Why I don't 'get' the GOP...

This is not a political blog, but that doesn't mean I don't think about politics.  I do.  Especially when I listened to the mention of the Michael Steele Question on NPR's Morning Edition, which briefly recapped the RNC debate.

Steele is the incumbent, but he's also called the underdog in this piece.  Still, he argues that the GOP's success in November is due to him.  Challengers disagree, and also point to the RNC's deficit and Steele's 'liberal' spending.

It also offers some insight to the people who would replace him.  More on that in a minute.

As someone outside the GOP, I have not been impressed with Steele.  The financial status of the RNC seems like it should be a big deal.  His job should be to fund-raise and distribute resources to campaigns.  

And then there's the drama, although I guess there's always drama.

Three things stood out at me from the brief clips of debate, though, and that's why this post is called "Why I don't get the GOP" and not "Why I don't get Michael Steele."  They reflected widespread opinions or beliefs that I have difficulty understanding and/or seeing as reasonable.

1.  Who was responsible for the November election?

This has been touted as a victory for the Republican party, but I disagree.  I'm not even sure the Democrats are "at fault."   

This was a victory for the vocal Tea Party.  But the victory is partial. 

The Tea Party appears so far to the right that they risk alienating the moderates that might otherwise shy from expanding government spending.  A good demonstration of this was in Alaska, where Lisa Murkowski (the Republican incumbent) won as a write-in after losing the primary to Tea Party candidate Frank Miller.

The way I see it, if the GOP can't figure out how to harness this movement without alienating its own party, then they're at risk.  

2.  Can Sarah Palin win a general election?

In the clip, Michael Steele's response was bullet-quick.  Yes.  The other candidates agreed.

Personally... I think they're all wrong.

The novelty of Palin as a "female candidate" (Hillary who?) is starting to fade.  There's more baggage attached to her name, including a failed election.  She resigned as governor of Alaska, possibly her single shot at asserting she's qualified to be president (given her past political experience).  Nothing about that move says "I am committed to expanding my political horizons."  

She's also very polarizing.  Polarizing is not good.  Rhetoric is all well and fine, but Presidents must come to the middle to get anything done.

I have other opinions that I will keep to myself.

This is not to say that another Palin-like candidate won't emerge.  I just believe, if she gains the GOP nomination in 2012, she is going to lose.

3.  Who belongs in the Republican party?

This was the biggest point of surprise for me. I'll simply give the two answers that stood out, and let you decide why.

The first was given Reince Priebus, who chairs the Republican Party in Wisconson.  He is one of the leading challengers, and may well chair the RNC into the 2012 election.  

Priebus: "...if you're pro-abortion, pro-stimulus, pro-G.M. bailout, pro-AIG, well, you know, guess what, you might not be a Republican."

Speaking of stimulus... [cough cough there's always drama cough].  Sorry, let's move on.

There was a lone dissent among the candidates, and it came from... 

Steele: "...we cannot be a party that sits back with a litmus test and excludes, and the national chairman cannot go into a state, 'You're less Republican than you are, therefore I will not talk with you and only talk with you. That is not the Republican Party that I joined at 17 years old. And it will not be the Republican I lead over the next two years. Trust me."

...great. A reasonable answer from the guy who's probably headed out the door anyway.

So this is what I don't understand.  How can the GOP be focusing on exclusion when they want to attract numbers to unseat Dems in 2010?  Are they relying on Tea Party momentum, and do they not see its drawbacks as well as its benefits?  

Does the GOP (or leaders like Priebus) expect to have enough 'pure' Republican support to ensure moderates and independents support them in the polls?

Moreover, Priebus' litmus test doesn't just cover the basic ideological things such as their stance on gay marriage that define but at the present time do not exactly exclude party members.

With views like this from candidates, it's not hard to see the very real possibility for the future path of the GOP: away from moderates, and away from the possibility of gaining traction with the majority of the electorate.

At least, that's the view from the outside looking in - a position that, considering the proposed terms of exclusion, is not likely to change.


  1. Mo,
    The thing about your post is that it very well could be translated to a commentary on political parties in general. The idea that the Dems are an inclusive do-gooder party is an illusion, just as the impression that the GOP is finally going to fix our fiscal situation. Political parties are bumkus. However, primaries are not.

  2. HCR, actually, I agree with you about that. Politically I lean toward the left - I'm admittedly hostile to certain Republican mantras - but I don't agree with many actions of the Democratic party either.

    What I meant to look at, though, was whether or not the potential leadership of the RNC was actually taking steps that would further the party's goals. If the RNC is doling out campaign funds, it's telling that many of them jump to agree that Palin can win - my assessment of her chances might be wrong, but I stand by it.

    And I find the idea that a front runner would stick to outright exclusion a little baffling because it should seem fairly obvious that the party must expand to include moderates/independents for real success in 2012. The difference between Steele's answer and Priebus' was what really startled me.

    The primaries - the candidates - do matter most. But with everyone - even freshmen congressmen - talking money and fundraising, the ideology of the people who control the funds for party campaigns might be important too.