SO let's take a moment to look at, and laugh at, the current Republican makeover, before it's forgotten. It's the ninth major one since 1964, by my count, which puts it only two down to Joan Rivers (the Goldwater "Reformation", the Nixon "Reformation", the People Who Are Desperate Enough To Cling To Dick "I Am Not A Crook" Nixon "Reformation" (heeeere's your host, Father John McLaughlin), the Reagan /Backwoods Superstition "Permanent Coalition", the Klintoon Kock-sniffers Klub, the Carrier Landing Appreciation Society, the Support the Troops/They Give Purple Hearts for Paper Cuts Craze, and, of course, Teabagging). So that's four in the past decade, or just a bit more, suggesting that "Conservatism" is catching up with the pace of modern life, the same way modern life is catching up with "Conservatism's" hurtling insanity.
Obviously, there are better places to chuckle over this stuff than a George Eff Will Joint. For one thing, it's a lot funnier coming from Rinse Primus, or David Brooks, or Weigel, guys who are young and/or venal enough to take it seriously. Or pretend to, which, in "Conservative" circles, amounts to the same thing.
On the other hand, none of that really matters; the GOP has remained the Party of Goldwater since 1964. It's still the party of business avarice on the Western states model, the party of opposing gubment spending and gubment interference while soaking up much more than its share of its fellow citizens' tax dollars. It's still the party of class and racial animosity, still the party of big-ticket Defense spending and international paranoia. It's still the party of God, Guns, and More God and Guns. As the issues have changed the stated reasons for the positions have changed, but the positions themselves haven't budged.
[T]inkering with the party’s political process is no substitute for improving the party’s political substance. No nominating process featuring an array of candidates as weak and eccentric as the Republicans’ 2012 field would have produced a much better result. So the party must begin whatever 2016 process it devises by fielding better candidates...
That, by the way, is the last paragraph, not the first.
Because of the grotesquely swollen place the presidency now occupies in the nation’s governance and consciousness, we are never not preoccupied with presidential campaigning. The Constitution’s Framers would be appalled.
Thank God there's still one man left who can speak for them.
The nation reveres the Framers but long ago abandoned the presidential selection process they considered so important that they made it one of the four national institutions created by the Constitution.
Doncha just love this sort of argument? As though the every word in the Constitution was unanimously agreed upon, just like the King James Version? The method of selection of the Executive was as fraught and contentious as the nature of the Executive itself. The Electoral College appeared, disappeared, and returned; a special compromise committee took up the question and essentially split the difference, pleasing no one; at the eleventh hour the matter was decided, based on separate proposals from Roger Sherman and Hugh Williamson. By the way, if America reveres the Framers so, I'd like to see how many of its citizens could pick either of those two out of a lineup.
As far as the Framers being appalled at how low we've sunk at this point, well, the good news is that they didn't really have to wait. The system never worked the way it was envisioned. It's the subject of the 12th amendment, ratified in 1804. Of the 660 words in Article II, Section 1, 368 are now superseded. It's only political lethargy and self-interest that's kept the Electoral College around our necks at all.
Now, responding to the fact that the 2012 nomination process was ruinously protracted, the Republican National Committee (RNC) suggests reforms that might, like many improvements, make matters worse. This is because of a prior “improvement” — campaign finance reform.
I'm old enough that any time a Republican brings up "unintended consequences" these days I just sit back and admire the ability to keep a straight face.
The RNC report does not challenge the role of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in beginning the delegate selection. Perhaps it is not worth the trouble to challenge these states’ anachronistic entitlement; like all entitlements, it is fiercely defended by the beneficiaries. But a reform process that begins by accepting this crucial component of the status quo substantially limits possibilities. By the time these four states have had their say, the field of candidates often has been considerably — and excessively — winnowed, and the outcome is, if not settled, given a trajectory that is difficult to alter.
Yeah, it's always disappointing when a clamor of politicians behaves less that bravely. That said, what exactly is the problem here? Iowa is overrepresented, to be sure; it's also full of religious nuts, which means it resembles the party as a whole. Mitt Romney won the 2012 primaries going right through that path. He was what passed for the rational candidate. George Bush won in 2000. 2008 is when you had problems, and frankly, George, they're you're fucking problems. The fact that Michele Bachmann can become a Serious Candidate in Iowa, or Rick Santorum win it, or Newt Gingrich win South Carolina seems less a problem with who gets to go early than with the sort of loon your party lovingly incubates.
The Early Winnowed List in 2012 consists of Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. Neither was going to be the nominee regardless. If y'all imagine you were deprived of Mitch Daniels, Miracle Candidate because he couldn't make it through the early primaries, well 1) he wasn't ever gonna run anyway and, 2) you couldn't have started in Indiana, and landscaped the rest of the race so it all ran downhill, and had the man win. He's a terrific liar, but an egomaniacal one; those Romney flips, flops, and flys were beyond him. Plus he's like four foot eleven.
In 2008, when the disaster in the primaries mirrored the disaster of the GOP, you lost Duncan Hunter and Rudy Giuliani early. That was a net positive.
Supporters of Sen. Rand Paul, or of any other candidate thoroughly unenthralled by the policies and procedures that have resulted in Republicans losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, are understandably suspicious of any proposed changes that might tilt the nomination process against the least known and less-lavishly funded candidates. They are especially apt to squint disapprovingly at the RNC’s suggestion of regional primaries.
'Course they could just get out the vote. Just kiddin'.
The party, however, must balance two imperatives. One is the need to enlarge the number of voters participating in the process. Hence the suggestion that primaries should replace all nominating caucuses and conventions — events where ideologically motivated activists and insurgent candidates can more easily predominate.
Maybe you could warm up by making the party more inclusive first. Just kiddin'.
Seems to me I recall howls of urban-legend-motivated red-meat Republicans that members of the Democrat party were voting in Republican primaries last time. But, fuck, you're gonna have to deal with nuts, whichever way you turn.
The party’s second imperative is to preserve opportunities for less-known and financially challenged candidates to break through. This is where government restrictions on campaign contributions restrict the range of candidates from which voters can choose.
Oh, do go on.
Existing restrictions on large contributions to candidates are commonly called “post-Watergate” reforms. This is more accurate as a matter of chronology than causality. Democrats began advocating contribution, as well as spending, limits years before Watergate concluded in 1974. They were appalled that large contributions from a few wealthy liberals made possible Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 antiwar insurgency against President Lyndon Johnson and propelled George McGovern’s doomed nomination in 1972.
Anybody seen Dita Beard lately?
Suppose political contributing were deregulated, which would deregulate political speech, the dissemination of which is the principal use of campaign contributions. This would make it easier to design a more compressed nominating process, with a reduced role for the first four states, which also would allow marginal candidates a financial opportunity to fight their way into the top tier of candidates.
Oh, I get it. Without campaign finance restrictions, every billionaire nutcase can fund his own Michele Bachmann. Which the more well-funded campaigns would be powerless to respond to.
I know, I know. Tough to find common ground when the problem is the bulk of your party is flat-out certifiable, when the rest of the country has started to wise up to it, and you've nowhere to go because you've been fluffing the nut jobs since 1964. Maybe you should just start preparing now to do nothing. You know, like always. No worries.