Saturday, January 24, 2015

Only Two Things Come From Iowa: Corn and Political Pandering

A large number of potential 2016 primary candidates were in Iowa today to suck up to the Far Right crowd, some of them more obvious than others in their pandering.  A lot of cringe-worthy moments to worry about.  I'm still horrified by how our Presidential campaigning system is so bent that a single small state like Iowa can twist and pervert the national discourse like this.

From the Des Moines Register article, the main attraction names - plus a few late arrivals to the campaign start-ups - give us a good idea who the primary primarying Republicans are.  I can give you a brief summation of the candidates, and their chances this upcoming cycle, and even a quick guess at their Barber-graded Characters.  And so, welcome to the horror show:

Ben Carson - Surgeon, maybe Maryland (I am not certain which state he will represent)
Positives: Among Republicans, he's viewed as a credible anti-Obamacare critic, best-selling Christian spiritual author, anti-gay spokesperson.
Negatives: Has no elected or governing experience to speak of.  While the Constitution doesn't require such experience, any previous elective campaigning would at least provide the needed mindset and endurance to handle a rigorous national campaign.
Chances: His popularity among the Tea Party base is pretty strong.  He hasn't officially announced but there's been a few "Draft Carson" efforts going out there.  He's the "Outsider" candidate who can claim he's not corrupt as the "Insider" candidates on the list.  It all depends on if he can find enough financial deep pockets and how he handles himself in debates.
Character Chart: He's the most difficult to pin down as he doesn't have a track record in office to measure his style.  His world-view is akin to a Far Right religious conservative, and his anti-ACA positions show a hatred for government health-care controls.  He presents himself as a Passive-Positive (he may even harbor Passive-Negative habits) but his statements and actions lean Active-Negative.

Chris Christie - Governor, New Jersey
Positives: Presents himself as a populist elected official as a Republican who won in a heavily-Democratic state.  Can govern.  Can campaign as hard as needed.  Has a high public profile already.
Negatives: Simply put: he's Nixon without the subtlety or charm.  The guy has two modes: Bully and bullying.  While it's part of his appeal to the Far Right that he's such a bully towards "libruls" and critics, it's an abrasive leadership style that alienates real quick.  He's also the focus of an ongoing federal investigation into BridgeGate.  Even if Christie is cleared of direct involvement, his office clearly was behind a vindictive act that hurt the public: a form of "ratf-cking" on par with Nixon-like retributions back in the day.  These are not good signs.
Chances: Once popular, the stigma of BridgeGate and a crowded campaign field of competing "populist" figures has dropped Christie to the middle of the pack.
Character Chart: He's as close to the poster-child model of Active-Negative traits - aggressive, uncompromising, vindictive - any modern candidate can display.

Ted Cruz - Senator, Texas
Positives: Nobody can pander to the Tea Party base like Gatson uh Cruz.
Negatives: Spends much of his political capital showboating in Congress and sabotaging US House legislation, a breach of etiquette having a Senator undercut the House Speaker on a regular basis.  He may be (college-level) intelligent but he's not (street) smart.  The talk has it that he does not play well with others.  His personal hypocrisy - a Latino minority born outside the United States (he's CANADIAN, people!) who attacks Hawaiian-born Obama as illegitimate - makes him something of a joke candidate.  Except he's deadly serious.
Chances: As well as anyone who can pander to the primary voters with the meaty stuff of attacking Obama and Obamacare on a regular basis.  Campaigning and debating on the national stage are different matters, though.  The real GOP power-brokers - the CEOs and SuperPAC controllers - may prefer one of their own (Jeb Bush).
Character Chart: His public and political recklessness makes it hard to view him as an Active-Negative, but his ambitions and uncompromising habits are clearly in that mode.

