In sitcoms, it's called "Jumping the Shark." In politics, I'm introducing a term for a political party that loses contact with its essence and forgets its audience.
It's called "passing the ladle."
Ladle — as in bearer of a beverage with arsenic sweetener.
Suddenly, in the presidential nominating process, it appears the Republican Party thirsts for what a certain purple joy juice delivers, and not, say, what getting someone elected does.
Rick Santorum, this is your moment.
Polls say your moment could be extended, as increasing numbers of Republicans are having Romney remorse. And Newt Gingrich's bombast is going for naught, and Ron Paul is — not really in the party's discussion.
This is good for two people: (1) Santorum. (2) The person the Republicans want more than anything to beat.
For this, the Grand Old Party can give credit for its new life force, the tea party. We call this a new thing, but the tea party really is just proving to be the same old Jerry Falwell-Father Coughlin pulpit-pounding right that has always offered itself as the nation's savior.
Electable? Pass the purple passion.
It was fitting that Santorum made his biggest breakthrough on his super Tuesday in the Colorado caucuses, where Romney was presumed to be safest. The fact is, Colorado tea partisans have proved to be quite the pacemakers in telling Republicans with a chance at winning to go take a hike, or enter a monastery, or whatever.
The GOP had a major opportunity to take Colorado's U.S. Senate seat in 2010, only to give the nomination to tea party favorite Ken Buck instead of established commodity Jane Norton, the former lieutenant governor. Buck, in his bombast and hard-right social stances, scared away many centrists. Democrat Michael Bennet won.
Now, Santorum is knighted by these same people, the ones with the Kool-Aid mustaches.
This is the man who wants women to step back from such matters as serving the country in combat, or, well, any function outside of the home. Just read his his denunciations of "radical feminists" — you know, the ones working.
This is the man who doesn't think insurance should cover contraception, no way, no how. For one thing, he says, it is "only a minor expense." That's true if a woman happens to have $850 a year rattling around, based on estimates more reliable than anything Santorum will acknowledge.
This is the man who said the right of privacy "does not exist," and that fighting gay marriage is tantamount to the war on terror.
These are just samples of what Santorum brings to the table. It's not what wins general elections. Caucuses? Yes. Straw polls? Yes. Internet polls? Yes. Fox News analyst roles? Oh, yes.
Several analysts have observed that the Roger Ailes-Rupert Murdoch spin machine at Fox has been hostile to Romney and has been hoping to have one of its own — Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin — as the one it would build up against Obama. Santorum was one, too, a paid Fox talking head, after getting ousted from the Senate.
If it's true that Fox was picking horses (perish that thought, as it is strictly "fair and balanced"), it probably hadn't wagered much on Santorum. But now — miracles of miracles — he's the man who isn't Mitt.
This shows us nothing more about Santorum than it did about Pat Robertson, boosted by the pious right to success at select GOP caucuses in 1988, and Pat Buchanan eight years later. It's also what took Huckabee so far in 2008 and gives Palin her enduring Republican cachet.
Some people really do thirst for a theocracy, the "Christian nation" America never was. These people have shown they will show up for party meetings and get their way.
Some observers were thinking the tea party was a new breed, mostly focused on fiscal discipline, rather than, say, on Deuteronomy. Wrong.
Repackaged of the cloth that brought us the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, it is bound and determined to nominate people who don't represent a nation of diversity that was built on tolerance. These people want a leader who sees said features as America's downfall.
Which is good for the man they want to beat more than anything.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.