Category ►►► Rheumatic Republicans

October 30, 2013

GOP Abnormal Normalcy

Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

Something just occurred to me anent the recent past of Republicans and elections:

  • Ronald Reagan came across as a normal guy; he was elected twice.
  • George H.W. Bush came across as a bit of an elitist, but Reagan's coattails pulled him through; however, he continued acting like a peevish aristo, and he lost his reelection.
  • Blob Dole came across as a decrepit, out of touch blowhard; he lost his election.
  • George W. Bush came across as a normal guy; he was elected twice.
  • John "Crankshaft" McCain came across as a hectoring ancient mariner who boiled over at the slightest provocation, perpetually angry and moody; he lost his election.
  • Mitt Romney came across as a plutocrat who didn't even know what ordinary people's lives were like, and he had a scary religion to boot; he lost his election.

(For what it may be worth, Democrat voters don't seem to mind voting for weirdos, perverts, and congenital liars who can't keep their fibs straight. The Left seems drawn to "cool" candidates.)

Looks to me like whenever the GOP nominee is a normal guy, we win. When the GOP nominee is a peevish primo don, a weirdo, or an American aristocrat more comfortable in Versailles than Virginia, we lose.

This revelation might have some relevance going forward.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 30, 2013, at the time of 1:45 AM | Comments (1)

November 7, 2012

America Postmortem

Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

All right, a bit over the top; America isn't dead yet, nor is it likely that Barack Obama can kill us... not in a scant four years, and with the House still firmly in the hands of Republicans. But he still can (and will!) do a lot more damage.

Time to put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Now is the time to fight for what we believe, not retreat into recriminations and despair. (Isn't despair a mortal sin?)

Charles Krauthammer had the most profound explanation of last night's disaster (I'm paraphrasing): He doesn't think (and neither do I) that the message was to blame; exit polling still shows Americans prefer small government, and they associate it with the Republican Party. Rather, it was the messenger they found lacking.

I still believe, even in hindsight, that Mitt Romney was the best possible nominee among all the candidates who actually stepped up to run against Obama; nevertheless, Romney just wasn't strong enough.

  • Marco Rubio might have had a better run, might even have defeated Obama, especially as he would have taken a significantly greater chunk of the Hispanic vote; this year, Obama took 69% (!) of it, actually increasing his advantage among that voting bloc.
  • Jeb Bush might also have been a stronger advocate for the contemporary conservative position: smaller government, emphasis on small business, individual liberty, all without government picking winners and losers, whether in business (no more Solyndras!) or radical transformations of the United States into Something Else (Obamunism).
  • Maybe Paul Ryan running for president could have been a more inspiring advocate.
  • Somebody like Bobby Jindal could have become "the next new thing," capturing the novelty vote.
  • Even Chris Christie might have done better; for one point, he would have gained the same stature during Hurricane Sandy as Obama did, nullifying the latter's advantage.

But none of those gentlemen ran for president in 2012.

Paul Mirengoff on Power Line said early on that ours was a very weak field of candidates; I disagreed then, but in hindsight, I think the Deacon was right. Mitt Romney was the best of a lackluster lot; I doubt that Pawlenty or Bachman or Perry could have done even as well as Romney did. But our best wasn't good enough.

Clearly, the Republican electorate simply did not accept Romney as the personification of small government, small business, and individual liberty. Prior to this election -- actually, the last part of this election -- when did Romney ever campaign on those themes? I don't recall him even mentioning much of this back in 2008; and in the interim, what did he do to champion the core beliefs of tea-partiers and mainline conservatives, whose economic beliefs happen to be shared by a strong majority of Americans?

He simply wasn't believable as the savior sought by traditional Americans. I believed in him, and I still do; I believe he would have been an excellent president, particularly with Paul Ryan nudzhing him along. But most GOP voters do not follow politics the way we in the shattering glass chattering class do. From their point of view, Romney simply parachuted into the campaign for the first debate, performed brilliantly -- then settled back and did nothing else remarkable.

(Hurricane Sandy was perfectly timed for Obama's flagging campaign; somebody down there liked him. For four days just before the election, the Romney campaign was totally shut out of the conversation; and all voters saw were heroic pictures of Obama looking tall and presidential. Had the hurricane come along a couple of weeks earlier, Romney could have recovered; but he simply had no time.)

Too, Barack Obama has the disturbing facility to maintain his "likeability," even while being nakedly mean, vengeful, peevish, arrogant, blame-shifting, and whiny. Particularly likeable to women -- an abusive lover who mesmerizes his victims. Until the very end of the campaign, Romney struggled to appear likeable; and even in the last few days, he must still have seemed wooden enough to inspire little confidence that he could actually do what he said he could.

I suspect that when all the numbers are crunched, we'll find that Republicans simply didn't show up, not the way we expected them to. I doubt Obama made any great inroads into any of the groups he carried in 2008, nor picked up new supporters, nor galvanized more of them to vote than last time. Rather, GOP voters did the same thing they did when John McCain ran against Obama: They stayed home in droves.

It takes an awful lot to defeat an incumbent president: The Left failed to defeat Nixon (1972), Reagan (1984) or Bush-43 (2004); the Right couldn't vote out Clinton (1996) or Obama (2012). From the end of World War II, only two elected presidents tried and failed to be reelected: Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

(Gerald Ford failed in his reelection bid, but he was never elected as either president or vice president in the first place... he's the exception that tests the rule.) During that same time, eight presidents, four of each, were reelected to a second term (Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush-43, and Obama).

Most of us thought we had enough, what with the lousy economy, catastrophic foreign policy, and general cluelessness. Alas, even that was insufficient. Evidently, voters need something in addition, something the media cannot or will not cover up: the Iranian hostage crisis in Carter's case; or for George H.W. Bush, a job approval that plummets from 89% in February 1991 to 34% in October 1992. In addition to general incompetence, voters demand a juicy scandal or a complete collapse of confidence; otherwise, the president will likely be reelected.

