The Party’s Over: My Half Hearted Defense of the GOP
I’ve been really tough on the Republican Party. I know – hard to believe, but it is true. My views on most issues have aligned left of center for most of my adult life but as I have mentioned several times, as the right moved further along the ideological spectrum, I either moved equally in the opposite direction or just perceived it as so. But if you scan through my Facebook posts from summer 2015 (which I have), you soon realize that I really beat up on the Republican Party apparatus for its handling and ultimate embrace of President Trump and upon reflection, I knew that was unfair.
You will remember that the initial reaction to Trump’s candidacy was to ignore him, and it probably made sense to do so. Nothing in our history suggested that Donald Trump had the potential of winning even a primary, let alone the nomination and thus, it was wiser that the ‘real’ candidates (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul) focus on the issues and each other. So that’s what they did. Sixteen or seventeen establishment Republican candidates crisscrossed the country, focusing on Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina while Trump continued to slog away in the polls.
It is now two years later and anyone reading this post knows exactly where America stands. More than likely, you have engaged in a conversation (live or via social media) or listened to political analysts discuss how over the last twenty to thirty years the Republican Party purged itself of intellectual and thought leadership and instead became the party of obstruction and grievance. If you are like me you may have placed blame on the party apparatus for allowing this horrible abomination to afflict this nation with his bile and rancor (I have all the best words. Get it?).
But as someone who studied history and political science (and whose parents paid a pretty penny for a piece of paper that is currently buried in a plastic tote under the stairs), I need to come clean. While individual party members (Paul Ryan, McConnell, Jason Chaffetz – I’ll get to these guys and other GOP leaders that held their nose and compromised integrity for tax cuts and Obamacare repeal) should absolutely be held accountable for their cowardice, the Republican National Committee – the party itself – was very limited in what it could do during the primary process and the convention.
This post’s objective is to explain the evolution of our presidential nominating process or as much of it as I understand. If you are thinking to yourself, “Oh my God, someone please take her laptop,” I say this: “I will just go buy another one.” My parents paid good money for this degree and while they would probably prefer a couple of extra grandkids, they will have to settle for a tutorial on the history of the primary. Buckle up.
Nominating Presidential Candidates: You Have GOT to be Kidding
If you are 50 years old or younger, then chances are that what we experience every four years is more or less normal. Obviously, the Trump personality made 2016 very much a unicorn cycle, but the primary process itself was very much like 2012. And 2012 was like 2008. In the modern era, American voters are used to multiple candidates vying for support within the confines and rules of two major political parties: the Republican and Democratic. Each state and territory establish its own rules for picking delegates to send to the nominating convention the summer before the general election.
For example, in Connecticut, it goes like this: the Connecticut Republican and Democratic Parties establish rules for how candidates can appear on their state primary ballots. Each party works with the national committee to schedule the actual primary date. Connecticut also has rules that govern how political parties can appear on the ballot. Candidates that meet their state and party requirements can then proceed to raise money and campaign for the nomination. It sounds easy enough but of course, the process is laced with bureaucracy and as the two parties have solidified themselves over the last century, it has become harder for third and fourth parties to emerge as viable alternatives. But high level, this is the process to get on the ballot.
If you dare to go back to the 2016 primary season, you will remember the hubbub over both Democratic and Republican primary races. On the GOP side, Trump won a majority of the votes through the primary process, however during the follow-up step of each state choosing delegates to send to the national convention in Cleveland, there was drama because Ted Cruz had organized his campaign well enough in some states as to choose delegates that would support him if the nomination went past the first ballot.
Wow. That was a mouthful. See, in our republican process (little ‘r’), primary voters are technically voting for delegates to the national convention. They are not voting for a candidate. However, in the modern era, state parties have passed rules that require delegates to at minimum cast their votes for the candidate who won that state’s primary. However, it is possible that after the initial ballot or vote at the convention, no one candidate receives a majority of the delegates and it is at that point that some states “unbind” their representatives. During last year’s Republican Convention, there was a lot of talk about how the party could deny Trump the nomination through a variety of machinations. Nothing ever materialized because Trump got a majority of the delegates on the first ballot.
The Democratic Party follows a similar process but they have something called “super delegates.” Super delegates became very controversial in last year’s primary but let’s start with understanding what they are. Superdelegates are party leaders. They might be elected officials, like senators and congressmen and women, governors, party leaders, maybe even mayors of large cities. The Democratic Party chose to give party members an extra “say” in who would become the presidential nominee, thus giving the party more control and influence over the candidates.
