Saturday, 5 March 2016

Thoughts on Super Tuesday

US Election 2016

Thoughts on Super Tuesday


It goes without saying that what happens in the United States of America can affect the world. With that in mind, despite not being a citizen of the United States, being affected by its politics I am entitled to opine on them.

So here are a few of my thoughts on Super Tuesday, the largest set of states - and the largest potential haul of delegates - for the two main parties' primary seasons.

As the data for these thoughts, I will be using the summary of the day's results from The Washington Post.



The Republicans: Too Many Candidates Split The Vote


Did Vote-Splitting Hurt the Establishment?

The two big winners of the Republican Party's Super Tuesday were the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue [1], and Ted Cruz (aka "The Theocrat"), with the former getting first place in 7 out of the 11 states at play, and a total of 247 of the available delegates, and the latter getting first place in 3 states and 214 delegates (mostly owing to his victory in Texas).

This was bad news for the Republican Party's establishment (that is, the coterie of the party's executive, leadership, and wealthy donors), since both the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue and Cruz are, shall we say, unliked by the establishment. Insofar as the Republican party regularly kowtows to the very wealthy, they prefer presidential candidates who are safely bought-and-paid for, not earnest theocrats or not-so-bought-and-paid-for demagogues.

Of course, despite the field having cleared from over the summer, there were still multiple candidates acceptable to the establishment in the running: Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and (to a lesser extent, so far as I can see) Dr Ben Carson. [2]

So I'm curious to see whether clearing the field at all would have helped.

A caveat before proceeding: it's not necessarily the case that all the votes an "establishment" candidate received would transfer to the other "establishment" candidates; quite likely some of the votes would go to Cruz or to the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue (henceforth YLD).

Sample: Alaska
Cruz won this state by a thin margin, taking 36.4% of the vote and 12 delegates. In second place was YLD, with 33.5% of the vote and 11 delegates. The establishment candidates were individually much further behind, with Rubio in third place at 15.1%. If Kasich and Carson had dropped out, and their entire vote share were transferred to Rubio, he would have had 30.1% of the vote: still third, but a much more respectable outing (and likely to have captured a larger share of delegates, as Alaska has a 13% threshold in order to get any delegates at all).

Without going into how the delegate share might have altered (although see here for some details), let's see just how much an establishment candidate (henceforth "CEC" for consolidated establishment candidate) might have benefited from a consolidated vote.

  • Alabama: YLD 43.4%<, Cruz 21.1%, consolidated establishment vote 35.5% (pushing CEC over Cruz, and netting a far higher delegate count - Rubio fared so poorly in the event because he didn't net the 20% threshold to be considered for the statewide delegates)

  • Alaska: Cruz 36.4%<, YLD 33.5%, consolidated establishment vote 30.1% (probably netting CEC ~8 delegates, and reducing Cruz' and YLD's share accordingly)

  • Arkansas: YLD 32.8%, Cruz 30.5%, consolidated establishment vote 36.8% (here we see how vote consolidation would have really helped a Rubio or Kasich: because of vote-splitting Rubio came in a distant third, and none of the others qualified for any statewide delegates thanks to the minimum threshold; a consolidated vote would have resulted in the establishment candidate either getting the most votes, or something close to a three-way tie)

  • Georgia: YLD 38.8%, Cruz 23.6%, consolidated establishment vote 36.7% (here a CEC would not win, but would have a very strong second-place finish and reap a much higher number of delegates)

  • Massachusetts: YLD 49.3% (!), Cruz 9.6%, consolidated establishment vote 41.1% (bouyed by both Rubio and Kasich, unsurprisingly, outperforming Cruz, whose theocratic ways likely do not appeal to the sensibilities of Massachusetts Republicans - not enough for first place, but enough for more crucial delegates)

  • Minnesota: Cruz 29%, YLD 21.3%, consolidated establishment vote 49.6% (this was Rubio's sole first-place finish in actuality; while a consolidated vote would not be as important here overall, it would nevertheless have boosted a CEC's delegate count)

  • Oklahoma: Cruz 34.4%, YLD 28.3%, consolidated establishment vote 37.3% (here, as in Arkansas, the CEC would end up winning)