That said, Romney did much better than McCain. Obama's vote margin over McCain was more than 9.5 million, 7.4% of the vote (not counting third-party nominees). Obama took 365 electoral votes, compared to 173 for McCain.

This year, Obama's margin over Romney was less than two million, about 1.7%. We still don't know how Florida will fall; but if Obama gets it, the electoral-vote totals will be Obama 332, Romney 206; and if it goes to Romney, it will be Obama 303, Romney 235. (Romney flipped two states from Democrat to Republican, Indiana and North Carolina -- and possibly a third, in the unlikely event that Florida ends up in the GOP column.)

I looked at thirteen swing states, comparing the 2008 and 2012 results. The states were Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Every single one of these states was more Republican this time than last; the average movement was 5.4% towards the GOP side.

As a woulda-coulda-shoulda, Florida was almost dead even; Ohio was only 2 points away; Virginia was 3 points; and Colorado was 3 points distant. Shifting those four (or three, depending which way Florida goes) states would have flipped the election. By contrast, even if McCain had managed to win every state where Obama's margin was 9 points or less, Obama still would have won. McCain would have had to win either Colorado or Iowa, each of which went to Obama by 9.5%.

We almost won; it only seems like a horrible loss because so many of us, myself included, thought we were going to win for sure.

So I agree with Krauthammer that we don't need to "reinvent" the Republican Party or even change our message:

  • In 2016, Obama won't be running, removing the fascination of the first black president.
  • We won't have an incumbent president, with all the electoral advantage that entails.
  • We'll likely have better candidates who will be better known, and better known as small-government, small-business conservatives.
  • We might even have a Hispanic candidate (Rubio) or a candidate who is not Hispanic but nevertheless gets heavy Hispanic support (Jeb Bush).
  • We probably won't have a perfectly timed, handy hurricane to make the incumbent look presidential (and the incumbent isn't running anyway).
  • And almost certainly, the economic situation will have gotten even worse than it is now, making it brutally clear that Obamunism doesn't work.

So let's stick to our principles and focus instead on recruiting better candidates... candidates who can be more believable and inspiring than Mitt Romney (or any of his competitors this election) when making the case against big government and big corporate, and for entrepeneurism, individual liberty, a muscular, pro-America foreign policy, and fiscal sanity.

It's still a winning platform; it just didn't win in this exceptional case.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2012, at the time of 3:09 AM | Comments (5)

February 20, 2012

I Scream Social

Confusticated Conservatives , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

I sent this as an e-mail to my favorite blogger; but upon further reflection, I think there is something of more general interest here. Hence I turn it into a cheap-jack freebie blogpost pithy observation of the unity of social and economic conservatism we need to oust the occupier from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

In John Hinderaker's Rick Santorum post "Are There Republicans Who Think This Is a Good Idea? Seriously?", he quotes Schieffer quoting Santorum:

RICK SANTORUM: But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly, much less that the state government should be running schools is anachronistic. It goes back to the time of industrialization of America when people came off the farms where they did home school or have the little neighborhood school and into these big factories. So we built equal factories called public schools.

I agree that it's death for the GOP to run a campaign against Barack H. Obama mostly about social conservatism. But if you're interested, the bit from Santorum quoted above is straight out of Alvin Toffler's ten-years-later follow-up to his mondo best seller Future Shock, titled the Third Wave -- meaning the third wave of technology-induced cultural revolution: The first is the post-neolithic agricultural age; the second is the mechanical/industrial age; and the third is the post-industrial information age.

Toffler makes sense to me; it's clear that the modern (modernist) public-school system was indeed set up to mimic the factory setting -- a wonderful (at the time) great leap forward from the paltry and classist education available in the agrarian age. Toffler argues that "manufactory" schools have outlived their usefulness, however, and that we need the more individualized learning that computers now make available to every individual, or would if the teachers unions would get the heck out of the way.

But Hinderaker is quite right that a presidential campaign is not the proper venue for such Newt-like speculation on Santorum's part.

I perhaps part company from him -- or perhaps not, as his response indicated general agreement -- on one implication of the piece, perhaps a conclusion Hinderaker did not intend: That the campaign should be entirely about the economy and jobs, with no shred of social issues intruding. I think that is a great mistake; but it must be handled very carefully to avoid exactly what Hinderaker rails against in his post, that is, letting social conservatism drive the GOP, pushing economic conservatism to the back of the bus.

In particular, we must stay away from any social issue that is divisive -- theology, gynecology, school prayer, same-sex marriage, and suchlike. But we can make great inroads by spending about 15% of the campaign energy on issues that pit Obamunism against Americanism; e.g., arguing that Obama's policies, whether by design or incompetence, are anti-family and destructive of traditional American virtues, such as liberty (including religious liberty), individualism, and individualism's counterpart, civil society (churches, service organizations, and community activities, such as bowling leagues), and Capitalism, which has made us the most prosperous nation on earth -- even as Progressivist ideas have made us, at the very same time, the world's biggest bankrupt nation.

I believe a very effective pitch can be made to Hispanic voters, for example, by sending English and Spanish speaking Hispanics throughout Hispanic areas of the Southwest and Florida with the message that Obama is making war on Catholics and on the traditional family and on small businesses, in which Hispanics are very successful players... said message intended to counter the inevitable leftist attack on the GOP for being "nativist" and "racist" and wanting to deport all Hispanics (yes, I know that's a horrible distortion; but that exact distortion is guaranteed to be flung at us by Big Media).

