Exposing the Fall of the Republican Party
As a great many Americans have “disengaged psychologically from politics and government,”* the Republican Party has been forced to pander to those still interested. Social conservatives, xenophobes, religious extremists and those with corporate interests now make up what you would call the interested Republican, electoral base. John McCain, try as he might, is just not authentically aligned with enough of these factions to hold the party together. McCain isn’t even completely aligned with the Republican Party as a whole. In 2001, he actually considered becoming a Democrat.
Obama appeals to the disinterested. Despite his obvious expertise at the art of rhetoric, Obama is really quite mundane. He speaks to normative issues, such as healthcare, jobs and community. Obama could be the guy next door anywhere in America. This is what Americans are craving: a normal guy talking about normal issues.
In the final days of this election, we will see skewed polls telling us the race is tightening. These polls are skewed because it is the interested that actually take the time to submit to polling. In the ballot box, we will see the will of the disinterested prevail. The collapse of the economy, poor governmental response to hurricane Katrina, corruption, manufactured evidence that led to the war in Iraq and a deep-rooted mistrust of Washington in general has motivated those reluctant to care.
And what is the future of the Republican Party? It has a choice: move to more moderate candidates that appeal to mainstream society or remain incapacitated by the factional infighting between extremist blocs. The realists are, and have been, the party’s best chance at appealing to the moderate voter. George Bush Senior was a realist and his son, prior to his election, was seen as one as well. It was only the post-Sept. 11th fear of terrorism that allowed him a second term once his true, neoconservative stripes had been revealed. As that fear waned, so did his ability to hold the party together. While we can blame McCain for this rift in the Republican Party, the truth is that it was always there. Fear of losing has just brought it out into the light.
* Robert D. Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy 6, no. 1 (January 1995): 65-78.