By Jay Hansen
First and foremost, allow me to sincerely apologize for the lack of updates on my website this week. Work has been absolutely murderous; I’ve only just now gotten off a 14 hour shift, but insist on uploading at least one article this week. I’m very sorry if there are no further updates this week. I would encourage all of you to check ThinkProgress and The Young Turk’s youtube channel for this week’s best stories. Thank you for reading, and for your patience.
It’s been a long time since I’ve weighed in my two cents on the Republican primary. A lot has developed since the Iowa caucuses, but I think we may finally be soon reaching a possible conclusion. What I have to say may shock you, but first, let’s start with the obvious.
You tried man, you really did, and you certainly did better than in 2008, but let’s face it, it’s time to pack up and go home. I was rooting for Dr. Paul, I really was. He was the only one of the Republican candidates that even had the slightest chance of winning my vote because of his strong, principled stances on civil liberties, the war on drugs, foreign interventionalism, and select others. What’s saddest about Paul’s loss, though, is that I think he was genuinely the most likely of these four candidates to defeat Obama. Many of you may remember me saying some time ago that Paul had almost no chance of beating Obama because he was so flagrant with his ultimate, highly unpopular political goals. Now, I think he’s the most likely to beat Obama not because his odds have necessarily improved much, but mostly because the odds of any of his three opponents left have gone down so drastically. So it’s not that he’s gotten better; his opponents have only gotten so much worse. Think about it this way; Paul is rather inarguably the only candidate that could have pulled away some of Obama’s support, especially among young voters, because Obama’s defenders are quite fervent (even if not out of support of Obama, but rather great disdain for his opponents, given how radical they are). Romney is fake, Gingrich is loathsome, Santorum is outlandishly religious, and all three of them are the definition of polarizing candidates. Plus, young voters are very idealistic and protective of their civil liberties, which is possibly Ron Paul’s biggest issue. Most importantly, Paul is a very strong candidate. When he says he’s going to do something, he’s doing it, even if he has to blow up the entire government (figuratively) to get it done. When Obama says he wants to do something, I’d go as far to say a majority of the time he doesn’t, whether it’s because he can’t get it done or that he just flat-out doesn’t try. On top of that, Obama is now developing an even worse track record on civil liberties than the Bush administration. To many Americans, this is their number one issue, especially among Democratic voters. Paul’s strength alone would be enough to pull support out from under Obama’s campaign into his own. Add to this the fact that Republican voters are much more likely to vote for a candidate based on party affiliation (because someone has an R next to their name instead of a D) than Democrats means that a lot of these Republicans claiming they “would never” vote for Ron Paul, or that just generally dislike him, are largely blowing smoke. They’d still vote for him over Obama any day, giving Paul a unique advantage of having actual bipartisan, non-polarized support.
It’s a real shame that he’s going to lose the primary. That would have been a fascinating general election.
Romney’s doing the best thus far in the race, but to say he’s unstoppable is fairly naive. As of a week ago, he had amassed 53% of the delegates, but he’s only won 38% of the popular vote. That means 62% of Republicans do not want Romney. Granted, I wouldn’t really expect a landslide majority in a primary with as many candidates as this one has had, but 38% still seems low. On top of that, let’s not forget that the harder he tries to secure the social conservative vote that continues to elude him, the more he alienates independent voters. When Romney campaigned in Florida, he fought an extremely dirty campaign with virtually nothing but attack ads in an attempt to bring down his far more social conservative opponents. While it secured him the victory there, it cost him, because around the same time polls started showing a massive dip in Romney’s popularity among independents; a crowd he does not have to win over to secure the primary, but one he does to win the general election. This is the classic problem for all politicians running in primaries; they have to run away from the center, which can make the majority of voters in the general election squeamish, and in turn, makes the general election harder. With Newt Gingrich wanting to decimate the judicial branch, Rick Santorum literally wanting to establish a theocracy, and both of them waging war against women, birth control, and (for Santorum at least) even pornography, it’s impossible for Romney’s social conservative credentials to keep up with them while at the same time maintaining any shred of sanity, or for that matter, hope of winning the general election. Worse yet though, is that even his efforts to appear more socially conservative are turning around to bite him in the butt, because it only goes to show Romney as more of a politician and poll-chaser, meaning he’ll do and say whatever is necessary to win. While that may be true to a degree for all politicians, Romney by far does the worst job I’ve ever seen at pretending otherwise. This is why people view him as a disdainful, greasy politician, and not someone who genuinely wants to make America better for everyone. Let’s not even go too much into detail of how disconnected he is from a vast majority of society as a member of the 1%. There are way too many individual stories about Romney, a man worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars, trying to relate to the every man by telling everyone that he counts as a sports fan because his friends own sports teams, that he considers corporations people, that he’s horribly mistreated his family dog, that he doesn’t care about the poor, that his wife, who doesn’t consider herself or her family rich, drives a couple of Cadillacs, and many others. This list from the guys over at MAD magazine makes the disturbingly apt analogy in the style of a matching game between quotes from Mitt Romney and those from Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, and pretty much communicates this point well enough.
