The GOP’s Stealth Move Rightward
So far, the GOP primary has been about one man: Mitt Romney. Predictably among a weak starting field, Romney started as the front runner. A few eager challengers have stepped up only to be vanquished later.
The last remaining challenger is Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania Senator does not have any private life baggage (like Gingrich), has experience (unlike Herman Cain), and is not a total dumbass (like Rick Perry). Thus, the last ‘non-Romney’ provides the base someone else they can vote for who has a realistic chance at winning the nomination.
Santorum may in fact win the nomination, but unless we have a 2008 crisis redux just before the election, he has no chance in the general election. Santorum represents what has happened to the GOP over the last four years. It has drifted steadily rightwards, become more angry, and less willing to compromise and adopt centrist, pragmatic policies. This sort of hardened rhetoric may appeal to the core base, many of whom still think Obama is some sort of Kenyan Marxist Terrorist, but is viewed as extreme by the other 75% of the country.
Before I delve further, this article is not an endorsement of Obama and his policies by any means. It’s merely a criticism that the GOP has become so hardened that it has pushed away many moderates, pragmatists, and libertarians that could form a powerful coalition as an alternative to Obama’s ‘just throw money at it and hope’ policies.
First, the GOP’s position on taxes has gotten to the point of absurd. The current tax code is a train wreck that has huge giveaways to the rich, primarily by taxing capital gains at a much lower rate than earned income. Why should a small business owner pay nearly twice the rate (both sides of payroll + regular income tax) as a blue blood elite that makes money off of passive income? Simply put, he shouldn’t.
The ‘increase capital gains you’ll discourage investment’ has some truth to it…but the amount it would discourage by raising from 15 to 25% is minimal. Yes, if it was suddenly raised to 70% then it would present an issue. However, raising the capital gains tax and flattening other taxes would be growth positive.
Instead of taking this stance, Romney seeks to defend and preserve all of the Bush tax cuts (including capital gains), even when we’re in the midst of a deficit crisis and the gap between the rich and the poor is at a post World War II high.
Yet, he’s viewed as ‘too moderate’ by the GOP? The ‘no increased taxes on the rich, no matter what’ stance really puts off the middle class, as the GOP is rightfully viewed as the party for the Rich.
When it comes to military and drug war spending, the GOP has become singularly focused as well. Perhaps it’s because they simply don’t trust Obama (a sizeable portion of the base still thinks he’s a Muslim Kenyan). Nevertheless, when we’re in a need to cut government, wasteful defense should be the first to go. We’re not fighting a major land war against another state anytime soon, and if God forbid it got to that point, we can militarize just like we did for WWII. Large handouts to defense contractors is wasteful spending just like absurd pension plans for government employees.
While the GOP and Democrats could probably agree to cutting wasteful military spending in exchange for cuts in entitlements, the GOP has become so hardened that any candidate that suggests doing so is viewed as ‘weak.’
However, where the GOP has really lost its grip on reality is social issues. In general, I view anyone who really cares about social issues as a sucker. Simply put, nothing is going to change. For the most divisive social issue, abortion, our government policies that have been more or less the same for forty years. Other social issues, like gay marriage, are singularly handled by the states….and quite frankly if you are not gay, it probably doesn’t affect your life that much anyways.
In any event, the GOP is far outside the mainstream on these social issues. Americans in general view abortion (in the first semester and beginning of the second semester) as a woman’s right. Choosing a candidate like Santorum, who makes a big deal about an issue that is both a loser for the party and something he cannot do much about, is just plain stupid.
Furthermore, the fact that Romney is viewed as ‘too moderate’ about this sort of thing is ridiculous. Romney has unfortunately adopted the Bush stance as anti-stem cell research, which again is something far outside the mainstream. As of 2006, Republicans were centrist enough that many of them joined Democrats to try to allow for federal funding for stem cell research only to be vetoed by Bush. McCain supported stem cell research. Yet the guy that is now too moderate is still right wing enough to be against it?
I’m not even going to bother delving into the health care debate, as this is something the GOP has adopted a ‘our way or the highway’ approach from the start. It singularly ignores the incredible cost benefits the Europeans and Canadians enjoy compared to us (it’s perhaps one of the few things they do better than us at this point).
When Obama was elected, 25% of the country naively thought he was some sort of Messiah that would bring us 0% unemployment overnight and cure cancer while at it. Another 25% thought he is some sort of Marxist Islamacist who is hell bent on destroying the country from within. The other 50% yawned and hoped for the best.
Whoever wins the last 50% wins the presidency. The 25% that hate Obama though have taken over the Republican party and pushed out most of the moderates and libertarians that used to vote Republican. This is how someone who is already not that moderate, Romney, is now somehow viewed as too moderate.
If the Republican base gets what they want, Santorum, and they do not get lucky with some sort of economic collapse just prior to the election, they’ll also get what they deserve. A severe beating in the November.