Political parties are hard-wired to reflexively defend their candidates no matter what controversy arises. They have war room strategists and surrogates at the ready to “clarify” what the candidate really meant when he said that he wants to date his daughter. But you know you have a problem candidate with Donald Trump when the party is revamping its rules, before he’s even officially nominated, in order to short-circuit any possibility of another similar candidate being chosen in the future.
That’s what is happening today in the inner sanctums of the Republican Party. Insiders have been mulling over procedural changes designed specifically to avert another primary season like the one currently winding down. If they were confident of their prospects in November they would be carving the current rules into stone, but the mayhem and acrimony that characterized the past year for the GOP contestants, and the catastrophic ascendancy of Donald Trump, has party regulars in a tizzy. As reported by the New York Times:
“Leaders of the Republican Party have begun internal deliberations over what would be fundamental changes to the way its presidential nominees are chosen, a recognition that the chaotic process that played out this year is seriously flawed and helped exacerbate tensions within the party.”
It says something about a party when they are so horrified by the choice of their voters that they begin to plot to prevent such an awful choice in the future before their nominating convention commences. Donald Trump represents the very worst of right-wing America: the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, demagoguery pandering to ignorant celebrity worshipers who don’t care about his frequent lies, hypocrisy, or the absence of any coherent policies. But that’s who the Republican voters chose as their champion to lead the nation and the free world.
The party’s blueprint for a Trump-free future includes rearranging the primary calendar to put less emphasis on the traditional early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Their proposal would keep these states at the front of the line, but pair each with another state to inject some diversity and to prevent any single candidate from gaining unstoppable momentum. They also want to narrow the field of primary voters to just their most loyal constituents. As the Times reports:
“[P]arty activists are also pushing to close Republican contests to independent voters, arguing that open primaries in some states allowed Donald J. Trump, whose conservative convictions they deeply mistrust, to become the presumptive nominee.”
Both of these ideas are actually pretty sound and have been floating around both party camps for years. The artificial exaltation of Iowa and New Hampshire has done nothing but advance candidates who appeal to largely rural, mostly white electorates. Those candidates are not likely to be as popular in states with more diverse and urban voters who make up the majority of the country. And it was never a good idea to permit independents and other non-party members to have a say in selecting candidates for parties to which they don’t belong and may seek to harm.
Ironically, the rules that these party activists are now attempting to alter were put in place after a similarly tumultuous primary season in 2012 that saw Mitt Romney eventually rise from a field of crackpots like Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain. The GOP chairman, Reince Priebus, was instrumental in changing the rules to limit the number of debates and shorten the primary calendar. He must have noticed that the more people saw of his candidates, the less they liked them. The intention was to reduce the embarrassment caused by their frequent televised brawls.
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Unfortunately for them, the emergence of Donald Trump and his whiny, hostile, substanceless debate performances insured that the embarrassment would continue for yet another election cycle. And unlike 2012, when the process yielded a credible and arguably sane candidate, 2016 produced a narcissistic, ignoramus with designs on a dictatorship. And now they’re stuck with trying to defend him while simultaneously working behind the scenes to avoid a similarly distasteful fate in 2020.