By the time I’ve finished this entry, the Iowa results will probably be in and my post will be already out of date. I’ll type quickly.
It seems to me that this year, more than any other time that I remember, the current field of GOP candidates accurately represents the many, many faces and special interests of the Republican party quite completely. One by one, the republican grandees and commentators that – to me – make the best case for the republican party and conservative policies, are getting thrown out as RINOs and what’s left is pure, distilled essence of republican. As a result, there is no (credible) candidate who I look at and say, well, I hope he wins. He wouldn’t be too bad. I don’t remember that ever happening before. Worse, each candidate seems to represent some kind of grotesque archetype – a liberal caricature of a GOP politician.
The front runner represents Big Money. In liberal propaganda, Big Money is the core constituency of the party – all the other constituencies were bolted on later to make up for the fact that the Big Money constituency is too small to be a powerful force… if they didn’t have all that money, anyway.
There is the edge-of-sanity libertarian. I personally find the basic ideas of libertarian thinking very appealing but, for some reason, the basic libertarian ideas aren’t good enough for people who make a career out of libertarian politics. The good ideas have to be rolled up in a big ball of crazy before they are ready to be rolled out on the national stage. The best thing you can say is that at least you can believe what he says – unlike the previous guy. I still don’t get why libertarians think they belong with the religious conservatives. I’m eager to see this riddle solved.
There is also the crony capitalist, the-object-of-power-is-power insider who seems (to this outsider) to be the antithesis of everything that republicans say they stand for. But, hey! He talks a good game and has proven – more than all the others – his partisan credentials. If a win-at-all-costs brawler is what you look for in a president, then this is your guy.
The apocalypse-is-nigh vote is actually split this year. One is just a straight-down-the-line religious conservative who genuinely seems to speak for the largest republican constituency: poor, uneducated white folks. The other just froths (and scares me a little). A win for one of these guys might finally resolve the What’s the Matter with Kansas? tension that has been bugging liberals for years.
Then there is the good old boy. When liberals close their eyes and imagine the face of the republican party, this is who they see – and they are a little bit afraid. Maybe those folks should be allowed to secede after all. They are not quite like us.
Last and, for once, least there is the guy who seems to stand for old-fashioned, sensible, conservative thinking which, of course, dooms him to obscurity.
I should probably also mention the fallen heroes of the race. There’s always one candidate who tries to be jes’ regular folks. They always fail spectacularly. Celebrity clowns are rarer.
I’m poorly qualified to comment on what republicans should be looking for in a presidential candidate and I’ve never really understood what makes libertarians find common ground with social conservatives and wall street types and the Christian right. I think this is the election where the republicans finally make up their mind. Are we for government intrusion into people’s private lives? Or are we against it? Are we serious about this deficit reduction thing? Or not? Do we really think massive cuts in entitlements (and taxes!) will make America a better place? Or is that just smoke and cover for rich-get-richer policies? Do we really care about the breakdown in family values or are we going to choose the serial adulterer? Will true believer Christians vote for a – erm – unorthodox believer? And, most fundamentally, do libertarians, social conservatives and big business belong together in the same party?
We are gonna learn the answers to all these questions and more soon, I hope. I’m excited (and just a little bit scared) to find out.