Tim Pawlenty is the canary in the establishment coal mine. His message — that the Republican Party doesn’t need to rethink any of its main policy propositions — no longer computes with a critical mass of Republican voters: not just in Ames, Iowa, but nationwide.
Paul and his (growing) army of faithful are no longer the lone data point. Michele Bachmann has built her campaign around a radical alternative to Republican spending orthodoxy. Sarah Palin fuels hopes of an even broader renunciation of the Republican establishment.
Even Mitt Romney now knows better than to re-run his losing proto-Pawlentyist campaign from 2008, when his change-nothing play for the mushy conservative middle left him obliged to spend millions to avoid T-Paw’s glum fate…
It’s not that Pawlenty’s brand of mainstream, fusionist conservatism is wrong. It’s that it misses the point. The principles are necessary, but the policies Pawlentyism derives from them are inadequate to the daunting task that Americans have — let’s face it — set before themselves.