Regular readers to the Wizbang Mall of Blogoria are no doubt well aware that we have a wide range of opinion and perspectives here. This serves a number of purposes, and today it illustrates an important effect in national politics. You see, some time ago I stated, unequivocally, that the Republican candidate will win the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, a prediction which has been considered by some, jeered at by others, but which remains solid, indeed it is moving forward on the strength of current events. I could go into a detailed explanation of the historical and motive forces and elements, but it seems more effective to just point out the basic effects of Demographics in elections.
Many analysts discuss Demographics with regard to Race, Gender, and Income, but I think that sometimes misses more basic effects. That is, I consider the Presidential elections differently from other types, because the public does so. History is full of instances where the public wants the Congress controlled by one party, but the White House by the other major party. I also happen to think that the Presidential elections since 1945 are the most salient examples of media and campaign planning.
I’d have to say that, in addition to the nominal demographic categories, I look for informal demographics, things like party identification and strength-of-support for candidates. That is, I like to try to find what makes one candidate stand out and claim the nomination, or the election. And I find that three factors play into this with regularity; likability, competence, and what I would have to call ‘bad guy hate’.
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First is Likability. It has long been claimed that people vote for someone they like, and that seems to be very true for Presidents. In 1948, Harry Truman seemed a lot more likable than Tom Dewey; Eisenhower trounced Stevenson twice under the simple but effective ‘I Like Ike’ slogan. Nixon had a strong lead in the polls until the public got to know JFK on television; even brick-faces like LBJ and Nixon groomed their public image to soften their appearance. Carter seemed much more likable to Ford, even though Jerry Ford was a nice enough guy, but Reagan was way more likable than Carter, and even more so than Mondale. Bill Clinton was and is very personable, and George W. Bush proved much more likable than Al Gore. So in general, being a likable guy is an important factor. Keep that in mind, we’ll come back to it.
Next up is Competence. Mike Dukakis, truth be told, was probably more likable than George H.W. Bush, but he lost big in 1988. John Kerry seemed likable at times in 2004, yet he never really closed the deal with voters. Nixon and LBJ both tried to be likable, but hey, no one ever really considered them to be best-buddy material, so how did they win? Basically, they blew out their opponents on competency. Johnson was no laugh riot, but he seemed well in control in 1964, as compared to the more emotional Goldwater. In 1972, Nixon blew out McGovern with 60% of the Popular Vote and 96.6% of the Electoral Vote, in part because McGovern seemed unstable and out of control. In 1980, most voters thought Carter did not know what he was doing, which contributed to his loss, and the same thing happened to G.H.W. Bush in 1992. Before that, in 1988, Dukakis failed to convey that he knew how to lead the nation. So the image of Competence is a second critical factor to winning.
So, what does that have to do with Lee Ward? Bear with me, please, I am getting there. In general, and admittedly this is a very broad generalization but it works, there are four categories of political identification; there are the Liberals, the Conservatives, the Moderates, and the Nomads. And the ratio of these groups is a 1-2-3-4 ratio, with the question being which is which. Basically, the self-described ‘Moderates’ make up about 40% of the voter pool, the Nomads make up about 10%, and the Liberals and Conservatives make up the 20 and 30 percent groups. During the 1960s and 1970s the Liberals outnumbered the Conservatives by that same 3:2 ratio, but it has flipped since then, so that now the Liberals make up about 20% of the voter pool, and the Conservatives make up about 30%. Before anyone gets too angry or excited about that, let’s note that I am talking about national identity, which is useless in any election except the Presidential race, and let’s also note that just 20 or 30 percent of the Popular Vote is not going to win. The message is, whether you are Liberal or Conservative or Moderate, that you need someone else outside your “base” to buy in if you want to win. The significance of having your 20 or 30 or 40 percent, is also made by noting how concentrated that base is; what I mean, is that the winning candidate is almost never a real Centrist, so while the biggest group calls itself ‘Moderate’, they tend to prefer someone with a distinct political identity. Also, Liberals tend to be concentrated in urban areas much more than Conservatives are, so their 20 percent is situated in key areas and is usually well-disciplined to vote for the Democrats; not since 1980 have Democrats deserted their candidate to any great degree. Republicans enjoy the general support of Conservatives, but neither the full nor unconditional support from them; Conservatives are prone to stay home if they are displeased by the GOP. As for those Moderates I mentioned, they are very soft voters, and their desire to vote is often driven by whether they believe their vote will make a difference. And then there are those ‘Nomads’; as the name suggests, these voters do not really have a specific political alignment, but vote almost exclusively on the candidate’s personal qualities. In general, a Democrat or Republican running with his/her party’s nomination can expect to claim somewhere around 20% of the national Popular Vote from their party’s ideological support, and another 20% or so from voters who lean in favor of the candidate. The difference in most elections comes down to swaying the voters who must be motivated to vote, and to vote for you. And that, at long last, brings us to the Lee Wards of the political ecosphere.
