The Nature of the Conservative Divide

The various turns of the Republican presidential primary have made it clear that there is a division in the GOP unlike anything since 1996.  There is, however, no consensus over what defines the sides of this split. The media, largely left-of-center itself and with no deep understanding of conservatism, imagines a debate between "Romney" and a multiple-personality "Not Romney."  They also characterize the gulf as between a notional Establishment and the base (or Tea Party), or simply between those less or more "conservative."  (This last is the position promoted for obvious political reasons by Sen. Rick Santorum and Speaker Newt Gingrich.) Yet general Tea Party and conservative support is distributed among candidates roughly according to the general Republican electorate in each state.  Jay Cost has pointed out the regional (South vs. North) disparities in support, and others like Sean Trende, while agreeing that "the split is about something other than...(Read Full Article)