Monday, March 5, 2012

The Republican Dilemma and the Decline of the Republican Brand

Which candidate better represents the Republican ideals and traditions: the one who would bankrupt the country with trillions of dollars in new tax breaks for billionaires, or the one who could be a Sunday school teacher but for the fact that the thought of anyone helping anyone with anything makes him feel queasy?

For the last two weeks voters and pundits alike have been debating the question of the current two leading Republican candidates for president without necessarily invoking the irony that the question merits. Does the Republican party represent the worst smash-and-grab thinking of Wall Street insiders? Or is it a party of narrow-minded thinkers who just don’t like people very much? It is hard to imagine a discussion that could do more harm to the Republican brand.

It does not even help very much to point out that the whole discussion is based on a false dichotomy. “False dichotomy,” after all, is a construct of philosophers. It is an example of exactly the kind of college-educated thinking that Republicans have been trying to get away from in recent years.

But the longer Republicans and the voting public are faced with the current Republican dilemma, the worse it will get for all things Republican. Of course, the attack ads and lawsuits, not to mention the prospect of a contested or inconclusive convention followed by more lawsuits, aren’t helping the Republican name either.

There are solutions, of course, and this is just the kind of problem a national party organization is supposed to solve, but the national party is similarly divided, so it is left to the voters to sort the problem out. And what voters are saying so far is, “I don’t like this.”