I’m sure you’ve been glued to your televisions, computers and smartphones for the last few weeks watching the Republican primary unfold. We lost Cain, Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry for various reasons and we’re down to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul.
Small portions of you are really excited about one of those candidates, past or present. Yet, most of you found, and still find, the group lacking. Maybe they aren’t electable enough or conservative enough or disciplined enough.
It’s an imperfect group battling in a far from perfect nominating system. The GOP is looking to defeat President Obama in November and lead the country back toward a more conservative vision of government, but they’re having trouble finding the right guy.
Romney is too moderate and too robotic. Gingrich is deceitful and erratic. Santorum isn’t tough enough. Paul’s foreign policy doesn’t line up with the majority of the party. None are a lock to unseat the sitting president.
So here’s the question: Why don’t we have better candidates? Why are we left with, at best, the GOP B-team?
You probably won’t like the answer. It’s because of the democratic process embodied in the primary system itself.
A little background is important. The current primary system is only a generation or two old. Before the 1960s, parties picked their nominees at state and national conventions and state legislatures. We the people only started voting for the nominees in the last 50 years or so.
We got better candidates when the party leaders picked our nominees for us. Much better candidates.
We generally look for two things in a nominee — ability to win and ability to be a good president. The first quality is clear, the second is subjective based on your opinion of what a president should be, but the idea is clear — someone who can win and someone who can succeed.
But since we started voting, we’ve done a terrible job picking nominees because the general public doesn’t know what they’re doing. Party leaders became party leaders through their political skills and connections. In other words, they know what they’re doing when it comes to elections.
Sorry to say, but this is where democracy fails. Good candidates don’t run or don’t get chosen when the public is left to decide.
The public focuses on things that don’t matter. First, they obsess over the candidates’ policies, which is the most pointless endeavor in politics. A candidate might have good ideas, but those ideas will never come to fruition because the president doesn’t write laws. President Obama didn’t get the healthcare bill he ran on, but he did get a healthcare law.
Presidents persuade and presidents set the agenda. Arguing about the specific differences in tax plans is silly because no candidate is going to get exactly what they want. This isn’t parliament.
The other main thing voters fail to see is that polarizing candidates get you nowhere in a general election. Voters think someone is electable when it’s very clear they aren’t.
In short, the voters aren’t good at picking candidates because they aren’t looking for the right things. What we need is a return to the smoke-filled backroom. We need party bosses to pick the candidates because they will pick better.
First, they have a record of picking better candidates, which is obvious based on the declining quality of candidates since the primary system took over. Second, it’s impossible for candidates to run away from the nomination when they are chosen instead of having to run for it.
Instead of Romney, Gingrich or Santorum, we’d get Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal or Jeb Bush – all of whom would make superior candidates because they wouldn’t be able to turn down the nomination.
This might not jive with the current thread that we need more democracy instead of less, but I promise you party elders are more capable of picking quality candidates than the general public.
Why? Because they are experts and experts got where they are for a reason. We shouldn’t discard “the establishment” or the “elite.” Those groups are the people who actually know what they’re doing. The public, as much as we like to praise them, are pretty bad when it comes to presidential politics.
Don’t believe me? Look around. Our best men don’t run for president because of the public’s reign of terror. If we keep voting, our days of being led by Lincoln, FDR and Washington are done.
The Constitution gives us the power to elect the president through the Electoral College, but it doesn’t give us the power to pick the candidates and it shouldn’t. Let’s turn the nomination over to the parties and stop pretending like we’re all experts on electoral politics.