Both parties seem to have elements that the other party considers extreme. For the Democrats it is union thugs, liberal anti-Semites, environmental zealots, and blatant socialists. For the Republicans it is creationists (considered anti-science), fundamentalist Christians, pro-lifers, and the ethnocentric. (Many Democrats just say ‘racists’. Republicans do not accept that for good reason but many still fall victim to ethno centric thinking.) It is interesting to observe that fundamental Christians have become more allied with Israel and Jewish interests over the last twenty years and that anti-Semitic rhetoric has become much more pronounced from the left.
The challenge for both parties is to what extent the extreme elements will define the party in the general election. This is only relevant to the extent that the independents consider these elements to be extreme. Each party will play the other as being controlled by their extremist elements. The Democrats play the extremist card relentlessly. The Republicans would be very wise to do the same; the last few years has certainly given them plenty of ammunition. The party that is best able to marginalize their extremist elements will have a tremendous advantage.
During primaries it seems that candidates, desperate for traction, appeal to ‘extremist’ elements. But this moderates in the general elections as the winner must attract more centrist voters. Inevitably this leaves the ‘extremists’ disappointed no matter who wins.
Republicans have often fallen because their more extreme elements refused to fall behind their candidate. George H. Bush lamented how the various GOP litmus tests impeded their success. The Democrats have often succeeded more from their solidarity than their representation of a voting majority.
This time may be different. As divided as the GOP appears to be during this primary, this is likely to dissipate when the nominee is selected. Obama is considered so extreme that the GOP may display the kind of solidarity more often associated with their rival.
I confess that I am less than enthused by the GOP choices offered. The primary has more of the feel of a reality TV show than a serious political discourse. The process seems to serve media interests and ratings more than political interests. Ideas take a back seat to the lurid and the irrelevant. Yet, somehow, in this media madness, there is a severe and brutal vetting process that may serve the winning candidate well in the general election.
A winning strategy for the GOP is to constantly remind the voters how extreme this sitting president has been and focus on restoring a proper balance between the public and private sector. Talk of radical changes such as a balanced budget amendment, a gold standard, abolishing the Fed, isolationist foreign policy is more likely to excite elements of support at the expense of ultimate victory. It is better to promote strong action than radical change.