Iowa Caucuses: Seriously, Man, Who Knows, Right?

Question from the peanut gallery:

Any predictions on tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses?

Predictions? No. What do I want to happen? I want Santorum to win and Ron Paul to come in second, because I think that would precipitate the maximum possible amount of panic within in GOP establishment brain trust — as it should — which would fill me with childlike glee.

Oh, don’t look at me like that, people. You know this isn’t my political race. The only fun I’m going to get out of it is if it’s a wacky chaotic mess, and the Republicans wait until the last possible minute to give the nomination to Romney, already. If the dude just waltzes out of the Iowa caucuses with a win, it’s going to be a boring primary season for everyone. But Santorum on top, so to speak? Oh boy. That’s going to be fun.

Could it happen? Hell, yeah: a Sunday poll has Romney, Paul and Santorum polling within the poll’s margin of error of each other, and Talking Points Memo notes that of the three, Santorum is the one whose numbers are significantly on the upswing in recent Iowa polls; i.e., the dude’s got momentum. He could totally take it, Paul could totally place, and Romney could totally have to spin a third place finish.

Please note that my prior assessment of Santorum as a querulous bigot still stands, and that despite how much fun I’ve been having over on Twitter making Santorum jokes, I think it’s appalling that the man is now suddenly a viable candidate out there in Iowa. Seriously, conservative Iowans: Santorum? Why not take a Sharpie to a posterboard, write “We Don’t Want That Lousy Presidency Anyway” and just stay home tomorrow? Isn’t it snowing? Don’t you have a cozy fire?

Oh, fine. Do what you want, then. You kids have fun. And if you do put Santorum on top, well. You’ll have put a smile on my face. How fun would Santorum be in the general race? More fun than Gingrich. Think about that, why don’t you.

153 thoughts on “Iowa Caucuses: Seriously, Man, Who Knows, Right?

  1. Is this what you meant when you reiterated your site’s guidelines about you sometimes saying things that people won’t agree with or like? I certainly hope not. If you can push this just a bit further, I might actually be able to get a whole day’s worth of laughter in a single go.

    Anyway, since I haven’t said it yet, welcome to 2012 and hope you and your’s have a great one.

  2. Democrats for [Santorum/Bachman 2012].
    Think about it.
    Cool, huh?
    Better than [Cthulhu/Voldemort 2012]?

    Regards,
    Jack Tingle

  3. Yeah, the GOP has a grand old tradition of letting off steam by having some of its true dingbats win the early caucuses and then collectively coming to their senses and nominating the boring ones by the time the convention rolls around. See also: Pat Buchanan, 1992.

    But that won’t make this any less hilarious if Senator Shitstain really is up for his 15 minutes of Not Romneydom.

  4. The whole thing will be over by the Florida primary later this month with Romney on top. There’s nothing to see here. Move along…

    The real spoiler is if someone like Ron Paul decides to run as a third party candidate. Then things will get really stupid really fast.

    What bothers me the most is that this election is the Republicans’ to lose, yet they don’t have a single exciting candidate.

  5. No snow and no sign of it yet. I’m tempted to go register Republican at the caucus tomorrow just to try and give you this glee.

  6. Sean: Gas is over $4 a gallon, real unemployment has been in the double digits for years now, and Obama’s only significant legislative achievement (health care reform) doesn’t kick in until after the election. Romney has an excellent resume, is clearly not an idiot, and is going to have a good long time to make his case. While I think that Obama will win, if I were a betting man I’d put all my spare cash on Romney covering the spread. Once the dipshits, dingbats and frothy mixtures are out of the picture, expect this race to get very close very quickly.

  7. (BTW, “only” in the above isn’t meant as a slam. Many if not most presidents exit their tenure with zero significant legislative achievements. “One” is not a bad number, especially if it was in an area where multiple previous presidents had tried and failed to move the football.)

  8. Romney has an excellent resume? Whoa. Yeah, if you’re a member of the 1%, he’s got an excellent resume. For anyone else, he’s a nightmare. His private sector resume should terrify anyone who is interested in creating jobs, since he’s made millions off of laying off people. Please do some more research on this guy.

    As for the entertainment factor, I was kind of hoping for a Cain/Bachmann ticket. COMEDY GOLD. Plus, the more Klan members who die of a heart attack, the better, especially since they’re probably all against healthcare. It’s a win-win, really.

  9. Though Wikipedia has a ton of bigoted and mean-spirited comments by Rick Santorum in its coverage of him, the following excerpt gives me the heebee-jeebees:

    “In 1996, a son, Gabriel, was born prematurely and lived for only two hours. While pregnant, Karen Santorum developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection and a fever that reached nearly 105 degrees. She went into labor when she was 20 weeks pregnant and allowed doctors to give her Oxytocin to speed the birth.[124]

    Karen Santorum wrote a book about the experience: Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum.[125] In it, she writes that the couple brought the deceased infant home from the hospital and presented the dead child to their living children as “your brother Gabriel” and slept with the body overnight before returning it to the hospital.”

    Wow. Just wow.

  10. Jean-Claude Nninin:

    You know, I’m happy to jump on Santorum for a lot of things, but one thing I’m not going to do is criticize him or his wife for the manner in which they process their grief at the loss of their newborn child. If bringing the baby home and recognizing him as part of their family before letting him go is part of their process, then that’s what they should have done. Is it what I would have done? I don’t think so. But thankfully, it’s not something I’ve had to confront.

  11. Yeah, I wouldn’t judge that one unless you’ve been anywhere near that boat, Jean-Claude–and even if you have, you shouldn’t. It’s something I’VE had to confront.

  12. The only surprise about Santorum getting his “Not Romney” uptick, is how long it took. I would judge this to be a scant measure of sanity among the GOP faithful, except that the vast majority of the GOP candidates are so batshit crazy that I suspect polled “likely” voters are just rolling dice on the kitchen table every time the phone rings. A candidate named “Yahtzee!” could clean up.

    On a slightly more serious note, my folks are already getting calls and their primary isn’t until March. My mother is the designated phone answerer, so she says the first name to come to mind, which is generally the last name she heard on the TV. Which is not at all related to her eventual vote, if past behavior is any predictor.

  13. I know nothing about Iowa. So how to get info? Certainly not polls. I’ll bet on people who actually bet their own money on the outcome. That’s right — InTrade. Here. Currently (to win):
    Mitt Romney: 47.8%
    Ron Paul: 27.2%
    Rick Santorum: 23.9%
    Newt Gingrich: 1.0%
    Michele Bachmann: 0.2%
    others: 0.1%
    So, I’ll go with the money and say Mitt.

  14. Doctor Memory: I have no doubt that Romney would give Obama a run for his money, especially given Obama’s economic record. I also agree that he has a stronger resume than Obama did when Obama first ran for office, especially after Romney turned around the Olympics in Salt Lake City, served as Governor of Massachusetts, and accummulated decades of business experience. That said, you don’t get to govern a left-leaning state like MA as a Republican without compromising on some of your core principles. As such, the Democrats will have a field day with the same flip flopping meme that the Republicans used so effectively against Kerry in 2004. Romney’s other key weakness is on foreign policy. Like it or not, Obama has done well in this category, and in my personal opinion, Romney doesn’t have a clue in this area. That said, he is far better qualified in the area that counts right now in the minds of the American voter – the economy.

  15. Sean: Gas is over $4 a gallon, real unemployment has been in the double digits for years now, and Obama’s only significant legislative achievement (health care reform) doesn’t kick in until after the election

    Where do you live that gas is over $4 a gallon? As for legislative achievements, while health care was certainly a big freakin’ deal, it’s not as though Obama has been doing nothing else but photo-ops in the meantime. I say this not to toot the horn for Obama, just noting that it’s not actually as grim as you’re painting things, and let’s face it, we’re all going to be very sick of hearing about bin Laden and leaving Iraq by the time the general election rolls around.

  16. Sure would be fun if you got your wish, John :-) But it doesn’t much matter – the purpose of the current Republican campaign is to convince the serious tea-party folks and the far-right crazies that they need to support Romney, because he’s the only Republican who’ll play along with the Republican machine that has a chance of beating Obama, while using the right-wingers to bash Obama and get Republicans elected to Congress and local races.

    Donald Trump was just the opening-act comedian. Perry, Bachmann, and Cain got to play early on, but they’re lightweights and/or have too much personal baggage, and Santorum’s mostly in their block. Gingrich is in the race to say “Look, I’m pretty much the ideal candidate for the Tea Partiers, and even I don’t have a chance of beating Obama”.

    Ron Paul’s too anti-establishment for either party to accept him (against the military-industrial complex, global empire, and the drug war?), and Jon Huntsman’s too independent for the machine (for instance, he thinks that whether evolution or global warming are true is more important than what voting blocks they attract or what corporate campaign contributors would be affected by laws about them.) Gary Johnson never got any traction, but maybe the Libertarians will take him like we did with Ron Paul in 1988.

