Thursday, November 13, 2008

Re: Seven Days Later

From one of our Montana Correspondents:

I keep wondering why the election vote was so close since McCain had to run against Bush, the war, the collapse of the economy, etc. "The Economist" issue of 8 Nov 2008 has some interesting stats that might help explain.

Obama won the popular vote 52% to 46% and vote the electoral vote by 190 (364 to 174). He owes his victory to blacks, Hispanics, the young, women of all races, the poor and the very rich. They provided the huge margins for his win.

He won 95% of blacks, 66% of people aged 18-29 and 68% of first-time voters, 66% of the Latino vote (the GOP natives rejection of immigration reform has cost it dearly) and 17% of white voters who made over $200,000 per year. He won independents by 8% and 54% of the catholic votes, a vital swing group in the industrial states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

He lost to McCain by 18% of all white voters without a college education. That's the largest group of those voting and I think that was the main reason the popular vote was as close as it was.

"John McCain got 5 million fewer votes than George Bush got in 2004. Around 53% of the over-65 group voted for John McCain, but around 10 million elderly have died in the U.S. since 2004. For voters under age 30, 66% voted for Barack Obama. If this trend continues, the Republican Party may simply die out." (LBOTC)

In my opinion, the GOP has to address issues of the younger voters or they will continue to lose future elections. The times "they are a'changing." For better or for worse. But they are a'changing.

Reply: I think it felt closer than it actually was. This is only the 3rd time since World War II that the Democrats got more than 50% of the vote (1964 and 1976 were the other two). That compares to 7 times for the Republican Party, and 6 times neither party broke 50%.

By running as “mavericks” McCain and Palin were appealing to the 5% to 10% to 20% of the American electorate that is ready to vote for third party candidates. I don’t think the Republican Party can count on those voters in 2012, particularly if Obama does well.

Obama had things to run against too: disappointment with the Pelosi Congress, skepticism that Democrats will end the war, concerns about his experience in the face of the war and the collapsing economy, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Seven Days Later

It was quiet in Cambridge on Election Day last week. There were no Obama volunteers in Harvard Square or holding signs at the polling places. All were dispatched to New Hampshire and other battleground states. Free coffee was dispensed to voters at Starbucks and free ice cream was dispensed at Ben and Jerry’s. Around 6:45pm, a lone woman was manning a Green Party table in front of Out of Town News, and not doing much business.

The votes are pretty much counted from last week’s election (take your time Oregon and Washington State). Just a week ago Obama supporters around the country were sitting on their seats convinced that they would get tricked or cheated out of what now looks like a historically inevitable victory. And McCain supporters were convinced their world was coming to an end.

Any which way you can. Barack Obama could win by winning Florida. He could win by winning Ohio. He could win by winning Virginia and North Carolina. He could win by winning Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. He could win by winning Indiana and Iowa so long as his party also won a majority of Congressional delegations for the tiebreaker. He won all five of those ways.

Broken records, flat turnout. Barack Obama racked up 66 million votes, 4 million more than George Bush in 2004, and 7 million more than John Kerry. The total number of votes cast jumped 17 million (16%) from 2000 to 2004 but only 3 million (2.5%) from 2004 to 2008. Overall turnout didn’t keep up with population growth as high turnout in some states was offset by lower turnout in others.

The Republican Party is dying out. From the conservative perspective, it’s really been 24 years since we’ve had a successful Republican presidential candidate who could be considered both competent and inspiring. That would be Ronald Reagan running for reelection in 1984, before he was tarnished by the Iran-Contra scandal. Children who were 6 years old in 1984 and old enough to remember Reagan are 30 years old now. Anyone who was voting age in 1984 is over 40 years old now. If you don’t count Reagan, you would have to go back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Children who were 6 in 1956 are 58 years old now, and adults who were voting age in 1956 are 73 years old now.

John McCain got 5 million fewer votes than George Bush got in 2004. Around 53% of the over-65 group voted for John McCain, but around 10 million elderly have died in the U.S. since 2004. For voters under age 30, 66% voted for Barack Obama. If this trend continues, the Republican Party may simply die out.

40 years in the wilderness. One of the most moving moments on election night was seeing Jesse Jackson crying in the crowd at the Obama victory celebration in Chicago. Jackson finished third for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and second in 1988, but his candidacy was never taken seriously except as a potential spoiler. In April 1968, 40 years ago, he was in the parking lot below the balcony of the Memphis motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This is from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech the night before he was killed:

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight.”

The race riots that followed King’s assassination left deep scars on the urban landscape and the suburban psyche in the United States. That, together with the late 1960s student unrest in opposition to the Vietnam War, pretty much destroyed the Democratic Party as a Presidential Party. So the Democrats have held the Presidency for only 12 of the last 40 years. For the hundred years from the Civil War to the 1960s, it had been a coalition of Northern urban and Southern rural voters. After the 1960s the Democrats became at core the party of urban America, but has had to settle for non-urban outsiders like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. There have been few real blue states, just blue cities.

