Days of Change

Personality Over Party | September 28, 2016

Pop Quiz: What Party did Ross Perot run under? Also, which party’s presidential primary did Donald Trump fail to win? Hint: the answer to both questions is the same.

The Reform Party was essentially created for Ross Perot to run for president in 1992. Perot ran again in 1996, to much less fanfare. By 1999, just about anyone was running for Reform Party president, including Trump, who dropped out early, and Pat Buchanan, who won and was blamed for being too close to Al Gore in Florida ballots in 2000.

In 1980, Reagan’s iconoclastic campaign bothered some of the Rockefeller wing of the GOP and John Anderson ran as a result. In some ways, it’s been a long time since a candidate came out of nowhere. Donald Trump already tried the third party route and failed, so he planned a hostile takeover of an existing party.

I’ve already written about how Trump has captured the imagination of the fringes of the Republican Party.Over the last few elections, the party leadership has worked against overly conservative, fiscally responsible Republicans. The reason it worked is that those candidates¬†were selling the wrong thing. A large part of the people voting in Republican primaries wanted a return to the Reagan era where you could be in a union and still vote for a Republican and stupid things like gender identity and police hatred were decidedly at bay.

The last Republican to win the presidency was George W. Bush. He was the son of a president, from a prominent political family and was the governor of Texas. In 2000, establishment candidates like John Kasich and Dan Quayle didn’t even make tit o the primaries. It became a contest between John McCain and Bush. Bush played dirty, but mostly behind the scenes. He also ran as a sort of average guy you’d like to have a beer with. He admitted he wasn’t perfect and that faith (and his marriage) turned his life around.

Bush had the pedigree to satisfy the establishment, the life story to satisfy the evangelicals and a message that made him palatable to independents. He promoted “compassionate conservatism” which ultimately meant more government money. He let Republicans down, but they were comparing him to the legend of Ronald Reagan.

The problem with Donald Trump is that he is unique, and unique does not a party make. When this election is over, about 90% of Congress will stay the same. Only a fraction of the Republicans need to join with Democrats to stop Donald Trump’s undefined agenda. Executive Orders can be overridden. I expect he will align closely to the GOP agenda and people will start to miss George W. Bush again.

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