    Santorum once criticized John McCain for not getting how _useful_ torture was to the US military. I’m sorry, but at that point I decided that Dan Savage had been _way_too_kind_ to Santorum (don’t google that if you don’t know what I mean.) And Santorum recently said he thinks that science should stay out of politics. If he feels that way, I guess we shouldn’t cover him on the Internet or TV, and he’d better be going around Iowa in a horse and buggy, not a bus or pickup truck with an internal combustion engine.

  17. Even if Santorum wins in Iowa, Romney will win in New Hapmshire and carry through most of the primaries. The only reason I want to see Santorum win in Iowa is to watch The Daily Show‘s take on the win. That would be the greatest ten minutes in television history.

  18. Many presidents run on a domestic policy platform, but their days tend to be consumed by foreign policy.

  19. (er, and I was being very specific when I said legislative achievements: I’m sure you’re correct that Obama is going to run on his foreign policy very hard, but in a rocky economy that only gets you so far, cf. George HW Bush.)

  20. “You know, I’m happy to jump on Santorum for a lot of things, but one thing I’m not going to do is criticize him or his wife for the manner in which they process their grief at the loss of their newborn child.”

    Totally, 100% with you on that – but I wouldn’t expect the same consideration (or any consideration) from him on many, many things that are Not His Business.

  21. So what you’re saying is that, after being an also-ran for months, Santorum suddenly came up from behind?

  22. To Romney’s chances more broadly, over the whole primary season: as someone who grew up (and fought the good fight in) a verrrrrry red state, the evangelicals in those places are not going to be able to stomach Romney’s Mormonism. –signed , someone from the state who gave you Senator Jim Inhofe (he of “climate change is bogus” and “a gay person is unfit to represent the United States abroad”) and who now lives in, of all places, godless FRANCE (me, not Inhofe, obviously).

  23. I will be surprised if Romney gets the national Republican nod. I’m still not convinced that the South or the Midwest can get over their long-standing discomfort with Mormons. But I could be wrong. Just as many who said a black American could never be president in our lifetimes were wrong. People change, and attitudes change with them. I don’t personally understand the complete and total hatred directed at Santorum, but then again this is 2011 and not 1981. It’s possible anything Santorum has said, would appear perfectly normal to an audience of 30 years ago. Times ‘aint what they used to be, and all that. Anyone remember the Eddie Murphy movie Delirious? How about Sam Kinison? Yep. I suppose Dan Savage could have easily hung Sam from the schoolyard flag pole, though Sam departed us right about when his act began to date. Used to be you could tell “fag jokes” and everyone laughed. Now you’re a bigot. But they still tell Mormon jokes. Hell, they give you Tony Awards in 2011 for telling Mormon jokes. But at least Trey and Matt had their hearts in the right place — deep down, they luvs us, and they admit it. It’s late and I am too tired to be reading this blog. Wait, what were we talking about?

  24. I (like most people) expect that Romney will eventually win the nomination because Republican’s actually would like to control the White House and none of their other choices, regardless of how much the base likes them, have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the general election (with the notable exception of Huntsman who the base hates for his unwillingness to sell his principles like Romney has more than they hate the fact that Romney is a Morman). The batshit insane crowd can still drum up the base for Romney in the end but their negatives are already incredibly high among independants and democrats and they haven’t even been targeted by negative advertising yet, just some very sparse repeating of the things they actually said. The only other real option that lets them have a shot at the presidency is for a brokered convention for a last minute darkhorse candidate (like Chris Christie) who comes in after most of the primaries because the base can’t bring themselves to tolerate the fact that Romney is a Morman and they’ve run out of ‘not-Romney’ candidates who have already declared and not been found profoundly wanting.

    The funny thing is that I could have tolerated the Romney of pre-2008 as a president despite fundamental disagreements with the nature and role of government. However his behaviour over the last few years shows that he hasn’t got a committed principal in his body other than personal interest and that he would be completely a tool of the republican establishment and special interests if he got elected. Which is too bad because I think that having a Morman elected president would be a beneficial move forward much like the election of the first Catholic and black president were and the first election of a female, atheist, or Muslim president would be.

  25. Iowa. Sigh. The dumb-a$$es who went for Huckleberry four years ago, de-railing Romney and throwing the nomination to McCain and the Presidency to Obama. Sigh.

    At least Romney is stronger in new Hampshire this time and can shrug off iowa.

    I’d still prefer Huntsman, the only candidate who doesn’t kowtow to the great god ‘Ethanol’.

  26. You know the funny part? The Iowa caucuses are ‘non-binding’ the delegates selected to the county conventions are not required to vote for anybody. Those conventions are not for weeks yet, it is entirely predictable that most of the candidates receiving votes at the caucus will not even be in the race & will not get a single delegate from Iowa at the national convention.

    The Republicans have to hope its Romney as he at least appears sane compared to the rest of their field. The American people should probably hope for a giant fricking meteor.

  27. Doctor Memory, there are parts of the ACA that are already in effect. Not only that, but POTUS has been the loudest voice backing extending unemployment benefits, taxing the 1%, and otherwise trying to make life better for the rest of us. He had a very effective first two years despite the Blue Dogs. That is stuff the Dems need to trumpet.

    And sweet gods, but the idea of Santorumentum… bring it. Just. Bring. It.

  28. Used to be you could tell “fag jokes” and everyone laughed. Now you’re a bigot

    That’s true of a lot of kind of jokes. The world’s a better place for it.

  29. “Used to be you could tell “fag jokes” and everyone laughed.”

    You seriously just said that? Wow.

  30. Considering that Gary Johnson just recently joined the Libertarian Party, talk of Ron Paul leaving the GOP is no longer funny. Because he’s just the sort of self-centered guy who would walk into the LP and act like he’s entitled to it. With his fanbase, he’d probably get it, too.
    I know GJ endorsed Ron in Iowa, but that’s because he’s more of a class act and less self-promoting than Paul is.
    The ideal would be for Ron to win Iowa, stay in the GOP, and let Gary have his shot at running as a Libertarian.

  31. Santorum winning would just highlight what the GOP has become: homophobic, racist, and out of touch. A pessimistic part of me fears that he, or any of them really, win the nomination and then win the presidency. If that happens, it means American electorate truly is crazy. But I also have faith that people are starting to wake up, and will vote to improve things, rather than hand the country to the extremists.

  32. I’ve been predicting Santorum for long before it seemed even remotely possible. I was surprised it took this long (any support for Gingrich at all was a shocker). It’s easy to figure once you recognize one basic fact: they don’t want Romney. This should be pretty clear. There’s a base who will stomach him only because they think he’s the only one who can win. But, even they are buying a lot of Pepto Bismol. From there it was a simple process of elimination. Huntsman is indistinguishable from Romney for most Republican’s, so he’s out. Bachmann is a total idiot. Now, that won’t disqualify you at all, but they don’t like being embarrassed and she’s good at causing embarrassment. Perry had no chance even before he demonstrated that he’s also an idiot and another embarrassment as well. Another governor from Texas? Come on! As for Cain, I’m sorry, but the Republicans would never nominate an African American. It just won’t happen. Paul? He won’t bomb Iran, so he’s out (and he’s looney tunes, which even most Republicans recognize). Gingrich? You’ve got to be kidding me, right? That was a desperation move, but then they noticed: “oh, it’s THAT Newt Gingrich? Oops!” Last one standing: Santorum. He’s a horrible bigot, but that’s actually a selling point these days.

  33. Eddie C:

    What part of that statement is not true?

    I didn’t get the impression that Brad misses those days.

    (Speaking, FWIW, as someone who’s been called a fag more than once.)

  34. @ Bearpaw: I’ll just say I get a different impression, based on (several) previous posts he’s made over the time I’ve been reading Whatever, and leave it at that.

    (& a genuine fag here, FWIW)

  35. Re: Brad’s example of “fag joke,” I’m going to make the following ruling:

    1. He’s using it as an example of how bigotry in that example was tolerated once but isn’t (as much) anymore, not pining for “the good old days”;

    2. He chose an inartful way of making that point.

    Let’s move on from it, please.

  36. Bearpaw has it. I was merely noting the shift, which is both overdue and unequal. The sensitivity paint runs down the social wall in rivulets of different lengths. But at least it’s there, which is something, I guess. Even if the wallboard beneath the paint is occasionally still rotten.

  37. This comment thread sure doesn’t reflect the standards I just finished re-reading in Scalzi’s policy, nor the expectations he set out. Polite? Intelligent? Wide-ranging viewpoints welcome?

    No, no, and no.

  38. So Santorum hangs around for a while, eventually drops out, and ends up as Romney’s HHS secretary.

  39. I note with amusement that Iowa’s Republican Party has moved the results-counting to a secret location, ostensibly in response to security concerns related to the Occupy movement.

    On an absolutely, totally unrelated note, I predict that Ron Paul will finish a distant third, at best.

  40. Tony Dye: either you have exceptionally high standards, or I’m not sure I’m following your point. No one in this thread has called names or harshly mocked any other poster, and the comments are generally well articulated. As for wide-ranging viewpoints, if you have one, let’s hear it.

    Otherwise, what’s your objection, precisely?

  41. We are in a race to the bottom. Obama has already run down a few flights of stairs himself. Any republican will merely use that as a starting point to build an underground bunker.

