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THE REAL MAJORITY DESERVES A VOICE

February 8, 2012Posted in Blog, News

Tuesday’s GOP primary & caucus results are even greater confirmation that the real electoral majority in America today are those who aren’t finding a real choice in either of the so-called major parties. That majority deserves a voice.

Santorum’s wins reveal deep problems for a Republican Party in search of direction

ANALYSIS AND OPINION

Feb. 8, 2012

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who polled in single digits as recently as December, swept to victories in three states Tuesday, reshaping the landscape of the GOP presidential nominating process and raising more questions about the Republican party’s ability to build a consensus around the eventual nominee, whomever he may be.

Santorum won overwhelming victories in Minnesota and Missouri, although the Missouri primary was nonbinding and actual delegates will be chosen at the Missouri caucuses in March. The socially conservative Santorum came from behind in Colorado, overtaking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had led in early returns there.

Santorum told supporters in St. Charles, Mo., that conservatism was “alive and well in Missouri and Minnesota” and that he was not trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney but rather “the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.”

Santorum has now won more state contests, four, than Romney, the leader in delegates, who has won three. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has won one state, South Carolina, while Ron Paul’s best finishes have been second-place showings. According to CNN, Romney has 106 delegates of the 1,144 needed to nominate, while Gingrich sits in second with 38. Santorum has 22 and Paul has 20. The next GOP results will be from Maine, where numbers from the weeklong Maine caucuses will be announced Saturday. Romney and Paul are vying for the top spot in Maine.

GOP identity crisis grows with Santorum victories

Far from indicating wide appeal to numerous demographic groups, Tuesday’s caucus results underscore the enormous challenge facing the Republican Party not only in unseating President Obama in November but in crafting a viable direction for the GOP that can boost the party’s sagging popularity.

Romney, the so-called “establishment candidate,” fails to inspire enthusiasm in both the libertarian and fundamentalist Christian wings of the party, but Santorum, a Roman Catholic and social conservative, is no friend of liberty and stands to the right of Pope Benedict XVI on issues regarding birth control. Gingrich has even lower favorability numbers than Santorum, whereas Paul, despite running a good campaign on several fronts, is not gaining traction with the types of voters who booed him when he invoked the Christian “Golden Rule” in a South Carolina debate.

When Abraham Lincoln said that a House divided against itself cannot stand during his famous 1858 speech in Springfield, Ill., he was referring to the nation, not the Republican Party which he helped bring to prominence. But some 154 years later, the great untold story of the 2011-2012 GOP nominating process is the fracturing of the party along ideological grounds that are, by and large, incompatible. In “The Second Coming,” the 20th-century Irish poet William Butler Yeats ominously wrote, “The centre cannot hold.” It’s not that the GOP’s center cannot hold — it’s that it no longer has one.

What remained of Ronald Reagan’s “11th Commandment” – to avoid speaking ill of another Republican – was shattered on the campaign trail this go-round as accusations flew like darts during Happy Hour at a college-town bar. We may well be witnessing nothing less than the last gasps of a party on the fast track to self-destruction, torn apart by the conflicting demands of Romney voters who support unfettered “vulture” capitalism, Santorum voters who crave a Christian theocracy that would severely limit personal freedoms, Gingrich voters who just want to see someone, however flawed, who can “dish it out” to Obama in the General Election, and Paul voters, who want maximum personal liberties with minimal government restrictions.

The GOP tent is no longer big enough to accommodate all these interests. The Republican Party as we knew it from 1980 through the 2010 midterms belongs to the ages, a victim of its own self-deceptions and internal contradictions, no longer taken seriously by more than half the population and feared rather than embraced by another quarter.

This is not to say that the GOP will not rise again. It took the Democrats 16 years to elect a president after Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976, but they did it. Still, the damage George W. Bush did to his party is not going to be forgotten anytime soon, certainly not when President Obama is guaranteed to face to candidate with favorability ratings at least 15 points lower than his own. The larger story for the Republicans is not who they are going to nominate to face Obama in November, but where do they go from there after losing? They are in the process of sorting that out now, but it may take more than one election cycle to do it.

Gary Johnson factor looms even larger

With the GOP electorate in disarray and none of the four standing candidates viewed as favorably as the president, the time has never been better for a serious third party candidate. Former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican turned Libertarian after being shut out of the GOP debates throughout 2011, is that candidate.

As Johnson’s national exposure grows and the GOP eventually settles on a nominee, voters are going to realize that they finally have the viable third party candidate they have been looking for all these years. Johnson represents what he believes is the fastest growing voter demographic in the United States: socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

At this point, Johnson has more executive experience – eight years – than Romney and Obama combined. As the GOP continues its tragicomic nominating process, Johnson’s words that he did not leave the Republican Party but rather that the party left him will resonate not only with unsatisfied Republicans but receptive Democrats and independents as well. With the Libertarian convention scheduled for early May, it’s only a matter of time until Gary Johnson bursts onto the national scene. Obama holds all the cards when it comes to defeating whomever the GOP nominates, but he doesn’t hold the wild card. That game-changer belongs to Johnson alone, and astute political observers fully expect it to be played.

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