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Status of the GOP: Disjointed or Finding Its Voice?

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Tea parties, libertarians, and moderates, oh my!

The conservative base of America is in a peculiar state of flux. Ever since nominating a candidate in 2008 that nauseated conservatives of all stripes, the Republican party is struggling to define itself as a big tent party while trying to keep everybody happy underneath the big top. It seems that the fabled "Reagan coalition" may be lost to the ages, a prospect that troubles many of those in the conservative movement. Is it possible for the Humpty Dumpty GOP to put itself together again? Maybe, maybe not.

Let's look at the factions that are vying for attention in the GOP today.

Tea Parties: Keeping taxes low and controlling government spending sounds good to most people, doesn't it? That appears to be the drumbeat of the Tea Party movement. So why do they pose a problem for the party of fiscal conservatism? It's a trust issue. Many in the Tea Party movement are disenchanted with both sides of the aisle. Some feel that only a new, pure third party is the answer to the acrimony in Washington. This challenges the GOP's fiscally conservative credentials and would thus inhibit the chances of a conservative defeating a liberal in a three-way election. Remember how Bill Clinton didn't take home 50% of the electorate but still managed to win in 1992? Vote splitting kills conservatives. That's not to say that Tea Party members should suck it up and get on board with a candidate they can't stand. After all, many Republicans have broken the trust of fiscal conservatives. They should be held accountable. But a third party isn't the answer.

Ron Paul/Campaign for Liberty: Little can diminish the spirit of those who follow Ron Paul. Lauded as the quasi-messiah of small government by those in the Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul has electrified the libertarian wing of the conservative base. Although winning very few delegates in any of Republican primary contests back in 2008, his ardent fan base remains undeterred. However, as staunch as his army is, they are also his primary liability. A substantial number of his followers are affiliated with the 9/11 Truth movement, a group of conspiracy theorists who believe that the government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Another problem is that many of the non-truthers resort to obnoxious postings across the web (i.e. "GO RON PAUL!!" "GOD BLESS RON PAUL!" "RON PAUL IS THE ANSWER!!" "ONLY RON PAUL CAN SAVE US!") or are unwilling to compromise for any "lesser" candidate. Ron Paul is 74. At his age, the remainder of his career is limited. However, he did win the CPAC straw poll and is currently polling in dead heat with Barack Obama. Certainly, the man himself has very few detractors. And if his supporters can redirect their focus and clean up their act, they could prove to be highly valuable to the GOP. Perhaps his son Rand Paul might carry the torch.

David Frum: I remember enjoying David Frum's book The Right Man, a generally positive look at the early presidential career of George W. Bush. But that was then, this is now. Canadian-born Frum has used his credentials as an author and former Bush speechwriter to catapult himself into the conservative arena. But don't be fooled, he's not your average conservative Republican. In fact, he decried the Republicans' united opposition to ObamaCare. His blog site, FrumForum, appears to be interested in pushing the GOP to the center. But is moving to the center the right thing for the party who nominated a center-right candidate in 2008, only to fail miserably?

Sarah Palin/Mike Huckabee/Evangelicals: I like Sarah Palin. I used to like Mike Huckabee. But if both of them ran in the GOP primaries in 2012, it's very likely that they would split the same demographic: evangelicals. When it comes down to it, both Palin and Huckabee have likable personalities and are generally favored by people like themselves. Neither have a great deal of moderate or independent appeal. And both have baggage. Huckabee pardoned or commuted the sentences of 12 murderers, including Maurice Clemmons, who recently murdered four police officers in Washington state. Palin failed to shine in her Katie Couric interview (although in Palin's defense, Couric wasn't exactly playing nice). She also resigned halfway through her only term as governor of Alaska which, whatever her reasons may have been, was a poor political move. Perhaps these caveats are the reason that her poll numbers among independents are consistently low. Nonetheless, her popularity among conservatives is high and the palpable energy she brings to the party is undeniable. While Huckabee has said that he is leaning against running again, Palin has indicated that she is considering a run in 2012. It will be interesting to see which candidate will become the favorite among evangelicals if both decide to run.

Romney/Pawlenty/Dark Horse: There are some who still hold out hope for that candidate who has everything. Right on all the issues, looks, charisma, no distracting scandals. Some maintain that it's Mitt Romney, businessman and former governor of Massachusetts. Others say it's Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota. However, ObamaCare has passed, which some claim was modeled after Romney's health care system in Massachusetts. This could hurt his chances among diehard conservatives. Pawlenty has few detractors other than poor poll numbers and a lack of name recognition. But even still, some are hoping for a dark horse to come in and reshape the field. Who would that be? Some have suggest Bobby Jindal, John Thune, and Mike Pence. But it's hard to nail it down for sure. After all, Barack Obama was a state senator just three years before announcing his candidacy for President. Part of this particular demographic is waiting to be swayed.

