The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GOP
by Tom Sullivan
Adrift without their towels.
According to the Washington Post, panic is setting in at the RNC as Donald Trump and Ben Carson continue to top polling in the party's nomination for president. Insiders are flailing, seeing no path to toppling the two they see as a disaster for the party's 2016 prospects. The approach of the holiday season will only accelerate the process, believes former Romney 2012 advisor Eric Fehrnstrom. There's even talk of drafting Romney who appears uninterested:
For months, the GOP professional class assumed Trump and Carson would fizzle with time. Voters would get serious, the thinking went, after seeing the outsiders share a stage with more experienced politicians at the first debate. Or when summer turned to fall, kids went back to school and parents had time to assess the candidates. Or after the second, third or fourth debates, certainly.
And it gets worse:
The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.
“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”
Just. Wow. He'd rather have Hillary than Trump or Carson. Now that is patriotism. That anonymous strategist had better hope his name never leaks.
But South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley put her finger on it:
“You have a lot of people who were told that if we got a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate, then life was gonna be great,” she said in an interview Thursday. “What you’re seeing is that people are angry. Where’s the change? Why aren’t there bills on the president’s desk every day for him to veto? They’re saying, ‘Look, what you said would happen didn’t happen, so we’re going to go with anyone who hasn’t been elected.’ ”
Exactly. Except heads up. A candidate fresh off a campaign tour tells me my Tuesday post captured the mood of voters around the district. Candidates identified with the status quo are out of favor -- Republican and Democrat. Voters believe elected leaders are not listening to them.
Here in North Carolina, incumbents from both major parties fell in last week's municipal elections (emphasis mine):
Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain and two town commissioners were booted from office in this week’s elections because of residents’ anger about the state’s plans to widen Interstate 77 with toll lanes, people on both sides agreed Wednesday.
Incumbent commissioner Danny Phillips, a toll opponent and the top vote-getter in the board race, said he believes the election “was a referendum on the toll issue.”
“The citizens wanted to have their voice heard, and they did it through the ballot box,” Phillips said. The incumbents who lost “got complacent and weren’t really listening to the citizens.”
I wrote about that issue here and here. Incumbent Republicans and Democrats lost.
Chapel Hill's three-term Democratic mayor lost to another Democrat in "a wave of local discontent" centered on overdevelopment (emphasis mine):
A former water resources manager for the state government and longtime citizen of Chapel Hill, the 74-year-old said, “We felt ignored by Mayor Kleinschmidt and the Town Council. It was a gradual turning to CHALT, and eventually people began saying that we need new people.”
Here in Asheville's city council race (where the sitting council is all Democrat), in a field of 5 Democrats and one Dem-leaning Unaffiliated candidate, the one Democratic incumbent lost his seat. Overdevelopment was also an issue. The surprise winner? An inexperienced novice, the Unaffiliated Brian Haynes. It didn't hurt that his brother is Warren Haynes, but the mood is the same even here in the lefty Cesspool of Sin. The mood is not just anti-incumbent, it's anti-establishment. Voters are saying, "Can you hear us now?"
Here's the thing. For years we have wondered when the GOP's base would figure out they are being screwed by the very people for whom they so religiously vote? They seem to have figured it out. But that does not necessarily mean they will turn to saner alternatives. Nor does it mean, that experienced Democratic candidates will benefit. As Independent Bernie Sanders shows surprising staying power in the race for the Democratic nomination, will Hillary Clinton's experience work for her or against her in 2016?
It may take more than a Hitchhiker's Guide to sort that out.