A Movement Without a Leader Is Just a Bunch of Bystanders

A post on Outside The Beltway speculates that conservatives have become a minority in the Republican party:

So, we have two countervailing trends:

— Conservatives prefer Romney over McCain, hands down

— McCain is winning Republican primaries against Romney

This, incidentally, despite Romney having outspent McCain by ridiculous margins in television advertising.

What is one to conclude from this?

Perhaps “conservatives” are now a minority, even among Republican primary voters? If so, given that there are virtually no conservatives remaining in the Democratic Party these days and that voters who aren’t aligned with either party are almost by definition non-ideological, that would mean that conservatives are a small minority, indeed, among the American electorate.

Alternatively, perhaps the definition of “conservative” has become so narrow and esoteric that it’s become virtually meaningless?

I think a third alternative is that conservatives see no candidate to rally around and are therefore a) sitting out the primaries, or b) flipping a coin to decide among McCain, Romney, and Huckabee, who are all conservatives of a kind, but nothing you want to write home about. But to use these primaries as evidence of the vanishing conservative is jumping to conclusions. Conservatives are still there; they just don’t have much of a reason to get out of bed lately. It’s like throwing a bunch soccer balls out on a field and then, when the kids use them for soccer instead of football, declaring that nobody wants to play football anymore.

People who are ideologically motivated like conservatives need an inspirational leader, a banner carrier. It’s hard to get fired up for the guy who wants to expand the welfare state slightly less fast than the other guy.

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