Fake unity is a real prob­lem

Dom­i­nant party agrees on noth­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Doug Thomp­son Doug Thomp­son is a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and colum­nist for the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. Email him at dthomp­son@nwadg. com or on Twit­ter @NWADoug.

The Repub­li­can Party na­tion­wide lacks con­sen­sus, to state the ob­vi­ous. Their health care co­nun­drum is just the big­gest sign of this. Repub­li­cans in Congress are also grid­locked on a bud­get, among other things.

This lack helped give them their ma­jor­ity in Congress while tak­ing away much point to hav­ing one.

Stand­ing for dif­fer­ent things in dif­fer­ent places is a huge plus in con­gres­sional district races. For all the talk of Repub­li­can con­form­ity on guns and abor­tion, that is a short check­list.

Ei­ther a lib­er­tar­ian or a zealot for the lo­cal con­ser­va­tive dogma can be a GOP con­gress­man, or any­thing in be­tween or off a bit to one side. It all de­pends on the district. To some ex­tent, that will al­ways be true.

But pick­ing a pres­i­dent, or at least one with a man­date, should re­quire con­sen­sus. A pres­i­den­tial race is the only chance to ham­mer out such a con­sen­sus. Rather, it would be the only chance if the GOP pri­mary sys­tem al­lowed it. Their sys­tem prefers the il­lu­sion of unity to the very real risks of forg­ing it.

Run­ning an hon­est pri­mary would carry huge risks, in­clud­ing a party split at worst. Those risks are ob­vi­ous. The risks of dis­ar­ray, though, are fi­nally be­com­ing ob­vi­ous, too.

Too many pri­maries award all of a state’s GOP del­e­gates to which­ever pres­i­den­tial can­di­date gains a plu­ral­ity of votes. Even though some states do not do that, a can­di­date has to be the leader in at least eight states’ pri­maries to be nom­i­nated at a GOP con­ven­tion. That is a rel­a­tively new rule, but it grew log­i­cally from the trends and the goal.

Th­ese sort of rules gave a head start to “es­tab­lish­ment” can­di­dates with name recog­ni­tion, a solid donor base, some ex­pe­ri­ence and no vis­i­ble warts. That was the in­tent and the re­sult for years.

Then pri­mary voters re­volted. The re­bel­lion was jus­ti­fied. The fa­cade of GOP con­sen­sus led to dis­as­ter dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. The GOP had all the power, yet the deficit ex­ploded, the econ­omy col­lapsed and no weapons of mass de­struc­tion turned up. The de­ba­cle made then-Sen. Barack Obama pres­i­dent.

Frus­tra­tion boiled over af­ter 2012, when the GOP rank and file watched in shock as Pres­i­dent Obama won re-elec­tion. The path to the White House fi­nally cleared in 2016. Upon whose head did the anoint­ing in­sid­ers pour their horn of oil? Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s brother.

That was the GOP voters’ Pop­eye mo­ment. “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more.”

Out­siders seized the pri­mary, quickly find­ing the fences built to keep out­siders out worked equally well as a pen to keep in­sid­ers in. A can­di­date with noth­ing but name recog­ni­tion and out­sider street cred could not be stopped.

But the seized pri­mary did not forge a man­date for them ei­ther. Even in th­ese cir­cum­stances, the party looked at the prospect of a bro­kered con­ven­tion as a dis­as­ter to avoid. In­deed, even GOP voters who de­tested Trump obeyed the rules of fake unity. Deny­ing the nomination to the can­di­date with the most del­e­gates was like rig­ging the game. The fact the game was al­ready rigged made no dif­fer­ence. Loaded dice are loaded dice who­ever gets to throw them.

And here we are. Even if this pres­i­dent knew what he was do­ing, I doubt he could do it. He has no man­date. No one does. GOP Congress mem­bers could fol­low the will of the party even with­out the pres­i­dent if only some­one knew what that was, or if the party plat­form had any real-world mean­ing.

An hon­est pri­mary would not award a ma­jor­ity of del­e­gates to some­one with a plu­ral­ity of votes. If no one was win­ning a ma­jor­ity, deals would be cut. Ri­vals who would not com­pro­mise or backed the wrong can­di­date would lose ev­ery­thing. Some­one would emerge with a ma­jor­ity of del­e­gates.

In the end, con­tenders would walk out with bruises and miss­ing teeth, then smile any­way and de­clare unity. The party would have a can­di­date and the can­di­date a man­date.

In­stead, the op­por­tu­nity of­fered by fake con­sen­sus was seized by an op­por­tunist.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ev­ery­thing Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton was ever ac­cused of. He is a po­lit­i­cal games-player with­out prin­ci­ple. He is a flam­boy­ant liar. He is wom­an­izer who is also greedy, petty and tacky.

And his ap­proval rat­ings among Repub­li­cans, a party that wanted to im­peach Clin­ton and jail his wife, is 85 per­cent.

Win­ning, at least, is some­thing the party has a con­sen­sus for.

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