Should political parties be able to reject candidates?
posted at 9:21 pm on March 2, 2016 by Taylor Millard
Party bosses are certainly becoming all the rage, especially with the chaos on the GOP side and the rise of Donald Trump. National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson believes national political parties should be able to toss candidates off ballots, and blames open primaries for why it doesn’t happen.
It was democracy that did the parties in, of course. One of the harebrained progressive reforms foisted upon our republic is the so-called open primary, which amounts to something close to the abolition of political parties as such. If anybody can vote in the Republican primary — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, independent, etc. — then membership in the party does not mean very much, and, hence, the party itself does not mean very much. Instead of two main political parties, we have two available channels for the communication of populist spite; the parties themselves are mere conveniences for political entrepreneurs and demagogues. Trump might as easily have run as a Democrat — he is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, and he raves about the wonderful things the butchers at Planned Parenthood do — but the opening was more attractive on the R side.
I happen to be a fan of open primaries, mainly because I don’t like getting mail from political parties. Maybe that’s petty on my part, but it made sense when Tom Clancy wrote it in one of his Jack Ryan books. But Williamson does make sense because he believes open primaries have actually made it easier for demagogues to slip into the parties without being ostracized into their own little group. Williamson also believes political party bosses should have more power, especially because political parties are a private organization.
The political parties are not public agencies. We have constitutional guarantees of freedom of association, and the parties ought to be able to simply reject a candidate. They might not be able to simply select a nominee, but they could exercise, with complete propriety, a veto power. Under such a system, Trump would be free to run for president in any manner he saw fit, but not under the Republican banner, unless the Republican party itself consented. As it stands, the parties supply enormous quantities of infrastructure that can be hijacked by practically anybody, including a batty real-estate heir with a seven-word vocabulary who doesn’t know how a bill becomes a law.
Williamson is calling for a return of pre-1968 politics, when the party delegates were mostly the ones who selected candidates versus what we see now with proportional primaries and winner-take-all primaries. The blame actually goes to the Democrats for setting up the national primary system because Hubert Humphrey beat out Eugene McCarthy in 1968, even though McCarthy was the more popular candidate. This caused Democrats to form the McGovern-Fraser Commission which successfully lobbied Democrat-controlled state legislatures to change election laws into what they are today. This is a little ironic, given how the Democratic Party is essentially controlled by “superdelegates” (thanks to the Hunt Commission), but it does show how the democracy can end up causing the mob to run amok and let demagogues in.
This is why Trump is the current “front runner” for the GOP nomination. It is the mob run amok (as I wrote earlier), but it’s also what happens when the elites don’t listen to the base. Matt Welch at Reason believes the elites are afraid of the voters they flock to every election cycle because they have no interest in actually being the limited government, free markets, freedom party they claim to be. This is why the GOP is in even more trouble because there are parts of “the base” which want to see the GOP burn and damn the consequences. It’s democracy in action.
But it’s also important to remember the country was not founded as a democracy, even if it’s now one (thanks 17th Amendment). Williamson makes it abundantly clear how the Founding Fathers believed it was “The Creator” (God, Odin, Zeus, Flying Spaghetti Monster) who gave men rights, not the government.
And unalienable means unalienable: by one man, by a dozen men, by a million, by a majority, by a supermajority, by a unanimous vote. This arrangement constituted, at the time, a rather extreme expression of ideological liberalism, which was foisted upon the people by — oh, pardon me for noticing! — the elites. Mr. Jefferson’s hifalutin francophilia and Mr. Madison’s Princeton-cultivated dread of popular passions shaped our founding documents, not the earthy wisdom of the Pennsylvania farmer, however hard-worn.
Williamson thinks this is why political parties should be able to remove candidates who claim to be things they aren’t because it can protect the party and the country. That’s not going to happen until election law gets changed, and I’m not sure you’ll see the RNC try to pressure state governments to do so. Which then raises the question: what about “the base” the GOP elite are so afraid of? Should they form their own party or try to keep rebelling against The Powers That Be? Felicia Cravens at Free Radical Network presents a third alternative by suggesting “infiltrating, influencing, and strategizing” is the way to go to beat back the Establishment. This means getting conservatives, conservatarians, and libertarians into lower (and local) party positions, and slowly take over. It’s playing the long game, and trying to change the system without being corrupted by it. It can work but it’s important to remember this is war. There are going to be multiple victories, multiple losses, and the occasional tie. So yes, the GOP should be allowed to toss out candidates which don’t espouse party beliefs. If people want to get the elites out, it should be via infiltration and influence, not rampant destruction.