Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Future 2016 Campaigning: What Matters More, the Party or the Candidate?

Still in the process of typing up Jeb Bush's bio for a prediction of his Presidential Character, but while doing so I have to come to terms with where the political parties are this coming 2016 election cycle, and which candidates are actually going to survive the primaries to stand before the electorate on November 2016.

It's particularly troubling that the Republican Party is getting packed with wannabe candidates lining up already for the campaigning and fund-raising.  Jeb Bush has put his name in, but so have other big names like Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker and a slew of others, with current interest from the last guy Mitt Romney weighing his chances against Jeb!  This is on top of the more fringe names like Ben Carson and Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina.  There's about thirty-three possible names on the list for the GOP right about now.

Meanwhile for the Democrats, it's pretty much Hillary Clinton and a list of progressive officials that the more liberal party base are praying puts their names in.  Actually there's about twenty-three possible names, but there's not as much eagerness for people to jump in because Hillary's the one big name and few others seem likely challengers (of course, kinda said that back in 2008 too...).

And while I'm struggling over how to classify each possible candidate - the ones who have an honest shot at winning, that is - one stumbling block I'm finding is the power expectations - one of Barber's key points - that the voting party bases will use to judge those candidates.

The sin of the modern primary system is how it's not the party bosses making deals in back rooms that matter: it's how those party bosses motivate their base to show up to vote in the primaries.  The primaries make and break the candidates: whoever can pander best to the base in each state - which doesn't go by population importance, the state order goes by how easy those states are manipulated - gets the early support and the momentum to secure the nom.

Which is why it might not matter if a Republican candidate is Active-Positive or if a Democratic candidate is Passive-Positive or if a Libertarian candidate has a sense of humor.  If the party wants an Active-Negative to represent them, the candidates who don't fit that want won't win.

Here's the problem I'm finding about the Republican Party: the party base - the Tea Partiers, the Second Amendment Fetishers, the small-government-drown-it-in-Grover's-bathtub crowds - seems so eager to want an Active-Negative type serving as their President.  They want someone who will restrict and slash government services, cut taxes on the rich (while raising taxes on the lazy poor), deregulate businesses to run amok in a Free Market free-range, shut down the borders against illegals, and wage war against The Dreaded Other despite the costs.  A lot of behavior that history shows falls to Active-Negatives under what Barber called the "I Must" mindset that drives A-Ns to compulsive, unshakable agendas.

But at the same time, the party leadership recognizes that such A-N types are difficult to elect to office anymore.  The last official A-N we had in the White House - Richard Nixon - made the personality so toxic that anyone with that overt a trait would be shunned by regular voters (the most recent A-N who wasn't officially in charge - Dick Cheney - reinforced that toxicity).  So the party leadership is trying to manufacture, promote, or encourage the illusion that their "establishment" candidates - the likes of Jeb, or even what they tried with Romney last time - will run "positive" campaigns pursuing "reforms" on topics like education and immigration and job creation.  All the while hiding the facts that their platforms don't have any real solutions for those topics, just decades-old talking points and all pointing towards the same answer (tax cuts and deregulation).

The Republicans have an Active-Negative agenda, yet they need a Passive-Positive - another Reagan with the charm and skill to avoid the issues and project a congenial persona - to sell it.

So I'm watching a Republican Party go schizoid over the possibilities of who they want as their Presidential candidate.  There aren't many Passive-Positives left in the Republican ranks due to the purity purges that left most of the leadership as Active-Negatives.  On that list Wikipedia has, most of the major names lean A-N in terms of adhering to reactionary agendas (hi, Christie!  hi, Scott Walker!  And yes, hi Jeb!).  The more far-out candidates - Bachmann, Santorum, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz - may present themselves as charismatic but they're not impressive with congeniality skills on the level of Reagan.  I'd already tagged Romney as a Passive-Negative, even if he puts back in for another campaign he still fits that trait best.  The only one of the named candidates that could conceivably play Passive-Positive with the populist skill as Saint Ronnie is Mike Huckabee.  And yet even that persona masks a hidden Active-Negative leaning due to Huckabee's religious hardline worldview.  It hadn't helped Huckabee that he's spent years in the echo chamber of the Far Right Noise Machine, which reinforces a negative worldview not only upon its audiences but also on its presenters.

For the Democrats, the madness of the campaigning isn't as severe: the base eagerly wants another Active-Positive, just one that's more active than Bill Clinton and Obama have been.  The only real problem there is that the primary leader - hi, Hillary! - is an unrepentant Active-Negative, which is why a lot of "Draft Elizabeth Warren" efforts are ongoing.  I mean, is Martin O'Malley a bridge too far, or are Democrats wary of having another Irish guy follow right after the Irish Obama?

I keep promising a review of Jeb Bush.  I gave away the Spoiler of how Jeb's an Active-Negative at heart, but I'll try to explain how I got to that as an answer.

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