    Both parties now endorse secret assassinations of US citizens. Both parties now support torture and support protecting anyone who committed torture from any legal repercussions for what would be a war crime of committed by any other country. Both parties now support brutal foreign dictators who violently put down democratic protests so long as those dictators are willing to be our puppets. Both parties are now beating the ear drum to invade and occuppy Iran, expand our bombing campaign killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and anywhere else.

    Both parties support all that. The choice will be do we want a candidate who supports just that, or do we also want them to be a homophobe.

    This election is going to suck dingo kidneys.

    p

  42. John and Ken C., I realize that everyone processes grief differently. I have a friend that laughed throughout his wife’s funeral. He told me later that all he could think about during the ceremony was the quirky things she used to do, but he sure got a lot of weird looks.

    I guess what Santorum and his wife had decided to do to handle their grief was so far removed from what my reaction would have been that it completely disconnected me from anything he has to say (not that there aren’t a ton of other things that have had the same effect). I didn’t mean it to come across as a moral judgement; just something that was way outside of my own emotional structure.

    Ken, I apologize if it seemed to you that I was making light of an enormously stressful event that you have also suffered. It was not my intent.

  43. Greg, there are more than two political parties in this country. The fact that only two get any discussion in the media doesn’t change that fact.

  44. duskfire, presidential elections are a straight, majority-vote-wins, procedure. This means that everyone votes for the better of the two-most-likely to win camdidates, or they throw their vote away. I support changing the election procedure to be some sort of instant runoff or conderset coting method. But anyone who votes third party in a majority-vote-wins election is only fooling themselves if they think they are affecting the outcome in any way.

    The electoral system creates the political environment. Its the same way that the regulatory system, (or lack thereof) creates the economic environment. In a world with no market regulation, people arguing that they can fix the system simply through boycotts are kidding themselves. The system gives rise to the environment. Third party voters are mistaken if they can affect the environment without changing the system.

    Third parties are pointless in a system of simple majority-vote-wins. We need condercet voting to break the monopoly of the two party system. boycotting a monopoly in a free-market world accomplishes nothing. One might as well say lurkers support your third candidate in emails. It is just as effective.

    Oh and speaking of free-market nonsense: both parties support sweeping all criminal wrongdoing that brought about the current economic depression under the rug. both parties now oppose any meaningful regulation that would prevent another crash from happening again.

    We will get that no matter how the 2012 election turns out. Our only choice is do you want fries with that, and a side of homophobia.

  45. Kieth Chenoweth:

    Well, there’s the recurring theme of linking Santorum to a pretty disgusting fluid mixture, which somehow has become acceptable in polite discourse because…? I don’t really know, but it’s a theme running through the whole comment thread. Somebody had to go all the way to mocking the guy’s family for how they handled the death of their infant to rate a correction from our host. I see he’s walked that back, though I’m at a loss to understand how “wow. Just.. wow” could be read as anything other than condemnation.

    Then there’s the repeated derogatory gay jokes about him, tolerated with no outrage while simultaneously people get outraged enough about meta-commentary on the same topic to require yet another moderation from our host.

    After that, an offhand painting of the GOP as too racist to nominate a Republican, several comments suggesting that the GOP is also too evangelical to nominate a Mormon, and several more gay sex jokes. Sure, there’s good stuff interspersed, but coming directly from the comment policy to this thread caused a bit of whiplash.

    I guess I should lower my expectations…?

  46. Tony you really need to look into WHY Santorum has been linked to that particular fluid. The man is a bigot. And worse he is a bigot who want to use the government to control your life. I would say that if anything the response to this has been too polite.

  47. I agree with Tony Dye. There are more than enough reasons to denigrate Santorum for his stated policy positions and his legislative history without delving into locker-room innuendo.

  48. Third party candidates can win. Jesse Ventura, if you want an example. Happens so rarely that people forget that it can happen.

    President of the USA isn’t a popular majority win. Putting together 270 Electoral College votes as a third party candidate would require a very angry American voting population. I don’t think we’re there yet, the two faces of the Government Knows Best party are still keeping too many amused.

    There are lots of voting systems; all of them have problems, all can give unexpected or undesired results. Yes, ALL. Do the math. If you don’t understand who the sucker in the game is, you almost certainly are the sucker. The solution to America’s political class problem is for the public to stop voting for incumbents, ending the political class, and to start voting for individuals who can and will do a good job for the city, county, state, or nation before doing a good job for their party or supporters. Not going to hold my breath.

  49. Absolutely! I’m shocked, *shocked* at how some people could be so mean to a guy who said their love was equivalent to abusing children.

  50. Given how much attention Iowa and New Hampshire get are they really that important to the overall election process anymore? They don’t even represent the nation as a whole. That said, the fact that Romney is still struggling to be taken as a serious candidate by Republican voters says a lot about him as a candidate (weak) and the unwillingness of Evangelicals to vote for a Mormon. The idea that nutty candidates like Santorum (whom I’ve actually had the displeasure to see and hear in person) and Ron Paul are still considered viable candidates speaks volumes to how low the GOP has fallen. That’s not to say Obama is perfect, far from it (like most human beings), but he’s a damn sight better than Santorum or Paul. I still think Romney will gain the eventual nomination, but having to still fight for it so much doesn’t bode well for him.

  51. @ Tony: please explain why assessing (not suggesting in my case) that the GOP is too evangelical to nominate a Mormon lowers the level of discourse. I’m not saying that those prejudices are right; I wanted to draw attention to what seems to me to be a salient fact when looking at the challenges that Romney faces among Republican primary voters in places like the state where I grew up. I do that here and there because I think that progressive “coast” voters, who are my like-minded kin, can forget how much of that backward thinking is still out there.

    It’s the same reason I told a dear friend from Seattle just a few days before the 2004 election that John Kerry (who was my first boss after college and whom I admire greatly, and clearly would have preferred as president over George Bush) would not win. There are just things that I’m attuned to from having come from that background that I believe are germane to a discussion like this.

  52. Well, I am an unreconstructed red-stater, and I do still tell the occasional fag joke. Sorry, but I don’t equate a joke about two men in a gay bar with burning a cross on someone’s lawn. Sex between two men does provide plenty of material for humor (as does sex between men and women). I can’t view it in the same sacramental terms as the owner of this site. Lighten up, folks.

    That having been said, I don’t want to see gays discriminated against. I say: let gays get married. (Why should heterosexual people have a monopoly on self-inflicted misery?)

    Nor do I want to see Rick Santorum be president. My guess is that he doesn’t plan to stop with gays. He will want the government to control *everyone’s* personal life. He clearly has an agenda that goes way beyond gay marriage.

  53. There’s plenty of room for discussing Santorum’s bigotry and wrong-headedness on the subject of homosexuality without reducing ourselves to snickering over that. I get Savage’s point: Santorum’s opinions on gays are revolting, so let’s link him to something both revolting, and associated with gay sex. That’s one thing, and it had some meaning. To just casually repeat and reference it, as though you’re making some sort of a point (instead of simply glomming onto something more clever than whatever you thought up) isn’t saying anything about Santorum – it’s just pointing and snickering like a pack of ignorant middle-schoolers.

    At the same time, plenty of comments here are basically indulging in some soft bigotry of their own. They aren’t even making the effort to draw the line between “hates gays” and “probably is himself gay”… they’re just lazily tossing out the comments as though having gay sex is inherently insulting, without bothering to recognize they’ve added their own anti-gay prejudice to the mix.

    I’d put a couple dollars on the bet that most of these derogatory commenters don’t even know Santorum’s positions, in part or in full… they just know they’re supposed to hate him, so they do it with vigor.

    Nevermind me though! Just keep snickering because i said “Santorum’s positions”.

  54. Kim Baker:

    You’ve encapsulated the point, by automatically associating “evangelical” with “backward-thinking”. No connection has even been attempted between being evangelical and rejecting a Mormon President… it’s just assumed that those dumb Jesus Freaks obviously hate the Mormons and wouldn’t never, no way no how, vote for one of ‘em.

    Basically, I’m saying it’s not a salient fact… it’s an insult, doubly so because it’s not even recognized as one. Triply so because it lumps “evangelicals” into one big blob, when gaining any passing familiarity with the group reveals sharp divisions in politics and theology.

    Heck, Obama’s old church and its Black Liberation Theology is as evangelical as any Assembly of God ministry, but because it’s a black church it’s not even considered part of the group by white liberals when they level attacks at evangelical Christians.

  55. @ Tony Dye: You’re right, I do use evangelical voters as a shorthand for redneck, backwards voters. Because you see *I* am a Christian, but yet believe I have a mind with which to evaluate positions, statements, and actions. I don’t consider myself an evangelical voter, or one who votes solely/primarily (or even remotely) on far-right-wing moral positions (there, I’ve stated my logical fallacy out loud). In fact it’s one of the great frustrations of my life that the general public thinks that all Christians are bigoted, or that there’s nothing in the Democratic party for them. But that’s another issue.

    But you’ve not ever been to my home church or heard how folks talk. Romney ain’t goin’ nowhere. I’m not saying it’s right. Just reminding folks that this sentiment is out there, and in vast quantities.

