April 11, 2011
Trumped-UpBy Chet Arthur
George Will cites the presidential nomination process as the weakest point of the American political system. He thinks the Founders would have been appalled at letting
Iowa and New Hampshire weigh in so decisively. He's probably right about that.
The system both parties are stuck with is not so old. It resulted from the Democrats' adopting the "McGovern Rules" in 1972 and the Republicans falling in behind. Should we be surprised that McGovern's system is weak? Most of us have forgotten the idiocy of McGovern Rules that led to such announcements on the floor of their Miami convention as: "Wisconsin casts 235.314 delegate votes for..."
Now, we are seeing a return to that kind of nuttiness in the other party, the supposedly serious one. The idea that Donald Trump could run for president is absurd on its face. But it points to the Will statement. We need somehow to fix the nomination process. We have seen a number of candidacies that have taken advantage of the gong-show "debates" to attract attention to causes.
History is no straight jacket. Because something has never happened before does not mean that it cannot, or should not, happen now. Still, when you have an unbroken record of fifty-six presidential elections over two hundred twenty-two years, we might at least consider the results of those contests as we look forward.
There have been only five men who attained the presidency without holding prior elective office. Even such great military heroes as George Washington and Andrew Jackson held elective office.
Mexican War leader Zachary Taylor was chosen by the expiring Whigs in some desperation in 1848. He served honorably, but briefly. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower's elections hardly need explaining. The Civil War and World War II were the greatest conflicts in our history and those victorious generals were rightly viewed as national heroes.
William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover were great men, distinguished Cabinet members in highly popular administrations, but they were never elected prior to their first run for the White House. Both presidents soon came to grief and lacked the political experience and skill to get themselves out of it. They are hardly arguments for dismissing elected experience.
For a time, Lee Iacocca was being touted. He wisely stayed out. Ross Perot not so wisely jumped in, jumped out, and jumped up and down. Pat Robertson tried to gain some traction as a broadcasting executive. His campaign quickly turned into a test pattern. Pat Buchanan had a lot of fun on his campaign bus, which he impishly dubbed Asphalt One. Jesse Jackson tried to become the first black president, but he was dissed, even by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. One of these elected officials waggishly said, "Jesse's never run anything but his mouth." Steve Forbes was a most worthy and thoughtful candidate. Gary Bauer was eloquent, knowledgeable, and sincere. None of these never-before-electeds came within hailing distance of his party's nomination.
Does this suggest that the American people are trying to tell us something? We Americans may be most unhappy with the political leaders we currently have. We may almost be willing to pull the lever for "none of the above."
But we will undoubtedly choose "one of the above." And unless we get pretty serious this year and next year, we stand a terrible chance of seeing President Obama re-elected.
We must remember that the wonderful outpouring of sentiment, including the TEA Party uprising, that was saw last November is no guarantee of a similar electoral wave in 2012.
We face a conundrum: If the Republicans who took the House Majority and strengthened their position greatly in the Senate don't make the economy better, it will turn off millions of Independent voters who were desperate to stop the headlong dash to disaster. But if the economy does pick up, millions of Independents may conclude that Obama is not so bad after all.
Worse, if the GOP gives us another Dole/McCain choice, Obama's prospects will improve mightily. President Bill Clinton was eminently beatable in 1996, but he was never behind one day in any national poll from the moment voters realized the alternative was Dole. If the Republicans put up any of the ho-hummers currently revving their engines, Obama could sail to a second-term win. And that could put us over the brink.
As for Trump, he's now a born-again conservative. Who knew? Might he have helped the team by running for Governor of New York? Or U.S. Senator? Or even Mayor?
Ronald Reagan was forever dismissed by the media as an actor. But he had been willing to do more than test the waters. He jumped right in. California was liberal when Ronald Reagan beat a liberal sitting governor by more than one million votes.
Republicans had good reason to hope that this still-popular ex-governor could carry the Golden State in his race for the White House. We have no such expectation of Donald Trump, in New York, California, or any other big state. He's even willing to show us his birth certificate. That's great, and it'll distract people from asking to see his wife's birth certificate.
It's time to get serious. Let's be the adult party again.
See also: Donald Trump Scores an Important Victory... Over the Media
"Chet Arthur" is a nom de cyber for a former Reagan administration official.