National Review editorializes against Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback getting into the race for the Republicans’ ’08 presidential nod: “He could fracture the conservative base and contribute to the success of a ‘half-scale’ Republican.” Apparently, conservatives of all stripes are meant to shut up and rally around Mitt Romney — Romney, who only discovered that he was “pro-life” about the time he decided to seek the GOP nomination and whose devotion to free-market principles can be gauged by, among other things, his health-care plan for Massachusetts: “The state would work harder to enroll all residents eligible for Medicaid; employers, most of whom already offer insurance, would be encouraged to continue doing so voluntarily; and individuals who don’t have insurance would have to sign on to one of two new insurance pools, one of which would be subsidized for lower-income residents.” (That’s USA Today‘s description, which alos notes that “Failing to sign up [for the mandatory insurance scheme] could lead to a loss of a personal tax exemption or garnishment of wages.”
Brownback is not a whole lot better than Romney — on foreign policy, he may be worse, since the Kansan is eager for the U.S. to manage Africa’s affairs as well as the Middle East’s. But you’d think that social conservatives would demand that at least one contender in 2008 be reliably in their corner. (Brownback himself wasn’t always anti-abortion, but his turnabout is long-established now.) The thin gruel — for conservatives that is — of the GOP’s 2008 line-up so far is a pretty good indication of just what movement conservatives have won after decades of activism and eight years of Bush. As NR would have it, they’ve won themselves a choice between Giuliani, McCain, and Romney. And maybe Newt Gingrich, the man who wants to colonize Mars and amend the First Amendment and whose ethics make Bill Clinton look like George Washington.
All this ought to create an opening for a third-party candidate, but it won’t, and not just because the bugaboo of Hillary Clinton will keep most disgruntled conservatives in line. More fundamentally, conservatives have long since tied themselves so closely to the GOP and partisan politics that they’ll take whatever they get, and NR will be there to tell them they should like it.