    Over and out.

  56. Tony Dye:

    “There’s plenty of room for discussing Santorum’s bigotry and wrong-headedness on the subject of homosexuality without reducing ourselves to snickering over that.”

    It’s not a reduction: Santorum’s bigotry merits mocking, frequently and often, and humorously sending up the man’s near-constant gay panic is perfectly acceptable rhetoric, or at the very least, it is here. I don’t think his positions on the subject merit only sober reflection; a man who would be perfectly happy invalidating established same sex marriages merits being made fun of, in a manner he would find uncomfortable. Likewise, the occasional mocking reference to Santorum’s obvious homophobia does not preclude there also being a substantive discussion of his positions. It’s possible to have both.

    I will suggest to you rather than lecturing other about what is appropriate rhetoric here, which is in any event not a job you should presume to arrogate to yourself, that you be the change you seek and talk substantively on the issues that you feel are important as regards Santorum.

    Beyond that point, this meta-discussion of what constitutes sufficiently intelligent discourse here has gotten sufficiently meta that I’m going to say now is a fine time to snip it off and focus again on the primary discussion.

  57. Sorry, but I don’t equate a joke about two men in a gay bar with burning a cross on someone’s lawn

    As if there are only two choices: not bigoted or burning cross on someone else’s lawn. I’m sure most folks telling racist jokes in previous generations would have been horrified at the idea of cross-burning as well.

  58. @Todd: I don’t understand that argument that because a bigoted joke is not as horrible and destructive as a terrorist threat like cross-burning, that the joke is magically okay. Nor do I understand your claim that if you insult people, they should not feel insulted (“lighten up”) because you phrased your verbal attack in the form of a joke. Could you explain further?

    I’d also invite you to consider the difference between jokes where we mock our own foibles, and jokes where we put other people down to show how much we dislike them. That’s what “fag jokes” are.

  59. I’d put a couple dollars on the bet that most of these derogatory commenters don’t even know Santorum’s positions, in part or in full… they just know they’re supposed to hate him, so they do it with vigor.

    I’ve noticed that this is rather pandemic on the InterToob, and it’s across the board, too. One only need visit DemocraticUnderground.com or FreeRepublic.com to see see the mirror sides of this problem in action: people actively hating other people, often for no other reason than that They (note the capital T) have been deemed a consensus target for pillory.

    I saw an example of this late in the summer when Warren Buffett came under attack from certain self-identifying liberals. Knowing little or nothing about Buffett or his positions, he was deemed “fair game” because he is super-wealthy, and he is an investor. This was right about when OWS was starting to get major media attention, and rich-dude-bashing was very fashionable among InterToob ragers; for whom getting PO’d on-line is like playing 9 holes at the local golf course.

    Romney often gets attacked by strident self-identifying conservative ragers, because he is a “flip-flopper” and a RINO, even though — if asked — few of these critics could qualify or quantify their complaints in any meaningful way. It’s enough that he’s been singled out and labeled as not-really-a-conservative. That he’s also Mormon is just icing on the cake for some evangelical conservative ragers who would sooner vote for a Democrat than a ‘Devil Mormon’ like Mitt.

    I see this and I despair: the electorate seems an incoherent mob, the political divide can’t get any wider, and consensus appears entirely beyond our squabbling grasp.

    But, I also must note, historical precedent tells me it could be worse. Republicans and Democrats aren’t (yet) taking bats and knives into the capitol with them. And if all anyone ever does — to work out their frustrations — is spew bile and hate on-line, as opposed to actually physically hurting someone else, I suppose it’s not all that bad. Bad, still. But not so much that I should throw up my hands and conclude things hopeless.

  60. Todd, et al:

    Just because the word phrase “fag joke” was naively tossed into the discussion by Brad does not mean it should be considered courteous discourse. Please refrain from giving into the temptation to use it again in this thread.

    Likewise, Todd, as regards “lighten up,” allow me to refer you to a recent notation of mine on that very phrase:

    Here’s a pro tip: When you say “It’s just a joke, lighten up,” it’s understood by the rest of the world as you saying “I’m almost certainly being an asshole right now.”

    Folks, the Mallet of Loving Correction is currently in its special warming chamber. Let’s all try to keep it there. Pursuant to this, let’s ask ourselves whether this particular line of discussion which has spawned from Todd’s comment is a fruitful one.

  61. @Brad, while there is plenty of dumb hate on the Internet as well as in meatspace, I think our host has already explained the null value of “the only reason you dislike that candidate is that you’re too dumb to know better”. Also, really, while I think there’s plenty of awful discourse across the board, almost as tiresome is the Golden Mean meme, which is just a kinder, gentler version of raging about the sheeple.

    @warlordgrego: no, a lot of people like Jon Huntsman as a candidate, but this is a thread about the Iowa primaries and Huntsman is skipping Iowa, thus he is not relevant to this particular discussion.

    WRT Santorum, at this point there should probably be some regulation that any discussion of his candidacy have the meta-tag I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

  62. In fact it’s one of the great frustrations of my life that the general public thinks that all Christians are bigoted, or that there’s nothing in the Democratic party for them. But that’s another issue.

    But…the general public in the United States generally IS Christian, aren’t they? I mean, according to the last census, iirc, roughly 78% of adult US Citizens claim to be Christian. I mean, by definition, most of the Democratic party is Christian, as are most of the independent voters. I’ve never heard the claim that people believe the Democractic party has no place for them.

    I mean, the United States has never elected a non-Christian president. Heck, there’s only ever been one Catholic president. John Kerry was the first Catholic presidential candidate in 46 years (i.e. secured party nomination, not just ran)…and prior to JFK, there was only one in 1928….despite Catholics being the single biggest religion in the United States. The first Jewish candidate to even run on a presidential ticket was Joe Lieberman in 2008, iirc. This from a nation that managed to put not one but TWO quakers in the white house in the 20th century and four baptists.

    Anyone who’s ever held the office has, at best, stated that they were unaffiliated Christians. Some may have been Deists (though it’s been overstated in recent years and exaggerated), but all of them have professed to the same core tenets of belief.

    The issue with Romney that some voters have has to do with the same fears that some voters had for JFK; the fear that he would choose to let his religious beliefs to supersede his duties of office; in JFK’s case, the fear that he would be subservient to the Pope…presumably some irrational voter somewhere fears Romney would implement polygamy or something. If this irrational fear was raised for the Southern Baptist, Quaker or other religions, I hadn’t heard of it.

    What’s odd to me is how almost all of the Republican candidates seem so defined solely by their religious beliefs first. Gingrich, Paul and Huntsman are probably the exceptions, but I’m just amazed how the cycle appears to be dominated by it.

  63. I don’t think that a candidate has to win the Iowa caucus to win the nomination, especially this year. I’m with John when I look at the disarray of the Republican party – sometimes it makes me laugh.
    htom@1:16 pm How nice it would be if simply voting against incumbents would result in the election of “individuals who can and will do a good job for the city, county, state, or nation before doing a good job for their party or supporters.” Unfortunately, that is almost always not how it will work. Why? Because it costs far too much to run for office at the state or national level. I know several smart, dedicated people who would put the welfare of the country before their party or supporters, but they aren’t rich and so cannot get elected, and cannot afford to run. Just voting against the incumbents mostly gets you only another person of the same ilk. Now, I am sure some will say to me, “Why don’t you run for office, Phil?” Why don’t I? I cannot afford it personally, and I cannot afford to spend the time away from my job to work my way up through the political machine.
    Kim B. @2:14pm Approximately 75% of the population of the United States identifies itself as Christian, which to my mind means that the “general public” is Christian. So saying that the “general public” thinks all Christians are bigoted makes no sense, at least not to me. Of course, how many of those who identify themselves as Christian actually think and live according to Christian principles and values is another story.

  64. I wonder how much of the perception of the general supposed desperation of the Republican party is owed more to the current 24-hour news cycle and need for Internet politico sites to spend 23.5 hours a day navel-gazing as opposed to an actual disorganization? I mean, there are always multiple candidates going into the early primaries, for all parties. That the news media and punditry and places like Huff Post and Drudge all feel the need to create ‘teh drama’ doesn’t necessarily mean that these candidates stand a chance or EVER stood a chance.

    Does anyone honestly believe that Herman Cain stood a chance? Really?

  65. Man, I just found out that Santorum seriously thinks states should have the right to pass laws outlawing birth control.
    But it’s us atheists who are evil because we have no one to tell us how to be moral.

  66. @John Scalzi: Fair enough, John. The point of my original post was to emphasize that Rick Santorum, if elected President, would ultimately seek to restrict all of our freedoms—regardless of our sexual orientation. This is a concern for red-staters as well as blue-staters. The opposition to Rick Santorum goes beyond the arguably narrow issue of same-sex marriage, which seems to be the preoccupation in this thread. Sorry for the sidetrack.

  67. While John’s plan is funnier, I want as many Paul wins as possible, short of the Presidency. RP in charge would likely cause Serious Problems, but many of RP’s issues being given a good public airing would be good for the political climate.

