Monday, February 20, 2012

The Myth and Disaster of a Brokered GOP Convention

David Frum takes on the myth of a "brokered convention" this summer when the GOP gathers in Tampa.  He does a good job of explaining how the rise of the primary/caucus system and the demise of the party bosses have made such a myth less and less of a reality and if it did happen, it might spell doom for the party.

1) Imagine that Romney falls just slightly short of the 1144 needed to nominate.
In this scenario, an individual party chairman from a smaller state with more old-fashioned rules might be lured to find some way to redirect his state's votes to Romney. That is what happened in 1976, when Gerald Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan by gaining the last-minute support of the Mississippi state delegation; that's the most recent occasion when a convention chose a nominee.
The problem is that there are many fewer such old-fashioned states today than there were in 1976, with the result that the price such "available" states might be able to exact will be considerably higher than it was back then.

Ford only needed to replace his vice presidential candidate, dumping Nelson Rockefeller, anathema to party conservatives, in favor of Bob Dole, then a conservative hero.

But what price would be exacted from Romney? And what effect would that have on the election? Romney badly needs to pivot back to the center for the general election. Would a convention-season deal to get the votes of strongly conservative delegates veto that pivot and doom his hopes?
 Frum's piece also reminds us that a party that had smoke-filled rooms was a party that had more control and was also a place where moderates could thrive.  What had weakened the power of moderates is not simply some kind of "kidnapping" by the far right as much as how American political parties have been transformed over the last half century.