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Op-Ed: Are GOP candidates shooting themselves in the foot?

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“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” – John F. Kennedy

For those of us who follow California politics, it is impossible for anyone to predict what the progressive gem of the west will do next. For years, they had a blue majority in the legislature, but had the wisdom to elect Republican governors to watch over them. By 2003, California had moved too far left to move back and they elected progressive Gray Davis as their governor. Losing “Big Brother” to watch over their progressive legislature would result in the demise of Davis’ career.

In his first term (1999-2003), Davis had developed a reputation as a micro-manager, obsessed with fund raising. The legislature rebelled when he claimed they should “implement his vision” for the state. An influx of revenue and capital gains allowed Davis and the Democratic legislature to fund education reforms, new infrastructure, increase welfare spending, and cut the vehicle license fee.

When California’s dot.com bubble burst and state revenues declined, dropping 17%, Davis started raising taxes higher than Ben Franklin flew his notorious kite. And that would become his Waterloo.

In early 2003, anti-tax activist Ted Costa started the recall of Davis. His grounds for the recall were gross mismanagement of California finances, overspending taxpayers’ money, threatening public safety by cutting funds to local governments, and failing to account for exorbitant spending sprees.

All I can tell you is, “We’re not going to take this sitting down. We are fighting back.” – Gray Davis

The recall election mimicked one held in a banana republic. Over 135 people qualified to run. It was a mix of politicians, publicity-seekers and those who wanted to see their names on the ballot. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a stripper, convicts, Gary Coleman, Green Party’s Peter Camejo, porn mogul Larry Flynt, and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth made the list – 54.6% of voters recalled Davis and 48.5% elected Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In banana republics with a dozen candidates running, rarely does anyone get over 35% of the vote and none have a mandate. In the U.S., voters have a choice between two major-party nominees. It has been proven third party entrants and a crowed field in the primaries confuses voters and exposes their frailties. This gives the opposing party many new castigations to add to their encyclopedia of insults and failures to discredit the other party’s nominees. This is gratuitous self destruction for the GOP.

It has been a long-standing tradition that the Democratic Party has already picked their candidate for the next election and has primped him or her in front of American voters for four years. The left has the ability to drop their differences and support a candidate until after the election. What little debate they simply have is a dog and pony show for the liberal media to sell their leadership plans.

On the other hand, the GOP has been shooting themselves in both feet for decades. In some of the debates, there are so many candidates they can’t fit them all on stage. This year, a total of 17 prospective presidential candidates announced they were running on the GOP ticket.

With Donald Trump holding a commanding lead over Biden and all challengers, this is overkill.

Although the flock of candidates is thinning, a lot of damage has been done to the GOP brand by their own party. Although Trump is the favorite, all other candidates have been criticizing him for his successes and looking under every rock to find his faults and reiterate them on national TV.

Each election, every candidate is sitting there with their advisers, slicing and dicing the electorate, and trying to find a potential path as the parties’ nominee. In recent years, it has become commonplace for GOP candidates to try and convince voters they are the most conservative candidate running. Yet polls show that more people are registering as independents, not as Republicans.

Tony Fratto, a Washington consultant who worked for President George W. Bush, says there’s far more than delusions motivating candidates today. There are all sorts of incentives to run for office that have nothing to do with actually being president. Fratto says, “You have the opportunity to become a personality and TV star in a short period of time on the national stage.” – Tony Fratto

It is becoming more apparent that some of the GOP candidates are running to get their ideas in the mix even if their candidacies face long odds. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that loosened fundraising rules, all you need is a few wealthy people and you can be a candidate. They may not have the money to finish the race, but they deride the others, which makes headlines.

On the other hand, like Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump proved to blue collar America that he was their candidate. He didn’t care about star power; he just wanted to serve the people. He did a stellar job during the debates, which impressed the middle class. They liked his simple message to make “America Great Again.” He won with many in his own party refusing to support his agenda.

Over the last three months, Trump has moved from plurality to outright majority support from the Republican electorate in the polls. Far from damaging his candidacy, his many indictments have encouraged more Republican voters to rally to his side. And, for those hoping he loses, the sheer size of the GOP field will make it difficult for anyone to court most non-Trump voters. Like Trump or not, he is the mot popular candidate running. Will non-Trumpers vote for a Democrat after Biden?

As usual, it looks like many mundane losses for the GOP next election due to the crowd of would-be candidates bashing the party leader on national TV. They will double down on pejoratives about Donald Trump to Republicans and independents. The left will use them too and take the brass ring.

Democrats are shrewd and cagey and have experienced a great deal of success in keeping the field of candidates to a minimum. They have some back ups “running just in case,” such as with Bernie Sanders. When they saw him knocking down primary wins across the U.S., they yanked Joe Biden out of hiding to ensure that left of center moderates and the independents voted for a Democrat.

There will always be political in-fighting, but the left knows when to cool it. They unite their special interest groups before the election; minimize party divide, and sell their candidates to voters. After the election, they put back on their boxing gloves and continue jousting with other party members.

As bad a job as Biden has done in three years, there’s a good chance he’ll win by default since the GOP is not supporting one major candidate. For America’s sake, let’s hope the GOP can get their act together and do what is best for America.

“If you are president, you must use that power to help people. For we are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.” – George W. Bush

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