Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ames: Rocky sailing for all the Republicans from here out.

Ames is over and, as I see it, there are no major surprises. This was the sort of sham election, PR stunt event, that could be either bought with lots of money or with enthusiastic supporters. And all the previous straw polls have shown that the Republicans in Iowa are a very far Right-wing bunch. It is the place where the likes of Pat Buchanan, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes and Pat Robertson did relatively well.

Romney bowled the place over with his wealth. He bought the “election” fair and square. In the end he didn’t buy very much. He’s like the guy who spent $2000 on lottery tickets in order to win $50. He shelled out a lot of money and ended up with something that is worth very little.

McCain, Fred Thompson and Giuliani were smart.They didn’t waste their time on this glorified fund raiser. Any money spent in Ames could have been used better elsewhere. By avoiding the circus they could get zero votes and still come out alright.

Pundits will be looking for losers and winners. But I don’t think there are “winners” in this sham election. There can only be losers. Well, maybe the winners were the ones who stayed home and didn’t waste campaign funds on this carnival/side-show for Republicans. They gained nothing but they didn’t lose anything either which is more than I can say for anyone else.

But, I can tell you who the biggest loser is this time around: the Republican Party. Talk about an implosion. No one seems to have noticed, and its still the early hours, but the number of individuals who bothered to vote took a massive nosedive. There were only 14,302 votes cast. In the last Ames Straw Poll there were around 23,000 votes. It just shows how unenthusiastic Republicans are. They know they are picking a candidate who is being sent into electoral battle to die. And the slate of candidates they have to pick from is rather dismal at best.

Romney once had the potential to be a decent candidate. Then he discovered his inner-George Bush and turned into a confirmed moron. He flip-flopped precisely on the issues where he was relatively decent in order to appeal to the American Taliban. Unfortunately the Religious Right holds the GOP hostage in their Holy Jihad.

Considering how quickly Romney was able to abandon his principles I guess he deserves to win the nomination. As I see it he will spend millions to secure the nomination and millions more in a vain attempt to win the unwinnable. Much of that will be his own personal wealth. Spending millions for nothing is a suitable fine to pay for such a betrayal of his own decency. Alas, that is the problem with today’s Republican Party. To win the nomination one must surrender decency in order to be the “moral” candidate. The basic principles of limited government and respect for the rights of others has to be jettisoned to satisfy panting Imams like Jim Dobson and James Kennedy.

The extremists nature of the Republicans in Iowa, well at least the Republicans who bother with this circus, was shown in the string of far Right candidates who followed up Romney in the poll.

Second place went to mad mullah Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister. Third place went to Sam Brownback who worked hard to get the Christian vote. He started out as a Methodist, then went to an evangelical non-denominational church and then converted to Catholicism via an Opus Dei priest.

Brownback did his best to out moralize the other moralizers. Perhaps if he had stopped at that second conversion he might have pulled it off. Unfortunately there are still a good number of fundamentalist voters who don’t trust Catholics and their perceived plans to impose a Papist dictatorship on America.

As if having Huckabee and Brownback in the race wasn’t unappetizing enough, the one man who manages to our Right-wing the far Right is Tom Tancredo, a man who wants to do to immigrants what George Bush tried to do to gays -- use them as campaign fodder in order to terrify the panic-stricken into voting against their better judgment. Tancredo came in fourth.

And then comes Ron Paul, who has one good issue he campaigns on -- the war, and a lot of fringe issues that just don’t get much traction. No matter what happened in Ames the Paulists would see it as a win-win situation. They are like the optimistic kid who wakes up on his birthday only to find a pile of manure waiting for him. Gleefully he jumps in and starts digging. His horrified parents ask him what he’s doing and the responds: “Well, with this much shit there just has to be a pony.” That is the typical Paulist, nothing can dissuade them of their belief that the great Great White Knight will lead them to Camelot.

