A Case Study of the Perils Facing Third-Party Candidates: Taiwan

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

In an important world event that far too few Americans knew or probably cared about, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was recently re-elected with 51.6% of the vote.

The election itself was quite interesting; there are several fascinating patterns that occur in Taiwanese politics. But this post will focus mainly on the travails of third-party candidate James Soong Chu-yu.

In America third-party candidates generally do terribly. Amazingly, there is not a single Congressman in the House of Representatives who is not a member of either the Democratic or Republican Party.

There is a very simple reason for this: American politics is based on a first-past-the-post system, rather than a proportional parliamentary system. Whoever gets the most votes wins.

This represents a tremendous hurdle to third-party candidates in the United States. Since the supporters of a third party would otherwise vote disproportionately for another major party candidate, third party candidates are constantly accused of “stealing” votes. A vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George W. Bush, or so the saying goes (and, as it turned out, a vote for Ralph Nader was indeed a vote for George W. Bush). This is why a third-party candidate has never won a presidential election in the history of the United States.

In Taiwan, whoever gets the most votes also becomes president. Third party candidate James Soong Chu-yu’s positions generally leaned towards the Kuomintang. He was unsurprisingly accused of siphoning votes away from the Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou. Soong thus faced the same hurdle that all third-party presidential candidates in the United States have failed to overcome.

So how did James Soong Chu-yu do? Well, in the earliest summer 2011 polls Soong generally pulled in low double-digits, sometimes breaking the 15% barrier but never falling below 10% of the electorate’s support. As the campaign season wore on, however, his support steadily leaked away. The polls document this drip, drip, drip of support fleeing him quite well. By October Soong was dipping into the single-digits. By November he was struggling to break into the double-digits at all. The last five polls on Wikipedia’s list gave him 7%, 5.8%, 7.2%, 6%, and 6.8% of the vote. Due to Taiwanese laws, polling then ceased during the ten days prior to the election.

On election day James Soong Chu-yu got 2.8% of the vote.

In other words, a candidate who started regularly polling above 15% ended up with less than a million actual votes. James Soong Chu-yu essentially turned into a non-entity; as the possibility of him splitting the Pan-Blue coalition vote came closer and closer to reality, his support plummeted.

All in all, this result is a fascinating application of an electoral principle being applied to a country outside the United States (or outside of the Western world for that matter). When electorates in the United States and Taiwan are presented with the same situation, they react in the exact same way. This reveals that the effect of a first-past-the-post system is quite universal: the system destroys third party candidacies. Whether the third-party candidate is Ralph Nader or James Soong Chu-yu, the result is the same.

 

 

Ron Paul Is Lying

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Libertarian Ron Paul is doing quite well in the 2012 Republican primaries; he has taken third place in Iowa and second place in New Hampshire. Perhaps the greatest controversy that Ron Paul has run into is a series of newsletters published under his name. These newsletters are written in a racist and hateful tone.

Ron Paul has defended himself by saying that he never wrote or even read the newsletters. Here is one fairly typical interview of this  defense.

In this interview, the media has tended to emphasize the fact that Ron Paul abruptly walked away from the interview, although it seemed to be ending anyways.

What is much more interesting is to watch the parts of the video in which Paul specifically denies having read or written any of the newsletters. Specifically, look at 7:20. At 7:20, Paul says:

You know what the answer is, I — I didn’t read — write them. I didn’t read them at the time. And I disavow them. That is the answer.

Look at Paul’s body language when he’s saying these words. It’s fascinating. He refuses to meet Gloria Borger’s eyes. Rather, Paul looks at the floor. This is in contrast to the rest of the interview, when Paul does confidently meet the reporter’s eyes.

Ron Paul is lying.

 

Looking at Romney’s Voting Coalition

The primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire have recently concluded, with Mitt Romney winning both. It’s quite probable now that Romney will be the person facing Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire have provided detailed exit polls of the Republican electorate. These paint a good picture of the coalition that Romney is assembling.

Of course, exit polls are notoriously unreliable. If exit polls were trustworthy, President John Kerry would just be completing his second term right now. Any exit poll thus ought to be taken with an enormous grain of salt.

Nevertheless, there are some patterns that are appearing pretty consistently in the exit polls of the Republican primaries. These are large enough to be of some note.

 

  • Romney’s support increases steadily as a voter’s age increases.
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  • Similarly, support for Romney increases steadily as income increases.
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  • Very conservative voters are not fans of Romney.
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  • Neither are born-again Christians. Which is not to say that their support is nonexistent; plenty of born-again Christians are still voting for Romney.
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  • Those with college degrees appear slightly more disposed to voting for Romney.
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  • Similarly, so are Catholics.
  • There is one final pattern which the exit polls don’t show, but which also appears consistently in the results: rural voters do not like Romney. He has done the worst in the rural parts of Iowa and New Hampshire. It will be of interest to note whether this pattern prevails in South Carolina.

    Not all of these patterns occurred in the last 2008 Republican primaries. During 2008, for instance, very conservative voters gradually became the strongest supporters of Romney. In fact, while there are great similarities between the voters Romney is winning now and those he won in 2004, there are also substantial differences. These are fascinating enough to be the subject of another, much more detailed, post.

    Nor should one expect all these patterns to hold throughout the primary season. This is particularly true with respect to religion. In 2008 Catholics were more likely than Protestants to vote for Romney in Iowa and New Hampshire. In later states such as California and Florida, however, Protestants were more favorable to Romney than Catholics (this was true even counting only white Catholics and white Protestants). Why this is so is somewhat of a mystery.

