Today, Paul Krugman posits that the current state of the GOP is due to the fact that while the party’s policies are for the very rich, they have gotten elected by appealing to social conservatives and other whack jobs. As an example, he talks about George W. Bush, who won (I dispute this) the 2004 election by running against same-sex marriage, but who, after winning said he had a mandate for privatizing Social Security.
There is much to this argument. However, I think the movement of both parties to the right is just as important. The big problem I see in the GOP primary is that the candidates don’t have any real differences with President Obama. The Democratic Party is now as conservative a party as the United States can support. So what we see are people like Romney making extremely fine distinctions. “Sure,” he says, “My healthcare plan was the same as Obama’s but that is okay because it is a state plan; when enacted federally, it is totally unacceptable.”
After you get past a certain place on the right (or left), you don’t get much farther by taking extreme positions. Being against abortions in all cases is not in any substantive way more conservative than being in favor of a rape exception. And this is all that the Republicans have to offer: one step farther to the right. Certainly this matters for those women who are raped, but for the average voter, it doesn’t matter at all.
I think we are heading for a shake-up of the parties. The Democratic Party has become little more than the old GOP and the new GOP appeals only to people’s vague outrage. It cannot last.