The Republican Party may be doing well in the polls but it is still very much without direction. Different brands of conservatism continue to compete for the favor of that frustrated voter, the stereotypical angry white male.
Since the Tea Parties appeared on the scene, Republicans have been looking for ways to co-opt their Obama resentment. But tea partiers aren’t just upset with the president and his party; they are in the process of rediscovering the meaning of American republicanism and its inherent opposition to “big government.” In this regard, the Republican Party hasn’t been kind to them during the George W. Bush years.
The GOP has still to reinvent itself as something starkly different form the Bush-Cheney brand of neoconservatism that shaped its vision in previous years. Unsurprisingly, some Republican congressmen and staffers are warning against being “sassy and cocky” about November’s midterm elections. And recently, Steve Forbes of Forbes magazine expressed a similar sentiment when he told Republicans to stop boasting.
Americans are more likely to toss out the Democrats if they believe that the opposition has better ideas, notes Forbes. “A growing number of Republicans are beginning to get it,” he believes, especially “regarding health care.” Consider, for instance, Paul Ryan, who has been crusading for free-market economics and personal choice for many months and recently argued against nationalizing health care with greater conviction than many of his colleagues could muster. Or the signatories of February’s Mount Vernon Statement and their fight for constitutional conservatism. Their voices are readily embraced by the Tea Parties as well as their fans in media, i.e., Fox News.
Still, Politico notes that the Republican Party’s biggest enemy is itself. “The GOP is wrestling with a series of challenges, some familiar and some new, that could dampen the party’s prospects for recapturing Congress this November,” warns the website. Rand Paul is one of them.
Since winning his party’s nomination for Kentucky’s open Senate seat, Paul caused quite a stir when he defended restaurant owners’ right to deny service to people of color. “Racism!” shouted the left and Paul quickly canceled his scheduled appearance on Sunday’s Meet the Press.
The incident doesn’t stand on itself according to Politico but revealed the “weakness of the party’s national leadership and the double-edged nature of the Tea Party movement.” Paul’s opponent in the Kentucky primary had been tapped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell himself yet voters opted for an ideologue. That may be dangerous. “The quickness with which Democrats pounced on the GOP nominee’s positions on, for example, eliminating the Department of Education and ending farm subsidies illustrates the political risk Republicans take in nominating ideological purists.”
Perhaps “ideological purists” are precisely what voters on the right crave however. The pragmatism of President Barack Obama — though certainly not that of Democratic lawmakers in power — fails to appeal to people who have no appetite for leaders who don’t seem to know what they want or how to get there. Moreover, Republican voters are tired with incumbents and hypocrisy. They don’t want more of the same. They are demanding principled leadership. Republicans should stop boasting and give it to them.