And a pure pitch can be made for individual and family liberty by advocating, not the complete privatization of Social Security (despite my own preference for that very policy) and Medicare, but rather for collecting the payroll tax as usual... but keeping everybody's taxes in separate, family accounts -- under the citizens' own names -- so that the feds cannot raid the Social-Security funds to pay for more madcap spending; and doing the same with the portion of payroll taxes that currently go to Medicare, so that they may instead go towards paying for post-retirement insurance (like Medicare Advantage) instead of qualifying seniors for crappy medical care as second-class patients.

But unquestionably, 85% of the campaign should be about the collapsing economy, ballooning taxes, skyrocketing energy prices (due to crippling our domestic energy production) and other unconfessed inflation, unconscionable unemployment and underemployment, the cost of Obamacare, the Skimulus, and the arrogant, swaggering ignorance by Barack "Bubble Boy" Obama of the most basic and fundamental economic laws.

85% money stuff, 15% non-controversial social issues (liberty, family, community); that should be the big campaign picture. But not the specific stuff Rick Santorum is inexplicably yammering about.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 20, 2012, at the time of 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

January 3, 2012

Beldar Bells De Baiter

Confusticated Conservatives , Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

A stand-up comedian was being heckled during his act. He fell silent, staring at the miscreant with a Cheshire-cat smile, while the audience held its breath, expecting bombast and brimstone.

Instead, the performer raised a hand, almost in benediction, and spoke very quietly and directly to the creature horning in on the act. "Do you know what a heckler is?" asked the comic; "a heckler tries to trick a performer into losing his temper... therefore, a heckler is a baiter.

"And at that role, sir, you are a master."

Readers of Big Lizards know that I am loathe merely to point at somebody else's words of wit and say "RTWT," Read the Whole Thing; it seems like cheating to me. But once in a while I read a blogpost so succinct and perfect that I simply must shrug off my own envy and, well, point.

So here it is: To Newt Gingrich, on the occasion of his claiming to have been "Romney-boated", by Beldar.


Newt Gingrich has gotten away with murder in this campaign: He flings out "ideas" without analysis, schemes without strategies for achieving them (and avoiding the pitfalls and pratfalls of real policymaking), and poses as a traditional, staunch, and above all consistent conservative, while bobbing and weaving about his real history of backing and filling, wriggling and flip-flopping, and betimes siding with the Left in the "get along by going along" mode of congressional compromise.

I don't begrudge him his lack of rigid ideological fanaticism; such purity of essence can only be maintained in a faerieland of theory and academe. I love Newt for his energy and willingness to consider the unconsiderable. I would happily invite him to a dinner party.

But it drives me mad when he campaigns by delivering homilies about his own saintliness and conservative constancy with his right hand -- while punching the Right in its collective face whenever convenient to the moment. (In this case, the "Right" includes all anti-liberals and anti-Progressivists.)

Worse, Gingrich -- like that heckler -- likes to bait the other candidates; and yes, he is a master at that form of abuse. But he's too quick to cry foul when he gets back even a little of what he dishes out. Having watched his campaign mode for some time now, he has become my second-least favorite of the notromneys.

I urge all BL readers who don't already read Beldar to being doing so immediately... and you can start with the piece linked above. It's pithy and without pity, but it's fair and balanced.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 3, 2012, at the time of 1:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2011

The Cosmic Insignificance of Dead Dictators in American Electoral Politics, Tra La

Dancing Democrats , Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

A friend of mine frets that today's capture and execution of Muammar Qaddafi will change the dynamic of the 2012 presidential election, starting a cascade of support for the embattled incumbent that will allow him to eke out a narrow victory. Many readers may likewise worry that this putative "victory" for Barack H. Obama will "turn the tide," undoing everything conservatives, tea partiers, and even Republicans have done to try to restore fiscal and regulatory sanity to the country, along with the blessing of liberty that are now so imperiled.

But I reject the very premise that this happy death will affect Obama's electoral chances whatsoever. Here's why.

President B.O. has long since proven himself a fool as far as actual governance goes; but if he tries to grab credit for the death of Qaddafi, killed by as yet unknown rebels within the anti-Qaddafi alliance very loosely controlled by the so-called National Transitional Council, Obama will prove himself a fool even as a politician.

(As of this moment, AP is trying to push the meme that Qaddafi's death is part of "a string of foreign policy victories this year for the Obama administration" for Obama; but the President himself is disclaiming personal credit. For a man as conceited as he, that can only mean even he thinks it will not be helpful to his campaign. Consider: The killing of Osama bin Laden was clearly of tremendously greater significance to Americans than the killing of Qaddafi; yet the former assassination yielded only a two-week blip in Obama's approval polling, before it resumed its slide towards Obamic irrelevancy.)

So why doesn't this "victory" translate into a big boost to Obama's faltering reelection campaign, even on the foreign-policy front?

  • The death of Qaddafi does not signify the end of hostilities; it signals only the transition from rebellion against tyranny to full civil war. The NTC controls nothing; there are countless armed militias and armies based in many different regions throughout what used to be called Libya (I say that because I expect the country to fracture into several countries -- de facto if not de jure!) These armed groups will never peacefully surrender their arms (hence their power) to any one of the many factions; they will fight their way to a seat at the big table. Does Obama really want to claim "credit" for a massive civil war with tens or hundreds of thousands of dead in a failed nation of only six and a half million?
  • Because Obama tried to do this on the cheap, without sending any serious contingent of the American military, we shall have next to nothing to say about the ultimate configuration (if any) that X-Libya takes. It could easily end up more like Afghanistan than like Turkey or Iraq, and might even be more like Iran. Does Obama really want to claim credit for Libya going from a brutal fascist dictatorship under Qaddafi to a brutal, radical-Islamist dictatorship under a Muslim Brotherhood-based terrorist coalition?

    Oh yeah; that'll boost his reelection chances.

