Iowa and the Republican Party
January 4, 2012
I have a good friend who wrote to say that the GOP in Iowa is nuts. I am assuming he meant in part because they voted so heavily for Santorum. But here is my admittedly crazy take on the caucuses, the GOP, and this election cycle.
The established powers in the Republican Party need, in order to preserve their own power in the party, to suppress the Tea Party types. Unlike the threat the Democrats pose, the Tea Party types threaten the power of these established Republicans, people like John Boehner and others. Hence, these types do not fear an Obama win in 2012 and, in fact, would welcome it if along with it they could deal a deadly blow to the Tea Party types. [This possibility is reinforced as Obama poses no threat to the status quo.] Hence, it is in their interest to make these guys who are seeking the nomination to look foolish, which they have done to anyone who has emerged as a front-runner. Santorum did as well as he did because he has been flying under the radar long enough that no one did a number on him as they did on Bachman, Perry, Paul, Gingrich, and always Romney. Now, that he has emerged as nearly the front-runner, we will hear the horror stories about him as we heard them about the others. This does not displease the established Republicans.
Also, think of what might be said when the Republicans lose in 2012. My bet is it will go something like this: “Hey, look at what the Tea Party influence did to our party. Beating Obama should have been a piece of cake and we lost! The economy sucked, Obama looked weak [even though he did kill Osama], he was on the ropes, and, lo and behold, we still lost. Just goes to show you that ‘extremists’ like the Tea Party cannot win elections. The American people will not elect ‘extremists.’”
Now what makes this analysis appear insane is the commonly, almost universally accepted proposition that political parties are most interested in winning elections. That is, they, the parties, want to win every election. But this is incorrect. It relies on an abstraction, “political parties,” treating them as unified wholes with one object in mind, winning elections. But when it is recognized that competition takes place within political parties, between different factions therein, it is obvious that at times those with power within a party might wish to lose an election in order to maintain its power, its control of that party. Examples: 1964 [Goldwater], 1972 [McGovern], 1980 [Democrats undermining Carter with Teddy’s help, then rolling over for Reagan’s “revolution”], 1996 [Dole]. There are more but this is all I could come up with off the top of my head or even the bottom of my head!