Michael Steele: Then there's Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican party. In spite of the optimism surrounding the early part of his chairmanship, Steele has found himself eclipsed by other heavy hitters in the conservative movement like Rush Limbaugh, who some consider to be the de facto leader of the GOP. And the recent spending scandal has proven to be a distraction in the midst of what could be a sweeping success for the Republicans in November. However, a larger than expected victory in the mid-term elections could erase the cloud that currently surrounds his administration.

From a distance, the pieces of the puzzle shouldn't be too difficult to put back together. Most, if not all, of these factions can agree on fiscal conservatism, capitalist principles, low taxes, and smaller government. It's all a matter of holding elected Republicans accountable. We can't allow what happened in the early 2000s to happen again, when Republicans were intoxicated by spending just like liberal Democrats.

If the Democrats can unite environmentalists, unions, anti-war activists, and most progressives, the Republicans should have little difficulty bringing together fiscal and social conservatives and even some moderates and independents.

Perhaps the answer lies within a 2012 alliance between a social conservative and a fiscal conservative. Sarah Palin recently commented favorably on a possible team-up with Mitt Romney. A Palin/Huckabee type with a Romney/Pawlenty type could satisfy the thirst for united conservative front.

The key is for these groups to compromise their particular likes and dislikes in favor of their basic principles. If an evangelical doesn't like Mitt Romney, he or she should consider that Romney poses no real threat to family values. If a fiscal/economic conservative is nauseated by Sarah Palin, he or she should be comforted by the hope that she would surround herself with individuals who would pursue a fiscally conservative agenda.

But if the GOP fails to unite these groups, a loss is nearly guaranteed. United they stand, divided they fall.

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About Braden

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I really do hope the Republicans choose someone as conservative as they can – Palin/Bachmann’s my choice for the GOP!

    Please, oh please choose a Palin/Bachmann ticket!

  • Careful what you wish for, Glenn. Both of them might have their GED by 2012…

  • BTW, I think it’s an absolute certainty that Sarah Palin will run in the GOP primaries, or at least test the water.

  • The team-ups you suggest at the end would lose all of the Ron Paul and Tea Party voters and the middle-ground independents. Guaranteed losing strategy gof the GOP.


  • Doc, I’m almost ready to place a wager against your prediction in #3. I think she loves being a well paid celebrity, and even a substantial number of tea partiers seem to have their doubts about her as a candidate. But the fact that she still hasn’t been laughed off the public stage yet gives me pause.

  • Arch Conservative

    I didn’t vote for Mccain in 2008 and really don’t want to vote for Romney/Huckabeee/Palin/Pawlenty etc in 2012. But if Obama insists on being an arrogant asshole for the 2 years, and I do believe he can’t help himself because it’s just who he is, then I may well have to vote for whomever the GOP runs.

    Apparently the one feels so secure in the support of the moonbat media and what remains of the koolaid drinking cultists that we he will openly mock, on television, millions of Americans with grievances against the government. Why doesn’t he stop beating around the bush and just come out and call them all racists? What’s he waiting for? Will ge still be wearing that stupid smirk on his face come November? I think not.

    Like his positions on the issues or not, at least when Ron Paul is asked a question he gives a genuine answer and not some soundbite based on something a staffer told him to say after looking at the latest public opinion polls that morning. Ron Paul is honest, not full of guile and deceit. That alone seaprates him from just about every other politician out there. He is the only man being discussed as a candidate, on either side of the aisle, that would truly put the nation before his own political ambition and legacy.

    No one thought Barry the thug from Chicago had a chance in 2008. Ron Paul isn’t a corrupt pig like the man in the white house now, but hopefully common sense and reason will prevail in 2012.

  • Baronius

    On paper, a pro-life libertarian would be great. But four years of a pacifist Democrat followed by four years of an isolationist Republican would be terrible. By 2016, the US would have the clout of a Spain or Egypt, and millions of people worldwide would fall under oppression.

  • zingzing

    archie’s fallen out of love with romney? but, but… what happened? and ron paul is far too divisive to ever make a serious run. and he’s got too much baggage.

    baronius: “By 2016, the US would have the clout of a Spain or Egypt, and millions of people worldwide would fall under oppression.”

    do you really think so, or is that just some blubbering? if you really do think so, why do you think that we are the only thing protecting the world from tyranny?

  • Archie, your first 50 or so comments about Obama were about the shape of his ears.

    Now you have progressed to “arrogant asshole,” “thug,” and “corrupt pig.” No actual evidence required, of course. Just an overall impression you have.

