Political Diatribes

Another conservative take on the world around us

Operation Chaos, and Flummoxing the Left

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on November 15, 2008

Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on March 25, 2008.

In case you haven’t been paying attention to Rush Limbaugh and “Operation Chaos,” you are missing an amusing wrinkle in this year’s election cycle as it pertains to the Democratic nomination process. For the uninitiated, “Operation Chaos” can simply be described as this (keeping in mind that this dates back a few weeks, leading up to the Ohio and Texas Primaries): Once the Republican nominee is all but officially nominated, Republicans have an interest in seeing the Democratic process awash in uncertainty and controversy. The best way for this to happen is to keep it a viable (or seemingly viable) two-person race as long as possible. The longer the race is in play, whether real or perceived, the more carnage left in the wake of each candidates’ path, and the weaker either will be for the general election.

Now, with or without Republican cross-over votes, it certainly appears like this race will not be settled until the convention. But in typical grandiose style which has once again grated the mainstream media, Rush openly and publicly called for Republicans to engage in what once would have been an unthinkable proposition: cross over (or change parties if necessary) and vote for Hillary. There are no illusions of actual support for Hillary. This is simply an attempt to prop up the trailing candidate in order to extend the Democratic nomination process. The evidence as to whether or not this had any discernible impact is not clear. Depending on the analyst you listen to, it either mattered or it didn’t. But one thing is perfectly clear, and much more important than the actual statistical conclusions: a lot of people on the left are going bonkers.

To be sure, there are anecdotes of Republicans who have acted upon Rush’s call for action, and have temporarily switched their political allegiance. There is anecdotal evidence of Republicans who have done exactly what Rush has suggested to do without even getting the idea from Rush. How many of these people are crossing over because they feel Hillary is more qualified than Obama? How many are doing so because, believe it or not, they believe she is the lesser of two evils? How many are switching because they would rather have a divisive Clinton on Capitol Hill, as opposed to a seemingly more unitive Obama, under the theory that less would get done under Clinton than Obama, and that is a good thing? And then the real question is, how many are simply implementing “Operation Chaos” strategery?

And in the end, why does the reason actually matter?

I see the arguments explaining why voting for purely strategic purposes is a bad thing (“un-American” even), but this is hypocrisy and lip service. I don’t see anyone in the major parties complaining when nearly everyone who votes in the general election casts their vote for one of the two major party’s candidates, when many of these same people would tell you that they’d actually prefer the Green Party, Libertarian Party, Reform Party, Constitution Party, or some other Independent or third party candidate. When a supporter of a third party candidate votes for the Democrat or Republican, they are not so much voting for someone as they are voting against someone else. They are compromising principle for a dose of reality, and realizing that a vote on principle may indirectly help elect someone whom they disagree with in many major ways rather than fewer and more benign ways. Should the Thought Police be called in to investigate? After all, this person should have voted for whom they really wanted to win, right?

Clearly, all voting is strategic. It is the very basis for its existence. You want the government to look a certain way, and by voting, you incorporate a strategy to achieve that end. The fact that directly voting for your favorite candidate is the most forthright strategy the vast majority of the time in no way invalidates other strategic maneuvers. The ultimate goal is to get your government looking and acting in a certain way. It is not the Republicans’ fault that the Democratic Party has put a process in place that falls into the welcoming hands of an “Operation Chaos” strategy.

Besides… this goes both ways. While there may not have been Limbaughesque calls for Democratic cross-over voting earlier on in the Republican primaries, it still happened and it was a strategy implemented, for example, by some liberal mouthpieces in the Michigan Primary. On a less structured, but nonetheless a publicly perpetuated thought process, there are many people who voted for John McCain in the Primaries who have no intention of voting for him in the general election. Their reason is that, should the Democratic candidate lose in November, they could most accept a McCain Presidency over the other Republican candidates. Likewise, the New York Times endorsed John McCain, only to cut him off at the knees as soon as he locked up the Republican nomination (in a story that had so little journalistic integrity that the National Enquirer would have been embarrassed to run with it). While the motive may not have been to “draw out the nomination process,” what is the real ethical difference between that and “Operation Chaos?” Ultimately, there is little difference between the two, other than one is blatantly laid out for what it is and for all to see, and one is not. In many ways, the latter is worse. Republicans are basically admitting what they are doing, and most know that the real impact on the final outcome from a mathematical standpoint is nominal at best. Democrats who crossed over simply felt like it was their obligation to ensure that all candidates in the race met their level of expectation. And as it turned out in this campaign, because the conservative vote was split a few different ways, this cross-over voting had infinitely more impact on the eventual Republican nominee than “Operation Chaos” should have on the Democratic nominee.

I say should because, predictably, the very people complaining about the undue and unfair power of Rush Limbaugh are the geniuses who have provided it. Had the liberal elite simply not given “Operation Chaos” the time of day, it would not be the cause of any great political upheaval. But they can’t help themselves. One day it’s a rant on MSNBC about how all of this is potentially illegal in Ohio (because you must pledge allegiance to the principles of the Democratic Party if you switch parties – where are those Thought Police again?), one day it’s a report looking into the impact it had in Texas, then we start to see panic within the campaign camps themselves – which in turn encourages the devolution of both campaigns into “the politics of dirty tricks” – which all leads to face time for Rush on the evening news, lending even more publicity to the strategy. Ironically, but not coincidentally, this then encourages even more people to take part in the mission.

The real genius in “Operation Chaos” is not that Rush Limbaugh had an idea that nobody else had. It is not that the mission has led to any huge swing in delegates towards Hillary Clinton. In fact, it’s likely that the real impact has been close to zero. The genius in it is that Limbaugh knew full well that the power given to “Operation Chaos” would be in the publicity it would be given by the very people most vehemently condemning it.

As for the Ohio situation, what does it even mean to “pledge allegiance to the principles of the Democratic Party?” I am quite certain that I could find a good deal of “principles” that I would agree with, while differing greatly on the policy approaches to incorporate those principles. I would offer anyone even remotely worried about this to ask a Democrat whether or not the following would be considered Democratic principles: (1) equality; (2) love of neighbor; (3) freedom; (4) love of country; and I’m sure you can come up with other vague things. Now, the liberal and conservative may draw different inferences as to how to apply those principles, but any Democrat worth a lick would at least pretend that those are Democratic Principles. If you can determine a handful of these nice platitudes and get Democrats to agree that they are principles of the Party, then congratulations – you can honestly say that you agree with the principles of the Democratic Party. You may also honestly be able to say that the policies are idiotic without abandoning those Democratic principles.

If you don’t like the process, then it is up to the states and the party to change the format. States should reconsider whether or not they want open primaries. If they choose that option, then you simply cannot regulate motivations for voting. If individuals wish to change their party registration in closed primaries, then they may do so. They will need to deal with solicitations from the other party, but most importantly, if someone feels so strongly about this strategy that they are willing to go through the process of switching parties and dealing with ensuing solicitations, then who am I to question whether or not the motivation is a good one? Finally, the Democrats simply have nobody else to blame but themselves for this mess. Between the proportional allocation of pledged delegates and the reliance on Superdelegates – 20% of all delegates – they are now lying in the bed they made for themselves.

In the end, “Operation Chaos” is publicity and perception. It has little to no actual mathematical impact. But because of the life it’s been given by detractors, it has exerted influence, and will continue to exert influence. It is now in the psyche of the left, and as long as they believe it matters, then it will matter. My dream is coming true. We are on the way to a brokered convention. The ride is just beginning!

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