Republicans And The Far Right – Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

The recent flap surrounding the mushy thinking – no he did not simply misspeak – of Todd Akin brings into view yet again the Republican Party’s dilemma with its right wing. They cannot win elections without the energy and turnout of their radical right wing. But, to energize that radical core means pandering to it, and pandering to it means that the Todd Akin’s of the world may be seen by others as speaking for the party. In turn, moderates and swing voters trend away at election day.

For the sake of presenting the thesis, the radical right needs to be severed into secular radicals and the religious radicals. Of these, the religious radicals are most dangerous from the Republican perspective. Religious radicals move in and out of political activism historically. There is a biblical theme that true believers should not be “of this world” and that politics and governance is “of this world”, i.e. the realm of Satan.

Contravening the not-of-this-world crowd, there will arise from time to time a Jerry Falwellian leader preaching the necessity of political involvement for the moral betterment of the nation. We currently find ourselves with this philosophy dominant among the Christian radicals. Let us assume for the sake of proceeding that this group constitutes 10% of the voting population and votes predominantly Republican.

With voting splits at roughly 50-50, the presence or absence of 10% that consistently votes for a single party cannot be overlooked. It is estimated that true swing voters in this election constitute somewhere between 4 and 6% of voters. Even if that entire 4-6% came over to the Republicans as a result of jettisoning the religious right, it would not make up the shortfall created by losing the Christian radicals. In other words, the Republican Party can’t live without them. Republicans cannot risk having the not-of-this-world crowd retake a dominant position among the Christian radicals.

Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the converse is also true. They can’t live with the radical right. The pandering necessary to keep the radicals and to keep them energized alienates entire voting blocks, most importantly independents. Let’s return to the Akin situation. While Akin raises the specter of mindless misogyny as a basis for public policy, the Republican platform committee is busy writing a plank that panders to the religious radicals making all abortion illegal. While party leaders try to condemn Akin’s words, they adopt his policy in a curtsy to the religious right. The hypocrisy of condemning the rationale while adopting the policy is not lost on independents and swing voters.

Back in 2008 I predicted that the Republican Party risked becoming irrelevant as a result of demographic changes and set the timeframe to begin with the election cycle of 2020. When combined with the pandering to the radicals, it seems the Republicans may be eight years ahead of schedule in creating an irrelevancy out of a once-vibrant political movement. 2012 is an election year where the Republicans were perfectly positioned to a) take back the White House, b) reclaim a Senate majority and c) increase their majority in the House. They are on the verge of failing to accomplish any of these.

In pandering to the radical right, Republicans have not only lost the battle of long term demographics, they have accelerated their own defeat. Entire voting blocs are being lost en masse. Pandering to the radical anti-immigrationists has hemorrhaged votes in the growing Latino community. Pandering to the radical homophobes has exacerbated losses in the LGBT community. Policy choices seen as anti-woman have resulted in estimates of the gender gap being as high as 30% among young adult women
.
The radical right, without whom the Republicans are not competitive in the present day, are also the bane of the party’s continued relevance. The ship is alist and taking water. This should be a Republican sweep election. It will not be, and it will not be because of the unholy union between the Republican Party and the radical right. Can’t live with ‘em; can’t live without ‘em.

Author: ELIJAH SWEETE

Contributor, aka tidbits

Share This Post On

10 Comments

  1. ” There is a biblical theme that true believers should not be “of this world” and that politics and governance is “of this world”, i.e. the realm of Satan.”

    This ideology and worldview translates into much more than politics. I suspect it’s responsible for lots of divisions in society, family, friends.

    But it’s division is by design, the “clean” versus unholy. What a mess it has made of the world historically. I wonder recently if the poor marks for Congress are similarly by design, one party’s efforts to make government dysfunctional, irrelevant. Half the congressional members trying to bail out the boat while the other half poking holes in the hull.

  2. EJ, I agree with much of what you say, but I am puzzled by this remark: “This should be a Republican sweep election.” Why?

    Also, aren’t the Dems hostage to some percentage (?) of extreme liberals. I am not suggesting equivalency, just suggesting that the old days of cross the aisle bargaining is sorely missed and I wish there were a way to bring it back.

  3. Duck, you ask “I am puzzled by this remark: ‘This should be a Republican sweep election.’ Why?”

    Historically, the Party in the White House is the “In Party”, and historically 8.3% unemployment with the sorry economic performance we’ve seen over 3 1/2 years would result in the “Ins” being swept out. For a president like Obama, viewed by many as likeable but incompetent, to be re-elected in what may not even be a close contest, is odd indeed.

    This could also be viewed as the SECOND election in which the R’s have failed to take a majority in the Senate. Think 2010, NV and DE.

    The piece, of course, just reflects my views, opinions and biases. Some might even go so far as to say that I could be wrong, but don’t expect to hear that from me. :)

  4. Dduck, who are these extreme liberals you mention? When I think extreme liberals I think of Code Pink and PETA. Who on the left is as divorced from reality as the many, many people on the right? I am thinking of conservatives that actually wield influence, and not just some nutbag on a soapbox spewing absurdities. Rush, Hannity, Allen West, Akin, Bachmann, Palin, et al… These are people with constituencies, fans, and name recognition. Harry Reid would be the only one I can think of off the top of my head, and that’s for what he said about Romney’s taxes. But even that doesn’t fall under the category of sorely mistaken logic, more about him pulling a political dirty trick.

    Seriously, if the media just happens to be presenting me a buffet of GOP insanity every week, not because they are more crazy but because they choose to ignore the insanity of the democrats, please point me in the right direction and I will google me up some equivalency.

  5. Ok, ES, I just thought that the incumbent has the advantage and Obama doesn’t have an obvious disadvantage like Carter had (although over eight percent unemployment and a shrinking work force should be a real big stone around his neck) like Iran hostages and high inflation.

    Slam, I guess extreme was well, to extreme describing liberals. Oh, I’m not wild about Harry, and Nancy Pelosi either, but you got me, I can’t name names unless you want me to name my wife’s relatives in NJ and the the West Side of Manhattan.

    Of course the ones that get their kids diagnosed as having ADD and let the city pay for them to go to private schools is an aberration and isn’t part of this thread. (Shame on you duck.) See Ritalin abuse.

  6. While party leaders try to condemn Akin’s words, they adopt his policy in a curtsy to the religious right. The hypocrisy of condemning the rationale while adopting the policy is not lost on independents and swing voters.

    I think that gets to the nitty gritty and may well be the key to why the GOP is losing popularity. Of course rulings like CU and and the massive cash advantage republicans enjoy will seek to counteract the downside of those policies. It should be interesting to watch… in a sort of teeth clenching way.

    Re: slamfu’s comment. I don’t think we’ve had “extreme liberals” in numbers even remotely equal to “extreme conservatives” since the sixties. Their existence now seems to exist primarily in rightwing mythology. Does Bernie Sanders count? ;-) By the way, I like Bernie Sanders.

  7. Z, does Barney frank count?

  8. Btw, Barney Frank is retiring at the end of this year.

  9. So long.

Submit a Comment