Factions, Iowa 2012
There are almost always 4+ candidates that head into Iowa hoping to win, with usually about 8 still running campaigns waiting on a prayer. Almost always, 2+ candidates will bow out once they either meet meager expectations or do not elicit a game changer at the Iowa caucuses. Rarely, have we ever seen the front-runners of a party so cleanly represent an entire faction of their party while another faction of their party cannot even muster general election support.
At the point in a campaign, the base is always fractured, and every media pundit talks about how damning it could be to their general election prospects. There is no bigger bullhonkey in all of political pundit talk. The 2008 Clinton-Obama fraction was the worst party fraction in modern history (or least since Chicago 1968), but 2008 was a “dirty fraction” – meaning, the fraction was individualistic, not ideological – so there was really no chance of defection.
(Though there were protests within the 2008 convention, signs from delegates only supporting Hillary, and a true belief even at the convention that there were serious problems with Obama getting the nomination. We could debate all day long whether Chicago 1968 was issue- or candidate-driven. I argue issue-driven.)
If you remember, Obama won the general election with an electoral margin not seen by a non-Southern Democratic candidate since FDR. (You could also argue Truman or JFK. I have a reason for FDR. Either way, he won by a margin not seen by a non-Southern Democrat in over 50 years. Intra-party fighting did not matter.)
However, with this fractured base you have a clean break with each candidate representing a core principle at the heart of the party, with others believing that the candidate is also selling out another core principle. It is almost like a “cyclical fraction”.
Mitt Romney represents the business interest, the core belief of capitalism within the GOP. He will fight for lower taxes across the board, but he will not be so anti-government as to not incentive entrepreneurship, job creation, and foreign trade. He has a business background that can be viewed as efficient and successful and can also point to success in translating this to government bureaucracy.
Romney’s health care record in Massachusetts infuriates the conservative libertarian base.
Romney’s personal life and political history infuriates the social conservative base.
Ron Paul represents the conservative wing of the libertarian movement, which is growing to be perceived monopolized by the GOP. His stance against the war throws a curve at the party-line. His plan on economic growth and foreign trade stretch party line, but stay true to libertarian dogma. His line about same-sex marriage is political posturing and is the only non-pure stance in his arsenal; but this issue is part of the progressive libertarian menu anyway – and in many ways simply shows that his heart is, at its core, libertarian.
Paul’s extreme economic and trade agenda scares the business community.
Paul’s positions on war, marriage and religion in government concern the social conservative base.
Rick Santorum represents the social conservative base of the GOP, the evangelical wing utilizing government to proselytize. Santorum fought for the issues of prayer in schools, intelligent design in curriculum, and gay marriage when it was unpopular to put them at the forefront of an agenda – even in the Republican Party. It was only a matter of time before that loyalty was remembered and rewarded.
Santorum lacks the experience to satisfy the business community, nor has proven that it will be a high priority for him.
Santorum’s social agenda is clearly antithetical to the libertarian agenda.
Gingrich was running a high tide, but like Perry, Bachmann and Cain before him, it was quite short-lived. I told anyone who would listen, when both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were in single-digits, that there are extremely talented, experienced, and political-savvy dark horse candidates in this race. While progressives and the mainstream media have focused on Romney, Paul, Perry, Bachmann, and Cain – the only two that are left, are candidates that have run national campaigns in the past.
It will be interesting to see how these factions play out in Iowa, and how it continues to change and influence through the first half of this election cycle.
Folks, it’s January 3, 2012. The election season has officially begun. We’ve debated the draft. We’ve had the draft. We’ve watched training camp and all the preseason shenanigans. Now, after all the offseason signings and pundit predictions, one thing will finally start to happen:
Citizens will start to vote.
On days like this, the idealist in me will never die. And I will fight the cynics until my last breath.