This again? I’m hearing all sorts of complaints about people speculating about how the Syria matter will affect the 2016 elections.

If we’re talking general election — I’m with you. Pending an enormous policy disaster, and perhaps even if there is one, the outcome in Syria will likely have zero effect on the November 2016 election.

But if we’re talking nominations? As long as you agree on two things:

1. The 2016 presidential nomination contests began some time ago and are underway right now; and,

2. The outcome of the 2016 nomination contests is important

…then of course it’s reasonable to be talking about possible effects of the Syria thing on 2016.

Granted, some of that speculation will be foolish. Lots of punditry is foolish! But there’s zero reason the topic should be off limits.

To the contrary: if you think the possibility of US intervention in Syria is an important one, then you absolutely should want to think about (and perhaps to attempt to affect) how the issue will play out within the two parties as a part of their presidential nomination processes.

I get that some people wish that there was a break from electoral politics. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Not just in the US — once again, parliamentary countries pick their party leaders far, far, in advance of the next election, and those selections are always open to further challenge, which means that they too have continuous party leadership competition, even though it takes a very different from. Parties do this for the very good reason that nominations determine who and what a party is, and in democratic parties that question is basically always going to be an open one.

To put it another way: speculating about 2016 (presidential nominations) is just another way of asking about a party’s position on an issue, and perhaps in a deeper way than tallying votes in Congress might do. So if it annoys you, get over it.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.