Insanity Defined: Why the Interminable GOP Primary Season is a Win for the Left

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On February 24, 2012, writer Cameron Joseph of The Hill wrote a blog post entitled, Long, Damaging Presidential Primary Has GOP Considering Changes to Its Rules. In it, he quotes John Ryder, an RNC committeeman from Tennessee, who commented on the untenable primary process for the Republican party: “People do have concerns this has gone on longer than they would like and cost more money than they would like and created more thunder and lightning than they would like.”

In the same article, Joseph includes a statement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, not a candidate in 2012, but surely with his eyes toward the future. Christie observed with his unique combination of aggressive condescension, “This was the dumbest idea anybody ever had…You’re running against an incumbent president who will not have a primary, so your idea is make ours longer so we can beat each other up longer?”

In response to the belief of some GOP strategists that the endless primary season of 2012 was a major drag on Mitt Romney’s chances for presidential success, the Republican National Committee voted to schedule the 2016 nominating convention much earlier. This time, the fun occurs in late June of next year as opposed to the end of August.

My argument this week: we may yet be eight months from the Iowa causes, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The experience of the 2016 voter is already a battered one, abused by the rhetorical swill of 14 official candidates representing the Grand Old Party. And if that’s the case, Republican efforts to bump up the convention are a moot point – which makes it another great election cycle to sit on the left.

Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly (to some) robust challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is wrought with suspense and tension, but seems rather unlikely to prove an embarrassment to the nation, the party or the candidates themselves. As our own Rmuse put it in an ironic June 3 headline, According To Polls Most Americans Are Socialists Like Bernie Sanders. Although Sanders and Clinton certainly have differences on a variety of issues, there’s no doubt that the politicians’ views are more mainstream than anyone calling themselves a contender on the right. To date, neither Bernie nor Hillary has referred to the immigrant population as a nest of rapists and murderers. So there’s that.

Beyond the sheer length of time the Republicans are affording themselves to proudly wave their ignorance like a parade flag, the party seems to have failed to learn other lessons from 2012 as well.

On March 18, 2013, Benjy Sarlin of TPM wrote 6 Big Takeaways From The RNC’s Incredible 2012 Autopsy. The column, a condensed review of the much-ballyhooed report examining the underlying causes of the Romney shellacking, offered a half dozen important recommendations the party must make actionable if they are to compete in 2016:

  1. Pass Immigration Reform Yesterday 
  2. Listen To Minorities
  3. Gays Aren’t Going Away
  4. Epistemic Closure Is Real
  5. Look To The States
  6. Stop Being The Rich Guys

Ummm…..nope. The Republican candidates of today aren’t listening to any of that noise. Jeb Bush is the only one who will have a serious conversation about immigration policy. Donald Trump and his biggest fan Ted Cruz are driving away the Latino vote in droves. Bobby Jindal has offered legal representation to government employees who’d rather not recognize marriage equality as the law of the land. Mike Huckabee’s talking points are the product of total ideological isolation. And only Marco Rubio suffers the indignity of being left out of the millionaires’ club.

It’s a hilariously perverse state of affairs. It’s one thing to reject every word that comes out of President Obama’s mouth as the crazy talk of a Kenyan, Islamic socialist who hates American and freedom. It’s quite another to reject the wise counsel of your own team, opting instead to adopt the same tactics that failed before, yet expecting different results. It is, as the title of this column alludes, the very definition of insanity.

Evaluating the sideshow that is once again the Republican primary slug fest, Democratic leader Hillary Clinton has wisely adopted a less-is-more approach to media engagement. This is clearly an privilege afforded to the defense. But even the formidable offense of Bernie Sanders is fact-based, articulate, human, populist and devoid of ad hominem attacks. A few of the reasons that he’s enjoying huge crowds and gaining momentum instead of disgusting the country in a mostly bipartisan way. Go figure.

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