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Make or break for Republican party

Brian Kaneb | Friday, August 26, 2011

While the Republican Party is too powerful to fold, it is becoming increasingly susceptible to a dramatic short-term setback. Unfortunately, many early GOP frontrunners are willing to take stances that isolate moderate voters.

The issue is not the actual existence of these ideologues — they will always be there — but rather the fact that many GOP nominee hopefuls have fallen into this trap. To this point, candidates have been unable find a balance between rhetoric that riles up their base and rhetoric that appeals to independents.

Republicans have yet to capitalize on President Obama’s biggest shortcoming — the economy. So far, candidates have essentially chosen style over substance when it comes to this issue.

Just days after announcing his candidacy for president, Texas Governor Rick Perry referred to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies as “treacherous.” This is not a ludicrous argument; for the first time in our nation’s history, our gross public debt is larger than our gross domestic product.

However, he didn’t stop there. Governor Perry then suggested Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was acting “treasonous” and that he would “treat him pretty ugly.” Whether or not this was an actual threat is up for debate, but Governor Perry crossed a line.

Instead of getting caught up in the moment — he was at a rally in Iowa when he made this statement — he should have expanded on why our attitude towards spending is unsustainable. Undecided voters are rarely convinced to support a candidate based on such senseless banter.

The same goes for Representative Michelle Bachmann, who has not only argued that Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner should resign, but also that our national debt is a form of “slavery.” Yes, it is true that we are technically indebted and bound to various nations to a certain degree.

However, considering our unique history, equating overspending with such a practice is a risky line to walk. It not only isolates moderate voters, but also angers conservative minorities who feel that such a statement understates the seriousness of slavery.

For better or for worse, most Americans believe that Mrs. Bachmann is exaggerating our problems for political gain. If she is to compete against the affable President Obama in the general election, Representative Bachmann will need to take a step away from using intense language.

Even when it comes to an issue such as climate change, the Republican candidates are skeptical. According to a 2009 study by the University of Illinois, 97.4 percent of active climatologists agree that humans play a role in climate change. Sadly, many presidential hopefuls are unwilling to support government activity to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Governor Rick Perry believes, “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data.” Michelle Bachmann called the theory a “hoax” and has even advocated for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Though the U. S. has always been hesitant to address the environment due to a fear of economic reprisals, candidates should not completely ignore scientific consensus.

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of the most partisan political environment in decades. After reading this opinion article, many of our student body may assume that I am simply a biased democrat. On the contrary, I am actually an independent libertarian. I hold many traditionally conservative views, but am still convinced that the Republican Party is headed down the wrong road.

If the Republican Party loses the general election to someone as unpopular as President Obama, who has a 38 percent approval rating, the necessity for internal adjustments will only become more obvious.

Brian Kaneb is a sophomore studying political science. He can be reached at bkaneb1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.