Ann Coulter

Inasmuch as the current presidential election has come down to a choice among hemlock, self-immolation or the traditional gun in the mouth, now is the time for patriotic Americans to review what went wrong and to start planning for 2012.

How did we end up with the mainstream media picking the Republican candidate for president?

It isn't the early primaries, it isn't that we allow Democrats to vote in many of our primaries, and it isn't that the voters are stupid. All of that was true or partially true in 1980 -- and we still got Ronald Reagan.

We didn't get Ronald Reagan this year not just because there's never going to be another Reagan. We will never again get another Reagan because Reagan wouldn't run for office under the current campaign-finance regime.

Three months ago, I was sitting with a half-dozen smart, successful conservatives whose names you know, all griping about this year's cast of presidential candidates. I asked them, one by one: Why don't you run for office?

Of course, none of them would. They are happy, well-adjusted individuals.

Reagan, too, had a happy life and, having had no trouble getting girls in high school, had no burning desire for power. So when the great California businessman Holmes Tuttle and two other principled conservatives approached Reagan about running for office, Reagan said no.

But Tuttle kept after Reagan, asking him not to reject the idea out of hand. He formed "Friends of Reagan" to raise money in case Reagan changed his mind.

He asked Reagan to give his famous "Rendezvous With History" speech at a $1,000-a-plate Republican fundraiser in Los Angeles and then bought airtime for the speech to be broadcast on TV days before the 1964 presidential election.

The epochal broadcast didn't change the election results, but it changed history. That single broadcast brought in nearly $1 million to the Republican Party -- not to mention millions of votes for Goldwater.

After the astonishing response to Reagan's speech and Tuttle's continued entreaties, Reagan finally relented and ran for governor. In 1966, with the help, financial and otherwise, of a handful of self-made conservative businessmen, Reagan walloped incumbent Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, winning 57 percent of the vote in a state with two Democrats for every Republican.

The rest is history -- among the brightest spots in all of world history.

None of that could happen today. (The following analysis uses federal campaign-finance laws rather than California campaign-finance laws because the laws are basically the same, and I am not going to hire a campaign-finance lawyer in order to write this column.)