Three Republican Bears and none Just Right

Why did Mitt Romney win Iowa? Not because he is the ideal candidate, but because the Republican faithful will just have to settle. That the turnout was not impressive, despite grassroots exasperation with Barack Obama, is a testament to the lack of enthusiasm with which the Iowa GOP greeted the quirky field of candidates presented to it this fall.

The Republican Party is a coalition of numerous groups, but the big three as things now stand are the wealthy 1%, the religious absolutists, and the suburban and prairie libertarians. The Iowa caucasus split between candidates representing each of the three. Romney is the darling of Wall Street among the colorful Republican field. Rick Santorum has emerged as the voice of religious absolutists, mostly evangelical Protestants but including Ultramontane Catholics like himself. (He beat out Michelle Bachmann for this honor in part because religious absolutists are patriarchal and wouldn’t want to be led by a woman.) And Ron Paul is the standard bearer of the libertarians.

In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there was one ursine character whose utensils, furniture, and other accoutrements were just right. For Republicans, none of these three is the Golden Mean.

Libertarians suspect Romney of believing in big government. Evangelicals see Romney, a Mormon, as a cultist who believes that Satan is the brother of Jesus. Wall Street fears Ron Paul’s fundamentalist Libertarianism, his antagonism to the Federal Reserve and to TARP and other bailouts.

Now that Rick Santorum has announced that his foreign policy plan is to bomb Iran, the more level-headed elements in New York’s financial community are surely scared to death of him, as are the libertarians who are weary of perpetual war (which always benefits big government). Romney has refused to be stampeded into pledging a bombing campaign on Isfahan if he is elected. America’s 1% may decide that they want a war on Iran; but rich people like to keep their options open. They won’t want a religious absolutist announcing a jihad publicly beforehand and in such a way as to lock the policy in.

It has for some time been apparent that Romney is most likely going to be the Republican standard bearer. This expectation is bolstered by his having won (if only by 8 votes) among the notoriously conservative Iowa Republicans (Iowans as a whole are liberals but their Republicans are the raptors of the Right). Still, it seems clear that there was a three-way division, the same one that exists in the country as a whole.

Romney is not the front runner because he is, from a Republican point of view, “just right.” Ideologically at least, he is what the Victorians would have called a “wet.” He just is not an uber-conservative. He is the front runner because he has a well-heeled, disciplined, national organization of a sort that Rick Santorum signally lacks. He is the front runner because Santorum’s religious absolutism frightens country club Republicans and his warmongering frightens Libertarians, and, well, just the sane in general. He is the front runner because Ron Paul wants to do things like get out of South Korea and slash foreign aid, leaving long-time US allies vulnerable and defenseless. The Republican Party is the party of big business, and big business has interests in the Pacific Rim that would be poorly served by isolationism.

Romney represents the 1% and is a member of that group, being worth a quarter of a billion dollars. They will be happier with him. But he is not the ideal candidate to run against Barack Obama, who is an Eisenhower Republican himself. He cannot credibly attack Obama’s health care law, since it was modeled on Romney’s own, in Massachusetts. His pledge to impose more financial sanctions on Iran than Obama is not credible, and is just me- tooism. He cannot attack Obama as weak on national defense, given that he is a chicken hawk and Obama has been commander-in-chief for several years now. I wrote at Truthdig on Romney’s many flip-flops and inconsistencies on foreign policy.

Since Romney’s record and instincts are highly unlikely to appeal to the Libertarians, they may well become progressively less enthusiastic about the 2012 race. Despite their not being that big a group within the party, they are a bigger proportion of independents, who are the ones that actually elect presidents. Although the vast majority of evangelicals maintain to pollsters that they would vote for a Mormon candidate if they like his politics, they may not be being honest with themselves, much less with the pollsters. (34% of evangelicals admit that they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon). Likewise there are many evangelical independents (a quarter of evangelicals voted Democrat in the last election). If substantial numbers of these two Republican constituencies stay home next November, that insouciance could well throw the election to Obama.

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28 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Thank you for this enlightening desciption of the problems facing the Republican Party.

    It will be particularly valuable for the chaps in Tel Aviv and Al Quds who wish to meddle with the US presidential election so as to get a candidate elected who will subscribe to their Apocalyptic plans for the Middle East.

    Even if they do not suceed in conning the US voters into electing any of the three flawed characters you describe, they will wish to leave Obama stalemated by an intrangient congress and unable to implement either domestic or foreign policy.

