The Republican Candidates’ Dilemma

I have friends who insist that Mitt Romney is a competent, pragmatic businessman. I have a personal acquaintance who is running for Congress whom I know to be an intelligent, middle-of-the-road problem-solver who would take her responsibilities seriously. I’m sure that–among the hundreds of other Republicans running for office–there are many who, in ordinary times, would be excellent public servants.

These aren’t ordinary times.

I feel sorry for Republican candidates this cycle, and I’m not being snarky. They are in an impossible situation.

One friend who actually knows Mitt Romney says he doesn’t recognize him. My own acquaintance has—in the course of her campaign for Congress– morphed into someone very different from the moderate, measured individual I’ve known for years.

It’s a political truism that Republican and Democratic candidates alike must pander to the partisan extremes during the primaries. But today’s Republican candidates can no longer shake up the Etch-A-Sketch and turn toward the middle in the general election, because the GOP’s rabid base won’t allow it. And in our media-saturated environment, any effort to moderate a campaign position is immediately transmitted to the self-appointed guardians of partisan purity, who respond by smacking down the errant candidate and bringing him (or her) to heel.

Since it is widely believed that the national election, at least, will be a “base” election—an election where turnout will determine the victor—otherwise sane candidates have no choice but to parrot the inanities of the least-knowledgeable, most anti-intellectual elements of their party, in hopes that enthusiasm of the true believers will trump the distaste they are generating with everyone else.

Those of us who follow politics understand what is happening. We recognize the uncomfortable position so many candidates occupy, somewhere between that partisan rock and that electoral hard place. My problem is with an aspect of this dilemma that is less often discussed or acknowledged.

There has been a lot written about the influence of money on campaigns and politics, especially after the decision in Citizens United. Pundits and bloggers have raised the obvious concern: if a plutocrat’s cash means that candidate X wins,  candidate X is going to owe that plutocrat. At the least, he’ll take the plutocrat’s calls; at the worst, he will simply do the plutocrat’s bidding. Fewer have noted the corollary: if the crazy core of the GOP base turns out, and manages to push otherwise losing candidates—Romney, Mourdock—over the edge, they too will be owed. Big time.

A few years ago, I told my husband I’d given up on voting for a candidate. Furthermore, I was no longer going to vote for the lesser of two evils. Instead, I was going to vote for the candidate who was pandering to the people who seemed least dangerous.

Whatever “real” personae are hiding beneath the shellacked exteriors of today’s Republican candidates is ultimately irrelevant. If elected, they will owe the party base, and that base will exact obedience. And make no mistake about it: the denizens of the GOP base pose a very real danger–to science, to reason, to the environment, to social stability, and to the American future.

Reason enough to vote for the other guys.


  1. If your acquaintance running for Congress is Susan Brooks, I too had heard she was a pro-choice moderate going into this election, a report she personally and rapidly denied, often, claiming to be a pro-life conservative. She veered to the right to get the nomination, and has continued on that course. Interestingly, that did not get her the endorsement of the NRA, who somewhat to my surprise, endorsed her Democratic opponent, Scott Reske. But with Reske being a retired Marine Corps Colonel and reserve sheriff’s officer, maybe not such a surprise. Or maybe the NRA sniffed a phony. “Fool the voter” doesn’t always work. Mrs. Brooks should consider that.

  2. I am wondering if the Republicans who have whole-heartedly supported Romney through his ridiculous and confusing campain will continue to support his different views spouted during the debate. President Obama could hardly call Romney a liar in front of 40 million Americans seeking answers during this debate but I believe he could have debated oppositional views – oppositional to his own views – spouted by Romeny. President Obama has to come back strong in the next two debates. He seemed confused by what Romney was saying; I’m sure he was prepared to debate what has been spouted throughout the campaign and not different promises and denials. Why on earth did Romney even mention being confronted by two women about their problems at two different campain speeches but blithely move on with no answers for them? Or for the country? The GOP is promising to stop or remove benefits from elderly, disabled, women, minorities, gays, unemployed, those who have lost their homes, and on and on, and now wants to remove educational TV programming for children. The issues from the GOP no longer seem to be political in basis but outright attacks on everyone in this country but their fellow multi-millionaires. As one of Romney’s 47% (did you catch his repeat of Biden’s comment regarding our burial?), I am now even more frightened about the outcome of this vital presidential – and congressional – election. We don’t have the money to buy politicians; I for one have contributed to campaigns I really cannot afford to send money to from my limited income. I am 75, deaf, disabled and now live in fear my few benefits will be lessened or removed by a man who received a $77,000 exemption on taxes for a ballet dancing horse. This is not a political election; it is a public auction.

