The Freak Show: The GOP Mess

The Republican campaign season is getting into full swing, and the results of the Iowa “Straw Poll” yielded a predictable winner, Michele Bachmann. The Iowa result is not binding, and doesn’t officially count for anything, except that it’s the first test for candidates, showing who has a good organization and who is connected with the base.

I say “predictable,” as far as the result, because the Iowa poll has the same shortcoming that all today’s primaries do. Back in the “good old days,” each party chose their candidates through backroom bargaining. This brought protests from the party faithful, and has led over time to primaries where the actual party members vote and the winner of the most delegates from the primary elections becomes the party candidate.

Sounds fair, right? Wrong. What we need is a return to the smoke-filled rooms. The reason is that the primaries of recent years have been producing candidates that are at the extreme ends of the party, because the party members that vote in these elections are the ones most passionate and usually most extreme in their views. The men in the smoke-filled rooms used to take into consideration who could win in general election. That is a very important factor that seems to be lost on primary voters, and it has helped produce our ultra-partisan government.

That’s why the result in Iowa was so predictable. Bachmann is ultra conservative, and the runner-up candidate was Ron Paul, another ultra-conservative. More moderate candidates, such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, finished well back.

Bachmann has made many gaffes during her campaigning, such as stating that our founding fathers ended slavery, and that the American Revolution began in New Hampshire, at Concord and Lexington, which, of course, are actually in Massachusetts. But that’s all irrelevant to her supporters, because she is staunchly anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage, and, as she put it, “100 percent pro life.” These aren’t views that mainstream America supports. I believe mainstream America also wants our leaders to have an understanding of American history.

President Obama has had problems, and his approval ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been. Therefore, if you’re of the Republican persuasion, this presents an opportunity that could be taken advantage of. However, under the primary system we are now using, it’s very likely they will nominate a candidate who can’t win.

The new “savoir” many Republicans have been clamoring for has just entered the race. His name is Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas. He has done things such as proclaim a “Day of Prayer and Fasting.” He has stated that it would be “treasonous” for the Federal Reserve to print money to try and alleviate the recession, and that if Fed chairman Ben Bernanke visited Texas, “we would treat him pretty ugly.”

Perry has taken issue with the Federal Government’s right to collect income tax, saying, “If you want to know when Washington really got off the track, the 16th Amendment, giving them the opportunity to take your money with a personal income tax.” He also criticizes the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of U.S. Senators. Other Perry proposals would amend the Constitution to set a nationwide policy on social issues, by prohibiting abortion and same-sex marriage, and would alter the structure of government, by abolishing life tenure for judges, and empowering Congress to overrule Supreme Court decisions by a two-thirds vote.

Perry brags about not raising the state income tax, yet he raised numerous fees, and he raised money through bond issues, increasing the state debt by over $2 billion. He also touts his record on increasing jobs in Texas, yet most of the jobs added are government jobs, many funded by Federal government grants, the very thing he is stating he is against.

Whether you believe in these ideas or not, they are way out of the mainstream, and it’s highly doubtful a candidate espousing those ideal will be able to win in a national election. So the Republican Party is in real danger of nominating a candidate that will end up losing to a President that appears to be vulnerable.

What the Republicans need to do is educate their members about the need to nominate the most electable candidate. The far right, extreme social issues, and the extreme viewpoints on Federal Government programs such as Social Security and Medicare, have to be tempered. No matter how strong one’s feelings are about such things, if you make that the benchmark and limit your candidates to ones who support those positions, you will end up with four more years of a Democratic President.

I suspect the Democratic political strategists are licking their lips at the prospect of any one of a number of these candidates getting nominated. They’ll have a field day getting out the word to mainstream America of the extreme views of these individuals. In this instance, the Tea Party may be the Democrats best friend. They will insist on a candidate with extreme views, and doom the whole party.

How did a group that’s in the minority get so much control over the party? It all comes back to the primaries. Those who vote and who strongly support candidates, both financially and through grassroots campaigning, are those with the most ideological extreme positions. No one gets excited by a candidate expressing moderate views, and talking about compromise and the need for working together.

The system actually would work better if party leaders got together and really took into consideration what candidates have views that, while still conservative in nature, will resonate with mainstream voters. What candidate can reach out to the American people and logically state a good case for his plans for jobs, which is the number one issue according to most polls. None of the Republicans have thus far brought out a master plan to take that on. Let’s bring back the smoke-filled rooms.