  • Any putative political benefit the administration might hope to gain due from the Libyan situation already happened when Qaddafi was driven from power months ago; the dénouement of Qaddafi's bodily death is actually an anticlimax. It will likely produce nothing but a shrug from voters before they return to worrying about the economy and Obamacare.
  • Finally, the entire country knows that Obama tried to "lead from behind" in the Libya adventure; he refused even to take the lead role in the NATO involvement, let alone the lead role in the fighting.

    We mostly fought with drone planes armed with Hellfire missiles. While this reticence may have been justified, given the uncertainty of outcome, the One cannot then turn around and believably claim to be Dwight David Eisenhower, or even David Petraeus. We did little, and the whole world knows it.

Maybe it was a good we did little; frankly, I wish we had done even less. But passive acquiescence isn't the "right stuff" on which a jubilant reelection is founded. I believe that Obama has maybe a 30% chance of being reelected; weirder things have happened in presidential years. But the chance that the death of Qaddafi will in any way influence the American presidential election is nil, as near as makes no difference.

The 2012 election -- like every presidential election -- will turn on three cosmic issues, none of which lines up in Obama's favor:

  1. The voters' assessment of Obama's character and tenure, which at the moment is hovering just slightly above the similar assessment of George W. Bush in 2008.

    But of course, Bush wasn't running for reelection then; sorry, B.O.

    This assessment alone is the strongest force pushing towards Obama's defeat: As president, he comes across as weak, vain, vacillating, pompous, incompetent, cowardly, bullying, and peevish; and his policies have almost uniformly enraged the electorate ever since the passage of Obamacare (without a single Republican vote).

  2. The continuing and deteriorating economic situation, exacerbated by policies such as the trillion-dollar stimulus; the failed attempt at a second, half-trillion-dollar bride of stimulus; the tax increases; continual threats of more punitive actions against "the rich" and more redistributionist policies; the staggering number of major, new regulations inhibiting business from recovering; the terrible economic uncertainties stemming from Obamacare; Obama's war on fossil fuels and nuclear power, which has crippled our ability to develop sufficient energy to run a rich country of 300 million souls; and the economic "epistemic closure" of the minds of his advisors and cabinet members, the pandemic of ignorance about Capitalism actually works, which has ripped through the organs of government like fast-moving financial neurovirus, leaving every public civic agency and institution in a state of anti-market madness.
  3. The utter folly of Obama's foreign policy, notwithstanding AP's "string of foreign policy victories." This election, foreign policy is of lesser impact than the other two elements of reelection; but it's still significant, both for the disrespect and mockery which other countries now turn upon America (where once was respect and even fear), and also for the forced kow-towing to Red China (we're so desperate for their investment, which keeps us from total collapse), and our inexplicable, fatalist acquiescence to the provocations of Iran.

    Iran's obvious contempt for us as adversary rose to a crescendo with the massive terrorist bombings Iran tried to perpetrate on American soil, attacks thwarted only because the FBI and DEA took time out from their busy schedule of funneling automatic weapons to Mexican drug lords to befool the Iranian agent at the core of the terrorist attacks.

Those three questions -- assessment of the first term, of the economic state of the Union, and of foreign policy -- are the three legs of the reelection stool for any president. They vary in respective importance from election to election, depending on the situation; but taken together, they nearly always determine the outcome. And the voters' assessments of President B.O. are in freefall on all three fronts.

Can Obama turn it all around in the remaining twelvemonth? It would take divine (or diabolical) intervention to reverse the trendline and pull off what would be the greatest electoral comeback in American history.

But even the possibility of such intervention is stifled by Obama himself, who appears, astonishingly, to believe that he's been a spectacularly good president, that he still enjoys the 70% approval he had right after being elected, and that the people simply love his policies; he thus sees no reason to change even jot or tittle of policy or demeanor. The President thinks that all he must do to be swept into a second term by general acclamation -- possibly without even the fuss and feathers of an election -- is just explain himself better, so the rabble understand his transcendent brilliance and how lucky America is that he has deigned to become our philosopher king. He thinks that he needs only give another speech or two, or fifty, and all will be well.

But for most Americans and for some time now, his speeches have had the opposite effect: They solidify dissent and convince voters that Obama is even more clueless today than in 2008. When charged with being all hat and no cattle, the very worst defense the accused can offer is -- another speech!

For these and many other reasons sufficient to my mind, I cannot see Barack H. Obama managing to pull yet another rabbit out of his sleeve. He had a phenomenal run of luck in 2008, both in world events and in picking the perfect opponent; but such "perfect storms" happen only once in a century. To slightly paraphrase George Orwell, the liberal-fascist octopus has sung its swan song.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 20, 2011, at the time of 4:45 PM | Comments (4)

August 22, 2011

Paul Bunyan Ryan Says He's Out; Let's Take Him at His Word

Confusticated Conservatives , Fed Spending: to Infinity and Beyond! , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%), chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, looms like a giant in an election year focused almost entirely on the economy; he is the only person in any branch or chamber of the government not only to craft but actually enact (in his chamber, the House of Representatives) a plan to simultaneously grow the economy and shrink the government, restoring fiscal sanity. Understandably, many seek to draft him for the presidential race -- notably lawyer and blogger Beldar (here, here, here), but the ten-gallon Texan is certainly not alone.

But today, Ryan appears to have finally closed and locked that barn door before the horserace got out; he states without equivocation that he is not running:

"I sincerely appreciate the support from those eager to chart a brighter future for the next generation. While humbled by the encouragement, I have not changed my mind, and therefore I am not seeking our party's nomination for President. I remain hopeful that our party will nominate a candidate committed to a pro-growth agenda of reform that restores the promise and prosperity of our exceptional nation. I remain grateful to those I serve in Southern Wisconsin for the unique opportunity to advance this effort in Congress."

