Published on nacked capitalism, by Tom Ferguson, January 8, 2012.
… The father of the Investment Theory of Politics reveals what pundits miss in the GOP’s failure to lead its own electorate and its evangelical problem.
Election night in Iowa was a heavenly moment for Rick Santorum. As he marveled over the late breaking tidal wave of support that in just weeks had swept him from nowhere into a virtual tie with Mitt Romney for first place in the state’s Republican caucuses, the former Pennsylvania Senator gushed to supporters about the secret of his campaign’s success:
I’ve survived the challenges so far by the daily grace that comes from God … I offer a public thanks to God.
But it was not God who saved Rick Santorum. He survived Iowa rather like a blind mole rat might someday outlive a nuclear exchange – by simply burrowing underground while Romney’s Super Pac incinerated Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, and while Perry tried to demolish Ron Paul, whom he considered a more dangerous rival. In a state where 60% of those attending the 2008 GOP caucuses described themselves as “born again” or evangelicals, Santorum was the only ultra-conservative left for resigned evangelical leaders to swing behind.
Now, as the wall of Super Money comes down on him like a ton of gold bricks, Santorum is likely fated, like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Perry himself, to flame out after a brief moment of glory and go back to working with the energy and health care enterprises that helped make him a millionaire after leaving the Senate.
But this leaves a larger question: Why does this curious “shooting star” pattern of flare ups and flame outs distinguish the quest of hopefuls for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination? The answer lies in the party’s tricky long-term strategy to steer ordinary voters into focusing on wedge issues rather than the economic policies. The party establishment wants Romney, but its voters have been so thoroughly trained to focus on gays and abortion that they cannot sit still behind a candidate who concentrates on business and economic growth.
A Party Built for the 1 Percent: … //
… In 2012, history has dealt the GOP a hand it hadn’t counted on. The Democrats should be hopelessly vulnerable on the economy just now. The Obama administration’s failure to stimulate the economy sufficiently and address the mortgage problem, along with its single-minded focus on rescuing the financial sector, has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Americans on both the left and the right. The opportunity for the Republicans is so huge that that the GOP establishment can almost taste it. As Haley Barbour, a former chair of the Republican National Committee who is also one of the most closely connected of all Republican leaders to big business observed recently, “If the 2012 election is about President Obama’s policies and the negative results of those policies, he won’t be reelected; so if I were campaigning, I’d talk about how his policies have made economic growth and job creation harder.”
So the party establishment rallied quickly behind Mitt Romney, though he is the first choice of comparatively few and mistrusted still by many.
The establishment’s problem, however, is that the electorate it so laboriously built over the last generation still has all those wedge issues on their minds. This doesn’t mean they don’t think also about economic issues – the Iowa polls, for example, show plainly that they do. But many GOP voters are in the party now because of the earlier recruiting efforts and habits that reflected their other deep interests. They aren’t going away. Nor are they going to stop caring about those issues, whether the GOP establishment likes it or not.
So the Republican leaders have a problem. A huge percentage – in Iowa it was three quarters – of the electorate that it presides over doesn’t want to follow its lead. In 1953, after riots broke out in the self-styled worker’s paradise of East Germany, Bertolt Brecht famously suggested that the government should dissolve the people and go find another one. That prospect is not open to the GOP establishment. It will need them in the general election, especially if the economy were to improve. So all it can do right now is to unroll its mighty bankroll and bulldoze through its opponents, hoping that none of those being squashed defects to some third party.
But it might just take divine intervention to make this strategy work. (full text – and this article by audio).