Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Conan the Libertarian's suspect maths 

The Governator demonstrates why - aside from the constitutional restraints - it might be difficult for him to win the Republican presidential primaries, and if he does, to win the election:

"California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested in a German newspaper interview published Saturday that the Republican Party should move 'a little to the left,' a shift that he said would allow it to pick up new voters.

"Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has taken an unorthodox approach since winning office last year - standing by a promise to toe a conservative line of fiscal matters while veering left on social issues such as gay rights and the environment.

"In an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, Schwarzenegger said that 'the Republican Party currently covers only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle, and the Democratic Party covers the spectrum from the left to the middle.'

" 'I would like the Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left and place more weight on the center,' he was quoted as saying. 'This would immediately give the party 5 percent more votes without it losing anything elsewhere'."
Fiscal conservatism and social liberalism, combined with a fair dose of star power has been a political winner for Schwarzenegger in California. This formula is clearly the base of his drive to move the GOP "a little bit" to the left and gain that extra 5 per cent of the popular vote. The problem is that the rest of the country is not necessarily like California. I doubt whether the mix of Hollywood glamour and libertarianism would work particularly as well anywhere else in America.

The other problem, of course, is that in real life it's very difficult to gain 5 per cent more votes "without losing anything elsewhere." Again, this might not be a problem for Arnie in California, which is not particularly well known as a conservative stronghold and a bastion of Christian right, but if throughout the Mid-West or the South you move a little bit to the left (presumably on social, not economic, issues) you might or might not gain that extra 5 per cent from the "middle", but you're also very likely to lose 5 per cent or more from the right, when social conservatives and evangelical Christians decide to sit out that one election, refusing to have to choose between two candidates, neither of whom reflects the values they hold dear.

A charismatic movie-star Californian governor can make it big on the national scene. As Ronald Reagan himself would acknowledge, some of his social views would not necessarily win him a standing ovation from the Moral Majority, which is why he instead chose to appeal on issues that were unifying rather than divisive both to the Republican base, and more broadly to the general centre-right constituency: smaller and less intrusive government, promoting opportunity and enterprise, patriotism and strong foreign and defense policies.

Arnie could do worse than to try repeat this winning formula.


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