At first blush (and certainly according to Donald Trump and also to an extent Bernie Sanders), the super delegate process wreaked of patronage and corruption. And while I would agree that the super delegate allocation and the process should be reformed, I would hardly call it undemocratic. But for now, let’s stick a pin in it and circle back.
In the modern era (and by modern I mean – last 20 years), presidential candidates spend millions (and sadly now billions) of dollars during the primary season and typically, by the time voters go to the primary polls in April of an election year, the general election is set. 2016 was actually unusual in that both party’s primary season extended into June. But even last year, by the time the Republicans descended on Cleveland and the Democrats in Philadelphia, there was little doubt that Trump would be the Republican nominee (although there were more than a few prayers uttered) and that Hillary Clinton would secure the rose for the Democrats.
I am going pause here briefly and talk a bit about how the modern nomination process differs from that of a hundred years ago. It is important to understand the difference because it is the difference that goes to the heart of the party’s power and influence (or lack thereof) over the candidate. In the modern electoral system, political party’s have gradually become weaker to the extent that their leaders have relatively little control over candidates, their policies and perhaps most notably, their Twitter accounts. #Sigh. This reality is entirely different than what we would have experienced 100 – 125 years ago even taking the lack of Twitter into consideration.
Let’s use our favorite president, Abraham Lincoln as the example. In 1860, Lincoln ran in the general election as a Republican and faced three – yes three – opponents: John Breckinridge from the Southern Democratic Party (and I believe the subject of a statue currently being debated), Stephen Douglas, from the Northern Democratic Party and John Bell from the Constitutional Union Party. The first thing you notice is that four parties entered the race but not every candidate was on every state ballot. You may have heard that Lincoln won the most states at 18 and that was despite not being on many southern state ballots. Lincoln won the popular and the electoral college vote; a bit of a Pyrrhic victory given that as soon as he was declared the winner, South Carolina said, “see ya!”
But before they could get to the general, Lincoln had to be nominated. Now if you are really interested in this subject or think that you might be, I suggest that you pick up “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In it, Goodwin traces the biography of Lincoln, William Seward, Salmon Chase and John C. Fremont (Wikipedia says that there were many more candidates, but these were the four main contenders and the ones that Lincoln brought into his cabinet – thus, the ‘team of rivals).
To understand how party politics worked in the 19th century, you have to accept that the party apparatus had much more control and much more power over the platform and the candidates than they do today. For example, in the 19th century – before Chester Arthur (1881-1885) championed civil service reform – political patronage was expected in return for support. There are many accounts of Lincoln spending a good portion of his day (while the country was at war) meeting with supporters who came to the White House with job requests. James Garfield was elected to the presidency in 1880 and inaugurated in March 1881 only to die in office six months later after being shot by Charles Guiteau, a disgruntled supporter who believed he had been integral to Garfield’s nomination and ultimate victory. If I recall correctly, Garfield refused to see him or Guiteau had been turned down for a position within the Administration (because hello, he was delusional and had not been part of the presidential campaign). This example is as much a call for universal health care with a focus on mental disease than the political patronage of the late 19th century but hell, it makes my point.
There were no primaries back then. State legislatures chose delegates that would then go to the national conventions and once there, would meet in smoky back rooms to determine who got the nomination. The candidates typically did not attend rather, each would have a primary surrogate who would network and build coalitions in support of their man. Today, “vetting” is done by the media as candidates go from one campaign event to another and from one primary to another. The media is constantly asking questions, digging into the candidates past, looking for issues, all in an effort to ensure that voters have the information needed to make an informed decision. In Lincoln’s day, there was no primary campaign. It was considered undignified for a potential candidate to campaign for himself before the nominating convention and the general election. It would not be until the turn of the century and Teddy Roosevelt that we saw a presidential candidate go out and talk to people directly.
In Lincoln’s time, it was up to the convention delegates and party officials to vet the candidates and determine if anything that had come up or offended in the past could cause issues in the current day. It was not unusual for a convention to require multiple ballots before a candidate received a majority of the delegates. In 1860, Lincoln secured a majority in three ballots while on one of the Democratic sides (north or south), the vote went on for almost 60 before a candidate was chosen.
