Whether or not the Mayans (a) were full of crap or (b) are being misinterpreted, the way the Republican Party is behaving right now, they will not survive this election cycle. Let me preface this by saying that I am a die-hard Democrat—I voted for President Obama in 2008, and will be again this year—but I am also a firm believer that a successful two-party system requires two competent parties. The Democrats somehow overcame their perennial ability to lose any election otherwise handed to them on a silver platter, and miraculously spent two years actually getting things done; but dropped-out candidates notwithstanding, the entire Republican field of presidential hopefuls has only shown that they don’t care about getting anything done as President, about winning a general election, or even about getting anyone but their base to take them seriously. (Huntsman is the only one I would have given any credit to as a sane, reasonable human being, but that’s exactly why he was forced to drop out.)
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are both insane. In most other countries, they wouldn’t be politicians—they’d have been committed to mental institutions long ago, yet in America they’re both “serious” political candidates. Too many voters still have bad memories of Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House in the early 1990s to be able to vote for him in a national election; Santorum is so focused on his religious agenda that he neglects to afford to others, even other Christians, the “religious liberty” he professes to value so highly (not every Christian, Rick, believes that using contraception is a bad thing). (Any claims Newt may make by way of “family values” and “preserving the sanctity of marriage” are so laughable that I can’t even include him in that same category.) Both have a propensity for saying things that no rational, intelligent human being should say, especially when trying to convince people to vote for them to become effectively the leaders of the free world. Both firmly believe that scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, when it comes to the effects of pollution and industry on the environment, and refuse to believe the possibility that mankind could be doing serious harm to ourselves and our (currently) only home in the universe. (That, however, is a blog post for another day. And no, I don’t take Gingrich’s plans for a moon base seriously; coming from him, it’s nothing more than jingoistic militarism, passive-aggression, and a chance to give a big, fat middle finger to the Russians and Chinese.)
Ron Paul is the kooky uncle of the party; a lot of his ideas are too far off the mainstream for most voters to be able to support him, and although just about everyone can find something he says that they like, they can just as easily find a lot more to hate in his positions. (As an example, a lot of liberals will agree with his views on American military involvement worldwide, but find his states-rights views on things like the environment, abortion, and same-sex marriage unacceptable.)
Mitt Romney’s eventual nomination as GOP Presidential candidate is the most reluctant foregone conclusion I have ever seen. His publicly-stated opinions have always been a matter of what is most electable and convenient for him at that moment—he was, after all, a moderately-successful Republican governor of the very blue state of Massachusetts—and so the ideological purists of the party can’t accept him on account of his being too wishy-washy and noncommittal to the party’s “core values”; they mostly support Gingrich. There is a faction of the party—the hardcore Evangelical Christians, largely in the deep South—for whom Romney’s Mormonism makes him un-Christian and, therefore, unelectable; they mostly support Santorum. Middle-class voters will struggle to back him, because of statements he has made which make him appear to be out-of-touch with the struggles of the working class in times of economic hardship and part of “the 1%.” Yet he is still, by my estimation, at least the Republican candidate who is most likely to lose by the smallest margin.
My prediction for this election cycle is that Romney will, like I said, eventually win the nomination from a very reluctant Republican Party, if nothing else as at least the candidate who will be the least embarrassing to support and, on the whole, close enough to the party platform. Ron Paul, he and his followers already being so far outside the Republican mainstream, will ragequit the party and run as an independent, and will take a lot more voters from Romney than from Obama; as a result of that split vote, in addition to damage done to Romney within the party during the primary cycle and his out-of-touch-ness with most average voters handing Democrats all the ammunition they could ever ask for, I don’t see the Republican party—between Romney and Paul, who may steal a state or two—winning more than 200 electoral votes in all, or more than 45% of the popular vote. (McCain got 173 and 46% in 2008.) Neither Gingrich nor Santorum, for the reasons I listed, would be able to get even 150 electoral votes.
A friend of mine on Twitter pointed out that he doesn’t think the GOP is trying necessarily to win this election cycle outright, but shift the window in their favor for 2016, to have a better chance of Obama’s successor being from their party. The problem is, though, that you have three different major factions of the party—the purists, behind Gingrich; the evangelicals, behind Santorum; and the moderates/everyone else, behind Romney—all trying to sway things in their favor. Romney’s loss will result in all of those factions blaming each other: “OUR candidate would have won if you had just supported him, since he was the most electable to begin with;” “no, OUR candidate would have best represented the Republican Party and its ideals;” “no, OUR candidate is who God would have wanted to win.” Something is going to snap, and the most likely thing I see happening is the moderate and liberal Republicans all leaving the party for the Libertarian Party, which will then overtake the GOP for second place.
There is still time for the GOP to save themselves from doom and irrelevance: if, by some miracle, they are able to rally support behind Romney well enough in advance for the factions to set aside their larger differences, that schism may not happen. Romney is still highly unlikely to win the general election—another important thing to look at is fundraising, and Obama all by himself has an absolutely ridiculous lead over the top few Republican challengers combined—but the party itself would be able to recover and present a more united front and possibly even a more electable candidate in 2016 against a non-incumbent Democrat. The way things are going now, though, the party is headed for a massive dose of both insult and injury. While I like that the candidate I support is likely to win, it still disappoints me that the supposed “opposition” is reduced to such a mess of ideologists, theocratists, and “of-the-moment” candidates. On some issues, such as climate change denial, health care, and contraception, it goes as far as willful nigh-malicious ignorance, misinformation, and plain incompetence.
Is it too much for a Democrat to ask for reasonable, competent political opposition and discourse for Christmas this year? (Assuming the world doesn’t end for the rest of us—Mayans and Republicans aside—before then.)