From the Wall Street Journal, How George McGovern Made Donald Trump Possible by Phillip Terzian:
Mandate for Reform was issued almost 50 years ago, and half-forgotten as soon as its guidelines were adopted. But looking at it, I realized that I held in my hands the Rosetta Stone for understanding the agony of today’s Republican Party. The proposals of the McGovern Commission conform to my iron law of political reform, and its corollary: Today’s reforms are invariably enacted to correct yesterday’s reforms—and most reforms are intended to correct problems that aren’t really problems.
But the astonishing fact is that over the same period the Republican Party has in effect embraced the McGovern reforms—and with a democratic zeal unmatched by Democrats. The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower now entrusts its delegate-selection process and presidential choice to the influence of TV debates and to primaries (often in states where Democrats can and do cross lines to cast a ballot). There are no superdelegates at Republican conventions to save the process from itself—or in 2016 to save the GOP from Donald Trump.
Have Republicans lately wondered why people who ought to run for president don’t, and why people who shouldn’t run for president jump right in? Read 1970’s Mandate for Reform. In a half-century we’ve gone from a shrewd, top-down selection process to a traveling carnival of the lowest common denominator.