Friday, November 09, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

I wish to make the following announcement:
At 11:15 PM, EST on November 6, 2012, the United States experienced Peak Wingnut.
Now, many scholars will disagree with that assessment, and to be honest, after I crunched the numbers, I came up with a precision factor of about 87%. We haven't had an assassination of a Federal official since Gabby Giffords was crippled. However, after extrapolating a method based on Nate Silver's polling analyses, I believe with some large measure of confidence that the Wingnut movement is now on a downslope.
My evidence --
1) The animosity displayed towards Governor Chris Christie for trying to work with the President at a time of major crisis. If we look back to 2005 and Katrina, Gov. Piyush Jindal accepted the same amount of assistance (give or take) for an even needier and more Democratic district, but was not given any of the grief that Christie has received, which has extended beyond just saying something nice about a guy who gives a damn about his citizens in distress.
2) Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin -- both of whom ran for Senate in states that Romney carried, which is a really telling sign -- Congressmen Allen West and Joe Walsh, all Teabaggers, lost their races for office. Michele Bachmann, the head of the Teabagger caucus (head Teabagger?) barely held on to her seat (Minnesota...WTF?!?!?!?!).
3) Legislation loosening the criminalization of marijuana passed in Colorado, Washington, and Massachussetts. Same-sex marriage won in every single state it was on the ballot in (2).
4) The bubble that Republicans, particularly conservatives, have been living in ever since the mid-90s and the Contract On America popped. When Karl Rove can be challenged, on-air, by FOX News' Megyn Kelly? Ballgame over.
5) Florida will gradually become a blue state as Orange County turns from a bright red to a light blue, and then deeper. The Panhandle, that area that's basically South Alabama, will of course, never turn anywhere near blue but fuck 'em. The penis from Orlando on down is turning Democratic now and will only spread northward.
6) The same dynamic that has Florida becoming more Democratic, Latino immigration, is a failure of the GOP to address the bubble. This will hurt them in Texas, Arizona, and Georgia (which I believe proportionately had the largest influx of Latino immigrants in the nation in the 2010 Census). Latinos are generally socially conservative church-going folk. This was a huge whiff for the Republicans.
7) Speaking of Rush and the bubble, the authority of the punditry on the right has been devastated. The rightwing operates as a top-down pyramid, as opposed to liberals who operate...well, it's still pretty much top-down but it starts a little closer to the troops. At the top are Republican party officials and financial supporters who pass along notes to the first tier media and government types, like John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh. In turn, they disseminate these talking points among their troops to reinforce -- some would say "echo" -- the message. Eventually, the poor shlub who turns on his radio or TV and logs into his email has a meal of junk food waiting for his digestion.
Based on the reactions of the mid-level blogoshere like John Hinderaker and Erick Erickson, that's been ripped wide open. Given the challenge to Karl Rove mentioned before, even those at the very top of the GOP food chain are being toppled.
And the false threats of finally Going Galt expressed by so many at the grassroots only serves to mark the frustration, anger and fear these troops face. It's like being asleep under a warm blanket and then having a gust of wind blow it off.
8) Finally, there's just the damned exhaustion factor: for how long can you say "no"? I don't care how childish and immature you are, holding your breath until you turn blue works great until your body says "ENOUGH!"
Don't forget to breathe, my conservatives readers. That's the fresh air of freedom you smell.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Out Of The Rubble

