woody_zimmerman_118_2007A former conservative columnist (whom I shall not name) liked to call the GOP “The Stupid Party” for a variety of reasons, including the tendency of party members to do more fighting among themselves than with their opponents in the Other Party. I thought his appellation a bit harsh, so I decline to use it myself. His observations about the Republican Party do contain a germ of truth, however. The party in-fighting particularly rings the bell during the current primary season, where at least three GOP candidates seem prepared to fight to the death with their rivals, while leaving untouched their true opponent, President Barack Hussein Obama. At times, this observer has wondered if there will be any funds left in the party’s coffers – or life left in the eventual winner of the nomination – to enable a serious go at the president and his billion-dollar war-chest. I expressed some of this in a previous article in this space. (“I’ll Be Queen!” – http://www.ahherald.com/columns-mainmenu-28/at-large/12507-ill-be-queen )

The current GOP candidates are not uniquely guilty of the sin of infighting, however. GOP voters are equally culpable – in fact, they are the true motivation for the candidates’ war of attrition against their rivals for the nomination, as Republicans are notoriously polarized in their views. I often see and hear Republicans declare that they won’t be able to support this candidate or that candidate in the general election. This means they will either not vote at all or will actually vote for Mr. Obama.

Probably their “protest” will play out as the first of these, but it will still produce deleterious results. If enough Republicans “sit on their hands” and fail to support their party’s candidate, Mr. Obama will certainly cruise right into a second term. This would be an appalling result, but evidently numbers of Republican voters are prepared to enable it if their preferred man doesn’t win the nomination.

“Ahh, they’re all crooks…” is a phrase I have heard many times from (ostensibly) Republican voters who should certainly know better. The argument for political-equivalency is especially weak in this election. Without a doubt, any of the Republican candidates would be much preferable to the learn-on-the-job leftist we’ve endured for these four years.

A Republican trait that the aforementioned columnist often criticized was the lack of a broad vision that could transcend parochial interests and unify the GOP under one flag. Voters with a strong interest in certain social issues typically insist upon a champion of those issues. But if a candidate is nominated who seems to lack sufficient “fire” on those issues, they become indifferent about supporting him. Voters with little interest in social issues, but closely aligned with economic issues, can react similarly if the social issues champion is nominated. In either scenario, some faction of Republicans might not vote, thereby letting the Other Party cruise to an easy victory.

Mr. Obama is being popularly depicted by his Big Media acolytes as “invincible” – far stronger than any of the “lightweight” GOP contenders. This stands reality on its head, however. Mr. Obama is extremely weak because of his record on the economy and because of his strong liberal slant – counter to the center-right leaning of the country – on many social issues, including race. Counter to his campaign promise to be a “unifier,” Mr. Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in history.

The Crown Jewel of his presidency, Obamacare, is so unpopular with voters – including many of his own party – that he no longer mentions it. Perhaps he thought national health care would ensure a second term. Instead, it is an albatross around his political neck that dangerously threatens his re-election. His best strategy now is changing the subject of the campaign to the flaws in his Republican opponents.

Mr. Obama’s handling of the war against international Islamic terror is not remarkably better in substance than his handling of the economy. True, there have been no successful terrorist attacks on American soil, and the terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden was finally hunted down and killed. Liberals, however, are disquieted because Mr. Obama has used tactics devised by the Bush administration to fight terrorism. He has also failed to close Guantanamo Prison, breaking a specific campaign promise.

On the campaign-promise plus side, he did end the war in Iraq, and has moved our combat focus to Afghanistan. But the jury is still out on Iraq’s stability, and things are not going well in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s liberal base is becoming so restive about the Afghan war that he was forced to announce an effective end to hostilities by year-end. (For those untutored in war – announcing when you plan to withdraw is not really a recipe for success.) Beyond all this, the threat of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon grows stronger by the day, and the Obama administration is at odds with Israel over what to do about it.

Still, the monster that threatens to devour the Obama presidency is the economy. Unemployment immediately shot up to 10% after Mr. Obama took office, and has remained stubbornly above 8% for three years. (No president since FDR has been re-elected with unemployment rates at these levels.) Administration officials have tried to game the numbers by removing those no longer looking for work from the calculation, but the public is wise to the reality on the ground – namely, that close to 20% of the working population are either: (a) not working and still looking for work; (b) not working and no longer looking for work; or (c) working, but underemployed. One study estimated that only 14 of every 100 young black men in the country are gainfully employed. (These, of course, are among Mr. Obama’s most loyal supporters, so he need not worry – except whether they will come out to vote for him at all.)

This is not meant to be a detailed analysis of the Obama presidency. It’s a depiction of how weak he actually is. This weakness explains why six men and one woman declared for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011. Naturally, that was too many candidates, so the field has dwindled to four. Former Governor Mitt Romney offers strong business experience, as well as executive experience as governor of Massachusetts. Former Senator Rich Santorum eloquently champions the social issues that draw many conservative Republican voters. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also speaks effectively to the party’s conservative wing. Representative Ron Paul is a passionate Libertarian who wants to reduce big government spending, stop government intrusion, and get us out of all foreign military entanglements.

Four candidates are still too many, of course, so the race is gradually devolving to a two-man contest between Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum. Each of these men is seriously flawed, in the view of the supporters of the other man. Mr. Romney’s people think Mr. Santorum is too religious and too conservative to attract the “independent” voters the GOP candidate will need in order to beat Mr. Obama. Supporters of Mr. Santorum say Mr. Romney is not a “true” conservative who can motivate that wing of the Party to work for his election. The battle for the nomination has become uglier and uglier, with millions being spent by each man on ads detailing the flaws and weaknesses of the other. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama skates blissfully free, raising millions at Democrat fundraisers and assuring the country that the economy is “on its way back.”

None of this GOP infighting would be going on except for the plain fact that the tactic is known to be effective. Each “attack” ad diminishes its target a little. Cumulatively, the ads can degrade an opponent’s numbers significantly. In the limit (as mathematicians like to say), one man could finally win a Pyrrhic victory that leaves him grievously wounded and short of funds for the real battle against President Obama and his huge war-chest. Beyond those monetary issues, Republican voters’ “tunnel-vision” might also mean that the GOP candidate won’t attract a large enough electoral turnout to win what should be a Republican landslide.

Unlike the columnist I mentioned, I shall not call anyone “stupid” by way of describing this perverse attitude inside the GOP. But I do believe it to be extremely short-sighted. If the GOP candidate isn’t your favorite guy, you might only get part of the agenda you care about if he is elected. But if you fail to support him, bringing about his defeat, you will likely get none of your agenda. The choice seems pretty clear. I hope Republican voters are smart (or clear-eyed) enough to see it. This is not the time to split hairs over who is the “truest conservative” or the “real financial expert.” Republicans have a serious responsibility to elect a president who can pull the nation back from the brink on which it is teetering.

In this spirit I recall the words of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to his men at Gettysburg, as they prepared to repulse a crucial Confederate attack:

"Not once in a century are men permitted to bear such responsibility for freedom and justice…as are now placed upon us…”

I also quote Ronald Reagan, who said, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

Think it’s not really an emergency? Check with some of the 20% un/under-employed who know they (and we) are in big trouble.