    Let us look forward to an intractable manufactured crisis in the Middle East in the Summer of 2012, that puts Obama in the same situation electorally as James E Carter, who was whipped and beaten daily by the press for failing to recover his diplomats from Teheran, leaving their release to the economically illiterate Ronald Reagan.

    Forewarned is forearmed, but, as the Greeks tell us, Cassandra (or any of their own economists) is not listened to.

  2. No doubt about it, a vote for Gingrich or Santorum would mean four more years of GW Bush’s Reign of Terror, aka War on Terror.

    Both of these men are promising to start another war, and Santorum finishes a close second? Madness!

    • Romney is on track for another war, it is why he has staffed himself with the people he has.

  3. Sir- given the reach and subtlety of the propaganda corps that will eat how many billions of dollars in “agit-propping” this “election,” adding fetid mud to the miasmic swamp of cognitive-dissonance-loving electoral turtles and amphibians and sludgeworms, my thought is that it can’t be credibly claimed that flip-floppery can be turned into a terminal millstone around Romney’s scrawny neck.

    Nor, I bet, will people whose tribal instincts, shibboleths, frailties, and fears will have them closing ranks, against all real personal and even family interest, behind the whole 1% apparatus, lose sleep over the history and antecedents and current versus past “positions” of Romney or any other piece of work that the Wrongs might field.

    Not that the Dems will do any better, or any different. Ol’ Milton Bradley’s Game of Life, American-style, is pretty much over and put away for good. The Game of RISK! is what’s on the dining room table now…

    • Well said! You have to be an English major! Man, do I enjoy people who can sling the language.

  4. He is also the front runner because Rupert Murdock and Fox News doesn’t hate him, and nor do the nameless donors supporting the SuperPACs.

    Well, at least it wasn’t Ron Paul.

  5. “Ron Paul wants to do things like get out of South Korea and slash foreign aid, leaving long-time US allies vulnerable and defenseless.”

    I don’t have any patience for most of Ron Paul’s silly libertarian ideas. But South Korea is a large wealthy nation that should be able to take care of itself. It’s population is twice as big as N. Korea’s while its economy far, far outstrips the North’s. The idea that American troops have to be stationed there as sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered in a N. Korean surprise attack is just ridiculous.
    The one area I agree with him is that the US has overextended itself acting as a world military policeman/empire. Let’s pull back.

    • I agree with Steve H. Suth Korea has been manipulated and militarised for over forty years by the USA, and has done well despite the interference in its politics. The USA does not aid nations, it bribes them. Israel without US aid would be less of a problem. Others, like Georgia,would be more restrained.

  6. JC, you write a carefully-hedged: “Now that Rick Santorum has announced that his foreign policy plan is to bomb Iran, the more level-headed elements in New York’s financial community are surely scared to death of him”.

    Who are these “more level-headed elements in New York’s financial community” that you mention?

    What I wonder (as we all must) is whether there are any POWERFUL 1%-ers who dislike war. If so, how and when do we hear from them?

    With BIG-OIL and BIG-ARMS presumably favoring all the USA’s wars in the middle east, to say nothing of BIG-ZION (aka AIPAC), there does not appear to have been any countervailing force whatever urging the USA to stay out of wars. BIG-BANKs could (had they wished) been very forceful for preventing the Iraq war (planned well before 9-11), but I cannot see that they tried.

  7. Great analysis. I think we will be seeing a valid third party candidate emerge. Neither party is serving the interests of the majority of the electorate. They are both competing for the love of the Corporations.

    • You think so? I’d guess, if we do get a viable third party candidate, it would be on the right: they’ve got all the money and their base has all the enthusiasm.

      What about the Libertarians? Do you think they might get a significant number of votes – or just remain cranks? We haven’t seen anything like the Ross Perot phenomenon in a long time; on the other hand, just a few percent could make all the difference; see “Ralph Nader.”

      Like I was saying, if a third party emerges on the right, it looks better for the President.

      • Viable 3rd party candidate? I thought his name was Ron Paul? Ron Paul IS the libertarian candidate for the Presidency. Bill Still, the Libertarian candidate, says he’d be perfectly happy to have Paul as President, especially if he can convince Paul of a better alternative than the gold standard for a non-Federal Reserve American dollar–the gold standard being the only thing of substance that the two disagree about. Don’t forget, Paul was the Libertarian candidate for President in 1988. This time it seems, it’s either the GOP wakes up and nominates Paul, or he goes off on his own and truly threatens both Obama and Romney, both of who could lose to Paul if Paul can successfully distance himself from those notorious newsletters.

