The party that so fervently wants to get back in the White House is turning off exactly the kinds voters who could help it get there: Republican Centrists, Independents, women, minorities, young people and those among us who have an innate distrust of theocrats. Intimidated by its vociferous Tea Party minority the GOP has seen fit to portray Barack Obama as a radical, foreign interloper ever since he came to prominence. Much of this antipathy appears based on his skin color, his worldly background and his hesitancy to carry either his faith or his patriotism on his lapel. Republican leaders clearly resent his eloquence, his coolness and his refusal to lower himself to the sort of puerile mudslinging that has now become part and parcel of political campaigning.
To reach the White House the GOP will need to overcome the traditional numerical advantage of the Democrats but Republicans instead seem determined to make themselves as unattractive as possible by pushing all the issues that many Independents and nearly all Liberals tend to get riled up about: abortion, contraception, gay rights, health-care restrictions, shrinking safety nets, lowered environmental safeguards and corporate regulations, among many others. To make matters worse, the most vocal Republican campaigners are basing their political arguments on orthodox Christian ideology and straightforward objectivism, neither of which is exactly popular to the left of moderate conservatism.
The ongoing battles between Romney’s new-found conservatism, Gingrich’s scorched earth tactics and Santorum’s scary sanctimony may be riveting within right-wing circles; to most other Americans they are mostly a source of amusement, with every day bringing new fodder for TV comedy and late night entertainment. Based on the developments to date it is difficult to see how either Santorum or Gingrich would not trigger a landslide Democratic victory. Romney may fare better but his nomination is far from guaranteed. It would seem that the only possible way the GOP could still deny Barack Obama another term is to draft an alternative candidate, one who hasn’t been scarred by tortuous primary battles. The GOP could come up with a more affable almost middle-of-the-road candidate who can straddle the major ideological gaps, anti-abortion but not anti-contraception, against gay marriage but not anti-gay, anti-spending but not a Norquist sell-out, a consensus builder rather than a confirmed ideologue.
Now, since I’m firmly in the Liberal camp, favoring a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, universal health-care (though not single-payer), and somewhat higher taxes for wealthier Americans, I would hardly be a credible strategist for the GOP. But I’m also a fairly successful capitalist and, perhaps more importantly, a realist. The GOP would no doubt reject my advice, at its own peril. The Tea Party will see to it.