If this season’s race for the Republican Presidential nomination has taught us anything, it is that the Republican Party is far from a single block of like-minded voters. It is a party with a series of diverse interests and ideas, many of which conflict with one another in such a manner, that we now have a set of niche Republican candidates fighting over a very small amount of winnable votes.
I have no vested interest in the Republican Party as an institution, however it is always frustrating to see in America what amounts to a failure of the two party system to accurately represent the diverse and unique interests of the American people. The Republican party is comprised of libertarians, paleoconservatives, neoconservatives, social conservatives, and moderates. Libertarians, like Ron Paul, emphasize individual liberty and limiting the size and scope of the government, particularly at a federal level. Paleocons, like Pat Buchanan, believe in protectionist policies and limiting immigration and trade, to try to focus industry in America. Rick Santorum, as a candidate, encompasses both the neoconservative and social conservative segments of the party, which believe in the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes, as well as emphasizing social issues such as gay marriage. Romney represents the moderate, pragmatic side, particularly compared to the relatively ideological candidates remaining in the race.
It is because Santorum represents two of these aspects of the Republican Party that he has gained recent popularity. Many republicans are simply not interested in a pragmatic approach to anything at the moment, as has been witnessed with Romney’s lack of ability to gather more than a quarter of the vote in many key states. Newt Gingrich represents a conglomerate of a number of different Republican voters, most of which agree on the mere fact agree that Romney is not the candidate for them, and Gingrich just so happened to be the last mainstream, popular candidate left not to make an ass of himself (See; Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann.) And I am forced to admit that, despite running a good campaign, there is simply not a strong enough libertarian contingency in the Party to get Ron Paul the nomination, despite his strong polling head-to-head against President Obama.
Santorum was considered something of an afterthought, until he found himself fortunate enough to be the last in a series of polling booms before the Iowa caucuses, at which point there was simply not enough time left for him to screw it up, as there had been for his predecessors. He has established himself as a right-wing alternative to Romney, and, as of last week, is putting forward a strong challenge to win the nomination.
The issue that Republicans now face is that Santorum is such a polarizing figure that his chances of winning the White House are slim to none. Coupled with the recent boost in Obama’s popularity, and the independent vote will have no reason to believe that he would be a big enough improvement over Obama to be worth the vote. Libertarians like myself will reject Santorum as a candidate outright, much as he has rejected the influence of libertarian views in the party (he has said that he will work to eliminate them) and we will work to eliminate him in return, likely by voting for Gary Johnson.
So if Santorum’s rise has a message to Americans in general, it has to be that two parties is simply not an acceptable number to try to encompass American political views. Neocons, Libertarians, and protectionists cannot survive in a single party much like Communists, Social Democrats, and Blue Dogs cannot survive indefinitely under the Democratic Party, as well saw with the fight over the Obamacare laws despite a massive Democratic congress. America needs to move away from the suppression of third parties, as well as stop trying to play off politics in America as a team versus team, two party sporting event.