The Grand Old Party has a tough mission: to represent the fiscally conservative and the socially conservative.
They’ve billed themselves as the purveyors of small government, advocating for decentralization and deregulation. Yet they also push for regulation to impart and impose social wisdom on their constituents. It’s awfully tough to reconcile these two views, and attempts to do so have turned the Republicans into hypocrites.
The Republicans have a grand opportunity this fall. The American people remain discontent about a still-sluggish economy and are growing angry at rising gas prices. President Barack Obama’s approval rating sits discouragingly low for an incumbent seeking reelection. Yet the GOP, in trying to please everyone they claim to represent, is losing touch with the voters that matter most.
The division within the GOP is best illustrated by the highly fractured race for the presidential nomination. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum lead an ever-dwindling field of candidates vying for the Republican Party’s official endorsement. Romney sells himself as a business man, who can return fiscal responsibility to the federal government; Santorum is the spokesperson for the outspoken socially conservative.
No matter who wins the nomination, the GOP still stands a fairly good chance, thanks to those that come out only to vote against Obama. But winning the election is not enough; the Republicans have to perform once they’re in office, something of which there’s been far too little. In the fall of 2010, the Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and immediately became the Party of No.
Instead of working across the aisle and collaborating on issues on which nearly everyone can agree, the GOP decided to become the roadblock to meaningful progress.
It’s understandable that there are some issues on which the party is unwilling to bend, but that shouldn’t include every single issue. For instance, many people realize that the future is not in oil. It’s a finite resource and we’d do well to lessen our dependence on it – an issue both sides should agree on. Yet the Republicans, despite billing themselves as the spokespeople of the American people, push against the development of new energy, if only to save themselves the oil money that funds their campaigns.
The Republican Party desperately needs to take a step back and determine its identity.
Is it the party of small government and limited spending or the party of social conservatism and imposed morality? It’s impossible to be both; you can’t legislate morality and claim to be shrinking the government. This fundamental division in the party may lead to a complete split into two new parties. Indeed, this split may have begun with the formation of the Tea Party, advocates of fiscal responsibility and social libertarianism.
The times are shifting. We’re more accepting and less prejudiced than any generation before us. Though we still have work to do, we are harbingers of new kind of American. An American that is patriotic, yet has the insight to look beyond our borders. An American that is socially conscious, and not always willing to put profit before responsibility.
It is these kinds of Americans that the GOP is failing to capture, thanks largely to their emphasis on social conservatism. Few conservatives deny the importance of fiscal responsibility, but there are many that question the wisdom of enforced social conservatism.
The Republican Party is at a crossroad. Its fractious nature leaves its future undeterminable. It will likely show strongly this fall, but beyond this election cycle, the fractions will only widen. If the GOP stays on its course, those that are fiscally conservative but socially libertarian will find themselves without a home – and the Party with a much diminished voting base.
The ball is in the GOP’s court, and it’s their future to seize, but will they?