Friday, November 21, 2008

Republican Coalition

The old days of the Republican Party was a four-way coalition, between:

Philosophical-libertarians
Christianists
Military hawks
Business-folks.

They linked together for various reasons: industrialists have often been on the side of the military (see: military-industrial complex), libertarians have often been on the side of business (see: "I'm fundamentally a deregulator"), Christianists needed the local control that Libertarians promote (see: faith-based initiatives).

The Bush Administration frayed many of those links. Firstly, privatizing the military has had significant blowback (no-bid Halliburton contracts, Blackwater insanity); the foreign policy buffs have been separated from the Neoconservative ideologues thanks to the failure in Iraq (take career-military like Robert Gates, and then take Neocons like Wolfowitz). Secondly, in a bad economic downturn the business-folks need a little bit of "big government." Thirdly, many Christians left the Christianist wing, believing that the fight against poverty or the environment might be more important than imposing Christianist views in local communities. Fourthly, the poor fiscal policy (and privacy policies) of the Bush Administration has convinced some Libertarians that the Democratic Party might just be the party of a smaller government.

So now we see the Republican Party looking for a new organizing principle, and they have two clear directions: the Christianist direction, and the Libertarian direction. The military and the business parts of the Republican Party have always been the more pragmatic; Christianists and Libertarians are the more ideological.

The question is, who can appeal to which segments of the market? Are Christianists going to find a message they can sell to business, to the military, and to Libertarians? Or are Libertarians going to be able to win over the other markets? Is the grass-roots support for Mike Huckabee (and later Sarah Palin) the face of the new GOP? Or is the grass-roots support for Ron Paul the future?

Considering as most who voted for Ron Paul in the primary wound up supporting Barack Obama, and considering as Paul raised far more money and got a comparable level of votes, I think the Paul direction is the best for the Republican Party. It appeals more to the center, who want to dissociate from the absolute failure of the Bush Administration without capitulating to the opposite direction.

If a politician appears in the GOP with the savvy of Ron Paul and a little less of the extremism, he's poised to start making a killing. That's why I think Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is the future or the party. He's a smart man--smart enough to say No to John McCain. He seems to understand that in an election that seemed overwhelmingly to back Health Care, Republicans can't simply say "no" to health care, they need to find the Republican answer to it. His new Medicare reforms are the first step to finding that answer.

I don't know that much about Bobby Jindal, but if these sorts of things turn out to be consistent in his record, he's going to be positioned for a very interesting 2012 run. And as I almost always say before an election, my mind will be open to him. I have a lot of faith and support for Barack Obama, and if he has accomplished 1/10 of what he's setting out to do by 2012 then he can probably count on my support. But I will make that decision in 2012. It all depends on what the new GOP looks like.

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