Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How the "I Side With" Quiz Might Reveal Big Trouble for Republicans

There's a pretty good online quiz at a site called "I Side With" that determines how much one's political beliefs match those of the various candidates for president.  I've always liked these quizzes, since they often reveal things that the people who don't take them don't realize.  For instance, I know someone who considered herself to be a moderate rather than liberal, but when she took one of these quizzes in 2008, the candidate she most resembled was Dennis Kucinich.  (For the record, when I took the quiz, the Green candidate Jill Stein barely edged out president Obama in terms of their resemblance to me on the issues.)

One thing I really like about the I Side With site is that you can see how each individual state's aggregate of responses matched the candidates.  One thing that really struck me was that reliably "blue" states very easily fit with president Obama's stances, but the "red" states of the South and West consistently did not have Mitt Romney as their best match, but Gary Johnson, the candidate for the Libertarian Party.  In many cases Romney is in third place, after Johnson and Ron Paul.

To me, it looks like we are seeing evidence that the GOP's uneasy combination of libertarians, neo-con foreign policy hawks, and religious conservatives might be too volatile to hold together.  Ever since 1980, when Jerry Falwell and others mobilized the evangelical vote for Ronald Reagan, the Christian Right has played a huge role in the Republican Party's success.  However, as times are changing.  Fewer and fewer people are against gay marriage, weekly church-goers, or supportive of the war on drugs.  The youth are significantly more liberal on social issues than their elders, and a Republican party that supports positions that look increasingly out of touch and regressive will need to either adapt or suffer the consequences.

Furthermore, with the isolationist sentiments long powerful in American history seeing a revival after the failure of the Bush administration's adventures abroad, the hawkishness of Mitt and the Republican establishment actually isn't representative of the direction the voters are headed.  Before the Cold War, conservatives tended to isolationist, and they started moving in that direction again in the 1990s once the USSR fell.  Lest we forget, before he made a name for himself through invasions of tenuous legality, George W. Bush campaigned with a promise not to engage in "nation building" abroad.

Of course, this data is all very unscientific and self-selecting, and probably skews young.  However, it does point to a Republican party that looks like a circus performer balancing spinning plates hoping to keep them from crashing to the ground.  The party has become so doctrinaire that it won't nominate a candidate for president that does not simultaneously support laissez-faire capitalism, sustained American commitment abroad, and conforms to the religious Right on issues like homosexuality and abortion.  This is why the president's people are wise to start waging the culture wars from the liberal side, since it will peel away economic conservatives who do not agree with the dominionist theology of many in the GOP.  In the near future the Republicans must decide whether they will benefit more by keeping religious conservatives happy and simultaneously alienate libertarians, or jettison "values voters" for economic conservatives in the political middle.

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