In Praise of Brokering

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CNN's account of the West Virginia convention praises the triumph of raw politics

Romney's campaign was furious over the "Washington backroom deal."

"Unfortunately, this is what Sen. McCain's inside Washington ways look like: He cut a backroom deal with the tax-and-spend candidate he thought could best stop Gov. Romney's campaign of conservative change," read a statement from Romney campaign manager Beth Myers.

Front-runners McCain and Romney have engaged in bitter exchanges over their conservative records in recent weeks.

"This is raw politics as it's really practiced," CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said. "The McCain supporters who were third in the first round decided to throw their weight behind Mike Huckabee in order to stop Mitt Romney from winning this convention. And look at that—they did."

Schneider gives too little credit to the Armies of Ron Paul, as the combined McCain-Huck vote was only 49 percent: Paul supporters sealed the deal. But the whole experience reveals how much more fair these second-choice contests are then the primaries most Republicans and Democrats will be voting in today. If you're a Ron Paul backer in Connecticut, and your absolute last choice for the nom is John McCain, tough luck: McCain will win every delegate even if he gets less than 50 percent of the vote. If you're a McCain hater in Missouri and you can't decide between Huck or Mitt, you're helping McCain secure a plurality win in a take-all contest. We'd have a far fairer, better sense of what voters wanted if everyone piled into caucuses/conventions… or, better, if they could mark the ballots with their 1st and 2nd choices. (That would clean up a lot of the wasted Fred/Edwards/Rudy absentee votes we'll see today.)

NEXT: On Super Tuesday, Silence Is Golden

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  1. WTF, Paul supporters handed McCain a primary!? That’s it, I’m never, ever, EVER, going to waste my time voting again. I f**king hate elections, dammit. While I’m at it, I’m going to roll off all the curse words I know: dammit, piss, shit, titties, fuck, ass(hole), bitch, twat, faggot.

  2. Uh… They handed it to Huckabee.

  3. No, they handed Huckabee a convention.

    More good news out of WV – apparently there was practically a fistfight between Romney supporters and McCain’s state chairman [Abernathy?] after the conclusion of the voting.

    CRIPPLE FIGHT

  4. Romney is the biggest loser candidate I’ve ever seen. He gets clobbered in every contest he hopes to win unless he has personal connections in said state (Michigan) or its a state where nobody else seriously contends (Wyoming, Nevada).

  5. According to LRC, the payoff for Paul’s support was 3 delegates. With only 10% of the voters, I’d say they cut a pretty good deal.

  6. I was initially appalled that only about 1100 people showed up to the caucus before I figured out it was a convention-type deal.

    One thing I can’t figure out is whether this is all of the WV Republican delegates or is there a later primary or caucus to select the rest.

    If it’s just a convention that semms a little undemocratic.

  7. Sorry, meant Huckabee. I honestly don’t see the difference between him and McCain.

  8. “Uh… They handed it to Huckabee.”

    But in doing so, aren’t they handing McCain the nomination? If Huckabe quit and it were a two way race between McCain and Romney, Romney has a chance. But as long as Huckabe is hanging in their Romney is screwed. That at least is what the Romney supporters are saying. National Review, who are all Romney shills, are accusing McCain of promising Huckabee the VP slot for staying in the race. It seems to me if you hate McCain, the last thing you would do is vote for Huckabe. I really don’t get it.

  9. Hey, every one was bitching about our caucuses just a month ago.

  10. This is the only place I’ve heard Paul winning any delegates. EVERY other story says Sucklebee scored them all. What gives?

  11. de stijl,

    18 selected today. 9 at later primary. 3 unattached superdelegates, althouth the GOP calls them something else.

  12. My son attends UC Berkeley and lives at one of the student co-op houses near campus. This past weekend, they held elections for house manager — online. The ballot was ranked-choice (although there were only two candidates), the voting process was easy, and confidentiality was built into the system — along with accountability. All voters were each given unique encoded ID keys, which nobody could trace back to any individual, but which the voters could use to verify that their votes had been collected and counted correctly, once the anonymized results — every vote — were posted for public scrutiny.

    It seems to me as if a system that were only a little more sophisticated than this could be used in elections such as we are participating in today, and would offer at least as much confidentiality, accuracy, speed in tabulation, and protection against tampering, as the systems we use today, especially if the source code for key software were available for inspection under open-source arrangements.

    I said this back in 2000, before HAVA and before I had ever seen a real system such as the one my son used this past weekend. We know what we want and need. We know that systems fitting the bill (or almost so, with only a little improvement necessary) are available and currently in use — so definitely within the capability of “professionals” in industry or government to produce. SO WHERE ARE THEY?

