The GOP is falling apart.
How else to explain the wide variance of positions within the Republican Party on basic issues ranging from same-sex marriage to immigration to tax policy? For years, GOP bigwigs have explained that the Republican Party can only succeed if it expands and evolves, embracing as many views as possible. There’s only one problem: that simply doesn’t work.
While the Democratic Party has moved toward leftist purity in which Hillary Clinton’s policy positions are virtually indistinguishable from socialist Bernie Sanders’, the Republican Party has become to political positions what COEXIST bumper stickers are to religion – an embrace of all and, thereby, a perversion of all. The media enjoy suggesting that the Republican Party has never been more right-wing, but the opposite is true: the Republican Party has never been more heterogeneous, and the Democratic Party has never been more radically homogenous.
Just look at the Republican field today: an agglomeration of random humans appealing to small segments of the population. The Republican Party has now fragmented into Tea Party Republicans who oppose Establishment Republicans, Socially Conservative Republicans who oppose Libertarian Republicans. None of these candidates are running for the nomination; all of them are running for approximately 25 percent of the vote in a primary. Winning one quarter of primary voters in the early states could win the nomination.
Here’s a snapshot of the field:
Rand Paul: Out Of The Box. This week alone, Senator Paul (R-KY) has announced that he seeks the death of the PATRIOT Act altogether rather than merely slashing the metadata, stated that the war on drugs has led to the destruction of the black community, ripped into “de facto segregation and de facto arresting of young black men,” and suggested that incarceration of criminals has hampered economic development. He is not running for the Republican nomination – he’s running for his father’s vote, plus some of the all-powerful Jon Huntsman vote that boosted the former Utah governor to stunning failure. Only 12 percent of Republicans identify as libertarian.
Ted Cruz: The Tea Party’s Man in Iowa. Cruz’s appeal is all-Tea Party, all the time. That means openly rejecting ethanol subsidies in Iowa, blasting reporters for asking ridiculous questions about same-sex marriage, and focusing his ire constantly on Obamacare and executive abuses. Cruz’s hopes ride on Iowa – he must finish first or second there in order to push his campaign into South Carolina, assuming that someone like Mike Huckabee does not play spoiler. Tea Party appeal is almost the polar opposite of libertarian appeal: it runs broad but not deep, with 61 percent of 2012 primary voters identifying as Tea Party.
Mike Huckabee: Carrying The Cross. Huckabee appeals plainly to Christian conservatives, who feel neglected in large part by other candidates. In the newest polls, Huckabee still leads nationally among white evangelicals. That’s because he has set such voters squarely in his sights, and he will hammer them over and over. This week, that led Huckabee into the treacherous waters of defending Josh Duggar, the son of the iconic Duggar family, who resigned from his post at the Family Research Council after apologizing for molesting children 12 years ago. Evangelical voters represent approximately half of all Republican primary voters. Should Huckabee begin to falter, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) waits to fill that gap.
Marco Rubio: All Over The Place. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) enjoys the broadest support of any Republican candidate among all the various branches of the Republican Party, but that also means that he’s taken positions that range from the evolving to the inconsistent to the utterly incoherent. When it comes to same-sex marriage, he’s said that he’s against it but that he would attend one. When it comes to immigration, Rubio has held virtually every position it is possible to hold, but overall supports amnesty plans for illegal immigrants. Rubio may be capturing minds, but he isn’t capturing hearts.
Scott Walker: What Conservatives Want To Hear…For Now. Like Rubio, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) evolves his view on a constant basis, attempting to navigate the hazardous flotsam of a shipwrecked electorate. Once an active proponent of amnesty, Walker has now suggested radically cutting even legal immigration. Walker has also flipped on subsidies for the ethanol industry. Like Rubio, Walker has said he would attend a same-sex wedding and has in the past attended a same-sex wedding reception. Walker has always been staunchly pro-life, but he’s been shy about it before: he ran an ad in 2014 stating, “I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”
Jeb Bush: Money Man. Jeb’s running for the cash crowd, pure and simple. The so-called “establishment” wing of the Republican Party represents no more than one third of the primary voting base. But it represents a heavy percentage of the coastal cash being poured into the 2016 election cycle. Jeb’s hope is that by de-emphasizing social issues and focusing on his support for amnesty and Common Core to solidify his support in California and New York money circles, he can run down the center a la John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. There is only one problem: both of those candidates lost general elections. Should Bush fail to heat up over the next few weeks, there are several more establishment candidates waiting in the wings: Governor John Kasich (R-OH), Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), and former Governor George Pataki (R-NY).
Then there are the fringe candidates: Ben Carson, who is running on the Republican affirmative action ticket; Carly Fiorina, who is running for vice president on the glass ceiling ticket; Lindsey Graham, who is running as the anti-Rand Paul hawk, but whose leftism on immigration sinks him with the base.
What do these candidates have in common? Nothing, really. And that’s the point: not that they’re insincere or pandering for votes – although some of them are – but that they represent oddly agglomerated constituencies stuck together out of convenience, in many cases. The Democrats have mastered the art of Top Priority Trading: for Hispanics, supposedly, the Top Priority is illegal immigration, and so blacks must take a back seat on that issue; for blacks, supposedly, the Top Priority is governmental subsidies, and so wealthy earners must take a back seat on that issue; for gays, the Top Priority is same-sex marriage, and so Hispanics and blacks must take a back seat on that issue; for wealthy coastal elites, the Top Priority is environmentalism, so everyone else must take a back seat on that issue. The result is a party with a coherent coalition of far-leftism.
With the Republicans, no such coalition exists. Establishment Republicans refuse to recognize the Top Priority for evangelicals, abortion, and the Top Priority for Tea Parties, ending subsidies for both individuals and business; evangelicals refuse to recognize the Top Priority of libertarians, governmental pullback on issues including drugs, and the Top Priority for establishment Republicans, deregulation. The Republican Party is, in other words, a mess. Conservatives hope against hope that after someone emerges, Hillary Clinton will unify the opposition, but that was the plan in 2012.
The Republican Party has become the Whig Party after 1856: stuck together because that’s the way it has always been, but with no differentiation on its left from the Democrats. Rutherford B. Hayes, future president of the United States, wrote upon the breakup of the Whigs: “The real grounds of difference upon important political questions no longer correspond with party lines. The progressive Whig is nearer in sentiment to the radical Democrat than the radical Democrat is to the ‘fogy’ of his own party; vice versa.” The difference is that the Democratic Party of 1856 had its own issues of coherence; no such issues exist in the Democratic Party today.
The establishment knows the GOP has become an umbrella without a unifying shaft, which is why they cling to relics of the past like Jeb Bush, hoping against hope that the name alone will unify (it didn’t work for former President Millard Fillmore in 1856, and it won’t work now). The Tea Party knows that the GOP has been hijacked by moneyed interests, which is why it seeks to ignore the party money; the same goes for the libertarians. And Evangelicals look for someone to take their priorities seriously, without embarrassment.
So what’s the solution? To figure out the Top Priorities of the various constituencies, and figure out who must take a back seat on those issues. It’s one thing to have a Big Tent party. It’s another things to let the clowns run the circus.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.