The list of Republicans who looked at Iowa’s daunting demographics and did not run is more distinguished than those who did. At one time or another, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (who was forced to drop out) were front-runners. Can you think of any two people less qualified for the presidency? How about Ron Paul, another front-runner, or Mad Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry, the cement-mouthed governor who would eliminate three Cabinet offices, if only he could remember them? How about Rick Santorum, a fun guy, who actually beat Romney in Iowa, or Jon Huntsman, a decent man with shallow political experience — and, it seemed, aptitude?
None of these candidates were remotely qualified for the highest office in the land. Arguably, Romney was the exception — and that’s the whole point. He won just by showing up. He beat a bunch of nobodies. This is how the GOP wound up with such a weak candidate, one who espouses extreme positions he does not for a moment believe.
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Contrast the candidates of yore with the collection that took the field this year. The Republican Party has had a brain drain so that now its highest intellectual achievement is — like an infant in the Terrible 2s— simply to say no to everything, especially taxes. To paraphrase Marx, rise up, GOP moderates. You have nothing to lose ... but losing.
He goes on for quite a bit about the whole Iowa thing, as if the positions taken by the Republicans there are somehow out of step with the party as a whole, or bothering to note that the Democrats have to run the same early gauntlet and still seem to produce decent candidates, or that it never seemed to hurt those Republican candidates of yore. (Perhaps my favourite part is his call for GOP moderates to rise up at the end, while earlier degrading the only moderate GOP candidate, and resultantly no-hoper, of the primary season, John Huntsman.) He’s identified the symptom, but misdiagnosed the issue that led to it.
It has nothing to do with the make-up of the Iowa primary electorate. Hell, Romney lost Iowa, and pretty much every other state in the union that is virtually guaranteed to vote for him this fall because of their sizable and loyal Republican voting blocks. Iowa is if anything, more moderate than most of those states in the old Confederacy that makes up the core of the Republican Party these days. The Iowa caucus goers are the Republican Party these days, and no amount of jiggering with the primary schedule is going to change that.
Brain drain implies the intellectuals are leaving for greener pastures, which is true, but misses an important part of the reason why other pastures are looking so much greener these days.
Intellectuals have not so much been leaving the Republican Party as much as they’ve been driven out by the increasingly rabid anti-intellectualism that infests the social conservatives that are the true base of the Republican Party. As Rick Santorum said recently, the smart people aren’t on their side, and for the most part, the base is quite happy with that. It is a lot harder for true intellectuals to ignore the evidence for Climate Change, sign on to an incoherent and practically impossible Ryan budget plan, ignore sound economic principles during a recession, believe outright lies regarding welfare work rules, or swallow whole whatever nutty conspiracy theory the Limbaugh’s and Beck’s of the movement have dreamed up. And if you fail to do all of the above, well, you’re a RINO at best and must be kicked out of the party.
The “brain drain” is not the result of the primary system, but of the primary voters, who are looking for fellow true believers to vote for. So long as that remains the case, no moderates or intellectuals need apply.