Ross Douthat on Chris Christie’s taking a pass on the 2012 race:
From Jeb Bush to Haley Barbour, Jon Thune to (especially) Mitch Daniels, we’ve watched the party’s leading lights and most experienced national figures repeatedly pass the buck, all of them hoping that somebody else would step forward to supply a credible alternative to Mitt Romney. Individually, their choices were understandable; collectively, they have represented a significant institutional failure — even a generational failure, you might say, which left conservatives scrambling to promote the next generation (Christie, Paul Ryan) ahead of schedule.
Yes, but Daniel Larison is surely correct when he adds:
More to the point, why are establishment figures going to go to great lengths to provide a credible alternative to Romney when they already have Romney? Romney embodies the Bush-era party consensus, and he has eagerly adapted himself to the party’s current mood (as he always does). The real institutional failure is that many party and movement leaders created Mitt Romney as a plausible presidential candidate four years ago, and now they find that they have to pay the price for that. Unfortunately, the rest of us have to pay the the price, too.
What Daniel is getting at is that the failure here is not in the GOP leadership class, per se, but in the GOP, period. Few people in the Republican Party like Mitt Romney, but they are reacting to his bloodless corporate style, not substance. Broadly speaking, the Republican Party has not moved far at all from the Bush era; the fact that Rick Perry, who out-Bushes Bush, was briefly seen as the savior of the GOP by the grassroots tells you a lot about where the party is.
After the 2008 defeat, and the ruins of the Bush Administration, I, like many people, was completely confident that there would be a Great Rethinking on the Right, even within the GOP. We were wrong. The GOP simply doubled down, more or less, on the policies that failed before, and have counted on opposition to Obama to carry them. It is, to me, wholly dispiriting. Conservatives need to be cultivating fresh, innovative thinkers who can re-interpret conservative first principles for policymaking and governance in the world we actually live in. I share the broad distaste most Republicans have for Romney, but if he were elected, I would find his no-drama persona to be comforting. It’s his policies I don’t care for — but given where the GOP is today, those policies would be pursued by any nominee. If the conservative party lacks a deep bench of promising leaders, the fault belongs first to its un-visionary leadership class (both in the party and in the think tanks and activist groups), but also with GOP voters, who think it’s adequate, even salutary, to keep doing what we did in the past, but hoping that it works this time.