[Subtitled: The Poly Sci Paper I never handed in]

America tends to be a center-right country. The latest Gallup out today puts it at 48% conservative, 32% moderate, and 20% liberal; four years ago it was 42-37-21%. But in what ways? I think it holds true in three key ways: fiscally conservative, socially centered (yet with a libertarian streak), and security centered (but with a strong presence on the right).

I decided to explore this more and ask the question of what this would look like graphically – thus the chart below. With it I tried to gauge and measure the tenor of each of the last five presidencies according to these three areas, and how they played out in their administrations (or campaigns).

I made one assumption that I believe can be valid. I assumed that the range of conservative to liberal on the social issues scale could be mirrored by the same spectrum on security issues. By and large, most people are not rabid security supporters while advocating anarchic social positions, and vice versa (I know, there are always exceptions). While there can be some stretching, it’s not a super elastic one.

Without any further adieu, I bring you the Eddio Edition of Political Mapping:
Presidential map governing

You might have noticed the golden oval shape in the middle of the chart. That is what I call the “Golden Egg”. The Golden Egg is the sweet spot where most of America resides politically. It encompasses the conservative preference on fiscal/economic issues, illustrates the strong security preference, and includes a centrist identifier of social issues. This “Golden Egg” is the center-right area where a candidate wants to campaign, and a president should govern from—that is, if he wants to benefit the majority of the country and not make his name a pejorative term for future generations.

I also divided up these three spectrums into quadrants. These quads help identify the range of each president in these three major categories. The quadrants are the key. For instance, a hard-left candidate campaigning in quad 1 will garner at best 25% of the vote; whereas a hard-right campaigning in quad 4 can reach potentially 40% of the vote, based on the arcs of the population in that area. But both will lose by a substantial margin. So the question is – how can a candidate campaign towards the center that will attract more than a fringe element but still remain in/near the Golden Egg?

Marking their territories
My crack, highly scientific research team (uh…that would be me) placed the last few presidents according to a summary of their work in these areas. Fascinating observations if you play it with it. Check this out…

Carter, definitely a quad 1 president, became a stark contrast to Reagan, a quad 4 candidate. It was easy to spell out the distinctions of each position, and as a result, Reagan pounded Carter in the 1980 election because most people thought Carter’s policies (as well as the man himself) were a joke, and did not represent them. Centrist Dems who resided in quads 2 & 3 would have joined Reagan because he appeared closer to them than Carter’s more leftist slant—thus the Reagan Democrats.

Clinton became a quad 2 president after spending his first 2 years being in quad 1, then getting royally spanked in the ’94 elections that gave the Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. As a result of that center-right tack he thrived, beating Bob Dole in ’96 handily. He did it by steering back into the center, which involved going right on the economy and being more central (not right, but not left either) with the other social & security issues.

The reason why GWB had such low numbers was because he drifted far from the ranch of true Republicanism. It became all about big gov’t with conservative social parameters by the second term. That combination was not what most R’s, nor most of America, wanted. So he tanked in the polls after ’04, and never really recovered.

Obama campaigned as a fresh start from GWB that would not be too far from where most of America resided. He looked like he was just on the liberal end of the Golden Egg—like a liberal Reagan. Many independents agreed, and voted for him. It explains why so many Indies considered him a breath of fresh air compared to GWB in 2008. He gave enough of a contrast, yet maintained a central connection to the American people, so they took the bait and pulled the lever for him. Biden, supposedly strong in the security area, beefed up that image.

McCain, a quad 3 candidate, was too close to GWB, and people did not like that. Bad timing on being a McCain, who tended to position himself strongly on security and socially conservative, but economically was center-left. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it seemed too close to GWB, who was very strong on security/social issues, but very liberal fiscally. McCain, for all of his best efforts fueled by No-Dose, couldn’t differentiate himself far enough from GWB for people to get excited about him. McCain looked like more of GWB, and people wanted a more clear change.

But when Palin, definitely a quad 4 governor, came along and became McCain’s side-kick, it awoke that quadrant and got them jazzed. People were excited about voting, and he even surged ahead briefly in late August before the financial collapse came along in Sept. It also shows how divergent they were, and that it would have been a tumultuous relationship, even if they had won the day.

But since winning the election, Obama has governed from the Kingdom of Far, Far Away. And here’s the multiplier effect boomeranging back on him. Since the country is center-right, his governing record being hard-left is further away than a candidate who may be hard-right. A true conservative could connect with voters much more easily and quickly compared to Obama’s governing position because he/she is coming from a position naturally closer to the American people, even if it may look extreme to some like the national press.

This is what the media and elites cannot grasp (thus my remedial PowerPoint slide). The country is reacting to the hard-left governance of Obama with an open door towards hard-right candidates that will put a check to the hard-left. Hence the resurgence of the conservative moment and the Tea Parties.

This also explains how it’s possible for Obama to become worse than Carter. Carter was inept, to be sure; but in a sad kind of way, that ineptitude kept him from making the situation even worse than it already was. Obama, however, is more capable of greater destruction if left unchecked. His policies so far have a much greater capacity to wreck the economic and social structures of the country. He shows no sign of conciliation, instead choosing to label the American people as scared stupid, bitter clingers, and other derogatory terms and phrases that insult rather than inspire. I believe that he will not be able to veer back to center, unlike Clinton, because he is more vested in his distortion of the American future.

What would it have looked like for the Obawan to be centrist? OK, the stimulus would probably have gone through. But not the auto bailout, bank bailout—and certainly not Obamacare. What that showed is that either Obama was a massive weakling and unable to command the agenda, or he sincerely agreed with it and wanted it to go on. Either way, his governance shows a massive shift to the left, moving him further away from the mainstream American public.

This chart also shows how we can compare GWB to Obama economically. Many complain that there were eight years of bad fiscal policy, with a good bit of agreement from me, based on the chart. But Obama has not only driven that car further along in the same direction—he weaved into the passing lane, cut off Mario Andretti, and gunned it over 700 billion buses like some Evel Knievel Snake River stunt. The country didn’t like it when GWB did it, so they’re not too happy now that Obama has done it even more.

Reality check time: This does not mean the country has become decidedly hard-right all of a sudden. We’re not going to get prayer back in school, the pledge every morning, and Sundays off for church like the “good ol’ days”. Beware, Republicans, that the biggest area to pull off the right-swing of voters is going to be economically, not socially. Even security is a sensitive area due to the nature and condition of the Afghan war. Were it not in motion and going badly, I think you could swing right more—but not at this moment.

This means the more the R’s push the economic and fiscal direction to the right, the country is going to enjoy and support it. But if it gets stuck in a culture war over hot-button social issues, it is likely to lose momentum and even regress, because too many people take up the opposite side of the issue.

I’m now going to post this on Real Clear Politics, or hand it into my Poly Science professor…twenty five years late. Move over Jay Cost!