A Republican candidate for his party's nomination known as "moderate" would abolish Medicare as we know it, adopting something very similar to the infamous Paul Ryan plan (which happened to sink any presidential aspirations Ryan himself might have had) (1). In boasting about it, he said: "I'll end Medicare faster than Newt Gingrich." He also supported the proposed Mississippi Constitutional amendment to ensconce a particular religious belief as to when live begins in it (turned by the voters of Mississippi!) Yes, that's Mitt, who continues to have all sorts of trouble cozying up to the Republican Far Right, because of that awful label "moderate" earned when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Then there's the "traditional conservative" Rick Santorum who said: "As long as abortion is legal in this country . . . we will never rest because that law does not comport with God's law" (2).
In other words, Santorum, like that Mississippi initiative that Romney supported, would put "God's law" above the U.S. Constitution. None of the other Republican candidates has pointed out either of two major features of Santorum's position. First, the central feature of the "Sharia Law" that they all so eagerly pounce on as if its institution were just around the corner in the United States, is that it places "God's law" above any civil constitution that happens to be in place in the country that is under Sharia Law. Second, "God's law" in any country that is governed even in part by it is simply means what some group of men happen to say it is, of course always citing some "holy book" (that just happens to have been written by men). But the Republican Party is so far to the Right that this position of Santorum's is not challenged within it. (See also "Rick Santorum's Most Outrageous Campaign Moments," The Progress Report, Jan. 5, 2012.)
Then we have another "conservative," Ron Paul. The bulk of the Republican establishment doesn't like him, because he would like to cut out virtually all of the US imperialistic overseas involvements, military and otherwise. That of course would lead to a major reduction in US military spending, but it would also end the cash cow that the war industry provides for its owners and their Congressional stooges in the US. It would also put an end to the central element of Cheneyism (3), the establishment of Orwellian Permanent War. It is this element of Paulism that attracts certain elements of the Left to him. But Paul also takes these positions, as The Nation's Katha Pollitt has pointed out (4):
"In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, no civil rights laws, no anti-discrimination law, no Americans With Disabilities Act, no laws ensuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers' rights, [no] Federal Aviation Authority and its pesky air traffic controllers." On the other hand, this so-called "libertarian" would let the states criminalize any belief that life begins other than at the time of conception, and (quoting again) "he maintains his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and opposes restrictions on the "freedom' of business owners to refuse service to blacks. . . . No wonder they love him over at Stormfront, a white-supremacist website with neo-Nazi tendencies."
Together, these are radical right-wing positions. Nobody in today's GOTP would get anywhere by challenging any of them. Today's GOP is a far cry from that of Dwight D. Eisenhower who said publicly that the New Deal reforms were accepted and acceptable public policy and that the only differences between Democrats and Republicans on them were how they should be implemented. But how did the Republican Party get from Ike to Mitt and Newt and Rick (either of them) and Ron? Through what I call the Imperative of the Right-Wing Imperative. It started with Goldwater and has proceeded through Reagan and the Bushes down to the present day.
The real policies of the GOP are what they have always been: cut taxes for the wealthy, ship U.S. capital and the jobs it supports overseas to where they can make more profits for their owners, make sure that the US continues to run on fossil fuels and keep the fossil fuel companies' profits up, convert our agriculture to industrial farming, remove both market and environmental regulation to the greatest degree possible, encourage the conversion from the industrial capitalism that used to produce the lion's share of the profits in this country, along with a large number of relatively good-paying jobs, to finance capitalism. The latter a) doesn't produce much in the way of jobs and b) leads invariably to disasters like that of 2008, from which the US has yet to recover. But one can hardly win elections running on that kind of platform.
So one has to cover it up with slogans like "small government," "slash spending," and "cut taxes" without any specificity at all, throw in "entitlement reform" as if the generally self-funding Medicare and Social Security programs were the major cause of the US economic problems. Then for your Right-wing Christian base add the "social issues" like denying 14th Amendment rights to gay couples who want to get married and the aforementioned drive to criminalize all beliefs about when life begins other than at the time of conception. And oh yes, when all else fails, red-bait and attack the "free-loading poor" (meaning "black and brown" of course).
Add to this the truly crazy Presidential electoral system that exists in the United States in which truly tiny numbers of people in small states have an inordinate influence on who wins the Republican Presidential nomination. This year little more than 200,000 generally far-right voters in Iowa determined who "won," Romney and Santorum with about 30,000 each, and who "lost," all of the others. The Iowa caucuses are then followed by primaries in two more small states with right-wing Republican bases, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and then by Florida, which while not small also houses a right-wing Republican electorate. And so to have a chance of winning the nomination, more and more the Republican candidates' pitches have to be pitched to the Right.
And there you have it. For any Republican now to get the nomination, for both reasons of covering up what they really want to do and for reasons of the nature and small numbers of the Republican electorates in the early primary states, it is imperative that they keep following the Rightward Imperative. This will not change anytime soon.
1. The Progress Report, Dec. 9, 2011: "Romney Bearhugs Disastrous Plan to End Medicare."
2. Bacon, Jr., P. (The Washington Post), "Courting Christians," Newsday, Dec. 5, 2011.
3. Jonas, S., "The Triumph of Cheneyism," http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13119 .
4. Pollitt, Katha, "Ron Paul's Strange Bedfellows," The Nation (online), January 4, 2012.