A few thoughts about politics

A quick disclaimer: I am a resident of Arizona’s 4th Congressional district, which is comprised of just about every democratic neighborhood in Phoenix, so that three other majority Republican districts could be formed from the suburbs. Congressman Ed Pastor is effectively unopposed here, and Obama will likely carry this precinct by double digits.

But, while Pastor goes back to Congress (where he is among the most liberal) Mitt Romney will still carry Arizona by a good seven points. Mormons vote reliably. Hispanics do not. There are not enough non-Hispanic Democrats left in this state to make up the difference.

Richard Carmona has an outside chance of upsetting Jeff Flake for Senate. Good for him. And I keep hope alive that some reasonably competent individual will step up and oust Joe Arpaio as sheriff. The trouble is that while it’s easy to find better police administrators than Arpaio (you would actually struggle to find worse at this budget level), few of those guys are good politicians. And while I have always believed that Nickel-bag Joe is a menace as sheriff, there is no denying that he is a competent politician.

So I am voting out of a sense of civic duty more than any real hope of affecting the outcome.

I am a recovering liberal in that I am a reflexive liberal trying to become more moderate. (In AZ – moderate is still liberal. Not kidding.) I’m going to vote for President Obama because I think he did the best he could with a bad situation.

“It could have been worse” is not a resounding re-election slogan, but there we are.

You’ll have to trust me that this is not a partisan position: if you are moderate, you really have no alternative but the Democrats. This is not because the Dem’s have moderated their views to any substantial degree, but because the Republicans have allowed the Tea Party and the evangelicals to drag them so far to the right that they only speak to their own base now.

Jeff Flake’s ads decry that Carmona supports Obamacare as if this were akin to supporting puppy murder. No follow-up reasoning. Obamacare = bad – that’s all you need to know.

Of course he supports Obamacare. He’s a Democrat (despite the fact that he was W’s Surgeon General). That’s what they do. Why should this bother me? Flake can’t be bothered to explain that. I’m not part of his base.

This is why Carmona is in the hunt when he really should be ten points down.

This is also why Mitt Romney can’t pull ahead of a mediocre President sitting on 8.3% unemployment – his party has dragged him so far from center he can’t find his way back.

Mitt Romney used to be centrist. It’s true. He was the governor of the People’s Republic of Massachusetts – as a Republican. I remember in early 2007 watching him talk on C-span about how he was able to work with Democrats to solve problems. This was early in the GOP primaries, before some campaign pollster convinced him he could not win unless he prostrated himself to the evangelicals. So he did, competing for that vote with 6 other candidates. Meanwhile, after Gulianni collapsed, McCain was able to run off with all the business Republicans, who were still a deciding force back then, and win the nomination.

When McCain lost the general election, the GOP’s response was to purge itself of all of the moderates. Their reasoning for this escapes me. But they won some seats in 2010 – and so they doubled down on this approach.

If Romney had been able to run as a centrist leaning, problem-solving business Republican,  he’s be five points up. He could distance himself from the abortion freaks, he could talk about correcting Obamacare instead of just repealing it, he could talk about global warming as if it were a real problem, he could be making the argument that budget deficits are not the end of the world, if the money goes to create jobs, he could say all kinds of things that moderates like me would at least listen to.

These were more-or-less his positions when he governed Massachusetts. But the GOP has gone so far to the right since then that he can’t even run on his own record without alienating his base.

And here’s the real trouble: the hard-right GOP base is a dwindling resource. They are old and white in a  country that is growing younger and browner. This may be the last presidential election with a caucasion majority. (So much for their dreams of repealing the 14th amendment. Seriously – they talk about this like it’s a real plan.)

More importantly, he can’t rely on his own instincts. His instincts are to move the line and get to a deal. The Tea Party sees political activity the opposite way. Romney has been pretending to be someone he’s really not, and this may be the source of all these unforced errors. But even without these errors – he can’t win. Presidential elections are decided in the middle. He can’t get there from where he’s had to go.