It’s a simple question that begs an answer: Who is the Republican Party? I’m not sure anyone within the party even knows anymore. For a party that once prided itself on being steadfast in the face of the political game, it has almost assuredly had a turbulent fall. John McCain’s campaign is evidence enough that changes in the evangelical, gun-toting, anti-abortion party of yesteryear is in dire need of a makeover, and I’m not sure if it’s wise to trust Sarah Palin with any shade of lipstick. The party is about to face a major identity crisis and will need to reexamine itself, both ideologically and strategically.
The party’s affiliations are unquestionably the biggest hindrance to gaining power nowadays. Its moral compass has arguably been hijacked by the Christian right, which is refusing to let go. Too many decisions have been made to appease Christian fundamentalists who claim their support is vital to the success of conservatism. The Christian right has become the Republicans’ old maid, and she always lets her husband know who wears the pants in the family. If the Republicans want to be legitimate contenders again they need a divorce and to overcome their midlife crisis quickly. Democrats have been rather successful at avoiding the inquests Republicans have been forced to bear, but interestingly enough, it’s been their own choice.
Religious ties are sometimes beneficial, but they’re also a sure way to deter potential supporters. Republicans face the same problem as having an annoying friend they just can’t get rid of. Evangelicals were helpful to the party when religious affiliation was a major factor in a person’s voting decision. In today’s political climate, however, the topic of religion isn’t nearly as important, and by choosing the Christian right as a running mate, the Republicans are turning off just as many people as they hoped to gain from preaching the word of God while lowering taxes. Democrats are now wise enough to often avoid the subject of religion altogether and don’t sacrifice votes when they don’t live up to the expectations of religious zealots.
McCain has been the primary reason for the Republican’s recent identity crisis. Of all the candidates in the primaries McCain was arguably the least “Republican.” His “mavrickyness” seems to have gotten in the way for what Republicans once stood. His stance on immigration and stem cell research are just two examples of how McCain differs from his party. Party members are now in a limbo, trying to decide if backing McCain and his ideas are worthwhile or if sticking to the party’s well-established platform is a wiser choice.
The Republican Party’s affiliation with the religious right and McCain’s ability to alter its direction are just a few of the many issues the party must now address. Power struggles are about to emerge and drastically affect the public image of Republicans. We’re a day away from the election, and there’s obvious tension. Members on both sides of the firing line are lining up as well. A new blood of leadership will be critical to redefining what the Republican party stands for, but finding that individual may prove more difficult than expected.
With the presumed defeat of McCain tomorrow, the GOP is in a position to fundamentally evolve. With his defeat, new party leaders are going to emerge and make ugly attempts to jockey for position. Palin is already being criticized for prematurely positioning herself to take over the GOP. To some this seems rational, while to others it spells the doom for the party of Abraham Lincoln.
Palin offers public intrigue, down-home feelings and the best sound bites politics has ever heard but lacks the tools and vision necessary to guide the Republican Party to the promised land, where the moderate majority is enjoying a healthy diet of “change” and “hope” from Barack Obama. The Democrats have been able to draw support from ideas and messages that are bigger than simple policy initiatives and outdated ideals catering to the assumedly safe political bases. Evangelicals, NRA members and big business are all notorious for having their voices disproportionately heard, and now a public backlash is being felt.
The party needs to successfully reinvent itself while at the same time reinforcing the core principles still admired by mainstream
Ben Patterson (email@example.com) is a senior majoring in political science.