Yes, I know that the general election is still 3 1/2 months away. As I write this, only one of the two parties has formally nominated their candidate. No general election polls are even remotely reliable at this point. A lot can and will happen between now and when we actually vote.
But, as often happens after an election, the losing party looks at why they lost, and makes recommendations for what must be done to improve their chances next time.
Whatever else is true, the Republican Party didn’t listen to the recommendations of the 2012 postmortem. They performed horribly with women and minorities and the recommendation was to do outreach to both groups. And then they nominated a racist and sexist candidate this year who makes the 2012 nominee look reasonable to women and minirities.
But this year, I think both parties would do well to examine the campaign seasons and recommend changes for 2020, without regard to the victor.
Let me start with the republicans. All of the 2012 recommendations apply for this time around too.
One of the big problems they faced this year — which enabled Donald Trump to win as many state primaries and caucuses as he did — was the sheer number of candidates seeking the nomination. At various points in time, the evangelical vote was split amongst multiple candidates (usually Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, and/or Rick Santorum). If it had only been one person, Trump would have had less of a chance of besting them all.
Seventeen candidates is just too many people. Yes, five of them dropped out before the Iowa caucuses (Perry, Walker, Jindal, Graham, and Pataki) but that still leaves twelve others. I previously compared 2016 to 1988 based upon the sheer number of candidates of the party not in the White House. A large pool makes the candidate who merely receives a plurality of votes the victor, and leaves him or her vulnerable later on. I don’t know the magic number of candidates for a party, but it surely must be in the single digits. And, interestingly, this didn’t give anyone the chance to vet the candidates properly. Too many of Trump’s skeletons have come to light since he clinched the nomination.
I imagine that the bigwigs of the Republican Party might also think that the idea of superdelegates as used by the Democratic Party is pretty appealing. If the GOP’s rules had been the same as the Dems’, the candidate would have been decided at the convention. The ones who wish Trump weren’t their candidate must be wishing they were dealing with the problems faced by the DNC right now.
Which brings me to the democrats. Let me state for the record that I think the general idea of superdelegates is a good one, although there’s room for debate about the correct number relative to the total delegate count. The idea of superdelegates came about after 1968 and the chaos of the democratic convention in Chicago that year. By design it shifted some responsibility of choosing the nominee away from the voters and more to the party itself.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been in congress for over a decade representing districts in Florida and by all accounts, is a good hardworking representative. And she’s a great example of the “Peter principle”, which holds that people will rise to the level of their incompetence. She was out of her league running the DNC and anyone who argues otherwise, hasn’t been paying attention. The circumstances that led to her departure never should have happened, period. If Obama, who really wanted to campaign on behalf of the democratic nominee, stayed out of it until Clinton clinched the nomination, Mrs Wasserman Schultz should have done the same.
Some ideas for both parties:
Get rid of “open primaries”, where people not registered as a member of a given party can still vote for that party’s candidate. We can never know how many partisans for the other party voted for either Trump or Sanders because they wanted to sabotage the other party.
Level out the timing of the primaries. Why spread it out over such a long period of time?
While we’re at it, disallow campaigning too long before the primaries begin. (Open for discussion, the definition of “too long”.) Someone who joined the race as late as Bill Clinton did in 1992 wouldn’t stand a chance any more. Ted Cruz is already running for the 2020 nomination. Does it need to last this long?
And maybe some day, we can do away with the parties entirely. I’d rather see a national primary with a larger field of candidates (from all parties), and then the top two vote getters (without regard to party affiliation) face off in November.