With Mike Huckabee winning Iowa, John McCain winning New Hampshire and Mitt Romney winning Michigan, all in 12 days, pundits are saying the GOP is in chaos. That prognosis is premature.
Undoubtedly, with the nation in the fifth year of an unpopular war and the economy tanking along with President Bush's poll numbers, GOP prospects for holding the White House are poor.
But what is taking place in the Republican primaries is healthy. A new party is taking shape, or rather being hammered into shape. GOP leaders are being introduced, sometimes rudely, to the reality that the national party has lost touch both with the country and its own base. And the would-be future leaders are either listening, or they are losing.
Refusing to hide his Christian beliefs, Mike Huckabee put them on public display in Iowa. After a second-place finish in the August straw poll, thanks to evangelical support, he rose steadily until he routed all four front-runners to win the caucuses on Jan. 3. Fred Thompson, a state's rights man on right-to-life, and Rudy, who is pro-choice, are almost out of the running. Traditional values are still a trump card in the GOP
Before the race began, Giuliani was a sanctuary city mayor, McCain an amnesty man and Huckabee favored letting illegal aliens compete for state scholarships. Now, after being battered at a thousand town meetings and on a thousand talk shows, all of them sound like Tom Tancredo.
A year ago, the GOP was a free-trade NAFTA-GATT party, no one more so than McCain. After his New Hampshire win, straight-talking John went to depressed Michigan and told Michiganders their jobs in the auto industry were not coming back. And Michigan Republicans told straight-talking John to get lost and not come back.
In the early debates, Ron Paul was booed for calling the Iraq war a blunder and saying the terrorists of 9-11 were over here because we were over there. Rudy got a roaring ovation for denouncing him. The Michigan GOP chairman demanded that Paul be excluded from all future debates. But whenever Fox News ran a post-debate poll, Paul came out on top. And in Michigan, he paid back the GOP chair by thumping Fred Thompson and America's mayor.
What is taking place inside the GOP is not decay, but creative destruction.
As in the Goldwater era, voices are being raised to tell an arrogant (Huckabee had the right word) establishment its policies are no longer producing and that if the party does not reconnect with the country, it is headed for the dumpster.