Last year’s Republican presidential nomination process was interesting, because the candidates who contested through the process represented distinct ideological perspectives. Thus, they are proxies for the relative strength of contesting ideas within the Republican Party.
The ability of candidates with these clear ideological distinctions to maintain the contest as long as they did may be attributed to an increase in protection of free speech rights from the Citizens United decision (see post “Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap” by Ray La Raja on Riding the Tiger).
In order of their relative electoral strength, the candidates and their ideas were as follows:
- Mitt Romney, the victor, was the standard bearer for pragmatic stewardship, which is the dominate ideology of the Republican Party.
- Rick Santorum evangelized for the religion right. His electoral failure demonstrates the weakness of the theocrat faction. For all their huffing and puffing, they are a minority within the party.
- Newt Gingrich’s government reform platform expressed the agenda of the neoconservatives. Republicans proclaimed him the candidate of ideas, and most Republicans don’t like ideas.
- Ron Paul was followed by the ‘libertarians’. While I disagree that Ron Paul is an advocate for freedom and limited government, that is how his mistaken and passionate supporters label him. Based upon his supporters’ narrative, Paul’s showing demonstrates the electoral weakness of advocates of limited government within the Republican ranks.
- A relevant mention is merited for Rick Perry, who championed the neoconfederates and was quickly booted from contention by the party of Lincoln.
Given the results in the primaries and caucuses, the Republicans have demonstrated themselves to be primarily a pragmatic party, not a conservative party. This supports my frequent contention that those that complain loudest about RINOs as not really Republicans, but they hope that they can pretend to be the dominate voice in the party without being challenged for their fraud.
Because pragmatists oppose principles on principles, Republican policies are implanted by those who do express ideas. Thus, we see Republicans advocate a mix of big government reforms from the neoconservatives, and policy concessions to the religious right so that they will remain obedient within the Republican coalition; however, those that advocate limited government will be offered empty rhetoric without implementing policies.
So far, since the election, that condition continues to describe the Republican’s feckless congressional leadership.