Looking over the reactions of the more principal names of the blogosphere, it seems that Tuesday's results were both unexpected and terrifying.
It's not like there weren't warnings: Nate Silver, for instance, has called nearly all 50 states (waitin' on ya, Florida!) almost precisely, and certainly precisely enough for the Electoral College. Public Policy Polling, a polling firm that was hammered right and right -- we on the left marveled at its integrity -- turned in the best performance, so anyone with half a brain would have had cause to consider the very strong likelihood that Obama was winning and that this election was more of an exercise in backburning in order to stop a wildfire from spreading.
The superPACs and other dark money operatives out there seemed to get it, as they expended massive amounts of money to shore up weak Congressional races, successfully. But the GOP to its base?
Not so much. There are hurt feelings all across the nation and correctly, the anger is not focused on Obama.
For once. They acknowledge that he ran a fair race and fought hard, even if they believe he was ultimately beatable by an acharismatic elitist with tired ideas.
It seems the wheel is still turning, but the hamster is dead.
Some folks seem to. Some are actually stepping up and rather than blame them, taking a measure of responsibility for what they achieved. This is a healthy thing, to be sure.
A re-election campaign always, ALWAYS, favors the incumbent, and that's a fact that conservatives ignored at their peril (in fairness, progressives ignored it in 2004, as well, and didn't fight hard enough to get Kerry elected.) It really doesn't matter how weak he is, if his challenger refuses or cannot define himself, then the tendency is to go with who you know, particularly in difficult times.
Again, see 2004.
At least one person seem to get some of this, but Hindraker immediately falls into the "blame them" game again. I give him this much credit, however: he sees that the nation is not the utopic conservative garden he and his fellow fifth columnists believe it is. It's possible he might start to moderate his positions over the coming years and perhaps -- perhaps -- the nation might be able to start to work again.
Here's the lessons of November 6, if anyone wants to listen:
1) You ran the weakest field of candidates since the Democrats in 1988. Period. End of discussion.
2) The dominance of dark money and superPACs points out the distinct lack of ideas from the right. It's one thing to have principles, if you can call handing even more money to people who are about ready to push away from the dinner table "principles", it's another thing to claim that one solution will fix everything.
Bad infrastructure? Tax cuts. More jobs? Tax cuts. Illegal immigration? Tax cuts.
The facts -- those things Reagan called "stupid" -- suggest that tax cuts only exacerbate problems. FACT: over the past 60 years, the economy under Democratic Presidents has outperformed the economy under Republican Presidents. FACT: job growth under Democratic Presidents is far higher than under Republicans, so much so that Bill Clinton oversaw the creation of 23 million jobs, ten times as many in eight years as Bush II did. FACT: the government creates jobs, else how do you explain the massive expansion of government that occurs under Republican Presidents, but not Democratic? Included in those job creations is a little thing called the Internet, without which you'd just be a cranky lawyer sitting on a barstool in Minneapolis, yelling at the barkeep instead of some "respected pundit."
Personally, I wouldn't respect you if you washed my balls, but that's a different post. I think you're a fucking loser asshole, and I'm glad you're sucking tears back.
3) The last lesson of November 6 is, if you want to be taken seriously as a party by the nation, you have to take the nation seriously. This, I think,  is where Hindraker gets close to a revelation (and falls flat on his face getting there.) By being completely obstructionist, by opposing any program, even ones Republicans originally created (like ACA, like Simpson-Bowles), by refusing to put up a jobs bill until a token nonsensical effort this past summer, you show a distinct reprehension for the nation, particularly in a time where people are hurting.
But then compassion never was your strong suit.
Jesus wept.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Never. In. Doubt.

