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The GOP cannot become a more inclusive party when it excludes all but extreme candidates.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Political parties prefer to avoid brutal primary fights, reasoning the nominee will be too battered, bruised and broke to compete effectively in the general election. The Republican National Committee recently concluded that is one reason its candidate fared so poorly in the 2012 presidential contest. The primary season was too long, too brutal.
It was interminably long, starting as it did in 2011. But length didn’t handicap Mitt Romney (after all, Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in just as long a battle in 2008). Rather, the substance of the primary campaign, in which even the most bizarre statements by an outlier candidate drew a “me, too” from the others, tarnished Romney and the party.
And that is the problem the GOP can’t seem to face: In order to win the party’s nomination, candidates too often must become true believers of extreme doctrine that frightens the general electorate.
It isn’t necessarily the primary process or even the nominating convention, which Virginia Republicans will use this spring, that repulses voters, but rather the candidates who emerge from a system gamed to anoint the most extreme.
Virginia’s gubernatorial race offers a tutorial, as the state GOP ignores lessons it should have learned from last year’s presidential and senatorial contests. Republicans had planned to select their nominee through a primary. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling was thought to have a fighting chance in a contest against tea party darling Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Bolling would have given the party a more agreeable candidate going into the general election.
However, Cuccinelli’s crew orchestrated a coup of the committee and declared it would instead hold a convention, which marginalizes Republican voters but ensures Cuccinelli the nomination.
Bouyed by such success, word from The Virginian-Pilot is that factions are working now to get rid of primary elections altogether in order to grab greater power in selecting General Assembly nominees and to rid the party of those they consider Republicans in name only. A strategy certain to alienate the party from the very voters it seeks to attract.
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