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Archive for the ‘2008 election’ Category

Yes, The Bill is a Progressive Triumph

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

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There’s been a small but vocal critique from some elements of the left that the healthcare bill is terribly inadequate, and a slap in the face to progressives. It’s been such that even people who enthusiastically support the bill have adopted the rhetorical posture that it’s deeply sub-optimal. Something progressives have to force themselves to swallow, rather than celebrate. I don’t necessarily want to re-open this debate, but Yglesias, by reminding us of John Edwards’ healthcare plan from the 2008 election, does a good job of illustrating how ridiculous this notion is:

Key conceptual groundwork was laid by policy thinkers. And below the surface the main issue is that the SEIU was indicating that it wanted candidates with any shot at its endorsement to unveil plans for comprehensive coverage. Repeatedly throughout his campaign, Edwards served as a useful progressive foil. He was never really up there with Clinton and Obama, but he was always close enough that they couldn’t simply ignore the possibility that his efforts to appeal to the base would work. So when Edwards unveiled is four point plan for achieving universal coverage—a plan based on exactly the pillars of ObamaCare—it made a huge difference and swiftly became the benchmark by which Clinton and Obama were judged.


The see-saw of the political expectations game is such that by the Spring of 2010 many people had convinced themselves that this approach to health care was a disappointing sellout. But back in the Spring of 2007, it was considered radical—a left-wing idea by the standards of a Democratic presidential primary.

Now obviously winning a huge electoral landslide that leaves you in control of all three branches of the legislative process, including holding 59 seats (plus Arlen Specter’s switch) in the Senate is going to affect what people see as being within the realm of political possibility. But it’s still worth pointing out just how progressive this bill s relative to what the various major candidates’ healthcare plans were in 2008 and, especially, 2004. Basically, as Yglesias notes, it represents the far-left edge of what was being proposed at the time, and there’s no reason to imagine anything to the left of it could have been enacted, given that basically no major candidates have pushed anything to its left in the past 20 years or so. Progressive activists became enamored of the idea of creating a new public insurance plans in early 2009, but the bottom line is that there was no real movement base to make that a huge issue, in part because even the activists who made it central to their efforts on reform over the past year hadn’t even really been talking about it prior to 2009. And then at some point “The Public Option” morphed into less a serious policy proposal than a tribalistic identifer, especially after Blue Dogs killed the “strong” public option last summer. After that, the policy merits of the shell of the public option simply worth expending a lot of effort over, even though some of the activists had worked themselves into a lather over the idea. So when the public option was excised altogether, some of these people convinced themselves that the underlying bill was an un-progressive sellout, even though 2 years ago the same basic idea was being viewed as a solidly progressive idea. Indeed, if a candidate had proposed it in 2004, or 2000, whomever proposed t would have been looked at as though they were a slightly more serious Dennis Kucinich.


Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I had thought that Mark Krikorian was a shoe-in for the title of Most Absurd Thing Written About Sonia Sotomayor, but I must confess, this Daily Beast column from Elaine Lafferty, arguing that Republicans shouldn’t attack Sotomayor’s intelligence because that’s what sexist Democrats did to Sarah Palin, is going to be incredibly hard to top.

To wit, Democrats didn’t “attack” Palin’s intelligence because they think women are stupid, but because she herself proved, over the course of two months of national campaigning, that she wasn’t that smart. She gave answers like “what the bailout does is help those people who are concerned about the healthcare reform we need” and “in the great history of American rulings there have…of course…been rulings…” She didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine was, indeed, didn’t even seem to know that it related to foreign policy. She couldn’t name a single media source, not even a local one, she reads regularly. Perhaps unintelligent isn’t the right way to describe this, but at the very least she proved to be deeply ignorant about national issues. And, in any event, it certainly seems bizarre to say that Democrats made a mistake in attacking Palin since, obviously, Palin’s ticket lost, and exit polls suggest Palin lost McCain more voters than she gained him.

