Jim, to answer your question about the disconnect between the RNC and the conservative movement, the answer is that the RNC has been controlled since 1988 by cretinous b$^#$*^#s. It’s all about thinking themselves “the right sort” of people, not about building a party in order to advance certain principles of government. This is what the first Bush administration bequeathed to us, and it has been thus ever since.
When my father was Louisiana’s Republican National Committeeman from 1988-1993, he and Morton Blackwell repeatedly tried to pass a resolution urging the Bush administration to codify the “Beck decision” that allowed workers to withhold (or get back) union dues taken from them and used for purely political purposes, rather than for benefits or collective bargaining services. The Beck decision was one of the greatest advances for worker rights in years (oddly, just this past week Barack Obama issued an executive order rescinding the younger Bush’s Beck-related orders), but the first Bush administration, cowered by the unions that never were going to support the administration anyway, absolutely refused to do anything to implement Beck — and the lickspittle, pathetic, obsequious RNC refused to let the Hillyer/Blackwell resolution even see the light of day.
The real test for Michael Steele is whether he will shake things up, tell the hangers-on to get lost, kick out two-thirds of the consultants, and get aggressive with technology and on-the-ground organization, which absolutely requires an outreach and coalition-building with conservative movement organizations — or whether he will ignore the movement, pay consultants for lots of useless TV spots, and spend most of his time trying to go on TV himself and talk a good game. If all he does is the latter, it won’t matter how good he is on TV (and he usually is, to his credit, very very good), because he will have continued the same moronic trends that have helped drag the party down.