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February 26th, 2017

Insight

The Party of the People?

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published August 4, 2016

The Closing of the American Mouth

Now that the primary process has concluded, the conventions are over, and the nominations official, it's worth looking backward in order to ask: Going forward, which party is more likely to represent the interests of "the people"?

Well, how much control do "the people" have over what the party is doing?

Until very recently, it has been the Republican Party whose voters were the most visibly — and increasingly — discontented. Voters were unhappy with Bob Dole as the nominee in 1996. But the Republican National Committee got their "centrist" pick, GOP voters dutifully supported him ... and he was defeated. After successive victories by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, the same dynamic played out in 2008 with John McCain and again in 2012 with Mitt Romney: Both candidates were virtually handpicked by the RNC despite lackluster support from GOP voters; both lost resoundingly in the general election.

In the meantime, President Obama rammed the Affordable Care Act down the country's throat without a single congressional Republican vote, and the tea party was born. In the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, voters gave Republicans control of the House and Senate, respectively, heeding promises by GOP candidates that they would finally be able to "do something" about Obama's executive overreach and the exploding national debt.

The GOP Congress promptly handed Obama the budget deal he wanted, and conservatives handed former House speaker John Boehner his head. Incoming speaker Paul Ryan has conservative bona fides, but has alienated voters with his support for President Obama's budget requests, immigration reform that includes amnesty and trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Wisconsin voters may well send Paul Ryan back to Congress. But GOP candidates in addition to Boehner (Eric Cantor, anyone?) have seen their political careers kiboshed by unhappy voters. And the last 18 months prove decisively that the days of GOP voters nationally taking what the RNC dishes out are over.

You can love Donald Trump or hate him, but what you cannot deny is that he was chosen by Republican voters ; no one in the Republican Party power base wanted him as the Republican nominee.

Nor did big money or big business control the outcome. In fact, what is astonishing is how much money was thrown at candidates to try to defeat Trump. Senator Lindsay Graham spent $5.7 million. New Jersey governor Chris Christie spent $8.7 million. John Kasich spent $18.8 million. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush raised a staggering $445 million — and spent $172.5 million of that — between them.

Furthermore, a huge percentage of Trump's political donations (72 percent as of September of 2015, according to The New York Times) were $200 or less. Trump was behind only Ben Carson and Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders in the amount of donations he received from small donors. And Trump managed to break records in terms of voter turnout in Republican primaries.

2016 is the year of the Republican "little guy."

By contrast, look at what took place on the Democrat side this go-around. Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular candidate, not only with Republicans, conservatives, independents and libertarians but also with Democrats. Progressive Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders — like Trump, once considered by the powers that be to be merely a distraction — came to the fore as the populist candidate for the left. But the Democrat National Committee wanted Clinton to be the nominee. And as the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails showed the world, the DNC and its chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, manipulated the primary process to virtually ensure that Sanders had no chance.

Wasserman Schultz resigned, but Sanders supporters and others disgusted with these typically Clintonian politics were treated to an add-insult-to-injury move by Hillary Clinton, when she hired the outgoing DNC chair the same day.

Payback was hell at the Democratic National Convention, too. Sanders supporters were silenced, given the cheap seats, discouraged by Sanders' endorsement of Hillary Clinton and hundreds walked out.

The prevailing wisdom is that Republicans are racists and that Democrats embrace diversity. But the same hacked emails that exposed the DNC's tampering with the primary process also revealed embarrassing comments made by DNC staffers about Bernie Sanders' religion (Judaism) and Hispanics.

Meanwhile, Trump has managed to pull together support from wildly disparate groups, and even pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in a number of polls leading up to the Democrat National Convention.

There's a lesson to be learned from this fascinating phenomenon. The left talks a good game. But when push came to shove during the primaries, Democrats showed that they think they know what's right for the people, better than the people themselves do.

Hillary Clinton is a master of this kind of manipulation. She is an elitist among elitists. The rules don't need apply to her, because she's just so darn concerned about you, you see.

Like it or not, it's on the Republican side that the people got what they wanted. Leftists (and others unhappy with Trump) may say, of course, "This only proves that we're the ones who should control the process."

And that only proves my point.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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