Posts Tagged ‘Presidential election’

The next president will be . . . Marco Rubio

November 12, 2015

Unknown-5News flash: The Rational Optimist blog can now call the next presidential election for . . . yes, Rubio.

We’re told Trump and Carson are “frontrunners” for the GOP nomination. I don’t know what that means when we’re talking 25% or so in polls. Last I checked it takes 50+% of convention votes. No way either guy can reach that. Especially when dividing the “outsider” vote between them. But even if those votes all went to just Trump, or Carson, it still couldn’t plausibly produce a convention majority.

imagesThere are really two contests. One is an outlet for folks to vent anger and disaffection, and mouth off for candidates who push their buttons. The ones Trump pushes are obvious. And Carson’s persona as the antithesis of the stereotypical politico is working for him. He’s also got a “magical negro” thing going, as inoculation against the idea that Republican Obama-hatred is race-based.

But the second contest is a presidential election. And when it comes to that, most voters will put aside their emotive responses to the likes of Trump and Carson, and get serious. And neither man can be taken seriously as presidential material, unless something has radically changed in the American mindset. Indeed, for all the Trump and Carson ballyhoo, voters are too timid for anything truly radical. After all, we’ve seen high levels of voter disaffection before, with Congressional approval ratings scraping 9% (and who are those clueless 9%?). Yet the Congressional re-election rate continues to exceed 90%!

So while Trump and Carson “lead” the polls, with meaninglessly anemic pluralities, the real battle is among the more conventional and serious candidates. Unknown-3Initially Bush seemed the man, just on general principles, and hence he’s raised a gazillion dollars. Proving yet again that money doesn’t “buy” elections. No amount of advertising can sell a product people don’t like, and Bush seems to be the lackluster Edsel of this campaign.

Unknown-1Marco Rubio has the pizzazz Bush does not, and is brightening as Bush fades. Rubio is attractive and articulate. And it isn’t flash without substance. While much of the Republican party seems mired in ruinous ideological fetishism, Rubio embodies what a relevant and truly progressive twenty-first century Republican party could be, tackling the country’s real problems with sensible approaches that emphasize the empowerment of people rather than government (in contrast to Democratic “progressives,” who are not my idea of progressivity).*

Bernie Sanders, for all his humorlessness, is another non-serious candidate. Admittedly, unlike Trump’s and Carson’s, his supporters wouldn’t flinch from actually making him president. But they can’t stop Hillary Clinton’s remorseless juggernaut. She’ll be the nominee.

With a presidential electorate fairly evenly divided between the parties, elections are decided by the swing voters who are actually the least engaged and informed and who vote impressionistically, with their gut, for the candidate whose persona they’re most comfortable with. They’re not ideological. images-1And between Clinton and Rubio, Rubio has the better story. Clinton personifies the poisonous political divisiveness of the past couple of decades; Rubio might offer a fresh start.

Watch for a smear campaign on Rubio’s personal finances. But against Hillary Clinton? Really? With her history of dishonesty, scandals, misjudgments, and massive conflicts of interest? (Declaring in the recent debate her pride in the enmity of pharmaceutical companies – which have given her millions!)

Unknown-4Overheard from an unsophisticated middle-American conversation: “Hillary is shifty. Like a car salesman.”

So on January 20, 2017: “I, Marco Rubio, do solemnly swear . . . . “

* For example, hostility to free trade and technological advancement, and intolerance of divergent views.

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How Hillary Can Be Beaten

July 30, 2014

UnknownNot in recent memory has one presidential prospect, so far in advance, been so pre-emptive a front-runner. To be exact, not since Hoover in 1928.

But the presidency has been called “the greased pig of American politics,” and there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. So Hillary Clinton’s coronation could be derailed faster than I can sling metaphors. (Five in the last two sentences, if you’re counting.)images-1

Her candidacy’s vulnerability is that she doesn’t really stand for anything, apart from the novelty of being a woman. That was trumped in 2008 by the novelty of a black man. But by now we’ve had so long to get used to the idea of a woman president that we can just as well move on without actually electing her.

Warren

Warren

And the woman thing could be neutralized this time by Elizabeth Warren – many Democrats would prefer a woman who does stand for something.* Remember, this is party primaries, dominated by activists. Warren’s populism, and bashing their favorite bogeymen, make them swoon as boring old Hillary cannot. She’s also cuter.

And if Warren fails to grasp her opportunity, how about Bill de Blasio? He’s built his political ethos on a single word – using it like some people use the F-word in every sentence – “effin’ this and effin’ that” – for de Blasio the word is “progressive.” Apparently just mouthing the word diddles the erogenous zones of lefty voters. images-3Why not try that shtick in presidential primaries? (Bill’s a white guy, but his wife’s a black ex-lesbian. And a last name beginning with a lower case letter – that’s sure a novelty.)

Remember, it’s not about qualifications, and not about issues, it’s about atmospherics. Obama didn’t beat Hillary in ’08 because his healthcare plan was better. (She favored mandates; he was opposed!) He beat her by thrumming Democrats’ heart-strings, not their dendrites. It was romance, not policy. Cotton candy, not green beans.

images-4And what about the Republicans? Conventional wisdom says guys like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio just aren’t in Hillary’s league; or are too right-wing. Maybe; but maybe not.

Realize that 40-45% of the electorate is locked in to voting for the Democrat, and 40-45% against. Presidential elections are decided by the remaining 10-20% — many of them the least ideological, engaged, or informed. They don’t really know Paul or Rubio or the others, haven’t formed solid views of them. Effectively, these candidates can write on a blank slate, and create a persona in the minds of impressionable swing voters. And for those, even more than for the activist partisans, it’s atmospherics rather than issues that count most.Unknown-1

But I do think there is a role for issues. Issues can shape atmospherics. And I believe a Republican can win the next election through unpopular issue stands.

Let me explain.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said Republicans must stop being the “stupid party.” They come across like a bunch of frat boys. But a Republican can defeat Hillary by rising above Hillary. By making her seem just another typical tired old pol, the type of politician who has gotten us nowhere lately.** The Republican must instead exude gravitas; leadership; vision; statesmanship.

This is where unpopular stands come in. It’s not just a matter of appearing refreshingly “courageous.” It’s acting grown-up, and treating the American people as grown-ups. That means being serious and telling them the truth; telling them taxes must rise, and popular programs must be cut (no, not for the needy; for the coddled affluent). You may say that’s political suicide. I don’t think so. I think Americans are smarter than they’re given credit for, and will know a true leader when they see one.

Perot

Perot

I keep coming back to Ross Perot in 1992. He ran something like the campaign I envision, showing voters what an unsustainable path we were on. And even though he was a very flawed candidate, with an even more flawed running mate, on a third party, he got a substantial 19% of the vote. Today, of course, the kinds of issues Perot stressed are far more grave.

Today, American politics and government are broken, preventing us from tackling the problems we must face for our future. We have to get out of this cul-de-sac of partisan gridlock. I think many people realize this, even if the zealots responsible for it do not. I see a real market for a presidential candidate who shows he understands the situation, and credibly offers a way out. (Obama had postured as such but unfortunately as president funked it completely). Obviously, Hillary can’t be that candidate either; she’s the total antithesis of that. This is the opening for a non-Hillary.

images-5Of course, the kind of candidate I’m talking about would have to get through the Republican primary gauntlet. The 2012 experience was not encouraging. Can the GOP grow up?

* I make no comment here on the pros or cons of Warren’s stances.

** Anyone remember John Lindsay’s 1965 NY mayoral slogan? “He’s fresh and everyone else is tired.”