  • Tennessee YLD 38.9%, Cruz 24.7%, consolidated establishment vote 36.4% (not enough to win, given YLD's huge margin of victory, but enough to come in a close second, and blow right past Cruz)

  • Texas: Cruz 43.8%, YLD 26.7%, consolidated establishment vote 29.5% (perhaps the weakest performance by a CEC, owing to Cruz' outstanding vote share, but enough to get more delegates than YLD - had the vote not been split, that is

  • Virginia: YLD 34.7%, Cruz 16.9%, consolidated establishment vote 48.4% (a CEC would have won this state with authority, where as it was Rubio came in second, only 2.8% behind YLD)

  • Vermont: YLD 32.7%, Cruz 9.7%, consolidated establishment vote >50% (maybe) (a CEC would clean up here)


One thing that is clear: vote-splitting benefited the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue and Cruz, because they often resulted in establishment candidates failing to meet minimum vote thresholds to win states, giving them a much larger delegate share. If the Republican establishment had really been serious about dealing with the two "upstart" candidates during the primaries, it probably ought have arranged to clear the field before Super Tuesday, given how many delegates were at stake. [3]

 Having failed to do so, it gave the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue a substantial lead, a viable claim to be the serious front-runner, and an enormous headache for the party come the convention. What's more, the remaining candidates, in an abject display of power-worship, have conceded they will hold their noses and support the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue in the general election, if it comes to it - although given how Chris Christie's endorsement of the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue seems to have turned out, I don't see what their incentive is.



The Democrats: Sanders Still In?

By contrast, the Democratic Super Tuesday was not nearly as lopsided, despite what you may have heard. Although the clear winner of the day, coming in first in 7 of 11 states and earning 513 delegates, Senator Hillary Clinton did not establish as massive a lead over her only viable rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, the way the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue came to dominate his rivals: she won not quite twice as many states (one of which, Massachusetts, she won by 1% of the vote and 1 delegate), and only half again as many delegates (he came in first in 4 states - three of which, crucially, were outside of the Sanders "heartland" around Vermont, and won 343 delegates).

 The usual precedent is that the winner of Super Tuesday goes on to win his or her party's nomination, so at this point Senator Clinton is still strongly favoured. Of course, this has hardly been an electoral cycle that has followed precedent. The big question will be whether the support for Senator Sanders can continue to grow such that it eclipses Senator Clinton's in key regions. (If it does, then maybe California finally gets to be relevant in a primary.)



The Final Word

The vicious, race-baiting, hate-mongering Southern Strategy, implemented by the Nixon Republicans so long ago, is finally bearing its grotesque, rotten fruit, and the result is that what was once the party of Lincoln is quite possibly on the verge of imploding, particularly if the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue fails to secure the nomination (particularly if YLD wins enough delegates to win the nomination, and is denied it due to party intervention).

 As for the Democrats, they appear to be in a much more comfortable situation: even if he loses, Senator Sanders can swing Senator Clinton towards the party's left wing. Despite the misgivings of many, Senator Clinton did try to implement a universal health care system back in the day, so she's hardly hostile to the progressive agenda. Further, should the Yuuuge Lying Demagogue win the Republican nomination after all, he could very well cause the Republicans to take heavy losses down-ticket, which could reduce (or even cost them) their majority in one of the Congressional bodies.

 The risk, of course, is that a combination of Republican propaganda and depressed turnout from likely Democratic voters will ensure the Republicans keep control of Congress while securing the White House. Given the recent vacancy on the Supreme Court, and the possibility of more vacancies over the next 4 to 8 years, the stakes are high: Democratic voters need to get out and vote come November. (Republican voters certainly will - the question the Republican Party has to consider, especially in the event of a Yuuuge Lying Demagogue third-party ticket, is whether they will be voting for the Republican Party.)



Notes

[1] Such is the extent of contempt I feel for "The Donald" that a mocking (but accurate) moniker is about the only way I will refer to him, except in meta-level remarks such as this footnote. Maybe if I were writing an academic paper... Go back

[2] Whatever my sentiments regarding Dr Carson, he earned that "Dr" back in the day, and as a surgeon saved people's lives (which demands some respect); as such, Dr Carson it is. Go back

[3] Of course, that would have depended on the individual candidates cooperating, something that may well not have happened. Go back

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