On the other hand, maybe Sotomayor really isn’t that intelligent. I don’t know her, I’ve never spoken to her, so I’m not really in a position to make broad conclusions regarding her intelligence. But what evidence I do have available to me suggests that she is, in fact, incredibly intelligent, and a very competent jurist. She has, after all, already been confirmed for a spot in the federal judiciary twice, both points involving Republicans in some way (she was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the District Court, and confirmed to the Circuit Court by a Republican Senate). If anyone has counter-evidence I’m open to evaluating it, but there really hasn’t been anything of this nature presented. And that’s the crucial difference between attacks on Palin and attacks on Sotomayor; Democrats were basing their critiques on Palin’s statements and actions, whereas conservatives are arguing that since she’s a woman and an ethnic minority, she must necessarily be less intelligent.

How Relevant is Emily’s List?

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

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by Brien Jackson

I generally try to avoid posts on two things, politicians I have some connection to and Emily’s List, and this post is going to violate the former somewhat, and the latter entirely. The reason for the former is, I think, pretty obvious, but I should probably elaborate on the latter some. Emily’s List is one of those things I have a weird, unexplainable, fascination with. On the one hand, they’re very good fundraisers who can deliver buckets of cash to their endorsed candidates. But, especially with that in mind, they have a very small footprint in Democratic political circles. No one sits around figuring out how to campaign for Emily’s List’s endorsement the way they might for, say, the SEIU or NARAL. And I think Howie Klein hints around at the reason for that here, discussing the special election in Illinois’ 5th district, and the rather impressive list of endorsements Tom Geoghegan has racked up:

[Harold] Meyerson follows endorsements in the last couple of days by three of Chicago’s legendary progressive reformer elders, Abner Mikva, Dr. Quentin Young, and Leon Despres, and from one of Tom’s former opponents, Marty Oberman. Many in the Inside the Beltway Establishment have other favorite candidates. Predictably Emily’s List endorsed a woman, basically their only criteria for endorsement these days. And some of the labor unions we’ve grown to trust came out for those who have scratched their backs in the grubby world of backroom politics. DFA, The Nation, Progressive Democrats of America, the American Nurses Association, the Greater Chicago Caucus, the Teamsters and Steelworkers unions and a long list of progressive writers from Katha Pollitt and David Sirota to Thomas Frank. Garry Wills, Don Rose and James Fallows have come out for Tom.

Emphasis added. Basically Emily’s List’s endorsement is irrelevant because it’s pre-determined. No one is surprised when Emily’s List endorses a candidate, because everyone knows who they’re going to endorse. This is a problem for the group because PAC’s trade in gratitude. Especially in a highly contested race with a crowded field, endorsements from high profile actors can really put a candidate over the top. In those circumstances, you’ve either banked a favor, or the politician in question is somewhat dependent upon your constituency for re-election, which is good for you. Moreover, once you’ve established a reputation, candidates will start campaigning for your endorsement, which is even better for you.

But Emily’s List unilaterally takes themselves out of the game altogether. There’s absolutely no reason for a male candidate, even a great progressive male candidate who would be terrific on the issues Emily’s List cares about like Geoghegan, to seek out Emily’s List or try to appeal for their endorsement, because Emily’s List is crystal clear that they don’t endorse male candidates. And I think their goal of increasing the number of women in elected office is a perfectly laudable goal. Women are the majority gender group in this country, and it’s an utter embarrassment how few elected offices in a country this size are held by women. But, personally, I don’t think that these tactics are actually beneficial to that goal. On the one hand, policy has to matter at some point. I’m perfectly ok with someone who looks at two candidates, one male and one female, and decides that they’re more or less the same substantively (at least to our hypothetical voter), and who decides to vote for the woman because we really do need more women in office. I think most people would agree that’s a legitimate decision making process. What strikes me as counter-productive is pre-emptively deciding you’re going to support a woman before you’ve even seen the list of candidates. And obvious Emily’s List has boundaries, they don’t endorse pro-life women, nor any Republicans that I’m aware of off the top of my head. But still, the key here is that not everything is always equal, and once it’s clear that Emily’s List is going to support even uniquely absurd candidates just because they’re women, especially against incumbents with records that are very favorable to their constituency, then I think you really marginalize yourself even within the Democratic Party.

