Extremism Heightens as GOP Field Widens
As the field for the Republican nomination for president widens, harsh rhetoric and emotional promises fill the air from the candidates, mostly directed at President Obama over his handling over the economy. Extremism is certainly taking shape on the right bringing vague memories of Barry Goldwater’s failed run in 1964, but is it out of desperation or thought out strategy?
Traditionally, primaries and nominating stages are chances for party activists and voters to voice their deepest, purest opinions about where they want their party to go. Usually a moderate, more mainstream candidate is chosen out of the process while still appealing to pure party principles – the key to this is compromise. The fringe supporters may be peeved that their guy lost, but the eventual candidate holds enough sway to keep the fringe within their base and “in line”. Examples of this are rampant in history – Bob Dole in ’96 and John McCain in ’08 were seen as safer, more mainstream candidates to send into the general election. On the Democratic side, John Kerry was nominated in ’04 as a safer alternative to Howard Dean’s insurgent candidacy. But what do you do when the fringe starts to dictate the path of the party?
The Tea Party backlash emerged as a result of the election of President Obama, and has helped to pull the Republicans to the extreme right. Gone are the days of language like Reagan’s “there are…no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect” – this type of thinking is passé to this party. Today’s Republican motto might go something like this: “think small and live small…unless you have a lot of money, then you’re ok!” Today’s candidates for the GOP nomination call the FED Chairman a traitor, and insinuate he would be treated “pretty ugly” if he went to Texas. Today’s candidates say they worked for the IRS to know how the “enemy” works. Today’s candidates call Obama out of touch for taking a vacation, and then make plans to triple the size of their California mansion to 11,000 sq. ft. in the middle of our economic atmosphere. They refute science, despite the generally accepted nature of evolution and global warming AND despite the fact that they are not trained scientists. Most of all, none of today’s candidates would have taken a debt deal that included any tax increases.
Taft, Roosevelt, Rockefeller, Dole, even the elder Bush and Nixon (to a degree) believed in progress, and compromise. This party believes in the status quo, they want things back the way they were, but not in an economic sense. If jobs were their priority, the Republican controlled House would have introduced more jobs bills – so far, zero. Why has no Republican candidate displayed dismay over the fact that Warren Buffet is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary? Because Republicans, at this point, do not represent the middle class, and have no thoughts about the lower class. The fact that they held unemployment benefits hostage over the Bush tax cut extensions is evidence enough.
In the end, the fringe will give the Republicans the fire through the primaries, but when the general comes into play it becomes a whole other ballgame. The Tea Party does not seem content to compromise as in past primaries, which could be the Republicans’ Achilles heel. Will they pander and drop the ball in the general, or will they go to the middle in the primaries (Jon Huntsman) and lose the fringe base? If only they hadn’t let it get to this point.