Friday, February 8, 2008

02008: A Nightmare Scenario

Since my last political post, three noteworthy (from my perspective) things have happened in the U.S. presidential nominating process:

  • John Edwards has dropped out of the race. That's OK with me. I'm sad it had to come to that, but the writing was on the wall, and it was obvious that the Democratic race was not available for him to win.
  • Super Duper Tuesday has come and gone, seemingly establishing that the Democratic race is too close to call (note the great discrepancy between CNN's delegate tracker--currently showing Hillary ahead by 96--and Newsweek's delegate tracker--currently showing Obama ahead by 4), and that Huckabee is still alive on the Republican side--although he's still in third place in the delegate count.
  • Most interesting of all is yesterday's announcement that Romney is out.

Why is this last bit so interesting? Because of the potential nightmare scenario it sets up. Before I describe my nightmare scenario, let's keep in mind what happened in the West Virginia caucus. Round 1: McCain was ahead. Round 2: Huckabee won, by virtue of Romney supporters deciding it was better to support Huckabee than to give McCain the victory.

Now for the nightmare scenario:

Suppose that the McCain supporters in the remaining states basically assume that it's a foregone conclusion that McCain will get the nomination. After all, he's established a pretty sizable lead and his closest competitor has dropped out. These voters may get complacent in the nominating contests, and just not show up to the polls.

Suppose that Huckabee supporters in those remaining states get energized by Huckabee's wins on Super Duper Tuesday and by the removal of Romney. They may all come out to vote.

Suppose that all of this "conservatives won't support a McCain candidacy" talk turns out to be true and that all of the Romney supporters in the remaining states decide it's better to go with Huckabee than to go with McCain.

Suppose a bunch of those McCain supporters decide to vote in the Democratic contests instead of the Republican ones. Remember, this is a group who wants McCain to not only win the Republican nomination, but also wants him to win the general election. The conventional wisdom is that in a McCain-Clinton race, the independents will break for McCain, whereas in a McCain-Obama race, the independents will be largely split--which is to say that Obama takes a large chunk of the independent voting block away from McCain. So the assumption is that McCain has a much easier time defeating Hillary than defeating Obama. So these primary ship-jumpers are most likely to support Hillary in the nominating process, in hopes that she will be crushed in the general election. Essentially, the fair assumption of the McCain supporters is that Republican voters will all rally around McCain ("conservative enough"or not) when faced with the choice between him and Hillary.

If all of this plays out, McCain may end up going into the convention without enough delegates to win. Hillary may end up going into the convention with an easy majority of delegates. Huckabee may be close enough to McCain that the Romney delegates can put him over the top. Suppose that they do just that (either instructed by Romney to do so, or actually using their own free will).

What we'd end up with is a Huckabee-Hillary contest. To me, that's a nightmare scenario. On the one side, you have a fundamentalist religious nut job. (Who, flawed as he is, is still far superior to Brownback, or Santorum--whose decision to not run is something I'm endlessly grateful for.) On the other side you have Hillary, who is at least as off-putting to me as is a fundamentalist religious nut job.

If this happens, where do I place my hopes? I guess in the possibility of a Michael Bloomberg independent candidacy. Do I know enough about him to support him? Not yet, but if he jumps in, there'll be plenty of time for that before the election. I just hope that if he does jump in, he doesn't somehow manage to turn out to be as unpalatable as Huckabee and Hillary are.


  1. "On the other side you have Hillary, who is at least as off-putting to me as is a fundamentalist religious nut job."

    Really? Your personal vitriol against Hillary based on her decisions about her marriage and her supposedly inexcusable ambition is bizarre to me. To equate a Hillary Clinton Presidency with that of an incompetent Republican evangelical who believes wives should submit graciously to their husbands and the Constitution should be changed to come more in line with the Bible... Let's just say I have no idea where you're coming from.

    It's kind of the same confusion I have when liberals and conservatives alike claim John McCain is a moderate and not a true conservative. Doesn't anybody look at people's voting records and public speeches anymore? Aside from a very few (I count 3) extremely well-publicized issues, the man is most certainly NOT a moderate--and he never was. A "Maverick"? It makes me sad to think of the number of people who will vote for him thinking he has the heart of an independent.

    As for having problem with Obama and his admissions of youthful drug use, that's puzzling as well.

