This article was originally written in 2014 as an assessment of the Republicans and the Democrats.
There are no clear Republican frontrunners for the upcoming presidential elections and it’s yet to be seen what nominees are about to emerge from the underbelly of the corporate Right. By contrast, it looks likely that Hillary Clinton will be running as she has not explicitly dispersed the interest in her potential candidacy and dear Bill said he has “no earthly idea” (a non-answer if there ever was one). There remains a lot of interest in Bernie Sanders with the hope that he may offer a left-wing alternative (I do not buy this belief). Now that Jeb Bush has signalled that he may be up for the 2016 race to the White House it feels right to list a few reasons why the Republican Party are weak in the upcoming election:
1. The American ruling-class has been served very loyally by the Obama administration and may not need the GOP to enact certain policies. The Republicans offer a battering-ram against any Democrats who may get out of line. Should Clinton run the ticket will amount to forward-looking rhetoric about social issues and foreign policy, while the economic consensus remains intact. It’s unclear what the GOP can effectively offer in a prospective administration. The military-industrial complex is secure, relatively low taxes remain in place, fiscal measures to stabilise the economy were made (albeit ineffectively) mainly feathering the nests of the very few.
2. The Tea Party has lost its momentum and has largely succeeded in polarising the country (a crime against that American fetish for unity) and stands as a failed model for retaking the White House. It wasn’t just that Romney couldn’t have been taken seriously, it’s that the mobilisation behind him was insufficient. This signals the failure of the attempt to reinvigorate the Republican machine after the Bush years left the Party with two failed wars and an economic disaster hanging around its neck. The conservative libertarian position had a lot of strength to it because it allowed the GOP to position itself against its own record, implicitly, whilst attacking the status quo. That failed.
3. The social base of the Republican Party is in decline and the need to supplement the losses cannot easily be achieved. The angry white men are increasingly a smaller force and the Party now needs a way of reaching out to the Latino voter. If that means moderation on issues such as the ‘cultural front’ of guns and abortion then it may only come at an overall cost to the core right-wing vote. The Republicans have to maintain their core white support and be able to bring on board a new kind of voter. Bush managed this by relaxing policy and rhetoric on immigration, to some extent, and appealing to a broad Christian base, not just white Protestants, but non-white Catholics, on issues of stem-cells and gay marriage.
4. There stands no coherent political tendency on the American Right which can accomplish this electoral feat and stand as a better alternative to the Democrats. Neoconservatism has been discredited by the Iraq war and the economic crisis. The Christian Right are unsustainable and will be defeated by their own victories as we’ve seen in the past. The libertarians are weak for the same reason. Anti-Communism is long dead. Paleoconservatism may offer a position to criticise previous policy and charge the Democrats for moral delinquency in the ‘culture wars’. But I can’t see a paleoconservative getting anywhere near the front of the race.
For these reasons I suspect that the Democrats have a strong chance in 2016 as they will be able to absorb the Latino vote with great ease and maintain the support of the corporate establishment, while a chunk of the American Left will be too timid to abandon the wagon for fear of the Grand Old Party. This may well eventuate in an administration far worse (certainly if Hillary Clinton takes over) than the current resident of the White House. By 2020 the Republicans might have managed to get their act together, it’s difficult to see at this point.