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“What The RNC’s Pathetic Loyalty Pledge Says About The GOP”: They’d All Endorse Charles Manson If He Were Running Against Hillary Clinton

Some news outlets are reporting that Donald Trump will sign the loyalty pledge that the Republican National Committee has demanded of its candidates, in an apparent effort to foreclose the possibility that Trump will run as a third-party candidate if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination. Trump has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon where he’ll make his announcement.

Something tells me that Trump figures that by the time the party gets its nominee, either it’ll be him, or he’ll be bored of running for president by then and won’t want to bother running a long-shot third party candidacy almost sure to fail. On the other hand, if he really wanted to break the pledge because America so desperately needs his super-classy, gold-plated leadership, then he would do it in an instant.

But beyond the question of whether Trump will honor the pledge, this whole affair is an excellent demonstration of just how limited the modern political party’s power is.

Back in the good old days, parties picked their presidential nominees in the proverbial smoke-filled room, where the bigwigs would get together and make whatever choice they thought was best. There was plenty of factional maneuvering, infighting and intrigue, but the voters were only a tangential part of the process. Then between the 1968 and 1972 elections, both parties reformed their nomination processes to ensure that convention delegates would be selected by primaries and caucuses, which delivered power into the voters’ hands. That meant that anybody could run and potentially win, whether he had the support of the party establishment or not. When the 2010 Citizens United decision created a wide-open campaign finance system, the ability of the establishment to guide and shape the nominating contest was reduced even further, because now anyone with a billionaire buddy or two can wage a strong campaign whether they have the support of party leaders or not.

That doesn’t mean that those party leaders have no more influence. They can still deliver key endorsements, raise money, and help candidates move voters to the polls. But in the face of a phenomenon like Donald Trump, none of the tools at their disposal seem to mean very much. Just look at how that establishment helped Jeb Bush raised $100 million, a “shock and awe” campaign that was supposed to drive other candidates from the race and make Jeb the obvious nominee. It’s not exactly working out as planned; in the current pollster.com average, Jeb is in third place behind Trump and Ben Carson, with an underwhelming eight percent support.

Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t need anyone else’s money, doesn’t care about who endorses him, and gets more free media attention than pretty much everyone else combined every time he opens his mouth. If this race comes down to a contest between someone like Bush and someone like Carson, the establishment could help tilt the field in Bush’s favor. But against Trump they’re almost powerless.

The loyalty pledge was sent to all the candidates, and as of yet none of them have said they won’t sign. And why would they? It isn’t as though Marco Rubio or Scott Walker is going to wage an independent campaign for president if they fail to get the party’s nomination. Of course, that means that they’ll be promising to support Trump if he’s the nominee, which might be a little distasteful, but all of them would endorse Charles Manson if he were running against Hillary Clinton.

Since the pledge would be happily violated by the only candidate who it was designed to constrain in the first place, it has little practical significance. But it does make the Republican Party look pathetic. They’re so scared of the guy leading their primary race (as well they should be) that they have to beg him to pinkie-swear that he won’t turn around and screw them over in the general election if they’re lucky enough for him not to be their nominee. But their real problem may be that by the time they get there, he will have already done enough damage that it’ll be too late.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 3, 2015

September 8, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, RNC Loyalty Pledge | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservatism Is Too Big For Its Own Good”: The Right No Longer Understands The Difference Between The Movement And The Party

There’s a moment every year at the Conservative Political Action Conference when some eminence from the 1970s talks about the good old days at CPAC, hearkening back to the time when Ronald Reagan would show up and speak to a a small room of only about 500 activists. Things have changed. Now there are about 500 journalists who get registered to report on CPAC, which has bloated to some 10,000 participants in the fat years.

Maybe conservatism is just too big for its own good.

The conservative movement has grown large because it aspired to be something greater than a part of the Republican coalition. It wanted to become the entirety of the GOP. Instead of splitting into different interest groups, the conservative movement devises ad-hoc philosophies to integrate single-issue advocates into a larger coalition. You’re not just for low taxes or against abortion, you’re a conservative!

In this sense, the conservative movement has become a kind of parallel institution that drains resources, attention, talent, and energy from the GOP’s own electoral and governing efforts. Conservative Inc. is an enterprise with enough resources and power to be an attractive alternative to America’s official institutions of electoral power.

If you are a Republican politician and don’t have the wherewithal to become president of the United States, perhaps you have enough talent to become president of Conservatism. It’s an unofficial position, but has plenty of benefits. You won’t have the psychic pleasures of representing the electoral will of the American public, but you also won’t be burdened by any real responsibilities either.

Naturally, the idea of being a player without responsibility provides more attractions for charlatans, rabble-rousers, and opportunists.

Shades of this phenomena began in the 1990s presidential primaries. Whereas Pat Buchanan picked a principled fight with his party over issues like trade and foreign policy, candidates like Alan Keyes ran less for president than for publicity: mailing lists filled out, speaking fees increased, and radio shows picked up on more networks.

By the 2012 Republican primaries, it was obvious that there were in fact two competitions happening on the same debate stages. Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and even Newt Gingrich were not running for president in the same way that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were.

This seems not to happen in the Democratic primaries. Sure, 2004 saw Howard Dean emerge as the leader of “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” But there is no parallel universe called Liberalism where he and Mike Gravel could become well-paid industries unto themselves as think leaders, book hawkers, and distinguished dinner guests. Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a political job with actual responsibilities and geared toward winning elections, not just flame wars.

The composition of the Democratic coalition seems stronger precisely because it is more splintered and more issue driven. No one is afraid that Planned Parenthood or the teachers’ unions are going to impose a broad-ranging ideological revolution on the nation. The public assumes that they will simply lobby for their particular, limited interests and that the party to which they belong will have a moderating effect on them.

But the conservative movement really is large enough to exert a destabilizing gravitational force on the entire political culture. Its opponents fear that its size and strength make the GOP immoderate. And they may be right.

In any GOP presidential primary, the candidates who are running to be unofficial head of the conservative movement can do a great deal of damage to the GOP’s eventual nominee. They can pressure the eventual candidate to over-commit to the right in the primary race, essentially handing them more baggage to carry in the general election. Or they can cripple the eventual primary winner by highlighting the nominee’s deviations from the movement, dispiriting the GOP’s base of voters.

When the attendees of CPAC gather in Washington early next month and conduct their presidential straw poll with the self importance of a warning shot, it might profit them to consider whether they intend to elect a new president of their ideological ghetto or one for their nation.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, February 26, 2014

February 27, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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