The number of contenders courting publicity by publicly flirting with the idea of running for the Republican party’s nomination for president seems to be growing exponentially, ranging from those who are crazy to those who are pretending to be crazy in order to attract the crazy base of the party, though it is hard to tell the difference between the two groups. Me, I am waiting for the King of Crazy, Alan Keyes, to throw his hat into the ring to indicate that the craziness has reached a critical mass and we are truly off and running.
Some observers are bemused that Donald Trump has been leading the other contenders in some polls and is able to garner support in the mid-20% range, purely on his crazy birther shtick. His performance does not surprise me in the least because we now have, thanks to Keyes, a benchmark that says that the craziest of candidates can get 27% of the population to vote for him or her. It is only when candidates crack the 27% mark that I start to take them seriously.
How did such a precise number of 27% become the standard for craziness? In 2005, the website Kung Fu Monkey identified what it called the Crazification Factor.
John: Hey, Bush is now at 37% approval. I feel much less like Kevin McCarthy screaming in traffic. But I wonder what his base is –
John: … you said that immediately, and with some authority.
Tyrone: Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That’s crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.
John: Objectively crazy or crazy vis-a-vis my own inertial reference frame for rational behaviour? I mean, are you creating the Theory of Special Crazification or General Crazification?
Tyrone: Hadn’t thought about it. Let’s split the difference. Half just have worldviews which lead them to disagree with what you consider rationality even though they arrive at their positions through rational means, and the other half are the core of the Crazification — either genuinely crazy; or so woefully misinformed about how the world works, the bases for their decision making is so flawed they may as well be crazy.
John: You realize this leads to there being over 30 million crazy people in the US?
Tyrone: Does that seem wrong?
John: … a bit low, actually.
Barack Obama has been extraordinarily lucky in having weak or nutty candidates as opponents in his major races. In his 2004 run for the US Senate seat in Illinois, his Republican opponent flamed out and quit after a sex scandal, and publicity-seeker Keyes, a Maryland resident and ever eager to enter a high-profile race, parachuted in as a replacement less than three months before the election, and ended up getting the above 27% of the vote. That’s why the blogosphere has embraced the 27% figure as the potential support on any issue, however nutty.
Then Obama faced the ridiculous McCain-Palin ticket in the 2008 presidential race but they still managed to get 46%. This seems absurdly high when you consider the quality of the ticket but not when you consider that a Keyes-Trump ticket could pull in 27%.
Given that the Republican party has entangled itself in the overblown rhetoric they used to win sweeping congressional victories in 2010 and cannot seem to wriggle out, their eventual candidate who runs against Obama in 2012 will either be a complete nutter or someone who had to act like he or she was a nutter in the primaries in order to get the party’s nomination, which then becomes an albatross during the general election and lead to another easy Obama victory.
Where have you gone, Alan Keyes? 27% of the nation turns its lonely eyes to you.