Friday, January 18, 2008

Battle for the Soul of the Republican Primary

Fred Thomson is right, this primary season is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. And since I am not a Republican, I can view this war for the soul of the party from a distance and analyze what I see.

First, there is always talk of the Reagan Coalition that really helped the Republicans start winning Presidential elections. That coalition grafted into the Republican Party Libertarians, PaleoConservatives, and Theoconservatives. What it also did was place some of the budding NeoConservatives in a places of power in the administration. Thus, Reagan held together a large coalition of people. President Bush the Older continued that tradition by trying not to change much, but his appointments show a growing power for the NeoConservatives, who were not making much hay on the campaign trial, but doing a good deal of work in the backrooms of the White House. The Republican Revolution of 1992 was primarily a PaleoConservative Revolution with great help from the TheoConservatives and the Libertarians. The 1996 race for the White House ended in disaster for PaleoCon Bob Dole and with the fall of Newt, another PaleoCon thinker the Neocons forged a new alliance with the TheoCons to take the White House with President Bush the Younger. As Younger President Bush continued his term in office the NeoCons showed complete control leading to great disenchantment from the Libertarians first, the PaleoCons second, and finally even the TheoCons are getting nervous.

That brings us to this year’s historic run for the White House. Each candidate really represents a different slice of the pie and a different attempt to forge bonds between the four separate groups.

Mitt Romney – Romney tries to be the complete package and is making overtures toward the TheoCons, but he is not really their man. Romney is stuck somewhere in the middle. He is trying to forge an alliance with the PaleoCons, TheoCons, and NeoCons. He is promising less government spending for the Paleo branch, he is promising anti-abortion activism for the TheoCons, and a continued foreign policy laid out by the NeoCons. His attempts at this have so far fallen a bit flat, but he is the best at naturally appealing to al groups.

John McCain – McCain has a long career as a NeoCon. He has some PaleoCon tendencies such as a hatred of wasteful spending, but his willingness to increase government in education, Medicare, and restrict freedoms in campaign reform shows he is really the establishment NeoCon candidate. The reason he is not fully supported by the NeoCons is his constant criticism of how the first true NeoCon administration ran things has hurt him. The PaleoCons and Libertarians are not behind him because of the above reasons as well as opposition to tax cuts. The TheoCons are not with him because of how he insulted them when he lost South Carolina in 2000.

Rudy Guiliani – He is purely a NeoCon candidate and was counting on big support from the White House and from 911. He has no credentials as a PaleoCon, Libertarian, or TheoCon. His presence in the race has also hurt McCain. Although Guiliani really angers the TheoCons by hjs open support of abortion.

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee is a smooth talker, but his version of the Republican Party contains only NeoCons and TheoCons. He has completely abandoned the PaleoCon and Libertarian wing of the party. President Bush always kept up a veneer of tax cuts to try and placate the PaleoCons, but Huckabee has never done that. The other difference between Huckabee’s version of the Republican Party and the President Bush/John McCain version of the party is that Huckabee will invert the power structure. Huckabee wishes to keep a coalition of NeoCons and TheoCons, but would put the TheoCons in the driver seat of the party for the first time.

Fred Thomson – Fred is the best attempt to keep alive the old Reagan Coalition. Unlike Romney, Fred keeps trying to bring in Libertarians and has a smaller place for the NeoCons and TheoCons, although he clearly tries to keep them by not renouncing President Bush’s foreign policy. Instead of giving the TheoCons what they want in Federal Amendments he actually tries to appeal to the forgotten Libertarian wing of the party by rejecting the need for such amendments. His pro-life stance may not be enough to make TheoCons happy and the NeoCons do not want to be replaced in the driver seat by a PaleoCon such as Thomson. Thus, his attempt to keep the Reagan Coalition alive is almost dead.

Ducan Hunter – Hunter is an old fashion PaleoCon who does not try to keep the NeoCons in his alliance. Hunter has the pro-life positions to satisfy the TheoCons, and although he is not advocating a withdrawal from Iraq focus his foreign policy more on economics and returns to the threat of Communism as a main talking point. Hunter is an old fashion PaleoCon who barely tries to reach out to anyone else. His view of the party is solidly PaleoCon.

Ron Paul – Ron Paul is the attempt by the Libertarians to gain footing again in the Republican Party. Paul’s positions are considered extreme today because they are solidly libertarian. He does appeal to PaleoCons as well, but stands more in the Libertarian position than the Paleo. He out right rejects the NeoCons as true conservatives and will not give the federal government to the TheoCons. Paul’s version of the Republican party is Libertarianism in control with PaleoCons sitting shotgun.

Thus, this race is real interesting when seen as a fight for the future and soul of the Party. Will it stay with the Reagan Coalition, is that even possible? Will it become the party of TheoCons? Will the Libertarians win, or will they run off and make Paul a third party candidate? It is an extremely interesting primary season on the Republican side. The question on the Democratic side is whether or not they will hide their Progressivism behind nice rhetoric or not? That is the only thing going on the Democratic side.


Andrew Duggan said...

Reminds me of Mark 3:25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.