The special convention of Republican Third District delegates was held Saturday to decide on a Republican nominee for the congressional seat vacated by retiring Republican Tom Latham. David Young, a former chief of staff to Charles Grassley and fifth place finisher in the barely nine point spread of the top five finishers, emerged as the nominee.
Young was not vetted due to the lack of attention from the others as he polled so low for much of the duration of the contest. Keep in mind that polls typically only report the first choices of respondents. Nevertheless the narrative is that Young represents everyone’s second choice. While in this case we think it may indeed have been the result, we wish there was a more definitive way used to identify such a candidate.
The vagaries of “consensus” and “second choice” remain
The other four contenders* or their supporters are said to have spent a lot of resources beating up on one or the other. That tends to build up an attitude of anybody but so and so, who supposedly dissed my guy. The non-participant (Young) may benefit but his or her selection is not necessarily a reflection of high confidence. No more so than three conservatives beating up on each other and splitting 65% of the vote allowing a 35% liberal to obtain the nomination out of petulance towards the others engenders “consensus.”
We are in no way maintaining that Young is a liberal Republican, or a big government conservative, indeed we believe otherwise. However we are challenging the narrative that has arisen that the process necessarily results in a consensus candidate either of the delegates or of the primary voters in the Third CD.
With as many contenders as there were, and given the amount of horsepower spread out, the race was likely to go to convention and that may have been Young’s operating strategy. A potential multi-ballot winnowing process (the convention ended up having five ballots) was arguably likely to result in the least antagonistic candidate emerging as long as that candidate could at least survive the first three cuts. Young was able to “rise” above it all by not being victimized (brought down) instead of largely being ignored and by not attacking or being perceived to attack others and drawing their negative attention.
That the four other candidates or their supporters zealously beat up on each other pretty much meant that the number of unacceptable candidates were going to match the number of vociferous candidates. Young survived when other camps refused to consider their antagonists.
Many have praised the result, and have gone as far as to suggest the system was the best in such circumstances to provide Republicans a “unifying” candidate. David Young appears to be that, but that is probably coincidence as the system cannot be relied on to produce such a result. Would someone praise the system if their least favorite candidate won or because, say a disfavored group, perhaps “Liberty” loaded the delegates instead of Branstad?
The Branstad factor narrowed likely victor, and other takeaways
Governor Branstad loaded the conventions. He got his troops out. Nothing untoward in that but neither was it for “Liberty” to do the same in 2012. It does produce a bias of sorts, otherwise why do it? Hypocrisy is evident in those who decried “Liberty” for stacking the deck in 2012 but have said nothing of the Branstad effort.
The system does not necessarily produce a consensus candidate unless the delegates are representative / proportional to the Republican primary voters. There may be no perfect process to derive the candidate but this was no more objective than other systems and arguably subject to bias, originally intended or not.
“Liberty” has now been elbowed out of direct leadership. We wish “they” would have taken a longer view after the 2012 caucuses and a less winner take all approach as regards appointments available to them. Regrettably for party unity, that discipline had not been exhibited to them by the political establishment who historically used machinations to reduce or eliminate insurgents and maintain control.
We also understand “Liberty’s” impatience over the direction of the country, the clear and present dangers, and what they perceived as the business as usual Republican establishment. That personal power relishing lot was not about to help “Liberty” succeed, although they are quick to use the punk political analysis to justify their own tactics — “where are ‘they’ (TEA Party conservatives and others) going to go?”
That “Liberty” was unsuccessful financially running party affairs can be interpreted by them as “proof” that important power levers in the party are captured by rent seeking interests who knew “Liberty” was not going to be as conducive or silent about matters, and declined to support the party fund-raising efforts during Liberty’s watch. The sandbagging of Liberty’s efforts helped ensure waning support.
Some contend that the decision in the Third District race did not transpire from a slate of delegates being chosen and was therefore somehow truly representative. Again not questioning the comparative acceptability of Young as a candidate, the logic of that statement is delusional. Slates are simply not as compelling with a successful caucus turnout of a loyal mindset. Liberty should have realized that as well in 2012.
We do not know the mind-set of the party apparatus in each county in the Third CD subsequent to the caucuses, where the delegate universe is initially chosen. However it is preposterous to pretend that only specific candidate efforts produce slates. The usual mechanism of the powers that be is through control of the nominating committee report for the district and state conventions, which occurs at the county convention. Undesirables are weeded out or given the hindmost. The cumbersomeness of convention challenges grossly favors the “official” nomination report. That is on top of the successful effort by Branstad to get out compliant troops in the first place. The nominations report from the existing powers that be is the back-up to the vagaries of turn-out.
Young faces ultra liberal well-funded Staci Appel in the general election and we certainly support his victory.
* Note: A sixth candidate, Joe Grandanette, at 1.6% was not a serious contender at any point in the nomination race.