Social Conservatives, and those in the Republican Party that see demonization of liberals as some kind of morally justifiable strategy.
I think that another symbol of this shift from extremism to moderation is the fate of the inventor of demonization by the Republicans as a way to take over the government from the Democrats - Newt Gingrich. The nastiness that Newt pioneered when he led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994 has come back to bite him. Demonization became the acceptable strategy. But, of course, it became acceptable on both sides of the isle as a result, and our politics have become so polarized that it is sometimes painful even to witness. In a lovely bit of irony, Newt himself was hoist on his own petard, as PACs supporting Romney demonized Newt and knocked him off the lead in Iowa. It looks like Newt is done, but he is nasty and vindictive enough that he is going to continue to campaign, and I presume he will be ever escalating his venomous attacks on Romney out of revenge.
I still wish that the overt moderate, Huntsman, could win the nomination, and he is apparently going to continue his campaign. I like that, just in case the vengeful Newt and the hard core conservatives manage to destroy Romney, Huntsman would still be alive to receive the moderate and independent Republican votes.
But I really want to celebrate that the leader of the presidential candidates for the Republicans is relatively moderate, not a hard core conservative.