So, again, while I agree with Emily’s List’s primary goal, I think that, if they really want to be an effective organization in their own right, they either need to be more judicious about candidates they support, or they need to start supporting some male candidates, at least in some circumstances. Otherwise they continue to be a perpetual “dog-bites-man” story.

Blacks and Prop 8

Friday, January 9th, 2009

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I haven’t really waded into the debate over the role African Americans played in passing Prop 8, mostly because I get tired of arguing data points to no one in particular, but since Ta-Nehisi asked, I’ll go ahead and break this report down from a political angle.

Now I don’t know what exactly prompted some people to latch onto the idea that black voters were uniquely pro-Prop 8, but thus far I haven’t really seen much data to back that up. Using this set, black voters went for Prop 8 at a clip of 58%, while Lationo voters supported it at 59%. So if we account for margin of error and declare parity between black and lation support, what becomes important is that Latinos made up twice as much of the electorate than did black voters. Which isn’t in any way meant to impune Latinos, so much sa it is to point out that there’s not really much of a variable in support based on race. Asian-American, for example, supported the measure 48% of the time, while white voters, who made up 68% of the electorate, supported it at a clip of 49%. Obviously those are lower than the balck and latino communities, but all in all they’re still pretty close to 50%, and there’s a fairly small discrepancy of support based on race.

This is important, because as a political strategist/organizer you want to find the demographic characteristic that creates the most discrepancy, because that’s most likely to be your  driving factor in determining your vote. And in this case, the driving factor is clearly the intensity of your religious beliefs. Voters who self-identify as being “weekly” church goers make up 45% of the California electorate, and support Prop 8 at a staggering 70%. No other frequency-of-attendance group cracks 50%, and both “holidays and special occassions” and “hardly ever” come in below 45%.

People looking for a case to make, as well as your run of the mill make believe strategists in the media an blogosphere will inevitably seek out the most “interesting” numbers to play up for headlines, but the truth of the matter is that these things usually just aren’t that interesting. Saying that fairly religious voters passed Prop 8 isn’t particularly surprising, so it’s not really interesting and it doesn’t make for very good stories or blog posts. But the simple reality is that, if I’m a strategist trying to pass Prop 8 with a fairly typical budget, my main targets are white people who go to church regularly. Not a particularly unusual insight or strategy, but in the real world these things rarely are.

Talk Radio Liberal Watch

Monday, December 8th, 2008

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Chris Bowers again:

Democrats have lost the three federal elections since November 4th: Georgia Senate, and the run-offs in Louisiana 2nd and 4th congressional districts. It is pretty easy to explain all of these losses in local ways:

  • Jim Martin trailed Saxby Chambliss on Election Day, despite a huge voter turnout effort from the Obama campaign. Lacking the same energy, the state reverted to its red-state form.
  • LA-02: William Jefferson is a famously corrupt member of Congress. Despite the D +28 partisan voting index, what happened in this district is similar to what happened in Tom Delay’s old seat, TX-22, in 2006. It is possible for Republicans to win deep blue seats or Democrats to win deep red seats when the favored party is under a cloud of extreme corruption.
  • LA-04 was a narrow loss, as predicted by non-partisan polls, in a fairly red district. No big deal, really, even if disappointing.

These localized explanations are satisfactory. However, it is also safe to say that the constant talk about the need for bi-partisanship and a “team of rivals” coming from Democrats isn’t exactly encouraging Democratic turnout these days.

All three of these elections, especially GA-Sen and LA-02, featured very low Democratic turnout. It probably didn’t help that national Democratic leaders, including Barack Obama, are telling everyone, Democrats included, how great it is for Republicans to be included in the federal government. When one of the major parties is telling everyone that it is great when the opposing party wins, then the opposing party is probably going to win.

