Only three times in the past century has a conservative candidate in an open race captured the Republican presidential nomination: Warren Harding in 1920, Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Ronald Reagan in 1980. This was due in those years primarily to there not being any "true conservatives" in the GOP, that breed having been rendered extinct by the socialist ascendancy ushered in by FDR's "New Deal" and all the subsequent regimes that followed. In capitalistic terms, there was no political "market" for constitutionalist philosophy and ideas. "We are all socialists, now" was the bold, "new" mantra dominating the fruitless plain.
But, thanks to the pioneering arrow-taking of Senator Goldwater and the man-of-destiny rise of Ronald Reagan at the inevitable moment of socialist-induced national peril - looming Soviet invasion externally, runaway stagflation at home - unignorable reality gave constitutional conservatism a new lease on political life - at least, for a decade or so.
But it didn't last. George H.W. Bush, elected to President Reagan's "third term," broke his "no new taxes" pledge, the Right and the GOP were again discredited, and American turned back to the Left with a vengeance with its embrace of the Clinton whirlwind. And a new dynamic arose that ensured that the Republican "establishment" maintained its stranglehold on the party's presidential nomination: what I refer to as the "too many cooks" phenomenon.
For such a destructive construct, its description is surprisingly simple: The "establishment" unifies behind a single "front-runner" while the conservative grassroots splinter themselves six(teen) ways from Sunday, shatter and fragment and divide the field, tear each other limb from limb, and ensure that no conservative challenger to the "establishment" candidate ever arises. The latter then cruises to the nomination, then tacks to the "center," the conservative grassroots stay home in protest, and he goes on, more often than not, to a crushing, demoralizing, enraging defeat in November. This is followed by the usual tiresome recriminations and finger-pointing about the "establishment" selling out" and the conservative grassroots being "unreliable" and "not being team players".
But there is a very simple solution to this problem: conservatives ceasing to "flood the zone" with candidates but instead unify behind the best one, like the "establishment" does, and have a mano-e-mano, head-to-head battle for control, and the soul of, the Grand Old Party.
True, that isn't always possible; there were no conservative candidates in 1996, for example, viable or otherwise; ditto 2000 (House Bush re-ascendant) and 2008 (a hopeless year where no viable conservative was going to make any kamikaze runs). But 2012? There were two-term Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and three-term Texas Governor Rick Perry. And while Governor Perry's debate stage "senior moment" was unfortunate, there was no reason why Governor Pawlenty couldn't have led a spirited charge against Mitt Romney and taken the nomination from him, if only conservatives had finally learned from their persistent mistakes of the past and closed ranks behind him.
But no; the Right had to spread itself to the proverbial four winds of pizza magnates and delusional congresswomen, and Governors Perry and Pawlenty got lost in the noise. When the dust cleared in Iowa, only two ex-legislators and a single-term ex-governor who tried to speak conservatives' language but just couldn't get the hang of the dialect were left, and the latter had all the advantages of "establishment" backing and a sizable campaign warchest. The rightwing grassroots had sabotaged themselves yet again. And Mitt cruised to the nomination, tacked to the center, and went down to a crushing, demoralizing defeat in November, right on schedule.
Now, in the 2016, have conservatives learned their lesson? Are there fewer candidates cluttering up the process? Can voters get a clear picture of the field and who is viable and who is not?
Not a blinkin' chance:
The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found the GOP field split evenly between former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Each earns 10% in a poll of potential Republican primary voters and caucus-goers…
The national survey holds limited predictive value in a race that will start off as a contest among early-State activists, but it will contribute to the culling process for the first GOP debate. Fox News, which is hosting the August 6th. gathering, will invite the top ten Republican candidates based on an average of national surveys.
Under the Fox News rules, the rest of the debate stage, according to the Quinnipiac poll, would include Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, reality TV host Donald Trump, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry would be among those excluded.
It wasn't that long ago that Governor Walker was topping these surveys, and by a significant margin. Why? Because the field was still at a reasonable size. Clarity was still possible. But now? With over twenty "hopefuls"? With it now impossible to shoehorn everybody onto a single stage in a debate format that wouldn't limit everybody to under ten words apiece or go on for several days at a sitting? Not possible. He's gotten lost in the noise - perhaps never to reemerge.
The only possible saving grace to a gaggle of "contenders" this absurdly huge is that the "establishment" candidate - Jeb of House Bush - has to elbow a few RINO rivals out of his own way, like Huckles and the Big Man and perhaps Trump and Fiorina. But those obstacles hardly compare with the frighteningly overpopulated mob that is transmogrifying the conservative vote into electoral dust.
And when that "dust" settles under eight months from now? We know Jeb'll be there. But who'll be left after the conservative battle royal? And will any survivors not be so damaged and depleted that Bush III won't cruise to the nomination, tack to the center, and go on to the obligatory crushing, demoralizing defeat in November (to Elizabeth Warren, remember)?
Don't me wrong, I have all the confidence in the world in my guy Walk. But, to borrow a football analogy, a basic offensive line is only supposed to have six members: two guards, two tackles, a center, and a tight end. You might think an offensive line with forty-three members would be able to overwhelm the opposing defenders, but in reality, it couldn't get out of the running back's, or its own, way, Beast Mode or no Beast Mode.
That's what's happening with this ridiculous nomination overpopulation. Conservatives are setting themselves up for their own defeat yet again. And this time it will be richly deserved, and without excuse.