I'm not sure when it was I decided that Obama could not lose this race, but I do know the first time I dared say it out loud.
It was when the GOP started running the Iowa caucuses back in August, 2011, and Michele Bachman won the first go-round in a straw poll.
It seems so long ago.
Here's the problem that Republicans face (and Democrats too, to a lesser degree, which I'll get to in a minute): the split between their primary voters and the general population.
When you allow your party's platform and candidates to be dictated by the emptiest cans making the most noise, you are going to lose elections left and right. When what the nation needs is conciliation and compromise to come to solutions that work for everyone, running a party platform of exclusion and elitism works for no one.
There are no "one best" ideas, there are no boilerplate solutions that fix problems, or rather, pray they go away.
This country is at a point where we must include everyone, even people we do not agree with, in order to move forward and fix things. For example, no one is suggesting the free market doesn't have its place in the order of things that will repair and progress our nation, but plenty of people are suggesting government "has no business" being involved.
Sorry. That's wrong, as Sandy so carefully delineates.
Let's use Sandy as an example: if Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers had donated even half the money they fronted to the Republicans trying to defeat Obama to projects like storm damage prevention or, if that's not their cup of tea, repair and restoration of homes savaged in the storm-- or even just a handout to people who's homes are underwater in terms of their mortages-- Mitt Romney might be President-elect.
Instead, their selfishness and greed forced them to be too short-sighted to see that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
You could, I suppose, make the case that there's no return on paying down someone's mortgage or buying a few more frontloaders for the Jersey shore, but a) you can call it "charity" and deduct it from your taxes and b) what return do you have now that Romney's had a mudhole stomped in him?
By kowtowing to asshats like Adelson and the Kochs, and to the Teabaggers, the Republicans waged jihad on people who might have created firewalls around the nation for the GOP: how different might the Senate look today if Richard Lugar had beaten back Richard Mourdock?
For crissake, these folks thought Orrin Hatch was too liberal and very nearly lost his seat, too!
And it certainly didn't help that Mitch McConnell went on record demanding a one-term Presidency for Obama.
Positions like that, and policies that allow for legitimate candidates for national office to claim that some rapes are illegitimate (endorsed by someone at the top of the ticket, no less), that Latinos ought to be singled out for citizenship papers, that global warming is a myth when the damn seaboard was washed away, and that women should be subdued and not heard, that's a recipe for disaster, and there we have it.
As I wrote earlier, the Democrats are not immune to this trope, either, but because our base is more diverse and allows for more dissent-- we may rail about DINOs, but unlike Republicans and RINOs, we don't wage wars on them-- we tend to coalesce over more normative positions in our platforms. This has strong appeal to independents and moderates and while it might create a "lesser of two evils" election, people can take comfort knowing they voted for sane people.
Now, let's get into the nitty gritty of all this: first, my opinion that Obama would win big was confirmed over and over again, most recently when the rightwing went haywire over "skewing" polls.
It's one thing to work the ref, it's another thing to work the scoreboard operator. I noticed that immediately after those complaints, Romney gathered momentum. I had a feeling that news organizations were tossing a wink to the left and center when they started "unskewing" polls and mocking Nate Silver.
Any statistician will tell you that polls will swing. Your sample can never be a perfect match of the general population, even if you're producing widgets. Things fluctuate.
By trying to force those fluctuations into a norm, Republicans lost very valuable information, information that might have allowed them to deploy forces more effectively. For instance, the last minute attempt to win Pennsylvania was moronic and the act of someone who missed an opportunity to win Virginia outright. If Romney takes Virginia, Florida, and even ONE of the home states of the top of the ticket (Not only did Romney lose Massachussetts and Michigan, but Wisconsin, Ryan's home state. By the way, he also lost two Senate seats to Democrats in those states as well), we're looking at Romney/Ryan for 16 years.
Take the money out of Pennsylvania. Stick it in Wisconsin and Virginia and this race really might have been a toss-up.
But because they wanted their fee-fees not to hurt, the GOP lunch was stolen.
So we have a party of stultified ideas using stultified mathematics, imposing stultified policies on a stultified base, and yet trying to appeal to the larger populace which is clearly not into being stultified and ordered about, else they'd be part of the base already.
Indeed, the backlash against the Republican One Note Johnny approach of tax cuts is starting to appear in the granddaddy of all Teabagged states, California, which rolled back the thirty year old Proposition 13 and passed an actual tax hike last night.
Some interesting themes came out of last night's results:
  • Obama actually increased his draw of white male voters slightly, but overwhelmingly picked up minority votes, increasing his take of Asian and Hispanics while actually bumping up his black vote. The increase in minority turnout, in fact, may account for his popular vote victory.
  • Turnout was not only below 2008, it was below 2004. However, the biggest shrinkage occured in the Deep South, Mitt Romney's base.
  • Florida will very soon, perhaps even by 2016, become a solid blue state. Hillsborough and Orange counties, both of which could loosely be termed swing counties in the past three elections, went solidly blue and threw Florida into an even deeper tizzy in this election, but the trend has been from red to blue over the past twenty years.
Which now brings up my final point: despite the loss of Allen West and Joe Walsh, and the near-defeat of Michele Bachmann, the GOP caucus in the House and Senate has actually moved further to the right, which raises the question:
Given all that I wrote above, how likely is it the Republican party will be anything but an historical footnote, the way the Whigs are?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

FINALLY! (Non-voters Get Polled)

The lyrics to the Barry Manilow song Looks Like We Made It are running laps around my brain right now.
Normally, I'd say the silly season is over: Mitt Romney has lost, we've shed the nation of the ugly spectre of Michele Bachmann, Joe Walsh and Allen West, and sanity finally seems to be settling in.
I fear, however, that the Republicans are determined to do their level best to make silly season a four year cycle, an endless morally bereft counterpoint to governance. This is what "death throes" look like.
This is the denouement of conservatism, the end of the innocence of people who are frustrated that their political positions are so woefully out of touch with mainstream America. As they lose what they perceived to be a slam dunk, they begin to realize that their agenda-- banning abortion, lowering taxes, cutting services-- is untenable in a civilized nation.
Effectively, 2008 (maybe even 2006, and if you really want to look at the seed, Howard Dean in 2004) saw the birth of a new liberal movement in America.
There is, however, an interesting bit of information to pass along for 2016, if anyone cares to read it:

US non-voters are younger, less educated and would back Obama according to new research which looks at the sizable minority who either are unable to vote or choose not to.

The findings by the Pew Research Center show that around half of non-voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic whilst only 27% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Obama is first choice for non-voters with 59% choosing the US president and 24% choosing Romney.

Findings from the research also try to build a picture of a non-voter. According to the results non-voters are younger, less educated and less affluent. A mere 13% of non-voters are college graduates in comparison to 38% of likely voters. Also more than a third of non-voters are under the age of 30 and only 14% have family incomes of $75,000 or more. Likely voters are older and more affluent - just 13% of likely voters are under the age of 30 and 33% have family incomes of $75,000 or more.