This is just silly, and what makes it really silly is that Bowers actually seems to understand what really happened in all of these races. LA-04 is a very Republican district, as is the state of Georgia, and in LA-02 the Republican was running as a moderate against an incumbent who was not only under indictment, but on video accepting a bribe. Republicans should have won all of these races, and they did. Not exactly headline news. But Bowers’s attempt to turn this into some sort of indictment of the squishy national Democrats is akin to right wingers who are perpetually trying to explain away obvious reasons why Republicans lose in favor of “they weren’t conservative enough.” I mean, would you take someone seriously if they tried to tell you that Ted Stevens lost because the people of Alaska decided to revolt against pork barrel spending?

And as far as turnout goes, there’s pretty easy explanations for that too that have nothing to do with “bi-partisan talk.” In LA-02, Democrats didn’t turn out because the Democrat on the ballot was under indictment and on videotape accepting a bribe. Not exactly rocket science. And in Georgia, I’m hazarding a guess that people might have stayed home because it was well outside the realm of plausibility that Martin could win. Chambliss barely missed a majority on November 4th, when the Libertarian candidate carried 3% of the state. What that means is that Martin would have had to, effectively, win every vote that didn’t go to Chambliss the first time, or hope for a massive drop-off in Republican turnout, which would have been highly unlikely given that Republicans adopted a bunker mentality, and that the state is very, very, red.

In short, the “local explanations” are obviously the best explanations, and Bowers seems to know that. His attempt to turn Democratic losses in red areas (and with a soon-to-be-convicted felon on the ballot) is the sort of ideological hackery that would make any right-wing radio host proud.

The Blessing of Kristol: The 2nd Generation

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

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One unintended consequence of the right’s hyper-messaging push has been that it may have worked too well. Namely, the constant repetition and dissemination of talking points have become so embedded in the right’s DNA that it leads, largely, to one of two inevitable occurences every so often. On the one hand, a right-winger will short hand a common “tenet” you could find any day at The Corner. Sarah Palin’s “pro-America” comment fits this bill. The right, and those of us who follow the right’s rhetoric, understand the longer point it’s supposed to make, but to everyone else it pretty clearly implies that certain areas like cities are un-American. And that hurts you because lots of people live in cities.

Short of that though, you’ll often catch a second rate hack on a right-wing blog getting lazy with their formulations, and demonstrating just how silly these basic assumptions of wingnutdom really are. Take Jennifer Rubin, remarking on the Georgia Senate runoff:

So you can expect the MSM to crow wildly if Martin wins — and relegate the news to the back pages if Chambliss pulls it out.

Now, on the one hand, this is the sort of argument that would flunk any logic/rhetoric class, because it obviously can’t be demonstrated. It may be true, but since both Martin and Chambliss cannot win, there’s no way for us to tell if this really would happen, and so it can not be asserted as “proof” of any underlying premise.

But even if we allow that it would happen, that only serves to underscore the point liberals are finally making about right-wing accusations of media bias; it’s not that they want an unbiased media, they want a media that is favorable to Republicans. To be blunt, Saxby Chambliss winning the run-off is back page news, because he’s a Republican and a Republican winning in Georgia isn’t exactly breathtaking stuff. But even removing partisan identifiers, he’s an incumbent Senator who nearly captured a majority the first time around, and is very likely to win the run-off relatively easily. His re-election isn’t particularly newsworthy, but if he somehow loses, meaning that not only does a Democrat win a national race in Georgia but that Democrats may very well wind up with 60 Senate seats, that’s pretty obviously front page news. So any “discrepancy” isn’t evidence that the newsmedia has a partisan bias to it, but rather confirmation that the real world isn’t 50-50. But conservatives have rather conveniently flipped this into a victim mentality in which everyone is out to get them, and they’d win elections if only the media (or any of the other institutions with a “liberal bias”) would play fair.

Why Aren’t You Listening?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

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Following up on what seems to be the point of the week, it looks like Barack Obama’s biggest early problem may simply be that people weren’t actually listening to him during the campaign, and are now ascribing a certain mindframe or set of positions to him he’s never articulated, as well as being surprised when Obama follows through on things he actively talked about in the campaign. Take E.J. Dionne’s Washington Post column today:

What’s most striking about Obama’s approach to foreign policy is that he is less an idealist than a realist who would advance American interests by diplomacy, by working to improve the country’s image abroad, and by using military force prudently and cautiously.

