Revised Numbers: The Temporary Victory of Identity Politics
In a previous post, I spent a great deal of time demonstrating my competency in using simple formulas in an excel spreadsheet. Since the Nate Silver-ization of punditry is an all-but-complete reality, I figured I would throw my hat into the ring and suggest that the current demographic situation of the United States electorate is just as troubling for the Democrats as it is for the Republicans. The point was that, as always, the reports of the death of the GOP are highly exaggerated.
I based my numbers and calculations on a forecast that intimated the final popular vote tally was far from evident.
So… I waited, and kept looking at the numbers. And waited. And looked.
And, basically, found them inching up ever so slightly… but no increasing in meaningful quantities. Because of this, my number playground was off by roughly 9 million votes. Now, the margins I described should probably be similar or exactly the same…but, ahem, this is Science. We must be exact.
So, in my first act of exactitude, I will round down the current total popular vote total from 123,137,099 to a cool 123 Million. My apologies to the 137,099 people who did not make the first cut of RightWay Does Math. But your numbers include people who voted for Roseanne Barr, three different Socialist Parties, a white supremacist, Pot-Head Parties, and someone who got 519 votes as a member of the Prohibition Party. In other words, these 137,099 people don’t count. I am then assigning the remaining 3rd Party votes to either Romney or Obama (about 1.8 million). That’s a good chunk of votes, but only about 1.4% of the total vote, so it ends up being ‘statistically insignificant’. (Now I understand why people use that phrase…it’s fun to say).
Now then, let’s play the game of Identity Politics and divide people into nice, solid voting blocs. This is a tactic that worked for the Democratic Party, so why not look at the numbers through their lens?
That means (based again on the exit poll numbers) that in 2012 voters broke down as follows:
So, side by side, here are Obama and Romney’s shares of each group:
And, truthfully, these numbers are probably a little more kind to the President than what he actually received. Splitting the 1.8 million 3rd Party votes exactly in half would give The President 340,000 votes less and Romney 340,000 more than the model above suggests. That could have made a difference in some of the closer state races… however, in the big scheme of things, it wouldn’t have significantly changed the total percentages of the popular vote breakdown. 52/48–>;51/49.
So, just as last time, a mere 10% shift in all minority groups would have produced the following results:
Election flipped. Adios Obama. Congratulations, Romney.
If 4,243,500 (out of 34,440,000) “non-white” people had voted for Romney instead of Obama, we would have a new President right now.
The thing is… it is estimated that a little more than 4 million white voters stayed home this time around.
So, if we decide to simply worship statistics, the GOP has two choices:
1) Go after the 4 million minority votes needed to flip the election or
2) Go after the 4 million whitey’s who stayed home
Of course, either path requires also not doing anything to lose the votes they already secured… so a mild pandering would have to suffice.
And that is the reason why statistical analysis combined with Identity Politics are a bad thing.
Do we really want our politicians to continue to be beholden to the Nate Silvers of the world. Nothing against the dude, of course. But, when you begin your career in earnest by posting anonymously on DailyKos… do I even need to finish that thought?
Ostensibly, the nation is wary of finger-in-the-wind politicos and ‘focus-testing’. But, when someone like Silver comes along and analyzes the polls in such a way as to give them heft and the appearance of importance… that’s a bad thing. It becomes even worse when we seemingly validate the despicable pandering of Identity Politics.
Such a system that combines those two things must be greatly reformed… or scrapped altogether.
But, let’s bring this back down to Earth.
In 2012, Identity Politics won the day in the United States of America.
The Republican Party and the Conservative movement (as Newt Gingrich pointed out in a recent article: these are not the same thing, but they are inextricably linked) does indeed have a choice to make.
We can play Identity Politics and hasten America’s decline into a Modern European-like socialist dystopia. Many pundits are suggesting just this. Illegal Immigration? Amnesty for All! Abortion? It should be safe, legal, and on-demand! Homosexual marriage? It’s the new normal! And the list goes on and on and on. Erstwhile ‘Conservative’ voices are suggesting that the Republican Party needs to be more like the Democratic Party. Is it possible that they forgot that millions of people stayed home and didn’t vote because they thought the two parties were already too much alike?
