In its desperation to avoid nominating Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the party has named just about everyone with a pulse as a potential alternative.
Some of the GOP's money men have floated the idea of reviving the failed campaign of former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Others are urging former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to run, and some camps think former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts -- the GOP's unsuccessful 2012 nominee -- could rally support late in the game.
At this point, it's surprising that no one has come up with a ReaganBot, an artificial intelligence version of the late president all Republicans love to reminisce about. ReaganBot could usher in a new era of conservatism, when no one's on welfare, all 125 million American households are protected by Glocks, and children recreate scenes from "Atlas Shrugged" for school plays.
Alas, artificial intelligence just isn't there yet, so the GOP is hoping for the next best thing: Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Ryan has the credentials, the name recognition and the political chops. Americans know him as a proven leader, thanks to his appearance as the would-be vice president on the 2012 Romney ticket. He's given the party a so-far short -- but comparatively sane -- performance as speaker of the House. Ryan certainly cries a lot less than his predecessor, former Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio.
Perhaps more importantly, Ryan is liked and respected by his Republican colleagues and likely voters among the GOP's base. That's more than either Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Trump can say, and no one would have to fear Ryan sparking Twitter flamewars with other candidates over whose wife is hotter.
Ryan seems like just what the doctor ordered after a yearlong circus act starring Trump and Cruz. If Republicans ever get over their infighting, it might be helpful to have a candidate who can speak intelligently and eloquently on things like foreign policy and criminal justice, instead of a guy whose idea of specifics is to tell supporters everything he builds will be "yuge" and "terrific" and "outstanding."
The reality is, Ryan isn't a candidate. He didn't launch a campaign in 2015. He wasn't on the stage for the Republican debates. He didn't slog through the primary season, and he doesn't have a delegate to his name.
When talk turns to alternatives, the same problem keeps rearing its ugly head. There's no way to parachute an 11th-hour candidate into the primary race without voiding millions of votes.
People might have a lot to say about Trump, but the truth is that primary participation on the Republican side is the highest it's ever been since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center.
People are passionate about the issues the real estate mogul is raising, and millions of those primary participants are first-time GOP voters who felt moved to participate because of this particular slate of candidates, and the particular set of issues facing the country in 2016.
Whether Republicans push Ryan, Perry, Rice or Romney, there is no way to inject a candidate into the race at this point without disenfranchising millions of voters. Some GOP power brokers don't seem to care. The National Review summed up the elitist stance -- that mere plebs shouldn't be permitted to choose the party's candidate -- in a March 2 column by Kevin D. Williamson, who wrote that the GOP "ought to be able to simply reject a candidate."
No matter what craziness comes out of Trump's mouth, if voters choose him, that should be the final say.
Some people think the GOP won't survive its convention in July, that the party will fracture if Trump is the nominee or Republican leaders push him out of the way for another candidate. But by disenfranchising millions of voters, by telling regular people their input doesn't matter, a lot more than the party is at stake. If party elites override the voters, it could be the death of conservativism as a movement, the final unveiling that makes it clear the ideology's most powerful figures don't believe in democracy.
Ryan would have made a good candidate, a sane candidate, but for the sake of everyone involved, he should refuse to get involved in the race.