Position Briefs

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Danger of Ideologues -or - “How stupid is the tea party?”

Politics is the art of compromise. And the building of a successful political party depends on building coalitions, some of which may not always “play nice” together. Hence the expression, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” One example of this, and to their credit, would be the Republicans (since 1980) managing to keep the Libertarians and Evangelical Christian Fundamentalists, two groups with largely mutually exclusive agendas, under the same tent. Of course they did this by appealing to the greed of the libertarians and the stupidity of the Funny-Mentalists: We’ll use gay rights and abortion to get the bible-humpers to vote for us, against their own economic interests, and then you [the rich Libertarians] can keep all the money!

Another example came from a conservative friend of mine. She was a school-teacher, and thus required to join the union. She was horrified to see that some of her union dues were being contributed to various gay and lesbian advocacy groups. She couldn’t understand what the benefit of that would be to her job or the union. So I explained to her: Democrats support unions and the LBGT community supports Democrats. Hence the ‘strange’ alliance. But neither example is at all surprising, since to win the majority vote of over 300 MILLION people, you need more than just one wedge issue or one coalition. The Funny-Mentalists ALONE couldn’t win a pie-eating contect and neither could the Rich Bastards Libertarians. But TOGETHER they’ve managed to become the dominant force fucking up American Politics and subverting the U.S. Constitution for the past 30 years!

And this is why the Tea Party is so stupid: They can only hurt their own cause. They can only help the party that’s LEAST like them, ideologically. And I’ll go out on a limb right now and predict that the more prominent the tea party becomes, the better the Democrats will do in the Mid-Terms and the 2012 election. That’s not to say that they won’t lose any seats. They will. It’s inevitable. But I’ll guarantee you there will several seats (and possibly the Presidency) that the Republicans could have won, but will lose due to the actions of the uber-Right, the RINO-Hunters and the Tea-Baggers.

The most recent example of this was the recent NY-23 race for the House. Democrat Bill Owens won with 73,137 votes. Republican (the incumbent party since the 1850’s) Dede Scozzafava dropped out of the race, but still got 8,582 votes – as a lame duck candidate! “Conservative” Party candidate Doug Hoffman got 69,553. Now… combine the votes for the “Republicans” and the “Conservatives” and you’ve got 78,535 – not only a victory, but a larger margin of victory than Owns had over Hoffman. Now… maybe Scozzafava wouldn’t have gotten EVERY ONE of Hoffman’s votes, but he only would have needed 64,592, about 93% of them, to win. And I don’t think you’d really see much more than 7% of the “Conservative” (meaning ‘clearly to the Right of the Republicans’) vote going to the Democratic candidate!

Another example that hits closer to home with Liberals would be Florida in the 2000 Presidential Election. Ralph Nader (someone generally perceived as more Liberal than Vice President Al Gore) got 97,488 votes in a State that George W. Bush (officially) won by only 537 votes! If Gore gets just 50.3% of the Nader Vote in Florida alone, he wins the state and he’s our 43rd President, Supreme Court be damned.* And considering how few Nader votes would have likely gone to Bush, it’s pretty clear that Gore would have won Florida decisively. And Nader’s political cause was hardly served better by eight years of a George W. Bush presidency!*

But I want to show you one more historic example, just in case you’re still not convinced: The 1912 Presidential Election.

In 1912 the Republican Party was in turmoil, much the way it is now. Although they had a conservative incumbent President in William Howard Taft, the progressive wing, led by former President Theodore Roosevelt was feeling increasingly disenfranchised and broke off, forming the Bull-Moose Party. (Possibly the only Party name stupider than “Tea,” except for maybe the “Know-Nothing” Party - ironically yet another Whig/Republican offshoot! LOL.) As history played out, here’s what the electoral map looked like in 1912:
















Democrat Woodrow Wilson won in LANDSLIDE, 435 to 88 to 8.

BUT… Here’s what might have happened, if the Republicans hadn’t imploded that year. Let’s assume they managed to agree on a Taft/Roosevelt or Roosevelt/Taft ticket, and then combine those votes, state by state. Then, just to be fair, and to try and compensate for the fact that not EVERY Roosevelt voter would have been a Taft/Roosevelt voter, we’ll go ahead and give all of Socialist candidate, Eugene Debs’ votes to Woodrow Wilson. Here’s what the map would look like under that scenario:



Woodrow Wilson now LOSES 285 to 246. A close and hard fought campaign, to be sure, but one the Republican clearly had a good shot at winning by any interpretation. But by splitting the vote in so many states, they ended up losing in a landslide. The only state that would have flipped to Wilson was California, which was much less of a factor back then than it is now. Wilson and Roosevelt ran neck and neck, hence the split electoral vote. But Eugene Debs cleaned President Taft’s clock there. So the 174 vote margin (wow!) that Roosevelt won by, becomes a 75,113 vote margin of victory for Wilson, assuming he’s given all of the Debs vote. But that’s the only gain for Wilson. Twenty other states would have move into the Republican’s column, however, and they’d have won.