    Airing Santorum is of course not recommended.

    On a more serious note, I predict that Romney will eventually get the nod, and a major part of his campaign will focus on how often Obama “flip-flops.” IME, GOP political activism focuses strongly and surprisingly successfully on painting their opponent with their own most glaring faults.

  68. John: Sorry for feeding into Tony’s derailment.

    As a substantive comment on Santorum specifically and the overall election in general, I find the candidates’ positions on fiscal issues so indistinguishable from each other (to wit, paying lip service to helping the middle class — and since when is the middle class the group that needs the most help? — while really continuing to benefit the very richest of the rich) that I have shifted my focus almost entirely to social issues. And on social issues, Santorum is utterly odious. Apparently, personal liberty only matters as long as you use it to do things Rick Santorum approves of.

  69. Martin: The tactic of attacking one’s opponent for one’s own faults has a long history, but Karl Rove raised it to an art. Part of the trick is to get the accusation out there early and loudly. Then any response that points out — however correctly — that the accuser is actually far more guilty of the sin generally just feeds into the “they all do it” narrative of lazy pundits and low information voters. So it turns into a wash, which is essentially a win for the guiltier party.

  70. One of the reasons for the Santorum surge, folks should understand, is there is a genuine affection for the man among social conservatives for his tireless effort to bring about restrictions on late-term abortions. The partial-birth abortion rules would never had happened without him. Here at zero-hour of the anti-Romney effort, I think folks on the not-Left ought to understand that there’s a reason for it far beyond any anti-gay positions he takes.

  71. Santorum might win Iowa, but I don’t see him getting the nomination. I think the nomination is going to go to Perry.

    No, seriously. It’s pretty obvious that the GOP hates Romney. Whether it’s because he’s a mormon or because he’s a flip-flopper or because they just don’t trust the guy, his support has remained relatively constant despite the waxing and waning of everyone else. Romney has been unable to siphon off any support from any of the falling candidates. He has the support he started with and that’s about it. How he can stand to be a member of the GOP is a puzzlement.

    No one believes that Ron Paul can get it except for the Ron Paul fans (who seem to believe that big support on Reddit translates to actual votes in the real world).

    Anyway, Perry is the guy that the GOP wants to like. He looks good on camera and, on paper, he seems like the right dude for the job. I think the voters will forget the little problem that he has with the noises that come out when he opens his mouth and give him the nod. He’s then going to bomb massively because he is genuinely dumb and we just did the Texas governor thing and even the GOP doesn’t seem wild about embracing the Bush II legacy.

    He may be nowhere right now, but Huckabee won Iowa last time and McCain was about 23rd, so that doesn’t matter so much.

  72. The GOP isn’t a unified whole, it’s a coalition. Ditto the Democratic Party. The GOP at large doesn’t hate Romney. A tiny subset of the GOP does. Unfortunately that tiny subset, aka the people who vote in the Iowa caucuses, have an exaggerated say in national politics simply due to the timing of said caucuses.

    So, the entire early GOP field must tiptoe around 100,000 fundamentalist corn farmers.

  73. htom, how many presidents were from one of the two main parties and how many were from third parties?

    Yes, all voting systems have problems. Guess what, every economic regulation you can point at has some imperfection, some situation where the individual specific result doesnt meet the ideal desired result. Doesnt mean we shouldnt have regulation. Because we have majority vote wins rules, it naturally encourages candidates to bin themselves into one of two parties. Voters then do instant runoff voting in their head and vote for whichever of the two main parties are most closest to their personal position.

    Anything else is a wasted vote.

    Because it is a wasted vote, the sude effect of the rules is that it consolidates power into two parties, and then the parties themselves start to have influence above and beyond what the candidates and voters want. If we had condercet voting, it would have imperfect voting consequences, but it would split up the two party political monopoly and encourage a competition of political ideas and competition among political parties. Real progressives wouldnt throw themselves in with the Democrat party. Tea Partyliers wouldn’t throw themselves in with the Republican moderates. As it is now, it is more like the progressives are a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democrat party and cannot compete directly against them. Because majority-vote-wins requires smaller parties to operate under the biggest party closest to their political position.

    Condercet voting would be one big piece of a huge campaign reform movement. Majority vote wins monopolizes the pokwer into two parties and therefore monopolizes money and ideas.

  74. Christopher, if you vote for a third party candidate in a American presidential election, you are giving up the direct influence you would have in choosing who actually wins and trading it for an emotional reward that doesn’t effect the outcome but convinces the voter that they somehow magically exercised more power.

    Logically speaking, it is like people who are convinced they shouldnt vaccinate their children. They think they are choosing the best path, but it relies on something other than facts and rests more on feelings.

    Gore lost Florida by half a percent. But three percent of florida voted for Nader. Those Nader votes could have given Gore the presidency.

    Bush Sr lost to Clinton by 6%. But 20% of the voters went to Perot. Those votes could have given Bush the presidency.

  75. Abraham Lincoln comes to mind, as a third party President (the Republicans ran Fillmore in the e 1856 election, IIRC.) After he was elected, the Whigs were mostly gone in a decade, though, so two-party-ness continued.

    Washington was the only non-party President. There have been non-party Congresspeople.

    Greg, you appear not to have noticed that our “two parties” have re-written the rules so they are “the party in charge”, one party with two faces; other parties are only allowed to compete if they hop through special hoops TPIC doesn’t need to. And in most states, you have even more hoop-jumping if you want to run as an individual. The system is very biased against non-party candidates. (In some states, it’s easier to legally start a party and get on the ballot than to do so as an individual, fewer signatures required.)

    I’m inclined to think that every vote for an incumbent, of any party, is wasted.

  76. Here’s a solid starting point for those who want to see Santorum hammered from the right. .

    “…on economic and size-of-government issues, Santorum’s record is much weaker. In fact, Eric Erickson of Red State refers to Santorum as a “pro-life statist.”

    That link has the added fun of being filed early, when it’s clearly meant to be read as though it was written after the caucus.

    <a href="http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/12/28/no-surprise-iowa-social-conservatives-are-about-to-shoot-us-all-in-the-foot-again/"Here's that Erikson column, wherein he describes “pro-life statist” and argues that anyone wishing to see a strong economic and individual-liberty conservative should oppose Santorum both because he’s none of these things, and because supporting him will suck all the air out of the room for other alternatives to moderate Romney.

    “He supported steel tariffs in Pennsylvania, which did him little good in his own re-election effort.
    He supported No Child Left Behind.
    He supported the prescription drug benefit.
    He supported the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, according to Club for Growth, “Santorum had the audacity to vote to continue funding the Bridge to Nowhere rather than send the money to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.” ”

    Here he is a day later, explaining further what a mess Santorum would be as the nominee.

    “Rick Santorum was part of the problem in Washington. He was one of the Republicans the public rejected in 2006. The voters in Pennsylvania rejected him in 2006 because of his and the Republicans’ profligate ways. Along with Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum led the K Street Project, which traded perks for lobbyists for money for the GOP funded with your tax dollars through earmarks and pork projects…. That’s Rick Santorum. He sees government as the means to conservative ends. “

    Pro-life statist seems an apt label. Personally I’m happy with a moderate Romney, particularly as it looks to be a GOP year in the Congress as well. Santorum would be a disaster for the party, and for the nation if he was elected… both because of his detestable views on abortion and homosexuality, and because of his terrible inside-baseball, big government instincts as a legislator.

  77. martin @ 3:12 pm -

    Apparently, Romney’s campaign has decided that tagging Obama as a “flip-flopper” will result in mockery, so they are going for the Evil Socialist Muslim Traitor meme, instead:
    “I think President Obama wants to make us a European-style welfare state,” said Romney. Ref http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/01/mitt-romney-launches-fresh-attack-on-president-obama-dubbing-him-the-great-complainer/

    Is anyone shocked? Didn’t think so.

  78. Off-topic but related to how we have discussions, here, I have a question for our host:

    Mr Scalzi, do you prefer text-embedded hyperlinks, or is it okay to cite them, as I did @4.39 pm? Personally, I like to see the full link, so that I can see the source and date at a glance, and decide whether I want to click through, but this being your blog, perhaps you prefer the esthetics of embedded links. Please advise, thanks!

  79. Both parties now endorse secret assassinations of US citizens. Both parties now support torture and support protecting anyone who committed torture from any legal repercussions for what would be a war crime of committed by any other country. Both parties now support brutal foreign dictators who violently put down democratic protests so long as those dictators are willing to be our puppets. Both parties are now beating the ear drum to invade and occuppy Iran, expand our bombing campaign killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and anywhere else.

    Both parties support all that. The choice will be do we want a candidate who supports just that, or do we also want them to be a homophobe.

    @Greg: There is actually a third choice. You can vote Ron Paul (as GOP candidate or possibly third party) who doesn’t support those things but is a bigot and has a fantasy view of human nature instead. Not much of an approvement but a different flavour of awful.

