Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The current candidates and their alignments

I will be using the break-out of factions within the Republican Party that I posted here to do some analysis of the current crop of Presidential aspirants within that party.  As this is the party that has been targeted for take-over by the Tea Party post-2010, any instant analysis gives only a snapshot on a much longer series of events that have been ongoing since that election cycle.  Do note that the elections at the State level in many States (WI, VA, NJ, FL as examples but this is a much larger phenomena than in just a few States) are trendline indicators on this analysis, which is to say they serve as reference points in 2009 and 2011 which cannot be ignored to show power shifts within the Republican Party.  What is happening is going beyond just the fiscal conservatism of the Tea Party as that is finding its historical and intellectual roots in not just fiscal reality but a form of morality that is now beginning to take hold elsewhere within the party and the Nation.

To give a thumbnail sketch of the factions is, of course, a very glossy over-view as there are numerous individuals who can fit between factions at this point, with the Tea Party members becoming one of the major parts of this concept.  Yet the basic breakout will help to give a lay of the current and future political landscape, thus a snapshot of candidates is a window into the factional movements going on.  Thus the brief sketch of the factions and major portions of them are necessary.

1) SecCons - Security Conservatives - This is the traditional anti-Communist, Cold War group that have supported a robust military build-up post-WWII to confront the USSR.  They put the confrontation of Communism at an international level as a high priority and put FiCons and SoCons off to the side and often had Progressive internal policies while having anti-Communist external ones.  These were added to post-1999 by outcasts from the Democratic Party in the way of NeoCons who had an aggressive agenda for military use post-Cold War but would often overlook things like border security.  SecCons should be at the forefront of border security and immigration issues as well as anti-terrorism issues, but they have yet to fuse the public morality of a strong defense with strong Nation State boundaries as a quintessential element of being a SecCon.  Many do, yes, and that is a plus and in the future expect to see SecCons take a Fusionist page and begin to incorporate public morality into SecCon ideals.  To date that has not happened and the NeoCons are finding that they cannot make a case for external confrontation of terrorism or a 'freedom agenda' and have any credibility without addressing the closer to home border issues.  The NeoCons (socially Progressive, fiscally blind and Security moderates) are an odd fit with the changing nature of the Republican Party as they cannot seem to grasp the necessary social and fiscal elements to become Fusionist.  Many NeoCons have been Libertarians because of the expansive agenda of the NeoCons for human liberty, but cannot reconcile themselves to the actual means to achieve this.  Thus the NeoCons are foundering on the basis for their agenda, and without that they cannot make a lasting statement on the affairs of the party or the Nation.  In fact they may start to die out as a faction as members must search for a deeper set of foundations for their beliefs.

2) FiCons break out into two sub-factions.

a) Rockefeller Republicans - The home of the 'Establishment Republicans' is squarely here, with some of the older cohorts in the SecCon Cold War group having added to them up until 2010.  Money, power and longevity of having been in the top spots in the party infrastructure allowed the RR FiCons to mould the party to something they liked to the point of creating an alliance with the MSM that would favor candidates backed by the party hierarchy through the RNC and the two Congressional PACs that would send money not just to incumbents but to favored candidates in Primaries.  This system has allowed a lower level of feedback from the party base into the infrastructure of the party and it is the target of the Tea Partiers to start changing this system from the precinct level through the State level all the way to the National level.  If the RR FiCons lose planks at the National Convention to Tea Party backed State level groups, then the turn-over point will have been reached as the ability to gain a voting say to guide the party will begin to marginalize this group.  This group used to be Fiscally Conservative back when it started but are now Fiscally Moderate to Progressive and Socially Moderate to Progressive.  As the party changes beneath their feet and old line establishment figures are replaced by the other sub-faction members, this group will start to face the problem of the NeoCons.  An adjunct to this sub-faction are the Libertarians who have somewhat Moderate fiscal backgrounds but who are Libertines in the social realm.  This form of Libertarianism is joining the RR FiCons in being marginalized and slowly dying out.

