13 February 2008

The Presidential race at the cusp

This election year, before the race is decided on the Democratic Party side, is shaping up to be a race continuing historic trends in the US electorate.  Consider the widely viewed CW on each of the candidates, not what the CW says about their chances to win, but their supporters.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) - Her base of support has been increasingly white. middle to lower class, and hispanic, thus drawing on the 'Identity Politics' that the Democrats have inflicted on the population.  Currently she is losing on that base and, with help of her husband, is creating more of her historical negatives which, at best, never reached beyond 47% Nationwide.  Her popularity as a campaigner has drifted that downwards towards 43% and, perhaps lower.

Barack Hussein Obama (D) - His base is characterized as black, young affluent whites, and college educated.  By pressing forward no program or policy, he remains a cipher, and each time he utters an idea that does have some basis in reality, like the need to attack Pakistan, his base shudders.  His fragile coalition depends on platitudes and having a greatly disliked opponent and saying *nothing* that will damage his nascent base.

Thus the Democratic side is breaking into distinct factions between race and class with the shares apportioned between them.  Minorities are over-represented in the Democratic Party and, thus, hold a higher sway there than in the electorate at large.  The class breakout has always tended towards poor to middle class with a very small 'intellectual elite', making up less than 1/3 of the entire party.  Hillary Clinton, then gets white middle class-poor (15%), hispanics (~18%) and a smattering of party apparatchiks beholden to the Clintons (~5-10%) for a rough total of 43% of the Democratic Base.  Flipping those numbers Obama gets the black vote (10-15%), upper class whites (25%) and a smattering of the 'new' party machine from Soros and other rich fundees who seek to replace the Clinton apparatchiks (~5-10%) for ~50%.  Thus the break-out and edge go to Obama in the race

John McCain (R) - While being the presumptive nominee, John McCain is facing problems within the Republican Party.  I looked at the Three Factions of the Republican Party and how the McCain nomination is splitting one faction (Social Cons or SoCons) down their amalgamation lines between Christian Right and Traditionalist Conservatives. 

John McCain's problems are coming from the Traditionalist Conservatives with more than a few Fiscal Conservatives (FiCons) joining in that demurral. 

Even among SecCons (Security Conservatives) there is some whispering between the NeoCons and more traditional faction that grew up around Ronald Reagan, seeing limited engagement as key to stressing US power by using it rarely.  While this is the smallest overall faction (say 15% of the whole) the breaking of the NeoCons and Traditionalist Hawks (those that remember a strong defense and use it sparingly) splits it into 10%/5%.  That last 5% remembers the 'peace dividend' and working against it, to keep the Armed Forces up to size and speed as we did not know *what* the post-Cold War world would look like.

FiCons, however, may applaud McCain's 'anti-earmark' views, but have great problem with the 'budget busting' programs he signed on to not only in the last 10 years, but going to his first years in office.  Nor has John McCain carried through with those FiCon views of restricting spending.  Increasing the size of government is seen as a negative when not coupled by methodology to slow government growth: either by direct cuts to government or creating a fiscal atmosphere where the economny outgrows the government.  John McCain's record is breaking the FiCons (perhaps as much as 45%) into a 35% support base that will follow any Liberal views so long as it can get economic growth higher and 10% that have seen only continued growth in the budget and John McCain offering no leadership from the Senate on actually cutting things other than DoD.

Amongst the Christian Right, John McCain is also seeing some problems crop up as his ability to work with Liberals seeking to try and regulate morality is not only not a *plus* but a negative.  Thus out of the remaining 40%, this group has about half of that (20%), which has been represented by the Big Government views of Mike Huckabee.  He has been fighting it out for McCain's FiCons and trying to get any Traditionalist support that he could.  Here that worrying problem of working with Kennedy, Feingold and Lieberman, will damage some chances for McCain.  That could be as bad as 10%/10% on the pro/anti view.

Traditionalist Conservatism is the largest problem for John McCain as the views held there of small and restricted government, low taxation to remove burden from individuals (not necessarily businesses which is a FiCon view) and the expansion of government regulation with John McCain helping that, brings this group into stark relief.  Mitt Romney using a FiCon form of Traditionalism gathered this 20% to him and found his outreach to Traditionalist Hawks gaining some ground which made the FiCons a three-way draw with those that have no SoCon views. 

Thus there is a solid 45-55% backing of McCain from the Rockefeller Conservatives, NeoCons and some Christian SoCons.

The solid party backing that can be expeted, per candidate (looking at either of the Democrats winning their nomination):

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) - 45%

Barack Obama (D) - 55%

John McCain (R) - 45%

That leaves the Independents - those that are voting, that is, and more on that in a bit.  Here each party has garnered 10-20% support base over the years and the final 10-30% coming in as 'tie breakers'.  This section of the population has enjoyed 'split government' and since the 1980's and tends to vote in a way to break up single party alignment of the Executive and Legislative branches.  If the 2006 Legislative elections are any key, here, they point to a continued division by electing a Republican for President.  If that is not predictive, however, a Democrat, even with so many Republicans retiring this year, faces a social conservative backlash in their own party, as seen by the 2006 Freshman class.  Winning a majority has not only not *helped* the Democratic Party, but has actually hurt it through incompetent leadership in the House and Senate.

