A PARTY IN CRISIS
Even as the internet, blogs, and other alternative media have opened doors for more grassroots citizen activism, the Republican Party continues to ignore the very people it claims to represent.
The Not So Grand Old Party
The Republican Party is the third oldest political party in the world. Between 50 and 70 million Americans identify themselves as Republican and the GOP is one of the most influential organizations in America.
This once Grand Old Party should be the people’s party, run by the grassroots, and used to promote conservative values and the individuals who champion them. Yet sadly, such is no longer the case.
This is because the party structure and nominating process is destructive to grassroots conservatism and has allowed Big Money and Big Media to dominate our party.
If conservative governing principles are to be restored, we must start by taking back our party.
The problems with the nominating process of the GOP are clear and odious. Take, for example, the Republican presidential primaries of 2008 and 2012.
In 2008, John McCain won the Republican nomination despite being the first choice of only 15% to 30% of GOP voters.
In 2012, Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination after the longest primary the GOP has seen since 1980. Did Romney have such a tough time because he faced candidates of the caliber of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater?NO. Romney took so long to win the nomination because he was so unpopular with the Republican grassroots (He averaged 25% in polls). Yet Romney won, why? How did a man so out of step with the GOP and the country at large (as November 6th proved) win the nomination? One word --- PRIMARIES.
So What’s Wrong with Primaries?
Over the last 40 years, presidential primaries have gotten more and more centered around money, media, and polls, and less and less around passion, principles, and people.
Here are five reasons why the primary system is broken:
1. The establishment is still in charge.
The goal of primaries was to make the process more “open” and take power away from the establishment and give it to the people. In fact, the opposite has occurred because money is the name of the game in the primary system, and the establishment has plenty of it to spread around.
For instance, the top three GOP fundraisers in 2008 were Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Their funding came overwhelmingly from the establishment – Giuliani collected 55% of his money from those who gave more than $2,300, while Romney pulled in 48% and McCain collected 34%.
2. The system is too expensive.
By June of 2012, Republican presidential candidates had raised over $300 million. This was money dedicated not to campaigning against Obama, but against each other.
Republican presidential candidates spent a whole year (2011-12) campaigning not against Obama, but against each other. When the nomination was settled at caucuses and conventions, there was usually no need for such massive campaign spending. You lined up your delegates and fought it out at the convention. Think of all the campaign dollars that could be re-allocated to campaigning against your actual opponents!
3. The current process doesn’t encourage thoughtful choosing.
In today’s primary system, the public is swayed by trivialities. Consider the rise and fall in the polls of Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich in 2011. Is this evidence of a thoughtful process, or of people following the flavor of the week?
4. The process does not require broad-based support.
In a caucuses-convention system, the winning candidate must have the support of a majority (50% +1) of their party. In a primary system a candidate with as little as 15% support can win the nomination. Which sounds more representative to you?
5. The system is the unintended consequence of a failed liberal experiment.
In 1968, the far-left wing of the Democratic Party wanted to dump Hubert Humphrey in favor of Gene McCarthy. Humphrey had the backing of President Lyndon Johnson and the party establishment. He won on the first ballot, despite not having participated in any primaries.
As a bone to the anti-war left, the establishment adopted a resolution at the convention that called for party reform – but they didn’t think anything would come of it. The convention didn’t debate about whether it was a good idea to change systems, what it would mean for the party, the grassroots, the country, or anything. But the left-wingers knew an opening when they saw it. They dominated the reform process and pushed through a series of changes that they thought would open up the nomination process and give them an edge within the party.
However, they badly miscalculated. What they wanted were party nominating caucuses (like the Republicans had), where they could take advantage of their intense supporters and make sure nominees from the far left wing of the Democratic Party would be selected. The reformers did not want primaries because they believed they would favor the ill-informed voters and probably the establishment candidates, like LBJ or Humphrey.
Yet in the end, the party establishment had the last laugh. The establishment didn’t like primaries either, but it figured they would keep the far-left from taking over the local parties. So the party establishment began adopting primaries like we have today.
To sum up, today’s nomination system is the product of far-left experimentation, which produced results that the know-it-all liberal do-gooders utterly failed to anticipate.
How We Will Fix It
The way to save our party is to fix the out-dated and anti-grassroots nominating process, to return to our roots, to the grassroots caucuses and conventions that will produce leaders of character who truly represent our values.
Conservatives have a great opportunity to win but only if we fight the right battles.
We must seize the moment and preserve this land we call America.
We must meet the challenge and preserve for our children, this light to the nations—this shining city upon a hill.