Pew Research also found that non-voters are also more likely to be unmarried - nearly two-thirds of non-voters are unmarried compared with 40% of likely voters. Non-voters are also more likely to be Hispanic (21%) - this is three times the percentage of Hispanics among likely voters.

(original poll research here)

The question is, why aren't the Democrats (or the Greens or Working Families Party) doing more to energize this bloc of voters?

Imagine, if you will, how much different the results of this week election would be if even half of those who feel disenfranchised were to vote? We wouldn't be listening to a dummied up horse race called by people who are bending over backwards to placate the emptiest cans on the cart.

The smart money is, in order to energize this bloc, that the Democrats need to run at least one Hispanic at the top of the ticket in 2016. A young Hispanic would be even better. Those twins down in Texas, I'm thinking (that would make an intriguing ticket, twin brothers.)

While the study doesn't really investigate the whys of this phenomenon, we can infer some things from the data:

1) The conservative trope of shouting about the evils of liberalism from the rooftops is damned effective. Who wants to become politically aware in a nation where one is perceived as the enemy.

2) The conservative trope of blaming immigration for the ills of the nation is effective, too (the Latino portion of non-voters is triple the Latino proportion of voters) but surprisingly not as effective as they would believe.

3) Clearly, the implications of these two bits of information comes down to whether a single vote, or even blocs of votes, count. If you feel individually disenfranchised, if you feel that money buys politicians -- even a President who runs as an agent of change -- then why would you exercise your vote?

It's this last, the feeling that America has become effectively a banana republic run by an oligarchy of the wealthy who service the needs of the wealthier, that Occupy Wall Street and even the Teabaggers speak to. How can it not be frustrating to watch the news and think that whatever you do, no one will listen to you?

There is a significant liberal population out there, and the danger is, we may disillusion these people and allow them to fall to the Dark Side of conservatism. Young people are idealistic, and if the 60s taught us anything, it taught us that capturing that energy, letting people feel as if they make a difference, can generate the kinds of change we want to see.

Coupling that with the ongoing death throes of neoconservatism and the repudiation of all things Randian, we could achieve what many believe is impossible: a radical re-write of American society, pulling it back from the precipice of the cliff of collapse, and ushering in a golden age of humanistic thought.

We just have to put up the fight for them to join in.


Monday, November 05, 2012

Reality v. Misperception

Barack Obama will win the Presidential election by a comfortable margin. My prediction is 305 electoral votes and perhaps +3% in the popular voting.
This is a close race, and Mitt Romney will win the popular vote but will lose in a squeaker in the Electoral College.
Ummmm, no. This is clearly a situation of whistling past the graveyard on the part of Republicans who have forced the media by whining and throwing temper tantrums to phony up data and analysis that shows what they want to believe, that Obama somehow loses.
That the media is owned by a series of right-wing nutballs is fueling this misperception. It's just another cheat Republicans throw into the mix whenever they need to rally their troops.
That it's happening at all is the true story of this election and why I feel Obama will win large.
For instance, around November 1, 2008, Barack Obama was pulling around 51% of the popular vote on average. He ended up with an additional two percentage points as "registered voters" suddenly went out and voted. While I do not think that will happen again in such vast numbers, I do believe that Mitt Romney's support has flattened out, and is even decaying amongst Republicans.
Indeed, several suspicious moves by the Romney camp this weekend suggest that the following idea is in play: Shore up the base votes in states like Pennsylvania and Virginia, so as to lay claim that Romney indeed "won" the popular vote and thus invalidating Obama's election by the College.
By making Obama seem to be a split decision, they can safely go back to ignoring the President and gridlocking Congress while setting up another round of Help America Vote acts that will incorporate vote suppression tactics like photo ID and such.
Remember, voting is not a right. It's a privilege. Nowhere in the Constitution is a popular vote deemed a right and it's only through subsequent legislation and amending that voting even *appears* in the United States legal code.
What this sets up is an interminable disaster of butthurt, failing an Obama landslide, which would be viewed as widespread vote fraud....come on, you didn't really think they pursued those just for the sake of stopping people from voting, did you? While that charge would fall on mostly deaf ears nationwide, it would "work the ref" for the next close election.
A close win by Obama now would be viewed as the theft of an election -- we liberals got a lot of traction in 2004 based on the 2000 results, you might recall -- and would be used to focus anger on Obama in particular and progressives in general.
This ten-dimensional chess concerns me a little. While Obama will be able to navigate the minefield of a second term, we liberals tend to poo-poo nonsense from the right wing until it festers and boils over.
Remember, the Teabaggers saw their early roots take hold during the outrages over the Clinton administration, when we could have quashed the burgeoning nutbag right wing movement before it became a blight on the American landscape.
We as a group need to be prepared to argue and fight back here, and we each of us need to take steps now to tamp down the outrage.

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