Are we seeing a Midwestern realignment? The Republican Party reelected to Congress its rhetorical bomb throwers like Jean Schmidt (“cowards cut and run”) from Ohio, Michele Bachmann (“are they pro-America or anti-America?”) from Minnesota, and Steve King (“they will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name.”) from Iowa. But the Congressional delegations in the upper Midwest states all went Democratic.

Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton won back rural Southern voters, but the party was not able to hold onto them, even when it ran Southerner Al Gore in 2000. In 2000 and 2004, Democrats won in the big cities but lost in the large rural areas across the Midwest as well as the South and West. Now it looks like the rural vote may again be in play.

Looking at the county by county map for 2008, Barack Obama won a lot of rural counties in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Barack Obama also carried the city of Omaha, Nebraska (birthplace of Malcolm X), which has long voted Republican and considers itself the gateway to the West. If Western Plains states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana follow the Midwest out of the Republican Party, there will not be much left for the party but the South. Since the Republican Party was formed to oppose the South on slavery, that would be the ultimate irony.

Call me a socialist. I think that Barack Obama’s poll numbers might have actually gone up a notch in the final days of the campaign when the McCain campaign questioned whether he was a socialist. Have the rural Iowans and other rural Midwesterners figured out that their federal farm price supports, their local banks and cooperative lending institutions, their municipally-owned hospitals run by elected boards of directors, their volunteer fire departments, their community-organized music festivals and band days, their 4-H clubs and state university extension programs, their county homes and care facilities for residents who can’t support themselves, their town-supported semi-pro baseball teams, their communal practice of helping sick neighbors harvest their crops, their deep mistrust of corporations and Wall Street, that all of these are socialist institutions and proclivities?

I’ve come to understand that all the blue state socialists really want is the same kind of community that small town America works hard at and, when it comes to others, sometimes takes for granted. It makes me kind of sad to live in the cold, hard, capitalist city of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Al Franken Still Waiting for His Affirmation

In a race that is still too close to call, former SNL writer and comedian Al Franken is trailing by 206 votes in his bid to become the next Senator from Minnesota. I can’t help but remember Al Franken on Saturday Night Live at the end of 1979, proclaiming that the 1980s would be the “Al Franken Decade.” I also remember him in the role as Stuart Smalley doing his daily affirmation, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." Minnesota may not make Al Franken’s decade despite voting for Barack Obama by a margin of 300,000 votes and that's ... okay.

Alaska Senator to Nowhere

Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens became famous for getting an earmark into the federal budget for an expensive bridge between two small islands (the “bridge to nowhere”) and then became infamous for getting convicted this fall on 7 corruption charges. Yet he’s on track to win reelection to his Senate seat, beating Mark Begich, the Democratic Mayor of Anchorage. The reelected Ted Stevens will probably have to resign from the Senate or be expelled, which in either case will require a special election to fill the seat. So by voting for Ted, the Alaska electorate may have been voting for “none of the above.” Still, if you are Mark Begich, losing to a convicted felon has got to hurt.

I'm with Stupid

Q: How stupid is Sarah Palin?

A: Yes, her campaign clothes buying spree may have been a full 25% of total retail sales activity for the United States in October. Now insiders are saying she thinks Africa is a country not a continent and South Africa is just a region not its own country. She says she never said that, but would she be wrong? You may want to read up on the African Union, which was formed in 2002 as a confederation of 53 African states. The African Union has a flag, an anthem ("Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together"), a parliament of sorts, a nascent judiciary, a proposal for a single currency (yes, the Afro), and peacekeeping troops deployed and under fire in Sudan. By the time Sarah Palin runs again for President in 2012 or 2016, Africa may very well be a true country. And with a Senate seat potentially opening up in Alaska, could we soon be seeing Senator Sarah Palin on the world stage?

Q: How stupid is Barack Obama?

A: Word is that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry wants to be Secretary of State. Remember that Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it. I think a good job for him would be U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Word also is that Larry Summers is on the list to become Secretary of Treasury. For some politically incorrect remarks a few years back, Larry was drummed out of the presidency of Harvard University (some thought unfairly other thought very deservedly). I’m pretty sure Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett gets to pick the new Secretary of Treasury appointment in return for his giving of Barack Obama the capitalist seal of approval during the financial meltdown a few weeks ago. Do the right thing, Warren.

Q: How stupid are we?

A: I’m looking back at the list of goals George W. Bush failed to accomplish and seeing that he wanted to invest our Social Security funds in the stock market. The nominal amount held in the Social Security trust fund these days is $2 trillion. The total tab for funds designated to bail out various companies is now around $1 trillion. Is George W. Bush investing half our Social Security money in the shakiest part of the financial markets as he leaves office?

