Thursday, February 2, 2012

Partisan Confusion Among Republican Candidates

The wide range of viewpoints expressed by Republican leaders on any given issue reflects the confusion within the party that further complicates any attempt to build a compromise in Washington.

Take for example Governor Romney's post-Florida remark concerning the "very poor."

Romney's controversial statement proceeded to occupy the news cycle, as his rivals sought to use it to their advantage. President Obama made sure to mention his strong belief in an imperative to help the poor in a speech the next morning. Senator Santorum criticized Mr. Romney's "callousness," while Rush Limbaugh spoke out against the idea of a safety net as "one of the biggest cultural problems" the nation faces.

Speaker Gingrich immediately differentiated himself from Romney and from Obama on both counts, asserting, "I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Governor Romney. But I believe we should care differently than Barack Obama." Popular news/comedy host Jon Stewart also criticized both sides of Mr. Romney's idea, but for entirely different reasons.

The myriad responses to this brief campaign statement is a clear example of how today's highly factionalized, highly saturated political arena requires anyone aiming for national prominence to regularly, stridently assert a set of unique views to maximize his appeal. As a result, Mr. Romney has drifted right from his moderate background while Mr. Gingrich has adopted some left-wing tactics to become the anti-establishment candidate.

A wide variety of opinions within each party is not necessarily a bad thing, and in an abstract sense, can even aid in forming compromise by causing more ideological overlap between the two parties. But it is currently used to drive the party apart, not to bring the two parties closer together. Politicians put very harsh points on their responses to even the most minor of political events, leading to an inability for a party's chosen spokesman to speak for all of his partisan backers (e.g. Speaker Boehner during the debt ceiling debate). Thus, compromise becomes increasingly difficult within the Republican party, and by extension the political system as a whole.

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