Republican Civil War…

Whenever a political party is out of power for a significant amount of time, things tend to get ugly. Generally, party leaders point fingers at one another and there is something like a struggle over who is to blame for past defeats and who should lead the party into the future. Granted, in our political system, the parties are pretty fragmented. While the Republicans and Democrats have national committees that make many important decisions, much of the “nuts and bolts” work in the party takes place at the state and local level; this is also where volunteers matter most.

At the same time, each elected official is also a party member (except for a couple in the Congress), and they are pondering running for re-election or for higher office. These politicians have to plot their own strategies for what it will take to win during the next 2, 4, or 6 years. When they make speeches and policy commitments, they, to an extent, define the party just as much as party leaders or volunteers.

Lubricating the entire process is an obscene amount of money. During primary and general election campaigns, ALL candidates need money to run for office. Only some are truly self-financed, so most are forced to raise money so they might be effective. In fact, one of the first big hurdles any candidate faces is the ability to raise enough money to compete, much less win.

Outside of the candidates themselves, there are private groups who are raising money to influence voters. Due to recent Supreme Court decisions (Citizens United v. F.E.C.), these organizations have few limits, even if they are corporations.

The final aspect of parties, of course, is you and me. Parties rely on our time and money, of course, but more than anything, they need our votes in order to survive. About 2/3 of Americans identify with a political party and then, generally, vote for that party when elections roll around.

Collectively, then, parties are complex organizations. When they are out of power, as noted before, struggles within the party are sometimes extreme.

Karl Rove is one of the most critical Republicans in the United States. Mr. Rove has never held office, though he was an advisor to President George W. Bush. Since his time in the White House, Mr. Rove has been a key political fundraiser through his own organization–American Crossroads (AC). AC spent over $300 million in the last election and the candidate it most supported, Mitt Romney, lost relatively handily.

This has generated intense criticism about how to spend money effectively, which Republican candidates to support, and, to a small degree, the future of the Republican Party. First Things posted a recent blog about the topic that might be worth your examination.


About Mark Caleb Smith

Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University.
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9 Responses to Republican Civil War…

  1. dlw says:

    I am of the view that 3-seat Proportional /Representation for state assembly elections, not unlike what existed in IL from 1870-1980, and such as would prevent either major party from dominating a state’s politics, would go a long ways to build up a state-level party apparatus that would make more of our fed’l elections more competitive and if it subverts the tendency for our system to tilt at the nat’l level, it’ll make elections and gov’t relations more civil in general.

    I’m hoping that the new center-right party that emerges will see that it’s rat’l for them to push for American forms of Proportional Representation, not unlike as advocated by FairVote, what do you think?…

  2. Kyriana Lynch says:

    It seems to be a general tendency among humankind to blame others for failure. From the garden of Eden until the 2012 elections, whatever happens, people still say, “It’s not my fault–it was the snake!” The only difference? It seems like now we have more snakes to blame than ever before. Of course, some blame may well be merited. However, if the only solution we can propose is to change the major tenants of Republican or conservative policy, then it appears to me that we have lost the battle already. The article suggests that Republicans should change their message to appeal to those who voted for President Obama in the last election. However, in my mind, this would mean that Republicans would have to change their message to _be_ President Obama.

    So then, what can Republicans do? I think the most important factor is to stop blaming and halt the negativity. Division is no use to anyone, and in fact only alienates people further. Rather than airing negative ads on TV, I think that Republicans should use their time and energy to unite and try to find common ground within their own party. I don’t suggest that Republican policy change to be more appealing to Democrats, but that Republicans from diverse backgrounds attempt to compromise and construct a platform that more Republicans can feel confident supporting.

  3. Melissa Johnson says:

    I think that it is kind of ridiculous how candidates spend their money and I am glad that there have been some rules set in place by the Supreme Court for organizations. I think that in the last election, the Democrats spent their money more wisely on campaigning than the Republicans did. It is wise to research before one runs campaign ads. The Democrats surely seemed to do good research to find out where the young people, who can vote, spend their free time. I remember seeing many ads and commercials on hulu and Pandora radio for the Democratic party. I did not see any Republican ads until the very end of the campaigns. This shows that the Democratic party spent more wisely because they took time to research a target audience. I think this helped them with a majority of the swing votes in the election.

  4. Leandra Marshall says:

    I agree with Kyriana. A political party divided cannot stand. If the Republican Party announces that it cannot win an election because of the Tea Party ‘obstacle’, the Tea Party will shoot back the same retort. This will bring division, which lead to losses at the ballot. If the Moderate part of Republican Party and Conservative Republican Party (Tea Party) members both want success, they must amiably agree on a common foundation of sustainable government that is an alternative to what is in place today.

  5. Brooke Devereaux says:

    This article goes to show that the flashy campaigns and high budgets mean little to nothing to voters if their candidate isn’t portraying an appealing and meaningful message to you. When the article states that “How will you spend my money to win over Americans who voted for Obama in the last election?” I do not think they were getting at the fact of changing the Republican platform to appeal to those voters, it simply meant showing how the alternatives are superior and more conservative to the Democratic platform. I have always felt that entirely way to much money was spent on political campaigns.

    • Becky Dennis says:

      Absolutely perfectly put. I agree with you 100%. Politicians need to realize that fundraising isn’t what gets the votes.

  6. Kaila Beekman says:

    It is kind-of ironic how much candidates actually spend on campaigns, and like the article said it seems like the same thing said over and over. It really doesn’t come down to the money, but more of what the people need I suppose. If a party spend those millions of dollars but the candidate doesn’t have the majority’s needs in mind, they can put out all the money in the world and it won’t do anything for them. Maybe saving some of that campaign money and putting it toward things the people care about like taxes and paying off debt, their campaign would go a little smoother.

  7. Chris Anderson says:

    It’s obvious that campaigns of all sorts require financial assistance from others, but why is that? Millions of dollars that could be going towards the fight against poverty, AIDS, or cancer is then spent on a person to get their name out so that they might have a chance winning an election. This entire concept prevents literally every person in the United States from having an equal chance at running for office. It seems to me like the one who will be able to raise the most, or close to the most, money will then win the election. It should be solely off a combination of prior experience, education, and the quality of the policies being proposed to the people.

  8. Becky Dennis says:

    I share the sentiments of my fellow classmates in that I think the fundraising side of political campaigns is probably the most ridiculous. I think that the political parties spend a lot of their money on things that aren’t likely to convince people to vote for them, such as the attacking 30-second ads. That is probably the most referenced example because it seems to be the most wasteful. I’ve also thought that the idea of political rallies were strange because you’re spending a ton of money on posters, flyers, flights, stage set-up, security, etc. in order to give an hour speech to people who already support you. I understand that people will need money in order to campaign but there should be a more effective way to spend it. Additionally, candidates should be elected primarily on their character, stance on issues, experience, voting record, and other aspects that voters care about when electing an official. I also feel like it ironic that politicians have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign, and then promise to be able to fix the economy.

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