b) Tea Party Republicans - Here is where the Tea Party first makes its mark and is still the home to the largest organization of Tea Party members.  TP Republicans are not just in the FiCon realms and are making arguments about fiscal concerns and Nation State solvency that cross both SoCon and SecCon lines and these are the Fusionists.  To concentrate on the TP FiCons for a moment, these are the people with the simple message of  being taxed enough already and stop the spending.  Any Nation should be able to run on a $2 trillion budget at the National level and not go over-budget.  That the US federal government cannot do that demonstrates that it is not being run well, wisely or competently and that it is promising more than it can deliver.  This means that, at some point, the promises will stop or the Nation will implode and the TP FiCons are for stopping the spending and living within the means that the economy can deliver via taxation without going over budget.  It is a fiscal 'back to basics' movement of spending no more than you take in and not promising what you cannot deliver without going into debt.  This set of simple, limited government ideals resonate deeply with any family or anyone living on a budget and seeing thrift as a way to have a better life.  As this is the majority of the Nation and a Nation of Paupers and Moochers are ones that will lose all their liberty, the moral foundations for this form of fiscal conservatism runs deep and outside the industrial RR FiCon comfort zone.  Libertarians who are fiscally conservative in the way of the TP FiCons join up to it but have problems understanding the Fusionist nature of the TP FiCon movment.  Being socially Moderate to Progressive or Libertine means that the categorization of financial freedom and liberty is not founded in the deeper understanding of human nature and the requirement that fiscal conservatism have roots greater than the liberty of man as individual alone.  Still they help to cement this faction in place even when they cannot or will not join in the larger social system that the TP FiCons are bringing to the table.  This sub-faction is now ascendant  in the Republican Party.

3) SoCons also break down into two sub-factions.

a) Christian Conservatives - This faction has held the line on abortion and has been fighting back on the encroaching of government on religious faith.  While holding to those moral beliefs they have also been courted by those wanting to make government the purveyor of those beliefs via social policy, which should be an anathema to this sub-faction, but has had numerous candidates over the years touting just this line.  Thus while socially conservative this sub-faction has elements of Progressive views in it and tends to not see the financial cost of providing a social 'good', which adds to a fiscally Moderate to Progressive basis for it.  Security concerns tend to divide this faction as well, between a Progressive view of 'open borders' and the slow dissolving of the Nation State and those that hold closer to the Traditionalist view of the Nation State being the guardian of our positive liberties and rights (not the granter of them).  The last decade has seen a slow reconciliation on social concerns within this group, although those with less than conservative views on finances and security can still play well in many areas of the Nation.  On the whole these are the people who drew a line in the sand based on the sanctity of life and did not realize that this must be true across the board, not just at conception but for the entire life of the individual which includes Security and Financial realms, as well.  As this sub-faction comes together across theological lines it will be attractive to more members of all faiths to stand up to the encroachment of government becoming a religious doctrine tyrant.

b) Traditionalist Conservatives - This faction runs a gamut of names from Federalists to Constitutional Conservative to Old School Liberal.  If the CC SoCons are the faction of faiths at the church or synagogue, the Traditionalists are the faith of the hearth and home where the basics of everyday life resonate deepest and most clearly.  These are the Settlers in US parlance, not necessarily the trailblazers and openers (the Jacksonians) but those that followed on to hew the rough shape of the land to make it fit for human habitation.  The Old Democratic Jacksonian contingent has the most affiliation with this sub-faction but tends to be Independent of persuasion, and when they do join the Republican Party they fit most closely into the Traditionalist sub-faction.  By teaching traditional budgeting and self-defense as the necessary guarantors of self-government and liberty, this sub-faction is one that will quickly join the Tea Partiers and become part of the Fusionists.  In this sub-faction practical budgeting is seen as a way of life and they haven't been too happy with their spendthrift compatriots in the party across other factions for decades.  Basic Federalist and Constitutional principles have, by the light of those living the closest to home and traditional ways, been trampled upon through the last century and instead of marching they have done the practical thing of leading good and solvent lives and not taking part in the slow erosion of the culture of the US by Progressivism.  It is not 'survivalism' but endurance and steadfastness that this sub-faction adheres to and the motto that 'God helps them who help themselves' means not taking a hand out but making your own way forward with your own work.  It is this sub-faction that Teddy Roosevelt railed against in the 1890's through the 1910's and it has endured no matter what the enticement, the scorn or derision has been that has been cast their way.  Libertarians who are not Libertines find themselves drawn to Traditionalism but have problems with the foundations of it in the basis of God granting liberty, individuals having granted liberty and exercising it, and then putting that into the social framework of the necessary evil of government to safeguard moral good, not promulgate it.

