GOP Giving Away 2016?
August 19, 2015
Below is an article entitled, “Did the Republicans just give away the 2016 election by raising birthright citizenship?” This opinion piece was in the NY Times, dated August 18, 2015. The author proceeds to analyze how much of the Hispanic vote would be necessary for the Republicans to win the presidency in 2016 and concludes that this will be nearly impossible to achieve and that by arguing that part of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution should be repealed, the Republicans have not helped themselves.
Now, this is an interesting article and argument and the author has done an impressive amount of work regarding Hispanics and their participation rates in previous presidential elections. However, what I would like to focus on, briefly, is the implied message that giving away a presidential election is something quite unusual and would only be done by any political party mistakenly.
This is one of most cherished pieces of the conventional wisdom surrounding the American political arena, viz., that political parties are committed to winning each and every election. But while it is cherished, it is also untrue. There are several elections, even presidential elections, that may be said to have been deliberately lost, beginning with the 1996 election in which Bob Dole ran against Bill Clinton and during which the Republicans or at least many of them did little to help Dole win. I would also argue that the Republican Party also deliberately conceded the election of 1964, following JFK’s assassination, when it nominated Barry Goldwater for the presidency. And I would also argue that LBJ was quite content that Richard Nixon bested Hubert Humphrey in the election of 1968.
What lies behind such arguments that makes them seem less weird than they otherwise would is the fact that any political party, like any political organization, has an “establishment” within it and that, at times, this “establishment” looks to protect itself from those who may be called “insurgents” seeking to overthrow them. Further, at times the best way to do this is to lose an election because winning it would result in a new “establishment” taking control of the party.
So why would the Republican Party, i.e., the current “establishment” within the Republican Party, think it wise to lose in 2016? Perhaps because the “insurgents” in that party, represented by the likes of Scott Walker, Rand Paul, and now Donald Trump, if successful in gaining the presidency, would displace Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner in positions of leadership and, thereby, take over the Republican Party. From this viewpoint, the best result for the current Republican “establishment” would be to allow one of these “insurgents” to be nominated, lose to Hillary Clinton or another Democrat, and thereby preserve their control of the Republican Party. And after the loss, these “establishment” types could then argue: “See, Americans don’t like extreme politicians or extreme policy positions like those advocated by Trump, Walker, or Rand.”
And in this way, that is, by throwing the election to the Democrats, the Republicans help to preserve the status quo in terms of both domestic and foreign policy, as well as their own power and status. Sure, they are the ”minority party” but they still have their power and perks within the Republican Party and they can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they have helped preserve the status quo in the nation. They remain empowered patriots.