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March 28, 2015

Why it's unlikely that a genuine conservative will win the 2016 GOP nomination

Ted Cruz has already declared, and it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, among others, will toss their hats into the ring within the next few weeks.  Some on the right might see this as evidence of the enduring vitality of the conservative movement in the face of an aggressive cultural jihad against its values.  I see the Republican establishment clinching the nomination, yet again -- and not necessarily because of any particular shortcomings the conservative challengers might possess.

Thesis: Every conservative that declares for the 2016 nomination, regardless of his/her ideological bona fides, decreases the probability that a conservative will actually win the nomination.

Every four years, we get the same thing in the GOP primary season: Several conservatives, one or two moderates acceptable to the establishment, and occasionally, some unabashedly liberal candidate who spends his campaign attacking the views of the 99% of the party who are to his right.

The conservative candidates all have passionate fan bases of varying sizes. These candidates spend the bulk of their time trying to win the other conservative factions over, all but ignoring the establishment candidate(s) at first: "If only the other conservative candidates would drop out of the race, their voters would unite behind me, and we could win this!  How can they be so selfish?"

Conservatives select a 2016 standard-bearer.
(Note: the establishment candidates are the relaxed ones in the foreground)
Each primary comes and goes.  One conservative candidate does well here, and another there.  The diffusion of the conservative vote into angry factions begins leading to plurality wins for at least one of the moderate candidates.  As the delegate momentum builds for one moderate, other moderates drop out of the race, and the establishment's fundraising machine kicks into high gear for the anointed one.

Too late, the conservatives stop clawing at each other long enough to realize that the establishment candidate is pulling away.  By then, it usually doesn't matter if all but one conservative drops out; all the moderate must do from this point forward is to calmly and cheerfully quote the remaining candidate's erstwhile conservative opponents against him or her.  The conservative, who up to this point has focused exclusively on fellow conservatives, can do little but splutter in response.

Jeff Koterba, February 8
Once again, the opportunity has been lost, and the moderate walks away with the nomination.

I've been an active voter for over 30 years, and I've witnessed this phenomenon far too many times for it to be attributed to my imagination.  Alas, more than a year and a half prior to the 2016 election, this cycle appears to be no different.

There is much that I like about each of the likely conservative candidates, but I doubt that any of them will get the nod.  The Texas primary is held late in the season, typically meaning that we will have only the establishment candidate and the last major conservative candidate to choose from.  As usual, I'll probably cast a protest vote against the establishment.  For all the good it'll do.


April 10 UPDATE: Rasmussen shows that I'm not alone in my pessimism.

1 comment:

Duffy said...

Good essay. I almost missed the photo caption. Very funny, and it prevents this from being completely depressing.