The election field has narrowed to Obama and Clinton for the Democrats and McCain, Romney and Huckabee for the Republicans.
It is to early for the poll numbers to have settled out (not that that will stop the TV pundits) for a good analysis. Instead let us consider the overall structure of US elections for the past 20 or so years.
On a nation wide basis, if you have a Presidential election or a “combined election” of all congressman, all governors, all state legislature representatives, or even all dog catchers:
- The republican candidates have a guaranteed 45% and,
- The Democrats have a guaranteed 45%.
There is substantial variation locally but that the national picture. The 10% in the middle will decide who wins. The catch is if malcontents on one side or the other form a third party able to win 5% or so of the vote, they give the election to the other party.
The question then is how to win the middle 10%. These are people who seldom worry about political issues except at election time, an attitude incomprehensible to the lifetime political groupies that make up the staffs on both sides. They can go either way for reasons the political class doesn’t understand. Which is one of our small salvations from the political class.
Despite their genuine differences both Clinton and Obama are from the far left of the Democratic party.. They need to present a more moderate persona to the public for the general election. But to win the nomination they need the support of the far left who want demonstrated ideological purity. As it is shaping up, depending on where the undecided and former Edwards supports end up it looks like it will be a close race for the Democratic nomination. If it is not settled on Supper Tuesday it will likely be a long fight, which will leave both candidates distanced from the center. I give an edge to Clinton for organization and familiarity. But there is also substantial dislike for her and hostility in the local organizations to the National Party, which could be a plus to the charismatic Obama.
For the Republicans Huckabee is at his maximum support and has no chance of being nominated. Both McCain and Romney are at home in the Center Right of politics. Thus they are much closer to that middle than either Clinton or Obama. This is an opportunity.
While generally conservative McCain, has publicly broken with the party on some issues and distanced himself from President Bush on some issues gaining him some credibiity in the middle. But this has caused public friction with the more conservative part of the party. He has demonstrated an ability to win votes in the middle. Romney is also a center right person, but is getting a lot of support from the more conservative republicans who do not want McCain. This might stereotype him with the middle as more conservative than he is.
The external environmental factor the will influence party strategies is the major media outlets are closer to the far left than the middle. Clinton or Obama will be able to use this in the General election to soften their public persona as middle of the road. For McCain, that he is more Center Right is commonly known, his task will be to remind the middle voters of this and point out the genuine leftness of either Democratic candidate. Romney will have the much more difficult job of convincing the middle that he is Center Right
If McCain wins the Republican nomination the Republicans have an up hill fighting chance of winning he middle 10%. There is much less chance if Romney wins the nomination.
One of the things the new president will get to do is select several new Justice’s of the United States (Supreme Court Justices.) The Republicans will want to select a Justice who has strict constructionist juridical philosophy. The Democrats will want to select a Justice who has a Living Constitution juridical philosophy.
A Strict Constructionist would want decisions to hold close to the letter of the constitution and law, looking to the original intent of the authors and past interpretation to reach decisions. If a change needs to be made it should be through the amendment process in the constitution or by amending laws in Congress.
A living constitutionalist would question the value of original intent and precedent and see the constitution as a “living document.” A judge should decide according to what seem’s right if the case for society. Sometimes this means playing very fast and loose with the text, intent, and precedents. In one famous case invented law from whole cloth because the justice saw the decision he wanted in the “penumbra” of the Fourteenth Amendment. The amendment processes are often seen as to slow or likely to be blocked by an unenlightened electorate.
I think the Strict Constructionist is correct. It produces a law that is known and citizens can adust their lives and act accordingly, and they have clear processes to advocate change if necessary. The living constitution approach tends to be the political philosophy or even whim of the sitting judge. One can never be certain of what the law is because the next judge may have a different opinion. It tends to bypass the political processes that make the county a democracy, as Abraham Lincoln said, “government of the people for the people and by the people”
In a different area of law we have recently had a good example of these differences. If one takes a strict constructionist view of the Geneva Conventions and International Law, torture is prohibited. Nada, Nyet, Nien, No! But under the influence of the Neocon’s who as noted in my last election post are really “left wing light”, a “living Geneva Convention” attitude has been taken which allows torture. A policy that I have objected to in previous posts.
If McCain grandstanded the issue at least, he has stood clearly against torture when it was to his political advantage to support it.
If you think the legal thought process that can support torture is a good idea – vote Democratic.
6 months ago