    The fact that my son can use ranked-choice voting in a sufficiently secure and accurate online voting procedure for co-op house manager today and yet we don’t have such a thing for our official elections after eight years of sturm-und-drang over — and millions of dollars thrown at — our supposed electoral system “crisis,” seems to indicate that people really aren’t serious about elections here.

    let’s fire the bozos and get people who are truly committed to making sure that everyone’s vote is securely, confidentially, accurately collected and counted. And if the bozos complain about being discharged, let’s remind them that, in previous eras, the alternative punishments included jail time or even tarring and feathering. I’m tired of the scams. Aren’t you?

  13. Cesar,

    You leave the Republican version of John Kerry alone. He is level headed and has the experience to manage this economy.

  14. Disgruntled Paul Supporter wrote, “While I’m at it, I’m going to roll off all the curse words I know …”

    That is such a small list. I was going to make a joke about your ignorance showing that you attended public school, but I realized that anyone who really did attend public school would certainly have a much larger swearing vocabulary. This is one area in which the public sector excels.

  15. Well, this is a fine how-do-you-do. What was the point in the Paul delegates giving Huckabee the contest? Since Romney seems to be the least offensive candidate (from a libertarian standpoint), I would say that the Paul delegates should have gone to Romney. Now I’m even more pissed off than I was before. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered voting today. I voted for Paul, since I detest all the other candidates.

  16. Economist,

    It sure seems to me that the Paulites are really voting for McCain. Huckabe can’t win. The only alternative to McCain is Romney. Every day Huckabe stays in the election, the more chance their is that McCain wins. I really don’t see the logic of supporting your worse enemy (Huckabe) to enable your second worst enemy (McCain) to win.

  17. economist,

    Huck offered 3 delegates. Im guessing Mitt offered a giant glass of get the fuck out of here. Although Im sure he said it nicer.

  18. Im guessing Mitt offered a giant glass of get the fuck out of here.

    Caffeine-free get the fuck out of here – he is a Mormon after all.

  19. I still don’t get the conservative disdain for McCain

    So he supported an immigration bill you didn’t like. Well, guess what? Because of that he’ll probably stop the Dems from sweeping the southwest. Hes gung-ho pro forever war, hes pro-life, he takes a hardline on spending. I just don’t get it.

  20. “economist,

    Huck offered 3 delegates. Im guessing Mitt offered a giant glass of get the fuck out of here. Although Im sure he said it nicer.”

    If that is true, he is a moron. He should have offered them some delegates and won the state. He needs everything he can get right now. A Huckabe win is really a McCain win.

  21. But the whole experience reveals how much more fair these second-choice contests are then the primaries most Republicans and Democrats will be voting in today.

    There are no winner-take-all Democratic primaries today.

    I don’t think there are any winner-take-all Democratic contests, period.

  22. “I still don’t get the conservative disdain for McCain

    So he supported an immigration bill you didn’t like. Well, guess what? Because of that he’ll probably stop the Dems from sweeping the southwest. Hes gung-ho pro forever war, hes pro-life, he takes a hardline on spending. I just don’t get it.”

    Neither do I. I understand why the Reasonites don’t like him. He is pro war and he apparently killed Matt Welch’s puppy when Welch was a child. But he is also reliably anti-torture, something that gets him no love from Reason even though it ought to. But the NRO Weekly Standard types hate of him really puzzles me. I think it comes down to the fact that McCain doesn’t kiss their ass like they want him to. He has a temper and has been mean to them and they don’t like him. WAAAA.

  23. You leave the Republican version of John Kerry alone. He is level headed and has the experience to manage this economy.

    So you’re telling me he should be Secretary of the Treasury or Chairman of the Federal Reserve? Somehow that would make more sense than he being President.

  24. But he is also reliably anti-torture

    Must…control…fists…of…death….

  25. Yeah Fluffy, apparently McCain killed your puppy to. It is funny. You read the Romney shills on NRO and you would think that McCain is a paid Al Quada agent who wants to make sure that every terrorist in the world gets a free trial at The Hague before being punished for anything. You read Hit and Run and you would think that he was for randomly cutting people’s balls off to make sure they don’t think about being a terrorist. It kind of makes me think that at least with regard to torture, McCain might have the right view.

  26. Disgruntled Paul Supporter,

    faggot is not a curse word, (unless you’re the huckster,) it is a god given sexual orientation.

