Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Putting aside the various fringe and protest candidates, if I'm correct we're basically talking about two plausible nominees right now, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. (The others matter because they give people a chance to express with views and to influence the course of the party, but they aren't very likely to be nominated).

So whatever you might do in the primary, you're probably voting for one of those guys next November. And I'm sure you'll do so believing that he'll be better than Barack Obama, given that either will promise and deliver far more conservative policies than Obama will (in which by conservative I mean policies supported by mainstream Republican conservatives, of course). So that's not my question.

My question would be: do you have some reasonable confidence that you'll be voting for someone who will be skilled at the sort of things that presidents do? Or, to put it another way...the party's job is to nominate someone who (1) supports party policies and (2) is well-equipped to be a good president. Do you think the Republican Party is doing that job well?


  1. I'm sorry Jonathan, but this is your third post today that asserts Romney and Perry are the two real contenders. I'm trying to understand your reason for discounting Bachmann- it seems that a lot of it is a sense of "the GOP wouldn't nominate such an unelectable fringe candidate." But they did it in Delaware and Nevada. In today's Republican party the fringe IS the base.

    Romney could win New Hampshire, but he won't take the South or any of the bible belt. Perry could. I'd be much more confident saying this race is between Bachman and Perry- but of the two, only Bachmann has been a candidate for more than 24 hours. Perry could be done once people get to know him, or once the media starts to treat him as a candidate.

    Thursday night we saw a stage of people tying to out-crazy one another. How is Romney, the moderate from Massachusetts, going to be chosen over someone more genuine and inspiring?

  2. I think the GOP is doing a good job of selecting a nominee. I do not think the GOP is doing a good job of developing good governing policies. It is committed to a program of supply side economics with a Randian philosophy. This economic platform did not work in the last decade and is not popular with the general electorate.

    " How is Romney, the moderate from Massachusetts, going to be chosen over someone more genuine and inspiring?"

    The moderate candidate won last time.

  3. PoliticsUnderlivered,

    I've talked about the reasons that I don't think Bachmann is a plausible nominee lots of times -- here's one -- and I don't really think anything has happened since to convince me that I was wrong. Of course, I could be! But I just don't see it.

  4. I think Romney is well-equipped to manage the Presidency. Wrt Perry...the one (!) redeeming feature of Bush 43 is that he was pretty well-connected to resources of Republican governance which covered off - a little - against his many other failings.

    In Perry we get more or less the same underwhelming, go-along-get-along-Texas-governorship-as-sinecure that we had with Bush. Only without the connections.

    So, Perry: no.

    Even as Obama seems to be imploding in front of our eyes, I can still see myself going the Obamacon route in 2012 if Perry/Bachmann is the nominee. Romney, OTOH, probably not.

  5. I don't think someone is a "protest candidate" if his or her supporters genuinely believe that person would make the best President. I imagine that the supporters of Johnson and Huntsman ("the other governors") feel this way, with good reason.

    Romney is a capable and proven leader. Most of Perry's qualifications seem to be political, so I'm not yet sure about him.

  6. To answer a question with a question: is the Texas governor a figurehead or not? With both Bush and Perry, I've heard that their "experience" is ephemeral because TX Governors have little power. Is that true? Does Perry exercise some sort of deal-making, behind the scenes influence? Any Texans who know?

  7. Not to belabor the point, but do you really think Palin if she got in, is more plausible than Bachmann because Palin was a VP candidate and Bachmann only in the House? I think you have to recognize that precedent is not an infallible predictor. I'd argue Bachmann's success so far is specifically because she contrasts well with Palin. She exceeded debate expectations (that were rooted in comparisons to Palin) in NH and took off from there.

    I agree Rick Perry is a more likely nominee owing largely to more big donors. I'd call him the favorite to win South Carolina and a decent bet to win Iowa and Bachmann the converse of that. If her momentum off an Iowa win carries her to upset Perry in South Carolina, she could conceivably knock Perry out like she did Pawlenty. To insist she couldn't beat Romney in a Republican version of Obama-Hillary is to pay too much attention to most past election cycles and too little attention to the most recent one.

  8. It appears that Republican candidates are all better equipped to be president than Obama, in answer to your question.

    That's mostly a statement about Obama, obviously, who is the least qualified major party candidate in my lifetime... and by a huge margin.

  9. PoliticsUndelivered:

    But they did it in Delaware and Nevada.

    In both cases conservative primary voters faced a lack of satisfactory alternatives.

    Polls have shown Romney is surprisingly popular with Tea Party voters.

  10. I am a Texan, so I will respond to the question about Texas governors.

    Almost all real political power in Texas resides in the Legislature. People you will never hear about outside of the state have tremendous power inside it. As a result, I am obsessed with people who represent areas with names like Victoria and Flower Mound.

    Historically, the other major power centers in Texas are the Railroad Commission (which along with Railroads, supervises the oil industry in Texas) and the Lt. Governor. The power of the Lt. Governor seems to be based on the way his powers interact with the legislature and as a result of the fact that some of the best natural politicians we have produced were Lt. Governors (think of people like Bob Dole and Lyndon Johnson). Those very powerful politicians turned the position they had into a position of power.

    The Railroad Commission and Lt. Governor theoretically remain powerful, but they are not the powerhouses they once were. This seems to be a function both of less effective people populating these positions and of the fact that the legislature really asserts itself these days.

    The Governor's primary power is the veto and the bully pulpit. Given that we have a Republican controlled legislature, the veto is not that important, and the bully pulpit doesn't seem to affect things that much. If I were a pol who cared about power more than the appearance of power, and who did not have national aspirations, I would want to be the speaker of the Texas House. That is someone with real power in Texas.

