My political views over the past several years can be summed up by saying that I loathe the Republican party ever so slightly more than the Democratic party. My free-market ideology heavily favors economic libertarianism and is therefore more closely aligned to textbook 'small-government' conservatism but unfortunately I find Republican stances on social issues such as abortion, immigration, privacy, gun control, defense spending, executive power, and gay rights as falling somewhere between misguided to utterly abhorrent. My passionate disagreements on these latter issues has regrettably forced me to swallow my economic misgivings and side with the Democrats in most elections.
But perhaps change is afoot. The tea party movement firmly values fiscal conservatism and smaller government in general (read: libertarianism) and as this party grows in size several possible outcomes could happen:
1) Most likely, it will fizzle out and die leaving little to no lasting impact; no one wins and all the outrage is for naught. I'm left hating Democratic economic practices and Republican social/international practices alike.
2) By emphasizing what was once the core ideology of the Republican party above all else, I hold out hope that perhaps Republicans will be persuaded to suspend their unrelenting assault on social issues which has so scorned me over the years. Pro-life, anti-immigration, and pro-war are just a handful of issues that are ideologically unrelated to the issue of small governance and fiscal conservatism but these issues dominate party rhetoric and policy on virtually all fronts.
However, and this is an enormous however, I maintain a lasting skepticism that the tea-party is really only about fiscal conservatism and libertarian economic policies as opposed to the traditional god-fearing, gay-hating, gun-touting, war-hawk evangelical conservatism that I so despise. They've made the populist argument of less government, but time will tell if they stick to such a limited scope.
3) Almost a non-existent but ever-so-delightful chance is that the Republican party could split from the pressure resulting in a clear distinction between Republican moderates and hard-line conservatives. I cherish the thought and would further love to see the Democratic party split into two parties as well. Ideally, this would leave a ruling coalition of moderates at the center with each party having their fringe activists that lose and gain in popularity creating slight shifts in how the ruling center buffers popular opinion and thus governs.
4) Rather than split the Republican party, there is a chance that Republicans could instead be pulled further to the right. Democrats could thus move rightward which would shift the entire spectrum to the right or they could react by moving leftward creating a rapidly polarized government. On the surface, this would be awful but perhaps if it were to occur the outcome could look somewhat like number 3 whereby a vacuum in the center brings moderates together as a reaction against policy crippling polarization that has slowly been occurring.
Of all those options, most sound pretty okay to me except for the dreadful thought of the fiscal conservatism movement morphing into a growing evangelical conservatism movement. As long as that doesn't happen, some intelligent shifts in economic policy and decreasing emphasis on social issues would be a breath of fresh air potentially benefiting both parties.
The Democrats are succeeding in getting people incensed at the growing size of government, and perhaps this can be placated in exchange for a Republican easing on the social front. Any movement that brings this about, no matter how convoluted the means, garners my undying support.
*posted on my blog: fingerprints.and.snowflakes*