Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Madison in the Nomination Process

Via Memeorandum.

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics takes a look at the Madisonian nature of the Republican nomination, and discusses how he thinks it works to McCain's disadvantage. Certainly he is correct that the process contains many safeguards against dominance by one minority faction of the party.

The biggest problem with Cost's argument is that it fails to recognize the Republican establishment as a faction unto itself. This faction is the sole faction that is vocally opposing McCain; while establishment conservatives vary on their choice of pet issues, they generally insist upon party orthodoxy on all issues. The various other factions within the party, however, do not insist upon party orthodoxy, because they are themselves not adherents to such orthodoxy. In fact, McCain's approval ratings within the party are extremely high - it would seem that his fierce opposition comes exclusively from the establishment faction of the party.

It is true that the GOP nomination process is probably more Madisonian than the Dem nomination process, with its myriad "Superdelegates." However, the GOP establishment still exercises a sizable amount of control over the process. The big problem for the party establishment this year, however, is that its influence within the party has waned considerably over the past several years thanks to the various failures of the Bush Administration, scandals in Congress, and its increasingly incoherent ideology. In this sense, the party's nomination process is far more Madisonian this year than it was in the past.

In 2000, for instance, McCain was stopped early on because the party establishment was extremely powerful and its influence on constituent groups was at its nadir. This year, however, the party establishment is left primarily with only its (un-Madisonian) procedural powers. McCain will be able to overcome these powers so long as he can build a solid coalition of support to get himself a majority.

Given that the party establishment has effectively endorsed the two candidates most despised by the other GOP factions, and given that McCain appears surprisingly popular amongst all of those factions, it is difficult to see how the establishment candidate (presumably Romney) will be able to cobble together a majority coalition even with their procedural advantages. McCain, however, will likely be able to cobble such a majority together as other candidates drop out of the race and back him either publicly or privately.

This is not to say that McCain is inevitable- he may have some financial problems that will hurt him deeply without some major changes. But if he can stay in the race and obtain sufficient funding, I have a hard time seeing how Romney, Huckabee, or even Giuliani beats him.