In recent weeks, we’ve been treated to the specter of Republicans trying to outconservative each other in various debating venues. At the most recent event, the CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Florida, the audience went right along, egging the candidates to stake out positions that were even more extreme, one by one. At the same debate, a question concerning the now defunct ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ military policy posed by a gay soldier on duty in Iraq was met with boos from the crowd. At other events, the audience cheered for the death penalty, and the idea of letting someone without health insurance die. So, for as conservative as the candidates have made themselves out to be, they’re nowhere near as vitriolic as the base of the current GOP base is.
So, the question becomes, are these people in touch with reality? I’d say no. At a straw poll on Saturday, business executive Herman Cain won a convincing plurality, easily beating out frontrunner Gov. Rick Perry. His campaign justified his second place showing as a result of having been in the race for only five weeks. So despite him being in the race for five weeks, he’s established enough momentum to vault to the head of the pack. Never mind that even Perry trails Obama in theoretical polling in a one to one matchup. And Cain trails Obama even further.
And that field of crazies may become even more crowded in the coming weeks. Bombastic New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, famous more for his one-line zingers, is reportedly mulling a presidential bid. Another major GOP figure in an already fractured conservative field? What would Christie bring to the table? About as much experience as a governor as Sarah Palin had, and a tendency to make incendiary remarks that would play well for a minute, but not much else.
The GOP is going through a major ideological struggle. Moderate and liberal Republicans have largely been driven out of the party, and the movement is undergoing a shift from being a rightist party, to a far-rightist party. If anything should be remembered, it’s that extreme political shifts, be they to the left or the right, don’t play well in America. The GOP would do well to moderate its ideological extremism, because while it may play well with the base and at rallies, come November of 2012, it’s going to win itself another four years of Barack Obama. And you know what? That’s just fine with me. Have at it fellas, go as far right as you possibly can. That’s probably the most constructive thing the modern Republican party has done for the United States in the past twenty years.