Romney may still stand a very good chance at winning the primary, but in doing so he’ll end his chances of winning the general election, ironically, no matter how hard he may try to run back to the center upon winning.
“Not concerned about the poor? Get rid of Planned Parenthood? Did I say that? No, not me! I’m good-old centrist Mitt!”
But that’s still not even Romney’s most immediate concern; the end of the primary and the inevitable rush back to the center is centuries away in political years. While he may still be on a winning streak after taking Illinois last night, there’s one big threat still in the game that could shake the very foundations of the Republican Party.
The Gingrich – Santorum Paradigm
First of all, Gingrich’s chances of winning the general election were higher than most people thought. I mean, for starters, just look at how aggressive he has been even in the face of impossible odds in the primary, despite massive pressure to stop. Plus, in the general election, he could whip out a bunch of his old-school experience and bipartisanship. Keep in mind that he was the Speaker of the House that managed to balance the budget working with the Clinton administration. In today’s political atmosphere, that could score some points. Of course, he’s still so slimy that if he got any slimier you could kill him with a box of salt (Bill Maher joke, not mine), which would definitely impede his efforts, to say the least. Plus, it’s just damn sad that this primary’s candidates are just so pitiful that Newt Gingrich was among the most likely, or rather least unlikely, to win in the general election.
None of that matters at this point though, because after his losses in the South Gingrich is out. He’s officially in the same camp as Ron Paul now; thanks for playing, you will receive your consolation gifts at the door, so get out before you embarrass yourself any further. At this point all Gingrich is doing is helping Romney, because he’s leeching votes away from Santorum. If he was smart, he’d strike some sort of deal with Romney, be it for cash or an administration position, to stay in the game and keep grinding Santorum into the ground. Of course, that’s if he was smart. If he was smarter, and in the mood to be striking deals (and it’s Gingrich, so of course he is), he should strike one with Santorum, which is why I named this section what I did. Romney is likely too overconfident and would never accept a deal from such a loser like Gingrich, even to give him an extremely low administrative position, after all that he’s said and done to Romney throughout the campaign. Santorum, on the other hand, has everything to gain, and Gingrich could easily milk more from him than he ever could appealing to Romney, which leads me to my biggest, boldest prediction yet about this primary:
If Gingrich drops out of the race, Santorum will win the nomination.*
Note the asterisk. I put it in there because obviously it depends on when Gingrich drops out. He’s obviously not winning, so it’s just a matter of time. If he hangs in there until convention time, then it’s not likely Santorum will win given Romney’s massive delegate lead. I’m not a math wiz, nor could I even tell you which primaries happen when in what order and how many delegates go to those who win what percentage of the votes in which states blah-biddy-blah-biddy-blah… But, if Gingrich drops out before some of the bigger states like California or New York, to name a couple, the social conservative and anti-Romney title will no longer be challenged. A majority of Gingrich’s support would almost certainly flock to Santorum, and the anti-Romney crowd that only cast their votes to oppose Romney would have their choices considerably narrowed, with their serious choices down to just a single candidate (Santorum).