        Yes, those few percentages. If it wasn’t for Gore taking those percentages away from Nader, we might have avoided a war AND a bunch of bankrupting bailouts, and the prisons might now be full of a bunch of Wall Street crooks instead of their being still on the tiller of the ship being steered toward yet another cataract into sovereign obliteration.

        • Those Paul newsletters are what the American worship of inequality is all about. As long as white people tend to have all the money, worshipping greed and worshipping whiteness – uh, excuse me, “superior American values” – are as identical as state’s rights and Jim Crow. It’s all about bringing back the 19th century, when the remedy for robber baron capitalism was for poor whites to head west and steal Indian land and thus be co-opted. Now how do you do that in the 21st century? More Ponzi schemes like privatized prisons and sweatshops full of minorities – libertarian approved!

  8. I think that the 1% faction is bigger than 1%. There are those not very rich people who suffer from Stockholm syndrom who think that they are part of the 1%. Seems to me like there are quite a few such people but it might just be from where I am sitting.

  9. “Ron Paul wants to do things like get out of South Korea and slash foreign aid, leaving long-time US allies vulnerable and defenseless.”

    Prof. Cole:

    You are off the rails on this one. S. Korea enjoys one of the wealthiest economies in the world. North Korea is one of the poorest. It possesses a large, modern arm, navy, air force. Its population of S. Korea is approx. 50 million, N. Korea 25 million. Why should the US be subsidizing South Korea’s defense after 60 years? The US can either be a Empire or a prosperous nation. It can’t be both.

    • Come now. The US could give a hoot about S. Korea or Japan, where they also have bases. Containing China is the game. North Korea, with whom the US has never signed a peace treaty since the end of the Korean War ie they are still at war with N. Korea, thus has every reason to want to acquire nuclear arms given the US propensity to bomb non compliant countries without them. The past 60 odd years has only been an armistice for the express purpose of allowing the US to invade at will should China prove to be difficult to control.

      • Isn’t that the point? Of course the US doesn’t maintain 100’s of foreign bases out of altruism. The bases are for the protection of the Empire. Since WWII, the US has wasted Trillions maintaining the Empire while exporting our industrial base to China and hollowing out our national economy. Unfortunately immensely powerful special interests have profited handsomely and will protect to the (our) death to keep it alive.

  10. I think many republicans are going to wake up to the irony that Ron Paul even if they dont love him, has the best chance at actually beating Obama. Now that media is pushing war with Iran, I think Americans on both sides will sucker punch themselves in the gut before yet another war in the abstract. If luck would have us spotting nukes in Iran within a year, then the formula would change of course.. Otherwise people here must sense the urgency of accumulating debt and paying for more regime changes, even if we are fond of Israel, I think we are slightly more fond of ourselves this round. And for that and RP’s stance on Obamacare, a scapegoat more than anything, I think disillusionment with the system may wise conservatives up

  11. As one of the more-or-less libertarians (but not of the Ron Paul variety) I’m seriously considering not voting in 2012 at all. I rank Obama as superior to most of the other candidates. If I was registered Republican, I’d probably vote for Huntsman in the primary. I may vote for Gary Johnson who is the Libertarian candidate simply as a means to signal my disgust with politics in general and preferences for smaller/smarter government.

  12. I’m not planning to vote for Romney but let’s give him credit for being able and smart. It’s doubtful that he believes most of the staff-written talking points he delivers. He just wants sooo badly to win the nomination and take the White House that he’ll just about say anything to prove that he’s a red-blooded conservative and altogether American manly man. His record speaks for itself but he’s decided its worthwhile going through with the charade just so he can get a turn to sit in the Oval Office.

    If he does get elected, I doubt it will be as disastrous a turn as some here suggest. He’ll govern from the middle, slightly to the right. Not my cup of tea but decidedly preferable to any of the other clowns now competing for the GOP nod.

    My fear is that at some point, Republicans will become so disheartened with the current crop of candidates that they’ll summon Palin & Christie, beseeching them “for the sake of the country” to toss their hats into the ring. That ticket has a chance to stir things up.

    For the sake of entertainment, I think it would be great fun. For the sake of the country – and the world – I dread what might happen if they actually win.

