March 12, 2008

Transformative Elections vs. Kicking the Can: a Sermon

Hatched by Dafydd

(Follow-up to "Romney: My Fave for the Nomination, But a Mistake for VP")

Picking up on our last post, let me clarify the philosophy behind our call for a "flamboyant," "galvanizing running mate," rather than one of the "usual suspects," like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. I don't know whether John McCain understands this; I hope he does, or that he figures it out before selecting his running mate.

Simply put, if Republicans care about the future of the party, we cannot afford yet another narrow presidential victory. Of course it's better than a narrow loss; but it does nothing to build the brand. People are drifting away, because there is no longer anything exciting or daring about being Republican -- as there was in the 1980s.

We're losing the vision edge to the Democrats in the twenty-first century. You always must bear in mind that the Left has an automatic edge on "vision," because they're entirely defined by their vision of utopia and bringing about heaven on earth, right here and now.

This is a huge draw, especially to the young, as Jonah Goldberg argues in Liberal Fascism: Yutes always want to believe there is something sui generis about them that makes them uniquely qualified to rule the world. We on the anti-liberal side must first batter down this autogenerated conceit before showing them why our philosophy is more exciting.

Narrow victories like 2000 and 2004 do little to awaken people to the implicit failure of progressivism, and to the alternative philosophies out there... Capitalism, conservatism, and individual and family responsibility, as opposed to statism and "it takes a village (or a nation) to raise a child." With an unorthodox candidate like John McCain, we have the opportunity to wrench this election out of the normal mode on the Republican side... and we're fools if we don't roll those dice.

This can either be an ordinary election -- or a transformative one. We can choose to just kick the can down the road, or we can establish what Republicanism will mean for the next several decades. McCain is the gateway to 21st-century Republicanism; but like Moses, he can see but not enter the promised land. To make this election transformative, we need someone who exemplifies the future of the party... and the vice presidency is one good way to highlight such a person.

The last transformative election was 1980. Reagan galvanized America and flipped eight decades of progressivism and liberal fascism on its head. Alas, however, George H.W. Bush certainly did not exemplify Reaganism... which was precisely the reason he lost in 1992. The transformation of 1980 continued under Clinton in some areas (economic, for example); but in other significant ways, notably national security and individualism, it petered out over eight years of mudpacking by a follower of Huey Long and a disciple of Saul Alinsky.

Imagine how the last four elections would have gone had Reagan eschewed the normal political calculus (name your nearest rival as running mate) -- and instead reached deeper into the well to draw out somebody young, exciting, and a thoroughgoing Reaganite; someone who could truly have carried the torch in 1988 and 1992, perhaps founding a party dynasty.

In an ordinary election, political calculus should prevail; the nominee should pick a Republican whose turn it is, or someone who can bring one or two specific states over to the GOP side. But this is not an ordinary election; and I don't believe for one second that there is any specific state that Mitt Romney, or any other VP pick from the usual suspects, can bring to McCain.

To put it another way, McCain himself, by his very nature, is already transformative; he already does the job, as much as it can be done, of bringing in traditionally knife-edge states -- those that went for Kerry by less than 5 points in 2004: Michigan (17 ev), Minnesota (10 ev), New Hampshire (4 ev), Oregon (7 ev), Pennsylvania (21 ev), and Wisconsin (10 ev). McCain also will do a better job holding narrowly held red states, like Iowa (7 ev), Ohio (20 ev), and (nowadays) Virginia (13 ev), than would a Southern conservative nominee. I believe McCain will hold all the reds except Virginia (I think the Ohio hemorrhage is over); and he'll get some of the blues; but no possible running mate will make him get more of those.

Take Mitt Romney, for example. Despite having a father who was a very popular governor of Michigan, Romney wouldn't help McCain win Michigan. Now, if the nominee had been Fred Thompson, then Romney might help; Thompson is just a mainstream conservative Southerner. But McCain will either win or lose Michigan all on his own; Romney won't help.

But much more interesting to me, in crafting a transformative election, are what I call the Nine-Pointers: blue states that aren't razor-close, but also are not deep, double-digit azure. States like Delaware (7.5 points, 3 ev), Hawaii (9 points, 4 ev), Maine (9 points, 4 ev), New Jersey (6 points, 15 ev), and Washington (7 points, 11 ev). Maybe even Connecticut (10 points, 7 ev) and Illinois (10 points, 21 ev). And of course, the granddaddy of all Nine-Pointers, California (9 points, 55 ev).

