A prediction on the record about the 2016 presidential election

Among the many things Yogi Berra is reputed to have said, there’s this gem: “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” Having said that, I’m going to make one about the 2016 election.

Barring any surprises, Marco Rubio will be on the 2016 Republican ticket as either the presidential or the vice presidential candidate. If he does well enough in the primaries he will be the presidential candidate (plan A), and if not he will be the vice presidential candidate (plan B). The other half of the prediction is that top-level Republican strategists will push for plan A. I admit that I’ve included a pretty elastic hedge. By “surprises” I mean anything that would ordinarily sink somebody’s political career but that sometimes happens anyway, e.g. being discovered having an affair, making disparaging comments about Jews into a live mic, being outed as gay by somebody else, or something similar. I do not mean a strong showing by another potential candidate, a controversial vote on an influential piece of legislation, or anything along those lines. It might be hard to tell whether the second part of the prediction comes true, but I will try to do so objectively.

Continuing the theme from an earlier post about the 2012 election, Republicans have a Hispanic problem. That is, an influential subset of an influential subset of the Republican Party does not want to reach out to them as potential Republican voters. Their neglect of this voting bloc in the 2012 election was commission, not omission. I have no doubt in my mind that even as I write this, Republican strategists are trying to hem this wing of the party in. Why? Whatever their beliefs may be in their heart of hearts, they want to win elections, and it’s becoming more and more of a truism that you won’t win a national election without at least some support from Hispanics.

Which leads to the next stage of reasoning. “Hispanic” is a very broad category, and it is not monolithic. It’s so broad, in fact, that as a Census category it’s almost absurd. Aside from differences of socioeconomic status, religion, and the like, it includes a large ethnic range; there are genetic and cultural inputs from Europe, Africa, the pre-Columbian Americas, and other places, and though mixed to a large degree there are millions of individuals for whom one region contributed a majority. Thus, Hispanics may view themselves and each other very differently, as well as be viewed differently by non-Hispanics. (I apologize for this review if it seems elementary. For many, it is not.)

Likewise, “white” is a broad category in the United States. Before the American Revolution, German immigrants were often not included in it.* One hundred years ago, Italian immigrants were not included in it. Nowadays nobody excludes either of these groups from the “white” category. Combining this with the previous two paragraphs, there is room for outreach to some Hispanic subgroups that will not be immediately unacceptable to the Republican subset I mentioned earlier and will reap large electoral benefits to the Republican Party. As long as “Hispanic” is still an operational category in peoples’ minds, this will win votes, and as long as the candidate is not so far from “white” it will do this without alienating an equal or larger number.

As a Cuban-American, Marco Rubio fits this profile perfectly, and he has the conservative bona fides to back it up. Not only this, but after the historic election of Barack Obama, this would be a very strategic Republican response.

I have no personal stake in this prediction other than hoping it demonstrates that I have properly understood some facets of politics and race in the United States. I am not a Republican and do not intend to vote for him or anybody else, nor to encourage anybody else to. I encourage people to think critically about politics, race, and everything else, and to test their understanding with predictions where applicable.

* I laughed reading passages in Albion’s Seed where Benjamin Franklin was quoted expressing his antipathy to them, and didn’t take it personally despite the fact that some of them may have been my own ancestors through my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother. Despite his relative enlightenment for his time, his comments were backwards and offensive by our standards on a number of measures and, mutatis mutandis, could easily have been made during any other period of mass immigration or sweeping social change by any number of ignorant people.

Public choice and the Cuban embargo

One of the most visible long-term policies that is entirely foolish from an objective economic standpoint is the US government’s embargo against free trade with Cuba. Its stated purpose is to force the Cuban government to liberalize, but the overwhelming consensus outside of the US government is that the embargo has helped to maintain Fidel and then Raúl Castro in power rather than weaken them. This sure seems confusing, if one takes the US government at its word.

Stigler in The Citizen and the State:

The announced goals of a policy are sometimes unrelated or perversely related to its actual effects, and the truly intended effects should be deduced from the actual effects. … Policies may of course be adopted in error, and error is an inherent trait of the behavior of men. But errors are not what men live by or on. If an economic policy has been adopted by many communities, or if it is persistently pursued by a society over a long span of time, it is fruitful to assume that the real effects were known and desired. (1975, p. 140)

There have been ample opportunities to review the failure of the embargo to remove the Castro regime, and each time the embargo has been approved by the US government. An observer could chalk this up to politicians not wanting to appear foolish or beaten, but this doesn’t excuse everything. Newcomers to Congress or the presidency could easily look smart and decisive by changing the foolish policies of the past. The more likely explanation is that the interests whose preferences are catered to know the effects of the embargo and want to maintain it. I don’t think this is born from a desire to harm ordinary Cubans, but rather from some other desires less publicly known. Frankly, I haven’t quite had the time to study the situation enough to say confidently what these other desires are. It’s absurd to think that the US government doesn’t know what everybody else knows, that the Cuban embargo helps the regime rather than hurting it, so we can rule out persistent error. The romantic view of politics, then, is at a loss to explain why the embargo persists. It appears that only public choice, “politics without romance”, can clarify.

The basic logic exercise modus tollens looks like this:

1. P→Q
2. ¬Q
3. ¬P

(1. If P, then Q. 2. Q is not true. 3. P is not true.)

Apply as you like.