The stupid have been able to rise in the GOP because of the ease of communication today.
Back in say, the 1970s, I imagine that everyone knew one or two people who was angry about society and stupid. But, the fact that these people were stupid and/or lazy precluded them from commiserating with each other because of the barriers to communication. Stupid people are not articulate, and thus wouldn't be the types to converse with each other by letter. Finding the local KKK chapter or others like themselves took some time and effort.
Enter the Internet. In the beginning of the Internet age, it was still tough for the stupid to use it to communicate, since the equipment was hard to use and often expensive.
Next comes the web browser. The stupid are now able to check out websites and other porn. But the barrier to communicate is still high, since content creation required some HTML know how or at least a familiarity with Usenet.
Finally, blogs come on to the scene. The stupid are now able to at least write rambling, incoherent nonsense on sites like Xanga and Blogspot. Even though the stupid are not terribly good at writing, the ability to see each others' writings in cyberspace emboldens them. There are others like them. They no longer have to endure the ridicule of their intellectual betters. It is easy now to surround themselves with each other, while maintaining that they're not stupid, but persecuted.
Enter YouTube and the barrier to entry is completely removed. Now anyone with a flip cam can upload their idiotic thoughts and have others like them say, "Hey, that's totally right! Climate change is bogus! Obama is a Muslim! I knew it!"
The Reagan-era operatives see these people and think to themselves, "If only we could mobilize these people." They create Fox News. They help raise the Tea Party. But then, in an unanticipated turn, the stupid take over. They decide that their agendas of extreme social conservatism, hatred of success and wealth, and anti-science are right, by God! They are unhappy that their time in the limelight might end soon, just as the getting got good.
So that is why we have Santorum emerging as a serious candidate. That's why we have elected officials trying to pass "state rape" laws to prevent abortion. A drubbing of these people's candidate will allow the Republican establishment to flush out these pests. While they'll never go away, the stupid can and will be relegated to the margins again.
Even though I am a moderate Republican, I hope that Santorum gets the nomination. When he is smacked down, the stupid can go back to a life of deserved ridicule. It's the only hope people like me have at this point.