The bluish purples add up to 69 electoral votes; but the Nine-Pointers add up to 65 evs, not counting California; add in the Golden State, and that's 120 evs. Put both purple groups together, and you have a potential haul of 189 electoral votes.

If the ticket of McCain-[fill in the blank] can grab any substantial portion of those, then we're talking blow-out. Not a total wipe-out, like Reagan/Mondale in 1984, Nixon/McGovern in 1972, or Roosevelt/Landon in 1936; but a substantial enough victory that only the most froth-at-the-mouth left-liberals can try to claim the presidency is "illegitimate," or that McCain is the "commander in thief."

This is the kind of win that cows Congress; this is the kind of win that can have coattails; this is the kind of win -- if the new president represents a break from the norm -- that actually brings new, young voters to the GOP... similar to Reagan, though not quite that substantial, I would expect. This is big enough to be a transformative election, if the winning ticket calls the young to follow... and I believe McCain does that, to some extent.

But a younger, more exciting, more futurist running mate would magnify that call tenfold.

Bill Clinton's back to back minority victories didn't move the masses, and neither did Bush-43's back to back narrow (spread less than 4%) wins. 9/11 was a screaming smoke-detector for many Americans, including many young Americans; but there was no solid, ideological follow-through by George W. Bush to counteract the Democrats' droning cry of, "Nothing to see here, let's just MoveOn."

That lack of communication and a coherent, post-9/11 ideology is Bush's biggest failing as president; but realistically, he never meant to be a transformer; he ran as a technocrat administrator. It was America's ill-luck the attack happened when it did, and not a year earlier, when it could have helped John McCain in 2000.

(I voted for Bush in the 2000 primary. Though I'd been warning about the danger of militant Islamism since 1990 -- in print! -- I had no idea what was just around the corner when I voted. I now believe McCain would have made a better post-9/11 president than Bush.)

But a Nine-Pointer victory with a transformative ticket will actually move people, those who ordinarily would just vote the faith of their fathers, to switch to the other team -- our team.

So we should search for a running mate who can compliment and augment McCain and help drive this election into a Nine-Pointer win in the popular vote, thus winning a substantial number of the Nine-Pointer states. There's no rush to name one; McCain has months. In fact, if he makes no decision but drops hints of these criteria, that would generate much more interest than quickly naming a yawner.

I don't just want a narrow victory, where we squeak past Obama; I want Obama (or Hillary) crushed... and crushed badly enough that the socialist hydra is driven deep underground, perhaps even freeing the Democratic Party itself from enthrallment by the philosophies of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Saul Alinsky.

So that's the kind of running mate we should be looking for: One who can magnify McCain's voice, then follow McCain as president and be a bellwether for the future of the Grand Old Party.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 12, 2008, at the time of 6:41 PM

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Tracked on September 1, 2008 6:50 AM


The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Is it too early for Bobby Jindal? I'd hate to steal him away from Louisiana when they truly need him; that state needs all the help it can get after the last Governor. I don't mind "kicking the can down the road" for four years as long as there is a guy like him waiting in the wings.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2008 7:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Don

Jindal is an interesting idea.

I think Daffyd is deluded over the conditions for a 9 point victory, at least for the GOP this year. The conditions aren't there - for the GOP. This year.

1980 was a transformative election in many ways, but what people fail to realize is that the ground has to be laid for such transformations. In Reagan's case the major groundwork was begun in 1964 (A Star is Born) and 1976, which he was very fortunate to have lost. The country was not ready to make a break with the past in 1976, nor was the GOP in the shape to take the case for change to the public.

I see this year's election as similar to that in 1976. We're in for a lousy time economically as the country purges itself from the housing bust, Iraq War, and the prolonged death of NATO. We're going to inflate our way out of the crisis as we did during the 70's, stormy weather ahead.

I think the next President is going to be the most challenged since Carter, why not let the Dems have that joy? And the GOP can be the voice of the opposition. In 2012 the bloom will be off the rose for the democrats with 6 year control of the congress and an incumbent president who I doubt will be popular in middle America. Bush will be ancient history.

McCain may have been the right man in 2000 but that doesn't mean he is in 2008, at age 72.

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 5:51 AM

The following hissed in response by: leftnomore

Dafy, I don't think Jesus is available for VP. I suspect you have someone in mind, someone who is driving your imagination. Just come out and say it-- Palin? Obama??

