Given the party’s views on abortion, Planned Parenthood, climate change, gay rights and immigration, it’s hard to imagine how today many of their past leaders could even be thought of as a presidential candidate.
Once upon a time, the party boasted a big tent, as does the Democratic Party still today. I recall too well the candidacy of former governors Bill Scranton and Nelson Rockefeller.
To be sure, neither of these moderate Republicans won the nomination. But if you look at today’s long list of those in the running, you can’t imagine Scranton and Rockefeller joining this crowd – even as contenders.
Indeed, I can’t imagine this Republican Party nominating Dwight Eisenhower who sent federal troops to integrate Little Rock schools. I can’t imagine the party nominating Richard Nixon who held moderate social views.
Yes, Barry Goldwater led a more conservative party in 1964. But his major cause was big government. I bet today he’d be considered a social moderate, if not a liberal. The party’s presidential nominee? No way.
Still, if Goldwater was regarded as too conservative to beat Lyndon Johnson in 1964, how is a Republican candidate even further to the right supposed to prevail against Hillary Clinton, the almost certain Democratic nominee?
What I’ve seen so far of the Republican hopefuls, I can’t see any of them measuring up with the seriousness and gravitas of those long-ago Republican presidential hopefuls – Rockefeller and Scranton for example. President Eisenhower belonged to a different world altogether.
No matter who the Republicans ultimately nominate for president next year, that candidate will face a huge electoral challenge.
Politically, American voters are pretty moderate, which helps explain why the conservative Goldwater lost the 1964 election in a landslide.
Meantime, it looks like the Republicans will nominate a candidate hobbled with a number of views out of the mainstream.
There’s no way this nominee can easily disconnect from the more extreme views he or she took to win the party’s nomination – without alienating the base.
For my part, I’d like to see the Republicans nominate a moderate for president. That would provide a healthy debate on the issues, a debate that didn’t veer off into divisive social issues or that didn’t demonize recent immigrants.
This remains a great country. It deserves great leaders who lead us to tackle the challenges of poverty, climate change and inclusion.
Maybe Hillary can rise to be such a leader. Right now, I don’t see a Republican nominee who can play that role.
But I’ll try to keep an open mind.