This year’s Republican nomination process was interesting, because the candidates who contested through the process represented distinct ideological perspectives. Thus, they are proxies for the relative strength of contesting ideas within the Republican Party.
The ability of candidates with these clear distinctions to maintain the contest as long as they did may be attributed to an increase in protection of free speech rights from the Citizens United decision (see post “Super PACs: Shedding the Bad Rap” by Ray La Raja on Riding the Tiger).
In order of their relative electoral strength, the candidates and their ideas were as follows:
Mitt Romney, the victor, is the standard bearer for pragmatic stewardship, which is the dominate ideology of the Republican Party.
Rick Santorum evangelized for the religion right. His electoral failure demonstrates the weakness of the theocrat faction. For all their huffing and puffing, they are a minority within the party.
Newt Gingrich’s government reform platform expressed the agenda of the neoconservatives. Republicans proclaimed him the candidate of ideas, and most Republicans don’t like ideas.
Ron Paul was followed by the ‘libertarians’. While I disagree that Ron Paul is an advocate for freedom and limited government, his mistaken and passionate supporters label him so. Based upon his supporters’ narrative, Paul’s showing demonstrates the electoral weakness of advocates of limited government within the Republican ranks.
A relevant mention is merited for Rick Perry, who championed the neoconfederates and was quickly booted from contention by the party of Lincoln.
Given the results on the primaries and caucuses, the Republicans have demonstrated themselves to be primarily a pragmatic party, not a conservative party. This supports my frequent contention that those that complain loudest about RINOs as not really Republicans, but they hope that they can pretend to be the dominate voice in the party without being challenged for their fraud.
Because pragmatists oppose principles on principles, Romney’s policies will be implanted in his mind by those who do express ideas. The changes brought into being during his potential Administration will be big government reforms from the neoconservatives, who will give empty promises that big government will be changed into better big government. Meanwhile, the religious right will be thrown sufficient policy concessions to keep them obedient within the Republican coalition. However, those that advocate limited government will be given rhetoric without implementing policies.
For an examination of the neoconservatives as the ideological bastard love children of Leon Trotsky and Plato, I recommend C. Bradley Thompson’s book Neoconservativism: An Obituary for an Idea.