  27. John –

    That’s only if torture’s one of those things that can be usefully analyzed using the doctrine of the mean.

    Silly me, I don’t think it can be.

    The right place to be is not “between the extremes” when the two extremes are “torture at will” and “don’t torture anyone”.

  28. Democrats outlawed winner-take-all primaries as part of those great McGovern reforms which made the party so strong from 1972 through 2006 🙂

  29. “The right place to be is not “between the extremes” when the two extremes are “torture at will” and “don’t torture anyone”.”

    It is my understanding that is McCain’s position. He has always been against torture.

  30. Cesar,

    Sure, he could be chairman of the Fed, right before we abolish the Fed…

  31. When drawing up a list of things that screwed the Democrats between 1972 and 2006, I’d probably put “lack of winner-take-all primaries” somewhere on Page 3.

  32. James Anderson Merritt,

    I’ve wondered if other people had thought of a system like this. It seemed like such an obvious idea that I assumed they had, but I’d never heard of it in practice before.

    It does make me wonder why we don’t have something better. When you have the ability for every individual to confirm his vote using his ID after the fact while preserving anonymity, it seems like a win for the individual voter. If the voter attendance lists were computerized as well, it would reduce fraud and prevent over-voting. Recounts would be nonexistent. And if the data were made public, anyone with a PC could verify that the individual votes match totals for precincts, counties, states, etc.

    I don’t know whether to chalk up the non-existence of this system to incompetence or willful resistance to something that will reduce cheating. As more people like your son use or hear about these systems, it’s going to be harder for politicians to avoid with a straight face, though.

  33. John,

    On McCain, the question implied by your sentence:

    But the NRO Weekly Standard types hate of him really puzzles me.

    Can be answered by the first clause in your previous sentence:

    But he is also reliably anti-torture,

  34. It is my understanding that is McCain’s position.

    Many people think that about McCain. I don’t think the final version of the Military Commissions Act, as amended by Senator McCain, supports that conclusion.

    I didn’t like McCain before that, but that really sealed it for me. I considered his actions during the passage of that bill to be a supreme betrayal, precisely because he’s the last man in the Senate I would expect to hand the executive branch immunity on past torture and wiggle room on future torture.

  35. But the NRO Weekly Standard types hate of him really puzzles me.

    Maybe that’s because Kristol endorsed him in 2000 and is shilling for him now. Confusing, I know.

  36. Quote: “I really don’t see the logic of supporting your worse enemy (Huckabe) to enable your second worst enemy (McCain) to win.”

    Au contraire. This was a brilliant move; a demonstration of a raw power from libertarians who have been in exile from the GOP for 35 years. It asserts in a loud, unequivocal voice, “We are back, and despite our small numbers, we will not be trifled with.” There are some very concerned people in Washington tonight. Quite good. Brokered convention, here we come.

  37. But…but…but…with McCain holding such a strong national lead, wouldn’t denying states to Romney make a brokered convention LESS likely?

  38. John:

    But in doing so, aren’t they handing McCain the nomination? If Huckabe quit and it were a two way race between McCain and Romney, Romney has a chance. But as long as Huckabe is hanging in their Romney is screwed. That at least is what the Romney supporters are saying.

    Whether Huckabee remaining in the race damages Romney or not is pretty questionable. This is especially as some polls have seemed to indicate that most Huckabee voters tend to pick McCain as their second choice (no citation, but I’ve read it several places, particularly in Florida – someone less lazy than me can find it if need be). I think a pretty decent case might be made that Huckabee staying in the race damages McCain more than Romney. Of course it doesn’t damage McCain much, since Romney is pretty weak all around.

    As far as Paul supporters go, I don’t know. There might be some that would say that Romney is the least objectionable other candidate, but I don’t think Paul’s support is all Libertarian (and maybe not even primarily so). In fact, I think Paul might have significant support among social conservatives because of some of the views he holds that a significant number of libertarians disagree with him on. (Some of these are his anti-globalization free trade ambivalence, his anti-immigration views, and his pro-life positions.) Possibly this is a reason a lot of his voters would definitely prefer Huckabee over McCain or especially Romney.

  39. Why do Reason & NRO types hate on McCain? Let’s see…

    McCain was the only Republican member of the infamous Keating Five.

    McCain/Feingold was an appalling attempt to protect incumbents at the expense of the 1st Amendment.

    McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts, opposed cutting the “death tax”, and has rarely shown any interest whatsoever in reigning in spending, regardless of what he’s saying on the campaign trail now.