To secure the nomination, candidates had to tow the party line and had to be party members in good standing. I hope that you have heard of Tammany Hall, a New York political organization that essentially ran New York politics for almost two centuries. Patronage, graft, and corruption were sadly an accepted part of the electoral process and while those qualities now seem antithetical to American ideals, that process gave us Lincoln and two Roosevelts. But it also gave us a Millard Fillmore, a Franklin Pierce and a James Buchanan. The important or key takeaway here is that all things being equal if today’s Republican party had the same level of control that it did in Lincoln’s time, Jeb Bush might be president. But the power, authority and “check” that the political party had on its members and candidates have gradually eroded and when combined with today’s technology and fundraising capabilities, the once strong and authoritative party organization is now virtually impotent.
“With George McGovern as President of the United States, we wouldn’t have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago!” Senator Abraham Ribicoff, (D-CT), George McGovern Nomination Speech, August 1968.
1968 was a watershed year in American history and politics although I imagine at the time Americans may have thought that the world was just spinning off of its axis. For years, troop levels in Vietnam had surged with US commanders giving daily ‘body count’ reports consistently maintaining that America was winning the war against the North Vietnamese communists. However, when those same fighters launched the Tet Offensive on New Years Day 1968 it became clear that victory was anything but close at hand. The military talking points became an even greater point of contention when veteran CBS anchor Walter Cronkite delivered a stunning rebuke of the government’s standard “we are winning the war” line after time spent embedded with troops on the ground. In his final analysis, Cronkite argued that the only way out of Vietnam would be through ‘negotiation’ and that militarily, the best that the United States could hope for would be a stalemate.
Dissent against the Vietnam War had been building for years, but Cronkite’s comments simply amplified and justified the opposition. Added to that were the civil rights movement and the continued violence throughout the south in implementing key voting rights provisions passed in 1965. 1968 saw the assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. There were riots and marches in every major city and in places you would not expect like college town Lawrence, Kansas.
So when George McGovern challenged Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination and almost won the New Hampshire primary, it should not be too surprising that LBJ decided he had had enough and withdrew from the race. “I shall not seek, nor will I accept the nomination for President of the United States,” is the famous statement, delivered by then President Johnson on March 31, 1968, but came after the president started to hemorrhage support in Congress. Deep divisions within the Democratic Party emerged; breaks over the war, the Great Society, and racial policy became front and center as McGovern, Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice President all contended for the nomination,
By 1968 though, the nomination process had evolved beyond that which greeted Lincoln and could be described (by such important and influential people like Amy Johanning, amateur historian and not so famous blogger) as a hybrid model: many states now had primaries or caucuses but not all results were binding, meaning that even if voters in State X chose McGovern, the electors for that state at the national convention did not have to cast their votes for McGovern. Some states DID bind their delegates, but only on the first ballot, as discussed above. And then there were other states that had no primary or caucus at all; rather, they adhered to the “old way” of choosing a candidate, leaving it up to the delegates chosen by the state legislatures.
Given the variety of nomination methods (theoretically, each party could have 50 + different ways to nominate a president – 50 states + territories – it was inevitable that any contested nomination could lead to a deep schism within the party. And that is exactly what happened in 1968 on the floor of the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois the last week of August 1968.
Against a backdrop of racial unrest, anti-war protests and political violence (Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in June and Martin Luther King in April), the delegates descended on Chicago to choose a nominee. The party was divided primarily by war policy with Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern as ‘peace candidates’ and Hubert Humphrey, the current Vice President, considered a continuation of Johnson’s Vietnam policy.
But the immediate and very real damage to the Democratic party and the reason for detailing it here was in the way the party chose its nominee. Ultimately, Hubert Humphrey the current Vice President won the nomination but the process to get there was messy. Too many candidates with not enough delegates. Humphrey had not even participated in 13 of the state primaries and some of his delegates had been secured by working with state party leaders. The whole thing was seen as opaque and undemocratic, not to mention Humphrey who secured the nomination was part of a war effort that was deeply unpopular with the Democratic base. Eighty percent of the delegates were considered “anti-war.” The perception of politicians usurping the will of the people in smoky back rooms doomed the convention and ultimately the 1968 election.
