Since last summer the Republican Party has been splintered so it should come as no surprise when Super Tuesday is more of the same. There are three reasons why:
First, Mitt Romney has not been able to put forth a clear, consistent explanation of his past, including an illicit affair with centrist policies, that appeases the furthest right of the Republican Party. This has sent Tea Partiers searching, in vain, for the true conservative, leading us to to the second reason:
Politicians, for the most part, are not principled in the way this new group of conservatives would like them to be. Tea Partiers are idealists, they want someone who is willing to take principled stands on issues important to them and will not compromise. What Tea Partiers are realizing is that no politician meets their expectations. Politicians have to cut deals and make compromises, not just to get things done, but to stay in office. No one likes to admit it, but Rick Santorum was right about politics being a team sport. In a representative system of government, with three separate branches at the national level, cooperation is needed from many people who have competing interests, making compromise necessary. The only way to avoid compromise is to change the system into some sort of autocratic rule or to insure that all those in office have the same interests. The first solution is as undesirable as the second is unrealistic.
There is one Republican candidate who does not play well with others, and rejects compromising his values, but Ron Paul can’t get the support he needs to win the nomination because he is unwilling to sacrifice his ideals for political expediency, which is ironic to be sure. Ron Paul offers a message of limited government and individual liberty as each is defined by his reading of the Constitution. The Republican base loves his ideas on the economy and taxes, but they object to his non-interventionist foreign policy stances. If liberty is a fundamental human right then, as Paul claims, the U.S. has no business fighting the wars we are fighting. But Republicans are hawks and their hawkishness is inconsistent with their domestic outlook, which makes it impossible for them to rally around Paul.
The case of Ron Paul illustrates the third reason Republicans are splintered. Their policy positions are inherently contradictory; there is no consensus among Republican voters about what ideals the GOP stands for. If they are for limited government and individual liberty then they cannot be in favor of military interventionism or restrictions on homosexuals. If they are for traditional family values and American exceptionalism then they must recognize and admit they are not a party that values liberty above all else. Until the GOP can decide on a single, coherent, and ideologically consistent message it will continue to be splintered.
So, in the short term, if the Republicans are to win the White House, Republican voters must give up their idealism and get real. Idealism breeds contempt for the available choices, which will force low Republican turnout in the general election, regardless of the nominee. Republican voters need to fall in line behind a single nominee, even if it’s not until the convention. In the long term, they need to figure out what it is they really stand for so they know exactly what it is they are looking for in a nominee the next time around.