Fighting for the Conservative Minority Vote

People throughout the world are following the US presidential primary campaigns, although the only two candidates’ names many people outside the US are aware of are Trump and Clinton.

Yesterday, thorough the magic of online streaming, I watched a panel discussion on the French TV channel France 24 about the Republican primary. Two of the panelists represented candidates, Trump and Cruz. These two panelists soon began a heated argument with each other about which of their candidates is the true conservative while the remaining panel members and the moderator sat in disbelief.

The argument was bizarre for several reasons. For one, it showed the deep divide within the Republican Party. Secondly, the panelists were using valuable air time to argue about something that most people don’t care about.

According to a Gallup pole, in 2014 38 percent of Americans considered themselves to be conservatives. If I did my arithmetic correctly, that means that 62 percent do not. The two men arguing on TV were repeating the same mistake that cost the Republicans the last two presidential elections: They were arguing about who appeals most to that 38 percent of voters who are too few to elect a president.

Most Americans want a president who uses common sense and can do a good job. They don’t want someone whose thinking is confined by an ideological straightjacket. You would think that after John McCain and Mitt Romney ran as conservatives and lost overwhelmingly, Republicans would have come to the conclusion that running as an ideologue is a losing strategy, but apparently Republican politicians are slow learners. They think that they keep losing the presidency because their candidates are not conservative enough!

Of course, someone may point out that Bernie Sanders is also running as an ideologue, in his case as a liberal, but he is not doing well either. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is another example of the folly of ignoring the electoral mainstream by appealing to an ideological minority.

This country could use a two-party system made up of thoughtful people who were willing to fight for their ideas using logic and were willing to compromise for the benefit of the American people. There is no sign that that is about to happen. As long as conservatives continue to believe that they lose the presidency over and over because their candidates are not conservative enough, the USA will continue to elect Democrats to the presidency.