The Party Can Still Decide

Democratic National Convention Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Delegates listen to a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016 (DNCC/Chris Frommann)

“The party decides” theory — which argues that American party elites exert a strong behind-the-scenes influence on who gets nominated for political office — took a blow in 2016, when Donald Trump won the Republican presidential contest despite strong internal opposition.

One exception doesn’t discredit the whole theory, theory. Seth Masket argues at Mischiefs of Faction that this year’s nominating contests show activists and party leaders are still actively shaping the choices voters will get. Read more “The Party Can Still Decide”

How Did “the” Party Decide on Trump?

Donald Trump’s success in the Republican presidential contest has puzzled those of us who believe “the party decides.”

For the uninitiated: In 2008, four political scientists argued in The Party Decides that it is “the” party, broadly understood as a network of elected, local and state officials, donors, insiders and affiliated interest and lobby groups, that collectively decides presidential nominating contests by nudging voters in the right direction.

Or, as The Economist summarizes their argument: “parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.”

The four never argued that voters don’t matter. But their research into past presidential primaries, going back to the reforms of the late 1960s, which gave ordinary voters more power, suggested that the parties had figured out ways to manipulate the nominating process in favor of their preferred candidate.

In the case of Republicans, that typically meant following William F. Buckley’s advice to nominate the most conservative candidate who could win the general election.

Trump is clearly neither.

Most of what we think of as “the” party agreed from the start. Trump was endorsed by few elected officials. Former presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney both argued against him. Republican-friendly publications, like National Review, as well as Republican-affiliated think tanks and lobby groups, from the Cato Institute to the Club for Growth, actively campaigned against Trump. All to no avail.

So did “the” party fail? That’s one theory and there is something to it. Read more “How Did “the” Party Decide on Trump?”

Republican Party Has Every Right to Stop Trump

If Republicans in the United States only manage to stop Donald Trump by making use of arcane nominating rules and convention dealmaking, many would inevitably deride this as an establishment coup against the legitimate frontrunner for the presidential nomination.

There is some truth in this. Trump is, after all, ahead in the delegate count. But the argument rests on a misunderstanding of what political parties are for. Read more “Republican Party Has Every Right to Stop Trump”

The Party Is Deciding: Anyone But Trump

Having underestimated Donald Trump for months, Republicans in the United States are finally taking action to try to stop him from claiming their party’s presidential nomination this summer.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, called Trump, a property tycoon and television personality, a “phony” and a “fraud” on Thursday.

In an unprecedented intervention in the party’s presidential contest, Romney urged voters to back anyone but Trump.

CNN suggests that the speech may be remembered as the moment when the party establishment’s “long-brewing horror over the billionaire businessman burst into open political combat.”

Romney’s concise, categorical takedown of Trump’s intellect, character and motivation amounted to a tipping point in a long-building revolt among Republican elders now openly despairing of the former reality TV star’s grip on the [party’s] nomination and his staunch armies of outsider voters who refuse to abandon their outspoken champion.

With the exception of Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker and Nebraska senator Ben Sasse, most elected Republicans still maintain they would support Trump if he is nominated. But House speaker Paul Ryan, the most powerful Republican in the country, has twice taken umbrage at some of the businessman’s most outlandish proposals, including a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.

“This is not conservatism,” Ryan said in December. Read more “The Party Is Deciding: Anyone But Trump”

Party Makes Contingency Plans for Trump Victory

Republicans in the United States have begun drawing up contingency plans in case businessman Donald Trump continues to rack up support for his presidential campaign, The New York Times reports.

Plans range from challenging the New York mogul at the nominating convention in Cleveland, Ohio this summer to distancing the party from a candidate Trump.

Behind the scenes, the mood is despondent. The newspaper spoke with dozens of donors, elected officials and political strategists whose efforts to save the party from Trump sputtered and stalled at every turn. Now many worry it may be too late. Read more “Party Makes Contingency Plans for Trump Victory”

Clinton Puts Campaign Back on Track in Nevada

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday, besting her socialist rival, Bernie Sanders, with 52 to 48 percent support.

The victory is a relief for Clinton who was widely expected to win the nomination at the start of the contest but suffered losses in the first two voting states.

NBC News reports that Sanders was hoping to use Nevada “to prove himself as a viable candidate in a state with an electorate made up of more minority voters and fewer self-described liberals than the race’s earlier contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

The Vermont senator effectively tied with Clinton in the first voting state and defeated her in the second. Read more “Clinton Puts Campaign Back on Track in Nevada”

Rubio Seen Benefiting Most from Iowa Result

Although he placed third in Iowa, Florida senator Marco Rubio may end up benefiting the most from the first presidential voting contest. The Republican was practically declared the winner by many news media and is now picking up more endorsements.

Rubio’s campaign successfully downplayed expectations before the caucuses with the candidate himself telling reporters that his fellow senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, was surely the frontrunner.

Cruz indeed won, but Rubio nearly bested property tycoon Donald Trump for second place, allowing him — and his many well-wishers in the press — to declare that he had “exceeded expectations” (the ones they themselves had set).

That, in turn, is giving Rubio “momentum” going into the next voting contest: New Hampshire.

It sounds a little silly, but such perceptions do matter. Read more “Rubio Seen Benefiting Most from Iowa Result”

Movement Conservatives Urge Voters to Stop Trump

National Review, one of the most influential conservative publications in the United States, urged right-wing voters on Friday not to support Donald Trump, arguing that the New York businessman is a “philosophically unmoored political opportunist” who would trash the ideological consensus within the Republican Party “in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

With only two weeks to go before Iowa kicks off what could be months-long contest for the Republican presidential nomination, the magazine’s stand against Trump — who is still leading in the polls — could be the start of a concerted effort to stop the real-estate mogul and prevent an all-but-certain defeat in November’s election against the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton.

“This is the time to mobilize,” National Review‘s editor, Rich Lowry, told Politico.

The establishment is AWOL, or even worse, so it’s up to people who really believe in these ideas and principles, for whom they’re not just talking points or positions of convenience, to set out the marker. Read more “Movement Conservatives Urge Voters to Stop Trump”

Three Reasons Sanders Can’t Win

We haven’t paid much attention to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy at the Atlantic Sentinel for the simple reason that we don’t believe the self-declared socialist will win the Democratic nomination — let alone the election in November.

With Sanders rising in the polls in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, though, readers may want to know why that’s the case. Read more “Three Reasons Sanders Can’t Win”

Big Republican Donors Still on the Fence

Some of America’s biggest conservative donors have yet to commit to a Republican presidential candidate this year, NBC News reports, confirming that the nominating contest is still very much in flux.

According to the most recent data available from the Federal Election Commission, three of the top five donors who spent more than $100 million dollars combined in the 2012 election have yet to make up their minds. Only half of the top ten donors have picked a candidate.

NBC cites a fundraiser, Bobbie Kilberg, saying donors — big and small — are on the fence. “People are saying call me the day after New Hampshire.” Read more “Big Republican Donors Still on the Fence”