Exactly right. People I talk to on the left from LA to New York tell me how disappointed they are in Obama for not fighting more for progressive causes like universal health care (as in 100% public option), consumer protection, the repeal of DADT (done), and tax increases for the wealthy and for corporations. Some express concern at how vulnerable he is for re-election. Well, maybe. There are still 15 months to go until the election, and a lot can happen between now and then. What seems to be happening on the right is just what Bernstein writes about. If the nominee for the GOP must adhere very closely to the Tea Party throughout the primary season, then Obama will have serious ammunition in the general election. The Tea Party-led GOP, other than tossing out a bunch of old-school (and sensible) Repubs and Dems in 2010, hasn't had one significant legislative victory since capturing the House (other than driving the country nearly to default as it fights for ideological purity above the national interest). Medicare is still protected, Social Security hasn't yet been cut or abolished, and the balanced budget amendment they so crave is nothing more than the cough syrup sitting in the water chamber of their ideological bong. Whoever is nominated next year will have to veer very far toward the center to appeal to independents. I really don't expect progressives who are currently not happy with Obama to sit out the election so that a Perry or Romney or (heaven forbid) Bachmann or Palin can reverse everything Obama has actually done in his first term.
What [many GOP voters are] upset with isn’t the candidate — it’s the party. It’s inconceivable that anyone could get the Republican nomination while using anything but solid Tea Party rhetoric on pretty much every issue. They’re all going to claim that taxes should never, ever, ever be raised no matter what, that half of what the government does is evil or unconstitutional or whatever, that the scientific consensus on climate is some sort of crazed conspiracy, and so on down the line. I’ve been saying for some time now that the odds are against Republicans actually nominating a candidate who believes crazy things — but the odds of them nominating someone who says crazy things has gone up.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing what a candidate really thinks, but I suspect that Rick Perry fits that latter mold perfectly — as does Mitt Romney. And so would any other candidate who wanted to have any chance at the nomination. That’s what the Republican Party is right now, and that’s what their nominee is going to say. So no saviors need apply.
If the nominee doesn't move left during the general, then Andrew might be right in wondering if the GOP isn't actually "committing the kind of grotesque suicide that Obama tends to evoke in his opponents." My bet is that they will inch toward the center, risking the votes of the most fanatical element in the Tea Party, but the Tea Party will largely follow their nominee in order to achieve their greater objective, the ouster of the Black Kenyan Muslim from power.