  11. How are those two things the "party's job?"

    I mean, one tends to think that these are likely outcomes of any partisan nomination process, but it seems like notions of "is the GOP behaving the way democratic (small d) theorists would have a party behave" are more prescriptive than descriptive.

    Both of those things are in the party's rational, long-term interests. But that assumes thinking of the party as a rational, unitary actor. Arrow tells us that there's no such thing as a rational social choice function. So, nominees be chosen because of this or that, but they can also be an accident of the process, whatever that process may be.

    Suppose, for example, Paul were to get the nomination. Most would agree that the election would be a slaughter, I think. But, by winning the nomination, Paul would likely push the GOP to be more libertarian. This could be a victory in the long run for libertarian-leaning Repubs. Bachmann, however, wouldn't really represent a major realignment within the GOP; just a shift to the right. So, while she'd likely lose just as badly as Paul, the changes within the GOP would be relatively minor.

    Did the Democratic party "fail" by nominating Carter in 1976? OK, that's an easy one. But how about in nominating Gore in 2000? Center of his party, likely would have been very competent at the job. But, in the case of 2000, a reasonable case could be made that some other candidate might have been able to win. Is that a "job" of a party?

    I can't think of a comparable example in the modern GOP to Carter, or really even Gore. We could go back to the lovely 1920s presidents to find the GOP nominating incompetents. Was that the GOP "failing" or is it not their job?

  12. It appears that Republican candidates are all better equipped to be president than Obama, in answer to your question.

    That's mostly a statement about Obama, obviously, who is the least qualified major party candidate in my lifetime... and by a huge margin.

    Please explain how Michelle Bachmann is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama.

  13. Would it be fair to say that it's harder for a 'fringe' candidate to win a presidential nomination than a state-level one, but because nationally the party establishment has more levers for blocking the way?

  14. Kylopod,

    As I mentioned, Obama is the least qualified major party candidate in my lifetime... and by a huge margin.

    As for Bachmann in comparison to Obama, she has run a business, while Obama has never drawn a paycheck from a going concern, let alone run a business.

    Bachmann has actually participated in the legislative process, actively, at multiple levels, which Obama never has, at any level.

    Bachmann doesn't need a teleprompter. Obama is a vacuity without one, as we might expect from one so inexperienced.

    Bachmann has fought and won competitive political campaigns. Obama has been whooped through only when insider games or events liquidated serious competition. 2012 will be his first competitive election, assuming he hasn't fled the field.

    If you're hiring and it comes down to these 2, based upon proven qualifications, it's Bachmann... every time.

    Blind resume review? Bachmann.

    Job performance review? Obama's fired and replaced by a stalk of celery if necessary, and Bachmann is certainly more than that, even if he isn't.

    This is the problem with nominating inexperienced neophytes. You will be sorry, eventually.

  15. >she has run a business


    >Obama has never drawn a paycheck from a going concern, let alone run a business.


    >Bachmann has actually participated in the legislative process, actively, at multiple levels

    In the words of Politico:

    Now in her third House term, Bachmann has never had a bill or resolution she’s sponsored signed into law, and she’s never wielded a committee gavel, either at the full or subcommittee level. Bachmann’s amendments and bills have rarely been considered by any committee, even with the House under GOP control. In a chamber that rewards substantive policy work and insider maneuvering, Bachmann has shunned the inside game, choosing to be more of a bomb thrower than a legislator.

    >Obama never has, at any level.

    Utter malarkey.

    And remember, half of Bachmann's House tenure was under a president from her own party, whereas Obama's entire Senate tenure was under a president from the opposite party--yet he still managed to get bills he sponsored passed and signed into law by the president, something she never came close to achieving even once.

    >Bachmann doesn't need a teleprompter.

    Neither does Obama, who in 2009 sat for 152 interviews, a far greater number than any other first-year president in history.

    >Obama is a vacuity without one

    Suggesting that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father and that FDR's "Hoot-Smalley" tarriff caused the Great Depression are not exactly signs of depth.

  16. I'm impressed, K. That's as spectacular a job of getting Obama's back as there could be.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't wash. Obama is the least qualified major party candidate of my lifetime... and by a huge margin.

    You think he's more qualified than Bachmann, and I don't. We'll just have to leave it at that.

    However, as part of his overall failure to perform, his inexperience will be an issue in 2010, and while I don't anticipate Bachmann will be the other major party's candidate against him, there is a small chance we'll get to see your theory tested. ;-)

  17. You think he's more qualified than Bachmann, and I don't. We'll just have to leave it at that.

    No, we won't. You presented several specific arguments, and Kylopod refuted them point by point. You apparently have no response. This is not a "We'll have to agree to disagree" situation; this is a situation in which you lose the argument, and should stop repeating your tired, tired talking points.

  18. Yes, we can leave it at that. You think Obama is more qualified than Bachmann, and I don't. But we just may see the People decide the question in its finality. Not likely, but it would certainly be festive. ;-)

    Meanwhile, we'll have to muddle along with an inexperience neophyte in the WH, and suffer the effects thereof.

  19. ...and to be honest with you... I didn't bother reading K's post, after he referenced business experience as "irrelevant". The rest would be a waste of time, then.

    One recognizes a chasm of philosophical separation, and always best to skirt those. Nothing is to come from trying to talk others out of their hardened positions, point by point, because it means they're jumping into the chasm.

    However, there is something to be gained by explaining that those hardened positions are leading to electoral pastings, as 2010 and soon in 2012.

    This isn't a plain blog about policy, you know. It's a plain blog about politics. Politics is tangible, mostly or in large measure, as to the end results in elections. The results are clear. You and I can argue, but the People decide in the end. In this instance, I'm just pointing out to you lefties what the People are deciding, and that is that Obama is as poorly qualified as many of us knew he was all along.


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