Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nobody cares what I think about Iowa

Ok, so maybe not nobody, but very few people. That's sort of the problem, not many people seem to care about what I have to say. I don't think this is because I'm lacking a valuable voice, but mostly because I'm not reaching the right people. Hence this blog. 

I know nobody is reading this because its my very first post and so far only my mom and my roommate know I decided to start a blog. But on the off chance that someday somebody is looking back, perhaps next Iowa Caucus night, I suppose its prudent to say something as this will be a blog about politics emphasizing my perspective as an outsider who nevertheless possesses a political science education and an intuitive understanding of power relations.

I created this blog last night on the eve of the Iowa Caucuses because the race for the Republican nominee is incredibly entertaining and informative about the state of our country in ways that will be addressed more in depth with individual posts in the future (I can totally get away with punting cause they'll be there by the time anyone reads this).

Mostly what Iowa is showing us tonight is how divided the various factions of the Republican party are. As far as I can tell there are three factions of the party battling it out tonight. The establishment Republican camp hoping for Romney to grind out a bloody win, the fed-up/enthusiastic/"Libertarian" wing of the party hoping for a Ron Paul upset, and the religious wing (base) of the party holding its own mini-primary with Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry vying to be the standard bearer.

Whats so interesting about this division is that Paul's enthusiastic camp seems to me to be unpalitable to both Romney's establishment and the bases' religious-right conservatives. Similarly, Romney is unpalatable to the other two groups, but the mutual aversion seems to break down in favor the religious-right: While most of Paul's camp would probably rather stay home, a significant percentage would come around to supporting a base pumping religious right candidate, and eventually the establishment could be persuaded to support one as well as they have in the past. So the path to the Republican candidate who could most unite the party is probably to pick one of the religious-right's candidates. Ironically, this is the wing of the party that the nation would be least happy with if its candidate won the nomination.

So the Republicans are trapped between a rock and a hard place, they can nominate the most uniting candidate that most of them would be most happy with, however this will alienate the rest of the country during the general election because Bush scarred the brand of this kind of candidate and the country has tired with the culture war, eschewing it for more tangible economic issues.

Very few Republican observers would dispute this I think, though they may downplay the magnitude of the schism. However, no observer in the mainstream that I know of has taken this piece of political conventional wisdom to its logical conclusion: If a nationally viable candidate cannot win the Republican nomination, and the only candidate that can win the Republican nomination cannot be nationally viable without inviting a 3rd party challenge from his right, then what we are witnessing is the death throws of the Republican party as we know it. 

The coalition as it stands now does not seem nationally viable any longer, some evidence of this is that money coming into the Republican party and candidates is very low, donors are holding back and electing to use their political contributions for independent expenditures. They probably don't run the risk of being replaced with a new party because gerrymandering and incumbency advantage will keep enough of them in congress for the party to survive and reconstitute itself into a new coalition. The party probably won't do this until they absolutely have to, so they'll clutch to the old coalition for a couple cycles before acknowledging its no longer viable and deciding to adjust their platform. When this finally does happen it will be to the benefit of our democracy because the Republican party today is so offensive to so many people, that for many who belong to a group that is the target of conservative ire, they have functionally no choice but to vote Democrat.

We functionally have a one party democracy: one centrist party - the Democrats, trying to please 55% -60% of the people all the time and thus annoying everyone in the process - and one right wing party in the Republicans who do a solid job pleasing only about 25%-30% of the people. 

So ya, vote Democrat, not because they necessarily have the better policies or candidates, but because rewarding a party behaving and functioning like the GOP currently does is actually bad for our democracy. Please don't misunderstand me as being a homer for the Democrats here, I'll get to their problems another day, but we won't even have a binary choice if we don't force the current Republican party to update its platform. This will have a domino effect and force the Democrats to balls up their platform as well. I dream of one day considering voting for a Republican, all I'm saying is that as a young person with a degree and gay friends, I can't do that now - I dream of a two party system, that's how bad its gotten.

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