    @Tony: I spend a fairly large amount of time in the evangelical community (both locally and online) trying to reform it so that they focus on what Jesus wanted people to do rather than being about hating the ‘other’. It isn’t an insult or over-generalization to say that Evangelicals dislike Romney for his Mormonanism (in a rather disturbing parallel to JFK and Catholicism) but rather exactly what they say, repeatedly and openly.

  80. Constance: Holding your mouse over the link text will make the target appear in the bottom left corner of your browser. I’m not sure how Scalzi feels (and I’m curious as well), but “text-embedded hyperlink” is redundant… default hypertext construction is some words with html tags around them and a link to the place you go if you click the words. It’s only the post-processing by helpful applications that turns an entire pasted link target into a clickable thing, via automatically adding the proper HTML when it detects link-like constructions: http://this.isnt.a.real.link

  81. htom @4:34pm: Actually, John Fremont ran as the Republican Party candidate in 1856, with James Buchanan as the Democrat. Fillmore ran as the American Party candidate (the so-called Know-Nothings). The other major party, the Whigs, had become defunct by this point.

  82. Greg:

    Nader voters in Florida were far outnumbered by registered Dem voters who didn’t bother to vote in 2000. Hell, Nader voters were far outnumbered by Dems who voted for *Bush*.

    I know I’m supposed to blame Nader voters for Bush, and I’m supposed to run screaming at the thought of voting for someone not served up by one of the approved parties, but I’m less than impressed by the reasoning behind that. (Also, I’m underwhelmed by the results.)

  83. hugh57 — I should have looked it up. I got the “F” right, and hooked the wrong name to it. My point, of course, was that once in a great while a major party falls apart and new ones take their places. The current laws about major and minor parties, though, make that much less likely to happen.

  84. I voted for Perot in 1992. So did my Dad, who almost always votes Republican. I have been told many times that my father and I were “responsible” for Clinton. Now, depending on your politics, we were either heroes or villains for that. Frankly I thought it a rather contorted bit of logic to fault or laud Perot voters for the Clinton victory.

    My wife is a mega-liberal and considers the Democrats to be too far to the right, so she votes for one of the obscure parties in the voters’ pamphlet. I occasionally chide her about her selections — World Workers Party? — but at the same time I admire the fact that she doesn’t feel obliged to play The Game if she doesn’t want to. She votes as often as she is able, thus keeping her side of the Citizenship bargain, when it comes time to head to the polls. Beyond that, I am not sure what she owes anyone anything.

    Certainly I never felt bad about my Perot vote. And I am sorely tempted to cast a no-confidence protest vote (e.g: pamphlet party of one kind or another) in the 2012 election. Unless of course Mitt is the RNC’s pick, because my church leaders will order us all to vote for Our Mormon Man. (No, not really! They’ll actually order us to perform a write in vote for the Donny Osmond and Steve Young ticket…)

  85. In re third-party candidates:

    (Caveat: this is all half-remembered armchair poli-sci, please take it as such.)

    It’s entirely possible that a third-party candidate could drum up enough popular support and/or name recognition to win a general election. (see Ventura, Jesse; Lieberman, Joe)

    However, understand that a third-party/independent President has very few specific allies in Congress, but plenty of specific adversaries.

    Meanwhile, the American Presidential system of democracy does not structurally nor procedurally support more than two parties. Not the way the Westminster system does. We have no systems in place for forming “coalition governments”. Third parties are inevitably subsumed into one of the existing parties – or occasionally subsumes one of the existing parties – because that’s how the Congress is set up.

    The President, being the head of government in the United States, may come from one of the two parties, but he does not come from the Congress directly. His election and continued governance is separated from the make up of the legislature, in theory if not in effect. Hence, a party can win the presidency, but lose part or all of the Congress.

    This is not to say that a third party can’t be successful. Rather, it’s to say that the idea that “we need a three-party system” is a non-starter. Not because it isn’t a good idea, but because the American government isn’t designed for it. Just look at the chaos the Tea Party has thrown the House into.

  86. Brad:
    Nader voters catch the same flack for 2000. It’s ridiculous in that case as well.

    Still, I seem to recall Perot pulling votes from both sides, whereas Nader voters were almost exclusively left-leaning. Which makes blaming Perot voters for Clinton even more ridiculous by comparison.

  87. Nader voters were also blamed for Bush in 2004. In both elections, WA state went about 4% for Nader, but in WA ’00 Gore beat Bush, and Kerry beat Bush here in ’04, so it’s not like WA state matters much in the grand scheme of American presidential elections. We’re pretty much a lock for the Dems, with up to 10% voting for third party type candidates of the pinko-commie-liberal variety; thus, we are spared both the fun and the fury of swing-state campaigning.

  88. It’s not terribly ridiculous – Clinton did not win a majority of the popular vote, and Perot voters broke very strongly Republican. The margin of victory was thin enough that, had Perot never entered the race, Bush almost certainly would have won re-election. To argue that Perot voters didn’t cause Bush to lose the election, you need to also argue that at least 35% of all Perot voters would have definitely chosen Clinton if Perot had never run, or you need to argue that 75% of all Perot voters would have stayed home if he’d never entered the race.

    I don’t believe it’s possible to convincingly make either argument.

  89. Having spent my first full caucus season in Iowa, something I was actually initially looking forward to, I’ve spent the last month flipping the bird at the TV every time a commercial from one of these yahoos comes up, and my wife is in an active state of rage. This past Sunday, there were several commercial breaks during a football game where it was nothing but GOP adds. Nothing like a Romney SuperPAC, Gingrich, Santorum trifecta to make you seriously consider throwing a rock at your TV.

  90. WizarDru — it’s not that people are afraid that Romney will implement polygamy. It’s that Mormonism belives in a direct, living Prophet — dude’s got more power over the lives of Mormons than the Pope does over the lives of Catholics, by a LONG fucking shot.

    The Mormon church also has its own Inquisition, or maybe it’s better to compare it to HUAC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strengthening_Church_Members_Committee

  91. My sense is Santorum won’t do as well as advertised. Since Iowa is a caucus and not a primary organization matters. You need boots on the ground. Precinct captains, folks on the phone, and drivers. It’s my sense that the only people with the necessary organizations are Romney, Paul and Perry. I would expect these three to top the poll.

    But that’s just how I see it. It could be that these things I’ve described are less important than I think, but these seem like fundamentals to me and I don’t see how you do well with poor fundamentals.

    The other possibility is these others have organizations and I just haven’t heard about it. I’m pretty sure though that Gingich has nothing. Bachman has nothing. And since Santorum has spent the whole race up to this point with poll numbers in the dust, my guess is he has nothing either. But, he has spent a lot of time on the ground so maybe he has a bunch of loyal volunteers to speak for him in all the precincts. But that way I see it, that’s the best that can be hoped for. No phones, no drivers.

  92. Personally, I think that we do, in effect, have coalition governments. They’re just branded as Democrats and Republicans for national voting purposes. The fact that there are such beasts as Blue Dog Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans indicates that the parties aren’t monolithic. Almost any potential third party would have part of its platform co-opted before the third party became viable on the national stage.

  93. About third parties and so-called “wasted votes”:
    First of all, the Constitution doesn’t even mention political parties. And although I haven’t read all of the discussions from the time, I am fairly sure that many of the people we consider Founding Fathers were not sanguine about the effect of forming political parties. Therefore I think you could argue that although we currently do have a 2-party system, it certainly isn’t something that is permanently (structurally) a part of the American political system.

    Secondly, I live in New York. The state of New York hasn’t chosen a Republican in the general election since 1984. Trying to convince me that voting for a third party is more of a wasted vote than if I threw yet another vote to Obama is unlikely to succeed. This is a state where he’s certainly going to get over 50% of the votes, even though we have many counties that are solidly Republican. To me, voting for a third party candidate with whom I agree on most issues makes a lot more sense than giving Obama one more unneeded vote in his majority.

    Thirdly, a wasted vote would be more like sleeping away the day and missing your chance to make a choice among the candidates.

  94. I want to watch this turn into as much as a crap-fight as possible. It’s basically a foregone conclusion that Romney will get the nomination in the end, and to make up for such a frankly boring candidate the process by which he wins the nomination had better be entertaining.

    My prediction since the 2010 elections had been that the GOP and Tea Party would split by this year’s general elections, try to field two candidates for President, and cost themselves both the election. My prediction now is that Romney gets the nomination, Ron Paul ragequits and goes independent, and Obama ultimately ends up winning anyway because too many swing states end up being split between Romney and Paul. Two candidates from one party with 30% of one state’s votes each, and one from the other party with 40%, is still a win for the one with 40%. Paul may even manage to carry a whole state or two, but in too many others he’d be enough of a hindrance to Romney to keep the GOP from getting any electoral votes.

  95. Santorum on top? He strikes me more of a bottom. And who knows, with his support being a frothy mix of ultra-conservative Christians and Tea Partiers, who knows what kind of byproduct of the Iowa Caucus we might end up with?

  96. My prediction: Ron Paul, then Romney, then Santorum. Santorum could turn out to be this race’s Howard Dean when he tries to spin third place.

    “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Ron Paul will implode in the south like McCain in 2000.

