Fake unity is a real problem
Dominant party agrees on nothing
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.