4) Fusionists - In brief these are the TP FiCons that are looking to dissolve and absorb those parts of the SecCons that still see National Sovereignty as a prime mover in human affairs and also understand that being fiscally insolvent is a danger to the Nation, and to the SoCons who understand that the basis for limited government is that it is our negative powers we grant it to protect us so we may use our positive liberties to build a strong culture and Nation.  It is very likely that the Third Great Awakening of America will allow the SoCons (all of them) to come to this conclusion and give the deep historical and theological background to the TP FiCon argument that will cement it in place.  This is the most overlooked, hardest to define and yet definite mover within the Republican Party as the TP FiCons continue to argue the basics and find that they come from traditional moral and ethical tenets that are deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian theology and philosophy.  This faction only started after 2010, properly, and is now growing as seen through the prism of the candidates.

Now with all that, it is time to look at the candidates with this prism in place.  I'm going last name, alphabetically.

Newt Gingrich - Speaker Gingrich falls into two sub-factions and one faction.  The main faction he came from are the SecCons, the anti-Communist wing of the Republican Party, although he was brought up with RR FiCon foundations and a limited set of CC SoCon outlooks.  Put together Newt Gingrich's political life has been one of a Progressive on the concept of government being used to push a social agenda of CC SoCons while spending money to confront Communism.  His attack on welfare in the 1990's didn't end the concept of government welfare, but removed a few programs that were running harshly in the red and allowed for a temporary balancing of the budget based on the dot Com bubble and TeleCom bubble.  He did nothing to roll back government power in the social arena and 'welfare' has been rebuilt, bit by bit, by George W. Bush and Barack Obama plus both Republican and Democratic led Congresses.  It is because of his RR FiCon roots that Speaker Gingrich gets dubbed an Establishment Republican and to a large degree this is true, although he has led a career that makes him uncomfortable to the Establishment in that his affiliations, positions and income, post-government, points out the corruptness in the Establishment position.  As an individual he is gifted in oratory and immediate wit while he ascends but has a grating and petulant tone while in downturns.  His historical knowledge allows him to argue both sides of any argument passionately and then dismiss his prior passion when changing sides on an argument, thus making him a good tactical politician but one with a low trust factor to him.  With his conversion to Roman Catholicism comes the recognition within himself of being a flawed individual and that he seeks reconciliation with his Creator for that.  This must be recognized and his sins of the past remembered, even when forgiven, so that his new path can be compared to the one he had before his conversion.  If most politicians have a few skeletons in their closet, Speaker Gingrich has a vast army of skeletons which is a two-fold condition: they can be used to show up his problems but he can skillfully turn them back on those who bring up the dead, as well.  It must be remembered that it is he who put those skeletons in place and he appears to be very good at dealing with undead issues.