I personally was never aboard the Paul Ryan bandwagon (neither, evidently, was Ryan himself!) I think he's great where he is right now, and I'd like to see some actual executive experience before dropping him into the maelstrom of the presidency. Beldar tried to answer that charge in the first of the three Beldar links above, but his argument was weak and unconvincing hand-waving; there really is a difference between being a congressman and being a chief executive, and Ryan ain't got none'a the latter.

But clearly, he still has a strong role to play:

Ryan has said publicly he is concerned that those currently running for the GOP nomination are not addressing long-term fiscal and economic issues in a way that makes clear the magnitude of the challenges.

And I'll go further: I would strongly support him playing that role at a higher and more effective level -- for example, as Vice President of the United States. I believe he would tremendously compliment Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who doesn't seem to have much international economic or fiscal experience, and would even be an asset to the much more financially experienced Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts; alas, much of Romney's experience is negative, falling into the "fatal conceit" of believing in big-government solutions to problems more properly and effectively solved by Capitalism, rugged individualism, and American exceptionalism. I would hope that Ryan can lead a Romney or a Perry out of the socialist wilderness and into the promised land of liberty.

I think it would be wonderful if both of the two most likely nominees made a joint announcement (after sounding Ryan out, of course) that whichever of them is nominated, he will name Paul Ryan as his running mate. But I'm not going to hold my breath for more than a couple of minutes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2011, at the time of 2:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 6, 2011

The Self-Executing Playground President

Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

In our previous "Playground President" post, I noted Steven Hayward's boosterism of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%) and suggested that Ryan might well be the next playground presidential candidate. In response, infamous commenter Milhouse -- straight from his stunning success at persuading Patterico, the Unwary Godmother of conservative legal blogdom, that H.R. 1255 was indeed constitutional after all -- objected to Hayward's suggestion that Ryan should run for the presidency.

Our three related posts comprise:

  1. The Playground President -- in which we defined it
  2. Found - a Playground Presidential Candidate? -- in which we did find it
  3. The Self-Executing Playground President -- you're readin' it!

Milhouse's argument is that Paul Ryan has as yet no significant administrative experience; his comment (Milhouse's, not Ryan's):

Ryan has one huge flaw: he has no executive experience. What he needs to do is spend this term and the next making headlines as "Mr Budget", then either go for Speaker or else take a job in the administration elected in 2012, perhaps Treasury Secretary or OMB director; or else, if Scott Walker decides not to run for a second term in Wisconsin (having perhaps been lured to Washington), Ryan should run for that. Once he's got a term or two as governor or cabinet secretary under his belt, he should start thinking about the presidency.

Now first, please note that I did not endorse Ryan for president. Neither did I knock the idea; I expressed no opinion. I said that Hayward had persuaded me that Ryan would actually shake up the presidential race and had the best chance of being elected of any of the candidates I've seen so far. I likewise agree with Hayward that Mitch Daniels and Tim Pawlenty are the only two others that impress me as potential winners against Barack H. Obama... so far. (This is more a response to commenter Mr. Michael than to Milhouse.)

But let's dive into Milhouse's objection; does Paul Ryan (or any candidate) truly need prior executive experience to (a) be elected, and (b) make a success of his presidency? We can start with the historical record.

From 1900 until just before the 2008 election, there were eighteen elected presidents; four of them (22%) had no significant executive experience -- that is, not the president, nor a governor, general, or cabinet secretary -- the first time they were elected.

(Note that I do not consider having been Vice President to be "significant executive experience": The office is undefined, other than post-mortem and breaking ties in the Senate; and the V.P. does not have a huge staff to manage.)

Non-executive presidents, 1900-2008:

  • Warren Harding
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Richard Nixon
  • George H.W. Bush (he was Director of Central Intelligence for less than one year)

Successful non-executive Chief Executives were slightly more common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; of the twenty presidential electees (Millard Filmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur were never elected president), those without significant prior executive experience numbered five (25%):

  • John Adams
  • Franklin Pierce
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James Garfield
  • Benjamin Harrison

Looking over the list, the proportion of good, bad, mixed, and indifferent presidents seems about the same among those with previous executive experience and those without: Arguably, our greatest president, Lincoln, had none, while arguably our worst (until now), Jimmy Carter, was a successful governor of Georgia. Ronald Reagan (executive) was a great president; while Nixon (none) was great in some ways and terrible in others. Woodrow Wilson (executive) was a dreadful tyrant who tried to remake America, much as the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave has; Adams (none) turned out to be a mediocre administrator and a weak leader. There seems little correlation between previous executive experience and competence, let alone greatness.

But let's get to cases on our current president, Barack H. Obama (none). Would anybody here argue that the worst thing about Obama is his lack of administrative ability? Good grief!

I believe the worst thing about him is his ideological blindness, his mad desire to create a hellish utopia, his reckless foreign policy, his hatred of Capitalism, his willingness to lie to the American people in order to accomplish his government-aggrandizing schemes, and his seeming belief that all the money belongs to the government, which lets us borrow some of it for a while (if we're good).

But we've seen all those attributes before in presidents with tremendous executive experience... for example, Franklin Roosevelt, who served three years as governor of America's largest state before being elected President of the United States. And he was as bad or worse in 1944, after having served for three terms as POTUS. (Talk about your executive experience!)

In terms of the epigram of the fox and the hedgehog, by the great, ancient Greek poet Archilochus (680-645 BC) -- "the fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing" -- I think we would have to say that Paul Ryan is a hedgehog; the one big thing he knows about is the economy and how to rescue it; while Obama is a fox, but a foolish one: He knows many little things, but most of them ain't so.

Not only can a hedgehog candidate easily defeat a fox incumbent, if his "one big thing" resonates with the voters and has sufficient gravitas to matter; but a hedgehog president can wreak profound wonders, if circumstances give him time and breathing room. Again, think of Reagan, whose two big things (a double-humped, bactrian hedgehog) were shattering the Soviet Union and rebuilding the American economy.