Hey, I’ve been wrong before. If you recall, I said Santorum was out months ago, calling him “laughably illegitimate” because he’s so radically right-wing on social issues. That’s why it’s just so pitifully sad that he’s actually within realistic reaching distance of the nomination now, and worse, that he’s the only one left standing against Romney. What does that say about the state of the Republican Party as a whole, when their two absolute best men to represent the different sub-factions of their party are Romney and Santorum?
But of course, Santorum and Gingrich would have to cut the deal first. Newt is way too proud to admit defeat in most situations, but I think even he is beginning to realize what kind of trouble he’s gotten himself into. Santorum, on the other hand hardly seems too proud, or intelligent, to strike a deal with Gingrich something along the lines of Gingrich agreeing to drop out of the race in exchange for a spot on the ticket as Vice President. Could you imagine that? Santorum Gingrich 2012? I’m fairly certain that would literally be the worst presidential ticket in United States history, the two are so extreme and loathsome, which is why I don’t think Santorum is intelligent enough to not make that deal. Even if he is smart enough to realize the disaster that ticket would be, in order to get the deal he’d still likely offer Gingrich a cabinet position, such as Secretary of State (which just scares me). Maybe he can be Secretary of Moon Colonization?
But realistically, who could be Santorum’s VP pick? I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately, and hope to soon write an article over it, and I’m somewhat stumped on Santorum. He’s not as savvy as Romney, who would play politics and balance the ticket as well as possible ethnically, such as with Senator Marco Rubio (pretty much the nation’s only Latino Republican), or ideologically with a hard-right wing conservative with unquestionable credentials like Senators Rand Paul or Jim DeMint. Santorum, on the other hand, seems like a principle-narcissist, meaning he’s so obsessed with his ideology he might actually be dumb enough to pick someone just like him, such as Newt Gingrich, or worse. His biggest Achilles’ heel image wise in this nation may actually be with female voters, which is saying a lot given his image among Latino and other ethnic minority voters. His stances on issues like opposing birth control and insinuating women who want it are sexually promiscuous whores, opposing women working outside of the home, and medical claims of abortion being needed to save a woman’s life, no matter how rare or doctor-mandated, are “phony,” among many others, disenfranchise a massive group in America that isn’t even a minority. Given that, a woman pick would be good to balance the ticket, but in all honesty, what woman, even Republican woman, would choose run with Rick Santorum? What woman would be so much of a sell out to support these ideologies when even female Republican politicians are railing against their own party establishment, something not tolerated in the Republican Party, to oppose them?
The most fascinating part of all this, though, is that Gingrich might not need to make this deal. If he and Santorum together can accumulate enough delegates by time the Republican National Convention rolls around, we could see something fascinating and really historic. Apparently, it’s called a contested convention. I really don’t know much about them as it’s such a rare occurrence, but Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks proposed that it would be possible, if Gingrich and Santorum had a combined total of delegates that rivaled or beat Romney they could decide to team up during the convention on a Santorum-Gingrich ticket and take it from Romney at the last second. Is that allowed? I honestly don’t know, nor could I even imagine how the nation would take it. If it came down to this option, the party would likely be in such shambles and so weak politically Obama will have gotten his wish, which is to drive them so far to the right by agreeing with everything they say they are forced off the deep end and voters have no choice but to vote for the only candidate that’s mildly sane… conservative, but sane.
The only other option is that Romney takes the nomination, and like I pointed out, he’s only secured 38% of the popular vote in his own Party, and the Obama administration has been gearing up since day one of their campaign to go up against Romney. I won’t go back into all the details I just talked about above as to why he would lose in a general election, but suffice to say Romney could get clobbered easily in the general election.
Then again, leave it up to the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Plus, with mind-boggling, downright disturbing amounts of Super PAC money and donations from the ultra wealthy of this nation already flooding the election in record levels before even ending the primary, once all that money gets focused at Obama, he’d better have his fighting gloves on and ready to go. The question that would remain in this situation is an important one that could shape the future of America and all modern democracies. Which is mightier for shaping public opinion; big, wealthy donor money, or overt disdain and disregard for the lower classes and majority of one’s voting constituency?
Man, I knew this was going to be a big, historic election season, but I had no idea how historic.