24 February 2012

Republicans in despair

Buddy Roemer's departure from the Republican presidential campaign seems to have had a psychological impact on the party inversely proportional to the success Roemer had as a candidate. On the other hand, it may just be a coincidence that Roemer has declared the need for a strong independent candidate at the same time that Jon Hunstman, who had supposedly endorsed Mitt Romney after dropping out of contention earlier, spoke of the need for a strong third party "that can put forth new ideas;" former RNC chairman Haley Barbour spoke of the possibility, if not the necessity, of a new Republican candidate; and George Will, having already given up on Romney and Newt Gingrich, appeared to have given up on Rick Santorum as well.

For Will, Santorum is too much of "an angry prophet of a dystopian future" when the nation appears to need optimistic reassurance. The former Senator "has the right forebodings," Will allows, "but might have the wrong profession."

Santorum is right to be alarmed by many cultural trends but implies that religion must be the nexus between politics and cultural reform. [While] Romney is not attracting people who want rationality leavened by romance. Santorum is repelling people who want politics unmediated by theology. Neither Romney nor Santorum looks like a formidable candidate for November. 

George Will has more or less drawn his line in the sand against the encroachments of the Religious Right.  His critique of Santorum resembles that of a religious rightist, Cal Thomas, against the Religious Right in general as a political movement. That is, while both columnists may concede the point that the nation is in a serious moral decline -- Will traces a lot of social problems to single-parent or specifically fatherless households -- they argue that the moral reform necessary to solve those problems can't be enacted through political action. On this point, Will reverts to authentic philosophical conservatism, expressing skepticism toward government's power (or right) to change people's morals. "[N]o one really knows the causes of family disintegration, so it is unclear whether those causes can be combated by government measures," he writes, "We do not know how to address this with government policies, even though the nation has worried about it for almost 50 years." Will's criticism of Santorum is pragmatic as well as philosophical. By "open[ing] multiple fronts in the culture wars," he explains, "Santorum has made his Catholicism more central and problematic in this nomination contest than Romney’s Mormonism has been" Leaving sectarianism out of it, Will compares Santorum unfavorably with Ronald Reagan, who always made sure to flatter the people in general instead of implicitly scolding them.

I can't recall whether Will has explicitly disqualified Ron Paul from consideration beyond warning that an independent run by the Texas libertarian would assure President Obama of re-election. But it would seem that, unless Will has already judged him wanting, that Paul is all he has left, having made his hatred for Gingrich very clear for months, unless he, too, wants to join the increasingly urgent search for a savior inside or outside the Republican party. Will could never endorse Roemer because of the latter's denunciations of the power of money in politics. Could an independent candidate emerge who isn't disgruntled about the power of money and thus might lure an influential opinionator like Will away from a party without a "formidable" candidate? If it can ever happen, now may be the best time.

1 comment:

Calmoderate said...

It is interesting that some prominent Republicans are thinking along these lines. I was under the impression that the republican party had abandoned intelligent pragmatism for blind belief in hard core political and religious ideology. Maybe there are a few RINOs left alive somewhere in the wreckage of that useless, dysfunctional party.