AMES, Iowa -- As far as the substance of politics goes -- the issues we will debate in 2012, as opposed to the horserace -- the money shot of this week in Iowa didn't come with the Ames Straw Poll, but appeared last Thursday night. Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked the eight candidates on the stage of the Fox debate whether they would oppose a budget deal that contained 10 dollars of spending cuts for every dollar of revenue increases.
All eight hands shot up.
The moment was indicative of what is happening in the GOP today, and the results of the Ames Straw Poll only confirm the point.
And here it is: Based on what we heard here in the debate and on the straw poll stage, the GOP has committed itself to a New Ten Commandments for party members and their candidates.
With the exception of Ron Paul's radical pacifism and laissez faire attitude on regulation of drugs, and except for Jon Huntsman's semi-support of civil unions, there is very little if any philosophical or programmatic difference among the candidates on most issues. Indeed, there has never been a time in the modern history of the GOP when the presidential contenders differed so little on the issues.
They seem to believe -- or at least dare not say that they DON'T believe -- in a new Ten Commandments. Ironically, there is plenty of "Big Government" on their stone tablets, at least in the form of proposed new constitutional amendments that would override the freedom of the states to set their own rules on social behavior. "States rights" is no longer necessarily a high priority in every or even most respects.
Instead, the contenders are adhering to the following guidelines:
- Thou Shalt Not Raise ANY Taxes
- Thou Shalt Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Make Abortion Illegal
- Thou Shalt Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Define Marriage as the Union of a Man and a Woman
- Thou Shalt Repeal "ObamaCare," AKA the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
- Thou Shalt Repeal The Dodd-Frank Banking Regulation Act
- Thou Shalt Pass a Constitutional Amendment to Balance the Federal Budget
- Thou Shalt Only Give Military Support to "Our Friends"
- Thou Shalt Limit the Power of -- If Not Entirely Abolish -- the EPA
- Thou Shalt Drill, Mine and Frak to the Widest Extent Possible
- Thou Shalt Take the Name of President Obama in Vain
Do most Republicans believe in these New Ten Commandments? Maybe not a majority, and maybe not even a majority in Iowa. But there is little doubt that almost all of the people who voted in the straw poll -- and most of the activist core of the GOP today -- believe in the list.
The fact that there is little or no debate over any of these issues in the presidential campaign means two things: The primary season is going to be mostly a personality and look-at-my-record race, full of references to titanium spines and jobs created. And, once the GOP victor gets the nomination, he or she is going to have to not only move to the left, but run there.
It will be fascinating to watch.