Monday, April 20, 2015
The Republican-Democrat Primary Body Switch
[Editor's Note: the following is the result of my unhealthy interest in the presidential election. It is a sick sad addiction, but please don't judge me for it.]
Remember that spate of body switch movies in the 1980s, where a younger person would switch bodies with an older one (usually a parent)? Recent political events have brought about a real life equivalent between the Republicans and Democrats, who seem to have switched their approaches to party primaries. As long as I can remember, Democrats have tended to have big, fractious primary battles where the candidates tear each other to shreds and unconventional nominees can emerge a la Carter, Bill Clinton, and Obama. Just as often, the party ends up in a state of chaotic disarray. On the other hand, the Republicans have come into the primary with a chosen front-runner, someone who who has waited long enough for it to be "his turn." Both Bushes, Dole, Romney, and McCain all came into the nomination battle expecting to win, and they did despite the gnashing of wingnut teeth.
In 2016, it's quite the opposite. Hilary Clinton looks practically uncontested at this point for the Democrats, something I have never seen for that party when they don't have an incumbent president. The Republicans have a massive number of hopefuls, but unlike in years past, there is no clear favorite. There is an attempt by the party leaders to bestow that status on Jeb Bush, but it doesn't look like it's sticking.
On the surface this may look like an advantage for the Democrats, but I'm not so sure. A more contentious GOP primary means more media attention, which also means that Republican issues will get more public airing. There's a good chance that those issues will then dominate the general election, just as they did in 2012 when the Dems didn't have a primary. While Clinton is tested, the eventually Republican nominee will already be in high fighting shape for the general election. (Remember how both Dubya and Obama got rocked back on their heels in their first presidential debates as incumbents?)
This also gives the Republicans a chance to deviate from their unsuccessful pattern of nominating an established candidate without the ability to attract undecided voters. A trial by fire just might bring out the political best in one of the candidates. Basically, Democrats best not get too cocky. Pride goeth before the fall.