I have talked before about the upcoming clash between the Extreme Middle and the Extreme Right of the Republican Party. The Extreme Middle is suggesting, as above, that we can win elections by pandering and playing the Identity Politics game. Meanwhile, the Extreme Right is digging in it’s heels and refusing to acknowledge the realities about the current composition of our electorate. The illegal immigration problem needs to dealt with… but it needs to be done with a bit more finesse and compassion. Marco Rubio has said something along the lines of: it’s hard to talk to people about Liberty and the principles of Limited Government when they are afraid you are going to deport their Grandmother. Like it or not, he is right. Granting Amnesty will not magically win the GOP Hispanic votes. But, continuing hard-line positions while hiding behind the ‘rule-of-law’ argument is not a viable solution.
All other issues that the faux-Right is trying to push the GOP to hyperdrive Leftward on must similarly be handled in a more balanced manner. Something the GOP did (or did not do) cost us the election. I would simply suggest that the problem was not that the GOP was too Conservative or not Conservative enough in this cycle. The Romney campaign was balanced and strong on principle (the details of political strategy and tactics and unforced errors can be argued somewhere else). The combination of Mitt Romney’s skilled leadership and temperament with Paul Ryan’s contagiously enthusiastic focus on fiscal sanity was a no-brainer.
Yet, in the middle of a recovery that has a history making level of weakness…and on the brink of another recession…and after a clear cover-up of a horrendous terrorist attack in Benghazi… America voted for the Status Quo.
In my more generous moments, I choose to believe this was because people just don’t care about the Federal Government and seem to think that it cannot affect them for ill.
In truth, though, I think it is because many, many people (a slim majority of the electorate) simply want the promises that Big Government has made to them. They believe they are owed something and the proper mechanism for them to receive their goods is for the Federal Government to take from someone else.
If that’s the case, as I believe it is, the problem was definitely not with Mitt Romney. The problem is with the American electorate.
If the GOP chooses the path of Identity Politics, it may win some short-term victories… but at what cost?
Far, far better would be for the Conservative movement and the Republican Party to start playing the long game. We can only win the future (sorry if that phrase is already taken) by changing the way Americans think. It should not be hard to win in the marketplace of ideas… for our ideas are so much the better ones. Yet, we face an uphill battle.
My only advice currently is that we need to look to the past (Burkean and Kirkian Conservatism) in order to light the way to a secure country for our posterity. Conservative Principles are timeless… even if it is true that, as Russell Kirk suggests, a Conservative must sometimes take on the appearance of a radical in our modern times. We have history, tradition, and results on our side! If we can get people to lose the Modern obsession of deferment to all thoughts contemporary, our battle is half-won. For once people are open to joining the Great Conversation of thinkers, past and present, if they take the rhetorical plunge, it is a foregone conclusion that they will finally understand that Conservatism represents the last, best hope for human governance.
Implicit in the kind of Conservatism I am describing is a firm reliance on and devotion to Jesus Christ. His teachings must form the basis of any attempt to understand and participate in humanity. That we, in our post-Modern mode have forgotten that a strong faith and grounding in the Judeo-Christian tradition is part and parcel of Conservatism goes a long way to explain why Conservatism has had no core recently and has been all over the map of ideologies.
And finally, if, in our efforts we fail to make a difference in the hearts and minds of the country as a whole, we should strive to be sure we did all that we could. That all things are held and allowed by He who created this universe, will be our final national comfort. The time may indeed come when these United States cannot and should not remain united. Though sad, this is not something we should fear or reflexively argue against. Likewise, we should not be quick to jump to that eventuality. It would not be something to celebrate and would not be a decision to make out of either anger or frustration.
Rather, it would be a sober and somber time of reflection. With sorrow, but certainty, we would simply follow the same path as our Founders and dissolve the political bands which have tied one people to another. But that tragedy is only if we, now, fail. We owe each other and our children to first fight for the nation as a whole. If we fight and then lose, we can then leave this Union in dignity and grace. May God never bring us to that… but if He does, let’s praise Him all the same.