This sounds a lot like the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush, and it makes perfect sense that Obama has had conversations with the senior Bush’s closest foreign policy adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Obama has drawn counsel from many in Scowcroft’s circle, and Gates himself was deputy national security adviser under Scowcroft.

What exactly is “striking” about this? I don’t really know, but that may be because I was paying attention to more than the horserace during the campaign:

Barack Obama promised that his foreign policy would be a return to what he says was the realist approach practiced by George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

“My foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional realistic policy of George Bush’s father, of John F. Kennedy, of in some ways Ronald Reagan,” he said Friday.  A voter at the town hall in Greenburg had asked Obama to respond to charges that his foreign policy was naïveThat took about 5 seconds to find on Google. In fact, not counting two articles written today (including Dionne’s) it’s the very first hit when you search “Obama and Bush 41 and foreign policy.”


What’s really bad about this, though, is that things like this should never happen in the age of Google. Obviously even the most attentive observer/commentator isn’t going to catch every single utterance made by a candidate during a campaign, but the internet lets you go back after the fact and do a bit of research before you write a WaPo Op-Ed. Indeed, if Dionne had Googled “Obama and Bush 41 and foreign policy,” the above is actually the very first result, not counting two articles published today (including Dionne’s).

On the one hand, I don’t want to be too harsh here, because Dionne s usually a pretty good writer, especially by the standards of major Op-Ed pages, but this sort of lax research before you go out and “analyze” the situation ought to just embarrass anyone, and Dionne’s next column ought to be an apology, or an explanation of why people who can’t use Google ought to be afforded column space in major newspapers.

Is It Really The Fundies?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

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Kathleen Parker doesn’t want to get on the boat:

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

Ya know, this has become pretty common conventional wisdom, but I’m not entirely sure what the evidence is. Far be it from me to defend the religous right, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t seem accurate to lay the blame for the GOP’s woes at their feet, mostly because they’re just not that relevant.

For example, a majority of voters are generally supportive of Roe and similar pro-choice positions, but in exit polls abortion rarely shows up in the list of “most important issues,” and most evidence suggests that voters who do make decisions based primarily on aborton are laregly religious right voters. In other words, Iraq, healthcare, education, taxes, etc. are just more important than abortion to the vast majority of voters when they make decisions. And as far as gay marriage goes, with Prop 8 passing in California and ahandful of gay marriage bans passing elsewhere, it seems rather hard to say that the GOP is really out of the current mainstream on that issue.

Now I don’t know if this has much relevance to Democrats, and I wouldn’t mind further marginalizing of the religious right by any means, but it seems like we ought to at least be honest with ourselves about the political landscape.

Why I Can’t Take The Right Seriously Anymore

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

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Shelby Steele. It is that simple.

There are obviously a lot of writers, thinkers, pundits,etc. I don’t agree with, but there are relatively few, in the grand scheme of things, that I have absolutely no respect for. Obviously K-Lo, Jonah, Andy McCarthy, and the spittle flickers at The Corner and Commentary are on that list, but the top spot is reserved, far and away, for the amazingly dishonest and destructive drivel that comes from Shelby Steele.

Now, in a rational world, the fact that Steele most recently published book was titled A Bound Man: Why we Are Excited About Obama and why He Can’t Win, (emphasis added), would require that Shelby Steele sit down and shut up for a certain amount of time, given the fact that Obama did, in fact, win. And by winning states Democrats hadn’t carried since roughly 1964. But, alas, there was good old Shelby writing in the LA Time the very next day.

I don’t entirely know where to start with the nonsense, but I think what irks me most about the column is the timing. Basically, to go to print on Wednesday, Steele would have had to have turned the article in sometime Tuesday. Now you can argue that the outcome of the race was clear well before the race was called officially at 11:00 P.M. on the east coast, but so far as data goes, exit polls aren’t released until all polls are closed in a state. So, in short, it seems incredibly unlikely to me that Steele couldhave possibly done any realresearch for this article, and instead just repackaged his usual, broad brushed tripe about race relations andhow white people are all mushy about black people.

