So Obama’s going to be President.  Which means that 2012 will be in large part a referndum on him.  If he fucks up badly, the Republicans will probably be able to win if they find someone decent; if he’s solid, they don’t really stand a chance.  

Right now, Obama has a serious amount of political capital. He also has really fat congressional majorities–depending on the outcome of a few outstanding races, probably the largest since the second half of Carter’s term. And, because of the decline of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, his working majority is probably a little stronger than Carter’s. George W. Bush was maybe in as strong a position from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2003. Clinton was never this strong. George H. W. Bush and Reagan had some moments like this, but not as many in reality as in the Legend of the Conservative 80s. (I could write a whole post on that, come to think of it.)

So can he hold his coalition together? The bad news comes from the Gallup Organization, which has been doing presidential-approval polls since FDR was in the White House. Of the twelve presidents in that time, eleven (including GWB) have left office with a lower approval rating than they entered with. The good news is that approval ratings are a pretty bad predictor of reelection performance. Bush won in 2004 with approval below 50% in several polls; Ford lost in 1976 with approval over 50%; Nixon had lackluster approval most of his first term and took home more than 60% of the vote in 1972.

The fact is that Obama won by seven points; given the way younger and older voters broke broke, and the fact that individuals tend to vote fairly consistently over the course of their lives, we would expect him to go into 2012 with about an eight- or nine-point natural lead. So the question is: can anybody make inroads into his coalition? Well, what is his coalition? I think it might make sense to break this down by race and religion:

Blacks: Pretty much everyone.
White Christians: Pro-choice women, union members and some other poor to middle-class voters concerned primarily with their own economic interests, environmentalists, Iraq War opponents, the LGBT community.
Others: Those who aren’t passionately right-wing about at least one issue (including things like taxes).

The problem for the Republican Party was summed up pretty well by Howard Dean three years ago: “It’s pretty much a white Christian party.” Now, they have some opportunities to solidify their standing with that group. If the Iraq War ends–or, more likely, fades away–that neutralizes one winning issue for Obama. If Obama falls short of his goals on energy independence and reducing carbon emissions, that creates an opening for a Republican who sounds like he cares about the issue. And if most Americans feel like their own economic situation is getting worse, a Republican who sounds sort of sensible can make inroads there as well. But, really, the Republicans are still very much hemmed in by their commitment to the culture wars. If they want to make any sort of inroads with young voters–a group that’s disproportionately black and Hispanic and generally contemptuous toward homophobia–they need to find some middle ground on a wide range of issues.

Part 3 will consider whether the Republicans have anybody that fits the bill, and also whether there are openings for third-party candidates.

I’m a big ol’ election junkie.  I’m not all that keen on following governments in office, because I’m sort of an extremist and it gets depresssing.  But elections are fun.  There’s sort of like sports, excet that the outcome matters and people (or at least the people here at Caecius) don’t look down on you for being a nut about them.

So right now is a hard time for me.  The Big Show has left town, and there are only four national elections let this year in the whole world.  Of these, only one is in a country whose politics I understand anything about.  So if I want to have even a rough idea of who to root for, I need to get down to some serious research.  There’s a bit of a thaw in the spring–three Latin American countries and another European one–but still, not much excitement until the European Parliament in June.  That’s a ways away.  

So I might as well start looking ahead to the future of American politics.  Let’s assume that, in 2012, Obama will be alive, well, and non-disgraced.  It’s possible he won’t be all these things, but it’s fairly unlikely, and there’s not much use trying to predict what will happen in that event.  

The next major electoral contest in the US is actually happening right now, and mostly behind closed doors–the race for RNC chair.  Normally, this sort of thing wouldn’t matter mcuh, but the Republican Party and the conservative movement are unusually leaderless at the moment.  This hasn’t really happened in a while.  During the 1950s and early 1960s, when the soncervative movement was just taking shape, Barry Goldwater held the informal leadership role.  But he wasn’t really credible after 1964, and so Nixon (previously known as a moderate) stepped into the role–not that he did much for conservatives in while in office, and not that they weren’t sort of pining for Reagan, who ascended in the mid-1970s.  After the Gipper retired, George H. W. Bush stepped in for a while, to be replaced by the Dole/Gingrich tag team.  But they introduced a real problem–they made Reagan-style libertarian conservatism look like a vehicle for heartless, hypocritical bastards.  So, around 1999, party elders lined up behind George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”  Which sort of got lost in the shuffle, leading to the very soul-searchy Republican primary season of last year–which ended inconclusively and led to a failure in November.  

