The “red” coalition that brought Reagan, Bush I and II to power has fractured under the weight of their success because they did not properly serve their constituents. After 8 years of Bush, the traditionalists (Christian conservatives) are still upset about the lack of socially conservative progress, the nationalists (hawks and ‘security’ voters) are frustrated by an increasingly unpopular quagmire and the libertarians (small government folks) have watched Bush and the Republicans continue the expansion of the Federal Government. At the end of the day, the only people served by the GOP was the multinational corporations like Halliburton, Blackwater, Exxon-Mobile and other upstanding corporate citizens. Now, the Republican party is in the uncomfortable position of having to chose which subgroups to serve, which to grow and which to drop. In my opinion they don’t have many options if they want to remain relevant.
The Republican party has a dearth of leaders. Let’s take a quick look at their current roster.
Sarah Palin is a beautiful maverick for whom the Lord has been providing open doors to a serious political career. There are many questions surrounding her qualifications to lead her party, her family life and, most importantly, her political platform. While she has the ability to garner support from traditionalists and nationalists, McCain’s defeat displayed how limited that coalition has become. She needs to reengage the small government people by becoming more belligerent towards the mainstream media and going through an extensive education on some serious issues: (1) she needs to understand the Constitution and that it is a document wary of government. Her principles must be rooted in that document and condemn the Patriot Act.
She needs to begin a national debate about monetary policy and advocate a radically different tax policy like the Fair Tax. She must also stand up against the hawkish members of her party and advocate non-interventionism: hawks have no place in the next Republican party. There is a lot of room to maneuver, but if she doesn’t appear genuinely concerned with the size of government and have a plan to radically reduce it, her coalition will crumble like a deer hit by 180 grain soft points.
Mike Huckabee has been replaced (at least temporarily) by Sarah Palin as the defacto leader of the traditionalists-nationalists coalition. Like Palin, he needs to stand firmly against big government conservatism and corruption. He has already publicly advocated the Fair Tax and I think that’s an ingenious move. If he and Palin can tone down the culture war and imperialist rhetoric and adopt principled small government policies, either (or both together) might have a chance in 2012.
Bobby Jindal, the Indian (subcontinent) governor of Louisiana is often cited as a possible leader of the Republican party. His socially conservative Catholic doctrine might serve him well enough to make it to the mainstream GOP’s floor. If the Republicans chose to become a follow the Democrats towards the center, he is a good choice, but I think that is a losing strategy. Jindal has made a variety of socially conservative stands that turn off small government folks and aside from great anti-corruption rhetoric, he’s seemed too mainstream on tax and Constitution issues.
Mitt Romney was a perfect mainstream GOP candidate: a competent, pro-corporate hawk. Unfortunately for his career, Obama is probably going to hold the purple center of American politics for many years to come. This leaves Romney with an extremely weak coalition: some moderates, nationalists and portions of the traditionalists who don’t think Mormonism is blasphemous. Not a winning coalition.
Ron Paul is the future of the Republican party because the internet is the future of politics. Howard Dean’s unlikely rise to the top of the Democratic establishment (DNC chairman) was built upon his campaign’s use of the netroots. Tens of millions of Americans connected by the internet and engaged with politics. The netroots allowed Barack Obama to defeat the Clinton political machine and the John McCain campaign.
Ron Paul didn’t know much about the internet when he ran for the Republican nomination this year but his supporters did and they created a decentralized network of websites and online support communities that raised over $30 million. This launched him into the national spotlight, albeit a dim one. The energy from his campaign has transformed into the formation of a web-powered political coalition called the Campaign for Liberty.
The most interesting thing about the Campaign for Liberty and the Ron Paul phenomenon is that it has attracted some of the most ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ factions of American politics. Indeed, Ralph Nader, the uber liberal, and Ron Paul, the uber conservative, agree with other third party candidates Bobb Barr (Libertarian candidate) and Cynthia McKinney (Green Party) on a number of issues: (1) a non-interventionist foreign policy, (2) the sanctity of America’s Constitutionally protected rights to privacy and due process, (3) balancing the federal budget and (4) a reevaluation of monetary policy and the role of the Federal Reserve System. These four issues are the foundation of a winning coalition.
This coalition has many subgroups: Marxists liberals and right wing militias, libertarian intellectuals and anti-corporate activists, environmentalists and oilmen. In my opinion the wide range of eclectic supporters of this coalition are calling for a more decentralized governing system like the ones Founding Father and Milton Freedman would fantasize about. A government of layers, each of which is best adapted to the community it serves. Local, regional, national, global ensuring peace within the community and it’s representation to the greater whole. Social programs are not run from far away capitals, but within community partnerships between business and non-profit entities. This fundamental decentralization is worthy of a political platform because it is the root of conservatism: it is Edmund Burke shifting his weight to balance the ship of society.
Barack Obama’s great innovation was his centrist approach to politics during a time of extreme political divisiveness. The Republicans must figure out the next great innovation if they want to remain relevant. That innovation is decentralization and it’s where the third parties are currently coalescing. If the Republicans can’t brand Obama as a big government politician determined to centralize power and take away community’s rights, and then brand themselves as upholders of those rights, then some crafty people are going form another (Yellow?) party and take the Republican’s spot at the dance.