Carly Fiorina - CEO, California
Positives: One of a handful of women candidates who can broaden the "appeal" of the Republican platform.  Can claim executive experience as a business leader.  She's not as batsh-t crazy as the other prominent woman candidate on the GOP ticket (more on her later).
Negatives: No elective office or political experience.  She ran a poorly managed Senatorial campaign that ended in a bad loss.  Her track record as CEO - the only real thing she's got - isn't good (was forced out at Hewlett-Packard).
Chances: Slim.  She might run on a platform of "we need a CEO as President", but Romney tried that and didn't win over voters.
Character Chart: There's little on her political resume to confirm a style or world-view, but previous experience with CEO Presidents - Hoover, Bush the Lesser - points to either a person with uncompromising (Hoover) habits or a hands-off administrative style (Bush II).  Considering Fiorina's more aggressive management styles, she leans towards Hoover.  That puts her in the Active-Negative camp.

Mike Huckabee - Governor, Arkansas
Positives: Populist political figure from a strongly conservative political region (Southeast).  Can govern.  Knows how to campaign in a congenial style.  Remained a well-known figure on the national stage - by being on Fox Not-News as a pundit - after his failed primary campaigning in 2008.  He polled well as a possible candidate in 2012 (and showed enough awareness to tell it wasn't going to be a good election cycle for Republicans and stayed out of it).  Has legitimate religious conservative cred (ordained Baptist minister).  Can not only pander to the Tea Party base, he can do so without looking like it.
Negatives: Not exactly trusted by the anti-tax crowds still dominant in the backrooms of the GOP leadership (which is ridiculous as GOP dogma is too firmly obsessed with tax-cutting for anyone to violate that rule).  Has been away from elected office long enough for people to forget any good stuff he'd done as governor.  His time as a fear-monger on Fox Not-News will turn away moderate voters.  His early campaigning comments - going after "family values" issues and insulting Beyonce (?!) - are not exactly endearing him to any younger voters.  And that's not even going into legitimate scandals - granting clemencies to violent offenders who promptly killed (again), a son who killed a stray dog under obscure circumstances - that can become millstones in a national campaign.  Worst of all, Huckabee's advocacy of his religious beliefs - his failure to even respect the No Religious Test requirement IN THE CONSTITUTION ITSELF - threatens the sanctity of Separation of Church and State.
Chances: While he won't get the deep-pocket backers the way Jeb Bush (or even Mitt if Romney decides to make one more try) will, Huckabee has a high chance to use his charm and campaign skills to make a serious go at the nomination.
Character Chart: I stated earlier how the Republican Party is dominated by Active-Negatives and has an Active-Negative platform, yet needs a Passive-Positive candidate to appeal to regular voters.  Huckabee can present himself as a Passive-Positive better than any other candidate... but he's so Active-Negative with his strict religious convictions that he'll likely lean that way.

Sarah Palin - Mayor, Alaska (I refuse to list her brief term as Governor: SHE QUIT THE JOB AND NEVER FINISHED IT)
Positives: I'd like to think I'm not being biased against her, but I honestly cannot see anything about her that can be listed as a positive thing.  Maybe the fact she can present herself as a populist figure... except that she's really not that popular anymore.
Negatives: The phrase "batsh-t crazy" applies to Palin.  Has burned so many bridges in public and in private to the point where most of her Republican media fans from 2008 don't seem to want to talk about her eight years later.  She's currently polling near the bottom of the candidate list.  Her track record in elected office hasn't impressed.  The more people got a look at her (lack) of political skills the more they recoiled.
Chances: Next to nil.  She's putting her name out there as a mixture of pride and self-promotion: after all, her political posturing is how she makes her money.
Character Chart: Much of her political career and personal traits lean towards an aggressive, self-serving pattern.  She'd be a good fit in the Active-Negative category, with the only difference between her and previous A-N types is a lack of intelligence or skill (the closest equivalent would be Andrew Johnson... shudder).

Rick Perry - Governor, Texas
Positives: Long-serving governor of a major state.  Can govern.  Can campaign at the state level at least.  Made massive revisions to how the governor's office ran and how the state government functioned.  At least kept Texas voters - which is a sizable voter base - happy.
Negatives: Has a mixed record as governor, including current indictments for extortion and abuse of office.  Hasn't won over Hispanic voters with his very meager pro-immigrant moves as he still campaigns publicly on harsher anti-immigration policies.  The 2012 primary campaign was such a public disaster - he had a brain fart during a debate that was so painful even his opponents tried to help him - that he's got a long way to show he can genuinely campaign at a national level.
Chances: In this crowded primary, he's bumping against better public speakers (Christie) and populist figures (Huckabee) that can steal his thunder.  He may garner some deep pockets from the rich state of Texas but he's competing against the backroom reach of the Bush clan for that as well.
Character Chart: His track record as governor - hard on veto usage, rare to compromise, sticking to the Far Right political dogma on most issues - has him as an Active-Negative.

