The GOP circus

Bjorn Larsen writes from Canada:

From afar, your U.S. candidate selection process is becoming embarrassing, like reality TV but for real. It is high time that the GOP cease conducting their candidate courting process in public. The parade of candidates that are running, candidates that are thinking about running, candidates who do not think they are running but act as if they do and/or plan to—the entire exercise looks like a circus, as if selecting the final candidate in an American Idol series.

A much more rational plan would be for (1) the GOP party to establish a set of policies representing the conservative platform (I know—what a dream), (2) interview these candidates (privately and publicly) against these sets of policies, and (3) nominate the best fitting candidate.

Now it appears that whatever policies the winning candidate wants to push, become the GOP policies. I mean, how lopsided is this—are we running a popularity contest, a personality cult, or a political party?

LA replies:

The American nominating process has never worked the way you suggest, at least since the mid twentieth century, and would have to be rebuilt from the ground up in order to fit your prescriptions. The process is entirely self-starting. Various persons decide to run, then proceed to organize a campaign in order to win enough delegates in the state primaries to be nominated. By the time the national convention convenes, the nominee has already been chosen in the primaries and the convention is simply a rubber stamp. There is no body of party leaders that gets together and decides on the party’s positions and its nominee. Yes, there is a committee that writes the party platform, but the party platform has zero force. The party’s real platform consists of the positions the nominee takes, as you suggested.

I have long advocated something like your idea. In 2008 I wrote:

we could dispense with party primaries, and go back to the smoke filled room. Each state would choose delegates to the nominating convention who would be free to vote as they choose. Again, under such a system, candidates would not “run” for the nomination, but the delegates, politically knowledgeable people, would choose as nominee the person they thought was best.

Not that that would be the sort of neat procedure you hope for. In the nineteenth century, party nominating conventions were circuses. It frequently took 20, 30, or 40 ballots to decide on the nominee. I don’t believe that any party convention has required more than one ballot since the mid twentieth century.

On the same subject I wrote last June:

The only way for the dream [of the party simply picking the best man] to become achievable is to dump the primary system and go back to the smoke-filled room. Which, by the way, I favor. Though given today’s healthful habits it would be the smoke-filled room without the smoke. Perhaps it could have a Designated Smoker.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 30, 2011 03:42 PM | Send

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