Gene Healy says Republicans think that their voters are stupid:
By 2012, our national debt will be larger than the entire U.S. economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. So what's on the front burner in Washington these days? Zoning issues in lower Manhattan!
The establishment Right wants to play the Tea Party movement for suckers. It remains to be seen whether they'll play along.
Will Wilkinson is less charitable to "the base":
I don’t find this believable. This idiotic foofaraw could be a distraction only if the GOP rank-and-file actually cared more about the size of government than the cultural politics of American identity. But they don’t. It’s not even close. American conservatism is a movement consumed by protecting and asserting a certain fabricated conception of the traditional American way of life against imaginary enemies.
Needless to say, I think Will has a point here. You can argue that the party, the people that tend to vote for it, and the media that cater to those people all feed off of each other. But in any case, the modern kulturkampf-obsessed GOP didn't arise in a vaccuum.
I'd really rather be wrong about all of this.