Friday, July 31, 2015

A Coming Perfect Storm?

That Boat Could Be The GOP
This post isn't going to be about Trump.

The so-called Perfect-Storm was the meeting of two powerful weather-fronts that created enmorously dangerous (and actually fatal) conditions for the fishing boat that sailed into them.

School's out for summer: Congress has left for August recess and when they return in September they'll have 4 months to get a bunch of stuff straightened out. It just happens to be bad luck that this is going to happen in the middle of what looks to be a hotly contested and over-crowded presidential primary that is happening in conjunction with an escalation in the GOP's internal war.

What's Going On?

There are two major items that need to pass in September: The highway bill (needed infrastructure for American roadways) and continuing to fund the Federal Government (which has a deadline of the end of September). Both of these are, pretty much, no-brainers.

What makes them . . . brainers . . . is that they have become the rope in a tug-of-war against members of the Republican party and against the GOP-controlled Senate and Obama (and congressional Democrats). To whit:
  1. The GOP leadership wanted to reinstate the Export-Import bank and defeated the congressional conservative caucus' attempt to forbid its renewal by attaching an amendment to the highway funding bill. They did this with Democrat support leading Ted Cruz to publicly (and, apparently, shockingly) denounce Mitch McConnell.
  2. Cruz, again (but this time with more of congressional leadership's support), has stated a plan to, again, shut-down the Federal government if congress and Obama don't agree to defund Planned Parenthood.
This comes at a time when:

Know Who This Helps?

Okay, so The Omnivore lied: Trump. The problem with this perfect-storm of September-events is that it exacerbates the conditions that led Trump to first place. If the GOP Establishment backs down on any of that, Trump is still the message telling them to fuck-off. If Ted Cruz fails to shutdown the government he looks ineffective. If he succeeds in doing it--with the GOP behind him, there are three ways this plays out:
  1. Obama gets the blame and caves. This is victory--and it doesn't help Trump. The good news for conservatives is that the Planned Parenthood videos--fraudulent or not--have been well managed and the view most people who see them will see is, in fact, to quote Hillary Clinton: Disturbing. The bad news is that shutting down PP will play into the War On Women narrative and even with the emotional haymaker of the PP-videos, the shooting of Cecil The Lion got all the coverage this week. It's possible that despite most people probably getting a really bad taste from the videos they may find shutting down the government worse. That's what happened with Obamacare, remember?
  2. The GOP-Establishment won't have the fight. In this scenario we get close to a shutdown but instead pass legislation that calls for an investigation or something. This is seen as a total-cave on the part of the GOP-E who has (in a sense) lost their nerve. Cruz goes nuclear--but he's still part of the system. Conservatives defect from the party in large numbers having, now, a place to go: Trump.
  3. The government shuts down and the GOP takes the blame. For a party that has owned government shutdowns for some time--each time a disaster (for them)--it is going to be a hard-sell that this is the time to take the big stand. It looks like shutdowns (either the government, the debt limit,  or DHS) are just how they do business. The Omnivore bets that the GOP-Branding as the shutdown party overrides the righteousness of the PP-issue (and that assumes you even think it's righteous--but let's assume here). In this case it's the worst of all possible worlds: The GOP-E caves eventually and conservatives are both infuriated and damaged. Conservatives, again, move to Trump as, essentially, a rebel leader.

Game Theory and Trump

The problem for the GOP is that until Trump there was no win-condition for defecting from the GOP. In Game Theory and voting the general consensus is that the player (the voter) tries to maximize the power of their vote. This means voting for Romney over Obama, even if you think Romney sucks. When you vote, say, the Constitution party, you are consigning your vote to zero-power (or even a negative) in order to play a different game: sending a message.

The problem is, it's a shitty way to send a message. The GOP concludes, probably rightly, that if they adopted a far-far right-wing party's stance (no more legal Immigration--save for Swedish Swim-Suit-Babes, or something) they would lose more votes than they'd gain. In other words, you're net-drag to them.

Donald Trump changes that dynamic. For one thing, he's still basically, kind of, a Republican. For another thing, he sends a clear message: Throw The Bums Out. Even if he doesn't win the general election, if he wins the nomination, he makes this message loud and clear. Also: if he wins the nomination, your vote in the primary IS maximized. It's a Game-Theory-Win condition for conservatives.

It turns out that's true even if:
  1. He goes squishy on immigration (which he kinda has)
  2. He doesn't have a sane platform
What it would take would be personal humiliation of Trump that transferred to his supporters. Think Perry's "Oops" moment. The problem with Trump is that his "negative-brand" (the bad things people associate with him) are actually positives in his role as an insurgent. His brash nature and outlandish ideas are his strength: For example, he wants to take his personal luxury helicopter to the Iowa fair and give rides to kids--the fair grounds have shut that whole thing down for now ... but can you imagine how cool Iowa voters would find that?

So we'll see--but the combination of GOP Infighting, the prospect of a damaging shutdown, and the rise of Trump are the makings of a potential perfect-storm.

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