“The Whole World is Watching”
The drama inside the convention hall spilled out into the streets of Chicago. The police riots and the violence against the demonstrators deserve a separate post but I would first have to reread this book I have that walks through exactly what happened. The important point here is that the unrest and dissent inside the convention hall, coupled with the police violence against anti-war demonstrators caught on film in the streets of Chicago opened an even deeper chasm within the Democratic Party which helped propel Richard Nixon and his law and order campaign to victory. I would also argue that the events of 1968 (all of them) deeply wounded the Democratic Party as a working class or worker’s party, a criticism often heard by Bernie Sanders. It is true that the Dems took a major hit in 1968 and it took years to recover from it. Honestly, if politics would just slow down I could finally get to “all those books on the history of the Democratic Party.”
But to circle back to elections, as a result of what I would call a public relations and communications disaster – and that was before Chicago police beat up demonstrators – the Democratic Party set out to reform the way it chose its presidential nominee as it was the nominating process itself and the lack of transparency within it that had originally caused the chaos. The “Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection” – or what us geeks know as “the McGovern – Fraser Commission” set out to study the current nomination rules and to make recommendations for reform. The objectives of said reform recommendations were to improve and increase participation across the electorate, particularly in minority districts and to open up the primary system. As a result of the commission’s findings, the entire process became much more open and transparent.
Open primaries with binding delegates were the ultimate outcome and state delegations to the national convention ultimately had to be chosen via open ballot at state conventions and not by party leaders. The commission’s recommendations were adopted by the Democratic Party and soon thereafter made their way into the Republican process.
However, a key outcome of these changes was a loss of party control over not just the nominating process, but also the candidates. Added to these reforms was the rise of political action committees and now, the super PACs which have reduced the influence and importance of the party apparatus to an even greater degree. Candidates in the modern era have a myriad of funding sources – the party organization is not the ‘be all end all’ anymore. Certainly, the party can play a significant role in organizing and ‘get out the vote’ rallies and campaigns but candidates are expected to build their own internal organizations. Recall that was a particular issue during the Trump campaign – he had no ‘ground game’ which those in the business call “field and state offices running individual campaign operations.” In any normal election, the lack of organization would have resulted in an absolute slogging at the polls.
And then there are the media. In Lincoln’s day, candidates relied on their surrogates and the party apparatus to campaign on the candidate’s behalf. Over time, that task evolved, but before television, cable news, the internet and certainly social media, candidates relied on the party to get their message out to voters. The party served as an intermediary. Think of the GOP or the Democratic Party as placing their “Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval” on a candidate. In doing so, the voter was assured that they were getting a good deal. In turn, the candidate had to make nice with the party leaders and to ‘toe the line’ with policy and platform.
I cannot imagine a world in which a majority of voters would take a party’s “Stamp of Approval.” Today, voters have access to so much information – some of it actually wrong – and it comes directly from the candidates. Rather than being an intermediary, the party is a supporting player, backing up the candidate’s latest statement, or as is most often the case, defending or explaining it. The entire relationship has changed – and that was before 2016.
None of this really mattered prior to 2016 unless you were a political analyst who had just written a book about reforming political parties in America OR were a college kid taking a class and reading the book “reforming political parties in America.” I fell into the latter category 20 years ago and swear I have no interest in ever being in the first. Every once in a while, political junkies will get wind of an internecine fight for the “soul of the party” but that usually lasts just a few news cycles and turns out to be more wishful thinking on the part of journalists wanting to cover something exciting.
Yeah. But then, you know – 2016. If you have reached this point and are thinking, “Here it comes – time to slam the GOP. Why doesn’t she ever go after the Dems?” Well first, I am a Democrat and I go off on them plenty. But families keep their disagreements behind closed doors. The knockdown drag outs happen around the dinner table. But I promise – I really do have a post in my head about the Democratic Party history and the reforms we should consider heading into 2018 and 2020. If only the President would stop tweeting.
But I am also not going to “slam the GOP” because organizationally, there was very little that the party could have done to stop the interloper from getting the nomination once the train left the station. Several people, including my Mom, said to me repeatedly last year, “I just do not understand why they nominated him” and I suspect that there were a lot of people in my mother’s age cohort that asked that same question. The reality was, they could not stop or deny him the nomination without appearing to be undemocratic and even tyrannical.
The time to stop Trump was at any number of points in the last two decades as the Republican Party moved farther to the right and became less a party of ideas and intellectualism and more the party of grievance and obstruction. Once the environment was set, combined with the current nominating system all it took was the “right” candidate to emerge. And listen – for Democrats, Trump could have easily done this to the Democratic Party although he would have had to change his message in order to achieve the same results. He could have easily hijacked Bernie Sanders message, leaving off the dog whistles to race and ethnicity and been a viable Democratic candidate. So we are not immune.
