The headline above John A. Tures’ blog entry for Huffington Post might seem definitive: “Experienced Republicans Are Losing, Because GOP Primary Voters Are Less Experienced”. But the subsequent paragraphs do not support the statement, at least not in that context.
25 years of political experience didn’t seem to matter to GOP primary voters this year. They appear more enamored with the likes of businessmen Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, neither of which either served a day in political office, or even ran for office prior to this year. Last week, Perry found himself with one percent of the vote in a CNN poll, well behind the front-runners Donald Trump (32 percent) and Dr. Ben Carson (21 percent).
In fact, Perry had never polled as high as two percent in any GOP primary survey nationwide. He fared poorly in Iowa, according to Qunnipiac University’s polling. And he’s doing worse in New Hampshire, in the NBC News/Marist Poll.
Huffington Post politics editors Paige Lavender and Mollie Reilly cited gaffes from the 2012 Republican election primary, as well as anemic fundraising. But Perry is hardly alone. Experienced GOP candidates across the board are suffering, failing to even notch double-digits in the polls, while politically inexperienced candidates like Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina alone make up more than 50 percent of the polls, outnumbering the other 14 Republican candidates combined. Inexperienced candidates are getting six times as many votes and experienced candidates.
Is the party that touted the political experience of their own candidates in the past (Nixon, Goldwater, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr. and McCain) suddenly not valuing the political experience of a candidate? If so, why?
Unfortunately, that portion of the setup is a little less than half the entry. The point is not to denounce the article or author for apparent failure; rather, we might remain hopeful and continue to tune in.
You know. We hope.
Hopeful. That’s the important word.
The thing is that Tures’ inchoate thesis really does seem to fall into the realm of the painfully obvious; the signs are all present and aligned, yet confirming the notion is one of those mysteries―while we cannot know anything definitively save our own individual existences, social sciences are considerably less reliable than the physical sciences. Yet in a context by which the math to describe uncertainty is potentially infinitely more complex than the demands of (ahem!) mere physics, the proposition that conservative voters are less experienced seems what the buzz often describes as a no-brainer.
There is the hook, though. We’re thirty-five years past the Reagan Awakening; some of these tinfoil-wrapped potsherds have been voting longer than I have. It is clear that conservative voters value political experience less, but how do we establish the context by which they are less experienced?
It seems almost fallacious to rely on a paragraph from Carolyn L. Funk’s lates for PRQ, because the next paragraph opens the door to a mitigating factor: “Perhaps as the primary season wears on …”.
But that invites any number of seemingly loose theses offering a glimmer of expectation. Personally, I recall my youth in latter Cold-War politics, when liberal was “communist” and conservative was “decent”, “American”, “patriotic”, and above all, “capitalist”. Indeed, among the few things I might agree with … er … one or another infamous conservative media blowhard, either the one on FOX News or the one who mouths a golden mike … about is the proposition that the Democrats ought still be red, and Republicans blue. But in that context, what if votes are the currency standard? In these United States, “capitalist” has become nearly synonymous with “Machiavellian”, and it often seems true that Republicans are willing to do damn near anything to collect votes.
This in turn leads to an assertion of a potential brand identity in which conservative voters seem less critical, to such a point that we are to believe glaring contradictions escape their notice. What Republicans are selling has less to do with the nuances of history and politics and everything to do with vapid feelgood sales pitches of the sort we were once warned would be ushered in by liberalism and secular humanism.
And within this delicately-knit web of presuppositions emerges what seems like another obvious proposition: Republican voters presently lack experience in proper criticism. After living for over a decade in an epistemic bubble, one might suggest, the conservative body politic is losing the necessary skills for critical thought.
Then again, the bit about demographics, school funding and administration, curriculum diversity, and how did we end up with such a large section of allegedly respectable society that can’t tell the difference between a proverbial something and a crude something else really is that much harder to sketch. Well, you know, for those who aren’t political scientists.
And there are other potential evidential manifestations, like the disarray, incompetence, and even questionable character of so many among the Tea Party’s successful results. To the one, we might wonder at the candidates and elected officials themselves. To the other, we might consider whatever vetting process failed to figure out the obvious. To a third, we might inquire what made voters support this particular candidate other than telling them what they wanted to hear regardless of whether it is true or not. And, to a fourth, well, at that point I would be one or another sort of domestic animal usually reserved as a house pet, and thus could spend the day at home licking myself.
No one of those points save the bit about licking has any substantive merit other than the fact that these things really are happening. The problem is in establishing why.
And this, in turn, is why we might wonder about tuning in for more. Tures’ blog entry is simply that, a blog entry, and therefore virtually guaranteed to be incomplete. And on this count the polisci professor from LaGrange College does not deviate from the norm.
But the questions oozing through the gaps really are fascinating, and we might hope that is the point. The headline lacks an interrogative, at the very least, and in the end suggests a thesis that really does sound attractive for sounding true. But how to support it? Paths and journeys beckon and tempt, but in filling in our own blanks for the professor the number of presuppositions we must establish seems very nearly daunting.
Thus, we can only hope Dr. Tures is going somewhere with it all; it sounds like something of an adventure.
Tures, John A. “Experienced Republicans Are Losing, Because GOP Primary Voters Are Less Experienced”. The Huffington Post. 15 September 2015.