  3. What I think partisan types fail to grasp is Romney is running a campaign eerily similar to Obama the first time around: make lots of vague promises, give absolutely no details, and hope you win on style. The difference being, of course, that I don’t see Romney winning on style
    A state-run factcheck site listed a series of Obama campaign promises and rated them as either kept, broken, tried, stalled, etc. What’s most stunning is the fact that there were over 500 promises listed. No wonder he can’t get anything done.

    I sympathize with choosing the lesser of two evils. We’re seeing one side paid for by the apocalyptic green movement, so we’re giving out tax breaks and golden parachute loans to technologies that aren’t even remotely viable. On the other we’re wanting more drilling, natural gas development, etc. It’s worth pointing out how much money the sovereign oil funds are giving BOTH sides, whether it’s to stall drilling or fight fracking.

    Again, though, how on earth can you folks attack Romney’s policies and ignore Obama’s obvious failures? I get the Romney critiques, but how do folks rationalize Obama saying Medicare is so much more efficient than the private insurance industry, but cutting $700,000,000,000 from it over the next ten years won’t affect quality of care? You do realize he received more campaign contributions from Wall Street during the last election cycle than McCain, right? Pull the wool, these people aren’t your friends.

  4. President Obama’s forward motion has been stopped by the Republican House of Representives voting “NO” on every bill sent to them with no recommendations for change or improvement by them. Except of course the time they spent voting 34 times to repeal ACA they have taken little action. If you are referring to an Indiana state-run fact check; this would explain the lack of no referral to reasons he hasn’t accomplished many of his promises.

  5. Wow, the private insurance industry. America is the only nation in the entire world where ordinary people go bankrupt over medical bills. Medicare may not be an efficient organization. Isn’t it about time this nation developed a national healthcare system that is, the private insurance industry is about making profit only. I seriously doubt that they care about patient welfare. Healthcare cost to the individual is constantly rising, while benefits and coverage is falling (my insurance is increasing by 15% in the next few weeks).

    I’m interested in Romney’s intent to built the worlds greatest military, I’m assuming all our military personnel will be driving, flying and sailing equipment that is manufactured in China.

    On a upbeat note, the department of labor released current unemployment figures this morning. It’s down to 7.8%. Wow, perhaps the current administration has been moving in the right direction after all.

  6. While I agree with your sympathy for formerly moderate Republicans running for office, I have to disagree with your false equivalencies of both parties pandering to their “partisan extremes”.

    Using the usual Left to Right terminology still taught in most political philosophy textbooks (Radical, Liberal, Centrist, Conservative, Reactionary), the Republican party has been taken over by their Reactionary wing (people who seek to return to a real or imagined past). The Democratic Party hasn’t been taken over by anything remotely resembling Radicals, McGovern’s time being the most extreme, but still Liberal example.

    In fact, since the election of Reagan, Democrats have been tripping over each other in an attempt to run to the Right. Bill Clinton signaled the take over by the Centrist wing, the New Democrats. Both Clinton and Obama have made it a point to criticize and dismiss Liberals. ACA was a Heritage Foundation (Conservative to Reactionary) idea. The Liberal single-payer idea was the only item banned from the beginning of the healthcare debate.

    I am afraid that when we create a false even-handedness, we allow ourselves to believe that Clinton is a Liberal while the John Birch Society, which both Barry Goldwater and William Buckley, Jr. thought was beyond the Pale, is an acceptable version of Conservative views.

  7. I don’t really see a substantive defense here. Just more “let’s all blame Republicans, rubble rubble rubble.” Weak sauce, as the kids would’ve said last year.

    And the Republican party is so far to the right that they nominate the likes of McCain and Romney? Really? Two of the most middle of the road, milquetoast candidates in recent memory for sure. And across the aisle we have elected somebody who had the most partisan voting record in the Senate, and absolutely NO track record of working with opposing mindsets. Hellooo? Who’s off the reservation here?

    And again, no substantive defense of even what little he has done.

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