The leader of a political party is always its presidential
nominee when he or she is chosen, and if that nominee
wins the presidency, the leader until his or her presidential
term is over. If the president is from the other party, the
leader is either the previous presidential nominee or the
highest elected figure of that party in the Congress or
among the governors. As of now, and until someone secures
the 2016 nomination, that person in the Republican Party is
the speaker of the U.S. house, Paul Ryan. Some might argue
it is U.S.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or 2012
GOP nominee Mitt Romney, but I think it is now Paul Ryan.
Mr. Ryan is doing rather well leading a contentious U.S.
majority, having been literally begged to take the job after
the resignation of the previous speaker, John Boehner. In
addition to his long and important service in the house, Mr.
Ryan was the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, and did a
fine job campaigning across the nation.
If John Kasich, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio win the conservative
party’s presidential nomination, they will become the leader
of their party. Most scenarios for them are set as an outcome
of a “brokered” convention in Cleveland, an outcome
becoming more and more likely as the primary/caucus season
proceeds. On the other hand, Donald Trump leads in delegates
as I write this, and he alone of the four surviving GOP
candidates seems to have a path of securing the nomination
before the Cleveland convention.
Since Mr. Trump is only officially a Republican since he became
a candidate for president last year, and since he has supported
major candidates of both parties before that, as well as held in the
past policy views (now reversed) strongly opposed by most
Republicans, the question arises: “Would GOP presidential
nominee Trump become automatically the leader of his party?”
On paper, the answer is yes. Republican National Committee
Chair Reince Priebus has also indicated that the answer is yes.
However, this cycle (unlike any other in memory) the answer is
more like maybe.
The Democrats might have faced a similar dilemma if Bernie
Sanders had prevailed as its nominee, but that is now becoming
much less likely. (Unless, of course, the presumptive nominee
Hillary Clinton were forced to withdraw.)
In fact, there are now de facto four major U.S. political parties,
i.e. the mainstream liberal Democratic Party, the new populist
quasi-socialist Democratic Party, the mainstream conservative
Republican Party, and the populist-nationalist Republican
The leaders of both parties will have more to sort out in the
next few months than just their presidential nominees.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.