“Why don’t the political parties ever nominate someone for president that I could get enthusiastic about?” is a question I hear every four years.
The problem is more aggravating in Indiana, since our primary election is so late in the process that we do not often get a say in who the nominee will be.
I first became interested in politics as I watched Dwight Eisenhower’s first run for president. Everything has changed since then. From the Republican perspective — someone more familiar with the Democratic Party can address their concerns — the problem is that there are now so many constituencies within our party that it’s not possible to please them all. Or even a significant number of them.
We need not go back as far as the Whig Party, when we inherited many of its members as it broke up, or the Bull Moose Party that split off under Theodore Roosevelt. That’s because our current divisions began in the 1960s, when the South supported Democrats, and Republicans were dominate in Northeastern states.
Kevin Phillips is credited with inaugurating the “Southern Strategy,” which resulted in Richard Nixon’s 1968 victory when he carried five southern states, thus adding to the list of constituents needed to be pleased.
That alliance, however, alienated constituencies in northeastern states, who began to elect many Democrats.
Also, around that same time, William F. Buckley Jr., who founded the influential magazine, National Review, fused long-time Republican conservatism with some libertarianism and strong anti-communism. This would cause Republicans thereafter to be tough on national defense, and interested in intervening in other countries that crossed us, which is the source of the label, “neoconservative.”
Here are the major constituencies that Republican candidates must try to please:
Economically conservative, socially moderate, economically conservative, socially conservative, Religious values voters, small government, few regulations, neoconservatives
Plus those who combine more than one of these beliefs.
This year, there is a new category of Republicans whose main motivation is to elect someone who can break the current gridlock and who resents politicians who are beholden to those who donate large sums to elect them. The shorthand label for such a candidate is anti-establishment.
However, to change Washington will require more than electing the right president. Congress will remain deadlocked, because Republican members are divided among the different labels set out above, and they are beholden to their large donors.
Is there any way out of this mess? Yes, but it will require major changes that only you and I can make, not just in the presidency but in Congress as well.
Many Congressional members will not vote for any legislation unless they approve of every single provision. So nothing can pass, particularly in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to stop a filibuster. Many Congressmen do this because they are afraid that if they give up any concessions at all, they will be defeated in the primary by a purist, who will claim that we should be able to get our way on 100 percent of the issues.
These are not the principles of Ronald Reagan, who negotiated with liberal Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, with both getting much, but not all, of what they wanted.
So it’s up to us to tell our Congressmen to get the best deal possible and then vote to make it become law.
Whatever you think of Donald Trump, let’s learn a lesson from his book: “The Art of the Deal.” Get the most you can from the other side, and then close the deal by voting it into law.
This will not happen unless we forcefully tell that to our Congressmen.
Ray Richardson is a former state lawmaker who currently serves as Hancock County attorney.
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