3/25/2012

The coming Libertarian Revolution? Part Two (a)





Part Two (a) The growing divide.

In part one I mentioned that one of the reasons that the Libertarian agenda was likely to grow in the coming years was the GOP's failure, to this point, to truly embrace the agenda of its grassroots base.

To partially illustrate this I would like to take a bit of time and analyze the current on going nominating process that in all likelihood will in the end produce Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate. The first question that must be asked is a basic question that each person must decide for themselves:
Is the primary purpose of a political party to produce a candidate that is most capable of winning an election or is its primary purpose to promote a candidate that best represents its governing philosophy?

I will leave that question hanging as I go on to point out some simple facts about the Republican race to date. The current RCP Delegate count shows Romney with 565, Santorum with 256, Gingrich with 141 and Paul with 66. So by any measure Romney clearly leads the math. Even adding all the non-Romney delegates together you only have 463 delegates. But let's take a closer look at those delegates shall we.

Of Romney's 565 delegates 45 come from territories where the voters the delegates supposedly represent won't even be allowed to vote in the general election. To show the absurdity of this, in America Samoa seventy people met in a caucus to allocate nine delegates to Romney. These delegates chosen by seventy people will have the same impact on the nominating process as any delegates chosen by hundreds of thousands of voters in states like Michigan, Texas, or Florida. Even though it is true that in other caucus states small numbers of people end up voting for delegates out of proportion to the voters they represent, at least those delegates represent voters who can actually vote for President.

Then we have multiple situations where either Gingrich or Santorum did not meet various ballot requirements most notably Virginia. The point is often made that if a candidate can not meet these various requirements then he is somehow not qualified or organized enough to be running for president anyway. This of course is not a constitutional argument or even an argument based upon voter's preference which is supposed to be the guiding factor in elections, it is simply a process argument. A process which individual states have designed in order that the party has more control over who the nominee is than the voters.

There should be no reason that the guiding principle in choosing a party's nominee is tilted more towards a candidates ability to raise money than it is towards a candidates ability to connect with the voters he represents. All of these various rules sometimes confusing and contradictory tilt the playing field to the candidate who either has run before and/or has tremendous financial resources going in to organize in order to avoid the mine fields of state party's rules. Why should a party organize itself in such a way as to preclude the rise of a popular figure? If the answer is that you need rules that everyone knows going in and people should live by them regardless of the hindrance to the popular will of the people then we get to the next issue.

What of the two states violating "party rules" and allocating their delegates as winner take all prior to April 1, Florida and Arizona? If these rules had been applied then Romney would still have won the states but he would have had perhaps 40 fewer delegates and the various other candidates would have divided those remaining 40. All of which is far less than these two states and 3 others should have had for violating party rules to begin with. On the one hand we are told that meeting "rules" is "sacrosanct" when applied to state rules which place an undo burden on late arriving or not as well financed early candidates, yet can't be enforced on state parties who willfully violate the rules. Both of these situations shift the power of the nominating process away from the voters to the power of the party.

This is no small matter, not only do situations such as these and many others give the appearance that the party is more important than the voters they represent, they allow a system to exist where process trumps both principles and voter's choices. It is often touted that the nominating process is a weaning experience meant to weed out those incapable of winning in the general election. This is nonsense on its face since in every general election someone looses, exactly half the time the "weaning process" produces the looser. Shouldn't the process be designed to allow the person who most completely represents the political philosophy of the greatest number of the party's constituency be the guiding principle of the structure of any nominating process?

But let's get back to the current GOP race and our original question on the purpose of a party. Putting aside all the "unfair" idiosyncrasies in the GOP nominating process which would require a volume, what of the actual contest to date.

Let me first say that a Republican is a Republican as far as elections are concerned. It does not matter if the voter is a so called RINO (Republican In Name Only) or the most conservative SoCon, NeoCon or any other Con, so long as the person votes for the Republican in the general election. However if you believe that a political party is more than just winning elections but also represents the "mainstream" of governing principles of that party, then the whole idea of who votes for whom in a primary is important and as a practical matter where that vote is cast can also be critical. A vote cast which is meaningless to a general election contest being a case in point.

Let's start with this simple accepted proposition, that the United States is currently divided into three categories of states from an electoral point of view, red states (Republican dominated), blue states (Democrat dominated) and purple states (swing states that could go either way in any given election). Of the states (not territories) that have held elections to date thirteen have been in undeniably red states which brings up an interesting point in itself. Why have we reached this far in the process 33 contests (5 territories and 28 states) and only 13 have been held where the GOP base is in the majority? It would seem if you are trying to determine the will of the party then you would begin your contest where the party dominates.  How much different might the nominating contest have unfolded had Kansas rather than Iowa been the first caucus and Louisiana rather than New Hampshire been the first primary? Putting aside what has transpired, consider what the situation was at the time, it is very likely that Perry would have dominated these contest and Romney would have been gasping for breath rather than the other way around after the first two contest.

You may say "well that is the way it is" or "that is the way it has always been". I would answer why is it that two relatively small swing states, at best, have more influence over the GOP nominating process than states which are far more loyal and representative of GOP principles? I use Kansas and Louisiana as examples but any other two red states could suffice to show this farce and injustice to the GOP base. Remember back when it was believed that Romney had won Iowa and after New Hampshire we were told that these unprecedented victories all but insured a Romney nomination? This despite the fact that at that point not a single "red state" had even cast a ballot.

