Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fundamentals Vs Personality

The GOP outreach to women.

During the 2008 and 2012 elections, colleagues would sidle up to me and ask nervously: "Can Obama really win?"  And I would always nod and say, "Yes. And it won't really be that close."

Some of this was shell-shock from 2000 and even 2004.  Gore should have been elected and Kerry almost was.  Having elections ripped from their hands seemed the inevitable lot of Democrats, despite the manifest incompetence of C+ Augustus and Darth Cheney.

The piece above notes how the DC press tends to ascribe campaigns to personality.  And certainly in a close election, the personality of the candidate makes a difference.  But there is a certain post hoc analysis that ascribes political defeats to the candidate's personality rather than the underlying fundamentals.  Gore was wooden (but there was also a sense of fatigue with Clinton, and Gore got half a million more votes).  Kerry was stiff (but incumbents almost always win, and Bush's margin of re-election was the smallest since Woodrow Wilson).

The only personality piece that really moves the needle is scandal.  Otherwise, you are looking at broad trends and demographics.

The TPM piece talks about the trends (the economy foremost), but it leaves out demographics.  There are certain demographic truths about the American electorate right now.  Republicans are going to get killed among non-Cuban Hispanics and slaughtered among African Americans.  There is no "game change" that is going to alter that reality. At this point, the vocal nativism and racism that exists in the Tea Party and even the mainstream GOP has rendered those votes beyond the reach of the Republicans.  The votes of young women are also going to be very hard for the GOP to reach, especially if they can't seem to shut up about rape and sluts who need contraception.

On the converse side, there are huge swaths of white rural and exurban voters who would open a vein rather than vote for a Democrat.

One fundamental that was also omitted is the trend of locking in party identification.  Once you start voting consistently for one party, you tend to keep voting for that party.  It becomes part of your political identity.  Every once in a while, a group flips.  African Americans switched from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of FDR.  Southern Democrats switched from the Party of Jackson to the Party of Reagan.

But at the moment, the trends favor the Democrats at the national level and they will continue to favor the Democrats, absent a scandal.

As far as 2016 goes, I could see some fatigue for a Democratic White House.  But I could also see a lot of energy for having our first female President.  Hillary will likely run, and if she runs, she wins the nomination and wins the election.  Again, absent scandal or the collapse of the economy.

The Mark Halperin's of the world represent the worst and most superficial analysis of the punditry, and they should only be paid attention to for the purposes of mocking them.

(BTW, I'm sure Halperin would have panned the Gettysburg Address, too.  All the smart DC writers did.)

UPDATE: Paul Begala writes something similar, though I wish everyone would quit saying things like "calamitous" to describe the ACA or "near impossible" to access the website.  It's not "near impossible".  It's a hassle. That's all.  It's a time consuming hassle.  That is not a calamity.  Tornadoes and typhoons are calamities.

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