  97. One of the MSNBC commentators pointed out that if Ron Paul did actually run as a third party candidate, and by doing so gives Obama a clear advantage and a win, he’d have the Republicans enraged – and his son is in the Senate. So his ambition hopefully has some bounds to it.
    A more plausible question is, if Ron is clearly not doing well by June, will he actually start helping the Libertarian candidate without becoming one himself? I’d LOVE to see that!

  98. Tony Dye: the latter seems unlikely, but the former doesn’t seem far-fetched. But I don’t really have the time (or the give-a-shizzle) to do the research.

    Jon M: i think you have it backwards. Coalition governments are made up of small, monolithic (or at least, ideologically homogeneous) groups. In the American system, the two parties can’t be monolithic. The system is based on compromise, both between parties and within each party.

    duskfire: the Founders may not have envisioned a party system, but it’s kind of an inevitable consequence of the government they set up. Note how quickly they aligned themselves into parties.

  99. Looks like I’m going to be half right about Ron Paul’s showing in IA. Third place but not a distant third. Still, it’s enough for the media to write him off and the Repub leadership to breathe a tentative sigh of relief.

  100. People think they’re dissing Santorum by saying he’s a bottom, apparently. This is really insulting to bottoms. Bottoms get trodden on quite enough without being compared to Rick fucking Santorum! It’s the difference between having an asshole (and knowing what to do with it!) and being an asshole.

    Seriously, stop dissing bottoms. It’s not a lot better than telling fag jokes.

    Steve Jan 2 10:47pm: I thought by definition, Santorum was a bottom. Although I could be mistaken.

    Yeah, you are. The production of santorum requires cooperation between a top and a bottom…a bottom with poor hygiene.

    I bet you’re sorry you asked.

    Brad Jan 3 1:45am: Hell, they give you Tony Awards in 2011 for telling Mormon jokes.

    The Book of Mormon only makes a little (very gentle) fun of Mormonism in general. The rest of it is making fun of two missionaries doin it rong: one is on an ego trip and the other is a liar. These are not people you’d say “hey, that’s me, and they’re making fun of me” about.

    And y’know, maybe if Mormons had spent 30 years doing activism and showing how they’re just like everyone else and deserve respect, and gays had been knocking on everyone’s door and telling people they should convert to gayism, the positions of the two communities would be reversed.

    Wayne Jan 3 9:25am: Santorum winning would just highlight what the GOP has become: homophobic, racist, and out of touch.

    The GOP has always been homophobic and racist. Society is less homophobic and racist than it used to be, and so now the GOP is also out of touch. I hope you will take this amendment as friendly.

    duskfire Jan 3 12:02pm: Greg, there are more than two political parties in this country. The fact that only two get any discussion in the media doesn’t change that fact.

    No, but the fact that only two parties (one with no spine and one with no heart) matter a whit in this election might. No one from any other party stands a chance in hell of becoming POTUS. This is a pity, but it’s true; and it’s important to remember, because what a third-party candidate CAN do is be a spoiler for the candidate he’s closest to (which is one reason, and sufficient in itself, why Ralph Nader is, and always will be, a fucktard).

    Todd Jan 3 1:42pm Well, I am an unreconstructed red-stater, and I do still tell the occasional fag joke. Sorry, but I don’t equate a joke about two men in a gay bar with burning a cross on someone’s lawn. Sex between two men does provide plenty of material for humor (as does sex between men and women).

    If you don’t understand the difference between humor that uses gay sex as material and a fag joke, ur doin it rong. In fact that’s really kind of idiotic.

    Also, what mythago said at 2:26.

  101. Xopher, the GOP has most certainly not always been racist – prior to LBJ abandoning the Dixiecrats to pass the Civil Rights Act with a giant coalition of Republican legislators and a scant few members of his own party, and Nixon’s subsequent Southern Strategy to win back the Presidency, the label ‘racist’ fell squarely on the Democrats and had been there since before the Civil War.

    Can’t speak to the homophobia, except to say that having either major party care about gay folks is a relatively new development… less than 40 years by my reckoning. The GOP is getting there, though sadly not fast enough. Perhaps yet another evangelical meltdown in the polls will be enough to sink this anti-gay ship once and for all.

  102. Tony, while you have a point about the Democrats, I don’t see the GOP having black candidates in Nixon’s time.

    And your statement that “the GOP is getting there” strikes me as unfounded optimism. I see no evidence that the GOP is less homophobic than in the past; in fact if anything they’re getting more and more homophobic. Nor do groups like the Log Cabin Republicans change my mind; they’re idiots, and they’ve forgotten what a wise lady once said: Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.

    As for sinking the ship, what I hope for (well, dream of) is that the talibangelicals will sink the whole party, and the GOP will be consigned to the ashheap of history. Nobody seriously votes Whig any more; may it be so with the GOP. Then the Democrats could move over to the right side of the aisle where they belong, and maybe the US could have an actual Left again.

    Sigh. It’s only a dream, alas.

  103. To clarify a couple of points: The fact that the Democrats were more racist at some point in the past doesn’t mean the Republicans were not racist. They were plenty racist, just less so than the Democrats. And that was back then; the Democrats are now MUCH less racist, while the Republicans have become more so. I think it’s cynical market niche grabbing myself: the GOP wants the racist asshole vote just as they want the gay-hating fucktard vote.

    Also, I’m not using ‘talibangelical’ as a synonym for ‘evangelical’. Quite the opposite: there are evangelicals who don’t want to turn the country into a theocracy or overthrow separation of church and state; the term ‘talibangelical’ specifically excludes them.

  104. I think the main effect of tonight’s caucus will be the appearance of a gigantic target on Santorum’s back. He’s the not-Romney of the moment, and we’ve seen how the system (not to mention Mitt’s super-PAC) chews them up one after the other: Bachmann, then Perry, then Cain, then Gingrich…

    Santorum’s also going to have to head to places like NH and SC, where other candidates (Romney and Gingrich, primarily) have more support than they did in Iowa, and where he hasn’t been living and working the locals for the past year.

  105. the label ‘racist’ fell squarely on the Democrats and had been there since before the Civil War.

    The label “racist” is not a unique item. It can be applied to more than one party at a time. As Xopher noted, the Republicans were certainly racist in the pre-Nixon era, and lost African-American voters long before the 1970s (note who desegregated the military) The GOP did have the redeeming feature of the Civil War, which makes Nixon’s Southern Strategy all the more shameful.

    The modern GOP is the child of Lee Atwater’s dog whistle politics.

  106. And so it’s Romney by a nose! In 2008 it was evangelicals who used Huckabee to sink Romney, and McCain ran away with it. I rather now suspect that evangelicals — voting for Santorum — may sink Romney’s opponents, and thus Romney may run away with it. Quite an interesting turnabout, if this is true. Romney is clearly distinguishing himself as the “sane” and “moderate” Republican frontrunner. Now, progressives on this site might have a petit mal seizure at the words “sane” and “moderate” being applied to any Republican candidate, but on the spectrum of Republicanism as a whole, this seems to be Romney’s lot. He is the tortoise to his opponents’ hares. Nothing explosive or exciting, but then nothing troublesome and damaging either. Other than John Huntsman, I don’t see anyone beyond Romney who has a better chance of wooing moderates inside the party — and independents beyond the party. Gingrich and Santorum have problems in this area which Romney does not. And if Romney squeaks out the Republican nomination, going head to head with Obama is going to be very, very interesting indeed.

  107. I’ll be curious to see if the Santorum voters or the Romney voters express more regret over their vote a couple of weeks from now. The poling shows that the people who voted Santorum didn’t know much about him, and the people who voted for Romney didn’t know much about any of the candidates or issues. I think it is more likely that the Santorum voters become educated about their candidate, and express regret than the Romney voters become educated about much of anything.

    I’m still feeling like Romney is an incredibly weak candidate. It seems like he is easily beatable in South Carolina and Florida. The problem is, I don’t think any of the rest are any less weak as candidates, and they seem to want to bicker amoung themselves so much that they might divide the vote further.

  108. From what I remember of where this started, you got very close to what you wished for, John. Romney and Santorum tied, with Paul in third. Not bad, considering you didn’t make a prediction.

  109. Peter @ 2:44 am:

    To be fair, all of the Not-Romney candidates have been more than a bit iffy.

    And that’s being generous.

  110. I snarfed this interesting link from Facebook. The color-coded map is especially fascinating. Santorum appears to dominate, but if you hover over those areas you can see that Romney consistently comes in 2nd, and when it comes to metropolitan areas (Des Moines) Romney displays a clear lead. This tells me rural Iowa is not nearly as gun-shy of Romney as might be indicated by the thin margin of the final state tally. I wonder how many of Perry’s or Gingrich’s supporters would have gone for Romney — or Santorum — had Perry or Gingrich (or Paul) not been an option? For that matter, if forced to choose, which candidate would Paul supporters pick? Santorum, or Romney?

    I agree with those who speculate that if Ron Paul breaks with the GOP and runs as an independent, it’s very possibly going to carve away enough votes from the GOP pick that Obama scores a victory — despite the horrendous economy. Doubtless the Obama people are hoping for this scenario like nothing else. It would all but hand the win to Obama on a silver platter.

