I have a theory. NR’s endorsement of Mitt Romney made the apt observation: “Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything — all the traits, all the positions — we are looking for.”
That necessarily means someone who lacks some of what we regard as the total package of ideals is going to get nominated. Each partisan backing a candidate has to argue that his guy’s strengths outweigh the absence of the missing ideals. This doesn’t mean those ideals are unimportant, but the argument that they are subordinate naturally offends members of our movement for whom those particular ideals are paramount. They naturally lash out in turn, and often with a vengeance. It’s not enough in this race to defend one’s paramount ideals; it becomes a matter of questioning the conservative credentials of someone who subordinates those ideals. Friends end up having at each other in a way that, I suspect, wouldn’t happen in a race in which there were one or two candidates who hit all the right notes.
From where I sit, I think the evangelicals are being overly sensitive. But at the same time, I’ve felt that a lot of the slights at my guy, Rudy, have had a nasty edge. Was I being overly sensitive? Maybe. But if I was, I think it’s because I don’t like feeling like I need to defend myself in addition to defending my candidate.
In my saner moments, I know it’s not personal. But for keeping the coalition we are eventually going to need to win, I worry that the dynamic of this nomination cycle is destructive. I am not a “can’t we all just get along” whiner — this is a process and we have to get through it. I just hope we can do it without too much damage.