Tuesday, October 16, 2007

State of the 2008 Race - Analysis

As many of my avid reader(s) know, I am pretty bad at predicting mass human behavior. Give me an individual and I can predict their behavior pretty well... but masses of unknown dolts? I am worse than Lotto. Can't help it, it's just an ability I lack. And I also can't help myself from MAKING predictions. All I can do is warn you that my predictions stink.

You may ask "Why, then, do you feel compelled to make these (ironically) predictably bad predictions?" Good question, voice in my head. Because while my conclusions are almost always wrong, my analysis is often right. So I want broadcast points for my deductive skills even when my inductive skills blow.


All logic should state that the next president will be a Democrat. A Democrat won in 1992, 1996, and in 2000 - and came very close in 2004 and that was a very poor candidate against a wartime, post-homeland strike, opponent. In the three subsequent years the GOP have shown themselves to be corrupt incompetent hypocrites. Their support seems to come entirely from flat-earth fundamentalist xenophobes. So logic says it will be nearly impossible for the GOP to win in 2008.

The nearest example of this election would be 1976, when a very poor Democratic candidate defeated the scandal-ridden GOP. There are lessons for both parties since it was a remarkably close election. Quoth the wiki:
Carter defeated Ford by two percentage points in the popular vote. The electoral vote was the closest since 1916; Carter took 23 states with 297 electoral votes, while Ford won 27 states and 240 electoral votes...
Despite the stink of Watergate, the GOP installed an honest-ish dolt as President and he was able to run on a clean slate. And he almost won! What undid Ford? The fact that in 1976 the American electorate actually cared that their president not be a moron:
During the second presidential debate on October 6, Ford stumbled when he asserted that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." He added that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union", and made the same claim with regards to Yugoslavia and Romania. Ford compounded his error by refusing to retract his statement for almost a week after the debate...
Side note: burn this fact into your cerebrum - in 1976 a visibly stupid Ford wasn't (re)elected despite an impressive record of leadership and valor (WWII veteran, in the House for 24 and Minority Leader for eight, and sitting as president for 2 years); yet in 2000 an even more obviously stupid candidate, George W Bush, with a pathetic resume (drunk, drugged and unemployed until he was 40, then - after his father had served as VP and President, being elected governor in a state known for having one of the weakest executives in the Union and serving one term) came dangerously close to being elected president against an accomplished & talented, albeit irritating as hell, incumbent VP of a very popular president.

Ford lost in 1976 because he was (moron + scandal) while Bush was almost elected because he was a (moron - +scandal) i.e. minus the scandal that hung around the neck of his rival.

The GOP could win in 2008 if they extrapolate the 1976 lesson - get a competent candidate who can push the scandal of the past 8 years onto a rival and run against a weak Democrat. The Democrats need learn from Carter's shaky '76 run:
When Carter left the Democratic National Convention, he held a huge 33-point lead over Ford in the polls. However, as the campaign continued the race tightened, and by election day the polls showed the race as too close to call. Carter's decline in the polls, and Ford's surge, is usually credited to three events. First, Carter promised a "blanket pardon" to Vietnam War draft dodgers ... Second... Carter admitted to having "lusted in his heart" for women other than his wife [in Playboy Magazine]... [Third], Ford performed well in what was the first televised presidential debate since 1960.
The lessons again? (1) Don't be a crazy liberal, (b) don't be arrogant and stupid in your sanctimony, (c) Any stumble can cost dozens of points no matter how stupid your opponent is.

Primaries vs. Generals

An added problem is the decades-broken primary process. True, the primary system was developed to fix what was perceived as an even worse process (the Fat Balding Party Boss System), but in general it appears that the primaries have been worse for Democrats (see: 1972-2004) than Republicans (see: uh, 1996?). Sadly the only people who vote in the Primaries are wild-eyed freaks on the fringes of both parties, and the candidates know that. Which means Republicans bank rightward and Democrats bank left.

The candidates will need to fringe themselves up only as far as the fringe requires. In 1992, Clinton didn't have to go too far left because after having a Republican president for 20 of the past 24 years, the Left wasn't as strong and the Center was ripe. So too, now: the Democrats don't need to be so far left because the Centrists of the party are as fed-up with the past few years as the Liberals are.

The GOP is in trouble, though, thanks to Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Karl Christian Rove. The Rove Strategy was to take a country that is pretty centrist - as reflected in 1992, 1996 & 2000 - and pump up "wedge issues" so as to create a massive, but illusory, Red-Blue split. This grotesque polarization started with Newt's Crew who were shocked by a JFK/LBJ style Centrist Democrat in office. Their attacks on Clinton were designed not only to weaken a strong Democrat but were done so in a hyper-partisan way. And just as the Israelis, while being victims of terrorism, are blamed as aggressors for retaliation, so too Clinton was blamed for being "partisan" after he was dragged through the mud for every idiot possible thing that he maybe kinda shoulda woulda coulda did. And so in 2000 the country, which was unified in a desire for a centrist (like Clinton), was persuaded to believe that the victim of the partisan assaults (Gore) was the cause... while a mop-topped 'outside the beltway' Gucci-cowboy dunce would be a 'unfyiter not a divdinger.'

The politics of radical division was then AGGRESSIVELY pursued by Karl Christian because he knew (I think) that the "Centrist" mantle could easily be adopted by the Democrats as well as the Republicans. It was 50-50. So Karl needed an edge - the 1% or 2% that is all that will matter in a tight, close race. Karl then pumped up his rabid fringe to show up and vote (while also preventing likely Democrats from getting to the polls and forcing the Justice department to investigate talented Democratic rivals; cf. the Attorney Scandal).

Karl Christian was a success in 2004, but the price is being paid in 2008: the fringe now dominates the Republicans. Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are the spokesmen and any deviation from their venomous blather will cost a GOP hopeful in the primaries. You need to be a jingoistic soldier for Christ or you're not a proper Republican.

Note, the fringe-voter imbalance that skews the Primaries are also reflected in any of the polls taken before the primaries - because most people don't pay attention to the race until it becomes "necessary" - which for some is right before the primary, or possibly post-Labor Day 2008.

I will continue this analysis for each party in the next few posts.

Update: Woops, I forgot the most important lesson from 1976 and that is 1980. That no matter how scandal ridden the GOP was post-Watergate, the almost complete idiocy of Carter made it possible for an even more right wing Republican to win just FOUR YEARS after the population "threw the bums out." And Reagan was so popular that he even got his nebbish Vice President to win in '88. What I would suggest, then, for Republicans is to pull a 1964 - choose an upright and outstanding candidate who can never ever win the general election but will make the GOP look good after 8 years of idiocy, and then run the A-list in 2012 so to pull of a 1980. The Democrats can help the GOP by having an idiot win in '08...

{2009 Update: moving gif from here.}

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