Will the Republican Party snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
President Obama is reeling from consecutive--some might say continuous--foreign policy disasters. His signature legislative piece, Obamacare, has become considerably unpopular. Unemployment remains at crisis levels as the economy stagnates. Some traditional Democrats view their party leaders as being far too radical and left-wing.
The GOP should be confident of eventually taking a commanding lead in the polls for the upcoming 2014 elections. While the party’s prospects currently appear to be optimistic, poor political decisions could well produce a reprieve for struggling Democrats.
The problem became more apparent at the Republican-friendly Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) which just wrapped up in a Washington, D.C. suburb.
Al Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union (which sponsors the event) stated at a press conference that the organization was attempting to bring together the libertarian wing of the movement with social values advocates.
That effort alone could prove challenging.
However, Cardenas has apparently overlooked yet another faction, one that has been a bedrock of GOP support and the key to its various national election successes for over half a century. That constituency is the mass of voters who support a strong national defense. The exclusion was a red-hot issue at this year’s CPAC, which lacked any significant emphasis on the topic.
The leading spokesperson for defense matters, Frank Gaffney, Director of the Center for Security Policy, was excluded from the conference, apparently due to infighting issues. In response, Gaffney arranged a mini-CPAC conference a few blocks away, concentrating on defense-related concerns. The event drew a substantial attendance to hear major figures including Senator Ted Cruz, conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, and others.
Gaffney, who served as under-secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, represents a constituency which was largely responsible for a substantial portion of the votes leading to prior Republican victories in campaigns for the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives.
As Russian troops occupy Crimea and Moscow fields a newly enlarged, modernized and invigorated military, as China continues to rapidly develop into an exceptionally highly advanced, vast military superpower with overtly aggressive tendencies, as Iran and North Korea develop their ICBM and nuclear capabilities, and as Islamic radicals gain ground and confidence throughout the planet, it seems an odd time for conservatives and Republicans to back away from an issue that has been so crucial to them for so long.
It’s not just what’s happening overseas that raises the concern of vast numbers of Americans. Both the President and his supporters in the Democrat-majority senate have forcefully pushed for further drastic cuts in the Pentagon’s budget, even after already deep reductions have been made in prior years. Major concessions made to Moscow in the New START treaty and in ABM development have also shaken U.S. power.
Mr. Obama’s proposal to unilaterally slash the U.S. nuclear arsenal is also a major concern.
A tough stance on national security had, in the past, both united diverse elements of the Republican Party and its conservative supporters, as well as being responsible for winning the votes of significant numbers of Democrats and independents.
Absent that unifying factor, the Republican Party could face a situation in November in which some of its core constituency doesn’t feel motivated to go to the polls. Defense-minded independents and Democrats concerned about defense and foreign policy would similarly lack a reason to vote for GOP candidates, although individual office-seekers could emphasize the topic within their own campaigns.
A number of participants at this year’s CPAC were also angered over what they believed to be excessive concessions by the Republican House Speaker to the White House on defense and anti-terrorism issues, including the as-yet unexplained reluctance by Boehner to adequately probe the Administration’s Benghazi debacle.
A deeply troubled President and a Democrat Party that are both increasingly synonymous with failed policies at home and abroad should be an easy target for the GOP. However, a Republican failure to address the views of an historically key core constituency could lead to an upset victory for Democrats.
A defeat under those circumstances could represent more than just another election year loss for Republicans. Angered GOP loyalists could well turn away for many years from contributing to and volunteering for Republican candidates, and turn their support to the various Tea Party organizations.