Why the Republicans Cannot Beat Obama

1) They articulate no principles. Mitt Romney has proposed some tax cuts, but he offers no principles to justify them. Ronald Reagan used to talk about “getting government off the backs of the people.” He paired this principle and theme with proposals for tax cuts and reductions in government regulations. Romney makes specific proposals only reluctantly, when pressured; and he almost never articulates principles. The same is true of the other candidates, except for Ron Paul, who are all over the place.

2) They articulate no foreign policy. What is America’s role in the world? Again, principles are needed. A wonderful example of a principle is “Don’t tread on me.” This implies that America will never go on the aggressive as a nation builder, but will absolutely do whatever is necessary to protect its objective interests, whenever required. Ron Paul has made a big deal of the fact that America should not be the world’s policeman. That’s true, but it’s also true that America does have real interests in other parts of the world. A military presence is needed to ensure, for example, that we continue to get the flow of oil to our country that quite literally keeps the lights on. We know that Ron Paul doesn’t even consider this a compelling reason for any military force whatsoever, at any time. In fact, he has gone so far as to say we should practice a policy of loving our enemy as we love ourselves when it comes to Iran. This is pure Jimmy Carter pacifism, and even Obama himself hasn’t gone quite this far. The other Republican candidates are a little better than Ron Paul — there’s nowhere to go but up on this issue — but they still articulate no coherent principles on the subject. At least Ron Paul has introduced a principled question into the equation: “What’s the justification for the use of war powers, and under what circumstance?” None of the other candidates are either asking or answering the question.

3) They offer no alternative to Obama. They offer no contrast with Obama. Ronald Reagan did do this, when running against the similarly disastrous Jimmy Carter. He talked about a choice between two futures. Romney or Gingrich mouth those words, but does anyone really know what policies and principles they will offer in opposition to Obama? I don’t even hear the candidates talking about repealing ObamaCare any longer. That should be a no-brainer. Silence. Gingrich talks about how he is a “big thinker” and a “big ideas” man, but offers little to nothing in the form of specific ideas or principles to support this claim. He was like this as Speaker of the House, too. I remember, years ago, when he first became Speaker, he talked about the fact that he was a “revolutionary” and that’s why he threatened people. But a revolution, even a bloodless political one, implies some fundamental and underlying change in principle. Gingrich never even articulated a principle, such as one of limited government, as Reagan had articulated. Gingrich has had a lot of airtime for nearly twenty years now. Somebody ought to have at least some idea of what he stands for, but he has been all over the map with his support of global warming theories and his attack on cutting government welfare state programs as “right wing social engineering.” Romney has had less national air time, but he has been notoriously all over the map as well. Ron Paul, to be fair, has been much more articulate on expressing a principled philosophy of limited government, and offered trillions of dollars in spending cut specifics to prove it. However, this is clearly not the message even most Republicans yet want to hear.

4) They offer no passion. You would think that after the Tea Party came into existence, the presidential campaign would have been full of passion. You think the Tea Party would have come up with a candidate to advance the cause of limited government. Unfortunately, the problem with the Tea Party was that it was always fuzzy on the issues. There are just as many people in the Tea Party saying, “Don’t touch my Medicare or Social Security” as those calling for privatization of these unsustainable government entitlements. You can’t have it both ways. Contradiction and confusion result in no passion. Mitt Romney exemplifies this in individual form. On the surface, he should be a candidate full of passion. He speaks well, he’s articulate, he’s polished and he looks good in front of the camera. Psychologically speaking, he has the characteristics of a natural leader. But he’s muddled, fuzzy and confused on the issues. He was for ObamaCare (in Massachusetts form) before he was against it. He initially talked about repealing ObamaCare, and now he has dropped the subject entirely. He criticized people like Rick Perry for saying the truth — that Medicare is fiscally unsustainable — but then he turned around and defended Rep. Paul Ryan whose plan called for at least a semi-privatization of Medicare. Running around and taking different or contradictory positions is symptomatic of not being clear on one’s basic principles. I was once having a political discussion with someone (a liberal Democrat) and I stopped her when I said, “The basic issue here is force. Government has no right to initiate force against its citizens.” Republicans have no such principle to justify their positions on the rare occasions they even take positions. With Romney, you get the sense he has no principles in his mind at all. As a result, his positions will vary by the day and of course he cannot come across as passionate. To be passionate, you must first be convinced of something. Romney wants to be President and seems to feel that a man who worked in the business world would be a better president than a former, mid-level academic as Obama was. That’s about it.

5) Fixations on religion and sex do not a party make. Religion and sex are not the concern of government. Politicians should not even be talking about these subjects. It’s valid for a Republican to complain that government funds are used to pay for abortion or contraception. This is an opportunity to point out how the welfare/redistributive state is essentially tyranny, and thoroughly un-American. Instead of taking this opportunity, people like Rick Santorum use it as an opportunity to oppose contraception and abortion for everyone. Instead of saying, “It’s a free country and what you do with your body, outside of initiating force against another, is your own business. But people should not be forced to pay for it,” they launch attacks on attitudes and beliefs with which they disagree. Instead of favoring limited government, they come across as supporting a Big Government run by evangelical preachers instead of by do-gooder, busybody social workers. Earth to Republicans: Neither one represents freedom! Santorum is the ugliest example of this viewpoint, and both Gingrich and Romney pander to it in order to gain votes. Ron Paul is wrong on abortion (he favors making it illegal), but at least to his credit he does not fixate on it. Ronald Reagan was wrong on these issues as well, but he managed to make both his campaigns and his presidency center on the matters of economics and defense, and he was more right than wrong on these two issues. A Rick Santorum presidency, in the unlikely event it ever happened, would be nothing like this.

In order for Republicans to beat Obama, they need a good candidate. But even more importantly, they need a coherent and principled message. To date, there has been nothing of the sort. That’s why, at present, these Republicans cannot even beat each other. How in the world can we expect any of them to beat Obama? And would it frankly make any difference if they did?