Tuesday, February 21, 2012

President Santorum. Did that scare you enough?

From the Department of Gross Electoral Oversimplification.
  • Even when there's a third-party candidate, such as Perot or Nader, the Democratic percentage of the popular vote has never dipped below 40% since 1940 (apart from 37% for McGovern in 1972).
  • At the same time, the Republican percentage of the popular vote has never dipped below 40% either (apart from 38% for Goldwater in 1964 and 37% for Bush senior in 1992).
  • So you can count on at least 80% of the voting population being either hardline conservatives or knee-jerk liberals, at least in their unwavering support of their party's nominee, whoever he is.
  • But, mathematically, neither group alone is big enough to win a two-party election. And even when Bill Clinton was in a three-way with both the insurgent Ross Perot and the incumbent President Bush in 1992, he still got 43% of the popular vote.
  • So it's the remainder, that shifting middle 20% of party-switchers and independents, who effectively tip the election to the left or right. And with the Electoral College system, that slight tip can become an almighty crash. Ask Al Gore.
  • Now, given that Obama is -- so far -- the unchallenged Democratic candidate, let's look at the Republicans (if we must).  Roughly one-third of all self-identified Republicans actually turn out to vote in the primaries. That's only about 8% of the voting-age population. 
  • We can't assume that these active, primary-voting Republicans are also the most conservative. (Nor can we assume they're representative of Republicans in general.) But it's clear that any Republican candidate who can put together a platform that appeals to, say, just 5% of US voters can secure the presidential nomination. Not exactly a ringing endorsement on the national stage.

Rick Santorum is clearly hoping that his 5% are sitting at that far end of the spectrum, at least in terms of sexual, reproductive, and gender politics.

But getting the nomination is one thing. Winning the presidency is quite different.

As you can see, a candidate's target audience before the nomination-- the non-apathetic party faithful -- is quite different from his (and I truly wish I could add "or her") audience after the nomination: the thoughtful, persuadable middle ground. Sure, by just getting on the ticket, they automatically pass Go and collect their 40% of party-line voters. (I'm one, on the grounds that I'd sooner marry a Kardashian than ever vote Republican; however, since I only became a citizen in 2005, that's been one no-brainer presidential vote for Obama.)

But that won't get them elected. So we get to witness that amazing shift after the conventions, when the chosen candidates "reach out" into the no man's land of the central undecided, suddenly softening their extreme messages and singing hymns of praise to compromise and bipartisanship. Some of them mean it. Some of them (Dubya) don't (Dubya).

Mitt Romney can clearly do this. Heck, he's already done it, no matter how hard he tries to cover up his record.

But suppose Santorum prevails? How on earth is he going to equivocate to make his ludicrous conservative, counter-sexual-revolutionary, homophobic platform in any way acceptable to the -- by definition -- average American? Who now, according to the latest polls (I checked!) favors gay marriage, overwhelmingly practices contraception, and is marginally pro-choice.

Can we take heart, therefore, from the fact that Rick seems unelectable? The 52% of voters who were born with a uterus should guarantee this. But remember, the Equal Rights Amendment wasn't defeated by the all-boys club in Congress. It was brought down by one (well-funded) conservative Catholic woman.

It's getting interesting . . .

5 comments:

  1. It is things like this that make me want to hide under the bed. Not just until the election is over, but rather for the rest of my life.

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  2. can't even think about it.... la la la...

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  3. Bob the liberal libertarianFebruary 26, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    The Republican Party is downright scary these days. Its almost unbelievable to me that extreme social conservatives like Santorum, Bachmann and Palin are relevant to some voters. Hopefully the 2012 Republican Convention is a train wreck that leads to major change in the Republican Party, and forces the super-extreme social conservatives out the door. I'm a Democrat, but being that we only have two major political parties in this country I don’t like the idea that one of those parties is controlled by a bunch of extremist wackos.

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  4. The statement, "We have to pass the bill to find out what is in it," is something I find scary. It was said by Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, in reference to the Affordable Health Care Act.

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  5. I paraphrased Ron Reagan junior on my Facebook page the other day, who said in an interview that the Republicans want small government so it can fit through your bedroom door. (You might also add inside your womb.)

    In that same interview, Reagan noted something that has always struck me since moving here, nearly thirty years ago: Republicans always act as if they have a God-given right to the presidency and therefore any Democrat is an interloper -- no matter how many people in the country actually voted for the guy (that would be Clinton and Obama in my time). You see it in the rapid "we have to get this terrible president out" attitude, which looms in the rhetoric well in advance of the elections, and which generally comes out as well-funded attempts by mysterious billionaires to undermine the man from the start -- Travelgate, Whitewatergate, Paula Jones, Ken Starr and the ludicrous impeachment for Clinton, birthers for Obama.

    (Frankly, I think any funded attempt to blindly dredge up "something" on a democratically elected president should be treated as treason.)

    I mean, more fool Clinton for failing to keep it in his pants, but does anybody really believe it was just a coincidence that a flirty, thong-flashing intern with an odd penchant for preserving forensic evidence of sexual encounters just happened to have a rabid Republican phone-taping activist as her only confidante . . . ?

    Democrats, on the other hand, do the democratic thing and wait out the four years, congratulating themselves on setting the tone for Western civilization by NOT rioting in the street when the Supreme Court handed Florida to Bush, and NOT seriously considering impeachment proceedings when Bush squandered the 9/11 goodwill with his mendacious Freudian vendetta against Saddam.

    So do we congratulate the Democrats on seeking the high ground and the path of compromise and unity? Or do we deplore them for letting their opponents walk all over them, time and again?

    John Stewart had some line over Christmas about the Democrats gleefully giving the Republicans their "Secret Santa" gifts and the Republicans giving the Democrats nothing in return.

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