Now that it is widely conceded that Mitt Romney will be the Republican party nominee, we enter phase two of the presidential election cycle.
It may be the scientist in me but I tend to favor theoretical models that enable some predictivity in events, rather than the idea that we are totally at the mercy of idiosyncratic factors. This is true even in the world of presidential elections, despite all its seeming unpredictability. As I wrote earlier, strip away the surface turbulence and you see the steady flow of a predictable current.
US elections have two stages. In the first, known as the primaries, any candidate who threatens the status quo of rule by oligarchy is ruthlessly weeded out by a coalition of oligarchy, party leadership, and their allies in the major media. This ensures that some major issues will never be discussed seriously in the second stage of the general election.
But in this second stage, the two pro-oligarchy party candidates will be portrayed as radically different in order to give voters the illusion that we really have a choice and that democracy is thriving. It is not that there is no difference at all between the two candidates but that the differences involve largely social issues that I call GRAGGS issues (god, race, abortion, guns, gays, sex) that the oligarchy does not much care about either way.
Even the first stage is quite predictable, which is what enabled me to assert about a year ago that Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee.
The supposedly serious elements in the Republican party who have been alarmed at the unserious direction the party has taken seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that the party nomination will go to someone who is either just plain nuts or is not nuts but has to take so many nutty positions to win the nomination that his candidacy is doomed in the general election. This seems to be the fate of Mitt Romney, whom I pick to be the eventual 2012 party nominee based on a simple but reliable political model which is that the candidate with the most money wins.
So based on that rather convoluted analysis, here is my prediction. Most likely Romney will gain the nomination by being a faux loony, being pushed into that losing position by a semi-loony (Tim Pawlenty) and real loonies (all the rest of the current field except Huntsman), and will then handily lose the presidential election.
My confidence that Romney will head for a disastrous defeat in November has been tempered somewhat by learning about the models of political scientists who predict that the underlying economic factors are what drive election outcomes and suggest that the current incumbent should lose in November. The ‘Bread and Peace’ model of Douglas Hibbs confirms that view unless in the unlikely event that there is a dramatic improvement in people’s disposable income before the election, say around July.
So we now have two very similar pro-oligarchic candidates vying to win in November. How are they going to be portray themselves and their opponents as being wildly different so that people can be made to feel that major disaster awaits if their opponent should win?
The Democrats, as usual when they are running for office, strike a populist tone on the economy, calling for superficial things like the Buffet rule. They will also claim that they are the ones who will defend Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare, though in reality their support for them is wobbly. The Republicans will run on phony concerns about the deficit.
Meanwhile all the GRAGGS issues (god, race, abortion, guns, gays, sex) have already been raised in the discussions and it only remains to be seen which ones gain the most prominence as the campaign drags on. God and sex (via the contraception issue) and race (via immigration and the intense hatred of Obama by some crazy people on the right) are the early leaders but this could change with some explosive issue (like the Trayvon Martin case) suddenly becoming a media obsession.
And of course, there is that perennial favorite, the question of who voters want to nominate judges for the US Supreme Court. This could become a major issue particularly if the court strikes down major elements of the Affordable Care Act, affirmative action, and the Voting Rights Act, all of which will be decided sometime in the summer.
So let the circus begin!