For the foreseeable future, with the election and its acrimony behind us (at least for the most part), I plan to pay some closer attention to the good conservative thinkers and commentators with whom I’ve had only a passing acquaintance in the past.
This week, I read New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s post-election take and found it quite refreshing and insightful. I think his conclusions are largely correct, though I wish he had found more neutral language to describe the two parties’ primary constituencies.
I think it is vital to the future of America that we retain two viable political parties. My home state of California is about to demonstrate to the nation what happens with a nearly 100% Democratic monopoly on the levers of governance and I don’t expect the picture to be as pretty as many of my Democratic friends believe. Great ideas may flow from a group of like-minded individuals sharing control but practical ideas that will appeal to and meet the needs of most voters can only come from bipartisanship.
Douthat is the first conservative commentator I’ve read who has suggested that the Republican Party has a lot of fundamental work, not just on a few policy tweaks but on many broad issues including economic and tax policy, before it if it wishes to become a party capable of winning again.
New York Times Columnist Timothy Egan
In a fine piece of thoughtful writing, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan today reviews the Democratic Party’s far-ranging victory Tuesday from the perspective of the Great Experiment of what he describes as “the attempt to create a big, educated, multi-racial, multi-faith democracy that is not divided by oligarchical gaps between rich and poor”. Egan says that vision gained a little measure of credibility whether viewed from the conservative or moderate-liberal perspective.
Egan points out that even though white men voted mainly for Romney, nearly all-white states like Iowa and New Hampshire went for the President. He also reminded us that the election dispelled the belief that a Mormon would not make a suitable President. (I’m still on the fence on that one, I’m a little ashamed to say.)
Reacting to Liberal criticism (of which I have sometimes been the voice) that the United States seems unable to do what the European democracies do easily, Egan says, “Anybody can form a perfect Norway, a nation of five million people. But there is no country on earth with our size, our racial diversity, our mix of religions that is close to bringing most of its citizens the rights and comforts of the modern age.” Point taken.
So many take-aways from tonight’s enormously satisfying Obama win. Here are my favorites, in no particular order.
- If Mitt Romney had let the sincere side he showed in his consummately excellent concession speech show during the campaign, things might have been different. So I’m glad he didn’t. But what a class act he put on in defeat!
- It turns out even hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate dollars that should never have been allowed into the campaigns couldn’t buy the election for the Right, which vastly outspent the Democrats in outside money. Trouble is, this may result in a muted call for campaign finance reform, which I think is one of the most important issues in American politics today.
- Finally the President mentions global climate change, but it’s a throwaway line in the middle of a pulse-pounding segment of his victory speech. I have no confidence he will do anything to address the problem. It is probably too late to save humanity as we know it anyway.
- Former GOP Chairman Michael Steele was sobering, intelligent and articulate on MSNBC after the election. I have come to have great respect for this guy with whom I disagree almost all the time.
- I predicted the Electoral College map with 100% accuracy except for the unknown of Florida as I head for bed. If Romney wins Florida, I can claim some sort of prize; if Obama takes it, I’ll have missed the mark but I won’t be unhappy to have done so.
- OTOH, I badly missed the popular vote margin. I predicted 3%; looks like it’ll be 1-1.25%.
- I’m glad it’s over. I may not comment on politics for weeks and weeks. Or maybe it’ll just be hours and hours.
I am immensely glad that the American people decided to give President Barack Obama a second term. I felt he deserved it and on every issue of importance to me, he was a better candidate and a better leader than his Republican opponent.
But those same American people left the GOP in charge in the House of Representatives while slightly increasing the Democratic Party’s majority in the Senate.
The sum total of which means that barring a change on the part of the House GOP and either filibuster reform or party re-thinking by the Republicans in the Senate, President Obama is in for two more years of constantly trying to get programs adopted with the help of an opposition party which has, so far at least, shown no desire to be helpful.
Newly elected Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine
The Democratic Senate can fix the problem with the filibuster at its first session in January by changing the Senate rules to restrict or abolish the arcane notion that it should always take 60 votes to pass anything in a chamber already prone to sluggishness. They will have a bit more impetus this time to do so; newly elected Independent Senator Angus King of Maine made filibuster reform his primary campaign promise. Nine Democrats — most of whom won tonight — also committed to reforming the ridiculously outmoded rule.
It takes a simple majority of the Senate to alter the rules in the first days of a new Congress. If the Dems want the newly elected Sen. King to caucus with them, he may well demand party support for filibuster reform. If he does, reform is almost guaranteed.
And if that happens, the Senate will suddenly cease to be quite as moribund, and useless, at least partially. We still need to remove the rule that allows a single Senator to put a hold on nominations and bills without identifying himself publicly or providing an explanation for his actions. But it may be too much to expect that this time around.
I’ve never done this before but it felt right this year to make a specific prediction of the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election being held today.
As I see it, President Obama wins re-election fairly handily, though not quite by the semi-landslide margins of 2008. Specifically, I see him winning the popular vote 51% to 48%. In the Electoral College, I think he’ll pick up Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada while losing Florida and North Carolina. That combined with the likely locked-in states will give him 303 electoral votes, leaving Mitt Romney with 235.
If you’re interested in my state-by-state predictions, take a look at this interactive map where you can also make your own predictions and share your result and insights like I have here.
I don’t care who you vote for, really, but do get out and vote!
In 2008, President Barack Obama won office by an Electoral landslide. The popular vote, while closer than the arcane Electoral College, was much wider than any single poll predicted. In the aftermath of that credibility-crusher, some pollsters admitted their methodology was flawed. They relied on calls to land lines, which resulted in a dramatic undercount of the votes of young people, who further fouled things up poll-wise by voting in unprecedented numbers.