Ron Paul - Rep. Paul is a double edged sword when it comes to the factions in the Republican Party.  He is an 'open borders' and free travel SecCon which goes against the rationale for a Nation State put forward not just by the Founders but since Westphalia.  He also has a strong small government streak and small military outlook which should put him in favor with the TP FiCons but the recognition of George Washington's understanding that a strong military is necessary to safeguard a Nation is one that puts many TP FiCons ill at ease.  His hatred but signing off on earmarks, even when he doesn't put them in a bill is troubling for TP FiCons as well.  Amongst SoCons his religious background is a plus, his identification with the Framers and early Presidents also a strong point, both of which make him appealing.  With that said not having a thorough grounding in those early Presidents and what they did and why they did them makes Rep. Paul a difficult man to understand as such things as confronting Islamic radicals didn't start in the 20th century but dates back to Colonials and early citizens being taken by Barbary Pirates all the way back to the 18th century.  'Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute' should be something that Rep. Paul understands and yet just the opposite is the case.  He makes a weak case for Privateering which should be a strong case if he understood Law of Nations or the works of Grotius, both of which the Framers and early Presidents well understood.  For SoCons he cannot explain his newsletters which is part of the 'moral responsibility' for having them published under one's name.  If you cannot explain your executive position in publishing questionable parts in lucrative newsletters, then how can one be trusted at higher executive authority?  Being an executive means understanding process and procedures, and that means not only 'moral responsibility' but an analysis of how such things get to publication and what was done to remedy a process that was out of whack. In personal tone and tenor in relaxed settings he can do well but in ones in which he is unprepared for answers he tends to wander in his approach which is off-putting to many.  Rep. Paul's lack of traction outside of his delimited base of supporters is due, in part, to the incoherence of his message and inability  to trace amongst the beliefs that are presented to show how they are internally self-consistent and have a high functional capability with the external world.  If one supports a Hayekian interpretation of Wealth of Nations just say so and then be willing to back that up with other works to show how they go together.  Similarly the Austrian School of Economics is rather esoteric to most individuals and needs grounding in Foundational concepts and a better  and broader backing to its implementation to a republic via Law of Nations.  It is not enough to claim internal consistency and point to years of newsletters that do not distill down to anything quickly.  It is not necessary to be glib but it is necessary to pull out key ideas and relate them quickly to other concepts that resonate with the American experience.  In these things Ron Paul lacks and has lacked for years.

Willard 'Mitt' Romney - Gov. Romney sits firmly in the RR FiCon world of the Northeastern US both fiscally and socially as the Northeastern US is where RR FiCons came from, by and large.  The region of NY-NJ up to ME is the locus of the Old Establishment Republicans and one does not need to be in DC to be part of that Establishment, but in the proper class and group of individuals who have a nodding understanding amongst them about wealth and its purposes within the party.  Thus the concepts of being socially Moderate to Progressive is acceptable within those confines and that regional affiliation is used to make a somewhat weak case that Gov. Romney ran and governed like a Northeastern RR FiCon, which he did, but being a Northeastern FiCon is not, necessarily, a thoroughgoing form of conservatism.  He continues to stand by Romneycare even when the criticisms are that no government, at any level, should mandate purchase or penalties for lack of purchase of a good or service.  That includes local government, State government or the National government, and yet he stands by the State level argument which, in this form, is neither Federalist nor conservative as no government should be granted such power over a free people.  The duty of a Governor is not to make bad legislation tolerable, but to safeguard the rights and liberties of those they govern and if another level of government has placed an inordinate burden that is bankrupting the State, then the proper redress is against the larger institution for doing something it doesn't have the power to do and breaking its faith as a body made by these lower levels of government.  And as the fiscal power of a State government should be limited to the State, then accepting federal monies for a State program should be seen as not only contrary to the separation of powers amongst the States and federal government, but an outright attempt to render States into vassals of the federal government and no longer as the holders of the charter of that government.  Gov. Romney's abiding faith in a Christian variant is one that should be relatively appealing to SoCons and, to a degree, it is.  Practicing a peaceful faith that upholds human liberty as coming from God should be a key to Gov. Romney's appeal and yet it hits some residual bigotry against the variant (Mormonism) due to the history of that religion until recent times.  Provisioning of a social 'good' should be appealing, much in the way Newt Gingrich is appealing, and yet that falls flat with SoCons when it is coming from Gov. Romney.  A background and pioneering appeal to at least the T SoCons should be an obvious tactic and overarching theme given the Federalist argument and Mormon background, but this is not the case due to the ways that State government was run by Gov. Romney so that even in the NE US his views are not acceptable to the T SoCons.  He does get some limited traction on hearth and home religious concepts, but that has been the greatest extent of his inroads with SoCons.  With SecCons there is limited appeal by Gov. Romney both on anti-terrorism and secure borders advocacy, due to his time as Governor of MA.  Because MA is seen as socially Moderate to Liberal if not by and large Progressive (outside of some western venues) the ability of Romney as Governor to actually put himself into the security spotlight were delimited and that now limits appeals to SecCons.  Outside of that Gov. Romney has a moderate likeability factor that is tempered by his rather slick political approach.  His campaign style is reminiscent of the 1960's to late 1970's in style and while the packaging is late 1990's that is reflective of the candidate himself.  Gov. Romney fits in the late 20th century very well, but the early 21st is changing very rapidly and looking for something that a Governor of a Northeastern State just can't bring to the table unless they brought major and substantial rollbacks in government power and spending with them... which hasn't happened anywhere in the NE US.  If he had this background in 2000, say, he would have been a very strong contender, but by 2012 the last century is now being seen as antiquated in views, policy and process and Gov. Romney is not stepping up to the modern plate of conservatism or even of where moderates stand.  He has great appeal to a somewhat older demographic based on packaging and styling which goes with the RR FiCon demographic.  To date he has no break-out past the limited base he has come with to this process and that is proving a major stumbling block to him as the very establishment he appeals from is being undercut and slowly liquidated.

