As a religious conservative whose politics are heavily informed by his religious beliefs, it gives me no pleasure to read this, but I think Tom Edsall is stating what has become obvious. He begins by recalling the late Paul Weyrich’s post-Lewinsky call for Christian conservatives reverse course:

In the face of this onslaught of moral corruption, Weyrich counseled withdrawal from society at large. A “legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture,” he wrote. “We need to drop out of this culture, and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives.”

What would Weyrich, who died in 2008, make of the fact that Newt Gingrich — who was himself having an adulterous affair during the Clinton impeachment proceedings (one of several conducted by the former speaker,according to his own testimony and a number of lengthy journalistic investigations, including this one and that one) — won the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary with a plurality of voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians?

 More:

Gingrich is the first conservative presidential candidate to campaign on a package of traditional values from which he is exempting issues relating to personal sexual behavior. And there are reasons why this strategy worked on Jan. 21: The moral vision of the religious right is collapsing everywhere, including within its own ranks.

There are fewer and fewer “traditional” families in the United States; the number of secular voters is growing at a faster rate than the number of those who are religiously observant; women’s rights and homosexual rights have become  broadly accepted; births outside of marriage are now routine  among whites, Hispanics and African Americans.

The money graf:

Gingrich’s strength as the tribune of conservative rage at liberal elites trumped his long history of personal failings. He violated the very family values and the sanctity of marriage that social conservatives profess to believe in, but it was much more important that Gingrich was the enemy of their enemy.

Intellectually and morally empty, this. Depressing.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin’s advice this weekend: “Vote for Newt. Annoy a liberal.”  Just like Edsall said, it’s much more important that Gingrich is the enemy of their enemy. Right there you have the mindlessness of a certain kind of conservative, making determinations not based on one’s record, one’s character, or even one’s electability, but rather based on who is most likely to tick off their opponents.