It would be nice if Ryan had had some previous executive experience; but if he was to wait until 2016, his moment might have passed -- either because a previous president already solved it, or because four more years of Obamunism will have utterly vaporized American economic exceptionalism.

I would ten thousands times rather see President Paul Ryan than President B.O.; and I would at least five times rather see President Paul Ryan than Chairman Paul Ryan; the former brings far more "welly" to the grand goal of gestating the Ryan recovery plan.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 6, 2011, at the time of 2:10 AM | Comments (2)

April 5, 2011

Found - a Playground Presidential Candidate?

Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

In a previous post, the Playground President, we explored the possibility that one way to shake up the 2012 election and likely even beat the incrumbent Barack H. Obama was for the GOP to nominate someone out of the blue. I used the analogy of a basketball phenom who comes, not via the normal route of high school and college, but as a complete unknown from the playground.

I described the possible "playground candidate" thus:

  • Type I: People who are already famous in a field outside of politics.
  • Type II: the ultra-rich celebrity candidate who can self-fund his own campaign and don't need no steenkin' donors.
  • Finally, there is Type III: the successful businessman who isn't a huge celebrity, but who exudes an odor of quiet fiscal competence.

I should have (but didn't) consider one variation on Type III: A successful politician who has, however, never been seriously considered as one of the "usual suspects," the pool where presidential candidates normally spawn.

Steven Hayward of Power Line -- who also occasionally contributes, or so I am told, to some other venue called the National Review, improbably enough -- believes he has found just such a man:

All of this raises the important question: Should [Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 96%)] run for President? Right now everyone is saying the Republican field is "lackluster" or boring. I don't happen to agree. I'm a fan of both [former Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty and [Indiana Gov. Mitch] Daniels. (I've seen Pawlenty in person lately and thought he was quite good, and getting better by the day.) But to the extent there is any truth to this, Ryan looks like the one person who could electrify the Republican electorate, appeal to independent voters, and sustain an argument against Obama that would make for a decisive election.

Ryan is young, has young children, and has lots of reasons to wait. But one can't choose one's moments in politics. I can imagine a set of circumstances in which his budget proposal gets little traction against White House intransigence, and by the fall the political winds are such that entering the race makes so much sense that he has to do it. And increasingly he looks to me like the single best candidate the Republicans could field next year.

So how does Ryan stack up as a modified Type III playground candidate? Here are some of the criteria I listed:

Note that Type III only plays well in an election that is (nearly) all about the economy -- like 2012.

Yep, sounds about right.

He would have to be seen as fiscally conservative and socially middle of the road; seen as a uniter (whether he turns out to be isn't relevant to the election itself); a non-ideologue; and definitely not a flamboyant, larger than life personality -- that's Type II, not Type III.

I believe Ryan exemplifies all these attributes so perfectly, we might as well paste his mug under the dictionary entry for playground president, if any dictionary would deign to list such an entry. (Oh, you know what I mean.)

He would have to be staggeringly wealthy but not too famous (else he falls into the Type II "Donald Trump" category instead).

This is where "modified" comes into play: Ryan is not, of course, "staggeringly wealthy;" he would have to get people to donate to his campaign. Call that a strike against him being a playground candidate.

He would have to come from the financial sector, not simpy an industrialist or technologist, like T.J. Rodgers (Cypress Semiconductor) or Bill Gates (Microsoft); his entire selling point would be that he can fix the economy.

Here is a bit of Ryan's curriculum vitae from Wikipedia:

Born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan graduated from Miami University and worked as a marketing consultant and an economic analyst. In the late 1990s he worked as an aide to United States Senator Bob Kasten, a legislative director for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, and a speechwriter for former Congressman, and Vice Presidential Nominee Jack Kemp of New York....

Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has advocated for his Roadmap for America, a long-term spending reduction proposal which has received mixed endorsement from his party.

(The late Jack Kemp, longtime advocate of the economics of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, earned the nickname "Mr. Supply-Side" for his evangelism for that economic philosophy; he is probably the man who persuaded Ronald Reagan to cut taxes, reduce spending (to the extent that was possible), attack inflation, and streamline regulations.)

I'd say that's equivalent to a businessman coming from the financial sector. Back to my own criteria for playground candidates:

He would have to be statesmanlike but not come across as a political insider (else nobody would trust him).


Alas, I'm sorry to say that I suspect the next GOP candidate will have to be a white male with a Western European sounding name. Obama represented a breakthrough milestone -- the first serious black presidential candidate; and typically after such a bold result, voters retreat to the tried and true, especially when the "other" is viewed as a fatally flawed president, wildly partisan and stunningly inexperienced... which Obama is increasingly viewed as on both left and right.

His name is Paul Ryan (not Bunyan) for goodness' sake; and here's his head shot:

Paul Ryan

I believe Hayward makes a very convincing case that Ryan would shake up the race more than any other proposed Republican candidate; read his post yourselves and let me know what you think.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2011, at the time of 2:59 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2011

The Playground President

Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

Friend Lee is a big fan of organized sports; for example, he follows professional, college, and even high-school basketball (though his first love is tennis) in a way that is totally alien to me. Some years ago, F.L. said something that had never occurred to me, but which upon reflection made perfect sense: It would be almost impossible for a phenomenal basketball player, like a Michael Jordan, to come up through the normal school ranks without serious fans of the game being aware of him long before he became a star.

There was one exception, however, and that was if the phenom did not play in high school or college but instead came from "the playground." Such a player might be overlooked even by rabid basketbrawl fanatics until he exploded onto the pro scene.

I was intrigued by the unknown but brilliant playground player and recently began mulling it in the realm of presidential politics. By "brilliant," I specifically mean a genius at getting elected; and by a "playground player," I mean a candidate who flies below the radar until he suddenly bursts, fully formed, onto the scene and captures the nomination and presidency.

