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Armagideon Time (Again)

Cross-posted on the Corner:

Here we go again.

The Daily Telegraph reports on the approach of the latest doomsday:

Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The precise manner of Armageddon remains vague, ranging from a catastrophic celestial collision between Earth and the mythical planet Nibiru, also known as Planet X, a disastrous crash with a comet, or the annihilation of civilisation by a giant solar storm.

In America Ron Hubbard, a manufacturer of hi-tech underground survival shelters, has seen his business explode.

“We’ve gone from one a month to one a day,” he said. “I don’t have an opinion on the Mayan calendar but, when astrophysicists come to me, buy my shelters and tell me to be prepared for solar flares, radiation, EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) … I’m going underground on the 19th and coming out on the 23rd. It’s just in case anybody’s right.”

I’m going out to dinner that night. Hoping that it’ll be easier to get a reservation.




A humble foreign policy in 2012

The New Republic has a long take on the G.O.P. turn away from foreign policy interventionism between 2008 and 2011. The article presages the fact that the recent debt deal seems to open the door to defense spending cuts if that’s the price for no increases in taxes. The flip side of this shift away from international engagement is a paranoia about sharia law in the USA.





God: Swing Voter, Fickle Too…

Via New York Magazine

After a thorough investigation, Daily Intel has discovered that God is separately backing at least three different contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. Over the course of the past few months and even years, God has sent signs and direct messages to each of these candidates encouraging them to run, presumably without telling them that he supports other candidates as well.

God has apparently thrown His weight behind Herman Cain, soon-to-be candidate Michele Bachmann and that strange Rick Santorum, a candidate for whom one electoral humiliation is not enough.

Under the circumstances, I can only conclude that God is a Democrat.

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The establishment strikes back, perhaps

2012 pieces are now being written. GOP mega-donors look toward 2012. The GOP plutocrats are obviously worried that someone with mass grassroots support like Sarah Palin might come to the fore. I’ve been skeptical about this in the past, but Barack H. Obama did it in 2008 with a combination of Wall Street money and the online fundraising component. I’ve said that the ads for Mitt Romney from the Right are just going to be too easy, so perhaps someone else will arise to take the establishment mantle?



Sarah Palin 2012

Noah Millman mulls the chances. Noah is not a fan, to be sure. I’ve increased my probability that Palin will be the nominee in 2012 a fair amount since I last thought about this. Also, since we’re midway through 2010, closer to the point where the nomination will be de facto secured, my uncertainty window has decreased. I assumed that the Republican establishment would simply screw her at some point before 2012, but my assessment of that establishment’s strength has diminished (e.g., their candidate did not win in the Kentucky or Nevada primaries). Additionally, I think the passage of the spring health care bill reduces Romney’s chances, who is probably ideally positioned to catch the backing of the establishment.

So if I had to guess I would say a 25% probability of securing nomination in 2012 for Sarah Palin. This underestimates my new evaluation of Palin because I don’t know for sure whether she’s running. I’d guess a 60% chance she runs seriously, so that means a 42% probability of winning if she ran.

I judge that Mitt Romney’s chances are not very high right now, mostly because it’s just too easy to depict him as a milquetoast moderate flip-flopper with no real charisma. It’s too easy because there’s a lot of validity to those charges. I wouldn’t say 0%. There were times when John McCain looked dead in late 2007. But I’d probably pin Romney at 5% at most as his current ceiling.

Let me end by saying that I don’t follow politics closely, so the numbers above are more to give you a good precise sense of my vague impressions, than anything I have real confidence in. My uncertainty is probably +/- 10% standard deviation for the Palin probabilities.




Contingencies on Mitt Romney

A few weeks ago I posted some on Mitt Romney. Since then his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness has come out. I do not think it bodes well that David Frum, who I suspect is close to the Center-Right demographic that Romney will target in 2012, gives the book mixed reviews. But a bigger issue: if the Democrats make the individual mandate to buy health insurance a feature of American landscape, can Mitt Romney shake his own endorsement of this policy in Massachusetts? I am generally a believer that the media has a short time-horizon on these sort of issues because it has to cater to the dull public. Fall of 2012 is over 2 years in the future. But, it seems likely that if the Democrats succeed the health care debate will be a live issue up to the 2012 presidential election, especially if the Republicans retake at least one of the chambers of Congress on a plank of repealing what the Democrats may enact within the next month (whether they can actually repeal much of anything before 2013 is doubtful because of presidential veto).

Here are my odds: I think Mitt Romney has a 1 out of 5 chance of gaining the nomination in 2012 for the presidency if the Democrats do not pass health care legislation. This is in my estimation the modal probability in the field for individuals which we know of. That is, I think this is better odds than any other potential candidates currently on offer (remember, I think there’s a serious chance that a “dark horse” may rise to prominence and win the nomination, so I would still put “someone-we-don’t-know/aren’t talking about” as a higher probability than any of the “top-tier”). If the Democrats do pass the individual mandate I put Romney’s odds at 1 in 20, and would guess that other 2012 hopefuls such as Tim Pawlenty would now have a greater probability of gaining the nomination (for what it’s worth, I think Sarah Palin’s odds are around 1 in 20 with our without health care).

What are you assessments of the odds?




2012: One “Frontrunner”, Lame

Here’s the new Esquire interview with Creationist Tim Pawlenty, one of the GOP frontrunners (allegedly) for 2012. Nothing on where he stands on evolution, but the governor’s views (such as one can make them out amid the waffle) on the bank bail-out also seem to be the product of something very akin to magical thinking:

ESQ: You’ve been very critical of the bank-bailout bill, a number of times, a bill that was passed at the urging of a Republican president. Let’s role-play. I’m Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson. I come to you on a Wednesday in mid-September 2008 and I say, “Mr. President, we’ve got to pass this bill, because if we don’t, we won’t have an economy by Monday.” What do you do?