An example of Lee Ward’s style of rhetoric can be found in the comments section of an article posted by Larkin in Wizbang Blue. Larkin was responding to an article by me, where I observed the significance of California in the 2008 election, and why it may be a problem for the Democrats in 2008, as well as how much trouble it would cost the Left if the state started to look unsure for the Democrats. Lee Ward considered his argument carefully, and presented it with the following choice comments:
“What a dumbass”
“What an idiot”
“Good grief, what a drooling moron”
While these are doubtless devastating repartee in his normal environment, such comments by Lee fail to convey a sense of comprehension, much less an effective retort. And normally, the adults just ignore such banal noise, in the same way that parents pay no mind when Johnny amuses himself by pretending to emit flatulence in front of the guests. I should mention as well, that Lee is quite capable of more extended outbursts or emotion, but I see no reason to reprint profanity or vulgarity in my own article; the reader is doubtless already well aware of the character of comments and opinions presented in WizBlue; it is a somewhat cleaner reflection of the same malicious spirit so commonly found in the Daily Kos, MoveOn.org, and similar hate sites of the Left.
Now, when I write “hate sites”, I mean precisely that. It is amusing on one level, but indicative of true psychosis in the Left on another level, to note that even though they know he will be returning to private life after the completion of his term, President Bush continues to be vilified and defamed by the Left; they fear and loathe him, always without cause or merit in their charges. It seems that the Left feels compelled to run against President Bush again and again, as if this time they will finally win. And the fact that he does not even need to respond to their vitriol, only inflames the Left further. It started as a joke, but there really does seem to be a mental disorder we might reasonably call B.D.S. And as annoying as that behavior is to reasonable people, it is also a potentially strong influence for voter motivation. For example, when Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota died in a plane crash in 2002, leading Democrats displayed behavior that was clearly, well, deranged.
The whole thing found its way to television and the web, and before long the public saw the Democrats as a bunch of crazy lunatics. While the personal efforts of President Bush to assist key Senators and Congressmen has been credited for his 2002 mid-term successes, it must not be forgotten that the Democrats did themselves real damage by their behavior at the Wellstone memorial service. This is not a new effect, by the way, and a clever politician can play things to his advantage. In 1992, hip-hop MC and deranged racist “Sister Souljah” discussed the riots in Los Angeles by suggesting, “If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”.
Democratic Party nominee Bill Clinton denounced the suggestion, saying, “If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”
The statement was very savvy, especially as it recognized a line of behavior that must not be crossed by a major political candidate. That is, Bill Clinton had no intention of letting his candidacy be damaged by hate-filled morons. Oddly enough, the modern Democrats do not seem to grasp this point.
Let’s go back to that point about ‘likability’. It seems fair to me, to say that people who don’t know a candidate very well, judge him or her by the people who most clearly support that candidate. This, Ned Lamont was not seen by the good people of Connecticut as a sober, careful guardian of the public trust, but an angry, unbalanced fanatic, determined to carry out extreme agenda. No, Ned himself worked hard to avoid that image, but his supporters? They went off the deep end, pretty much all the time, and they turned off voters, enough that despite losing the party nomination for his re-election, Joe Lieberman handily won the general election as an Independent. Roll back to 1972, now. I don’t now if you’re old enough to remember how supporters of George McGovern were acting, but I do and let’s just say they were a couple notches below ‘hippy’ on the sane-people scale. Once again, a lot of people decided to play it safe. The thing is, voters get motivated to vote when they are scared or angry. And they go vote to punish the guy they are angry at, or they vote to keep out the guy who scares them.
The web is a fascinating place, in some ways like a city with a variety of neighborhoods. So yes, some people are unaware of the character and behavior of Kos and MoveOn, but that is starting to change. MoveOn was happy to have its advertisement discussed in the halls of Congress, but now a lot more Americans realize that such groups hate the troops and the men who lead them; the lie that they only hate Bush has been blown apart. The vitriol that is the daily fare of the Left in American politics polarizes voters and drives many to react; while the Left appeared to be the minority and unable to effect change their hate and bile could be overlooked by some, but as the Left’s figureheads pay homage to increasingly extremist hate groups, the moderate voter is going to feel more and more pressure to balance the government against the threat of Leftist extremism. The Right needs to conduct itself properly, or it will fail to gain from the existing conditions. But presuming that the GOP has a sense of prudence about it, and that its nominee can express his positions and reasoning in a forthright and civil manner, the sullen and crass behavior of writers like Lee Ward and his cohorts will inevitably drive voters to the Right in the next election.