At The American Conservative Daniel Larison addresses an issue that I have mentioned on several occasions now. How did it happen that the Republic Party ended up with so many presidential candidates? I have suggested that this fact, in itself, has skewed the primary election process.
Larison takes it a step further and asks why it all came about:
I agree that there were too many Republican candidates running for president this year. One reason this happened is that Republican pundits and activists keep lowering the standards for acceptable presidential candidates, and another is that the same people consistently exaggerate and oversell the abilities and qualifications of the party’s latest group of new political leaders. In the 2016 cycle, they treated practically every current or former two-term governor as a credible presidential candidate, and the would-be candidates’ lack of preparation on foreign policy (among other things) was never counted against any of them. When almost any officeholder is taken seriously as a potential nominee, there are bound to be too many contestants.
Larison singles out the Republican pundits and activists for failing to cast a cold eye on the candidates. Rather than select the handful who are actually qualified by virtue of experience and accomplishment for the job, they believe that most officeholders are ipso facto qualified.
The same pundits and activists allow their enthusiasm to get the best of them. They hand out credits for promise and fail to allow these same candidates the time to develop a track record of accomplishment. Of course, our current president falls within that category. In fact, he defines it. One does not understand why the GOP needs to take its cues from the Democrats.
Movement conservatives have an odd habit of trying to promote new political talent too quickly and they usually overrate the politicians that they happen to like. That encourages many people that would never have tried running for president in a previous era to enter the race.
And then they push candidates who do not have a chance because they have not done a very good job, like Bobby Jindal. They also tend to idolize candidates who are not really seasoned, like Marco Rubio:
The 2016 campaign marked the formal end of many Republican political careers, but in many cases those careers were otherwise already finished. Did Jindal do so poorly because the field was too large or because he had presided over a fiscal disaster in his home state? Rubio wasn’t ready to be president, and it showed during a campaign he should never have run. No one was forcing Rubio to run this year, but he was already tired of being in the Senate and seemed to buy into the media hype about his prospects. His national political career is very likely over now, and in the end he has no one but himself to blame for that.
And finally, in 2008 and 2012 Republicans imagined that Obama was weaker than he appeared and that almost anyone could beat him. Today, Larison notes, Republicans consider that the Obama years have been such a calamity and that the Democratic candidates are so weak that anyone can beat him. He calls it overconfidence in victory:
Almost all of the 2016 candidates have been working on the same assumption that the electorate is eager to repudiate Obama. That must have made the Republican nomination seem that much more attractive to a larger number of politicians and others. I assume that this also explains why so many Republican voters are getting behind Trump and Cruz, neither of whom appears to have a prayer of winning the general election under current conditions. The same overconfidence in a Republican victory that encouraged so many candidates to enter the race has also led most Republican voters to back the candidates that are among the most likely to lose the election.