Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Third Party Trump Candidacy

Trump, once again, has floated a 3rd Party run. According to this (right-wing, excellent) analysis, he probably could mount one--but it would be an uphill battle. However, whether Trump declares a 3rd Party bid or not, it is worth noting that Donald Trump is essentially already running a 3rd Party candidacy. Oh, sure, he took a loyalty pledge--and yes, he's on the Republican ticket--but we should note:
  1. His base of voters are not the hard-core conservatives or hard-core evangelicals. He has some, yes--a good number--but purely conservative ideological voters prefer Cruz.
  2. His 'electability' problems mirror those of traditional 3rd party candidates: he can attract a segment of people but at least for now, the numbers say he suffers badly in the general election.
  3. His attacks (see George Bush knew there were no WMD) are not coming from the Republican play-book. They're coming from outside of it. He also happily calls other candidates liars--something that even traditional "insurgent candidates" have avoided. He affords the party machinery no respect (the way he treats Jeb Bush isn't like a competitor--but like an enemy--similar to how the GOP treats Hillary).
  4. The GOP and the press are treating him like he's not running: a second place win for Cruz becomes a first place. Rubio in 3rd is treated like a second-place near victory. The huge gulf of polling between Trump and "everyone else" doesn't make him "the front runner" that people are rallying around. Everyone is waiting for someone--anyone--to stop him.
Essentially Trump has solved the 3rd-Party Game-Theory problem (that if you vote 3rd Party your vote is wasted) by running as an "illuminati*" inside the Republican party--while not actually being a part of it in most ways that matter (its stated philosophy, its general mode of behavior, its established power-structures).

The reason this bears repeating is because we've been waiting to see if something could actually fracture the GOP--could sink them--and this is it: it's happening right here, right now. The battle for the "soul of the Republican Party" was supposed to be the compassionate, main-stream traditional position of Jeb Bush against the fights-to-win common-man very-conservative appeal of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Trump eclipsed Walker utterly and has now moved on to running Jindal and Christie out as well. Now Trump's candidacy asks: "Is the GOP really a conservative party?" and "Is America really a center-right nation after all?"

These are not the questions the RNC wants to be posing--much less voting on.

The Truth About Ideological Conservatism

You have no doubt heard that Islam is "the religion of peace." That's actually a pretty recent framing and was created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It will be no surprise to a lot of people that Islam didn't exactly go around selling itself as its top-quality as that of peace. It's also, probably, of little surprise that people question whether "Black Lives Matter" means that Other Lives Don't--or whether or not #GamerGate is really about Ethics in Game Journalism.

It turns out that the answer to all of these lies in the same space: the gray area between stated goals and positions and behavior. In other words, there's the question of branding.

Branding, remember, is the set of ideas and feelings we associate with a thing. In the advertising world, this means ideas of quality or selling point. It also means things like catch-phrases, logos, and positive or negative senses. It means things like class-signaling. It asks: "What does having this thing or using this product tell others about me."

This is why certain expensive name-brands (BMW cars, for example) can get away with higher price-points per feature than lower cost alternatives. The Omnivore's wife has had both a high-end Nissan Pathfinder and the equivalent BMW. The BMW cost more, had less room, had way, way more expensive tires, required the most expensive gas, and didn't have in-seat DVD players for the kids. It also cost more.

However, when you pull up in a Nissan, people think "Soccer Mom." When you pull up in a BMW, people think something else (Doctor, Lawyer, etc.). 

In the case of conservatism, it turns out that the Republican party--including a significant percentage of the primary voting base--was not actually conservative in the sense most of the ideological thought-leaders thought it was. It was also not "high information" in the sense that a lot of conservative bloggers wanted to believe it was.

A group of people being able to regurgitate carefully articulated talking points about who's really responsible for The Government Shutdown, The Economy, Everything (hint: Obama because [ reasons ]) was not the same as actually being informed. It was also not the same as actually being conservative in the pure ideological sense.

Conservatism is an idea, yes--but it turns out it's also a social club, web-site commenter memberships, and a set of ideas and parameters around politics that have nothing to do with markets-setting-prices or smaller government or constitutional originalism. A lot of people were welcomed into the club because they provided a lot of energy and were willing to take direction from people identified by the intelligensia as legitimate thought-leaders.

By this, The Omnivore means, of course, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or whoever. By this, The Omnivore also means Sarah Palin who legitimized the know-nothing band of political identity. Antagonism has been around (and perhaps in its current form) since Newt Gingrich--but whatever else you may say about him, he was a political intellectual.

Palin got conservative cred and leadership legitimacy for being willing to fight--and to fight without gloves on. When she got trashed in an interview, it wasn't that she was unready to be VP (much less President)--but that the left-wing media was out to get her. When she said Obama palled around with terrorists? Well, hey, politics ain't beanbag, is it?

The quest for Anyone But Romney entertained people like Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain. While this did, rightfully, horrify some conservative thought leaders, the root cause of the problem was hard to identify: these candidates were suitable to the primary base voting portion of the conservative party (insofar as the GOP is the conservative party) not because they were willing to do the one thing that was required for admission: attack the Democrats.

It turns out that the ideas of political conservatism mean one thing and the practice of political conservatism means another. Until now a coalition against the Democrats had held the Republican party  together and the rules of the game meant that you couldn't get 100% of one without damaging the other (no one was willing to attack Barack Obama the way Trump attacks people--it was deemed both unseemly and tested as unproductive).

Now, though, the cell has split: there is a candidate who is 100% He-Fights. It turns out? If you have that, it doesn't matter if you're conservative.

* The Illuminati--the real one--was a secret society inside another secret society (the Freemasons). Trump isn't exactly secret--but he definitely is using the GOP as a host organism. The problem is that while the larger GOP may well be "playing host," Trump gets to do that because he's tapped into an honest, extant phenomena in the GOP--voters who have been told over and over that the "Establishment" is the enemy and now (to the horror of the bloggers who have promoted that idea) believe it.


  1. I think Trump has an AI that's planning his moves. No human being could run such a perfect campaign.