Some of this you have heard about this before. In fact, you have heard some of it here.
In one previous post I noted that the Republican Party had so many vanity candidates for president that it risked becoming the vanity party. I was right about that, even though I did not foresee the ascent of the ultimate vanity candidate: Donald Trump.
A month later I took a cue from Peggy Noonan and contrasted the Democratic nominating process with its Republican counterpart. Republicans seem to believe that being the party of freedom means making the nominating process into a free-for-all. It did not seem like the best way to go about doing things then. It still does not.
Being the vanity party makes it look like you do not respect the office of the presidency. Making your nominating process into a free-for-all suggests that your candidates do not have sufficient gravitas to govern. Do both and you damage your brand.
With that preamble, I turn to a column Michael Barone wrote yesterday for National Review. (Via Maggie's Farm)
In it he said:
Republican voters have been seething with discontent toward their party’s officeholders and have not become enchanted with any one of 15 more or less conventional politicians who are running. Democratic voters support their officeholders with lockstep loyalty and seem untroubled by the serious flaws of their party’s clear frontrunner.
… while virtually no Democrats express negative feelings about their party, many Republicans do.
One might say that Republicans are free thinkers while Democrats have been turned into human automatons, uncritically toeing the party line.
Strangely enough, for her many flaws, Hillary Clinton continues to receive overwhelming support from core Democratic constituencies. (Think about Mitt Romney on the 47%). This means that she only needs to peel off a few Republicans and Independents to win the election.
Hillary Clinton is in more trouble than Obama with Independents and Republicans, but continues to receive high approval ratings from every Democratic Party core constituency — blacks, gentry liberals, and Hispanics. Even the Birkenstock Belt folks (dovish, environment-conscious, concentrated in university towns and rural ecotopias), who are boosting Bernie Sanders’ numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire polls, still give Clinton overwhelmingly favorable ratings.
Barone understands that a significant segment of the Republican electorate is flocking to Donald Trump because Trump has been calling out the media for its flagrant hypocrisy:
Donald Trump’s incendiary statements on immigration appealed to voters tired of being told that Arizona’s attempt to enforce federal immigration laws was bad and San Francisco’s attempt to block these laws (with “sanctuary cities”) was good.
And yet, diehard conservatives are supporting a candidate who has never really been a conservative. They are trashing Gov. John Kasich for allowing Medicaid expansion in Ohio, but are giving Trump a pass on his liberal past. Keep in mind, Kasich has a great resume and will almost assuredly deliver Ohio in the presidential election.
So conservative pundits eager to sniff out any departure from conservative principle by conventional candidates are championing a candidate who has been anything but a consistent conservative over the years and is a prime example of crony capitalism. He got his start in Manhattan real estate with help from state and city governments after he and his family made the second largest contributions (after the candidate’s brother) to Hugh Carey’s underdog 1974 Democratic primary campaign for governor.
Surely, conservative pundits and talk show hosts have never ceased to criticize Barack Obama. And yet, their habit of critical thinking seems now to have gotten a life of its own. It is now being used against other Republicans.
Talk radio, conservative websites, and Fox News bristle with criticism of Republican officeholders and complaints about their squishiness. That helps sustain a critical frame of mind and a sense, particularly outside metropolitan centers, that ordinary people’s concerns are being ignored by a manipulative establishment.
No one, certainly not yours truly, is surprised to see that Democrats, especially left-leaning intellectuals are addicted to group think. If I may, many years ago I wrote that: New York is a city full of free thinkers, all of whom think exactly the same thing:
In contrast, Democrats, who fancy themselves as critical thinkers, are comfortable consumers of “mainstream” media in which their “smelly little orthodoxies” (George Orwell’s term) are rarely challenged.
Of course, this also suggests that Democrats are especially thin-skinned ideologues, incapable of engaging in sustained and substantive debates. It means that Republicans are more comfortable in the marketplace of ideas, which is surely a good thing.
The problem is: it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Clear thinking can degenerate into mindless attacks on those who deviate from the current orthodoxy.
In the case of Mr. Trump, one understands-- one wrote about it yesterday-- that the psychological need to balance the weakness of Obama with a candidate who is brutally tough must be balanced with the need to find a candidate who really is tough, who has shown it in the trenches of governance… and, of course, who can win. All signs today suggest that Trump cannot fulfill the latter, essential function of a candidate.
From Barone’s perspective Democrats are positioning themselves to win an election. Republicans, not so much.
And yet, it is ironic that the party that offers the most serious support for the military is not manifesting the kind of discipline and self-control that characterizes victorious armies. And it is even more ironic that it is flocking to a candidate who never served in the military and who trashed the “war hero” status of John McCain.
Surely, Barone has a point when he says that the Republicans look like an unruly mob while the Democrats--the anti-war party--looks like a regimented army. For all I know the qualities the Democrats present in their nominating process makes them look stronger and tougher than they are. An unruly mob can cause a lot of damage, but it is not going to win any wars.