The most recent example is, of course, Barack H. Obama himself. While I confidently predicted that Sen. Hillary "Fist Lady" Clinton would never, ever be the Democratic presidential nominee, I admit I had no idea at the beginning of that electoral cycle that Obama would be, in that sense at least, the One. I was sure some better known candidate would move in when Hillary began to falter and take the nomination. There were many possibilities: Former V.P. nominee John Edwards, former Gov. Tom Vilsack, Gov. Bill Richardson; I was shocked that none of them could gain any traction at all, and that in the end, Obama would win the brass ring.

Despite 2008, the phenomenon of the playground president, where a nominee seemingly comes out of nowhere, is vanishingly rare nowadays; usually, both parties nominate well-known politicians:

  • 2004: Incumbent George W. Bush vs. very well known Sen. JFK II.
  • 2000: Former Vice President Algore vs. popular TX Gov. GWB.
  • 1996: Incumbent Clinton vs. Senate Majority Leader Blob Dole.
  • 1992: Little known AK Gov. Bill Clinton vs. Incumbent GHWB.
  • 1988: Former VP GHWB vs. very well known MA Gov. Michael Dukakis.
  • 1984: Incumbent Ronald Reagan vs. former VP Walter Mondale.
  • 1980: Incumbent Jimmy Carter vs. extremely well known former CA Gov. Reagan.
  • 1976: Incumbent Gerald Ford vs. fairly well known GA Gov. Carter.
  • 1972: Incumbent Richard Nixon vs. well known peacenik, Sen. George McGovern.
  • 1968: Former VP Nixon vs. extremely well known Sen. Hubert Humphrey.
  • 1964: Incumbent Lyndon Johnson vs. even more extremely well known Sen. Barry Goldwater.
  • 1960: Two powerhouses: Nixon and the first JFK.

There's actually a good reason why we have so few playground presidents: In order to win the nomination, let alone the office itself, a candidate needs staggering sums of campagin funds; in order to get such vast sums, most people need millions of donors; and in order to gain that many donors, a candidate needs a huge level of political celebrity prior to the campaign itself. Ergo, most candidates are already quantities well-known to the electorate.

There are some exceptions to the political-celebrity rule:

  • Type I: People who are already famous in a field outside of politics.

Such alternative celebrities can sometimes generate the necessary campaign contributions and mass support, but they must have gravitas and leadership -- which is one reason why nobody whose celebrity has come primarily from the entertainment world has ever won the presidency.

Picture a military hero, like Dwight D. Eisenhower, or a humanitarian activist and long-time cabinet member, like Herbert Hoover. But of course, both were extremely well known long before their winning candidacies, both were widely expected to win as soon as they announced; and neither was a bolt from the blue, which is the phenomenon we're exploring.

  • Type II: the ultra-rich celebrity candidate who can self-fund his own campaign and don't need no steenkin' donors.

Donald Trump fills that role for the 2012 election. If Trump were to win the nomination, and especially if he beats Obama, I would definitely call him a playground president and wild long shot... but I don't expect him even to come close in either venue.

  • Finally, there is Type III: the successful businessman who isn't a huge celebrity, but who exudes an odor of quiet fiscal competence.

Note that Type III only plays well in an election that is (nearly) all about the economy -- like 2012.

He would have to be seen as fiscally conservative and socially middle of the road; seen as a uniter (whether he turns out to be isn't relevant to the election itself); a non-ideologue; and definitely not a flamboyant, larger than life personality -- that's Type II, not Type III. Rupert Murdoch would be a distinct possibility this year, were it not for the fact that he was born an Australian; and if Mitt Romney hadn't served as Governor of Massachusetts, with the concomitant and faintly damning track record, he would be another strong possibility.

The first two types of playground candidates would already be very well known today, though not in the capacity of politician. The only plausible example that springs to my mind is Gen. David Petraeus; I believe that if he retired from the Army and declared himself a Republican candidate for office, he would brush the other GOP candidates aside and then prevail against Obama himself. (If Petraeus ran as a Democrat, I doubt he could unseat the sitting POTUS in the Democratic primaries.) I can't think of any other celebrity who would have both the heft and the bottom to mount a serious and effective "outsider" campaign.

But what about a Type III playground presidential candidate?

He would have to be staggeringly wealthy but not too famous (else he falls into the Type II "Donald Trump" category instead).

He would have to come from the financial sector, not simpy an industrialist or technologist, like T.J. Rodgers (Cypress Semiconductor) or Bill Gates (Microsoft); his entire selling point would be that he can fix the economy.

He would have to be statesmanlike but not come across as a political insider (else nobody would trust him).

I cannot think of any financiers who fit that bill -- but of course, by definition, he wouldn't be well known and could easily fly below the radar until he outlasts the other candidates in his party. Still, it's dicey right now, as nearly every famous financier has weighed in either for or against the Obamic stimulus bills, which makes him an ideologue of necessity. Maybe after a few electoral cycles, when we haven't a recent memory of a wildly divisive fiscal policy to use as a mental litmus test.

Alas, I'm sorry to say that I suspect the next GOP candidate will have to be a white male with a Western European sounding name. Obama represented a breakthrough milestone -- the first serious black presidential candidate; and typically after such a bold result, voters retreat to the tried and true, especially when the "other" is viewed as a fatally flawed president, wildly partisan and stunningly inexperienced... which Obama is increasingly viewed as on both left and right. This is another reason that Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal would be wise not to run in 2012; it's a tough sell to elect the first female or the first Indian president right after the first black president.

Given the unlikelihood of Petraeous deciding that now is the time to mount his white horse, I fear we're going to be stuck with one of the usual suspects on the GOP side -- probably a current or former governor -- and of course Barack Obama on the Democratic side. This means that Obama starts a floor of 50% support. This is not an "anybody but the incrumbent" election, as it was in 1976, 1980, and 2008; Obama will only lose to a brilliant and aggressive campaigner. That gives the edge to someone like Haley Barbour or Tim Pawlenty.

