Operation Hilarity: who gets the last laugh?

Two Republican primaries are underway tonight, in Michigan and Arizona. In the Michigan primary, the law allows Democrats to vote in the Republican primary. This has inspired Operation Hilarity, a campaign by Markos Moulitsas (owner of the popular liberal Daily Kos website) to encourage Michigan Democrats to vote in the primary for Rick Santorum. The theory is that if Santorum wins the primary, it will keep the nomination process from coming to closure, and maybe lead to a brokered convention. According to Kos (Markos’s handle), even if Santorum ends up nominated by his party, by being so extreme he positions Obama and the Democrats in general to win even bigger in elections this November.

At least at first blush, it is hard to dismiss Kos’s logic. Every day Santorum gets weirder and weirder, which I thought was impossible. He seems to be anti-birth control, or at least anti the government requiring insurers to cover birth control. He thinks separation of church and state means religions can do whatever they want, particularly in the governmental arena, while the government can do nothing to constrain religion, and said President Kennedy’s defense of the strict separation of church and state made him want to throw up. He chastised President Obama because he wants all Americans to get a college education. Of course he is anti-gay and anti-gay marriage. Perhaps weirdest and scariest of all, he chastises President Obama for believing in global warming and defiantly says that the Bible gives us permission to use the earth for our benefit, not for the Earth’s.

The Operation Hilarity theory goes that the more outside the mainstream the Republican candidate is, the less likely he is to get elected if nominated. However, what if Santorum were nominated and then elected? Would this a better outcome than if Mitt Romney were nominated and elected? Or, for that matter, would it be better than if Gingrich or Ron Paul were elected?

It could happen. No one knows how Americans will vote, and all sorts of events are possible between now and Election Day that could change the dynamics of the election. We could go back into a recession, which seems to be happening in Europe. Unemployment could rise as a result. By most yardsticks, the challenger should win this election anyhow, as the unemployment rate is likely to be higher on Election Day than it was when Obama took office. The worse the economy gets, the more likely voters are to vote the incumbent out on the theory that, however bad the alternative, he could not do worse. It certainly happened in 1932. Roosevelt won the election handily. He had not even then come up with the idea of The New Deal. He won because he was not Herbert Hoover and fairly or not the country held Hoover to blame for the depression.

In that case, I would surely prefer a Mitt Romney in the Oval Office than Rick Santorum. This is because Mitt Romney is sane and Rick Santorum is bat-shit crazy. Mitt Romney is inconsistent because he is trying to get elected but his track record shows he governs as a fairly moderate Republican. Rick Santorum is consistent because that’s who he is: an ultra conservative. And an ultra conservative is by definition crazy. I would not like Mitt Romney as my president, but I expect he could usually make the right decision where it mattered most, like in matters of national security. Rick Santorum is far battier than even Barry Goldwater was in 1964. I sure don’t want to be responsible, even indirectly, for letting this clown get his hands on our nuclear trigger.

My chance for a little hilarity is coming up next Tuesday. Virginia is having a Republican primary on March 6. No one registers by party in this state, so anyone is free to vote in either primary. However, you can only vote in one of the primaries, not both. (Republicans would like me to sign a pledge that I would vote for the Republican candidate in the election if I vote in their primary. It has been ruled unenforceable.) So I could participate in the Republican Primary on March 6th, and vote for Rick Santorum. After all, there sure won’t be any real competition in the Democratic primary this year.

While I acknowledge that voting for Santorum would likely help Democrats more than it would Republicans, it’s not a chance I am willing to take. So I will skip voting in the primary altogether, which will doubtlessly please Virginia Republicans. But if I had to vote, I’d have to vote for the only sane one in the bunch and vote for Mitt Romney. Literally, my existence might depend on it.

To those Democrats considering voting for Santorum, just say no or the joke could be on all of us.

Addendum 3/16/11. I forgot that Virginia has very burdensome procedures for getting into Republican primaries. Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified, so I would not have been able to vote for Rick Santorum. However, a vote for Ron Paul would be only slightly less bad than voting for Rick Santorum, simply because Ron Paul has no chance of winning the nomination.