Why is Michele Bachmann quickly becoming a serious presidential contender? The quote of the day (so far!) will enlighten the befuddled. Today's pick is from Jeffrey Bell's forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics: Why America Needs Social Conservatism.” If you read my weekly newsletter, you know that Jeffrey Bell's “Populism and Elitism” is my guide to American politics. Needless to say, I can't wait for Bell's next book. (Or all the other great titles featured in Encounter Books's Fall-Winter 2012 catalog) Here's the quote:

"... [T]he road to the next cycle of Republican success might be a more ideologically comprehensive and radical one, the road of Reagan rather than of Nixon or the Bushes. In a context of increased political polarization, [the] emergence of a more integrated and consistent Republican agenda, far more militant on economic and social issues, would be no great surprise—particularly in the wake of the analogous Democratic transition from the strategically eclectic, tactically nimble 'triangulation' of Bill Clinton to the ideologically consistent left agenda of post-Clinton candidates like Howard Dean and Barack Obama."

If Bell is right, then Washington's conventional understanding of the Republican party is way off the mark. Since President Obama's election, conventional opinion has held that the GOP will have to "moderate" if it wants to win. The opposite has happened, of course: The GOP has become more ideological on economic issues. And 2010 was one of the Republican Party's best cycles in decades.

The press may fawn over candidates like Jon Huntsman. Mitt Romney may be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. But grassroots Republicans are looking for a committed conservative populist with the potential to appeal to independents, which is why the spotlight is on Michele Bachmann.