But still there is always that lightning-bolt chance of a playground presidential candidate; and if he appears, then all bets will be at sixes and nines.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 29, 2011, at the time of 7:12 PM | Comments (2)

December 23, 2010

Coming to Our Census

Dancing Democrats , Election Derelictions , Rheumatic Republicans
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been toying with the reapportionment numbers triggered by the 2010 Census, and it's rather interesting. (Well, interesting to math folks.)

My first curiosity was how the current reapportionment (and the 2000 one) would have altered the 2000 election. In that contest between George W. Bush and Al "Lawfare" Gore, Bush prevailed by an electoral score of 271 to Gore's 266. (In 2000, one of D.C.'s three electors abstained instead of voting for Gore, who won the District; thus Gore only got 266 votes instead of the 267 he actually earned.)

But following the two reapportionments -- that is, adjusting the states won by each party according to the newest electoral-vote count for each state -- the result in 2012 would be 285 for the Republican and 253 for the Democrat; in other words, Gore could have won up to 15 more electoral votes than he did, one or two (or three or four!) extra states, yet still have lost by a clear majority of electoral votes, 270 to 268... that's how much strength the Republicans have gained since 2000 by population growth and shifting alone.

Side issue: I just read a risible article on titled Census Won't Help GOP in 2012 Presidential Race, the take-home of which is this:

Any gains that flow to Republicans in Congress because of redistricting after the 2010 census are not likely to carry over to the 2012 presidential race, The New York Times FiveThirtyEight political blog reports. President Barack Obama, for example, would have won the White House in 2010 even if the electoral college then had looked like it will in 2012.

In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver writes, “the outcome of every presidential election in the past century would have been the same had the new numbers been used.”

This has to be one of the stupidest articles ever written. What the headline writer actually meant was not that reapportionment "won't help GOP in 2012," but rather than reapportionment has never been determinative... which is trivially true, as it's rare that the electoral college vote is so close that a swing of fifteen electoral votes (EVs) would switch it; and in the 2000 election -- when it was that close and even closer -- the winning party is also the party that saw electoral improvement due to reapportionment.

But consider: If any small states (adding up to 15 or fewer EVs) on Bush's side had fallen to Gore, then Algore would have won the electoral vote by 269 to 268 or better. And if that had happened, then had 2011's electoral numbers been in effect, they would indeed have reversed the outcome. So it's not only possible that reapportionment could make the difference, it could have done so in an election we all vividly remember!

In the 2008 election, Barack H. Obama won a lot more states than did Al Gore -- 28 states (not counting the one Nebraska electoral vote that went to Obama), eight more than Gore; and of course, several of those states were very significant: Virginia (13 EVs), North Carolina (15), Ohio (20), and the whopper, Florida (27). This propelled the Democrat to a resounding victory of 365 to 173.

But with the 2010 shift, those same states would have given Obama an electoral-college count of only 359 to 179, making it a little easier for the Republican to make up the difference in 2012.

The states that flipped between the razor-close 2000 election and the substantial Democrat victory of 2008 were:

  • Colorado - 9
  • Florida - 27
  • Indiana - 11
  • One electoral vote from Nebraska - 1
  • Nevada - 5
  • New Hampshire - 4
  • North Carolina - 15
  • Ohio - 20
  • Virginia - 13

The six (out of nine) states depicted above in bold italics enjoyed major Republican gains in the 2010 election, making them very strong candidates for flipping back to the Republicans in the 2012 presidential election. As you can see, those states would yield an electoral GOP pickup of 84 electoral votes, based upon their EVs in 2010; when we add in the changes from the 2010 reapportionment, that EV switch drops to 83: Florida gains two seats, but Ohio loses two, for a wash; then Nevada -- which I assume doesn't switch and stays with Obama -- gains one. If these six states actually switch back to the Republicans in 2012, that would make the total 275 (Dem) to 263 (Rep).

This still leaves the GOP slightly short; but flipping just seven electoral votes would bring victory to Republicans and defeat to Obamunism. For example, flipping any one of the states of Iowa, North Carolina, or Pennsylvania would do it, three states that Obama won (relatively) narrowly.

So perhaps that's the GOP game plan: Focus on the states that flipped from R to D between 2000 and 2008 and go after those that seemed to be returning to the fold in the 2010 mid-terms; then try to pick off at least one other state whose devotion to Obama looked a little weak in 2008.

That scenario also implies that a victory over Obama in 2012 is likely to be pretty thin... which not only means the reapportionment is likelier to be determinative but also raises the specter of the Hewitt Hypothesis Corollary: If it is close, they can cheat.

Unless of course the electorate has soured even more on Barack H. Obama and Obamunism two years from now than they did in the elections this November, in which case a myriad of viable routes to Republican victory present themselves. But that happy thought requires, I believe, at least one of three extraordinary circumstances:

  • Obama manages to economically infuriate voters even further -- perhaps by vetoing many attempts by the GOP to improve the economy, followed by an anemic rise in employment (or even a further drop), so that Obama takes the blame for it.
  • We suffer a huge terrorist attack that the American people blame on Obama's feckless national-security policy.
  • Or a hitherto unknown Republican presidential candidate rises who truly captures the imagination of the voters; not another Ronald Reagan, who would already be known right now, but perhaps a Republican version of Obama -- though with more and better substance, one hopes!

Naturally, none of these three is predictable or reliable; and if the last is to occur, it must begin within the first couple of quarters of calendar 2011. At this point, I would put my money on a very close presidential election in 2012... with the result unknown right down to the wire, and in which we'll be very glad for those extra few EVs from reapportionment.

And rampant Democratic cheating, of course. Keep watching the skies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 23, 2010, at the time of 1:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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