The final key to looking at the electorate is throwing away the idea of a '50/50' Nation.  Historical trends, as I have examined, point to another concept entirely - that of a 30/30/30/10 Nation or even a 30/30/40 Nation with the first two 30% being the two parties.

The above taken from US Census datasets.

These trends start with the entry of the 1946 'baby boom' nearing voting age (prior to the Amendment moving it down to 18) and there was already a downward trend in voting participation in the US prior to that.  The post-1968 Democratic Convention is most telling as a political turning point in voter participation in Presidential Election cycles and in their confluence during the Watergate years. Both of these graphs demonstrate the concept of 'regression towards the mean' where a mean, average slope is held across temporary ups and downs in the actual data points.

For that mean slope to be held to, the expected participation rate of the 2008 Presidential year is not one that will outdo either of the past few elections and possibly exceeding the downward trend seen in 1996.  By putting the two parties at 30% each of the population overall (including leaning independents) there is substance and backing to the concept that a minimum of 40% will not show up this year and may, actually get to 50%.

This is an artifact of the two party system which endeavors to have victors turn-off so many of those that do not *win* and make them non-voters.  That did not work well past 1968, however, as the solid Democratic post-War majority fizzled out in the early 1980's as more voters walked from the Democrats than the Republicans.  While one could still 'win elections' it was only amongst those committed to participate and that commitment has been the target for almost 40 years.

For the Democratic candidates, then, there is a serious move to shift emphasis away from white blue collar to middle class voters and hispanic voters to black poor and middle class voters and white elite upper class voters.  Even as much as a 20% drop in the 'losing' side means a 2-5% drop in the turnout of the electorate coupled with some slight drop amongst the hardcore independents that sometimes lean Democratic.  That, alone, will move the next Election to 56-53% turnout.

On the Republican side, the Party that promised so much to its Conservatives is in the hard bind of having had control of Congress for over a decade and simultaneous control of the Executive for 8 of those years and accomplishing *none* of the goals it had set out to do in 1994 and, before that, with Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.  Welfare reform was only garnered by waging a public campaign to restrict it and demonstrate valid reason for it that appealed to a broad spectrum of Americans... and it was accomplished with a Democratic President.  Since then the Party has broken its agreement to work for those things it set out to do, leaving it, now, with much of its pre-Reagan base of a 45-55% John McCain.

These Traditionalist Republicans, ranging across from the Social through the Fiscal and Security side will see the Democratic Party as an anathema, and John McCain no better than, say, Sam Nunn.  Unfairly to some degree and most will hold their noses and vote for McCain, but many will *not*.  Even a 2% walkout along with similar affiliated hardcore (unleaning) independents will lower the election turnout to 56% and possibly lower if John McCain cannot explain his past work on 'budget busting' appropriations, helping to over-ride Reagan's vetoes, his actual views of the structure of DoD and his work to remove personal liberty via Campaign Finance Reform.  Many Conservatives will be paying attention to this as the 'Straight Talk Express' has not talked in any way 'Straight' about the Moderate to Liberal views of their candidate.

Together the two parties, then, are looking to drop voter participation by a  minimum of 4% and up to 10% depending on the campaign on each side.   This then puts the election within the traditional mean range of 48-54%.  As there is no feeling of a 'landslide' about to happen or an incredibly weak President going to be replaced by anything better (and in incumbency rate in Congress guaranteeing nothing will happen there of major import) that puts a close fought election victory in the 24%-27% range... slowly whittling down to those committed to party, personality and the ideologies the second bring to the first via elections.

How do you choose amongst politicians:  I look at their record, the historical context of that record, what they say about that record and if it jibes with the first parts, and when they have no record, they need to be put in the brine for a bit more seasoning at a lower level or have some demonstrated and absolutely compelling capability beyond that to take on Executive responsibilities.

They must...

Do as they Say.

Say what they Mean.

Mean what they Do.

Then I will look at ideologies... when those first three fail, then I am stuck with ideologies and the worrying view is that they won't carry through, won't mean it or apply themselves to it to get the job done.  And the days of running away *from* your record is over.  And that is what all three of these candidates wish to do... plus none can actually adhere to the basics of Doing, Saying and Meaning.  Of course we run those folks out, first, as they are dubbed 'unelectable' or have no 'fire in their belly' or just aren't 'good candidates'.  Which is why many of your Fellow Americans will not be voting this year.

Look at the numbers.

This is what we have bought with 'two party politics'.

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