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Americans Need More Candidates, Not Fewer

The Honorable Newt Gingrich

By Newt Gingrich

(The New York Times) – Elites love order and control. They like their country clubs, their offices and their favorite restaurants to be predictable and comforting.

Elites would also like a small number of predictable candidates. Ideally they would like that small and predictable contest to be set up so that their choice (the establishment choice) would win.

All of this is a violation of the American entrepreneurial spirit. In the 1890s there were more than 400 car companies in Michigan alone. Henry Ford didn’t build his first car until 1896. Imagine a proposal that there were too many entrepreneurs in the automotive industry, or too many in technology today.

Just as in business, competition in politics is a good thing.

The establishment would have blocked Andrew Jackson from emerging if it could have. Jackson shocked them fully as much as Donald Trump perplexes today’s self-appointed thought police.

The Democratic Party establishment would have nominated Hillary Clinton in 2008 when an upstart first-term senator proved he had the appeal, the skills, the charisma and the toughness to win.

That same group is beginning to worry about Senator Bernie Sanders, whose combination of socialism and small town candor is beginning to appeal to some voters more than the tightly controlled Clinton campaign.

In 1860, the G.O.P. establishment was so committed to Senator William Seward that he went on a tour of Europe while an outsider named Abraham Lincoln (whose previous electoral victory was one term in the U.S. House in 1846) stayed home and kept collecting delegates.

In 1940, the Republican establishment thought that either Senator Bob Taft or Gov. Tom Dewey would be their nominee. The Nazi attacks on Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France changed that reality. The nominee was Wendell Willkie, a former Democrat who had never held elected office.

In more recent times, then-Gov. Bill Clinton (one of nine candidates) lost the first five contests before finally winning the Georgia primary. Senator John McCain was out of money and almost out of the presidential race when he took an unpopular position of supporting the surge in Iraq and drew support for the sheer courage of his conviction.

The genius of the American system in business, sports, the arts and politics is that it is open to talent.

We are entering a challenging new era. We need all the ideas we can get. This means more candidates, not fewer. The American people can deal with the diversity even if the news media and the elite can’t.


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