Voters moved to the right in 2010? No, although the election moved rightward. In classic, midterm voter-turnout style, older, energized, more conservative whites flocked to the polls while the Democratic coalition, such as it was, stayed home to watch cable-news reports on just how devastating the election would be for Democrats. That was no electoral “move”; in its magnitude, just an embarrassment.
As for the GOP’s “rightward shift,” well, true and obvious enough, although the party is running out of room.
And that’s what makes Brooks’ final contention — “it is time to take Perry seriously as a Republican nominee and even as a potential president” — laughable. Not the “nominee” part, since that eventuality lies well within the GOP’s advancing dementia. But the presidential part? Here, even Brooks constructs a future escape hatch: “Potential — I wrote potential president.” Given a native-born status and physical age of 35, who the hell isn’t?
Thus the brightness from all this gloom. Rick Perry is hopelessly captive of a far, far-right narrative that is hopelessly out of sync with the mainstream electorate’s philosophical temperament. And in presidential elections, that electorate does tend to turn out, especially if it spies a hopelessly ideological madman or moron “potentially” at the helm.
I swear, I almost feel sorry for Mitt Romney, who reminds me of what early 19th-century pol John Randolph remarked of a colleague: “He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.” Romney’s shining, splendid abilities, it seems to me, are that he’s managed to retain — through a kind of awe-inspiring, opportunistic corruption — a relatively high ranking within the swirling stench of the rotting GOP. He’s merely flipping as monumental flopping requires. Sure it’s pathetic, but in its own, Darwinian way, rather admirable, too.
And from it all, as Brooks notes, “Romney might be able to beat back the Perry surge.” That I take seriously, because Romney is a man of bottomless resourcefulness and, like his opponent Perry, absolutely no scruples. But that “it’s time [for anyone but Romney] to take Perry seriously,” I take seriously not at all.