Guest Columnist: Renford Reese, Ph.D. :Republicans are currently going through an identity crisis. The party has been staunchly ANTI- Obama, Big Government, Taxes, Infrastructure Development, Green, Health Care Reform, Social Welfare, Gay Rights, Immigration, and Compromise. Republicans have been against so much that it is difficult to tell what they actually support. Indeed, their “Just Say No,” rhetoric is at the heart of their current problem.
Beyond lowering the deficit and cutting taxes, Republicans do not seem to have any other issues on their agenda. These two topics seem to be a universal Republican response to how to solve all of the nation’s problems.
Ask a Republican how do we create jobs and lower the unemployment rate? How do we solve the high drop out rates in our inner city schools? How do we reform our health care system? How should we embrace sustainable energy? How do we regulate corporate abuse? For these, and other complex questions, Republicans have a non-complex and simplistic answer: “We have to cut the deficit and lower taxes.” The lack of sophistication and nuance in this generic response is why Republican presidential candidates cannot gain traction.
Donald Trump is a prime example of the Republican “issues” problem. Trump could not muster any legitimate policy issues to challenge President Obama on so he turned to his birth certificate. When President Obama produced the birth certificate and exposed Trump’s silliness at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Trump realized that his 15 minutes of political fame were up; he had nothing else to campaign on so he rightly dropped out. Other Republicans such as Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, and Mitch Daniels will not run for 2012 because they inherently understand the “Conservative Paradox.”
In order to be a legitimate Conservative contender one must be validated by the Rush Limbaugh’s of the Right. Limbaugh’s Right requires Conservative candidates to be non-compromising ideological purists. They must necessarily be “Just Say No” candidates for Limbaugh’s approval. Astute Republican candidates are dropping (and will continue to drop) out of the race because they understand that they cannot win a general election with such a narrow-minded agenda.
The growing Republican identity crisis has been manifested in other ways as well. Traditionally, the party that has advocated the “Traditional Values” platform, Republicans seem more inclined not to practice what they preach.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Newt Gingrich’s unconscionable hypocrisy has been on center stage recently. How can either of these high profile Republicans lecture Americans about morality or traditional values? Gingrich’s explanation of his $500K Tiffany’s (jewelry buying) debt is not only embarrassing, but it undermines Republican credibility.
The clamorous demand by Limbaugh and his protégés that Conservatives be ideologically pure is sabotaging their hopes of having a legitimate Republican candidate for 2012. For example, Mitt Romney implemented Obama-style health care in Massachusetts. Instead of critiquing the pros and cons of his approach, many Republicans see Romney as unelectable because of this single policy initiative. The extreme Right’s hate, anger, and irrationality are the foundation of a political cannibalism that has hijacked the Conservative agenda and exacerbated the Republican identity crisis.
Obama has also played a significant role in this current complexion crisis. When he killed Osama bin Laden, Republicans could no longer claim to be stronger on the anti-terrorism and national security front. This also undercut the growing chatter on the Right that Obama was an un-American Muslim sympathizer. When he agreed in 2010 to extend the Bush tax cuts he temporarily took taxes off the table. He is now advocating drilling for oil in the U.S., so he has taken that issue off the table. He has agreed to substantially cut the federal deficit, so he has minimized this as an issue.
Republicans want to get in the ring and fight Obama but they lack a coherent fight plan. They are finding it increasingly difficult to box with Obama–because he takes jabs and body blows like no other, because he bobs and weaves like no other. Every time they think they have him against the ropes and cornered he escapes—delivering his own lethal jabs and body blows.
In the end, it will be the lack of a coherent Republican fight plan and the resilience of the toughest political boxer in American history that will leave one person standing in 2012. Maybe then, Republicans will realize that Obama was their best option all along.
Renford Reese, Ph.D. is a professor of political science and director of the Colorful Flags program at Cal Poly Pomona. He is the author of five books. See his work at http://www.RenfordReese.com
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)