For the “Not OK” wing of the GOP, what is essential in 2012 is repudiating government on this model. Nothing is more important to America’s future than that. The different wings of the GOP have differing views of what constitutes “realism”: the “America is OK” wing views it as unrealistic to focus on something other than putting up the candidate whom they feel will appeal to the most voters. The “Not OK” wing sees that as an unrealistic perspective on the current situation. If government is not reined in – put through an effective bankruptcy proceeding, with its assets sold off and its charter reorganized – then nothing else will matter.

Who is right? While I am with the “Not OK” wing philosophically, I don’t think it would be the end of America as we know it if Mitt Romney were elected. But I do believe it would be a grave strategic error for the Republican Party to endorse him early, and silence intra-party dissent as if he represents what America really needs. A Romney presidency would be no more than a hiatus in deliberately using the state as a steamroller for ideological purposes. That would be better than 4 more years of Obama, but from the perspective of getting America on a different path, it’s not good enough.

The GOP needs this fight over philosophy of government. What has to be established in the 2012 primary season is that the small-government vote matters. If that is not established, the GOP itself will matter little. Its difference from the Democratic Party will not be sufficient to attract (or keep) membership.