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 . . .

Saturday, February 18, 2012

So would the Rebecca Black be the cheese or the turkey?

A local bagel store names its special sandwiches after iconic figures in music. For lunch today, I had the "Eric Clapton" tuna melt, but I really like the "Robert Johnson"* nova and cream cheese, because it includes capers.

 But, despite the erroneous urban legend, is it bad taste that they call the chicken cutlet bagel the "Mama Cass"?

*Pausing merely to shove in one of my occasional plugs for my old schoolfriend, Robb Johnson, one of the all-time great songwriters, who comes immediately after Robert on my sadly alphabetized CD shelves, but who manages to be a ridiculously good guitarist without going down to crossroad to sell his soul to the devil. At least, he's never mentioned it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My life as a dog-walker.

Crisp, clear, winter mornings. Pale sun. Rye's Playland Beach at shimmering low tide, open for dogs to hurtle, sniff, and socialize. Leila, unfettered, joyously runs two hundred yards across the damp sand to chase a flock of seagulls.*  Stands in the freezing ocean up to her belly, puzzled by flight. Later, leaps into the passenger seat of the Starship Minnie, dripping sand, sea, and snow, panting and happy.

But other days, we still pound the streets at a brisk trot, so that her person can get as much exercise as she does. Today, crossing a City parking lot, I happen to glance down. She looks back warily, a slice of pizza mysteriously clamped between her jaws.

*The birds, not the 80s New Wave band.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The joys of modern parenting, part 37

We gather to watch the Giants triumph in the Superbowl. At one point, Eli Manning gets sacked, and the boys' mother lets out an involuntary swearword, which I don't catch, but Primus picks up on with a huge grin.

"What did she say?" I ask.

"Not one of the two curse words that [eight-year-old Tertius] uses all the time," Secundus informs me.

Alas, this is enough for me to identify the expletive. Double alas, so too does Tertius, who proceeds to tell me what I've missed.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tintin has a lot to answer for.

We finally get to see Martin Scorcese's Hugo, a genuine masterpiece and a paean to the pioneering Georges Melies, which holds the boys spellbound by the power of great storytelling alone -- no vampires, wizards, or giant robots.

But as Scorcese introduces us to the denizens of the 1930s Parisian train station, Secundus leans in and asks "These are real people, right?"

Yes. Although you probably know Sacha Baron Cohen best as a lemur.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Department of things that make me happy.

Hearing that a seventh-grader at the Middle School has decorated the inside of her locker, including adding a carpet and a chandelier. Style.