LEPPERT: Character would naturally have culled field

March 12, 2016

DEBATE QShould the Republican presidential field have consolidated earlier to mount a more serious challenge to Donald Trump?


AConsolidation? No. How could Republicans have done it had they chosen to do so, anyway?

The existing process naturally consolidates the field. Rallying around a candidate who inspires voters is very different from “consolidation.” The absence of that obvious and inspirational candidate or two in the GOP field is a big part of why the phenomenon of Donald Trump has occurred.

A political mentor of mine told me the candidate who makes voters feel better is almost always the one who wins. Presidential winners, and especially in years when there is no incumbent, absolutely fit this descriptive. But what does that mean?

In recent years, the GOP formula has largely been a contest to determine which candidate is the “true” conservative. That, coupled with a consistent oppositional approach to any idea offered by President Obama, has made up the bulk of GOP mantras. For example, the “repeal of Obamacare” coupled with no alternative to replace it is standard fare that is no longer inspirational.

Following this exercise to its logical conclusion leaves us with a field who have campaigned themselves into a corner. And corners are void of creative ideas. The most extreme example of conservatism, just like its polar opposite, will not attract the largest portion of the voting public.

Those who are regrettably referred to as the GOP establishment have been stuck in this groove too long. They are not positioned to effectively accomplish a culling of the field and should avoid trying. Instead, I recommend re-energizing a platform for the party that is pragmatic and attractive to that moderate group of voters who have lost interest in them. One of the major parties will win the middle. Right now it’s not the GOP.

State Rep. Dave Ober, a 28-year-old conservative Republican, said in an interview earlier this week: “I just don’t understand what people see when they look at Donald Trump and when they listen to him, and how they think that is a temperament we want to see in a president.” Ober is worried that his party is being damaged by Trump, as he should be. And the key word in his quote is “temperament.”

I write about it regularly. A candidate with character can take either party’s platform and instill confidence in the electorate. Ronald Reagan would drill this field in a week. And so would Bill Clinton. Not because they were both successful two-term winners, but because they had character that could unite their bases and be inviting and inclusive of that uncommitted middle of the spectrum.

There are two candidates left capable of winning the middle: John Kasich on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Trying to artificially create consolidation won’t re-energize the GOP’s prospects.

Social issues are trending away from the traditional GOP platform. Negatively campaigning against each other is a self-defeating process we are watching in painful detail. And finally, convincing America that our country is awful is a sure-fire way to not be hired to be in charge of it.•


Leppert is a public and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis. He writes at Contrariana.com.Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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