The temptation for political parties to rewrite the rules after every defeat is irresistible. The Republican National Committee did not resist when it met in Boston last weekend. The committee passed a resolution aimed at limiting and controlling the 2016 primary debates.
It started way back with Hubert Humphrey, who won the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1968 without running in a single primary. Outraged Democrats rewrote the rules, effectively turning nominations over to primary voters and caucus participants. Their motivation was simple: “No more Hubert Humphreys.”
What they got instead was George McGovern. That did not work out too well, so after the 1972 calamity the party tried again. They changed the rules to dilute the power of ideological activists: “No more George McGoverns.”
Instead they got Jimmy Carter. No sooner did Carter get elected than Democrats realized they had made a terrible mistake. Carter, an outsider, wasn’t a real Democrat. The party was not going to let that happen again, so after the 1980 disaster, when Ronald Reagan won, the Democrats assembled another commission.
This time the purpose was to increase the influence of elected officials in the nominating process: “No more Jimmy Carters.” In 1984, the Democratic establishment got its way and nominated the insiders’ favorite — former Vice President Walter Mondale.