    Do you ever simply disagree with someone, or is Insultese the only language you speak and type?

  • Screw him then, Handy. If that’s the only level of conversation he’s capable of, ignore the fucker. Same with Ruvy.

    Let ’em both piss in the wind for all I care.

  • Arch Conservative

    Let’s see……Obama’s cabinet is full of tax cheats….there’s the corruption.

    He goes on TV mocking Americans protesting the government…there’s the arrogant asshole…

    You think I’m the only one that his a personal distaste for Obama Handy?

    We are legion.

    Let’s see how much he’s laughing come November.

  • Obama’s cabinet is full of tax cheats….there’s the corruption.

    That’s pitifully inadequate, even for you. To take an example, if you think that Tim Geithner’s making a mistake about self-employment tax defines him as “corrupt,” you show little or no evidence of knowing what you are talking about. You start with a conclusion, then rewrite the facts to fit it.

    And the president’s “mockery” was based on a simple fact: people were protesting on Tax Day that he was picking their pockets, when nearly all of them had paid less tax in 2009 because of tax cuts and breaks authorized by the president.

    There are lots of non-facts [and lies] out there posing as the truth, and I applaud the president for having the cojones to point out some of them. He should do it more often. If it makes bozos mad, that in itself makes me happy.

  • Cannonshop

    Gee, Handy, last year, my tax-bill on April 15th was a whopping $257 and change. This year, it’s over two grand. Nothing on my W-4 changed. Your figures are full of shit.

  • Cannonshop

    To expand on that… going over it in exact terms, my income went up 25%, my tax bill multiplied by 800%. some savings.

  • Don’t be ridiculous. “My figures” [not mine really] were not about you.

    Tax rates did not change, Cannon, so something else must have. No income tax increases have gone into effect during this presidency.

    But if your income went up 25%, you could have moved into the next bracket.

  • Arch Conservative

    Yeah Cannon, don’t be rdidiculous. Tax rates didn’t go up. The federal government just felt like penalizing you for bettering yourself. Get over it

  • If Cannon or Arch can find anything whatsoever to document that income tax rates for 2009 went up, I’d be very interested to see it.

    Rates may go up next year, mostly or entirely for upper incomes when the Bush cuts expire. But not yet.

    You may have plenty of disagreements with the president, but there’s no need to add your fantasies into the mix.

    Prove it, please, or admit that you’re just indulging in rhetoric and venting.

  • “my income went up 25%, my tax bill multiplied by 800%.”

    That doesn’t make any sense – unless your tax bill from the year prior was next to zero.

  • “tax bill” = how much additional he had to pay on Apr 15 each year. Does not include what was withheld from his paycheck. Cannon says his pay “only” increased 25%, but most people would think that’s a helluva raise.

    And if you add up the total tax paid for each year, and take it as a percentage of total income, it’s probably in the same ballpark, unless there was something screwy about a deduction.

    I’m just guessing. But if there’s another explanation, it’s not about secret tax rate increases.

  • I would have to see it black on white to make sense of his claim.

    Again, unless he paid next to zero a year ago, these figures just don’t make sense.

  • Arch Conservative

    Handy I didn’t say taxes have gone up over the past year, Cannonshop did.

    But thanks to the legislation Obama and the Dems have enacted, tax rates MUST go up eventually.

    You libs just don’t get it. Every time I complain about taxes and spending I get some lefty lecturing me on the roads and the police and fire dept. Here’s a little secret though. THAT”S NOT ALL OUR TAXES ARE BEING USED FOR!

    I have no problem with being taxed to pay for the roads, the police and public education. What I do have a problem with is our tax dollars being used as political payback for the myriad of special interests that buy the candidates on BOTH sides of the aisle. I have a major problem with our tax dollars being wasted on bullshit social welfare programs that are created and defended upon the basis of cheap emotional sentiment. This country could still afford to pay for all of the public goods and cut taxes drastically if we stopped being such a bunch of selfish, whiny pussies.

    But you moonbats don’t get it and never will. You’re addiction to dependency is fatal.

  • John Wilson

    What’s your specific beef, and how much money is involved, Arch?

    “I have a major problem with our tax dollars being wasted on bullshit social welfare programs that are created and defended upon the basis of cheap emotional sentiment.”

    Which program? How much money?

    I have problems, for example, with a defense budget that consumes 58% of the national budget and doesn’t defend us. A big part of that is just corporate welfare.

    I have a problem with spending a trillion dollars invading Iraq.

    I have a problem with $192billion/year to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. Must be a lot of corporate welfare there.

    How much people-oriented welfare do you think there is?

  • Baronius

    John – 58% of the national budget?