To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

New Observercast

The Law Of Unintended Consequences



SUSAN ESTRICHThe first rule of “reforming” the system for selecting a presidential nominee is that the best-laid plans lead to unintended consequences.

So it was that the Democrats in the 1980s, stung by repeated losses, decided that the answer was to give Southern states more influence in the process by creating “Super Tuesday.” The idea, pushed by the more conservative Democratic Leadership Council [not-so-affectionately known by the various “identity” caucuses within the party as the “white boys caucus”] was that it would lead to the selection of a more conservative nominee who might actually be able to win some of those states in the fall.

The theory proved to be totally wrong – at least until Bill Clinton ran. The winner of the first Super Tuesday turned out to be the most liberal candidate in the race, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In retrospect, it made perfect sense: Democrat primary voters in Southern states are dominated not by moderate conservatives but by African-Americans. And once Super Tuesday passed, the South was all but done, and the liberal caucuses were as powerful as ever. Oh yes, we lost 49 states that year.

Republicans may face similar problems as a result of their most recent “reforms,” which were supposed to make it easier for a winner to win early, but in this multi-candidate field, may actually help the very kind of candidate – shall we say, the Donald Trump type – that is breeding terror in the hearts of establishment Republicans who are actually determined to win.

By compressing the process and changing the rules apportioning delegates, the Republicans may have created a perfect storm in which candidates don’t drop out fast enough or soon enough to allow any one candidate a clear one-on-one shot at Trump. And without that winnowing of the field, 25% – about as high as Trump has scored, at least in national polls – may well be enough to win or come close.

And even coming close can be bad news. Since 1968, when the Democratic convention in Chicago was overtaken by the rioting outside the hall, and the country watched police unload tear gas on demonstrators, it has become an article of faith that the worst thing for a nominee is a convention that appears to be outside his control.

The Republicans learned that lesson in 1992. That was the convention that Democrats feared would be a nonstop attack on Gov. Bill Clinton’s record on taxing and spending. I was ready with my answers, but they weren’t necessarily persuasive.

To my surprise, and that of the governor himself, the Republicans chose to spend their convention attacking the Democrats not on the economy, but on matters of religion. I kid you not.

The platform committee voted to eliminate references to Abraham Lincoln because his “better angels of our nature” quote was thought to be un-Christian. Pat Robertson’s opening-night speech was nothing less than a call for holy war. It was left to former President Reagan to try to bring the convention back to reality by calling for tolerance. When Ronald Reagan is the most liberal guy on the stage, you know the party is in major trouble.

By Thursday, I had tossed out my weekend column defending the Democratic candidate on tax-and-spend issues and replaced it with a diatribe against the divisive politics that dominated in Houston. I need not mention that Bill Clinton won handily.

Maybe the most telling moment of this political week was Scott Walker’s unusual withdrawal speech [these days, candidates don’t actually withdraw, they “suspend,” which means they are still accepting contributions to pay off expenses], in which he encouraged his fellow candidates to consider moving the process forward by joining him in dropping out.

Hardly the usual speech, but then this is hardly the usual year. And the truth is, Scott Walker is right. And if more candidates don’t follow his advice, sooner rather than later, the new rules that were intended to help Republicans recapture the White House may end up making that task even more difficult than it would have been.

Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer

Facebook Comments

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich
Estrich served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1988, she was the campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential run, even though she had never before managed a political campaign. She was the first female campaign manager of a major presidential campaign, and the first female campaign manager of the modern era. [5] [6] Estrich appears frequently on Fox News as a legal and political analyst, and has also substituted for Alan Colmes on the debate show Hannity & Colmes. She writes regular articles for the conservative website NewsMax, for which she is a pundit.[7] She is also on the Board of Editorial Contributors for USA Today.[8] She is currently a law professor at the University of Southern California Law School and a political science professor at its affiliated undergraduate school. Before joining the USC faculty in 1989, she was Professor of Law at Harvard University, where she was the youngest woman to receive tenure.[9] On January 10, 2008, Estrich joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, a law firm based in Los Angeles, where she chairs their Public Strategy in High Profile Litigation: Media Relations practice area. [10][11] She writes a nationally syndicated print column distributed through Creators Syndicate.
Facebook Comments