    Other thought for the morning: whether it’s Romney, or someone else, the eventual leader is going to have to pick a veep. Will he do it by trying to bring in a former rival, to try to capitalize on the split, by forging an alliance? Or will he grab someone who has so far been out of the spotlight and is a “safe” back-seat person, guaranteed to be harmless and stay out of trouble?

  111. Goon analysis, Brad. IMHO, Romney / Christie is a winning ticket. Let the evangelicals suck it up… they’ve placed themselves on the fringe, and there’s no way they’ll let Obama win another term by waiting this one out. Especially if the national GOP reminds them often enough that they can elect a few rightwing firebrands to the House alongside the moderate, electable President Romney.

  112. and gays had been knocking on everyone’s door and telling people they should convert to gayism, the positions of the two communities would be reversed.

    Great Chukulteh! You mean we’ve been doin it rong this whole time?

  113. the constitution doesnt mention political parties, sure. But it does say how voting will be done. And it is nothing more than ‘whoever gets the most votes wins’. This rule becomes like the law of gravity and effects everything around it. And the biggest effect is it CONSOLIDATES power into 51% versus 49% candidates.

    If a candidate can only get 10 percent of the vote, they dont get nominated. Romney will be the nominee for the Republicans not because he is the best, but because he offends the least. Any other candidate will likely get smaller votes overall and so they wont make it.

    As for the third party presidential voter defenders, you guys are only fooling yourselves. A vote of “no confidence”??? Really??? Where is that in the constitution? Basketball is a game with specific rules on how to play and how to win. Voting for a third party candidate is like playing chess in the bleachers expecting it to somehow affect the game.

    Also this: http://m.rollingstone.com/entry/view/id/20845/pn/all/p/0/?KSID=a9336d73428f9d59269de603f3b45272

  114. Greg, due to the Electoral College, every Democrat in a “red state” and every Republican in a “blue state” will already have his or her votes negated anyway. A “no confidence” vote or a protest vote, or simply picking an unlikely or obscure candidate out of the guidance given by one’s own heart, is not much different from Republicans who vote in the general Presidential election in King County, Washington State, or Democrats who vote in the general presidential election in Utah County, Utah. They know going into it that their voice will be “wiped out” by the math and the system, but they still vote anyway. I think this is part of healthy citizenship, and is to be praised, not scorned. JMHO.

  115. Brad, so you vote third party when you feel like your vote doesnt matter anyway because of the electoral college. OK, fine. But to me that only reinforces the idea that third party voting for a presidential candidate in America is not about any potential effect of the outcome of the game, but rather about people trying to make themselves feel good when they believe their vote doesnt count.

    When people feel like the rules dont allow them to jave any effect on the basketball game, thats when they pull out the chess board in the bleachers.

    The rules that are the Electoral College create an environment that disenfranchises much of the voting public. Unless you are in a battleground state, the Electoral College rule of giving all the EC votes to whoever gets the most votes in the states, essentially removes any input into the system.

    Which only reinforces my point that the rules of the game create not only the math of who wins and who loses but but also creates the atmosphere of the game itself. The rules of basketball versus hockey determine how to score to win, but also give rise to totally different atmospheres in how the game occurs for everyone. Fights break out into hockey games. Basketball is less prone to toothless players than hockey.

  116. Greg, go Google a Socialist Party platform from the early 1900′s and compare it with programs institute during the New Deal. Winning isn’t the only way to have an effect on the outcome.

  117. Bearpaw, generating new ideas and paradigms to solve a problem can cause the main parties to realign themselves. MLK and the civil rights movement altered mainstream America. MLK did not achieve what he achieved by voting for third party candidates.

    Now I agree that people DO in fact view their vote for a third party presidential candidate in America as being as powerful as, say, MLK and the civil rights union. But those people would be wrong. If you voted for Nadwr and your next choice would be Gore, then you either vote Gore or you throw your vote away in a futile gesture that allows your least favorite candidate (Bush) to win. If you voted Nader and Bush was your second choice, then you r vote was still thrown away, but the effective damage was zero.

    The thing that I am realizing is this: America’s rules for presidential elections are horrible. The electoral college system gives small states more weight than larger states and overrides popular vote results. This disenfranchises voters. Then if you live in a state that is predominantly voting for one party, the people who vote the other way are further disenfranchised because their votes are discarded and the full electoral votes for the state goes to whoever gets the most votes from thta state. Non battleground states are generally ignored by candidates, further disenfranchising voters. Amd the fact that no method of condercet voting is used, gives extra political power to whoever is the two biggest political parties, further disenfranchising anyone who doesnt line up with the two big parties. Not to mention that the bast majority of political wnners also happen to be whoever gets the most campaign contributions further disengranchizes people who can only make small money donations, compared to the 1% who can now spend unlimited money on politics.

    All this disenfranchizing going on. And what I am saying is that people need to stop deluding themselves that they aren enfranchized when they are not. People need to acknowledge the flaws inherent in the stlystem before we can change the system. It can certainly numb the pain of powerlessness by portraying a third party vote as altering the world. But it doeant have any effect other than to help your second favorite candidate LOSE.

    Better to acknowledge the flaws of the system, the multitudes of ways that it actually robs people of any incentive to vote at all, and let the truth piss people off enough to demand a process that empowers the people by its actual design rather than by the fantasies that the people have to concince themselves of.

    It osnt enough to do campaign finance reform. Money is certainly a huge way that many people are made powerless over the outcome of the election. But the electoral college is another huge disincentive for voters. The lack of condercet voting monopolizes power into two political parties and monoplizes political ideas as well, further robbing people of their voice.

    There are so many problems with the rules of electing presidents in the united states. Convincing ourselves we have more power than we actually do is an opiate for the masses. It encourages complacency and allows the system to rob us of our power. Better I say to admit the truth of how a flawed system steals our power and fix the flaws.

  118. Well, I don’t live in the US, so I do not have a horse in this race, but I do have personal experience of life-threatening uterine infections. That experience leads me to disbelieve the claims made by the Santorums about the birth of their child Gabriel. Putting it simply, if you have a life-threatening uterine infection you will die, unless you are pumped full of heavy-duty intravenous antibiotics and cared for by highly skilled professionals. In my case it took 5 days to get upgraded from the ‘very probably going to die’ to the ‘seriously ill but she may make it’ category, and another 5 days before I could stand up without assistance and go home with my baby.

    The idea that I could have done that within 14 hours of my baby’s birth is utterly farcical, and, given the litiginous nature of medical care in the US, I do not think that an obstetrician would have allowed Mrs Santorum to leave without a suitcase full of documents warning her that she too would die if she insisted on discharging herself. Of course, if she really had a temperature of almost 105 then she would have been out of her skull and thus incapable of making an informed decision, but I do not think that an obstetrician would fail to warn Mr Santorum of the consequences of not treating a life-threatening infection.

    And I’m ruling out the possibility of God miraculously curing Mrs Santorum…

  119. @ Greg. The Electoral College does do a couple of things really well though. Limit the recount issue to a few states and, more importantly, make a small percentage victory (which most of them are) look like a bigger one.

  120. mythago Jan 4 1:05pm: Great Chukulteh! You mean we’ve been doin it rong this whole time?

    Hell no! Do you really think Mormons have a better reputation than gays, anywhere but Utah and maybe Arizona?

    Greg Jan 4 3:02pm: Unless you are in a battleground state, the Electoral College rule of giving all the EC votes to whoever gets the most votes in the states, essentially removes any input into the system.

    I thought that was up to individual states to decide. Most are winner-take-all, but I thought there were one or two that were still proportional. Is my memory just wrong?

  121. Jon, yes, the EC limits recounts to a few battleground states. Obviously, election reform would have to beef up the solutions to the hanging chads problems. The goal of election reform would be to have every vote count, which means voter fraud in any state affect s the outcome, even a single fraudulent vote affects the outcome. I think some of the security experts have said electronic voting *could* be fast, secure, and fraud proof, it would have to be an open design with open software that everyone can review, and ot woupd have stuff like anonymized paper receipts of your vote so you could confirm after the fact that your vote did count.

    But basically, the reason the Electoral College limits recounts to the battleground states is because in all the other states, the votes of all the people who didnt vote for their states winner are ignored.

  122. Xopher, there is at least one state that hands out EC votes in proportion to the voting results for that state. However, if I remember correctly, it is a small state with a small number of EC votes, and the big battleground states like Florida and Ohio have more EC votes, so it doesnt matter as much as the big battle ground states which are all or nothing. Even if you make all states EC proportional, there is still the issue that each state has a number of EC votes proportional to their population, plus 2. This gives small states disproportionate weight over large states. Five small states vote Republican. One big state votes Democrat. The five states combined have the same population as the one big state. The EC result? The Republican candidate gets ten more EC votes than the democrat.

    Ever wonder why the South has such a strong influence on the presifldential elections? Part of it a lot of states in the south have about ten EC votes. Compare that to New York and Pennsylvania which pack their population into states with 20 and 30 EC votes. Small states get disproportionate power over big states based strictly on the way EC works.

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