Paul starts out well when he talks about the war but then he drifts into the twilight zone for most voters -- he starts rambling on about the Federal Reserve, the North American Union, the New World Order and so forth. This has appeal to the readers of the New American but not to the mainstream. His other two big issues are his most unlibertarian ones as well -- abortion and trying to outdo Tancredo in bashing immigrants.

Paulists will feel vindicated because the Great One received 9.1% of the vote. As I said yesterday I thought he needed to pull a minimum of 10% considering how the Ames vote historically has been kind to fringe, losing candidates. But that 10% was based on a turnout of at least 20,000 Republicans not 14,000.

The reality is that Paul's voters would have gone to Ames if the city was under ten feet of water. They would have happily dove into the waters their candidate walked upon in order to cast their ballots. The Paulists would have been in Ames no matter what happened.

I was figuring Paul would need about 2,400 votes to show he can appeal beyond his dedicated disciples. I thought he could turn out around 1,000 loyalists and that if he could then pick up a similar number from other attendees he might be able to show an ability break out past his base. He received about 1300 votes. This was pretty close to the number I assumed he could get based on his standing in most national polls. Ames was his kind of election. The entire set up of the circus was more beneficial to him than any other candidate. It is precisely here that dedicated followers can really make a difference. But they didn’t. They didn’t turn out many more votes than could be expected.

His percentage is at the high end of what I though realistic for a candidate with little actually support merely because the total number of voters was so low. If the turn out had been normal his percentage would be significantly lower. His loyalists would be still there, and he would pick some addition votes. But I doubt the raw number of Paul votes would have increased significantly. Also remember this was one of those “races” where the vote doesn’t count for anything. Since the winner doesn’t actually get delegates at the Republican convention out of this voters tend to indulge the whimsical or unrealistic in Ames.

I’m still expecting Romney to end up buying the Republican nomination. He can afford it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with Huckabee as his running mate. Having someone with firm fundamentalist credentials will help damper the Religious Right’s anti-Mormon views. Brownback won’t do. You might be able to expect the good Christians to hold their noses and vote for a Mormon, especially to stop Hiliary. But it will be a damn bit harder to get them to vote for a Mormon and a Catholic. Their ecumenicalism is not very strong. They will bind with “heretics” and “apostates” but only when necessary to gang up on some other group that they like even less.

But I’m not sure that one Hiliary can trump a cultists and a papist.

The gay boogieman has been done to death by Rove and Bush. You can drag out the same toothless demon only so often before the mob starts to tire and become distracted. And if they stop focusing on who to bash they might start thinking about things like the war or taxes or the Patriot Act.

You can get some enthusiasm for legislation that lashes immigrants. But that just doesn’t have the appeal of the old fashioned gay bashing. The “terrorists” thing has been done over and over and over and just doesn’t seem to have the same kick it once did. A good “demon” has to be completely the “other”. If you want to scapegoat you need a target that lots of people can’t understand.

Most heterosexuals just don’t understand why people are gay. And no one understands the mentality of terrorists. But are immigrants different enough to make good targets? No doubt the Far Right will try. Their whole position is life is built around what they oppose not what they embrace. Democrats like the idea that we are threatening ourselves. Republicans like the idea that we are in danger from others. Fear is the motivating factor of 90% of modern politics.

I suspect an immigrant crusade will weary the Republica base rather quickly. I mean immigrants are men and women who marry and have children and go to church. They might have accents and look a bit tan but they are so much like everyone else I’m just not sure you get much traction out of that crusade.

Not only does the Republican Party lack a decent candidate it lacks a decent boogieman. Nothing is going for them the way they hoped.

Meanwhile the Democrats have smooth sailing ahead. When they need to scare voters into surrendering their freedoms they will just pull out one boogieman that scares the bejeesus out most of us -- George Bush. When Bush won the last election I warned friends that the result would be a presidency that makes Hiliary look qualified and gets her elected. She has it easy. She only has to look better than George and a class of kindergarten students could do that.