    There is one very important consideration which has not appeared yet: race. So far, the voters in the 2012 Republican primary have been overwhelmingly white. Asians and blacks do not vote in Republican primaries in numbers large enough to be counted by exit polls. Hispanics, however, do. In 2008 Romney won 14% of the Hispanic vote in Florida, compared to the 31% he took statewide; he failed to break single digits amongst Cubans. It will be very revealing to see whether Romney can do better than that this year.

    Implications for the General Election

    Romney appears to do best in the more traditional wing of the Republican Party. His support is concentrated amongst the wealthier, more urbane voters in the party – the part of the party that is commonly represented by the sophisticated businessman. This, I know, will come as a shock to everybody who has been following politics these past few years.

    During the general election, Romney will probably do well in places filled with people of the above description. These include areas such as suburban Philadelphia and the northern exurbs of Atlanta. He may struggle to raise much excitement amongst the rural evangelical crowd, the red-hot conservatives who in bygone days voted loyally Democratic. Unfortunately for the president, these voters probably loathe Obama more than any other segment of the electorate.

    Probably most useful for a political analyst is the fact that Romney’s support increases in proportion to a voter’s wealth, age, and closeness to a major urban center. These are things about Romney’s coalition which political analysts haven’t known about before (especially the facts about voter income and age).

    It will be interesting to see if Romney’s coalition remains the same throughout the next few primaries, or whether it changes. Indeed, Romney’s coalition is actually somewhat different from the one he assembled in the 2008 Republican primaries. The next few posts will compare the exit polls from those primaries and those from the current primaries.

    They will examine:

    Iowa

    --inoljt

     

    Why Barack Obama Will Lose the 2012 Presidential Debates

     

    By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

    The presidential debates are a storied tradition in America’s presidential elections. They tend to be more serious than the often superficial primary debates (which have escalated to a new low in this year’s Republican primary). The last presidential election featured Barack Obama debating John McCain. There were none of the game-changing fireworks that occurred in previous debates, and indeed the vice presidential debate caught more interest. Nevertheless, the general consensus was that Obama won. He did this not by landing a devastating blow on McCain, but merely by appearing more presidential and dignified.

    Obama will probably not win the 2012 presidential debates. There are several reasons why this will happen. These reasons are neither complex nor convoluted; they’re just restating some common-sense principles.

    Reason #1: The Republican candidates have much more practice debating than Obama does. Obama’s last debate occurred more than three years ago, during the fall of 2008. On the other hand, the Republican candidates have been debating for months now, often with one debate every week. That’s a lot of practice for the fall 2012 debates, and they’ve gotten pretty good. Much has been made about how Mitt Romney is now quite a skilled debater after the grueling schedule he’s just gone through. Newt Gingrich is no slouch either; his campaign revival is almost singlehandedly due to strong debate performances.

    Reason #2: Obama is not a great debater. This is something that tends to be forgotten, but Obama struggled repeatedly in his debates against Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s strong performances were responsible for her summer lead in 2007 against Obama, and they helped her win Ohio and Texas when her campaign desperately needed to. Many undecided voters watched Clinton and Obama debate before crucial primaries; Obama’s consistent weaker performances probably cost him a lot of strength with those voters.

    All this is not to say that Obama will actually lose the presidential election itself. John Kerry, after all, did much better than George W. Bush in 2004; he still lost. Walter Mondale’s strong debate performances against Ronald Reagan gave him absolutely no help. Debate winners do not necessarily become presidents.

    But mark this prediction for the calendar: Obama will lose the 2012 presidential debates.

     

     

    North Korea: A Very Rational Country

     

    By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

    It’s popular amongst the media to characterize North Korea as an irrational state run by a madman. North Korea continuously provokes the West, it is said, for no apparent reason. Proof that it’s an unpredictable, irrational actor that could do anything.

    There are in fact very few states in history that could actually can be said to have behaved irrationally. I can only think of one state in the twentieth century which fits the description above. That was Germany just before and during the Second World War.

    North Korea has in fact behaved quite rationally throughout the past few years. As a pariah state with only one ally, a very weak economy, and the enmity of the world’s superpower – the government of North Korea has to realize a way to protect itself. This is especially true given that said superpower has repeatedly used its military to strike down dictators such as Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi who have earned its hostility.

    Muammar Gaddafi is an extremely telling example. One unfortunate side-effect of the successful American intervention there is that the intervention has probably permanently ruined any possibility of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons. Just look at Muammar Gaddafi to see what happens when countries hostile to America give up their nuclear weapons. And in fact, North Korea has done just this. The rational, logical conclusion: the only sure deterrence is nuclear weapons, especially with Seoul and Tokyo as hostages located so conveniently close to North Korea.

    The death of Kim Jong-il also explains a lot of North Korea’s recent aggressiveness during the past couple of years. North Korea’s leaders knew that Kim Jong-il’s health was in dire straits after his stroke, and that he was probably going to die very soon. They were thus preparing hastily for his succession. The new leader needed a military accomplishment to add to his belt before entering power. Thus the artillery bombardment of a South Korean island, repeated nuclear tests, and the sinking of a South Korean ship. These were designed to be just enough for the new leader to boast about without actually getting North Korea in any danger of being seriously attacked.

    North Korea is not another Nazi Germany. It’s just a very weak, very poor country whose government is trying its best to survive against the might of the world’s superpower.

     

     

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