The GOP’s Low Identification Rate—and What to Do About It

by Jeffrey H. Anderson

Even in the wake of the disaster that is Obamacare, and the wider disaster that is the Obama administration, Gallup’s polling indicates that the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans is at its lowest point in the past quarter-century: 25 percent. Surely this is largely attributable to a presidential-selection process that leaves rank-and-file Republicans feeling marginalized, while encouraging the selection of nominees (see McCain, John; Romney, Mitt) that the typical Republican only marginally likes—and whom the citizenry as a whole likes even less.

Such a dire situation calls out for significant reform, not merely for the sort of tweaking at the margins that the GOP is currently planning. Jay Cost and I have offered such a reform proposal, both in National Affairs and in a more recent document that revises our proposal to make it quite feasible to implement in time for the 2016 campaign.

Here’s the gist: The current Republican presidential-selection process was designed by the left wing of the Democratic party, so it is no wonder that it’s a disaster for the Republican party. The GOP should instead adopt a process that takes the best features of past and current systems and rationally combines them in a way that empowers rank-and-file Republicans, facilitates the entry of the strongest possible candidates, promotes intra-party consensus, and saves money to spend on fighting the Democratic nominee.

In that spirit, our proposal borrows from the process used to ratify the Constitution; reinstates a meaningful convention (the Republican Nomination Convention, to take place during the week of Lincoln’s birthday), which would decide something of real importance; and preserves the primary system while also helping to ensure that the votes of Republicans in all 50 states would actually matter (unlike today). In so doing, our proposal would allow rank-and-file Republicans not only to choose among the lesser of evils as they evaluate those on the campaign stage, but also to play an active role in whittling the field down to that point—in deciding who, among the whole realm of potential GOP candidates, should be among the finalists who appear on that debate stage. We invite you to take a look.

— Jeffrey H. Anderson is executive director of the newly formed 2017 Project, which is working to advance a conservative reform agenda.