TP: Well, they did say that at one point, and the bill failed.

ESQ: Yes, it failed once but did then pass.

TP: And that Monday the economy didn’t collapse.

ESQ: Well, that depends on your definition of collapse. The Dow went into free fall and the American economy went into the toilet, where it remained for the next year.

To claim that the bank bail-out was a thing of beauty is nonsense, and it is easy to find fault with the way it was put together, but I remain convinced that something had to be done.  The wheels were coming off, and to leave the answer to “the market” would have been to make a very big bet on a very pure view of economic theory.  Reasonably enough, therefore,  the reporter from Esquire presses Pawlenty some more on what he would have done. The answer? Yet more waffle and a conspiracy theory.

ESQ: I have a lot more I want to get to. But I really want to know what you would have done. That critical week, mid-September 2008, with President Bush’s men describing the credit crisis as an oncoming freight train for the global economy, there was a cohort of Republican congressmen, led by Jeb Hensarling of Texas, whose position was rather dogmatic. They said, “We must let this economy find its bottom.” If you had been president of the United States, would that have been your position?

TP: Well, I read an account recently of the Sunday night before one version or another of Hank Paulson’s TARP bill passed. In this story, Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, was meeting with other Goldman Sachs executives, trying to figure out what to do, and surprise, surprise, they came up with the conclusion that the federal government should bail out Goldman Sachs. So I don’t take as an article of faith that the financial world would have come to an end if we had let more of these institutions fail.

This guy is a frontrunner?

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Seeing 2012

Daniel Larison on Palin’s Extremely Long Shot At The Nomination. Daniel’s argument is persuasive, but, I would add that the probabilities one projects are extremely conditional on local temporal circumstances. Even in the recent past John McCain’s candidacy went from being the clear favorite, to dead, to an unlikely win through capturing the largest segment of the electorate in a winner-take-all system. Hillary Clinton went from inevitable to insurgent upset in a period of weeks around December 2007-January 2008.

For me the main issue is that it does not seem that Sarah Palin is positioning herself for a 2012 run. But, assuming she runs I would say that Romney has 4 times likelihood of getting the nomination than she does. That sounds significant, but if I had to make up a number I would say that Romney’s chances are about 1 in 10. George W. Bush was the presumptive nominee in many ways rather early before the 2000 election, but from what I recall that only crystallized after after the 1998 elections, after Republican losses and New Gingrich’s ouster. In 1992 Bill Clinton was an exceptional case for a non-incumbent in that in 1990 he was not known to most in the country (despite his speech at the ’88 convention). Bob Dole in 1996 was the opposite case, his establishment creds were deep and long, and he was already very well known in 1994. John Kerry in 2004 and George W. Bush in 2000 are intermediate cases, vaguely familiar names, but not with the name recognition of Bob Dole. I don’t think we can predict very easily which scenario will characterize the Republicans in 2012. A Palin run would have resemblances to Dole’s run (or McCain in 2008 because of his high profile over the past decade). Romney never made it out of the early primaries, when most of the nation wasn’t paying attention, so I’d class him with Kerry or Bush. And there are many other vaguely familiar names to the public out there as well. Finally, there are unaccounted for “wild cards.” Because of the nature of modern campaigns in terms of logistics I think the chances of wild cards shaking up expectations are declining, but probably are still on the order of 1/3. That is, there’s a 1 out of 3 chance that someone who you barely know, some obscure governor or senator (It could be argued that John McCain was a wild card in 2000, Howard Dean in 2004, though like most wild cards they failed) becomes the front-runner. The remaining 2/3 of the distribution is defined by a power law, so that a few candidates are much more likely than others (e.g., Romeny vs. Tancredo), though there’s a “long tail” (to the extent that that long tail arguably simply continues into the wild card zone).

As I admit above, the numbers are somewhat made up. But I wanted to put numbers there to give a sense of what I think is the most plausible model of probabilities here. Prose is by its nature going to focus on what we know, the most probable. But that does not mean that is is very probable as an outcome. If opinions came with a high cost whereby that cost had to be recouped with accuracy, then there would be very little on this topic this far out. Like science fiction’s element of prognostication, political conversation about 2012 tells us more about the present than the future.

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The Romney Paradox

The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison responds to my earlier post on the ‘Party of Huckabee’ here. As always with Larison, the whole thing is well worth a read, but even if I may not agree with everything he has to say in his post, this section is spot-on:

…the things that make Romney more attractive to non-evangelicals in the GOP also force him to spend more time trying to prove that evangelicals and social conservatives can accept him. Aside from the complication that his religion introduces into this, this means that Romney has to emphasize social issues, on which he has no credibility, and public professions of religious faith, which are some of the things that so many Republicans and independents find viscerally unappealing about what they perceive to be the norm in Republican politics.



The Party of Huckabee?

Via Rasmussen:

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Republican voters nationwide say former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is their pick to represent the GOP in the 2012 Presidential campaign.

Full details can be found here.

Palin’s pain has been Huckabee’s gain, it seems, as he appears to have picked up some of her support. Given the selection on offer, it’s probably not that surprising that Mitt Romney emerges as the preferred candidate of the wicked secular right (or at least among those Republicans “who attend church once a month or less”). Meanwhile, Pawlenty’s nod to the Intelligent Design crowd doesn’t (I’m delighted to say) seem to have done him much good so far. He’s the candidate that GOP voters would least like to see as the party’s pick, although I suspect that glorious distinction may in reality simply reflect the fact that Pawlenty is just not that well-known. Perhaps he should try coming out for UFOs next time.

We’re a long, long way from 2012, but there’s nothing in this poll that’s bad news for Obama. And that’s bad news.

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