Now there’s another problem with political polling being unveiled by researchers. Salvatore Babones of truthout points out today that fewer than 9% of voters the pollsters call answer their phones at all. And as it turns out, it’s pretty unlikely that this 9% is at all representative of the remaining 91% of the population. So the polls are essentially asking questions of self-selected folks.
In the legal world, there’s a tongue-in-cheek observation that juries are made up largely of people too stupid to avoid jury duty. I think that’s a bit cynical but there’s a kernel of truth in there. Some people don’t avoid jury duty because they’re stupid but because they feel a duty to perform.
Today’s polls are being fed data primarily by people who answer their phones when the caller is a blocked or toll-free number. I don’t know one person who answers those kinds of calls. Including myself.
Babones points out in his piece that at the very least, pollsters need to let us know what the response rate has been to their calls in a given poll. It would be nice if we could get a demographic profile of this 9% whose comments are driving so much decision-making and ad spending. But of course we can’t do that; they won’t answer the phone.
This piece on truthout by Ira Chernus is one of the clearest discussions I’ve read about the values gap between the Democratic Party and those who seem like they should vote for it but continue in election after election to vote “against their economic interests.” It is also woefully blind to the facts on the ground.
I do not completely agree with Mr. Chernus. But his core point is solid. Conservatives take the positions they do out of fear and a strongly felt need to be protected. The economy is important but not determinative. Faced with a choice between an economic policy they aren’t sure will be helpful and an economic policy that may help but which increases risk of further erosion of their core values, these voters opt for economic uncertainty and even oppression. Stated simply, the fear of and resistance to change are more powerful than near-term economic issues.
Where I part company with Mr. Chernus is in his assessment that the Democrats therefore need to find ways to respond to these fears, to stop allowing the Republican Party to co-opt the key symbols of resistance to change — which he says are God and country (Christianity’s cross and the American flag). He denies that this requires the Left to move right but in that assessment he’s wrong.
I think he actually knows he’s wrong there. He goes to great lengths to describe ways the Left could integrate some of these views into its positions but along the way he also has to admit that doing so would result in a message so mixed that it might well be indecipherable to all but the most ardent political junkie.
For example, I can’t see the Left responding meaningfully to the conservative position of “My country right or wrong” with the rallying cry Mr. Chernus suggests, “My country should right its wrongs.” President Obama tried the mildest form of mea culpas on foreign policy in his first days in office and he’s still be excoriated for making an “Apology Tour.”
Still, it may well be that Mr. Chernus has pointed us in a direction that could lead to some fruitful dialog that wouldn’t end in violence or recriminations. And that is a valuable contribution to an increasingly strained national discourse.
According to press reports, President Obama is getting huge leads in early voting in a number of key states. Reports from various sources this morning indicate that:
- 21% of Ohio voters have already voted with a 66% – 34% Obama lead. (Ohio is about the only crucial swing state left in real play.)
- In Iowa, a Wall Street Journal Iowa Poll shows 18% of TOTAL votes cast in 2008 have been cast early. Obama leads 67% to 32%
- In Nevada, Democrats racked up an 11,000 vote lead in the first day of early voting Saturday
Of course, none of these is an indicator that the Democrats and Obama will carry those states at all and certainly not by those margins. But it is indicative that the Democrats are proving far more effective at getting out the early vote than the GOP.
As I’ve said before repeatedly, this election is just about locked in for Obama despite all the ludicrous national popularity polling that shows this to be a close race. At uberpolling site fivethirtyeight.com, Obama is a 70% favorite to win the Electoral College.
The ground game is going to be determinative, as it almost always is. Republicans have abandoned registration efforts in several states due to a terrible legal snafu with the company they hired to register voters. Reports suggest that in those states their GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts have also flagged as workers become discouraged with the antics of the party apparatchik.
Blame it on Jimmy Carter.
Our 39th President, while running for re-election in 1979, delivered what has become his most famous speech. It is widely referred to as the “national malaise” speech even though President Carter didn’t use that phrase in his talk.
The key pull quote from that speech is probably this one:
“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does but by what one owns.”
Having concluded that the nation needed a good dose of conscience over the mess it had gotten into, that tough choices demanded to be made, the President essentially told the people to suck it up. Although the early poll results after the talk were positive, they quickly turned sour as pundit after pundit — primarily, of course, on the Right — accused him of having blamed the American people for what the commentariat saw as his failure of leadership.
Politicians took notice. Not once since that day has an American politician dared to stand up and say, “Things are tough. We need to make difficult choices and engage in shared sacrifice to fix this mess.” Yet that is exactly what we need to hear today; real leadership would be saying it. But I promise you won’t hear it in this election, at least not from either major party’s candidate for the White House.
Carter was right in 1979. The sentiment has been appropriate multiple times since then. But don’t expect any so-called leader to tell you that. The precedent is on the books.
Mitt Romney won tonight’s first Presidential Debate fairly handily, I thought. He looked energetic, sounded smart, articulated well, and contrasted with a professorially desultory President Obama.
But I think Romney’s victory will prove more costly than its real long-term value for three reasons.
First, he all but abandoned the Right on their hot-button issues. He “moderated” his stance on regulation, on tax policy, on Obamacare, and several other topics so far that he came off sounding reasonable. Which the Tea Party will not tolerate.
Second, he lied while flip-flopping on his 18-month-old economic plan and claiming he doesn’t plan to implement any tax cut that increases the deficit.
Third, he came off like a bully in his shabby treatment of moderator Jim Lehrer and the rules of debate.