Serpentine: the GOP's Shady Primary Practices

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What do you get when add Reince Priebus, the Republican National Convention, the Fox News Channel, CNN, the 2016 Republican presidential candidates’ debates and all rules therein, all national polls on the 2016 GOP candidates for president, the New Hampshire Republican leadership, the Union Leader – the largest and most influential newspaper in New Hampshire, and Joseph W. McQuaid – the Publisher of the Union Leader? You get a red alert. You get a serpentine-sized mess. 
 
The word serpentine is a verb – and is defined as “to move or lie in a winding path or line.” That is the meekest and mildest description of what’s currently happening in the 2016 Republican presidential race.
 
These are the GOP candidates who have already officially entered the presidential race: Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky), Senator Marco Rubio (Florida), former Governor Rick Perry (Texas), Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), former Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania), former Governor Mike Huckabee (Arkansas), Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Dr. Ben Carson, former Governor George Pataki (New York) and businesswoman Carly Fiorina. The GOP candidates expected to officially enter the race in the near future include: former Governor Jeb Bush (Florida), real estate magnate Donald Trump, Governor Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Governor John Kasich (Ohio), Governor Chris Christie (New Jersey), and Governor Bobby Jindal (Louisiana).
 
With the number of 2016 presidential candidates expected to rise as high as 20 or more, the RNC decided to administer special rules to cut that number down. Since there’s no way to have 20 candidates on a stage for a debate, the RNC wanted to have Plan A/B/C debates. In other words, divide the number of candidates based on their popularity in the polls and have them debate each other in tiers. Then Fox News – which will televise the debates – entered the fray with a gamechanging strategy: take the top 10 candidates in the national polls and only have them on stage for all debates. That draconian measure would effectively end the campaigns of anyone not in the top 10. As you might imagine, the weeping and gnashing of teeth quickly ensued. In the midst of widespread criticism, Fox News then doubled down by stating that any 2016 GOP presidential hopeful who dared to appear at any other debate forum would be summarily barred from all other Republican primaries FNC will be televising.
 
The first presidential primary debate every occurs in New Hampshire. This is the case for Democrats and Republicans.
 
Republican leaders in New Hampshire felt compelled to issue a strongly worded letter to the RNC. The letter said in part: “Any metric used to select the top ten candidates based on public polling this early in the nominating process would make it impossible to ensure fairness. Indeed, the margin between the tenth candidate and those that don’t qualify will almost certainly be statistically insignificant. The first televised debate of the 2016 election cycle should place all candidates on even footing and allow each to make their case directly to the voters and your viewers. Anything less would prematurely suppress the candidate field, and arbitrarily elevate candidates who benefit from preliminary notoriety and fundraising.” 56 Republicans – including former governors, members of Congress, state legislators and delegates – warned that the current criteria threatens to “undermine the very nature of our process and the valuable service that states like New Hampshire provide to voters across the country.”
 
The first nationally broadcast Republican presidential debate is scheduled to occur the evening of August 6th in Cleveland, Ohio. This past Wednesday night, the Union Leader dropped a gauntlet. Publisher Joseph McQuaid announced that the Union Leader will host a New Hampshire Presidential Forum on August 6th – on the same night and the same time as the one Fox News Channel will be hosting. The New Hampshire forum will be carried nationally by C-SPAN and also broadcast on radio. Quaid added, “What Fox is attempting to do, and is actually bragging about doing, is a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary. Fox boasts that it will ‘winnow’ the field of candidates before New Hampshire gets to do so. That isn't just bad for New Hampshire, it's bad for the presidential selection process by limiting the field to only the best-known few with the biggest bankrolls. Why the RNC and, especially, its New Hampshire representative, Steve Duprey, would defend this and be a party to it is baffling.” It should be noted that McQuaid is himself a well-known Republican – and that the Union Leader is a highly respected conservative newspaper. 
 
Poll numbers are volatile and subjective. They are constantly in flux – and very difficult to project. Anyone institution, television network, or political party seriously suggesting using polls as the means for severely hindering viable candidates for running for the highest office in the land is doing business in a shady, cold-blooded fashion. Snakes are cold-blooded creatures as I recall.
 
The RNC and Fox News rolled snake eyes on this. I’m not a Republican, but even I’m astonished at the gall of those who thought they could pull off such an ill-fated system of primaries. If the Democratic Party ever attempted something similar, progressives would be beyond furious.
 
The Republican Party’s plans for how to run its 2016 presidential primaries must be changed. Who will change them? Who will blink first? What happens if no one capitulates? How will this chaos affect the 2016 GOP candidates? For what it’s worth, here’s a free piece of advice from me: allow your candidates to individually make their case to the American people. We the people determine whose message resonates – not a handful of would-be kingmakers in a posh suite at an undisclosed location. Don’t tread on me. Don’t tread on us.
 
Matthew 10:6 says: “Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” The RNC should heed those words. Its current plan for primaries firmly places it on a slippery slope. The entire episode is asinine. And serpentine.
 

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