And, just in case I’ve got you wondering, George H. Bush would have won reelection in 1992 by getting just over 66% of the Perot vote, nationally. In fact, he doesn’t even need that much: Between 52% and 66% of the Perot Vote would have been enough to flip Colorado (59%), Connecticut (65%), Georgia (52%), Iowa (66%), Kentucky (62%), Maine (64%), Montana (55%), Nevada (55%), New Hampshire (53%), New Jersey (58%), Ohio (54%) and Wisconsin (60%) and give George H. Bush a second term, by a margin of 274 to 264 Electoral Votes over Democratic Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Perot no doubt took some votes away from Clinton as well, but given the numbers involved above, saying that Perot screwed things up for Bush is definitely fair.

Also, to answer your next question, Bob Dole would have needed about 98% of the Perot vote, nationally, to defeat Clinton in 1996; and that’s much more of a stretch. So, I wouldn’t say Perot was a factor in ’96 the way he was in ‘92. But who knows? Maybe Two-Term Vice President Dan Quayle would have been atop the ticket in ’96, if Perot hadn’t botched it up for him four years earlier!

And also, just in case you’re almost as mentally ill as I am wondering: George W. Bush wins reelection against Democrat John Kerry in 2004, even if you award EVERY opposition party’s - thats Nader’s and everyone else’s - votes to Kerry. And some of those votes were for parties to the RIGHT of Bush. So Kerry has absolutely no one to blame but himself.

About the only time a prominent third-party candidate hasn’t screwed things up for the front runner was 1968. In ’68, former Vice President Richard Nixon soundly defeated incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey, despite a strong showing in the South by Segregationist American Independent candidate George Wallace. And remember: For that to happen, not only did the incumbent (Lyndon Johnson) have to decide on his own not to seek reelection, something that had happened only one other time in U.S. history (James Knox Polk was the only other) but the leading candidate within his party ended up getting assassinated just weeks before the Convention! And I’m pretty sure that’s NEVER happened before or since! So that’s two events, one unprecedented and one that had happened only one before in just under 200 years, that had to happen in order to bring about that electoral situation. And that, combined with the national, ideological shifts that started happening in ’68 (which I’ll probable write about next) makes it pretty much impossible to legitimately debate any “what if’s” about the 1968 election.

In any case (in every case) I think the point is clear: The Teabagger Party, the RINO Hunters and all other manner of loud, angry, dangerous and scary right-wingers can only take votes away from the REPUBLICAN candidate. The Democrats will get whatever votes they would have anyway (*assuming Ralph Nader’s learned his fucking lesson!) and what’s left will either go the Republican or get split 2 or more ways. So REST EASY, Liberals! The Tea-Baggers can only attract those who were going to vote against us anyway! And just remember, should things not work out quite the way the Right plans over the next two years: You heard it here first! LOL

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* Just a personal Note: As much as I hate George W. Bush, I truly hate Ralph Nader MORE for delivering the Presidency to him! I hate Ralph Nader so much I can taste in my balls! If I ever meet George Bush on the street, I’ll still probably shake his hand and maybe even ask for an autograph. (After all, as much as I criticize Ronald Reagan, I still have, and cherish, the letter I received from him back when I was seven, in response to the ‘get well’ card I made for him and sent to him after he got shot by John Hinckley.) But if I ever meet Ralph Nader on the street, I’m probably  going to punch him in the face as hard as I can, and as often as any bystanders present will let me! And that’s coming from a guy who’s worked in the field of automotive safety for the past thirteen years! It’s unbelievable how many things got so fucked up just because that uncompromising asshole [Nader] flunked Political Science 101.

2 comments:

  1. A few interesting subjects, here. A few notes on them:

    In the 1992 elections, the exit polling showed Perot drawing about evenly from Bush and Clinton (a little more from Clinton), but there's a basic problem with assigning any of those votes to either, and it runs through a lot of the alternate history scenarios you've sketched, here: If Perot hadn't been in that race, much of his voting bloc would have just stayed home. He built a strong base by appealing to people who had dropped entirely out of the process, resulting in a turnout surge. Nader did the same thing to a lesser extent in 2000, and Obama did a similar thing in 2008, gaining the traditional Democratic voters, plus attracting lots of new first-time voters.

    Truth be told, I've never been fond of this sort of alternate history analysis. It's presumptuous in the extreme to assign someone's voters to someone else. In NY23, you can show where Hoffman did, indeed, rob the Republicans of victory by undermining the Repub candidate, and cutting into the traditional Republican voters, but there are rarely such clear-cut cases.