    I'm OK with someone disobeying some insulting, archaic, and pointless laws to satisfy his curiosity during his youth. To me, one's youth is the time to challenge rules and customs so that, as a mature person, you have a better understanding of the values of rules, what makes a good rule, and what motivates people to obey rules and recognize them as good or bad. Within reason, of course, and for people of Obama's age, drug experimentation was completely "within reason" rule-breaking.

    Someone who has never, even while young, had the curiosity, the guts, or the imagination to stray from whatever "straight and narrow" he follows--that kind of uncompromising, narrow-minded, purist is much more disturbing to me than someone who admits to some controlled, responsibly indulged drug use (and yes, that IS possible, despite what society's nannies would have us believe).

    To put it more briefly, I have more trust in someone who says "I tried some drugs because I wanted to know what it was like, and they weren't all that," than in someone who says, "I never did drugs because I wasn't supposed to."

    But I always tend to favor the compassion and judgment (in the critical thinking sense) of those who see a successful society as one that wisely accommodates or takes into account how humans actually behave and what tends to motivate that behavior than the cruelty and judgment (the kind that doesn't involve critical thinking) of those who would fashion societies after their own moral absolutes.

  2. Good to hear from you again, Ten Feet.

    I have to admit, I'm a little puzzled myself at just how intensely I dislike the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I agree, it's absolutely illogical. After all, she's a politician, and probably isn't any more deceitful than most of our elected officials have been during my lifetime. Did she commit any real offense? No. The offense was committed by her husband. She was the victim, right? Still, it goes to judgment and character. And I just don't trust her. Unreasonable, illogical, and nonsensical though it may be, that's where my gut is.

    I didn't really say that I'd prefer to have Huckabee in the seat of power. I just said that she's equally as off-putting. Huckabee scares me in ways that Hillary does not. (Especially since I listened to a few minutes of what he had to say at the CPAC convention this morning--until Beth told me to change the channel.) Wow, he's really scary!

    But, he's so darned charming. And he seems so genuine. And, golly, he's so sincere and wholesome, isn't he? Beth says Romney is a slippery fish. She thinks the same about Obama. Frankly, I think the same is true, in spades, about Huckabee. I caught somebody on TV or radio the other day calling him "the Huckster", and after watching him this morning, I've got to agree that it's an entirely appropriate moniker.

    You want to hear an even more bizarre confession?

    I have been thinking about it, and I suspect that if Hillary gets the nomination, I'll go through a period of something approaching grief (in the mourning sense). After that, I'll go through some decision-making process as to what to do with my vote. I'll vote (somehow) in the general election, and if she wins there, I'll be upset and distraught and fearful and all of that right up until the inauguration. And then (here's the bizarre confession), I'll give her a clean slate and start to judge her performance as president not on any preconceived notions or expectations, but rather on her actual accomplishment as president.

    Coming to that conclusion has probably surprised me as much as anything I've stated on my blog has surprised you. But I honestly believe it's a true statement of what's most likely to happen in my own thought process.

  3. Ten Feet, here's my second response to what you wrote: You're absolutely right about McCain. He's a conservative and one of those dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. No doubt about it. He's no maverick; no independent; no rogue element. Like you, I don't see what the "true conservatives" dislike about him. But apparently they see things differently from how we see them. (Big surprise!)

    He does seem to speak from the heart. Maybe that's where he's gone wrong. Maybe the "true conservatives" don't want someone who agrees with them after having actually considered the issues. Perhaps they want someone who agrees with them based solely on the rightness of being right.

    I'm puzzled by the detrimental effect of being labelled as a "flip-flopper" after demonstrating one's ability to reconsider one's opinions and to change one's mind. I think "true conservatism" may be something of a cult--but without a recruitment goal. Or more to the point, with a recruitment goal that applies only to the very young. Anyone who comes along late is welcome to vote with them and participate in the discussion as a voice in their chorus, but not at all welcome to actually represent them.

    Just a hunch. I really can't claim to have any insight into their thought processes. All I can do is observe and comment on what's observable.

  4. To me, here is the real nightmare scenario. McCain chooses Huckabee as his running mate in order to pull in that wing of the party. Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton continue to go at each other hammer and tongs in the coming months. The eventual winner is so politcally damaged that McCain wins the election. Then, not being a young man and with a history of torture and history of serious illness, McCain gets sick and dies. Huckabee is president. Oh-oh.