Thursday, February 18, 2010

George Will's Ridiculous Goldwater/Palin Comparison

George Will advises that  (in respect  of Sarah Palin)  "She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states."

He goes on to compare a putative Palin presidential run with that of Barry Goldwater, whom he describes as a similar "maverick"  in terms of his perceived failings being ascribed to her. This is somewhat ameliorated by a courtly exposition on her terrible treatment by the liberal media which is, in reality, damning with faint praise.

However, his grasp of electoral college realities is what is in question. For someone who has lived, as he has, through the campaign of 1964 I can confidentially state that it is ludicrous to extrapolate the presidential run of Barry Goldwater to a Palin run in 2012.

In 1964 Lyndon Johnson was basking in the glow of a martyred president, the country was prosperous, the Congress, with Johnson's deft handling based on years of experience in the Senate as Majority Leader, was instituting the large spending of the "Great Society" and America's prestige in the world was unquestioned, especially after Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis.

No Republican candidate-left, right or centrist, could have come anywhere near defeating Johnson. The fact that Goldwater won six states (5 from the deep south plus his own Arizona) is in fact a remarkable achievement. In similar races against a hugely popular incumbent McGovern and Mondale were slaughtered.

Where Will goes off the track is not only disregarding the historic context of presidential popularity but also the shifting forces of historic political identity in the south. The deep south was a democratic party stronghold from the reconstruction era to 1948 when the first cracks appeared. These initial movements were to States Rights candidates (Thurmond and Byrd) who won a majority of electoral votes in a number of states (four states for Thurmond in 1948 and two for Byrd in 1960). The shift of the south to the Republican party commenced in earnest with Goldwater in 1964 with his five state win (matched by Wallace as an independent in 1968)

Since Goldwater's run in 1964 the south has seen a majority of states go Republican in every subsequent election- not exempting Obama's huge electoral vote pile in 2008 (including southerner Clinton's two runs) except for Carter's sweep of the south in 1976,

Thus to think that  Palin (or any Republican candidate for that matter) would not do at least as well as McCain did in the south and border states in 2012 when every factor that Johnson had going for him is, to this date, not mirrored or applicable in respect of Obama's presidency, is utterly ridiculous and not worthy of someone of Mr. Will's experience.

Further there is no reason not to believe that if the Obama administration continues on its present course, and  decline in the polls, that the Midwest states which went for McCain would also not go for Palin. The reality is that Palin would have every chance of holding the McCain states, bringing those states which usually vote Republican but went for Obama, back to the Republican fold and picking up the few additional states required to obtain a majority in the electoral college. A detailed exposition of the manner of this electoral victory for Palin, including the positive affect for her of the changes in electoral vote distribution from the forthcoming census, was set out and expanded on previously.

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