Republicans all across America like to think of their coalition as the “party of Ronald Reagan,” but have you noticed how frequently the party nominates somebody who opposed Ronald Reagan in 1980?Since Reagan’s last nomination in 1984 the GOP has nominated four men to lead the Republican party into the presidential battle. Three of them were aligned against Reagan in the 1980 presidential nomination and the other was . . . John McCain.
Once again, the GOP appears set to nominate such a candidate. Mitt Romney strikes me as a very capable and competent person, possessing many qualities needed in a good president and most definitely superior to the current one, but he is not a Reagan conservative.
So, here’s the question of the day: why can’t the party of Reagan ever seem to nominate a Reaganite?
My answer: because conservative Republicans are not actually in control of their own party. Though they are its animating force – they give it policy ideas to implement, they turn out regularly to support the party in good times and bad, they advocate the party and its ideology to their friends, neighbors, and relatives – they are not in charge, and have not been since the 1970s (arguably the 1920s, but that’s another story altogether).
The lefty do-gooders who spearheaded the reforms of the 1970s thought that they were saving the parties from the machine hacks, but in fact they threw out the baby with the bathwater. They effectively destroyed the party at the grassroots level, and handed the nominating power over to candidates, strategists, donors, the news media, and ill informed voters who dominate the primaries. The biggest losers in this scheme were the kinds of committed citizens who took the time to participate in local party affairs, and on the GOP side that inevitably meant the conservatives.