Friday, May 29, 2015

Not a clown, a WHO?

George Elmer Pataki has decided to run for the Republican presidential nomination, too (announcement video above). Most people reading that will be thinking, “WHO?!” and that’s only one of the many obstacles he faces.

George Pataki left office in 2006, and has been little heard from since. Not even Wikipedia has paid much attention: When I entered his last name, I expected it to come up with “Pataki, George” as a suggestion on the list of possibilities, but instead I got a long list that didn’t even mention him. Ouch. I tired a second time and “Pataki (New York Governor)” was one of the lower suggestions. More ouch.

George Pataki
The reality is, most people know nothing—not even the names—of most governors of other states (or, tragically for democracy, all too often the governors of their own state). But when a governor has been out of office for a decade, and little heard from since, words like obscure or longshot seem appropriate.

In addition to obscurity, his age could be a problem. On Inauguration Day, he’ll be 71 years, 211 days. The oldest US President, Ronald Reagan, was 69 years, 349 days when he was sworn in. For comparison, Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 87 days on Inauguration Day and Bernie Sanders will be 75 years, 135 days.

As I’ve often said, age of and by itself ought to be irrelevant, but we know it’s not. Among other things, the older the candidate, the harder it is to present oneself as a leader of change. On the other hand, it can also lend an aura of experience, even of authority or gravitas. Regardless, I think that age is probable the least of Pataki’s barriers.

Pataki is a small government conservative, but unlike all the clowns in the Republican Clown Bus, he actually means it. He wants to reduce the size of government, not use the power of government to micromanage people’s lives like all the Clowns want to do. This is a problem for a Republican candidate, where primary voters expect them all to be fire-and-brimstone culture warriors.

Pataki is usually called a “moderate” mostly because he’s not a culture warrior. At all. He’s pro-choice, he’s considered an environmentalist, and as Governor of New York he dislodged the stalled bill outlawing discrimination against gay people, and then signed it into law. None of those things wins any points with the Republican base.

IF Pataki won the Republican nomination, he’d stand a good chance in the general election precisely because he’s not a radical nutjob (or acting like one) like all the other announced Republican candidates are. In fact, of all the announced candidates, Pataki is the only one who could appeal to a broad base of independent and moderate voters, most of whom would—and should!—be scared shitless by the denizens of the Republican Clown Bus. Which is precisely why I don’t think he stands a chance. In fact, he’s got to be near the top of the betting list of candidates mostly likely to drop out first.

Still, politics is a game full of surprises, so you just never know. In the meantime, he’s sort of the grown-up chaperone on the Republican Clown Bus, and definitely not one of the clowns.

There’s still 1 year, 5 months, and 11 days until the US presidential election.

Photo of George Pataki By Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Update – related: “Who Is This George Pataki Guy And Where Does He Stand On Issues Like Same-Sex Marriage?”


rogerogreen said...

Maybe that's his base. The non-crazies. Though I never voted for him, and even we in New York thought he was boring. But if Bush can't get traction, and Christie's damaged goods...

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Maybe, but the base of the Republican Party—the people who always vote in primaries and attend caucuses—are religious culture warriors. The moderates, however we define that, among Republican and Republican-leaning voters tend not to participate in the selection process, which is why crackpots, zealots and extremists do so well in Republican primaries.

To be viable, he'd have to mobilise Republicans who don't normally participate in the selection process, and, as you suggested, he just doesn't have the excitement to make that very likely.