    Tack on to that the fact that he’s a bit of a warmonger.

    He hasn’t killed my dog (yet), but I have no intention of voting for him, even if he does become the GOP candidate.

  40. Since when did NRO types dislike corrupt Republicans?

    Aren’t they running a jihad against the prosecutor who nailed Tom Delay?

  41. …but I realized that anyone who really did attend public school would certainly have a much larger swearing vocabulary. This is one area in which the public sector excels.

    OTOH, when I attended public high school the girls who had attended elementary and middle school in the Catholic system knew a lot more dirty jokes.

    Honest.

  42. You are assuming the wrong front runners.

  43. So it was the Ron Paul people who pushed Huckabee over the top? It would have been great if the Paul people would have split between Romney and Huckabee so that it was a tie, forcing a loop of revoting over and over and over ….. just to show how screwed up all this primary and caucus crap is.

  44. when I attended public high school the girls who had attended elementary and middle school in the Catholic system knew a lot more dirty jokes.

    Honest.

    J sub — I believe you. Repression has that effect. Kids don’t care much about sexual humor unless you give it meaning by forbidding the whole subject.

  45. But…but…but…with McCain holding such a strong national lead, wouldn’t denying states to Romney make a brokered convention LESS likely?

    Yeah, I was thinking that earlier, but I think it’s irrelevant. McCain wasn’t going to win WV anyway, so moving a few delegates between the 2nd and 3rd place guy doesn’t change McCain’s chances of getting over 50% of the delegates.

    And, those chances are extremely high so there is almost no chance at a brokered convention in the first place. Even if it did make it less likely, a little less than almost zero is still almost zero.

  46. joe,

    Sorry to interrupt your smugness trip, but the Dems’ superdelegate system, which blatantly favors party establishment figures, is just as un-“democratic” as the Repubs’ winner-take-all primaries. Look at Hillary’s slim lead over Obama in district-allocated delegates versus her giant lead among the supers.

  47. And to clarify something above:

    Weekly Standard loves McCain (so much that Bill Kristol would personally volunteer to have his half black baby) McCain traces the main faultline in the pschism between Weekly Standard and National Review.

  48. Note, though, that only a little over three hundred superdelegates out of 796 have declared for Hillary* or Obama so Obama has a good chance to catch up.

    *I wonder. Is Hillary going to be the first president who will be generally referred to by first name?

  49. Tara,

    Reason types and NRO types might both hate on McCain, but I doubt very much it’s for the same reasons. NRO and Reason’s view-overlap is not really that big. In the case of McCain, NRO’s biggest complaints are (in my opinion) his not-anti-immigration enough positions, his lack of sufficient support for torture. As you can see from Fluffy’s comments, if Reason types are opposed to McCain on torture, it is that he isn’t opposed enough to it. Also, most Reasonites (sorry, LoneWacko) view his old immigration stand as more reasonable than the new version.

    The NRO people tend to be very into War-on-Terror, national security, border fences, anti-immigration, law and order, and other such “National Greatness” right-wing Nationalism ideas. A common topic on NRO is the “National Question” which covers a lot of this. Reason-types tend to hold the opposite views on most of these issues, as the NRO view is generally one in favor of expansive government power. Also, NRO tends to be more socially conservative than does Reason, which again, tends to hold the opposite view on most or all issues important to social conservatives. The only overlap I’ve seen between the two markets in large part is on economics, which, though both populations tend to mostly agree on direction, shows a marked difference in the importance placed on these issues. NRO and Reason may agree on which direction the economy should go, but agree in neither how far it should go, nor how important the economy is.

    This is one of the reasons I tend to get confused when people view libertarians as essentially conservative. If you look at things in terms of the mythical three-legged “Reagan stool” of yore, libertarians usually only agree with conservatives on one of the three legs of the stool (the economic one). Further on the other two legs (the social behavior one and the national security-greatness one), the source of the friction isn’t that libertarians view the legs as unimportant, but that libertarians actually hold the opposite view from the standard conservative one. This doesn’t make a very good alliance in my opinion, and it doesn’t make a very good case that libertarians are just Republicans who don’t want to be called Republicans, either.

  50. “*I wonder. Is Hillary going to be the first president who will be generally referred to by first name?”

    Following in the tradition of Saddam Hussein. It always puzzled me that people referred to him by his first name, even when they were trying to portray him as The Great Evil.
    It seemed so incongruous to call him just “Saddam”.

  51. Is Hillary going to be the first president who will be generally referred to by first name?

    Possibly, but not HER first name — I think most of us would, once she starts rolling out her statist agenda, start referring to her using the first name of my old school chum “Fucking A!”.

