Tire swinger

Reading the comment rage on this article makes me smile. Michael Scherer’s career strategy is not a good one. But a piece of political vocabulary passed me by. 🙁

“What’s wrong, Mikey? The White House won’t provide you with a tire swing, like Uncle John did?”
donovong comments on Swampland

and

“DougJ, I think the simpler explanation is that Michael Scherer is a ‘Tire Swinger,’ and he’s still pissed that Obama rumbled his man McCain in the election.

“Look back at Scherer’s loveletters to McCain during the 2008 campaign season, and you’ll start to see a pattern of resentment against the “new guy” reformer that Obama was perceived as.”
cfaller comments on Balloon Juice

Does anyone know what this means? It probably has something to do with this:

In any case, it’s an amusing image, even if I don’t understand how it got from there to here.

Obama’s got game

If any of you are interested in understanding the political wherefore of the Obama strategy, here is an interesting reading list on political game theory:

Analysis of two-party systems usually start with the the median voter theorem. Basically it says that in a two party system with a single issue, both candidates will move toward the middle.

During the Clinton years, this was “refined” into triangulation. The idea is that the median voter theorem applies only to single issues. If your opponent takes an extreme position on a single issue, you (a Democratic) could move toward your opponent (to the right) away from the median voter on some issues (prison sentencing) to “triangulate” around the median voters and take the big middle. If you ever wonder why a liberal state like California has a harsh three-strikes law and Governors stopped pardoning death row inmates, now you know. It’s just ugly triangulative political calculus…and Willie Horton.

The weakness of this strategy was exploited to great effect by the Republican party with a strategy known as 50 percent plus one. The idea here is you don’t need worry about the big middle. If you can find enough wedge issues (abortion, gays, immigration) that have a minority position, but the minority will is sufficiently motivated to go vote on that issue, ignoring other issues. Then you can cobble together 50% of the vote share plus one vote you need to win the election. By using almost complete data warehouse (voter databases) and setting the agenda you can win elections.

As an election strategy, this lost to the 50 State Strategy which basically tries to level the debate in all areas and get even the median voter motivated enough to vote such that agenda setting strategies fail.

That’s fine, but the big take-home lesson from the Bush administration is that an election strategy is not a governing strategy.

So how do you win the political game when the other side has ceded the median voter is trying to agenda set you on wedge issues—the latter is perfect for the 24 hour news cycle?

I think the key is to realize that there are many opponents with different game payouts. The Republican Party wants to win elections; Rush Limbaugh wants to increase viewership. Those aren’t the same goals. The Republican Party’s 50+1 is a tenuous hold at best because if any small part of “the base” (like Limbaugh’s viewers) decides to break (or simply not vote), they’re going to lose badly. By empowering Rush, this increases his viewership and eggs him on to say more and more inflammatory things which the median voter doesn’t know people actually espouse. This is a big lose for the Republicans because they are forced to either alienate that part of the base (by distancing themselves from Rush) or alienate the entire America in the public forum (by apologizing to Rush for disagreeing with him). The 24 hour cycle eats it up because the death spiral is a “if it bleeds, it leads” news story.

First he wiped out Clinton’s Triangulation. Then he wiped out McCain’s “win the news cycle,” now he’s using Limbaugh to politically Balkanize the 50+1 strategy.

That’s game.

4 thoughts on “Tire swinger

  1. Tire Swinger… McCain had a party at his ranch and invited all the Press. They had a great time, and loved the party. Even swung on the tire swing at the ranch.

    Hence the name. 🙂

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