Escape from the plantation
Four years and one week ago, I wrote an article titled "Welcome to the Plantation." When it was written, Mitt Romney was leading in the polls, Herman Cain was finished, and Newt Gingrich was under attack. Conservatives were desperately looking for someone to stop the candidate who they felt was forced down their throats by a party elite who knew what was good for us. We were fed the usual lines of “he can win because he is moderate enough to get the independents” and were expected to hold our noses at the polls because if we didn’t, by golly, we would get another four years of Obama.
Fast-forward to today, and the Republican Party is fighting the last war again, this time losing badly. The game plan of using money to choke off rivals and ensure that their chosen candidate wins the nomination has been turned on its head. Their strategy of letting conservatives fight among themselves while the adults in the room feed us a candidate who will get the hallowed independents has finally been shown to be a failed battle plan.
While elections may be nothing more than a parlor game to many in the political and donor industry, since even in defeat they lose nothing, those on the Republican side have increasingly lost touch with the voters – always promising more liberal, big-government policies to earn the vote of independents while not realizing that today’s independents are not the same as the ones of the not so distant past. Increasingly, independents are former Republicans who left the party exactly because of this.
Red meat in the primaries and pivoting to the center was the traditional way to win elections. In the last two, however, we have been fed tofu and arugula and told it was what we craved. This time Jeb’s camp didn’t even care to do that. By pursuing the middle and forsaking the base to chase those few swing states, he was sure he would win parlor bragging rights. And if he didn’t, so what? The Bushes and the Clintons would sit around and have a good laugh regardless of the outcome. After all, according to them, they are family.
Trump’s candidacy has upset more than the apple cart. He threatens the entire industry. Candidates use donor money to buy publicity from the media. Trump uses the media’s money to buy publicity. Parties use doctrinaire issues to energize their base. Trump’s issues resonate across parties. Both parties are terrified that you are not paying attention to what they want you to think is important. Issues that they use to divide America. Issues that they use to remain in power. They want you to fight over things that do not directly affect you, rather than who is taking your job, money, or even life. The pundit class make their living off of this and will defend it mercilessly.
While many of us are content to remain on the plantation debating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin while flinging poo at each other, some of us see that the gate has been left unlocked. In fact, it may have never been locked. Are we willing to think outside the fence? Will we realize that red team or blue team means nothing compared to the American team? That remains to be seen. Experiencing “so many wins that you’ll get tired of them” may sound as likely as winning the lottery, but after all, you can’t win if you don’t play.
Ebben Raves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.