Not ready for “Hail to the Chief”

Without greater unity, the GOP can’t challenge Obama in 2012

By Lloyd Lee

Very soon, it will be time for politicians to begin announcing their bids for the presidency. If you thought 2008 was entertaining, just wait until 2012. Unfortunately, this time has come yet again, too fast, marking the start of another cycle of aged political banter and rhetoric sure to exhaust the public by November 2012.

For the Republicans, this is their chance to take the White House from the hated Muslim-Kenyan-Communist Barack Obama. Right now, their strategy seems to be to flood the market with a slate of Republicans, both known and unknown, slowly winnowing down the field until they find a winner.

The race for the presidency is looking more and more like the race to steal tablet market share from Apple—a slew of products is being released with a great deal of features but not much substance. Unfortunately, the Republicans with the most substance, soon-to-be former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr., will surely lose, while substantive and experienced candidates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have decided not to run.

The Republican Party has lost any idea of a central focus, crucial for winning a presidential election, and is instead overly influenced by fringe groups and radicals.

Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House during the Clinton administration, might announce his run for the presidency this week. If Gingrich runs, he might be a frontrunner. But Gingrich’s problems lie with his own party, as he does not have a strong association with religious conservatives and will have to answer questions regarding his two previous divorces.

Tim Pawlenty is another name that has floated around recently. Pawlenty’s problem, however, is that no one knows who he is. Sure, some recognize him as the former governor of Minnesota, but few voters are familiar with his record and ideas.

Gingrich and Pawlenty are both potentially strong Republican candidates, but they will have to elevate themselves within the GOP against popular names that often take up the spotlight with controversial statements and radical ideas.

Some of the possible candidates cluttering the field are Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Mike Pence, and, heaven forbid, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. The pool of possible Republican candidates is as eclectic as the Republican voters who will elect them. In such a cluttered political environment, it’s not at all clear that the candidates with interesting policy ideas will be able to make themselves heard over the inanities of Sarah Palin or the conspiracy-mongering of Michele Bachmann.

2008 was not a good year for Republicans, and they have not made the effort to unify their party since. Instead, a fringe group, the Tea Party, was able to lead the party to victory in 2010. The Tea Party is all laughs for Democrats, but Republicans have to figure out how to balance it with a more moderate ideology if they want to win the presidency. A candidate like Sarah Palin, who ultimately appeals to a limited set of voters, should not be on the ballot for president if Republicans want to win. If someone as polarizing as Palin wins the primary, Republicans can expect a repeat of the outcomes of the Delaware and Nevada Senate races, only this time the stakes will be much higher.

To put it bluntly, when Ron Paul wins the CPAC convention straw poll, beating Mitt Romney, the previous winner for three consecutive years, Republicans should know they have a problem. Hopefully, when the real primary comes around, a moderate Republican candidate will emerge, convincing the party that it’s time for a reasonable debate against their Democratic counterparts.

Lloyd Lee is a fourth-year in the College majoring in Political Science.