What the GOP Lost

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

One of the reasons I love blogging is that it's really the only viable platform for informal or spontaneous analysis. Alas, that's also one of its pitfalls: the arguments on most blogs tend to be less comprehensive than they should be.

Admittedly, my post yesterday was certainly no exception to that rule, so David Corn is probably right to be confused. But I still hold to the gist of what I was trying to say. If you look at the filibuster issue exclusively, as I think Corn did in his editorial, then the Republicans did indeed win. But can you really define the issue within such a limited scope?

The filibuster may have started out as a procedural debate, but for better or worse, it ended up a moral one. And in that context, the GOP as a party decidedly lost. They played a major hand -- the Dobsonites -- only to then burn them, and in response that constituency has unequivocally disassociated themselves from the party as a whole.

Where Corn and I disagree is just how willing the Dobsonites will be to return to the political fray and align themselves behind a new candidate or issue. Although I suppose Corn is right to say Frist's presidential ambitions are not entirely gone, it's still hard for me to see him being strong enough to make an effective campaign. And Senators Brownback and Santorum both strike me as lacking Bush's remarkable knack for being radical without being alienating. As a result, I don't see any viable candidates emerging that the Dobsonites would be willing to support. (And if there was one thing I learned in all the bible studies and churches I went to in my youth, it was that for socially conservative evangelicals, politics is an all or nothing thing -- either you find someone you can categorically support, or you do not vote. Anything else is compromising on your beliefs.)

So in the end, I guess my point is this: if in weakening the filibuster the GOP lost the categorical support of the group for whom they weakened it, can that really qualify as a victory?

Note / Update: meanwhile, for anyone not yet exhausted by the filibuster debate, via Mark Schmitt here's a great conservative perspective.