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    « Bullying: It's NOT Such a Big Deal | Main | Crying Wolf, with Crystal Ball »
    Tuesday
    Feb212012

    Rick Santorum and the Death of the GOP

     

    How could I have been so wrong?

    Okay: I’m not wrong yet, but it could happen. As of this moment, Rick Santorum is the front-runner for the 2012 GOP nomination. Yes: that Rick Santorum, the one who’s very few claims to fame include his oversight of the Senate Candy Desk and his rather rude eponymy—you know, the one that The Daily Show simply can’t resist.

    If I look at the upcoming primary map, I still expect that Mitt Romney will come out on top even if, as the primary train winds through the southern states, Santorum spends some time in the engineer’s seat. Romney still has the delegate lead, early though it seems, and later races favor him.  Larry Sabato, a blogger at Sabato’s Crystal Ball (run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics), has this to say:

    When the remaining playing field is surveyed in its entirety, it is possible to conclude that Romney could be in better shape to win the nomination than he looks right now. While he is bound to take more losses over the next few months, particularly in Southern or Border states, Romney can go a long way toward becoming the GOP’s standard-bearer within the next month by winning Michigan and Ohio. Both will be major hurdles and neither will be easy — but then, for Romney, what really has been this year?

    But what if? What if Santorum actually emerges as the winner in this oddest of all primary seasons?  From my point of view, it’s simple: the GOP is over.

    Oh, it may go by the same name, but it won’t be the GOP anymore. It will be the Tea Party, and it will line itself up for an amazing defeat, resulting in conservative politics spending years in limbo and disarray. Why do I say this: the Whigs.

    In 1850 the Whig Party found itself at an impasse: torn between southern slaveholders, northeastern businessmen who cared little one way or the other, and northerners who preferred slavery’s abolition, the party splintered.  For the next four years the party dissolved, falling in on itself in ways that seem strangely parallel to what the modern-day GOP is going through. Northern Whigs left the party to join the nascent Republican Party, leaving the southerners to the short-lived American party.  Eventually the southerners (post the Civil War) aligned with the Democrats, and the Whig party was no more.

    Where’s the lesson? The Whigs split over social issues, and the social conservatives drove the party to its death.  Mitt Romney—though obviously far from perfect—is a Republican first.  Rick Santorum is not. He’s a social conservative first and, if he does become the party’s candidate, I fear for the party and for what it means.  For one thing—I suggest it would mean another long dominance for the Democrats…

    Please share your thoughts below? Do you think the GOP is in a death spiral?


     

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    Reader Comments (7)

    It does seem rather amazing that Republicans would support someone like Santorum--who seems to be a big zero and is particularly frightening given the complexity of the world he would enter if he should be elected President. I agree that Santorum as the GOP choice would suggest that it had become the tea party. Bigger though than the GOP, I can't help but think that Santorum's rise suggests an incredible split in the country--one reminiscent of the civil war. When we look at voting the red and blue states seem a whole lot like the old South and the North. This has been present since Bush first 'won' in 2000 and w/ a Santorum candidacy, I imagine it would be even more acute.

    I would like to see a new party emerge from this--one that perhaps might represent people, not corporations. Larry Lessig's work, Republic, Lost (http://www.amazon.com/Republic-Lost-Money-Corrupts-Congress/dp/0446576433 ) is compelling.

    February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary Ann Reilly

    Not really... all it means is the base has largely become the Tea Party, bookended by libertarians and more mainstream conservatives. The party as a whole has pushed out a lot of the moderates, but the center of gravity in the party as a whole is still more mainstream conservatives, that stand between the remaining RINOs and Tea Party types. I'd say this is more just because there are so many more mainstream conservatives than Tea Partiers... the Tea Party would be even more powerful if it weren't such a small segment of the population.

    February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSolomon Kleinsmith

    I think Romney will end up being the final Republican candidate, but I think the Republican party has pretty much done itself in for this election with all its divisiveness.

    February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandra McLeod Humphrey

    Consider looking through the lens of the sales process. What I am seeing are the 3 sales buying rules in full engagement - #1 - People buy from people they know and trust. Romney trust factor is zilch because of Romney care and Obama care. #2 People buy first on emotion, justified by logic. Social issues are more emotional than policy and economic issues unless they are emotionalized. #3 - People buy on value unique to them. The inside the beltway Republicans, the RINOs, do not acknowledge the value that voters have for the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) because the majority of them are big spenders. Read Senator's Lugar's thoughts about the Tea Party. Finally, has the Republican party forgotten what happened last time when they placed a moderate on the ballot? Let us see what happens at the convention. Who knows, maybe "We the people" will be actually heard.

    February 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne Hoagland-Smith

    Thanks for the suggestion, Mary Ann. I've put it in my cart.

    February 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterMichael Charney

    Solomon: I think you bring out one of my key concerns about the process. The "base" is always defined as those most driven to come out during the primaries, the most likely to be activist. It is a dearth of leadership that leads to pandering to that "base." Imagine if, instead, a candidate managed to motivate the 2/3 of the party that isn't the "base..." Wouldn't that be something: watching the unmotivated part of the party actually start to care. Arguably, this is what Obama managed in 2008 for the Dems and what Reagan managed in the eighties. Where is that kind of energy today in our party? I don't see it.

    February 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterMichael Charney

    Interesting thoughts, Leanne. I completely agree with you on point 2, but if you then look at history, you'll see that very little is actually done, legislatively, on those issues at the Fed level; so in my mind that makes the process disingenuous on the part of the candidates. On your third point, all 4 remaining candidates are insiders to some degree (i.e., career politicians or political aspirants.) Your first point is the strongest, and argues for why Ron Paul remains popular: he's the only one I trust (though I don't like what I trust him to do, which is the subject of a different post on this site....)

    February 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterMichael Charney

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