Feb
01
2014

Primaries and the eternal Establishment v. Insurgency debate.

I understand why Glenn Reynolds is bugged about this, but there’s a structural issue in the primary system that’s going to exist independently of how the GOP sets it up.  To wit: there are three groups in the GOP.

  • Group A largely thinks that while the political system can of course be improved, and in fact could be improved quite comprehensively, the system as such would work fine, so long as Group B would only stop messing with things that they do not understand before it catches on fire and kills us all.
  • Group B largely thinks that Group A has taken a perfectly good political system and smacked it sixteen or so times with a hammer, grabbed what fell off and used it for their own benefit, and is now actively trying to stop Group B from fixing the mechanism before it catches on fire and kills us all.
  • Both groups are dwarfed by Group C, which largely feels that whoever makes it through the primary system will be fine enough, and look, we have people in the party who worry about the politics for us, and they’re all patriotic Americans, right?

My readers are generally either from Group A or B, and I am not favoring one over the other. But I’ll note this: from a perfectly pragmatic standpoint the problem for Group A is that it far too quickly picks one candidate to rally around, and the problem for Group B is that it far too slowly picks one candidate to oppose Group A’s.  This is usually to Group B’s detriment in the primary (as Group C will reasonably assume that Group A’s candidate is popular among the people who actually pay attention to the nuts-and-bolts, and there’s such a thing as too many choices*), and, lately, to Group A’s detriment in the general election (because, frankly, Group A is usually pretty flabby and out of shape when it comes to a general election slugfest).

Honestly? My sympathies are, in the end, with Group C. Which is a group that doesn’t really care who started it, and who said what to who, and who did this, and who did that; they just want the freaking fighting to stop so that we can get on with electing a candidate.  Or at least that everybody kick it down to a dull roar.

Moe Lane

PS: I know, I’m not really giving any practical advice on this.  That’s because I don’t know if there is any way to reconcile an Establishment v. Insurgent conflict. Besides, the way things are going we’re going to win the 2016 election either way.

PPS: Both Group A and B over-estimate their ability to throw an election via the withholding of support. But that’s an entirely different post, and one that may be better suited for late November of this year.

*To give just one example: strictly speaking, Mitt Romney was not the best candidate in 2012 in any one category. He was almost certainly not the best candidate, period**. But when his team could compare Romney to Rick Perry in one category and Newt Gingrich in another category and Herman Cain in yet another category and so on and so forth, it was easy for them to prevail over all of them (particularly since the debates refused to admit that it was Romney v. Everybody Else, and asked questions accordingly***).

**Mind you, from the point of view of being a decent human being he was one of the best candidates we’ve had in a while.

***I don’t mind debate moderators who are Democrats. I do mind debate moderators who are unprofessional.

11 Comments

  • LiberExMachina says:

    Not to be THAT guy, but didn’t we say that (there is no way we can lose) about 2012? As you often say, elections have consequences. Those 4 millions Americans that voted in ’08 and skipped ’12 would have been the margin of victory. Not to say that is was all the fault of conservatives withholding support (Obama did run a pretty successful “suppress the white vote” campaign, the on-line get out the vote system the Romney campaign was using broke), but it was a factor.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Yup! We also said that about 2008 (and something similar in 2006), and the Democrats said that in 2004 (and something similar in 2002 and 2010). I am getting skeptical about whether ideology is the determining factor across the board in any particular election. The truth of the matter is that in this cycle it is going to be a bad time to be an Obamacare supporter*; and in 2016 it looks like the Democratic candidate will be about twenty years older and a good deal less healthy than the Republican one. That particular observation may sound facile, but it does reflect the fact that the Democrats won’t have a good candidate pool next go-round and we will. We might have had a worse one after this election: except, again, Obamacare…

      Moe Lane

      *Obamacare is no longer just an ideological issue. It’s a competency issue, only the Democratic leadership hasn’t picked up on that yet. Watch Jon Stewart’s interview of Pelosi…

      • Skip says:

        Have to disagree with you a bit, Moe. As a conservative, the presumptive GOP field is anything but good. The viable candidates range from moderate (Walker) to liberal (Christie). Not a conservative in the lot. Now sure, with the exception of Christie, they’d all be better than whatever Democrat gets the nod, but that’s setting the bar pretty low.

        • acat says:

          Quibble, Skip. Wisconsin. Big-labor, blue State, and Walker shiv’d unions but good.
          .
          Walker hasn’t, ala Mitch Daniels, made an issue of the split between the religious right and the rest of the party because he seems to have the sense to realize it’s not an issue .. or to learn from others.
          .
          This Cupp piece is a good summation, pay careful attention to Walker’s advice to others.
          .
          http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/30/opinion/cupp-scott-walker-2016/index.html
          .
          Mew
          .
          (Worth noting that what disqualifies Kasich (R-OH) to me is that he didn’t manage to learn from Walker’s union-busting – specifically, split the public-sector hard-hats away from the public-sector skirts, and you’re already mostly past their defenses.)

      • LiberExMachina says:

        At Moe:

        Ah, the old “Taller ‘n’ Better Hair” theory. I will give you that the theory favors the Republican next presidential cycle, assuming the Dems don’t nominate a dark horse.

        But, unless the Republican candidate can appeal to both halves of the party, that can very well be overshadowed by the Dems natural advantages (think back to Palin v. Biden: even though she is the better looking one of the two, the establishment half of the party mostly forced her at arm’s length and the media savaged her to parody).

  • Luke says:

    I think you’re wildly overestimating the optimism of Group B.
    After a century of Progressive indoctrination in the quasi-mandatory public schools, the proposition that the 10th Amendment means what it clearly states would be voted down by nearly 90% of the population.
    We are well past the event horizon.
    The fire is inevitable.
    What can be done, is keep the flag flying for the remnant and for posterity, and ensure those who betrayed our ideals do not profit thereby.

  • BigGator5 says:

    I’m in Group LIB. I am quite a few steps away from any of those groups you described. I fully support the Senate’s immigration bill simply because I not only want to watch this country burn, but I want to salt the earth on my way out.

  • Subotai Bahadur says:

    Just a point of order:

    ***I don’t mind debate moderators who are Democrats. I do mind debate moderators who are unprofessional.

    If you are a media personality who is in the pool to be considered as a presidential debate moderator; by definition you are a professional Democrat. Or to use INSTAPUNDIT’s formulation, “a Democrat Operative with a byline”.

  • Freddie Sykes says:

    The problem with Democrat debate moderators is that they tend to ask questions to determine which Republican candidate best supports Democrat programs.

    It is true that a lot of conservatives stayed home because Romney did not inspire them; I voted for him but begrudgingly. What I consider worse is that a number of establishment politicians refused to support their party’s candidate. If you are involved with politics, you support the people’s choice unless he is a Dave Duke. And he only got the nomination because Louisiana has a strange voting system.

  • Dave R says:

    Eh, Romney was the only remotely serious GOP candidate in 2012. Everyone else had no money, no organization, and/or was dead on arrival in a general election and everyone knew it. If all the people who say they want a sensible moderate had actually voted for one when we nominated one, Mitt Romney would be president now.

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