If you are a political junkie like yours truly, last summer offered up an extraordinary civics lesson in how we choose our presidential candidates and we learned that yes, there were ways – difficult and controversial ways – to deny Trump the nomination. However to even attempt that would have split the party just as it had the Democrats in 1968. The reality is, Americans have come to understand that their primary vote is a vote for the candidate – not the electors. Americans have come to understand America as a democracy, not a republic (which it is) and the time for educating them as to the difference was not after the votes were counted and Trump had his base. I think the Republican leaders made a calculation that they would rather lose as a cohesive unit (or as close to it as possible) than make a statement and risk leaving that unit in tatters.
Of course then the unbelievable happened and Trump won and the RNC – the party apparatus essentially became a mouthpiece for Trumpism. And listen – in any normal situation, that is exactly what is supposed to happen. Disagreements and fights happen behind closed doors (and they do), but in front of the cameras, things should always be ‘well’ in Trumpland. So I do think that overall, the RNC did what it had to do given the situation as presented. It was tactical for sure and the fact that it did not foresee or plan for Trumpism is more indicative of the weakened nature of our political party structure than the strength of the candidate.
My ‘get out of jail free’ card does not extend to individual members of the GOP. Republican leadership, particularly in Congress has been positively spineless these last two years. Their tepid “non-endorsement, but I will vote for him because he is the Republican candidate” was an absolute embarrassment not just to the GOP but to the prestige we have for the offices they hold. What is the saying, “A distinction without a difference?”
Analysts will say that the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells (they use the plural form to suggest that they speak for their entire caucuses) had to “thread the needle” in their support of the candidate and later the President. They wanted to move legislation and believed they could do it with a Republican in the White House. And for a while, some will argue that that was a valid position. I can tell you who will argue that that is NOT a valid position; John Kasich – when he enters the presidential race in 2020 as a primary challenge to Trump.
The Answer is Easy: Vote
The United States has experienced at least six party systems since our founding. The system that gave us Lincoln was either the second or third system, depending on the historian doing the telling. It was marked by very distinct sectional and racial politics buttressed by war and reconstruction. But throughout that period, the party apparatus maintained control of the platform and the candidate. All of that has changed in the last century. The sixth party system gave us Kennedy, Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama but also witnessed the gradual breakdown of party power and influence.
It really should not be surprising that as party influence waned, the influence of the media – particularly on the right increased. The media, whether it be cable, broadcast, the internet or social has taken the role that parties used to play in both vetting candidates and educating voters. While we cannot go back, we should consider how to reimpose some of the discipline and accountability that the party offered during the earlier party systems. Was it perfect? Absolutely not. The reforms post 1968 injected transparency and democracy into one of our most sacred institutions. But we have to figure out out “Trump Happened” and prevent it from happening again. Because as I have stated many times, this will not end well.
As individual citizens, we have little control over what happens in Washington DC and in our statehouses. Frankly, that is sorta the intended consequence of a republic. People elect other people to work on their behalf. And the thing is – it works. It really does. But it only works if we participate and if I could for a moment be even more blunt than usual, American voters have a pathetic track record on participation in their own government.
The only reason I know anything about the primary process, the media’s formal influence and how it has changed over the last two centuries is because:
a). I studied it
b) God blessed me with a good memory and continued interest in the subject, and
c) God did not bless me with math, science of engineering knowledge so it is not like I have other constructive “stuff” to do.
How much of this did you know? While we are on the subject, how much do you know about how we finance our campaigns? Buckley vs. Valeo, McCain – Feingold and the big dog: Citizens United are famous campaign finance events – infamous actually, and too few Americans know anything about them or how they impact how we elect our leaders. We complain about money in politics and it corrupts the process, but instead of educating ourselves and forcing elected officials to DO something about it, we tend to withdraw entirely from the process and say, “my vote does not count,” or “it’s all rigged anyway.” That position helps no one and it is a flimsy excuse for laziness.
You have got to register to vote. And then you have to actually vote. Voting is table stakes in a democracy and in a republic. But that is not good enough, especially not now. You have to vote and participate in every election, primary or caucus in which you are eligible. If you prefer to register as an independent, fine. But before doing that, find out whether your state has an open or closed primary or caucus and what the rules are governing those elections. Closed primaries and caucuses mean that you MUST be a registered party member to participate. Some closed states allow voters to register at the time of the caucus or at the time of voting. Others do not. Others require that registration is done weeks ahead of the actual event.
