A first look at the 2012 US Presidential Political Field:First, a few notes. As you may recall, I am a socialist, not a Democrat or a Republican. I tend to vote Democrat as part of strategic voting, although my stances are far to the left of our Democratic Party here. I have no particular localty to the Democratic Party, and find their placidity and choice of framing of issues often reprehensible.
On this upcoming race, it's going to be interesting even if the conclusion is likely known (reelection of Obama); the Republican party began a process of self-reinvention in 2008, and this took many prominent figures off-guard; the Republicans shifted significantly towards right-libertarianism and have chosen some policy positions as central to their new identity that left most prominent Republicans either quiet about their past voting/policy records or suddenly caring about issues that were never relevant to them before. Central to the Republican thrust are:
- Repealing the most recent congressional health reform
- Blocking shifts in election/campaign finance laws on free speech grounds
- Large cuts to government size/programmes
- Enabling private alternatives to government programs like schools and social security
- Removing regulation of businesses
- Ending programmes that aim to shape customer behaviour or product availability
- Gas prices
- A "realpolitik" foreign policy that uses torture and american weight to directly benefit America's financial interests as well as its "friends"
Who's running? We know Obama's running (and Biden is running with him again). The Republicans have not all thrown their hat into the ring.
First, let's note the clowns. I don't expect any of these to win, and if they get the nomination they'll likely lead their party to a decisive loss:
- Jimmy McMillan - Founded the 「Rent is Too Damn High」 party in NYC, has occasionally run as a Republican and as a Democrat before, kind of crazy but has an awesome beard and moustache. Zero chance of being on the ticket.
- Sara Palin - Enormously divisive, quit her governorship of Alaska early in her term, very popular with a certain slice (suburbanites to country folk) of American voters, but very unpopular with the rest. Messy history, messy disposition, not educated enough to be qualified. She might be picked as someone's running partner.
- Roy Moore - Former Judge from Alabama who was removed from office for refusing to remove the ten commandments from a courthouse after being ordered to do so. Since then, has pushed a far-right christian and tax-protester stance in WND (a fringe news source).
- Ron Paul - In past years, his Right-Libertarian message was considered very fringe and distant from the Republican party. Even after the recent realignment, he's too far out-of-sync with the Republicans to have their support, and American politics has not changed enough to allow candidates without the full backing of a party to have a serious shot. Even a right-libertarian isn't socially conservative enough to be elected as a Republican.
- Rick Santorum - The most serious of the clowns, Santorum is a former Senator from PA whose politics are defined by social conservativism. Has an outspoken Christian-conservative identity, but of a sort that no longer represents enough of the United States to likely be electable. Sketchy grasp on reality (believes in intelligent design).
- Newt Gingrich - An ideas man and long-term politician, Gingrich is known for alternating between serious analysis and bombastic statements (depending on his audience). Intelligent and effective in political maneuvering. Has a long enough voting record that he's not well-tuned with the current Republican policy foci, and often out-of-tune intentionally (which may be a strength). Newt is a moderate Republican who won't appeal to the family-values crowd.
- Tim Pawlenty - A centrist politician, Pawlenty is not strongly aligned with his party on many issues and has made only the safest stances and criticisms of Obama. Pawlenty will probably have trouble firing up the Republican base (unless he picks a running mate that will do that for him), but if enough of his competitors fall because of excessive radicalism, he may be the last left standing and clinch the nomination. Might actually make a decent (if unexciting) president.
- Mitt Romney - A moderate social conservative, Romney may have done reasonably well in a race in the 90s, but he has two major handicaps: being Mormon, and not fitting the libertarian-lite realignment of his party; his voting record does not fit where the Republicans are now. So far he's doing well by not talking about his platform, and he looks and acts presidential.
- Jon Huntsman - A pro-business moderate, Huntsman has yet to articulate many policy stances (although those he has have fairly wide appeal and are technocratic in nature). He may be hampered by having worked for Obama as ambassador to China, as well as being Mormon.
- Michele Bachmann - A livelong lawyer and politician, Bachmann became heavily involved with the Tea Party movement from its beginnings, swinging far to the right to try to ride their wave. She has a loose relationship with the truth.
- Herman Cain - A social conservative, Cain is a gifted orator with a few nutty positions (like support for a return to the gold standard) and deep misunderstandings about our legal system. Substantially supports many Tea Party positions.
- Rudy Giuliani - A former mayor of NYC, Giuliani is riding primarily on his image as "America's Mayor" and experience reforming the city. Giuliani is a rare entity in American politics, a big-city conservative. He is socially moderate but financially conservative. He probably has too complex a past to be easily electable.
- Buddy Roemer - A centrist and former long-term politician (now involved in banking), Roemer has taken up campaign finance reform as his major issue. He has not defined himself well as a candidate, and has been out of politics for long enough that he's a dark horse.
P.S. If you're in Pittsburgh and are willing to host a Linux box that'll be used as part of a distributed network testbed (and ideally live near others who are likewise interested), please email me!