Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Obama Groupies Are Actually Bad For the Democratic Party

In recent weeks, the media has focused on Obama's approval ratings being "almost as bad" as George W. Bush's at this point in his Presidency, and comparing Bush Jr's failures in Iraq and Katrina that were center-stage at the time to Obamacare and this administration's slew of scandals. As usual, the liberal media's focus is on the 'almost' while the conservative rewrites mathematical axioms to try to eliminate it. Well, while I'm highly unmoved by the circus tactics of both, I DO want to point out to my patrons the explanation of the discrepancy is not in the issues, but in demographics. Once a President's approval rating dips below 40% it's safe to assume a significant proportion of his own party disapproves of his work, and THAT does not work the same way for Republicans and Democrats.

The trailer-park residing, gun-toting, bible-thumping, white male Republican redneck is a myth. If Americans who fit that profile even by 70% really voted Republican across-the-board, every President would be Republican. The reality is that the Republican Party is the smaller of the two when it comes to voter registration and has been consistently since the 1980s. It has far fewer dedicated safe voters than the Democratic, and relies on fringe elements such as libertarians, evangelicals, and others siding with it to win contested elections. These elements may seem like breeds of Republican to idiot mainstream liberals wanting to conveniently package all their opponents together, but empirical research by the likes of the Pew Center indicates otherwise. Turnout is the most important factor in contested elections. And it's these fringes moreso even than moderates that decide these by either backing the Republican or staying unaffiliated (voting 3rd party OR not voting). If they choose the latter, Democrats dominate by means of more safe votes. This effect destroyed Mitt Romney in 2012 despite moderates' discontent with Obama, for example.

What this means is that when Republicans engage in braindead belligerence such as that of Bush Jr. that destroys civil liberties, shovels on public debt, and gets us stuck in 2 pointless wars - they get disowned by a majority of their own supporters. I would posit that no more than half of the people that voted for Bush Jr. liked him or wanted him to be President, and I'm talking in 2000! But libertarians and evangelicals are the two most civics educated and politically active affiliations in the country (that's again according to Pew), and they saw right through the populist bullshit of Gore and Kerry and turned out for Bush Jr. both times to keep THOSE assholes out. Research turnout for those years yourself if you don't believe me, numbers don't lie. By 2006 and 2008 these same elements were so fed up with Jr and the Republican establishment that we didn't just let their approval ratings sink, we literally sat back and let the Democrats devastate them. The brief Democrat rule that passed Obamacare coupled with no one missing Bush Jr. allowed us to turn the backlash into a takeover of the Republican Party under the Tea Party doctrine - much of which is far more palatable to libertarians and evangelicals.

I contend this pattern will NOT repeat itself in the Democratic Party, and Obama's unpopularity will NOT hit the same abysmal levels. His supporters are far more devoted and think much more along party-lines. That's not to say there aren't plenty of independents that lean to the left or even Democrats intelligent enough to see through him, but the quantitative balance of partisan-to-fringe is very different from the right. And believe it or not, this is a bad thing for the Democratic Party. Here's how:

Even the liberal media is beginning to concede that the Democratic establishment is wearing Obama's failures and Republicans will run roughshod over them in 2014. However, while that larger loyal base is not REMOTELY enough to endure Americans' anger, it's far bigger (I estimate it won't sink below 30%) than what was left of Bush Jr's supporters in 2006 and will fight for his legacy. Other factors include that the liberal fringes are not remotely as united or organized as conservative ones and unlikely to form a Tea Party-like counter movement, while homeless moderates like Charlie Crist and Karl Rove that are being expelled from the Republican Party are finding their way into the Democratic and causing more division. The result will be lots and lots of disorganized internal opposition vying for Democrat votes, but unlike Republicans in 2006-8 the bruised Democratic establishment will endure it internally and suffer losses that don't quite mirror those years for Republicans. However, said losses will be long-term because future candidates will continue to wear the dirty legacy, seeing as the establishment was never purged. This is already happening if you look at the recent election. Maddow and the like tried desperately to spin Virginia victories; but those margins were paper thin, over extreme fundamentalist candidates, in a swing State, and before most of the Obamacare disaster.

Like sports teams or large corporations, political entities are better off shedding and disowning the legacies of poor leaders with bad outcomes, and the Democratic Party's bizarre attachment to Obamacare and his other failures is unhealthy for its unity and continued success. If they don't figure out a way to deal with this problem (and my prediction is not a chance), it will not only cost them several straight electoral defeats. It may possibly lead to a more fundamental realignment where THEY become the smaller major party reliant on fringes and moderates; while the Tea Party doctrine matures and becomes the new mainstream of American politics as the revived Republican Party.

Laugh and call me crazy if you want, but be forewarned that if you do - I will NOT be civil about rubbing your face in these predictions should they come true several years from now.


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