Two lessons for the price of one, for the Republican Party
One difference between conservatives and the left: when conservatives lose at the polls, they try to figure out what went wrong, whether they were wrong about their positions or whether they should try harder, or better, at convincing voters that their positions are right.
They look to see what they did wrong.
When the left loses at the polls—Brexit, or the early close race between Clinton and Trump—they blame the voter.1 The vision of the anointed can’t be wrong. They even float ideas for cutting voters out of the equation entirely. Appoint an expert to make the right decisions, or switch to a parliamentary system that puts politicians in charge of appointing the president.
But appointing a dictator, expert or not, never works out well for the anointed, whenever it’s been tried. They always turn out to be more of an expert at dictating, and worse of an expert than the millions of combined consumers who know what they want and how much they want to pay for it.
So, on the likely flawed assumption that conservatives and the Republican Party share members, here are two lessons the Republican Party should learn from this election year.
First, Republican voters need to stop nominating candidates who expect the press to treat them like Democrats. From McCain to Romney to Trump, they all seem to think that if they act like Democrats, the press will let them get away with it. That since the press isn’t searching out forty-year old documents in which Hillary Clinton said that a twelve-year-old rape victim was asking for it, the press is also going to give their own ancient history a pass.
Sure, a WikiLeaks or a Project Veritas that reveals criminal behavior of Democrats will be derided by the press because of its source. They’ll even tell their viewers not to go out to look for that dangerous information on their own. But the press would just as surely search through, and deputize their viewers to search through, the same material if it were about Republicans.
It doesn’t matter if you used to cozy up to the press to insult Republicans, as McCain did, or if you even used to be a Democrat, as Trump was. Once you’ve got that “R” behind your name, the press will not treat you like a Democrat.
Second, Republican leadership needs to stop trying to rig their nominating process for favored candidates. Favored candidates mean establishment candidates, and establishment candidacies are easily derailed by the press. This year’s primary was designed to catapult a well-known name with big money behind him to the nomination before oppo research could derail him. But that also meant that someone who got more press time would have a greater advantage than in a longer process. They meant the shorter nominating process to help Jeb Bush, but they got Donald Trump. Partly because the press kept pushing Donald Trump.
I’d say they should man up and switch to a superdelegate system like Democrats if they want to control who the nominee is, but see lesson one. What the Democrats got away with in this year’s primary to defeat Sanders behind the scenes, the press would not let Republicans get away with. Democrats can get away with rigging the system; Republicans can’t. But that doesn’t mean Republicans should continue a process that lets the press choose their candidate.
They need to lengthen the process, not shorten it. They need to turn the primary process into a crucible of fire. They need to encourage candidates to dig up dirt on each other. They might even offer the equivalent of bug bounty programs for third parties to dish the dirt on their candidates during the primary. In this election, Clinton told the press which candidate she wanted to face, and the press held back on that candidate. If a primary opponent can find it, the press will find it, after the nomination.
It may end up being an impossible task to keep the press from having some bad influence on the Republican primary process. But there’s no reason to make it easy on the press to do so.
Prior to the 2008 campaign, pundits in the press liked to complain that they liked substantive and serious candidates, and hated the gimmicks, the horse race, the flash. Then, they were outed as liars when they dumped on Fred Thompson for being substantive and serious. It isn’t just that shorter nominating processes require more money behind the candidates. The shorter the nominating process, the easier it is for the press to play up grandstanding, gimmicky candidates—like they did this year.
There’s a saying among those who watch the media that for the most part today’s press is “the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party”. It’s playing out very obviously during this election. Why should the Republican Party give the Democratic Party that much control over who their candidate is?
In response to Election 2016: Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.
I still suspect that Britain will never, in fact, exit, despite the pro-exit vote. The anointed won’t let it happen. They’ll find some way to blame the voters, and then move on.↑