The above hissed in response by: leftnomore [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 3:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: leftnomore

Now wait a minute Don, didn't the 1980 conditions call for the likes of Reagan? We did not need another dose of Jimmah. Who cares who takes the fall for bad times? I have too much at stake with my kids to play gotcha and blame games. You are thinking like a respectful loser.

The above hissed in response by: leftnomore [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 3:15 PM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

As the Dems get into the battle royal, some victim group is going to be the diseffected loser - woman or African Americans. If Hillary wins, pick an African American for GOP VP. If Obama wins, pick a woman. If Hillary wins, and doesn't select Obama as VP there is a historic potential to flip the African American vote to a more 50-50 split, and place the Dems in the permanent minority. That would be my preference -African Americans have too long supported a party that does nothing but use them.

If Obama and Hillary team up pick a Hispanic, if possible.

So what do we get?

Palin (inexperienced AK Gov.), Condy Rice (too attached to Bush), Dole (not another Dole ticket), KB Hutchison, CT Whitman (head of EPA and a tangble break from Bush), JC Watts, Rell (CN Gov.), Colin Powell. Not advocating any of them - but they would all have their respective advantages

Lingle (governor of Hawaii)? Camacho (Governor of Guam)? There are two choices that could shake things up. Janice Rogers Brown? She said once "capitalism receives contemptuous tolerance but only for its capacity to feed the insatiable maw of socialism." Best line I ever read.

Jindall - save him for the future. We need a good bench.

Advice to McCain - if at all possible let the Dems pick their VP first. Or pick right now and have the guy start working to undermine the Dems base. Worst thing is to announce your pick two weeks before theirs.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 4:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I suspect you have someone in mind, someone who is driving your imagination. Just come out and say it-- Palin? Obama??

No, I don't. I wish I did. I can characterize who I want... but I haven't thought of any candidates yet.

  • I'm less interested in promoting "a minority" than I am in promoting someone who creates excitement by his or her character and intellect... not some external characteristic over which he (or she) has no control.
  • I also want someone with a proven track record in some area that betokens executive ability. Not necessarily politics; business, academe, and the military count, too.
  • Finally, somebody who is a proud and undeniable Capitalist and shares the nominee's views of the larger questions of national security, the war against global caliphism, and so forth.

Bobby Jindal would be great -- in 2012 or later. We need to see how he actually governs Louisiana first; and in any event, he was elected to that position to clean up the state -- metaphorically, as in corruption, and literally, as in Katrina. He has a duty to finish that job before looking for another.

David Petraeus would be excellent... but only after Iraq is stabilized, which surely will not be before the Republican convention. And also assuming my guess at his general political position is correct.

Let's not try to make a snap suggestion. We have plenty of time; let's really think this through carefully.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 13, 2008 8:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

I don't know whether John McCain understands this; I hope he does, or that he figures it out before selecting his running mate.

I don't think McCain cares about the brand, this is the guy who exults in being a maverick, after all.

And any brand he does care to build will reflect himself, who is far more comfortable with socialists than conservatives.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 14, 2008 8:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Don

"Now wait a minute Don, didn't the 1980 conditions call for the likes of Reagan? We did not need another dose of Jimmah. Who cares who takes the fall for bad times?"

I'm asserting that 4 years of 'Jimmah' were needed to set the stage for Reagan. Also that economic conditions were so bad in 1976 (and later) that even reagan would have had a difficult time overcoming them - particularly with a highly liberal Democratic Congress to overcome.

I think the country needs some time off from the GOP - if only to remind people why they wanted to change in 1980 and 1994. What I'm hoping for is for a narrow Democratic victory in the Presidential race and a ideologically split Congress like we have now. That way a few things will get done but we won't have a huge damaging '100 days' kind of thing. And the people will learn about Democrats - again. It's going to be a bumpy ride the next 4 years, but by 2012 Bush will be ancient history and the anger will be at the incumbent party - like it was in 1980.

The other problem is that the GOP is bereft of ideas and vision. It needs new leadership, but the only way to allow that new leadership to rise to the top - is defeat.

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 14, 2008 8:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


What I'm hoping for is for a narrow Democratic victory in the Presidential race and a ideologically split Congress like we have now...

The other problem is that the GOP is bereft of ideas and vision. It needs new leadership, but the only way to allow that new leadership to rise to the top - is defeat.

