The Batesian Mimicry of Mitch Daniels
Venomous candidates like Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann are natural primary candidates in today’s increasingly extreme GOP. Despite the Tea Party’s claims that only fiscal responsibility drives their movement, social and cultural issues undoubtably animate most of the Republican Party base. This poses an obvious difficulty for the GOP’s sane wing and the establishment’s desire to win a general election. Everyone’s familiar with Mitt Romney’s constant metamorphosis, but now Mitch Daniels hopes to successfully attract enough primary voters without losing what makes him appealing to reasonable conservatives and moderates.
The timescale of evolution doesn’t usually provide us the opportunity to watch major transformations in real time, but this political specimen exemplifies a classic case of Batesian mimicry.
When a perfectly edible species evolves to resemble a noxious one that is avoided by predators, thereby gaining protection from being eaten, it’s called Batesian mimicry, after the English naturalist and explorer Henry Walter Bates, who described the phenomenon.
Primary voters classify as voracious predators ready to devour candidates that don’t look enough like themselves. So the same Governor that called for a truce on social issues has now defunded Planned Parenthood in Indiana harming vulnerable women and families. Unfortunately, the natural selection of the primary race runs in this direction. Until the environment changes, candidates must move increasingly rightward in order to survive. Conservative elites and pundits play a large role in shaping that environment – so unless they start resisting against this arms-race we’ll continue to see tasteful candidates turn noxious.