With President Obama's victory over Mitt Romney, many pundits are already engaging in clichéd talk of "soul-searching" for the GOP. What they mean by this phrase differs depending on who says it: Pundits on the left as well as moderate reform-oriented Republicans are claiming the party needs to move back to a pragmatist set of policies; tea partiers and others on the right, talk radio, and Fox News are claiming that Mitt Romney, like John McCain before him, was simply too moderate to win, and that only a true, principled conservative can lead the charge to victory.
But what Republicans really need to learn from Romney's defeat is not that their candidate was too weak or too moderate. They need to learn that their candidate was forced to adopt far more extreme policies than he previously held due to a primary process that enslaves pragmatism and electability to a rigid ideology. And at the heart of this rigid ideology is a conservative movement that's become the creature of the right-wing media.