Rick Santorum - Senator, Pennsylvania
Positives: Actually ran a competitive campaign in the 2012 primaries, coming closest to being the Not-Mitt Romney candidate.  Is consistent on backing major issues dear to the GOP voting base.  Can be the only candidate to seriously challenge Huckabee's religious creds.  Under normal conditions for the Republican primaries, he'd be a front-runner and near-lock.
Negatives: Is a national punchline to a sick joke (do NOT Google his name).  Hasn't held elective office since 2007 (which is actually a serious problem for other front-runner types like Jeb Bush, but it hurts Santorum more as he lacks the broad power base Jeb maintains).  While he's a hard campaigner on social issues - anti-gay, anti-immigration, pro-fetus - his economic/tax stances aren't as well-known.
Chances: Still has some support in Iowa (due to the high count of social conservatives in-state) which can translate to early primary/caucus wins.  But he doesn't have the deep-pocket support the other big name candidates have.
Character Chart: His consistent social conservative stance points to an uncompromising world-view, again this points to an Active-Negative trait.

Scott Walker - Governor, Wisconsin
Positives: Won election in a relatively progressive state, and survived multiple attempts at ousting him from office (including a serious recall effort within his first term), which shows serious campaign skills.  Has imposed a hard governing style on issues, and has supported conservative platform "reforms" popular with the Tea Party base.  While it's bad for the rest of us, it's a positive for Walker in that he's in tight with the powerful and wealthy Koch Brothers.
Negatives: For all his election wins remains one of the more divisive political figures in the Midwest.  Hasn't polled well even in Iowa.  Hasn't officially put his name in, although his ambition for the Presidency is known.  He's currently the focus of a "John Doe" criminal investigation, which may not end any time soon (despite every effort by the GOP powers to kill it).
Chances: While he hasn't made it official, it's merely a question of when at this point.  His polling doesn't look good, but his backing - the Kochs - puts him in play.
Character Chart: Has an aggressive governing style that definitely puts him in the Active column.  His uncompromising stances on most issues makes him a clear Active-Negative type.

Missing from this list: Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio. Either they aren't at Iowa or haven't informally announced (despite signs and statements of interest).  There's a couple of others I haven't even named, but until I see official confirmation they've put in for the effort I won't name them.

Jeb Bush is not listed as a speaker but I've already reviewed him as an Active-Negative.

In recent weeks, Mitt Romney has expressed an interest in running yet again.  Even after the loss to Obama in 2012.  He's either delusional, thinks the current field isn't better than he is, or thinks that in 2016 the Democratic candidate (right now that's Hillary) will be easier to beat.  While this doesn't look like a Passive-Negative trait for Mitt to keep seeking the White House, it does fit if you look at his persistence as a form of Duty to his personal beliefs (also, the Barber charting method is not absolute: Characters can fall right on the line between Active/Passive and Positive/Negative, meaning Mitt can harbor Active-Negative as well as Passive-Negative traits).

It's horrifying to document so many A-N types running for the Presidency: that's because I can't find evidence right now any of the major Republican candidates showing the primary traits of an Active-Positive.  I don't see many candidates who view compromise and deal-making as legitimate power tools (which are part of the Adaptive trait of A-P types) or any candidates who will approach the Presidency with an affirmative, We-Can-Do-This world-view.  Worse, I can't see any Passive-Positives: those with genuine Congenial traits that make them personable and easy-to-work with even political opponents (Huckabee comes closest, but his God-In-Government stance is a key sign he's not).

I'm not about to say which candidate has the best chance.  Personally, I'm terrified any of them have a serious shot at the White House.  None of them (Active-Negatives) are what we need right now - pushing a harsh GOP platform opposed to basic human decency over immigration or gay rights, pushing a harsh tax-cut and social-benefits-cuts platform doomed to cause more deficits and financial hardships - to lead the nation past 2016.

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