And what do you know:

Obama is what I have called a “bargainer” – a black who says to whites, “I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me.” Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.

I suppose it’s a plausible enough explanation as to why Obama got so many millions more votes from white people than the 8 white guys Democrats have nominated for President since 1964, but here’s the rub; white people didn’t vote for Obama. Or, they didn’t vote for him at substantially higher rates than they usually vote for Democrats. Obama carried 43% of white votes nationally, up 2% from John Kerry’s 41% in 2004, but exactly even with the share Clinton took in 1996. Or, in non-numerical speak, white Democrats and Democratic-leaners voted for Obama, the substantial number of white voters who aren’t Democrats did not. Exactly what you’d expect from any election if your reason for existing isn’t to explain everything through prisms of “white guilt,” i.e. if you’re not Shelby Steele.

Now I suppose this is relatively minute from the perspective of the electoral coalitions going forward, but you’d really think that a media devoted to informing its readers would get more angry when people like Shelby Steele submit complete nonsense like this. And you’d think that, at some point, people would recognize that Steele has no real attachment to reality, that he makes things up to weave a particular narrative about race that’s very profitable to him, and that by extension he would lose his access to valuable platforms like the Los Angeles Times, in favor of someone who would actually inform their readers.

But that would be a rational media, wouldn’t it?

Race in 08

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

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Matt examines the racial swings of this election:

The issue in play here is to some extent obscured by the general upward trajectory. But overall, Obama improved on John Kerry’s vote share by 4.2 percentage points. His share of the white vote, by contrast, went up by only two percentage points whereas his share of the African-American vote went up seven points and of the Hispanic vote by 14 points. In other words, there was more rather than less divergence in white and non-white voting behavior.

Admittedly, this seems incredibly marked in the grand scheme of things, but it seems to me to miss the broader point of the past few cycles. For example, yes, Obama increased Kerry’s margin with Hispanics by a substantial amount, but he was still 5% below  the 72% mark Clinton managed during his re-election campaign. Indeed, 2004 was a low point for Democrats, as Kerry managed a relatively meager 53% in the nadir of a short term swing of Hispanic voters towards the GOP from 1996 to 2008, in which the Democratic share of the Hispanic vote fell from 72% in 1996, to 62% in 2000, to 53% in 2004 before rebounding back to 67% in 2008. There’s a lot of possible explanations for that, but that’s largely irrelevant to the statistical comparison.

On the other hand, as you’d expect Obama represents a high point for Democrats with African Americans. Clinton got 86% of the black vote in 1996, Gore managed 90%, Kerry 88%, and Obama an astounding 95%. The white vote, in contrast, was relatively stable over this period in time. Clinton took 43% in 1996, Gore 42%, Kerry got 41%, and Obama matched Clinton’s 43%. So the racial narrative of this election is simple; Obama reached parity with generic Democrats with white voters, recovered a substantial number of Hispanic voters for the Democratic Party, and sits atop the culmination of an increasing trend in regards to African American voters. This is evidence, if anything, of a collapse in the GOP’s “Hispanic Strategy” Rove hoped to use as part of his Permanent Majority, but one that still leaves Democrats below their peak levels of support from Hispanics.

(all exit poll data via CNN)

Dispatches From A Center-Right Country

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

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Americans love divided government, except when they don’t:

In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday, 59 percent of those questioned think that Democratic control of both the executive and legislative branches will be good for the country, with 38 percent saying that such one-party control will be bad.

I never really got where the idea that Americans were squeamish about one party control of the levers of government came from. After all, 4 of the past 6 years were spent with one party control. And with Obama taking 52% of the national popular vote and Congressional Democrats taking 56%, there’s obviously quite a bit of overlap between the two numbers, meaning that an awful lot of people who wanted a Democratic President working with a Democratic Congress. But then, that should have been obvious all along, what with polls routinely showing broad, generic, preferences for Democrats in both the Presidential and Congressional races.

But checking reality every now and then isn’t a requirement to write “news” stories anymore is it?


