Up Against the Wall, RINOs!

Like his older doppelganger Rush Limbaugh, conservative commissar Erick Erickson of RedState is by nature a bully. His whole shtick is to treat partisan opponents as virtual subhumans, and intraparty opponents as lunch. So it’s entirely in character for him to issue an ultimatum to the latter holding them strictly responsible for Mitt Romney’s candidacy, and threatening to drive them like curs from the ranks of the righteous if he loses:

There are a lot of elitist Republicans who have spent several years telling us Mitt Romney was the only electable Republican. Because the opinion makers and news media these elitists hang out with have concluded Romney will not win, the elitists are in full on panic mode. They conspired to shut out others, tear down others, and prop up Romney with the electability argument. He is now not winning against the second coming of Jimmy Carter. They know there will be many conservatives, should Mitt Romney lose, who will not be satisfied until every bridge is burned with these jerks, hopefully with the elitist jerks tied to the bridge as it burns.

So they are in a panic. They are now throwing Romney under the bus to spare themselves. They are now doing the, “It’s not us, it’s him” routine. For years these people have gotten by knowing that they could hold the base of the GOP in contempt while holding on to their precious positions of “thought leaders” within the conservative movement and have no consequence should things go awry.

Not now. They invested too much in Mitt Romney and now they are running scared. They seem to think that if they cry and scream loud enough and point fingers at Mitt Romney, they’ll again be protected from any sort of blame. They think the conservative movement will give them a pass just as the movement did with No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, Harriet Miers, TARP, etc.

Note that this tale of betrayal goes deep into the Bush administration, which is interesting if you remember that W. was the united, universal, unanimous candidate of the conservative movement in 2000.

The staggering irony is that those of us who did not want Romney are now the ones defending him to the hilt while the elitist jerks are distancing themselves from Romney as quickly as possible — both upset at what their media friends tell them is to come and upset that Mitt Romney might not actually listen to their sweet whispers as much as they originally presumed.

This isn’t strictly accurate, since it’s not the “elitist” RINOs who are bitching 24/7 about the muzzling of Paul Ryan and the refusal of Romney to run a vicious campaign identifying Barack Obama as an un-American baby-killing Christ-hater who wants to turn the country into a replica of the Soviet Union.

But that’s probably beside the point to people like Erickson. All “his” presidential candidates were remorselessly destroyed by Romney and mocked by the “elitists” promoting Mitt. They own this candidacy, and their conservative activist opponents are already positioning themselves to call in the mortgage on Mitt’s many promises to them if he wins and disclaim responsibility for the whole mess if he loses. So nobody should have a single illusion that Romney will have a “honeymoon” with his own party base if he’s elected, or that Republicans will “move to the center” if Obama is re-elected.

It’s the scenario of a Romney win that is the most theoretically intriguing (if concretely alarming). Unlike John McCain, Romney has almost no independent political capital or personal following (with the sole exception of LDS members). He has long since alienated Democrats beyond any hope of repair. As president, he would be totally dependent on a party base and conservative commentariat that are deeply mistrustful of his intentions. They would spend the transition to a Romney administration securing as many blood pledges as possible, and demanding the heads of the very people Erickson is attacking in this post. To put it another way, it really doesn’t matter what happens on November 7: the purge-and-litmus-test-enforced domination of the GOP by a radicalized conservative movement will continue apace.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.