The Fantastic Four of the Republican race

This morning, Rick Perry — whose most recent contribution to the common weal was to declare that Turkey is run by ‘Islamic terrorists’ — announced that he is abandoning his singularly incompetent run for the presidency just days before the South Carolina primary he hoped would restore him and is endorsing Newt Gingrich.  I wrote early on about how Perry positioned himself as a sectarian leader with the big prayer event that launched his candidacy and argued this was, at best, a regional strategy rather than a national one; as it turns out, that was his peak moment and almost everything got worse from there.  Now, with Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann long gone, the Republican race is down to four.  Amazingly, this does little to bridge the factional divide within the Republican party that I wrote about previously: Mitt Romney remains the establishment choice, Ron Paul the darling of the paranoid liberty wing, and Gingrich and Rick Santorum are fighting over the social conservatives.

That those last two are the social conservatives in the race — Catholics both, competing for mostly Protestant votes — is incredible and reflects the shallowness of the moral standard applied to any candidate professing faith: Gingrich is a serial philanderer (and, we learned today, asked his ex-wife for an ‘open marriage’ in order to continue his affair with his current wife), shameless converter of political connections into personal lucre, a man of no apparent fixed political principles whatsoever, and the most flawed human being to run for president since Richard Nixon; Santorum, for his part, holds a range of reactionary views on social issues that he apparently does not apply to his wife, whose previous relationship was with an abortion provider forty years her senior, and on all other issues operates a pay-to-play system showering campaign donors with government largesse that makes a mockery of any small-government conservative philosophy.  Is it any wonder that when social conservatives gathered recently in Texas to unify their movement behind a single candidate, they couldn’t do it?

So, here is a question for my Republican friends.  Look at these four: do you want any of them to become the leader of the free world?  I know you hate Obama and believe America is on the path to socialism, but really?

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And since I am asking questions, here is another.  For nearly half a century, Republicans have campaigned on resentment of intellectual and cultural elites; why, then, do you fall for the woolly-headed pseudo-intellectualism of people like Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck, with his chalkboards and idiotic history lessons?  Didn’t you once like to call yourselves ‘the party of ideas’?  What happened?

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