Are Republicans on the brink of throwing the 2016 presidential election? Their competition has very little to offer, a few old, tired candidates. And yet, Daniel Henninger believes that Republicans have seriously diminished their chances because they are exercising poor judgment and lack party discipline.
True enough, Republican electors are expressing their feelings… venting, if you will… but, Henninger notes, they should take a lesson from the Democrats. That party achieved what it achieved in 2008 and 2009 by exercising strict discipline.
As I have often remarked on this blog, the therapy culture, which is obviously antithetical to conservative principles, insists that you express your feelings. It is a bad idea for individuals, bad for their mental health. It is a worse idea for groups.
Henninger explains how the Democrats did it:
After the 2008 elections gave Democrats control of the executive and legislative branches, they passed the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which together reordered great swaths of the U.S. economy. That’s what control of government looks like, and it is rarely achieved without internal party discipline.
Six months ago, Henninger relates, Republicans were poised to take over the government. Which is more effective than shutting down the government.
As a result, the Republicans six months ago were on the brink of winning the White House back from an unpopular president and the uninspiring Hillary Clinton, while holding both houses of Congress. In control, the Republicans could legislate based on their beliefs—about ObamaCare, the tax code, spending, rampaging bureaucracies, even the federal subsidy for Planned Parenthood. That’s what winning looks like in American politics—or used to.
After explaining that the current workings of the House Republican caucus do not make the party look very good or very disciplined, Henninger moves on to the state of the presidential race.
I report his thought for your edification:
Meanwhile, the party’s base has elevated three amateurs to the top of its presidential nominating process— Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Two successful governors— Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin—have dropped out. John Kasich, the high-achieving two-term governor of Ohio, whose voters have been on the wrong side of a presidential outcome only once since 1944, languishes at next to zero.
Today, the odds that the Republicans will win big in November 2016 are less than even. A GOP that was on the cusp of controlling the presidency and Congress has instead decided to present itself to American voters as a party of factions and niche players.
The Republican presidential nomination will float forward on its own mysterious forces. It now resembles the movie “Fitzcarraldo,” the story of an obsessive effort by a rubber baron to prove that a massive boat could be hauled over a mountain.
What is Henninger trying to say? He is saying that when a party wants to govern it advances candidates who know how to govern. Not one of the three leading candidates has ever shown any capacity to offer political leadership or to set and implement government policy.
After all, the best way to stop Obama, to roll back his executive orders, to repeal his legislative follies, to revive America… is to put a serious candidate into office, one who understands the workings of government and who can lead his party and the nation. It takes more than a few bright advisers.
Instead, the Republican field is led by a real estate developer and television personality who has insulted his way to the top. (Do you really believe that Republicans will fall in line behind someone who has clawed his way to victory by dismissing and demeaning them?) After him, the polls tell us, Republicans are flocking to a failed chief executive officer and a brain surgeon. Don't ask what's wrong with that picture. Ask yourself whether anything's right with it.
Conservatives value experience. They value tradition. They value principle, but not just for the sake of valuing principle. They value people who can make policy out of principle and who can put that policy into action. The want real results, not flamboyant displays of powerful emotion. In the past they have not been cult followers of celebrities or of people who have no measurable qualifications for office.
Perhaps the Republican base feels happy to have joined the celebrity culture. Perhaps they feel better for having vented their anger. I am sure that their therapists are proud. And yet, even if a celebrity can win the presidency, it only means that we will be able to see yet another president who is in way over his head.