- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2016

Beltway pundits spend almost all their time warning that the Republican Party is about to implode as the fight for its presidential nomination exposes rifts within the party that they believe or in some cases, hope, will make it impossible for the eventual nominee to win in November. Republicans acknowledge the difficulties they face as their nomination race heats up, party regulars begin to distance themselves from Donald Trump and either declare they won’t vote for him if he’s nominated or rally to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the lesser of two evils.

But the Democrats have their own problems. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win the Democratic nomination because her friends within her party’s establishment rigged the rules to guarantee her coronation. Republican outsiders speak with disdain about their party’s leaders, but the Republican establishment’s ability to control the outcome of a Republican nomination fight pales in contrast to the leverage establishment Democrats have within their party. This becomes more evident by the day as Mrs. Clinton’s challenger wins state after state and falls further behind as the party’s “super delegates” line up behind her.

When outsiders begin to believe the insiders have rigged the game they tend to revolt, and that’s happening within both parties. Trump and Cruz supporters within the Republican Party are threatening to walk away if their favorites are deprived of the nomination in Cleveland by insiders who manipulate the rules in favor of one of their own. Insiders never really appreciate the outrage of those who play by the rules, see themselves on the verge of winning, and find the rules changed on them at the last minute. If insiders within the Republican Party had any grasp of this, they wouldn’t be on television bragging that it will be them — rather than those who attended the caucuses and stood in line to vote for their favorites in the early primaries — who will choose whoever they want when they get to Cleveland.

The same thing is happening within the Democratic Party. As Vermont’s Bernie Sanders demonstrates that he can win caucuses and primaries alike, his true believers are beginning to realize they are not playing on a level field with Mrs. Clinton’s forces, and that realization is growing day by day.

Both parties within a two-party system are of necessity coalitions of voters who party leaders hope agree more than they disagree, but who at least see their party as somehow superior to the other. The coalition frays and eventually breaks down when large numbers of voters begin to feel either that there isn’t much operational difference between their party and the other or conclude that their party’s leaders are interested in their votes but not their opinions. To suggest that large numbers of voters in both the Republican and Democratic parties are reaching these twin conclusions is an understatement.

Republicans who believe it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress and even the White House have been visible for some time. They are the ones who regard Republican officeholders who can’t or won’t do what they promised once elected as no better than the Democrats they beat and refer to them dismissively as “RINOS” or “Republicans in Name Only.” These are the Republican voters that the party establishment loathes but whose votes are essential on Election Day.

What the pundits are only lately beginning to realize, however, is that the Democratic Party is facing essentially the same problem. Many of those who have deserted Mrs. Clinton to be a part of the Sanders “revolution” are beginning to believe that Mrs. Clinton and the establishment of their party isn’t any better than the Republicans they are supposed to be ready to defeat in November. They are beginning, in fact, to talk about either finding a more “progressive” independent candidate to back should she win, or sitting this one out. They are also beginning to talk about “DINOS” or “Democrats in name Only.”

The true believers in both parties are wrong. It does make a difference who wins in this country and while the dynamics of a two-party system may make it difficult for the leadership of either party to do everything the true believers want, they would in most cases do so if they could. Disgruntled Cruz, Trump and Sanders voters may agree on very little, but they are all reacting in the same way to being told to sit down and shut up by party leaders who are, in fact, much more interested in their votes than their opinions.

David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.

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