Sorry, Don, but I have always found the idea that 'we must wander in the wilderness, and then we'll come back really conservative' to be absolutely nuts.

We wandered in the wilderness big-time in the FDR administration, from 1932-1945. Then we can roaring back with -- Harry Truman.

After Truman's undistinguished terms in office -- five successive Democratic terms -- we finally got a Republican... Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower was what we would today call a RINO... nobody even knew what his party would be before he finally "came out" as a Republican.

And who did Eisenhower defeat in the primaries, in the first election following the GOP's twenty years wandering in the political desert? That would be conservative icon Robert Taft.

So long years of defeat and frustration, during which the Democrats crafted a fascist dictatorship -- including rule by decree and the militant organization of the civilian population -- produced a stunning defeat for the conservative and the election of the moderate Republican instead.

And after eight years of Eisenhower's caretaker government, the Democrats got the presidency again for eight more years.

The only time advocates of this theory can point to where they claim it worked is 1980; but the ideas that Reagan couldn't have won in 1976, or that the economic situation in 1976 was so much worse than in 1980 that Reagan would never have been able to succeed (which undermines your point that Jimmy Carter was such a bad president; are you saying he improved things over the Gerald Ford administration?), is unsupported by the facts.

Ronald Reagan nearly unseated Ford as the nominee in 1976, despite the fact that Ford was the incumbent President of the United States.

There is no evidence that Reagan would have been defeated by Carter; the Georgia Peanut barely managed to knock off the unpopular Ford! The election was 51% to 49% in the popular tally and 297 to 240 in the electoral college.

Reagan would have won easily, could he have gotten the nomination. And as for success, you know very well that the economy was much worse off in 1980, after four years of Carter, than in 1976.

In Congress, there was little difference between the party division in 1976 and 1980: In the Senate, it was D+22 in 1976, D+17 in 1980. In the House, it was D+147 in 1976, D+119 in 1980.

But in the Congress elected with Reagan, the party divisions became R+7 in the Senate and D+50 in the House; it was Reagan himself who flipped Congress towards the Republicans... his election had coattails.

There is not a shred of evidence that we "needed" four years of Jimmy Carter to get Ronald Reagan, nor that Reagan would have failed had he been elected earlier. If anything, the death of Leonid Brezhnev in 1982 made it harder for Reagan to bring down the evil empire... because his successor, Mikhail Gorbachev (after the quick deaths of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko), gave it a brief, new breath of fresh air with glasnost and perestroika.

Reagan vs. Brezhnev is a much cleaner matchup than Reagan vs. Gorbachev was... making Reagan's accomplishment all the more stunning. (As is the difference between the 66 year old Reagan and the 70 year old Reagan.)

So if the GOP establishment hadn't kept Reagan from the nomination in 1976 (on the theory that it was Gerald Ford's turn, since he was never elected in the first place), I think Reagan would have been even more successful than he was in the 1980s.

And one more big point: In 1976, Gerald Ford named George H.W. Bush Director of Central Intelligence... so he didn't run, and there would have been no reason for Reagan to pluck him from CIA and name him running mate.

Thus Reagan would have had a different vice president -- who might have been more conservative and not so quick to turn against Reaganism if elected to follow Reagan (also very likely, since it was a gratitude election).

So we might never have gotten Bill Clinton.

Your position is unsustainable by any argument other than wishful thinking.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 14, 2008 5:34 PM

The following hissed in response by: Patrick Tyson

Ronald Reagan did name his pick to be his running mate in 1976. I'm not sure now whether it was already known definitely that Nelson Rockefeller would not be Gerald Ford's choice to continue as Vice President (though I think it was.) but Reagan definitely hoped that by naming his choice he'd be able to pressure Ford to name his before the Presidential nomination vote. Ford didn't play, there was no rejoicing over the choice by conservatives and the convention was not asked to nominate Senator Richard Schweiker (R-PA) to be Vice President of the United States.

Reagan did get to nominate him to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services when he became President in 1981. Schweiker did that for a couple of years and then left government service. He'd not run for re-election to the Senate in 1980 so Arlen Specter, after losing the Republican nomination for the other PA Senate seat in 1976 and for PA Governor in 1978, finally became the Republican nominee for a statewide office. He won, and won, and won, and won and won.

The above hissed in response by: Patrick Tyson [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2008 2:21 AM

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