Friday, November 7th, 2008

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Don’t journalists find something distasteful in this “embargoed” information? I mean, if they were half as noble as they fancy themselves, wouldn’t they find it important to tell us that the aspirant Vice-President thinks Africa is a country, accessbe damned?

So can we stop this charade that journalism is about anything other than personal career advancement?

Standards & Practices

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

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It’s about time someone said this:

The second piece of conventional wisdom that was completely wrong was which groups we would be strong with. The notion that voters who supported Senator Clinton would vote Republican in the general election was never supported by what we saw in our polling. At the beginning of June, going into the general election, Obama had a double-digit lead in our battleground poll against McCain among women. He was competitive among Catholics and led 2 to 1 among Latinos.

The press corps had focused on all these groups in the last three months of the primary and was convinced that they would pose problems for us in the general. But that just wasn’t true, and we recognized that early on. As a result, we were able to focus on swing voters instead of worrying about parts of the base that were already with us. We looked at groups where Obama could make gains and at places where he could broaden the map.

In a sane world, every pundit and “expert” who took up valuable space on television and in print insisting Obama would have a problem with Hillary supporting Democrats, Catholics, and Latinos would immediately lose their place in the mainstream media in order to be replaced with someone who knows what they’re talking about. But, in this world, the political media doesn’t actually exist to inform its viewers, but to create a story to be watched.

We need better.

Did They Ever Get It?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

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Ya know, when you think back to the past 6 months or so, for as maddening as downright dumb as some of the stuff coming out of NRO et. al was, in retrospect it all seems sort of amusingly amateurish, and almost, well, cute. I mean, looking back, all I can really wonder at this point is whether any of them realized how abjectly stupid this stuff really was, or whether they actually believed it as they were typing it.

Over the course of the past 3 months, Obama has been too black, and “really white.” He’s been a Stalinist and the descendant of Hitler. He’s been friends with Louis Farrakhan and dovish Jews. He’s been a radical black liberationist and a secret Muslim. He’s been a pacifist and a domestic terrorist. McCain was going to follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, solong as they don’t happen to be in Pakistan. To say the right never settled on an argument is to give them too much credit. Indeed, they were making contradictory claims simultaenously, trying to unload everything in 40 years of culture warring at Obama.

But I think the most absurd thing about the whole endeavor was the way crowds suddenly became vindication for them. Let’s get something straight; this is (nominally) a participatory democracy. The whole idea is to get lots of people tolike you, and then to vote for you. So if you’ve got lots of people comingto your rallies to see you, you’re probably doing alright. But more than that, I think there was something truly special, something almost Earth shattering, in those crowds. Admittedly, they were one of the things that early on made me really look at Obama as, maybe, something special. Is that a good reason to support a candidate? Maybe not, but there was something truly unique about it. I’d never seen anything like it; constantly filling basketball arenas during the primaries, 75,000 people in Oregon, 20,000 in Idaho, the convention speech, 100,000 in St. Louis, and I don’t think American politics has ever seen something quite like that. It was, in itself, something that moved you, something that made you pay attention,something that made you want to be involved, much in the way that a good baseball game is enhanced further when the crowd is really into what’s going on. And the celebrations last night wereeven more amazing. I think yu’dhave to go all the way back to the end of World War II to find anything like that level of spontaneous celebration and joy on such a massive scale. It’s certainly never been rivaled in politics. And there was, and is, something truly moving just in that. It gives you the sense that we really are the United States of America, despite the best efforts of “real-America.”

So did they understand that? Yeah, I think deep down they did. Afterall, you can’t spend that much time watching politics without knowing you’re seeing something you’ve never seen before. But that was all they had to work with. And now they don’t even have that.

Exit Polls

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

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I see lots of people freaking out about exit polls for no good reason, so let’s get something out there. There’s nothing wrong with exit polls, and there was nothing wrong with the 2004 exit polls. But when you’re looking at them at 2:00 on the East Coast, you’ve just got to remember that a lot of people haven’t voted yet, and results don’t come in proportionally. I mean, you don’t turn off a football game that’s 10-7 at the end of the first quarter “knowing” the game is going to end 40-28, so why do you assume vote casting works that way?

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