Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese drama, with highly stylized song, mime and dance, now performed by only male actors. It uses exaggerated gestures and body movements to express emotions, and depicts historical plays, domestic dramas and dance pieces.
And that’s how ‘The Economist’ occasionally describes the politics of the United States. The last time they used that term was in August, but it describes the ongoing Republican debates as well. Why, you ask? Among other things, it’s because of the candidates’ necessary pandering to the Tea Party.
Since May, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been steadily shifting toward the right in a bid to appease influential Republicans. Romney has ‘flip-flopped’ on social and fiscal issues while Ron Paul’s social positions have been dynamic, to say the least. Keep this ‘pandering’ concept in mind as I try to dissect the Republican Debate that took place on Sept. 22 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. New addition Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico joined the other candidates from the previous debate: Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
Most of the debate was filled with ‘small government’ talk. When asked about federal regulation in education and otherwise, each candidate said that the government has no place in education and they would push for the shrinking or abolition of the Department of Education. Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Huntsman all were in favor of devolution in education-related powers to such an extent that the parents have most of the power because they are the ‘customers’ of education. Herman Cain inserted a diatribe against the Leviathan saying that regulation is bad and that the Federal Government has become too interfering. By this point, the anti-Obama sentiment was palpable but each contender was on more or less an equal footing.
Then came Perry vs. Romney.
Now Rick Perry’s campaign was timed impeccably. He announced that he would run for President on the day that Bachmann won the Ames, Iowa poll and he stole her thunder. Ever since then, there’s been no looking back. A Gallup/USA Today poll dated Sept. 18th puts him at 31 percent as opposed to Romney’s 24 percent, and I would agree with them except for the fact that Perry doesn’t look so strong in debates.
He and Romney sparred quite a few times on Thursday and the big topics were immigration and healthcare reform. Romney criticized Perry’s decision to give illegal aliens in Texas in-state tuition and said that it is unfair to citizens in the other states who want to go to Texan universities. Perry sensibly replied that it is an incentive for immigrant youth to pursue education and that his decision will eventually prevent stagnation of the economy and society.
When it came to healthcare, Romney’s response to the criticism was that ‘Romneycare’ only provided for the uninsured that made up 8 percent of the population. He said that it was a market based on private insurance and that it had generated revenue. He went on to say that mandating health insurance for 8 percent is sustainable, while mandating it in such a fashion across the nation is unsustainable. Perry unsuccessfully tried to use this against to have a go at Romney, but Romney came out on top in a charismatic fashion.
Favoritism related to Romney can be based on the contrast between Perry’s conservatism and Romney’s perceived moderate stance. The GOP elites don’t love Romney but they realize that his electability is more than that of the Texas Governor. In my opinion, they think that independent voters would be more likely to vote for a moderate Republican candidate than a heavily right-leaning one. This can also be seen in the Gallup/USA Today poll that I quoted above. More people would vote for Romney over Obama and not Perry.
The people and the GOP seem dissatisfied with Rick Perry and his controversies (the Merck lobbying/HPV controversy and possibly the Romney-Perry connection) and many are alluding to the entrance of Chris Christie in the race. Wall Street Journal, among other publications has said that ‘top GOP donors’ are trying to convince Christie to run, which suggests dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates, and it doesn’t seem like they are trying to oust Romney. In my opinion though, staunch conservatives will not lick their lips at the prospect of the New Jersey governor’s entrance after he appointed a Muslim, Sohail Mohammed as a judge, callinged critics of the judge and the idea that Sharia law would spread in the United States “crazy.” crazy and said ‘this Sharia Law business is CRAZY’. I feel that this all points to the GOP favoring Mitt Romney although the factor that I see impeding his electability is his Mormonism. Polls have shown that American voters have some sort of problem with voting for a Mormon and it seems that it affected Romney’s 2008 campaign as well.
Nikhil Rao is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]