    Your stated hatred of Ralph Nader is, if I may say, worthy of a conservative in its complete irrationality, for more reasons than can be easily listed. I didn't really come here to be overly confrontational--I usually agree with you--but honestly, that sort of thing should be beneath you, and any other liberal worthy of the label. The matter of Florida has been studied to death: Nader wasn't responsible for that travesty. The basic premise is wrong. The first thing it ignores is that Gore DID, in fact, win the state. The press consortium who conducted the recount in 2001 demonstrated that. Then, you have something on the order of 8,000 legal voters being turned away after being falsely flagged as felons. Most of them were black, and black voters went for Gore by more than 90%. Among Florida Democrats, something like 10-12% (I'm working from memory, here, so don't hold me too close to the mark) voted for Bush, rather than their own parties' candidate. There were something like five other third-party candidates in the race who all drew enough votes to have flipped the state in Gore's favor by the simplistic analysis that presumes they would have gone for one of the two "major" candidates if the candidate who actually got their vote hadn't been in the race--even Monica Moorehead (Worker's World party--anybody remember them?) drew more than 1,500 votes, just under three times Bush's margin of "victory." There were nearly 180,000 ballots in the state rejected as "spoiled," most of them in strongly Democratic districts stuck with inferior equipment. And, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court was the vote that counted. Nader hatred as a consequence of that race has no more basis in reality than racial hatred, and I just have to wonder what you're smoking, Eddie, when you say you'd ask a rabid, mass-murdering animal like Bush for his autograph but would punch Nader in the face--a man who has devoted his entire life to good causes.

    Being a liberal is no guarantee of good judgment, but I do like to think that, in a world in which the right has almost literally gone insane, the liberals should show a LOT better judgment than that.

    --classicliberal2

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  2. Classic,

    That is a very well-reasoned, well thought out rebuttal. And you're absolutely correct. What I've done here IS way overly-simplistic. As for my "irrational hatred" of Ralph Nader? I will still stand by my judgment that if HE had 'stayed home' we'd be talking about the "Gore years" right now, but YOU’RE RIGHT: That last little bit* was WAY over the top. I think you may have taken it a BIT more seriously than I intended however. In my defense, I intentionally tacked it on at the end, rather than include in the original analysis, because it meant as more of a "just for fun" emotional / venting / ranting / outburst than anything I would have had anyone take too seriously. But fair enough: I accept my shame. LOL

    And yes, of course, just as all liberals do, I realize that Florida was STOLEN by Bush and the SCOTUS and the other RW powers that be and that Gore DID in fact win, regardless of what the record shows. But it is what it is, And when you consider how few of the Nader votes would have been needed (0.3%) to change the race, even given the nefarious conditions that played out, and then consider how many Gore would have gotten (far more than 0.3% under any assumptions!) I still say it's defensible to blame Nader for the loss. Bush & Co are criminals, we all know that, but give a few thousand more COUNTED votes to Gore, and it becomes almost impossible for them to steal it. They did the best they could, and managed to steal it, but without Nader, their best efforts, as they were, would not have been enough. (IMHO)

    The other races are all far more questionable, I'll totally grant you that. I do realize that Perot drew fairly even from Clinton, Bush and the Undecided's / Uninterested’s in ‘92. And while I agree that you can't draw any solid conclusions, given the 66% of the Perot vote that Bush would have needed to win, I still think it's fun (and legit) to play "what if" with it. To ponder on whether or not he could have done it. Especially when you consider how much farther away the Dole and Kerry races were. (Out of reach, really.)

    And while that's all this really is – a bit of fun, playing “what if”- I think my overall point that the tea party can only screw things up for the Republicans remains intact. They have set themselves up as being clearly to the Right of the Republicans. And it is the Hard Right of that Party that has given it it’s energy all these years, since about 1980, and especially since 1994. But it an appeal to moderates that wins elections. And I just don’t see the Tea Baggers even TRYING to appeal to moderates. And any attempt to do so would be seen by the movement as 'selling out.' Personally, I think the louder they get, the more Moderates will either be alienated (and vote Dem) or just disgusted by the whole process and STAY HOME. Now… that could hurt the Dem’s, until you consider that it’s the REPUBLICAN base that the Tea-Baggers really draw from. Unlike Perot, you will not find a 50/50 (or even a 66/33) split of Republican/Democratic voters. More like 50/50 between likely Republican voters and people who would have sat at home, because they don’t think the Republicans are Conservative or Libertarian enough. In any case, not really a large or even significant number of potential Democratic voters.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your response. And while I don’t think we’re really as far apart as you may have though (putting aside my anti-Nader tirade at the end, and I wasn't SMOKING, though I may have been DRINKING, LOL) I can accept the things we disagree on. (Hey, we can’t agree on EVERYTHING can we?)

    Anyway, THANK YOU, for your reply. And by all means, don’t be afraid to call me out on something, or even be confrontational. If you come with FACTS and REASON (IOW: not like a typical Conservative would) then it only makes me a wiser man for reading what you have to say.

    Thank you for your comment.

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