A recent post over at FiveThirtyEight pointed out the increasing popularity of Texas Governor Rick Perry, and how he may start being a concern to more mainstream candidate Mitt Romney.
It should be noted that Michelle Bachmann is making strong showings in all of these polls as well.
I’d first like to point out that these early polls are essentially meaningless, and I personally think they’re borderline unethical to conduct. They survey the wrong people, and they ask bad questions. They have a long history of being worthless, yet they keep being conducted, so you inevitably have to deal with the media fallout of their results.
The most common form this takes is “Hey this insane, borderline theocrat may actually become president!” For some people that’s a sign the country is headed in the right direction. For others, it’s a bleak indictment of our nation and how far we’ve strayed from the enlightenment principles on which we were founded.
Either reaction is the product of bad information. Information delivered by a sensationalist, self-obsessed press who long ago learned to sell drama and conflict over substantive analysis.
But it also serves to mask the true nature of presidential elections in the US. It creates the illusion of a diverse pool of candidates, each of whom could potentially take the US into the future that most appeals to each of us. But that diversity is largely illusory. Those candidates who actually win their national party nominations are usually not very far apart ideologically speaking, and the final campaign months are typically spent fighting over those minor differences, which only serves to exaggerate them.
The extreme right wing represented by Bachmann and Perry do have genuine ideological differences not only with the left, but with their own party.
When most republican politicians say they want a smaller government, what they mean is that they want an ineffective regulatory body which is powerful but corruptible and controllable. While democratic politicians can’t really call for small government, they have essentially wanted the same thing (at least since Bill Clinton).
Perry and Bachmann (and Ron Paul for that matter) actually want a dismantled and diminished federal government which forces power and money down to the state level where it is more easily funneled to local special interests.
This is a major divide. And in many ways a larger divide than exists between democrats and republicans.
Largely speaking, politicians of both parties agree on the single largest point of policy in modern politics – the role of the federal government. Now I can hear you having an aneurysm from here, so just take some deep breaths while I explain this.
The debate you will hear in the constant drum beat of election coverage, and the current struggles between the president and congress is all about the role of federal government! And it’s completely divisive! It’s what has our whole government ground to a halt. How could I possibly say they agree?
Because they do agree. The role of the federal government in modern america is to protect corporate interests from international competition. While the different parties may differ on their justifications for this, and some of those reasons may even be morally defendable, there is no genuine disagreement. America is all-in on globalized capitalism, and this was a choice we made a long time ago. The captains of industry hold the US captive just as surely as they do most 3rd world countries. We are now a plutocracy.
Don’t believe me? Read the diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. Here’s a few examples. I’ve read about a hundred of them and the picture they paint is not pretty. The State Department now spends a great deal of its diplomatic capital as the lobbying arm of large corporations.
But this should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. Large scale and widespread corporate crimes simply go unpunished. Wholesale illegal market manipulations by international banks are met with small fines, or completely ignored. The supreme court has spent much of its current session actively protecting corporations, against standing precedent.
But I think ideologues like Perry and Bachmann legitimately either don’t know, or don’t understand the shifts that government has made over the last 30 years. They don’t understand that by wanting to diminish the power of the federal government, you diminish its power to serve corporate interests in the global economy. That effectively means the US ceases to be a world power. No one currently in power is going to let that happen.
Which is why Perry and Bachmann will never be serious contenders for the presidency. No one who honestly wants a smaller government will ever be allowed a serious shot at the presidency from either party. But it definitely serves a purpose to let Perry and Bachmann get out there and squawk. They get to be the voice of middle class white frustration, the republicans’ populist play in the face of a still strong hatred for being screwed by global capitalism.
Just to hedge my bets here a little: I can see Perry getting the republican nomination in one circumstance; the republicans are certain they won’t win 2012. If they feel that way (which we’ll probably know by early next year), it doesn’t make sense to run a credible candidate and have them lose. It will make it harder to sell that candidate in 2016. It’s much better to throw someone to the wolves cough McCain cough, and let your real pick build up credibility for when there’s not an incumbent in office.
Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race on January 4th and Perry gave it up Today. Our disgraceful media organizations cynically pumped 5 months of juicy fundamentalist insanity from them and now they’re onto the Gingrich/Santorum crazy train. Gingrich, despite being one of the most corrupt politicians in recent memory, may in fact have a shot at the nomination, but I think it’s a long one.
Rick Santorum however holds no shot. Don’t get me wrong, he brings the best of both conservative worlds, he’s right up there with the best of them on christian insanity, but unlike Perry and Bachmann, he’s a huge fan of big government and whoring himself out to corporate lobbying interests. He loves war, and thinks it’s just peachy that iranian nuclear scientists are showing up dead all over the place. This could make him an appealing candidate to his party, if he wasn’t quite so goody goody.
See, Santorum isn’t just a prayers in schools, bring Jesus back to the government kind of guy. He’s prudish moralist. He wants to outlaw contraceptives. He wants to make pornography illegal. He wants a total ban on abortion, even when it’s necessary to save the mother. He’s said that he wants civil law to reflect christian religious law.
The republican party is still in a shambles from Bush’s administration. How long do you think it would take the republican party to recover from a poor Bush impersonator with a heaping helping of ultra conservative Catholicism?