The media have developed a predictable and equally annoying habit every presidential election cycle. We hear the Republicans are going to be crushed by pandering too much to conservatives. The Democrats are firmly moderate and need a push from the left so they don’t forget their “compassion.”
So it was with Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter 35 years ago. So will it be in 2016, no matter who is nominated.
Republican primary voters have nominated moderates in every election cycle since Reagan '88, but not because they are moderates. Instead, the moderates survive the usual conservative circular firing squad exercise; or, as was the case with both father and son Bush, the moderates ran as conservatives. How did the moderates who ran as moderates fare? Ask Presidents Dole, McCain and Romney.
And yet those same tired voices in the press soldier on, still claiming ridiculously that a moderate Republican is the solution to the GOP's woes.
The media elites who have no concept of the GOP's base will not stop insisting conservatives should be ignored. Predictably, both sides of the pundit table at the PBS NewsHour on February 27 identified the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as the place where Republican candidates and ideas go to die.
Liberal analyst Mark Shields said conservatives have an “unelectable message,” which is pretty much what he's been saying for the past half a century, no matter how many times conservatives win, including the last two midterms. Faux-conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks expressed horror. “There’s conservatives, and then there’s conservatives, and then conservatives, and then way over on the other side of the room is CPAC....this is like the hardest of the hardcore.”
On ABC’s This Week on March 1, NPR’s Cokie Roberts insisted “I think the person that won at CPAC was John Kasich. He didn’t show up, and I think that’s the wisest thing for anybody to do.” Minutes later, the former Republican pollster Matthew Dowd ridiculously claimed Reagan would be booed today at CPAC.
Earth to Dowd: It is pollsters like you who would never, ever have found a job on a Reagan campaign.
Back in January on "This Week," Roberts argued “Republicans should stay out of Iowa altogether. What happens to them is that they get pushed so far to the right in those venues that it gives them a terrible time in the general election.”
What about the Democrats?
On February 22, This Week celebrated “Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as unabashedly progressive as Ben & Jerry’s….Sanders rails against the corrupting influence of money in politics. He stands for economic justice….He’s not just for raising the minimum wage, he wants to double it.”
ABC reporter David Wright acknowledged Sanders calls himself a socialist, and suggested he might be Don Quixote tilting at the Clintons’ windmill. Then ABC found a voter who said “Hey, more power to him. He's going to get that windmill straightened up for sure.”
Every summer, the radical left has a “Netroots Nation” conference, but you won’t find the media elites lining up to proclaim that the leftist attendees are too extreme and potentially damaging to the Democrats. The radicals at the Daily Kos started a “Yearly Kos” convention in 2006, then renamed it “Netroots Nation” in 2008. Their 2007 conference attracted seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates.
Last July, Vice President Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren each spoke to the gathering in Detroit, but no one on the networks found that dangerous, or even interesting. Put “Netroots Nation” into the Nexis database, and you get nothing ever on ABC or CBS, a brief CBS mention in 2013, and a brief PBS mention in 2010.
So let’s review: “Ultraconservatives” are perennially ruinous to Republican political victories, but there's no such thing as ultraliberals in the Democratic Party. Every candidate to the right of Jeb Bush is doomed in a general election, and if he should win the nomination, he'll be inevitably dismissed as going “too far to the right” to be electable.
The best advice for GOP candidates: Listen carefully to these journalists. Then do the opposite.