Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the future of the Republican Party: Part 2

As promised, here is part two of my take of the future of the Republican party.  I'll also talk quite a bit about the interesting dynamic of the Romney/Ryan ticket. 

Let's begin.  Every political party's goal is to get elected or to hold power.  The way to do that, is to inspire your own base and to reach out to the other side.  It's a delicate balance between the two.  That's why I think that the Romney/Ryan ticket is so interesting.  It's this theory in practice.  Romney, despite what he said during the Republican primary debates, is the one who is more likely to appeal to independent voters and moderates.  The problem with his nomination is that he might run the risk of alienating his base.  For example, his health care reform act in Massachusetts, does not sit well with strict Conservative voters.  While Romney's appeal is more to the center, Ryan's nomination was meant to inspire the base. 

There is a slight digression, that I would like to have.  The assumption is that Romney would still get the Republican vote, regardless of the Ryan nomination.  This is true.  But, it's possible that members of the Tea Party would not vote for Romney or they might not be as inspired to vote for Romney.  Voter enthusiasm is something that political scientists and analysts are interested in because it might indicate who they are going to vote for or how likely they are to vote.  The more enthusiastic a person is about a candidate, the more likely, a person would vote for a particular candidate.  There's a lot of talk going on that voter enthusiasm is a lot lower this time around for Barack Obama.  I think there's only so much enthusiasm that a Republican would have voting for Romney over Obama.  But a fiscal conservative would be even more enthusiastic about voting for Romney/Ryan over Obama.  I'm running a risk here, in making this assumption.  It could be that I'm way off.

How is this indicative of the future of the Republican party?  As I see it, the Republican party is already starting to have itself splintered, a bit.  Rand Paul, pioneer of Liberal thought, has stated that the Republican party should start running with candidates who are fiscal conservatives but not as conservative on social issues and immigration issues.  Paul has stated that it's no wonder that Republicans aren't winning the presidency because they are giving up electoral votes before they even start.  The problem with running a national election for a candidate who is fiscally conservative but not as socially conservative is that you risk losing some of the Christian Evangelical vote.  This is a bigger issue, than you might think.  Christian Evangelicals represent a little over 30% of the vote and they vote Republican, primarily.  They're also the ones who show up to vote.  They are a lot more likely to vote than other people.  But they are fairly strict on who they vote for, usually, they do not like voting for candidates who are pro-choice or who are supporters of same-sex marriage.  Also, they are the ones who show up to the Republican primaries to vote.  In 2008, I believe, they were 70% of those who were voting in the Republican primaries.  So, it would be hard to even get one of these less socially conservative candidates a shot at running for president. 

As an aside, a majority of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage.  Just under half are pro-choice. 

But, if the Republican party is running nothing but less socially conservatives, then they (the Evangelical Christians) would have no choice but to vote for someone who is less socially conservative than them.  This could splinter the Republican party, even more.  There is already some split in the Republican party that separates the Tea Party members from the entrenched Republicans.

But, it is certainly possible, and in fact, it happens that less socially conservative people are elected in district-wide and even state-wide elections as Republicans.  You don't have to look much further than the governor of Nevada, for instance. 

Electing a Republican who is pro-choice, for instance, in a national election seems impossible for the reasons stated above.  Except, if that person is on the presidential ticket as a vice-president.  But even that seems improbable.  You can already see something like that, when Mitt Romney announced that his vice-presidential nominee would be pro-life.  But I'll give you two hypothetical situations:

Hypothetical Situation #1: Mitt Romney names Brian Sandoval (governor of Nevada) as his vice-president as opposed to Paul Ryan.  The selection of Sandoval could easily enable Republicans who do not think Romney is conservative enough, to be pushed over the edge.  Instead of supporting Romney, they might splinter and decide to throw their support (money, work, votes) to another candidate.  Since it would be so late in the game, it would endanger the Republican party, quite a bit.  This move might reach to the middle but it would mobilize the base to find someone else to vote for.

Hypothetical Situation #2: Paul Ryan is the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, he elects to nominate Brian Sandoval as his running mate, realizing that he needs to reach to the center of the electorate, in order to get elected.  Would we see Republicans still continue to support Paul Ryan?  Or would they flock to a more conservative ticket?

This isn't to say that abortion is the number one deciding factor in an election.  But what I am saying is that there are plenty of people out there who hold socially liberal views and fiscal conservative views.  There are plenty of social conservatives who hold fiscally liberal views, too.  Embracing just conservative views on fiscal and social issues or just liberal views, for that matter, you are neglecting the other side.  But, in their defense, embracing is almost always political suicide.  Sandoval is the exception.  Most people casually paint candidates with whatever views the party of the candidate hold.  When Tom White was running for Congress, he announced that he was pro-life, but still people called him a pro-choice candidate because he was Democrat. 

My final point is this.  I believe the parties are headed for a split.  Primarily because of what I've talked about.  Rand Paul is right when he says that Republicans need to run more socially liberal candidates out there in the West, to have a shot.  But, would other Republicans still consider them Republicans?  Democrats need to run more socially conservative people in the mid-West to win.  But will people even look at the views of the candidate rather than the party affiliation?  That's the real question.  I think and I believe in the 2016 election, we will see both parties try to move towards the center out of necessity.  The Republicans might not nominate someone who is pro-choice but they might trot out someone like Jeb Bush who is less conservative on things like immigration.  Democrats might not run out someone who is pro-life but they might run someone out there who believes that entitlement spending needs to be cut more.  We're headed for a split in the major parties because of the hyperpartisanship of the nation.  I happen to believe that it will be the Republican party that splits first.  It will be negative for them in terms of national elections but soon the Democrats will follow, too.

Done with hyperbolic predictions.

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