Friday, January 06, 2012

Election 2012: Raucous Caucus

Well, that was certainly interesting.

The first official results of the 2012 election are in, and the first blood has been drawn. As it turns out, not even Iowa would vote for someone with Marty Feldman eyes, and thus endeth the Bachmann campaign. Incidentally, this is why I'm an engineer by trade, and not a professional pundit: I really thought her ground game and virtual "hometown" status would have meant more. But instead, she becomes an object lesson, along with Trump, Perry, Cain and Gingrich in the deadly peril of peaking too soon.

You know who didn't peak too soon, at least for Iowa? Rick Santorum. His was the great good fortune to rise in the polls just as Gingrich was sinking. His wave crested at precisely the right moment, and he rode it to a second-place finish, just behind Romney. The interesting thing is that each of the top three finishers represents one of the GOP's three major blocs, who aren't always on speaking terms with one another.

Back in 1980, there were also three blocs, just not the same three. You had the "old guard" Republicsns, you had the social conservatives, and you had the anti-Communists. There was some overlap. Enough, in fact, that Ronald Reagan was able to forge a durable alliance amongst them that lasted for ... well, long enough that the label "anti-Communist" would become dated. We recently celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Soviet Union's demise.

Today, the first two blocs are still there, broadly speaking. The third has changed. Some call them libertarians, but I'm not sure I'd agree with that label. But as I said, the top three finishers in Iowa each tapped into one of those constituencies: Romney is the choice of the Old Guard, Santorum is the current flavor-of-the-month for the social conservatives, and Ron Paul has galvanized the libertarians.

But even more so than thirty years ago, the three factions aren't necessarily on speaking terms. There isn't as much overlap as there once was. Which means that this race is, among other things, a struggle for control of the party. To wit: which faction, or coalition of factions, is in charge?

Iowa settled nothing, but it exposed an interesting question. The lead, and the eventual nominee, will provide the answer. If Romney is the nominee, it means that the Old Guard has reasserted its authority, or at a minimum that it has forged a coalition, most likely with the social conservatives. If it's Santorum, or even Perry, it means that the social conservatives have seized control. A Ron Paul candidacy would mean the libertarians are in charge, but come on, we all know that Satan will drive to work in a snowplow before that happens.

The next few contests won't clarify much. I do expect that we'll see clear leaders emerge for each faction. We will also probably see a down-select to a two-way race by March ... Which is another way of saying, one of the three factions will basically be edged out.

One way or another, we'll find out what these Republicans are made of.

Remember, vote early, and vote often!

1 comment:

Infidel753 said...

The scary thing is that while Rick "of the Saints" was only tied with Romney, if you add his votes together with those of Perry and Bachmann, the total theocrat vote is far larger than Romney's. I'd argue that Paul's appeal, too, is at least as much theocratic as libertarian (he wants to ban abortion, and rejects evolution even after going through medical school, a much more startling position than an ignoramus like Perry rejecting it), and if you add in his votes too, you get a total two and a half times Romney's.

If the Iowa caucuses tell us anything, it's that the theocratic faction of the party has the numbers, even if the relatively sane "old guard" still has enough power to get Romney the nomination.

What will really tell the story is South Carolina, though. If Romney wins there -- and he's ahead in the polls at the moment -- it will tell us, at least, that the theocrats are pragmatic enough to swallow their objections and vote for the most electable guy.