About two years ago, Lori Gottlieb wrote a New York Times Bestseller that seemed to describe the entangled process that the Republican Party acts out every four years to arrive at its nominee for President of the United States. Her book, entitled “Marry Him; The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” opens with a scene at the entrance of The Husband Store with a sign that reads, “You may visit the Husband Store ONLY ONCE. There are six floors, and the value of the products increase on each successive floor. The shopper can choose any item from a particular floor, or go up to shop on the next floor, but she cannot go back down except to exit the building.”
The first floor is labeled, “Men who have good jobs.” The second floor reads, “Men who have good jobs and love kids.” The attractiveness increases through the fifth floor with, “Men who have good jobs, love kids, are extremely handsome, help equally with the housework, and have a great sense of humor.”
The sixth floor reads, “You are visitor 42,213,602 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor only exists to prove that women are impossible to please.”
The metaphor works well, especially since there are nearly 42,213,602 members of the Republican Party.
This campaign season promises to be the most negative in history. This is because, in every traditional metric, the Obama Administration has nothing positive to boast. With an embarrassing résumé of persistent unemployment, crisis-level gas prices, unfathomable debt, scandal cover-ups and international disrespect, Barack Obama hopes to keep his job by launching an all-out attack on challenger Mitt Romney.
The Democratic Party tailor-designed a class warfare strategy for Mitt Romney well over a year ago. And, it certainly has been a consistent message. But a Democratic negative campaign aimed at a GOP defeat is no match for the Republican Party’s ability to fickle itself into a loss.
Unlike many other countries, the United States enjoys a two-major-party election system; Democrats versus Republicans. Canada has three major parties. England also has three, Russia has four, and Israel has six (Oy vey). The advantage of America’s dyadic selection is that it avoids a popular vote split. That is the case where the two most popular candidates divide, say 60% of the vote, where both lose to the third most popular candidate who receives just 40%.
This works fine in the General Election, which is all about party control. But the primary election brings all of the algebraic challenges of having multiple candidates. And for Republicans, much more than Democrats, choosing the nominee during primary season is all about ideology.
Let’s imagine the political spectrum as a one-dimensional, left/right sliding scale. Now suppose the exact middle is labeled “zero” and would be the ideal descriptor for a moderate politician. Then consider the furthest right point to be a positive number 2 and the furthest left point to be a negative number 2. That would land Adolph Hitler at negative (-) 1.999 and Ron Paul at positive (+) 1.875.
It is the tendency of the members of the Democratic Party to quickly agree on the most popular candidate to represent their firebrand. So long as he/she is to the left of zero, the rank and file dutifully fall in line; Republicans - not so much.
To the conservative American purist, the ideal position on the political scale would be the Golden Ratio of +1.618. Every viable Republican candidate will be to the right (positive number) of zero and most will live within the neighborhood of +1.618. However, if we were to measure every citizen member of the Republican Party, the average voter would fall somewhere around +1.350. This reality works against selecting the next Ronald Reagan, who came in at precisely +1.603 (Yes, I am making up all these numbers).
The conservative guardians of American tradition have a tolerance threshold. If the Republican nominee positions himself to the left of +1.300, party members will lose enthusiasm. And if the figurehead moves to the left of +1.200, the party will begin to lose membership in response to the sense that basic principles are betrayed.
When campaigning for Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney marketed himself to the left of zero. That was likely necessary to win in a New England state and anyone with access to YouTube can see the evidence. So, while his presidential campaign has branded him much further to the right, Romney’s metric is barely within the acceptable range of GOP membership. He has matured since his wild youth as a New England governor and seems ready to settle down.
So there is Mitt Romney, down on one knee and holding open a velvet ring box with a +1.250 carat diamond. Anyone who has read my writings for any length of time will realize that I didn’t find Mitt Romney to be Mr. Right. But our clock is ticking and the choices are to either marry Mr. Good Enough or continue living with that irresponsible Barack Obama who has depleted our bank account, mortgaged our children’s future, and left the Oval Office smelling of cigarette butts.
I think that it’s time to do what any respectable girl would do in this situation. I say that we appreciate all the fine qualities that the averaged Republican electorate saw in Mitt Romney and accept his proposal -- Then set out to change him. Four years from now, we had better be one happy wife.
And for the future, let’s figure out how to attract that brilliant and responsible suitor who loves all kids, knows how to motivate others, and won’t retreat from big dreams.