So the options for RNC chair appear to be: Mitt Romney (maybe), Mike Huckabee (maybe), Newt Gingrich (maybe), Michael Steele, and some random no-name or another.  Gingrich probably won’t run unless there’s a groundswell of support for him, which … there won’t be.  So he’s a longshot.  Huckabee could get it, if the party decides they need to focus on social conservatism, and if he runs.  Both big ifs.  Ditto Romney, only replace “social” with “economic.”  So it probably won’t be a major national politician–for reasons I’ll get to in parts 2 and 3, there’s very little the Republicans can do right now except wait and hope Obama fucks up.  Of the remaining names that have been floated, the one that gets special mention is Michael Steele–former one-term lieutenant governor of Maryland who currently works with training young Republican candidates.  He’s black, which Republicans think will be enough to get black people to start voting Republican.  This seems to be not so much the case, if you look at actual elections involving actual black Republicans.  And he’s hardly an ideological visionary of any sort.  So … not a whole lot to worry about there.

So me and my BFF Jill are hosting a play party in a few months.

We’re not quite the best people in the world to be doing this.  Neither of us has ever been to a play party.  (We’re not really into the “BDSM community,” we’re young, play parties are not exactly common where I’m from, etc.)  Hell, I’ve only ever really done very light BDSM.  We have almost no equipment.  And, well, Caecius College is a pretty sexually repressed place, where people don’t openly talk about BDSM.  Like, our invite list is mostly people we’re guessing are kinky based on other personality traits.  

So why am I (are we) so dead-set on doing this?  Besides just wanting to have some fun, there’s the whole we’re-badasses-who-totally-pulled-this-off factor.  For me, though, it’s just as much about striking back at this place.  Caecius has an über-radical reputation that possibly no school could live up to.  In the few years I’ve been here, and (I think especially) in the couple years immediately before I was here, there’s been a striking backlash against its radical past–a backlash that virtually nobody will admit to being a part of.  Compare the alcohol policy, the availability and vitality of student-run space, the political and sexual attitudes of students, the general willingness to question authority, or whatever else you want to–this place has moved dramatically away from what it was.  

And yet, in theory and in certain trappings, Caecius is as liberal as it ever was, and in many ways still pretends to be the school it was 5 or 10 years ago.  Last week, our president sent an email not just to all employees and students, but also to students’ parents, to talk about how great Obama’s election was.  Tour guides still talk about the Big All-Campus Drag Party that hasn’t happened for the last six years (and sometimes about the campus-wide orgies that used to go on a decade or two ago), the student demonstrations in support of crisis counseling from about a decade back, and so forth.  This creates a pretty bizarre environment, where we constantly hear about what a liberal environment we’re in, while being warned that, due to (nonexistent or unavoidable) legal-liability issues or “discomfort” or “concern” that’s nobody will admit to being the source of, we can’t do any of those fun things anymore.  

So yeah.  Sexuality is complicated and sometimes people get hurt.  And that goes double for BDSM and double again for anything thta takes place in a public, group setting.  Of course, we’ll do what we can to minimize that risk.  But, more to the point, there’s something hurtful–somethin repressive–about spending 3+ years here and finding ourselves clueless about basic aspects of the sexuality of friends, people we’ve seen on a daily basis 8 months a year since we were 18.  And, betrayed as I sometimes feel by this school, I think there’s something cool about Caecius, something I want to keep going in however limited a way.  I spent most of last year trying to actually change administrative policy here, and haven’t come up with much for it but some nice resume items and a lot of enemies.  But I can at least do this.

Hey guys.  Welcome to the blog.  We’re going to try to keep things pseudonymous around here.

Since my interests are all over the place, I’m not going to try to give this thing a very tight theme.  I’ll probably post a lot about politics, philosophy, sexuality, and the creative process.  The only things that definitely aren’t going to appear here are purely autobiographical how-was-my-week entries, scholarly works, and any sort of heavy formal experimentation.  Enjoy!