The Party is almost almost silent on economic issues.
If you think that sounds preposterous, then ask yourself whether, twelve years ago, you would have thought the Republicans would have almost entirely given up on values issues, which, along with free market economics and a strong national defense, was one of the three fundamental pillars of post-Reagan Republican policy.
Even when candidates were asked about where they stood on same-sex marriage, they punted—or sounded like they were. When Sean Hannity interviewed all the candidates who showed up for the event, only a few had even a well-thought out answer on the issue, but the eventual winner of the straw poll, Kentucky's Rand Paul, sounded as if he had heard the question for the first time, saying little about the federal courts declaring martial law on the issue and talking instead about the virtues of civil unions.
"I'm old-fashioned," he told Hannity, "I think marriage is between a man and a woman, but I'm also open in a sense that legally I don't think we should discriminate against people and that if people want to have a contract with another adult, there's no reason why the law should discriminate and prevent them from having benefits, or custody, or seeing people in the hospital, all that stuff can be arranged through contracts [between] adults."
This is the comment of someone who clearly is uncomfortable talking about the issue and all and really doesn't want to talk about it. Just imagine if someone ask him about free market economics. Would he say, "Well, you know, I'm a believer in free market economics, but I'm also open in the sense that there are circumstances in which the government needs to get involved in markets and I don't think we should be against that."
Not on your life.
In the same interview in which Paul declared himself a "constitutional conservative," he seemed to express little concern about the wholesale federal court takeover of state marriage policy in violation Supreme Court precedent.
The worst thing that could happen to the Republican Party is happening: Long charged by its Democratic detractors with not having a heart, Republicans are now doing their best to prove their point.
Say "Hello" to the Materialist Right: Republican politicians who have nothing to say about the most deeply-held convictions of Americans, who can no longer connect with their voters on issues of the heart, who cannot spare time in their analysis of the ills of big government to address the ills of the family.
Am I saying Democrats are winning on social issues? I sure am. But the reason isn't because they have a better argument than the other side; the reason is that they bother to make an argument and the other side doesn't. It's easy to win a battle when the other side doesn't bother to show up.
The banner under which the Republicans are marching on social issues is a white flag.
It is a shallow cliché among the less politically astute that people vote their pocket books. The decisive refutations of this view are too long to catalog, but the would include at least the last two presidential elections. The dirty little secret in politics is that people don't really vote their pocket books: They vote their hearts, and the candidate who knows that and exploits it wins.
Barack Obama. Bill Clinton. Check it out.
The libertarians now controlling the Republican Party think they can win elections by doing a political heart bypass operation. Economic issues and criticisms of Democratic foreign policy are what they think will win them national elections. But it won't work. Ask Mitt Romney how this worked out for him.
If the choice is between a candidate who only appeals to the intellect of voters on the one hand, and one who appeals to their sentiments on the other, they will pick the second one every time.
The Republican Party has a huge constituency of cultural conservatives who are simply being ignored by Republican rhetoric. The current crop of candidates knows this and their strategy isn't hard to discern: They are willing to say the absolute minimum they can to keep these voters in the fold. And where else are they going to go anyway?
But the fact is they do have another place to go: Nowhere. That is, they can just sit out the election. This is what more than a few people did the last time around and it resulted in a second term for Obama, whose foreign policy missteps would, in any other world than the one Republicans have constructed for themselves, have been enough for him to be defeated.
There has not been a major party realignment in some time, but if you read history, you know that it does in fact happen periodically. If you look at polling data it is very clear that there is a huge plurality of voters that don't go along with the Elen Degenereses of the world. So substantial is it, in fact, that under any other circumstances it would be considered a situation to exploit. To Republicans, however, it has become an advantage to squander.
I have never been an advocate of a third party, but it is becoming increasingly clear that if Republicans don't recapture their cultural soul, they will unwittingly undermine their position as a viable party and produce, however unintentionally, a third party--one that probably couldn't win many elections, but could certainly decide them.