Open primaries and caucuses typically allow anyone, regardless of party affiliation to participate but of course, you cannot participate in both during the same campaign. So not only do you need to vote, but you may need to choose a side so that you CAN vote.
Decide the issues that matter to you and research them. Understand not only the issues but the candidates’ policy positions and proposals about which you care so that you can determine, at least to some degree, whether the candidate is feeding you a line of bullshit. If you voted for Trump, did you review his policy proposals online? Do you know how they would impact you? Same question to Sanders and Clinton supporters. Understand not only the proposal itself but also the impact. It takes time to become an educated voter but if we are to hold our leaders accountable because the party cannot, then we really do not have a choice.
Part of what upset me the most last year (and trust me, there was a lot), was the grotesque and blatant lies that came from the Republican nominee. “Everything will be beautiful,” “We’re going to have such great health care at a tenth of the price,” “I know how to beat ISIS” and my absolute fave, “Mexico will pay for the wall.” While I think Trump supporters now say that they never believed the rhetoric, they just liked that he was giving Washington the middle finger, a lot of them DID listen and DID think that everything he said was the truth. Name your descriptive word: stupid, ignorant, naive, frustrated, gullible? Trump did not happen TO us. We invited him in.
Informed voting is crucial. It just is. If you travel a lot like I do, register absentee. I have registered for an absentee ballot ever since I started with my current employer. Most of the time, I have been in town on election day, but as my schedule and travel plans are sometimes last minute, I do not want to risk it. So plan ahead.
How do you become informed? I cannot believe I have to say this, but you have to watch the news and you have to read a newspaper. If you like FOX News, fine – watch it. But recognize that FOX is anything but fair and balanced; and fair and balanced are your two primary objectives. So if you are going to stick with FOX as your primary cable outlet, then juxtapose it with subscribing to the online version of the New York Times or Washington Post. Read CNN.com. I love VOX.com. Politico and the Hill.com are also informative with the Hill providing more insight into the process by which Congress works. But be able to tell the difference between an opinion piece and a fact.
Stop subscribing to polarizing websites and blogs or alternatively, if you just cannot help yourself, fact check them. Somewhere along the way, we became convinced that CNN stood for the Clinton News Network and that that must mean that all media was biased. I have to say, the leap from one conclusion to the other is fascinating primarily because conservative media like FOX made up an entire group of “identity media.” They call it the mainstream media (MSM) and have convinced way too many Americans that IT IS THE ONE LYING TO YOU. How stupid are we to have fallen for this? As it turns out, pretty stupid And once FOX created its audience (aka – consumers), far right bloggers started writing fictional nonsense as “real news.” It is so prolific that people believed Hillary Clinton ran a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant in New York City (she didn’t), that Mexico cut down on illegal immigration by building a wall on its southern border (It didn’t – build a wall that is), that Elizabeth Warren believes that rape is an acceptable cost for Muslim tolerance (she doesn’t, nor did she say it), that Sandy Hook was a hoax perpetrated by the federal government in order to take away your guns and finally: George Soros is behind the movement to tear down Confederate statues.
Our politics is a mess right now. I think a majority of Americans would agree to that but when given the opportunity to organize, protest and ultimately vote, there is always something more important to do. The political party once served as a bulwark against demagoguery. It was one check in a series of checks and balance set up over time to conduct proper vetting of candidates and to ensure that our leaders had his/her party’s support, as long as they followed the partisan gospel. That check has slowly eroded and while still important, the policy party has much less power today than it did 100 years ago,
I will likely follow this post up with quite a few thoughts on some of these reforms. But for now, I would just say this: on reflection, 2016 will be viewed as another watershed year in American politics and history. After 1968, our system became more democratic and while that is overall a good thing, the reforms implemented after the Chicago debacle had some unintended consequences for the party apparatus. I would like to think that our party leaders on both sides of the aisle would conduct post mortems similar to what was done after prior cycles to identify needed reforms. I am not sure that either party is “there” yet but I hope they get there soon.
Amy, August 2017
Note: For those interested in the presidential nominating process, you might pick up the book “The Party Decides: Presidential Nomination Before and After Reform,” by Marty Cohen. It is an easy read and explains the evolution of the nomination process much more coherently than my attempts here.