Monday, November 12, 2012

Where the GOP needs to go: an independent's perspective

For my first post I wanted to discuss something current that resounded for me about the election. I study politics, particularly international affairs, seriously and need a place where I can share my thoughts regardless of who listens and blow off the intellectual steam that doesn't get used up writing papers. This isn't an issue of major significance in my eyes, but it is an issue that I hear a lot of people talk about and I can't resist throwing in my two cents.

The election was a huge success in my eyes, with referendums around the country demonstrating the will of the people despite gridlock at the federal level of government. As an independent voter, my only qualm was with the fact that I felt as though I didn't have a choice; I don't completely agree with either Republicans or Democrats, but I felt as though Republicans offered no reasonable alternative to Obama. Clearly many other moderates felt the same way. I actually would have voted for McCain in 2008, but this election there was barely a doubt who I was voting for from the Republican primaries onward. Therefore, I want to constructively explore my hopes for the GOP as it attempts to recover from the election. 

Romney was an unelectable candidate. He certainly made some fatal mistakes, particularly with his 47% comment, that cost him the election. The field of Republican candidates was far from ideal, possibly due to the intimidating prospect of going against such a formidable and popular candidate as Barack Obama. However, in an economy like this an incumbent President should not be winning elections, and definitely not by such an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College. This was the Republicans’ election to lose. They completely whiffed at a meatball of an election that should have seen them retake not only the Presidency, but Congress as well. The singular mistakes that may have cost them the election are not isolated occurrences; they are symptomatic of a much graver disease within the Republican Party itself that threatens its ability to take on the Democrats in the coming century.

The Republicans did not lose on the economy; to the contrary, more Americans tended to see Romney as better for the economy than Obama. In a recession, this should have resulted in a resounding victory and widespread support for fiscal conservatism and orthodox liberalism. Instead, Obama has received a perceived mandate for a much more interventionist approach towards the economy and the debt crisis in particular. Instead, the Republicans lost on social issues, systematically alienating the fastest growing demographics in America and putting the livelihood of millions of immigrants under possible threat. The impact of these issues can be seen even more clearly when looking at state referendums which portrayed clear support for gay marriage, women’s health choices, progressive solutions to illegal immigration, and decriminalization of cannabis. It is clear from voting patterns that many fiscally conservative people are voting Democrat, despite the economy, because they value their personal freedoms more than personal wealth.

These defeats bring to light the Republican Party’s central pathogen: its ideology suffers from fatal contradictions that make it unable to contend with an adaptive, mutating liberal agenda. The amalgam of fiscal conservatism and religious traditionalism imperils the ability of the Republicans to compete in a society that has been marked by the constant addition of new ethnicities and beliefs. Furthermore, this ideology possesses far less logical consistency than American liberalism. Libertarians scoff at Republican social stances for good reason; these policies are ideologically opposed to the conservative ideal of small government. Obama’s jibes about the antiquated and unsubstantiated nature of Romney’s intent to increase military funding were targeted at conservatives and moderates, not liberals. He was saying: “This is not what you believe in; this is not small government. This doesn't make sense. You are worse off with ridiculous policies that you partially agree with than reasonable policies that you partially disagree with.” And we received that message loud and clear. 

It is this inconsistency of ideology that is causing all of the symptoms of a broken party we can see: a ridicule and rejection of most media, consistent failure to achieve policy goals, and a receding primary demographic. For the last four years the Republicans have just barely managed to hold political ground, and now they are retreating into their own territory at full speed with enemies on all sides. Meanwhile, the GOP itself is split as libertarians and religious leaders pull at their respective corners of the political blanket. The cracks exposed in 2008 that inspired the Tea Party movement were deftly exploited and widened by Democrats in 2012 despite a bad economy and concerns abroad.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel of adaptation for Republicans: if policies allowing for more personal freedom are at accepted to an extent by the Republican Party, voting patterns indicate that they will be able to gain ground on economic issues. Appeal to fiscal conservatives without driving away minorities and young people with social stands that would appeal to voters in the 19th century. Lose religion, embrace personal liberties, and people will listen to the economic message. Serve fiscal conservatism with a side of Christianity, and 2012 should give you a fair picture of the next century’s outlook. As an independent, the most disappointing fact about this election is that the Barack Obama’s shortcomings were not met with any sort of reasonable counterargument. There was no logical alternative for me. That is bad for the country as a whole as well as for Republicans; a democracy without intelligible debate is a sad substitute for a vibrant party system. I can only hope that in future elections the GOP will adapt and offer a constructive opposition to present America with a real choice.  


  1. In 1936 the economy was much worse than it is now, yet despite that FDR won reelection because voters remembered how they got into the economic mess in the first place (back then it weas called "the Republican Depression"). The election of 2012 was, I feel, a reflection of the 1936 election - voters still remembered who caused the economic mess, and Romney's (with Ryan) economic policies were even more extreme than the policies of the administration that caused the economic collapse, and were clearly seen as giveaways to wealthy individuals and multinational corporations at the expense of America's dwindling middle class. Social issues did play a big role, no doubt about it - but there were obviously a whole lot of middle aged white males who voted for Obama because we saw that Romney's economic policies would destroy the US economy. I don't know where you got the idea that "more Americans tended to see Romney as better for the economy than Obama" - if there were polls conducted that came to that conclusion I would like to see the methodology. In most of the states where Obama won there were no referendums about gay marriage, cannabis or illegal immigration - or union rights, for that matter. Voters saw that if the Republicans won, the social safety net would disappear, the debt would skyrocket (again), more jobs would be offshored and we would likely be involved in another military adventure in an attempt to distract us from the fleecing of our country's wealth in order to line the pockets of the "haves & have mores". Voters also saw through Romney's tendency to say anything to please the audience to which he was currently speaking - sometimes directly contradicting statements he had made the previous day - or hour, or sometimes within the same sentence. His VP pick - Ryan - was no help either, he wouldn't (or could't) give details about their economic plan, tax proposals or agenda, other than broad generalities. Voters simply did not believe Romney/Ryan's BS.

    1. I was speaking more to the trends of the election as a whole rather than the presidential election specifically, but you make some valid points. I'm not particularly fiscally conservative myself, but American voters apparently agreed with Romney on the economy and fiscal policy more than Obama, especially on the deficit. I'll attach a link to the Gallup poll. My point was that Republicans have a strong base on the economy, even though I don't personally always agree with them, but socially and ideologically they shoot themselves in the foot. Romney was never going to win the election, because right now the groups that make up their party are incapable of nominating an electable candidate.


  2. The poll you have is a pre-election poll of early voters, and its conclusion was that the election was a statistical tie (actually gave the edge to Romney) - as we now know it was not, also Gallup tends to swing to the conservative side. Post election results show that both Gallup and Rasmussen polling was wildly inaccurate. I still believe that Obama scored higher on economic issues, especially when voters knew about the Ryan budgets that Romney thought were "marvelous". Most Americans don't think Social Security or Medicare should be touched, unless it were to make the programs more robust as opposed to cutting benefits. And most americans believe that raising the tax rates on the wealthiest 1 or 2% is preferable to deep cuts in programs that benefit the poor, and also think that the defense budget should be trimmed - all of which goes directly opposite of what the Romney/Ryan economic plan does (or at least opposite of what little they revealed about their plan).