The Imploding Republican Party

Paul Waldman (one of my favorite political analysts/writers– that PhD in Political Science doesn't hurt), has a great article up at The American Prospect about the problems the Republican party is finally facing in holding their uneasy coalition of Christian Conservatives and Wall Street Conservatives together.  Some highlights:

After months of tedium and mindless chest-thumping, the race for the
Republican presidential nomination finally got interesting over the
last couple of weeks. And the way it did so highlights the fundamental
rift threatening the future of the GOP: the divide between the party's
corporate/anti-tax wing, which includes the people who write the
checks, and its social conservative wing, which includes the people who
get bodies to the polls. It's the plutocrats versus the theocrats, and
at the moment it's hard to tell who's going to win.

Try to imagine the combination of pain and dread now covering the
Mitt Romney campaign like a wet wool blanket. After all the work, after
all the enthusiastic pandering, after outspending his opponents by
millions, after the months in which he was the only candidate airing
ads in Iowa, his support there turned out to be a mile wide and an inch
deep. At the first opportunity, the social conservatives whose feet he
had kissed with such commitment wandered away from his gleaming
campaign and over to that smooth-talking preacher setting up folding
chairs in his bare-bones storefront.

It now looks as if a lot of Iowa conservatives were leaning to
Romney because they felt that they didn't have much choice. Sure he's a
phony, they thought, but what other options do we have? The
somnambulant character actor? The cross-dressing New Yorker? As someone
recently said, at least Romney was pretending to believe the right things…

The plutocrats couldn't care less whether Romney's recent conversion to
hard-right social conservatism was sincere. He can blather on all he
wants about activist judges and border fences; what's important to them
is the tax code, whether the National Labor Relations Board keeps its
Bush-era affection for union-busting, and whether agencies like OSHA
and the FDA remain regulatory panda bears, lolling about in the grass
munching bamboo without worrying their little heads about the safety of
workers and consumers. When it comes to these matters, the plutocrats
know Romney is their guy.

But they don't quite trust Huckabee, who, as Sarah Posner has noted, has shown troubling flashes of sympathy for ordinary people…But as of yet, Huckabee has not pledged allegiance to the de rigueur Republican tax fantasy that cutting taxes ultimately leads to an increase in revenues.

This may be the most consequential difference between the battles
the two parties are waging. Yes, the Democratic candidates are drawing
more heavily from distinct groups, but the lines are nowhere near as
clear. John Edwards has strong labor support ? but so does Hillary
Clinton. Clinton is the candidate of the Democratic establishment ? but
Obama has plenty of backers in that establishment as well. Once a
nominee is chosen, the Democratic factions will rally around him or her
without much grumbling.

Not so on the Republican side. This primary battle is a symptom, not
a cause, of a crumbling conservative coalition. They may yet put
themselves back together, but chances are it will happen after a
crushing defeat next November.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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