Rick Santorum - Sen. Santorum has a deep SoCon affiliation that is amongst the CC SoCons and only somewhat to T SoCons.  He has signed on to bills that expand government programs and utilized the somewhat Progressive view of pushing social values via government programs to do so.  His loss in PA was part of a general sweep against Republicans and took place before the redistricting of the State and major changes that happened there in 2011 at the State level.  Coming from PA he has a natural affinity to both the old Rust Belt and Midwestern US, which are favorable to him and his SoCon views.  While he may not be palatable to all the Bible Belt, he has backing that should allow him to do well inside that region, as well.  Beyond that Sen. Santorum has problems appealing to FiCons due to his spending record in the Senate.  He has worked hard to ameliorate this with TP FiCons, and speaks a somewhat different language post 2010 than he did prior to it, about tying fiscal concerns with social values.  In this he is a proto-Fusionist Republican, not fully founded in TP FiCon or their Fusionist outreach within the party, he is the first to really represent that outreach group even if his record and background are stumbling blocks for it.  Being a virtual unknown and from the Senate, he has had problems talking about the ties between small government conservatism and social values of the SoCons.  This does not mean that his views follow those of the TP FiCons and his lack of policy directives (actually they all lack policy directives but it is telling on outreach to TP FiCons) for the size, scope and power of the federal government means that he has limited ability to expound upon them.  For SecCons he is a bit of an enigma, as well, although upholding traditional alliances and needing to repair them post-Obama is a major selling point.  His message on National Sovereignty issues based on border security and debt have not been highlighted, and that limits his comfort zone with SecCons as well.  Taken together Sen. Santorum is not sitting exactly where he was expected to sit within the CC SoCon confines, which makes him a tough nut to understand amongst the other factions within the Republican Party.  He has an amiable outreach, if a bit shrill at times, but also has a likeability factor that reaches not just to CC SoCons but to other factions as well.  If there is a candidate with a doormat out saying WELCOME on it, it is Sen. Santorum and while he is willing to listen he is also willing to hold a dialogue with both critics and supporters which is a very, very hard thing to find amongst the other candidates.  What Sen. Santorum lacks in clarity (as in Ron Paul) he makes up for in willingness to hear others out and uphold his traditional beliefs and talk about how they work in the modern world.  If he is the first of the Fusionists then he is putting down a few major marker points on openness and willingness to listen, not just talk and expound, which makes for an interesting dynamic for future Fusionists to examine.  He is not right on all issues and has problems of appeal outside of his origination point within the CC SoCons and still has not found the necessary expansive underpinnings for a wide-ranging set of policies and conversation points amongst the American people.  With that said, if he does these things he will find himself amongst a growing set of the Republican Party that crosses all prior factional boundaries that is fully within the 21st century of US politics.  He isn't there at this point but the possibilities to be at that point of confluence are indicated.

That is my personal view of the candidates within the Republican field vying for the nomination.