Leave it to Wisconsin, with its Lafollette legacy of good governance, to save the country from its fanciful dance with the idea of putting a Pinocchio in the White House.
Wisconsin, where Trump trails Cruz, currently stands to send the Republican primary to a contested convention. Trump is unpopular among conservative news personalities in the state, and demographics (educated, religious, with a large number of traditional nuclear families) and culture (so-called ‘Midwest nice’) may hurt the bombastic billionaire. If Trump wins, he will most likely clinch the nomination in short order, but if he loses, the tricky math begins and another candidate may rise.
For the first time in quite a while, I am rooting for tricky math!
However, the Republican field does not offer much in the way of alternatives. Cruz at times makes Pinocchio look like Snow White; Kasich may seem better every day, but has very little chance of being nominated even in a brokered convention ; Paul Ryan has repeatedly indicated that he wants to wait for a more propitious time; and Mitt Romney is, well, still alive.
Somewhere along the way, our overall electoral process failed the people of the United States. It used to be that a Presidential race was between two people who both could make a good president, but at the moment is almost impossible to see an outcome where there could be such a choice.
Republican dogmas include elimination of gun control measures (measures that most Americans favor), severe restrictions on birth control (which would disproportionately hurt women), exclusion of immigrants (as demographic changes make ours a country without an ethnic majority), lower taxes for the rich (as income equality and class anger grows), and more vigorous use of the military to solve foreign problems (as Americans across the political spectrum tire of the wars our country has been mired in for what seems like an eternity). Just about any of these policy positions are out of step with what the country wants or the realities of what it needs, and no one who commits as fully as the G.O.P. demands could or should sit in the Oval Office.
The Democrats hardly seem like they’ve done a better job. Though Hillary Clinton will likely be the nominee, it isn’t hard to imagine a world in which Sanders might have successfully unseated her. Like their Republican counterparts, the Democratic primaries are the clear product of a flawed system—it is obvious from the disparities between candidates that both parties are without a center and there is little room to form a synthesis of the two wings of the parties. There is clearly some sort of realignment of the parties underway, but our system has been unable to adapt to that new reality.
In the end, though, it is far too late to do anything about this particular election.
However, it is NOT too soon to think about the systems and structures that have put us in this pickle and ask ourselves how we can avoid such a situation in the future.
For starters, we need to rethink the whole primary/caucus process, and the press needs to rethink how they cover emerging candidates.
Both parties might consider having groups of people beyond fear or favor to screen potential candidates, without whose approval outliers would likely have serious trouble raising money. Even self-funders, hopefully, would find that to be a hurdle.
This is surely not the right moment to put forward a full-blown plan of how to change our system, but it is NOT too soon to acknowledge the problem and the need to address it as soon as Wednesday, November 9, 2016.