U.S. presidential elections come in two parts, the preliminary or nominating phase in the form of state caucuses and primaries, followed by the general election. The latter is considered the main event. This year, though, it’s the preliminaries that may prove to be decisive. In them, the GOP candidates are staking out such uniformly far-right positions that their views could well dominate the tenor of the general election.
The other day Mitt Romney, once considered a centrist, boasted of his “severely conservative” record. At the rate the Republicans are staking out far right territory, you almost expect a Romney competitor to claim to be the most radical reactionary.
In the general election, the broad middle ground is where most voters are supposed to be found. After all, candidates are supposed to have to appeal to independents as well as members of both parties. The coming general election, however, may well be different. The air has been filled by so much right-wingism, it’s possible there has been a seismic switch even in what was once regarded as the middle.
If so, it will be due in no small part to an unexpected consequence of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That decision cleared the way for the emergence of a new force in Presidential politics—the independent PACs and super-PACs. These groups have been mocked as independent in name only, for they are said to be really puppets of the candidates, marching in lock-step with them. However, what if the reverse is true – that the forces unleashed by the high Court are in reality a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, mainly or perhaps entirely responsible for the GOP becoming the mouthpiece of the far right? That would be a reasonably plausible explanation of the spectacle we’re witnessing of the GOP on the far right fringes.