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The Republican Party: An identity crisis spinning out of control

I recently found myself reading a blog entitled Cayo Buay. There was a post submitted today which discusses the current Republican primaries and asks if Ron Paul is the true conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the race. As the primary season moves forward, the growing tensions on the campaign trail have proven that there is a serious identity crisis within the Republican party. There is absolutely no excuse for a candidate with the financial resources and organization of Mitt Romney to still be challenged at this point in the race.

How does Newt Gingrich emerge as a credible alternative in 2012? Let us remember that this is the same man that was fined $300,000 for house ethics violations in the mid 90’s. This is the same man who oversaw impeachment proceedings for Bill Clinton following the Monica Lewinsky scandal while he himself was cheating on his second wife. The answer to this question is an identity crisis in the Republican party.

Let’s take a look at Mitt Romney. This man described himself as a moderate, progressive Republican while running for Governor of Massachusetts. How do one’s views change so dramatically in such a short period of time and so late in life?

These videos prove the pressures of being a Republican lawmaker in the US today. The Republican party does not embrace philosophical diversity within its ranks. Moderate Republicans like Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski are vilified by their party for their stances on issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. The Republican primaries have become a competition to determine the most extreme conservative to appeal to the religious right in the party. Republican candidates are forced to change who they are and what they stand for just to get through the primaries. Following that period, the candidate shifts back toward the middle in the general election in order to appeal to independent voters across the country.

This pressure is much more severe than in the Democratic party where the “Blue Dogs” are welcomed and a competition to be the most liberal in the primaries is less predominant.

So what does it mean to be a true conservative? Is it social conservatism?  Fiscal conservatism? Is it just about smaller government? Is foreign policy a key factor? Or is it just being the person that says what the conservative base of the party wants to hear at the time?

The 2012 race drags on with many criticizing Romney’s “flip-flopping” and the other three candidates trying to make their case to voters that they are the “true-conservative.” Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich refuse to drop out of the race at this time. As I try to comprehend how Newt and Santorum are still viable candidates… a slight appreciation for Ron Paul arises. He places a lot of emphasis on the Constitution, civil liberties, smaller government, and the rights of the states (especially with regards to social policy). And he has been consistent in these principles.

But wait.

He advocates for a foreign policy where the US doesn’t constantly wage war, doesn’t intervene in other countries’ affairs, and avoids occupying other nations with expensive military bases.


He is now suddenly unreasonable in the eyes of “conservative” voters across the US. The libertarians love him though! Nevertheless, I guess we’re expected to say the true conservative is Santorum who believes that the federal government should tell us who we can marry and what women can do with their bodies. This personally sounds like a more liberal big government stance to me.

As the confusion sets in, I wonder: what effect does society have on our elected and prospective government officials? What role is business playing in determining the front runner in the Republican primaries? These forces together seem to be pressuring the candidates in very dramatic ways. Maybe it is time for more parties and a broader spectrum than the traditional “liberal” and “conservative” labels. The Tea Party and the libertarian movements appear to have begun this process. Nevertheless, most of them have latched on to the Republican party which has further aggravated the identity crisis. Republican/ Conservative philosophy is being stretched in various directions but there is currently the sense that it all can’t fit under one roof.



I am a Senior Management major at Bucknell University. I am currently living in Orlando, FL but moved around a lot as a child as an Army Brat. I am looking to go into Finance following graduation. If that doesn't work out, I am considering moving to Washington D.C. and doing political work for a period of time.


7 thoughts on “The Republican Party: An identity crisis spinning out of control

  1. Joey, I found your post extremely interesting to read. It is clear that you are knowledgeable and well versed in politics, and have been following the Republican debates and appearances. I liked how you did not just focus on one candidate, but noted various candidates contributing to the Republican identity crisis. Since Mitt Romney is leading the poles, how do you think the Obama administration will address his “flip-flopping” come the Presidential debates, that is, if Romney is elected the Republican candidate?

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | February 7, 2012, 12:05 pm
  2. Who made the videos? Info literacy… How did you find them? Were you looking for evidence of his, ahem, evolving views, or had you already seen?

    Posted by Jordi | February 8, 2012, 4:11 pm
  3. I was puzzled (buzzled? bad pun) by your cartoon of the tea party saw. You describe the identity crisis in the Republican party which is a fascinating political question. But I was hoping you would discuss “true conservatism” in the context of the tea party.

    My impression is that the narrative in 2010 was that the tea party was this organic blossoming of grass-roots, “new” conservatives who were motivated by economic populism and cared less about the trifecta of God, Gays, and Guns. Some from the left argued that whatever populism was there was swiftly co-opted by the Republican “establishment.”

    So, are these primary voters the tea party or not? Did it exist and fade, or was it overblown from the get go?

    Posted by Jordi | February 8, 2012, 4:17 pm
    • I would argue that the number of “tea partiers” in congress proves that it was not overblown from the get go. That being said: has the energy behind the movement faded since the 2010 elections? I would say, yes.

      I agree with your initial impression of the tea party movement. Nevertheless, you have to look at some of the tea partiers who emerged in 2010. Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller (now none of them won, but still.) Also, Sarah Palin is adored by tea party activists. These are all very God/ Gays/ Guns Republicans.

      So… has the focus of the tea party changed? Has that caused the change in momentum i referenced? I think that many of these questions have hurt the Republican party.

      Also examine the NY District 23 race with Dede Scozzafava. She is a moderate Republican who was ousted from the race by a the Republican base who decided to throw a “Conservative” party candidate into the mix. It is stories like these that lead me to post the picture I did. I believe the Tea Party is dividing the GOP.

      I would argue that your initial impression of the tea party would represent “true conservativism.” But, now that the tea party has shifted… who knows?

      Posted by JOEY MARTIN | February 8, 2012, 4:55 pm
  4. And, if you are such a political junkie, you will love this. Romney’s “inevitability” is based on having 107 delegates sewn up. Needed for nomination? 1,144!

    Chart of this.

    Posted by Jordi | February 8, 2012, 4:19 pm
    • I couldn’t click your link… well the idea of “inevitability” is very interesting. Even after Santorum’s wins yesterday, the inevitability factor still remains. (and of course Santorum is still well behind in the delegate count) But, why is this? I would argue that much of it has to do with SuperPACs. Romney’s SuperPACs have a significant advantage in the money race. I believe that combined with Romney’s organization has contributed to this. He also has experience from running in 2008. As I am sure you know though, nowadays rarely are races actually contested up to 1,144 delegates. That gets into the discussion about whether a long primary benefits or hurts a party in the general election. The Democratic race of 2008 supports the argument that it helps.

      Posted by JOEY MARTIN | February 8, 2012, 4:46 pm
  5. The first video is a clip from NECN… a local news provider in the greater Boston area – although I am not sure who the YouTube poster is… the second is a compilations of many clips and was posted by Vitacore, a member of youtube… the third is a clip from a FoxNews debate from 2008 debate… and the final is an official campaign commercial for Rick Santorum… I had seen the FoxNews and NECN clips before through my reading… the Vitacore and Rick Santorum clips were research for this post.

    Posted by JOEY MARTIN | February 8, 2012, 4:38 pm

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