The Republican Party is Cracking: Is There Any Way to Put It Back Together?


For decades, the Republican Party has been a loosely tied coalition of libertarian-leaning market capitalists, evangelical Christians, and northeastern moderate conservatives. The group that was hardest to capture for the Republicans was the evangelical Christians. The market capitalists spoke to them by trying to convince them that any left-leaning economic system, always considered socialism no matter how liberal it was, was a Marxist, atheistic system of human activity. Socialism was viewed as an attempt to combine multifarious people into a new world order, strictly against the individualist strain in American culture.  The heartland, patriotic evangelical Christians latched onto this idea, and began voting republican in waves, sweeping Ronald Reagan and then George W. Bush into power. But now the fissures are starting to form in the republican coalition. And they are largely due to the group that was so hard to corral into the fold in the first place.

Evangelical Christians are breaking apart the modern republican coalition. Their attempts to push radical pro-life and anti-gay legislation onto the national agenda are alienating the other two wings of the party — the Libertarians and moderates. The libertarians flew the coop to join Ron Paul in record waves this past primary season. Young people, in particular, were optimistic about Paul’s willingness to open the doors to the gay population, and his more general talking points about freedom and civil liberties. The moderates, however much they ascribe to traditional American values and beliefs, were alienated by the strong language of such political actors as Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, even though they may have agreed with the northeastern moderate based economic views of Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney attempted to make his entire campaign completely about economic issues, because it was the area in which he had the best chance of winning the election. The evangelical Christians stripped him of that message on a national level with their regrettable soundbites.

The Republican Party is now in crisis mode, having to regroup and rethink their messages in the wake of another electoral failure. Though they may have swept to power in the House during the 2010 midterm elections behind the Tea Party and anti-Obamacare sentiment, this election proved that some of the ideas the Republican Party adheres to are resonating with the center of the American electorate, while others are not. Center Americans still abide by the message of freedom, which is why Obamacare became such a lightning rod for people who previously were not interested in politics. The branding of Obamacare as a form of socialism proves that many people fall within the libertarian-esque circle of adherence to free market capitalism and freedom of movement in the economic sphere. But the message of freedom and rights is beginning to apply now to abortion and gay rights, where the question arises: if people are so behind freedom when it comes to economic issues, then why are they not behind freedom on social issues? This contradiction is hard to swallow for many rational people, and so they have become divided over how far-reaching rights and liberties should be when we are country that abides by the tenet of the pursuit of happiness. 

In my personal opinion, I hope the Republican Party starts heading in the direction of the libertarian camp. I believe that then we will have a true discussion of economic philosophy in the public sphere, and I believe that liberals will win that discussion, just as they are winning the argument on social issues right now.