So thirteen of the thirty three contest held thus far have been held in red states. Of those contest Romney has won 1 primary, Arizona and 3 caucuses Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming. The other nine contests, seven primaries Georgia, South Carolina to Gingrich and Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana to Santorum. Then two caucuses North Dakota, Kansas to Santorum.

Putting electoral irrelevant US territories aside, of the twenty eight states which have held contest 13 have been held in red states, 8 have been held in blue states which the Republican candidate has little chance of winning and eight have been held in at least marginally "swing states", Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and we will throw in Michigan. Of those swing states, with the exception of Virginia where neither Gingich or Santorum were on the ballot, Romney did not receive a clear majority of the votes cast. This includes Michigan which he barely won despite it being his native state and New Hampshire where he owns a home and borders and is in the media market of the state he governed.

Since the Romney campaign likes to tout math and promotes his commanding lead in not only the delegate count but popular vote, let's look at some math. Let's start with what are undeniably "red states" which have cast ballots so far and the delegates they have selected. We will consider Michigan a swing state and I have have excluded the Missouri "beauty contest" which Santorum won overwhelmingly

Red States South Carolina,Arizona,Alaska,Idaho,Wyoming,Georgia,South Carolina,Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama,Louisiana, North Dakota, Kansas

Popular vote

Romney- 1,236,444
Santorum- 1,151,905
Gingrich- 1,272,501
Paul- 328,796

Delegates

Romney- 173
Santorum-139
Gingrich-128
Paul- 20

Swing States Iowa,New Hampshire,Florida,Ohio,Colorado,Nevada,Virginia, Michigan

Popular Vote

Romney- 1,967,276
Santorum-1,129,629
Gingrich- 829,497
Paul- 441,108

Delegates

Romney- 186
Santorum- 62
Gingrich- 6
Paul- 13

We will ignore the territories since they have no bearing on the general election and the blue states which if any Republican candidate is competitive in probably means the election is a GOP blow out. But some very interesting observations can be made on the nominating process thus far.

* The combination of Santorum and Gingrich are dominating the Red States with Gingrich on his own beating Romney in the popular vote. There can be little doubt that had either Gingrich or Santorum gotten out after Florida (or before) the chances are that they would have made the red state domination over Romney in votes rather than money so overwhelming that people long ago would have been asking why Romney was even in the race.

* The swing state numbers which seem to greatly support Romney are very misleading for several reasons. First they include Michigan which normally would be considered a blue state, but being that Santorum did so well there the difference in the head to head is minimal. Second the numbers include the popular vote and delegates of Virginia whith neither Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot. Finally in regards to delegates the numbers include Ohio where Santorum because of rules did not qualify for a complete slate and Florida which held a winner take all election against party rules. All of these inflate Romney's perceived dominance. Then there is the far more important factor which has played out across the nominating process but would really have made a difference in the swing states then and those to come.

* Had Gingrich left the race prior to Super Tuesday it is more than likely that Santorum would have won Ohio which would have propelled his campaign and given him even more overwhelming victories in Alabama and Mississippi not unlike he just achieved in Louisiana now that Gingrich supporters have belatedly started to move towards Santorum. But even more important than Santorum's ability to dominate Romney in red states, was the affect it had on his ability to gain traction in swing states. His strength minus Gingrich in swing states was made obvious by Santorum's trouncing of Romney in  Missouri which as I pointed out is not represented in the figures and Santorum's close victory over Romney in all important Colorado.

All of this is "what if" and "could have been" conjecture to be sure, but it is extremely important going forward for the GOP. It is obvious that Romney is not in any way the choice of the base of the Republican Party. Truth be told neither Gingrich or Santorum were either, they were at most non-Romney candidates which shows how totally unacceptable the majority of the GOP electorate finds Mitt Romney.

At this late stage of the process, the perceived inevitable nominee is loosing to a former Pennsylvania "big government" conservative by 22 points in a southern red state. Far from accepting the inevitable, it seems that conservatives are giving the "establishment" the finger. All of this will probably not change the "inevitable" nomination of Romney. Hopefully it will also not dampen turn out to replace Obama, but after 2012, I suspect we will see a serious move from many in the base to either leave the Republican Party or totally take it over and destroy the current "establishment".

The fact that recent polling shows that among Republicans that Sarah Palin is more popular than Romney shows what direction things are headed and it is not going to be pleasant for current Republican office holders. And if Romney somehow manages to loose the election to Obama and the establishment attempts to blame it on the "grassroots" then the GOP could go the way of their predecessor the Whigs.

More on this in part three.

1 comment:

  1. While I see the point of this series of posts, I disagree with the final sentence of this second one. Unlike the old Whig Party, the modern GOP has a lot of money, favors and other political gifts to hand out to its supporters. This is essentially the reason why the GOP can afford to - and is - ignoring their base. They cater to the folks who control the local GOP and who are important to the political process as in the GOP's primary folks at the polling places, vote-counters both volunteer and those who are nominally unbiased, and a host of elected and appointed officials who will toe the Establishment GOP line. This GOP isn't an ideological party (which the Whigs were) nor is it a coalition of political and special interest groups (like the Democrats are). It is a thinly-disguised organization for passing on government money and favors in return for political support; nothing else. Very tough to be that set up in these days.

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