If the Republican party does not change it risks extinctionby Diane Roberts / February 22, 2012 / Leave a comment
At the 1858 Illinois state Republican convention, Abraham Lincoln declared: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was, of course, speaking of the rift between the slave states and the free states, the South and the North, which three years later ignited the bloodiest conflict in American history. While the United States is certainly not heading for another civil war, the long and increasingly nasty presidential election of 2012 reveals deep dissonance within America’s political parties and American society itself.
The Republican party used to be unified and disciplined. This year the contest over who will be nominated to stand against Barack Obama has been anything but gentlemanly. The New York Times calculated that in the week before the Florida primary on 31st January, 92 per cent of the political adverts were negative. Newt Gingrich charged Mitt Romney and his company, Bain Capital, with destroying jobs. Romney lambasted Gingrich for lobbying on behalf of the troubled federal mortgage guarantor “Freddie Mac.” Running to the right of both Gingrich and Romney, former senator Rick Santorum blasted his rivals for failing to see that America’s problems are moral as much as economic, while the Texas Congressman Ron Paul blamed the whole apparatus of government for the nation’s ills and his rivals for being part of that apparatus. The “super-PACs,” which can raise unlimited money for a candidate as long they don’t co-ordinate directly with his campaign, were much more vicious in their adverts. They reminded voters of Gingrich’s serial adultery, Romney’s rich boy gaffes (“I’m not concerned about the very poor”), Ron Paul’s newsletters (which prophesied “race war”) and Santorum’s support for big spending bills in Congress. The Republican candidates for president are so busy accusing each other of violating various of the Ten Commandments that they’ve forgotten Ronald Reagan’s famous Eleventh: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
The Democrats, on the other hand, have never been renowned for discipline and unity. As humorist Will Rogers once said, “I belong to no organised political party: I am a Democrat.” With an incumbent president as the undisputed candidate in 2012, you’d think Democrats would be solidly together, ready to give Barack Obama a second term. But the Occupy Wall Street movement has exposed disaffection on the left, especially amongst the twenty-somethings who were so enthusiastic about Obama in 2008. While they direct most of their ire toward the big…