July 16, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Gilmore exits presidential race

Our former governor Jim Gilmore decided his candidacy for president wasn't going anywhere, so he wisely withdrew from contention. He is a very good speaker, on par with Mike Huckabee, and he exudes a sincere, down-home image not unlike that of Fred Thompson. As the Washington Post noted, however, the main problem was in the fund-raising department. Gilmore had the strongest conservative credentials among the announced candidates, and he had gained some experience in national politics in recent years, but he remained unknown to most people outside of Virginia. Maybe four years from now he'll have better luck.

Why, you might ask, do virtual unknowns like Mike Huckabee or Dennis Kucinich bother to run for president? [Mostly because it is almost the only way to gain national attention these days.] That leads to the bigger lesson to be drawn from the early exit by Gov. Gilmore, which is the highly dysfunctional nature of the presidential nomination process itself. Those silly "debates" among several candidates -- serious ones as well as frivolous ones -- are a major distraction from the real issues facing the nation, which is one reason we end up with less and less satisfactory nominees each successive election cycle. [ ] Ever since early 1968, when the nation was transfixed by the drama of Eugene McCarthy challenging incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, almost everyone has come to accept the notion that primaries are the best way for parties to choose their nominees. "Democracy is good, smoke-filled rooms are bad." The possibility that deliberation and negotiation among party leaders might yield better-qualified and more reliable candidates has been completely discarded. As a result, both parties now rely on public funding to hold primary elections in nearly all states, which in effect makes them "established" parties. No wonder people complain about the limited choices that are available! Another negative side-effect of primary elections is that, without any central authority to oversee the process, there is a big incentive for individual states to schedule their own primaries earlier and earlier each election cycle. As a result, we will almost certainly know both parties' nominees by March next year, leaving six whole months of anti-climatic "dead time."

There is an urgent need to reform the presidential nomination system, and public funding for the process should be eliminated. That would reduce the incentive to rely upon primary elections. It is doubtful that any significant changes will take place any time soon, however.

R.I.P. "Lady Bird"

Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, we should remember the passing of his widow, "Lady Bird" Johnson. Following in the footsteps of the high-profile Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird became active in promoting her "Beautify America" campaign, encouraging people to clean up litter and plant gardens. It was a very worthy cause that spawned many similar efforts on a smaller scale. We are all better off because of what Lady Bird did.

R.I.P. Jack Hinton

One of the members of the Staunton Republican Committee, Jack Hinton, passed away last week after several months of declining health. In early 2005, Mr. Hinton led the campaign to preserve the "Weekday Religious Education" (WRE) program in Staunton. For background on that, see the Washington Post and my Jan. 24, 2005 post. Mr. Hinton was a retired man of the cloth [hospital administrator], and was a gracious Virginia Gentleman to boot. May God rest his soul.