I was pretty surprised when the GOP threatened to pull Ron Paul’s committee appointments. They’re basically calling the Tea Parties a bunch of f&%king r#&!rds who can go Cheney themselves. The tea parties were formed around Paul’s anti-tax mantra and he is their spiritual godfather, though many who tout themselves as “leaders” don’t seem to know it.  And he’s extraordinarily popular with their base right now — Paul won 31% of the presidential straw poll at CPAC, to Sarah Palin’s 9% and Mitt Romney’s 22%.

Fox News has tried to promote and captivate the tea parties on behalf of the GOP, but the fact is that they don’t control them and have recently been put on the spot by Democrats, forced to disavow racist and violent actions committed by self-identified tea party activists.  In an environment of anti-tax zealotry, the GOP is desperate to make people forget about George Bush’s drunken spending spree with taxpayer money, and the fact that he jammed through the first TARP bailout that the tea partiers rail about.  They can’t afford to lose the support of the tea parties, because if they lose ownership of the “lower taxes” mantra, they’ve got nothing to run on that anyone is going to care about this fall.  God, guns & gays just isn’t going to get it done.

I’ve been watching with interest as the GOP tries to hold together the volatile coalition of Sarah Palin social conservatives and Ron Paul libertarians, and there are signs that it is coming apart at the seams.  Paul and the libertarians are anti-interventionist and oppose the Iraq war.  Sarah Palin showed up at the Nashville tea party convention and wanted to bomb Iran.  Tea party activists are organizing against the health care mandate in states around the country.  Sarah Palin didn’t even mention the mandate in her speech at Searchlight, no doubt mindful of the $2.5 million in donations the insurance industry coughed up for McCain/Palin in 2008 and the fact that the Chamber thinks that it got everything they wanted in the health care bill.

But nothing threatens the tenuous alliance more than drugs.  In libertarian circles, drug legalization has an almost religious fervor surrounding it.  In Why Do Conservatives Still Love the Drug Wars, Jacob Hornberg writes:

The big objection to the drug war, however, is not its manifest failure and destructiveness but rather its fundamental assault on individual freedom. If a person isn’t free to ingest any substance he wants, then how can he possibly be considered free?

Yet, for decades Kincaid and most other conservatives and most liberals have taken the audacious position that the state should wield the power to punish a person for doing bad things to himself. In fact, the drug war reflects perfectly the nanny-state mindset that has long afflicted both conservatives and liberals. They feel that the state should be a nanny for American adults, treating them like little children, sending them to their jail cell when they put bad things in their mouths.

Kincaid justifies his statism by saying that drugs are bad for people. Even if that’s true — and people should be free to decide that for themselves, as they do with liquor — so what? Why should that be any business of the state? If I wish to do bad things to myself, why should the likes of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, and John McCain wield the power to put me into jail for that?

Palin opposes legalizing marijuana, and wants an even bigger crackdown on drugs.

The war on drugs has been a tentpole of the Southern Strategy and the culture wars that have held the Republican party together for decades, predicated on the notion that dangerous black men/hippies/atheists/communists will rape our children and drag honorable white women into lives of ill-repute.   And Sarah Palin’s place in the social conservative pantheon is fundamentally grounded in her fulfillment of its “pure woman” archetype, the noble heroine who defends hearth and home and stands strong against such carnal entreaties.

Remember the incredibly awkward moment in the 2007 GOP presidential debate?

RON PAUL:  A system designed to protect individual liberty will have no punishments for any group and no privileges. Today, I think inner-city folks and minorities are punished unfairly in the war on drugs.  For instance, Blacks make up 14 percent of those who use drugs, yet 36 percent of those arrested are Blacks and it ends up that 63 percent of those who finally end up in prison are Blacks. This has to change.  We don’t have to have more courts and more prisons. We need to repeal the whole war on drugs. It isn’t working.

The tea parties may be their darlings now, but in 2008 the GOP wouldn’t let Ron Paul speak at their convention and he held his own convention across town. That still rankles his supporters.  Heading into November, the GOP keeps hoping nobody will notice the enormous and divisive ideological differences between the Paulites and the Palinites within their ranks, but the continued antagonism of Ron Paul threatens to expose them.

The looming battle in California to legalize marijuana is only going to make those rifts worse.  And Palin will be writing on her friggin’ toes to talk her way out of that one.