  52. It gets better, by swinging the election to an also-ran in the first Super Tuesday state to close and announce results, they have possibly influenced voting throughout the rest of the country — where voting will continue for many hours. Voters in those states are now more likely to believe that a vote for Huckabee (or Paul) is not a wasted vote. Expect both Romney and McCains’ vote totals to decline as a result.

  53. I really really don’t get why some people here think Romney is the better “libetarian” choice over McCain?

  54. Further on the other two legs (the social behavior one and the national security-greatness one), the source of the friction isn’t that libertarians view the legs as unimportant, but that libertarians actually hold the opposite view from the standard conservative one.

    I think it is in general a mistake to characterize all libertarians that way on foreign policy, or else you’re kicking out a lot of libertarian-leaning voters. War is pretty unlibertarian at a basic level– but so is unquestioned support for the concept of national sovereignty, honestly. There is something fundamentally unlibertarian in the idea that it’s okay if people at being oppressed simply because they’re in or were born in another country. It is not necessarily unlibertarian to occasionally view defense spending, national security, intervention, or even war as a lesser evil in some cases. Particularly if one feels that the country was attacked first.

    Sure, you can have a nationalistic libertarianism that believes in “Libertarianism in One Country,” and is more unconcerned with outsiders (and thus, e.g., oppose immigration strenuously as well) but it doesn’t seem to me that such a policy is necessarily antiwar or isolationist either.

    Of course, libertarians were considerably more at home with that particular “leg” of the stool when it meant opposing communism in the Cold War. The end of the Cold War, more than anything, weakened fusionism and the stool.

  55. I wonder. Is Hillary going to be the first president who will be generally referred to by first name?

    Well, I wouldn’t call her “President Hillary”, but she definitely wouldn’t be the first president to be commonly referred to by something other than her last name. Remember Dubya, Ike, and Teddy?

  56. John Thacker,

    I think it is in general a mistake to characterize all libertarians that way on foreign policy, or else you’re kicking out a lot of libertarian-leaning voters. War is pretty unlibertarian at a basic level– but so is unquestioned support for the concept of national sovereignty, honestly.

    Fair enough, I suppose. However, my suspicion is still that more libertarians lean toward weakening government (war-making) power even in this case. (Or they at least lean toward weakening government power in the one nation where they have some impact.) Certainly in the other parts of that leg of these stool (law and order police power questions and immigration) more libertarians tend to oppose the power of the government and nationalistic views in general. You will certainly see some who call themselves libertarians (“Mainstream Libertarians!” – a joke for the regulars) who claim that the only important thing for libertarians in life or politics is the support of the US during wartime and the necessary associated expansion of government military and police powers. I doubt, however, that they are a very large faction in the total group of self-described libertarians.

    I’m not sure that the libertarian leaning voters we’d be talking about aren’t conservatives who just feel the economic leg is more important than the other two. There are plenty of these somewhat “libertarian-leaning” voters in the Republican party. They’d tend to agree with other conservative Republicans on almost every issue in that “stool”, but could find more common ground with libertarians than could some due to the fact that they place relatively little import or emphasis on the issues on which libertarians disagree with conservatives. These “business-oriented” conservatives are probably a large chunk of what people view as the cosmo-tarian wing of the libertarians, an irony since some of them might be better described as conservative than libertarian.

    I guess in the end, the question is: Does one need to merely have weak opposition to libertarians on most issues to be considered libertarian leaning, or should at least weak support be necessary?

    Of course, libertarians were considerably more at home with that particular “leg” of the stool when it meant opposing communism in the Cold War. The end of the Cold War, more than anything, weakened fusionism and the stool.

    True. Probably unnecessarily so, though, given the vast overestimation by our intelligence agencies of the power and threat of the Soviet Union.

  57. Sorry about the length of that.

  58. Well, I wouldn’t call her “President Hillary”,

    It’ll be too confusing to call her President Clinton, since we still call her husband President under our odious tradition in this country of continuing to call people by their titles even when they no longer hold the office.

    It’s too clunky to call her President Hillary Clinton.

    Prez Hill it is!

  59. I’ve always preferred a Heisman-style vote system with 3 points awarded for a 1st place vote, 2 for second, and 1 for third. Whoever gets the most points wins.

    For the Heisman trophy the winner isusually the guy with the most first-place votes. But in closely contested elections, with the ‘anyone but that jackass’ mentality so prevalent, it could make things quite interesting.

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