Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Time for Some Politics


Last night Iowans gathered for their caucuses.  The Democrats (of which party I'm a member) didn't really caucus so much as have a conversation with the incumbent President.

I'm sure the Democrats had a good time, but they were not the focus of attention.  All eyes were on the Republican caucuses, and the results proved rather interesting.  I have no dog in this dog and pony show, so I'm more interested in what this election says about the Republican Party.  So, here are my observations:


  • Rick Santorum won last night -- even if he fell 8 votes short of Mitt Romney.  Romney can claim he didn't put much effort into the state, but he's been running for President for more than four years and basically held serve.  Santorum was in single digits just a week or so ago, with the pundits asking him when he would drop out.  
  • Rick Santorum is more than a single issue candidate.  I hadn't paid much attention to him -- and the press hasn't either -- but his message on rebuilding the manufacturing base in America may have blue collar appeal.  He also seems likable and lacks the hubris of Romney.
  • Newt Gingrich is mad, and thus all gloves are off.  Watch for him to do everything in his power to take down Romney, whose SuperPac spent millions going after Newt.  
  • The Conservative--anti-Romney effort seems ready to pare down its choices (Perry drops out, Bachman likely drops out), Newt goes down quickly but throwing punches at Mitt, leaving Santorum as the last man standing.
  • Generational shifts -- I noticed an interesting point in one of those CNN analyses.  Romney had a big lead among those over 65.  Santorum seems to have garnered a lot of GenX and Baby Boom support, while Paul, the oldest person in the field, continues to attract the Millennials with his isolationist and libertarian message.  
  • Money and infrastructure.  Romney has both, but the question is -- where does the Perry money and infrastructure go?  I think, though I'm no expert, that it goes to Santorum.  
  • The Republican Party has become a far right party -- so the question is, can it attract those in the middle.  Romney's history as governor shows he knows how, but has he gone too far right to pivot back?  
  • South Carolina, not New Hampshire, will likely offer the best glimpse at where this goes.
In closing, from the perspective of a Democrat, watching with interest these debates and votes, I do believe that this is a rather weak field working for the GOP nomination.  I think that President Obama, if the economy cooperates, can close the deal.  He's a good campaigner, tends to look long term, can claim strong foreign policy successes, and he's the known quantity.  While there's always the possibility he can be beat, there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for Romney, and there is a lot of baggage that can drag him down -- most especially his own corporate history as head of a firm best known for taking over companies and down-sizing them.  He was not so much a job creator, as a job diminish-er.  He knows how to fire, but does he know how to hire.

So, on to New Hampshire!!

12 comments:

Allan Bevere said...

"The Republican Party has become a far right party."

How true, just as the Democratic Party has become a far left party. Have you noticed all the "blue dogs" who are retiring? There currently is very little room for moderates in either party.

Robert Cornwall said...

Allan,

You are right -- the two parties have become further polarized in recent years. And that's not really a good thing, in my mind.

I think one of the reasons we have seen such volatility in elections recently is that the middling vote is essentially non-aligned. Thus, they go back and forth, swinging the pendulum ever wider. I do think, however, that the Democrats still have a greater ability to move to the center.

Note the President -- despite the rhetoric on the right about him being a socialist -- is really rather centrist. Remember, he gets just as much criticism from the left as from the right. I think there is no better example of this than the Health Care Act. The law as enacted is rather close to the GOP alternative in 1993. We hear that Americans don't like the law -- but what we're not told is that there is a formidable group who don't like it because it's not single-payer, not because it forces people to get insurance. But the polls merge the critiques from left and right against a rather centrist law.

Brian said...

Allan - From my vantage point, which would be labeled "far left", I don't see the Democratic Party as being "far left".

Sure, some of us are, but that is meaningless. The legislation is what matters. As Bob pointed out, my criticism of the health care bill is that it is not single-payer. I'm angry with President Obama for caving too much to the right on just about every issue, but I'll support him in the general.

The past two Democartic presidents have very centrist policy records. The Democrats in Congress seem much more willing to compromise to get policy accomplished than do the current Republicans. (I miss the days of Gerry Ford Republicans.)

As I stated, I'm biased, but I believe there is a "false equivelency" argument that both sides are equally extremist. I simply don't see it.

Gary said...

I would be very surprised if anyone in the current Republican field would be able to generate enough interest from the voters to beat obama. Which is not all bad. There are no solutions to most of the problems facing the country, so leaving them to obama would be sort of appealing.

David said...

You're right Gary. Bush left a difficult legacy to overcome.

Santorum is a real piece of work. What a putz. Tells a gay soldier in Iraq he would reinstate "don't ask, don't tell". The guy, and many others are already out of the closet.

Of course, he didn't thank the guy for his service- or his question.

Gary said...

I would love to see DADT reinstated too. But I don't think that is going to happen. The military has officially been sodomized. I no longer support the military.

David said...

"If Darwin is right, I have organized my life around an illusion. We have no moral demands if we are evolved."

I hopes Rick doesn't lose his religion. Who knows what he's capable of.

Brian said...

I was trying to write my comment in such a way that Allan felt comfortable responding. Perhaps I fell short. I would like to hear some elaboration as to why he believes "the Democratic Party has become a far left party". I'm not wanting to argue about it. I just think it is false. Compared with past generations, the party is not liberal. Compared with many European nations it is not liberal.

John said...

Brian,

I absolutely agree with you. The Republican Party has moved to the far right. There is no place for moderate Republicans, and even conservative Republicans have to be careful to sound sufficiently reactionary to avoid becoming a target of the Right Wing of their own party.

The Democrats, have had to move to the center. The rightward movement of the Republicans has forced the Democrats to the center just to keep the conversation going with the formerly moderate Republican colleagues who've had to shift to the right to remain viable in their own party.

By the way, the John Birchers and the libertarians have always been on the most extreme right wing of the Republican Party. They are now lifted up as the beacons of Republican Truth, a-la Glen Beck and Ron Paul.

For Democrats, the left wing consisted of Unionists and those with a socialist agenda. Growing the government in terms of both defense and entitlements were considered mainstream Democratic positions. Nowadays there are few if any Democrats who would claim to be Unionists or who would openly support a socialist agenda (maybe Dennis Kucinich is alone) and it is the rare Democrat who would propose growing the government, expanding the military budget, or creating new or expanding existing entitlements.

In summary, the radical shift of the politics within the Republican Party has forced the Democrats to the right as well. Moreover, the polarization in both parties, but especially in the Republican Right has destroyed the moderates in both parties.

David said...

BOTH parties have gotten too fascist.

WE have a lot of healing to do.

THAT should be our priority.

WE went to war without just cause.

Sorry for yelling.

Brian said...

Call me paranoid, but every time John agrees with me I sense a passive-aggressive critique.

John said...

Brian,

No passive aggressive critique intended. If agree, I mean I agree. There are time when my agreement is intended as a bridge into a more intensive dialogue, but the agreement itself is genuine. Not that I am above snark: when intended its pretty blatant - and usually when I am mean, it comes in response to perceived meanness.

Besides, we actually agree pretty much across the board on a variety of items from the progressive agenda. For example in this particular post I am in complete agreement with you that the core political agenda of the Democratic party has moved to the right, not the left. I can't imagine where Allan is coming from on this point.

So please accept my apologies if you perceived any negative intentions on my part.