  13. There are a lot of people in this thread, and on the anti-Obama left generally, who seem to live in a fantasy world about what the American right-wing extremist movement is and always has been. For decades vile, murderous ideas from the Birchers and abortion clinic bombers have been mainstreamed by a corporate media conveyor belt, sanitized and euphemized until now a candidate from Lincoln’s party can get away with saying Lincoln was the bad guy. The eliminationist language I used to see in small-time gun magazines in gas stations, or rags like “Confederate Veteran”, are now the mantras of the Tea Party. This is not an accident, and it will not stop until they’ve found a way to exterminate everyone they don’t like, which is nearly everyone plus you. Why do you persist in thinking that any of them want an America where they would share the tiniest bit of power with blacks, Latinos, gays, and Bernard Sanders?

    Your hatred of the United States military has led you to seek brotherhood with people who will never be satisfied with anything less than a restored Confederacy. I’m not kidding. You hate guns and they worship guns. You help them abolish the government, and then who will protect you from them?

    • You mentioned the John Birch Society. Cleon Skousen was deeply involved in the John Birch Society. The link below gives Cleon’s own FBI record, which Erie has kindly shared with the world. Cleon had his own motives in his actions and did not tell the truth. FBI head Hoover was not happy with Cleon or his activity in the John Birch Society.

      link to

      As far as gun control, disarming a nation means they cannot resist aggression, should world or country events turns in that direction. The problem has come in with Americans is as a nation we have become dishonest as a people, aggressive as a people. As I have been told in Switzerland citizens openly carry guns without the problems that are faced in the United States.

      Restore the Confederacy? American history is complex and not as simple as vitreous North or evil South. There were slaves in the North and indentured servants. Northern factories were not know for their kindness to workers. One needs to keep in context the cultural norms of the times.

  14. Rick Santorum has filled a void in the GOP as a presidential candidate having solid conservative credentials on the areas of abortion and gun ownership as well as devotion to the State of Israel. Mitt Romney’s stands on abortion, gun control and foreign policy bear little semblance to views that GOP conservative activists usually espouse. Not to mention he has been involved in investment banking – something rural America is not particulrly fond of given the financial hard times farmers have had in the Midwest the last 25 years.

    Expect Santorum to take off as Mike Huckabee did in 2008 as the true contender for the hearts of the right-wing of the GOP. Romney’s “victory” is as hollow as Presdent Lyndon Johnson’s win over Eugene Mc Carthy in the Democratic New Hampshire primary in 1968.

    Rick Santorum was the big “winner”in the Iowa caucuses.

  15. “…Obama, who is an Eisenhower Republican…” More like Nelson Rockefeller I think. But Obama does take after his white grandpa, a Kansas man, like Ike. I came to this realization about Obama’s GOPism when he made the sordid deal with Pharma in his first year in office.

  16. “He is the front runner because Ron Paul wants to do things like get out of South Korea and slash foreign aid, leaving long-time US allies vulnerable and defenseless”

    Hmm, does that mean that those poor unfortunate souls who have exercised a degree of sanity and intelligence and decided some time ago that they do not want to be the long term allies of the US are “vulnerable and defenceless” I think not. If nothing else, political history shows us that there is always another predator waiting in the wings !

    But, as ever, an ‘informed comment’ on the Republicans pantomime. The big question for me is; ‘which one do the Koch’s supprt,’ that’s where the very big bucks are and that’s who will win.

    Democracy, don’t ya luv it !!

  17. This is a great analysis of the GOP field.

    What is interesting about Dr. Paul is twice in a week I have herd that he doesn’t want to be President. One was a direct quote from his youngest brother interviewed by the local ABC station (WZZM) in Grand Rapids, MI.

    You have to wonder if Mitt will have the same issue as McCain did for me, which was being a moderate then wooing the right wing branch (which Santorum has claim to right now).

    The biggest question is who will get the independents? Or will they stay at home or vote third party, which Dr. Paul is poised to do?

  18. 2008 Bush hate got Obama elected.

    2010 midterms were primarily a reassertion of the red/blue state divide that was temporarily skewed in 2008, inevitable dashed hopes among a petty electorate that the new king was not divine who could not or would not as the bias may be, on his failure to deliver on promises and their wishes.

    2012 November next, Republicans will have sufficiently reminded fickle voters why they got rid of them in the first place, granting the current POTUS another term in the W/H.

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