A major party presidential nomination is a terrible thing to waste. For the candidate, after an arduous year spent trudging through Iowa and New Hampshire, winning the nomination offers the opportunity to command the attention not just of a pancake breakfast in Davenport but of an entire nation. For the party, its presidential nomination is the one great prize it has to offer ambitious members to exact promises to support its collective interests and goals. The nomination is the steering wheel of the party apparatus, to be handed (ideally) to a sober-minded leader not only to guide the ship in the right direction but also to avoid a terrible crash that could obliterate its supporting parts. Even a losing major party standard-bearer holds considerable power both before and after the election. The nominee will forever gain a new national stature and holds the potential to sweep into office a new generation of party leaders on his coattails, or devastate the party’s ranks for years to come.
All of this is why the last two months of the Donald Trump campaign have been such a curious disaster. After his final Republican opponents withdrew from the race following the Indiana Primary on May 4th, Trump has been casually indifferent to even the most basic tasks of building a national campaign. At the same time, one month to go before this season’s very early party conventions, the GOP’s congressional leaders have been all too willing to forgo the presidency until 2020. Even as they acquiesced to Trump’s rise with their conspicuous silence, prominent GOP officials have made it fairly clear that they consider the presidency a lost cause and not a prize worth fighting for given their 2016 ringleader. While speculation runs wild about Trump’s motives and ideas, the larger story concerns the willingness of mainstream Republican leaders to forfeit the presidency. Continue reading