What’s Eating the Republican Party?

According to some social conservatives, the Republican Party is going libertarian. According to libertarians, the Republican Party is centrist. According to centrists, the Republican party is polarizing. What exactly is going on in the Republican Party? No one is giving a straight answer on that.

After two failed candidates for the office of president, the Republican party is scrambling to find its identity. Will it try to capture the young voters who lean toward independent politics and libertarianism? Or will it try to recapture the disenfranchised older value voters who care more about social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion? Or will it try again to find a candidate who can represent both voting blocs?

In the end, the main problem here is that the Republican Party doesn’t really want to develop a fixed platform. It’s operating almost entirely under the auspices of political pragmatism. The main question is no longer, “What is right for the country?” It has become, “How do we maintain power?” Or, in other words, “How do we convince voters that we care about what’s right for the country when, in reality, we care for little else beyond securing their vote?” The latter question has been the Democratic Party’s ruling question for years. And it is a question the Democratic Party has been far more successful in answering.

But Republican voters have traditionally been more interested in what policies and philosophies are right and just. As Mike Huckabee said, “liberty cannot function unless there are people who are willing to live with integrity.” I would say most Republicans believe that. But they have different definitions for what it means to “live with integrity.” Integrity is doing the right thing, even when it is the unpopular thing. But what is the right thing? Some Republican voters think it is one thing. Others think it is something else.

So the Republican Party is in a little bit of a pickle. They have gained power on the basis of holding firm to purportedly unchanging principles (that is what it means to be a conservative after all). But now their base is holding to any number of mutually exclusive unchanging principles.

Maintaining power in that environment will probably prove impossible. A pragmatic approach will not work. The Republican Party will probably have to dump either the libertarians or the values voters.

Either choice is a gamble. Dumping the libertarians will mean losing their future voters. Dumping the values voters will mean losing current elections.

They had a chance out of this with Ron Paul, but they refused to back him. Because he wasn’t a party player. He could have satisfied both the libertarians and the values voters. The only power bloc he wouldn’t have satisfied was the Republican Party establishment. So I can’t say that I feel sorry for the Republican Party. They dug themselves into this predicament, and I feel no desire to help them dig out of it.