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.
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.