Wednesday, May 04, 2016

GOP Primary Post-Mortem

Last night at dinner my daughter asked, "Why would anyone vote for Donald Trump?" So we reviewed the history of the Republican Party in the post-Reagan era and the split that grew between the party elite and the voting base. I said, "In 1992, Donald Trump was known as Ross Perot." My daughter said, "Do you mean they are similar, or do you mean that Donald Trump used to be named Ross Perot?" My oldest son said, "No, he used to be named Donald Drumpf."

Anyway, about Republican history. Elite candidates (GHW Bush, Dole, McCain) can't win the support of the base. Base candidates (GW Bush) get marginalized by the elites for fear that they are unelectable. Romney could have been a crossover candidate with the credentials to satisfy the elites but the social-issues street cred for the base, but much of the base is comprised of bigots who refuse to accept that Mormons are Christians.

The Tea Party was an attempt to hijack the Republican Party from a libertarian perspective. It was successfully parried. By the time I attended my first (and only) Tea Party rally in 2010, the Tea Party had been co-opted by the Republican leadership. What they couldn't kill by absorbing, the Obama Justice Department killed for them with extra-legal tax code enforcement.

The Tea Party movement was killed, and what we got instead of was Trump. Instead of correcting the shortcomings of the Republican Party from a libertarian perspective, the fed-up base was open to the idea of correcting them from the authoritarian perspective. (Remember my prediction, two years ago tomorrow, of the coming Great Social Reset? Maybe I should take back my self-deprecating review of my prognosticating powers.) As I explained to my daughter last night, "Trump is the American Putin." A declining nation will always be able to awaken a nationalist response.

So the Republican elite was being hit from both sides in this election: from the Tea Party with Cruz, and from the Great Patriotic Defenders of the Glorious Homeland with Trump. And I believe the elites stonewalled Cruz because they think Trump will lose. In 2020, they have their party back in their own hands again.

For all their talk of conservative principles, the Republicans had a chance to nominate a Reagan conservative and they decided it was more important to them to maintain their privileged positions. For many people in the Republican establishment, being the ranking member on a committee is more appealing than being its chairman under President Cruz.

Last July I had this series of tweets:

Bush & Christie are establishment candidates. Rubio is even more but tries to hide it. Paul's foreign policy is worse than BHO's. / Trump is changing the convo. on issues, but low-info crowd has been convinced he's racist. Carson is somehow even less refined. / Huckabee: Christian-themed demagogue. Kasich: more establishment. Walker can't stop flirting with the establishment. Perry is empty. / Serious, principled, polished champions of liberty: Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. Those are your two candidates. The rest is a sideshow.
So you can imagine my happiness when Ted picked Carly for VP last week. But it was too like bring a seltzer bottle to put out a bonfire.

What am I going to do now? Well, it's not my job to vote for a bad candidate to block a worse candidate. (In this election, that could refer to either voting for Trump to stop Clinton or vice versa.) I'm supposed to vote for the best candidate remaining. Right now, that looks to be Gary Johnson. It looks like, for the second time in three presidential elections, I'll be voting for the Libertarian candidate.

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