Buy a Gun for Christmas

There are reports of a run on gun shops due to fears that Democrats in Congress will clamp down on gun rights come January. A number of stores across the country reported record gun sales on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Could some gun enthusiasts have gone straight from the voting booth to the gun store, or did they just skip the trip to the voting booth? Are these the bitter Klingons, clinging to their guns and religion, Sarah Palin spoke of in the final days of the campaign? No reports yet of a run on bibles.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Here's a story I got from one of my correspondents. It shows you why concern over potential vote fraud may have been overblown:

This morning I drove by 2 polling places in the South End between 7:10 and 7:15. There were orderly lines of 150-200 people out the door and around the block, and no visible sign of campaign workers. When I had no choice, in 2000, I voted absentee for the first time, and have continued to do so (possibly illegally, since I certify that I'll be away) ever since for 2 reasons; first, it's wicked convenient and I never miss voting in smaller elections. Second, I have found the campaign workers in Jamaica Plain particularly obnoxious. It's unpleasant to be accosted on the way to vote by people shoving small pieces of paper at me. It's also illegal to even hold a sign within 150 feet of a polling place. Massachusetts General law chapter 56, section 29 says you can be fined $500, but apparently no one enforces this law in JP.

There's a regular panhandler outside of the Dunkin Donuts where I get my coffee each morning. Today I asked him if he was registered to vote. He said that he had registered as homeless at the Pine Street Inn, that they gave him a yellow piece of paper to take to the polls with him, and that he had lost it along with his T pass, wallet, and ID. He asked me if I thought he could still vote. I said that I didn't know, and that his best bet would be to ask someone at Pine Street. "Yes," he said. "I'm going to go there as soon as I finish work."

Republicans Pack for Canada and France

I was driving around Waltham, Weston, Wayland, and Wellesley this Sunday watching the leaves fall. I can’t afford the gas money for the drive to Vermont, although gas does seem to have dropped to $2.55 per gallon here. I was seeing a lot of For Sale signs mixed with the McCain-Palin yard signs. Here in Massachusetts you have to drive out to the W. towns to see any McCain-Palin signs. In Cambridge it’s all Obama signs. You don’t even see so many Obama-Biden signs, as these are folks who got their Obama yards signs up in April when the snow melted. There are some Obama-Biden signs out in the W. towns.

Anyway, all the For Sale signs out in horse farm country got me wondering how much of the stock market plunge that started 6 weeks ago might be due to big money Bush Republicans seeing the handwriting on the wall and cashing out before the election. If they can take their money and run, where would they go?

For years we’ve heard rich liberals threatening to move to Canada or France if the election comes out wrong. But Canada since February 2006 has been governed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative Party just won reelection in October. Meanwhile, France has been governed since May 2007 by the conservative UMP party under President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon. So it would seem that Canada and France have become the last bastions of conservatives in North America and Europe.

Canada, by the way, is still a monarchy under head of state Queen Elizabeth II and her Governor General Michaëlle Jean, a black woman born in Haiti. On news of her appointment in 2005, there were stories that she and her husband had been friendly with separatist terrorists from French-speaking Quebec, but she has served as Governor General of Canada since 2005 with no untoward effect.

So why would the big Bushies be packing their money bags while the rest of us are sitting on the edge of our seats for the election results? It’s all about Electoral College vote math. The projections LBOTC watches both show Barack Obama winning 353 to 185 for John McCain. That would be a victory margin of 85 electoral votes for Obama. On the other hand, in 2004 Bush ended up beating Kerry 286 to 252, so McCain could sneak in an Electoral College victory if he upset the polling trends and pulled off victories in most all the states George Bush over John Kerry won in 2004.

What to watch for on Tuesday night:

Florida (27), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), and Ohio (20) – These were Bush states in 2004 and 2000, and they’ll be among the first states to report results, so if Obama is winning most or all of these, you can go to bed early (not that you will). But Obama can lose all of these and still win the election.

Pennsylvania (21) – Of the states Kerry won in 2004, Pennsylvania seems to be McCain’s best chance for an upset. McCain needs a victory in Pennsylvania to offset the Bush states he may lose in the East as well as the Bush states he will lose in the West. Republican strategists had hoped to win over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the Great Lakes region, and this is all that is left of that dream. For the geographically impaired, Pennsylvania is on Lake Erie.

Missouri (11) and Iowa (7) – For Obama, this is the firewall. If Obama wins both of these, I see no way for McCain to pull off an upset.

New Mexico (5), Colorado (9), Nevada (5) – These states went for Bush in 2004 but are expected to go for Obama in 2008. Kerry needed only 18 more electoral votes to beat Bush in 2004, so even if McCain pulls out victories in all the other states Bush won in 2004, the 19 electoral votes in these 3 states could still put Barack Obama over the top. This has been the Democratic Western States strategy, figuring out how to win without Ohio or Florida, the losing battlegrounds of 2004 and 2000 respectively. So even if Obama gets off to a slow start in the East, he can still win in the West.

Massachusetts (12) – Barack Obama will win big here, the only question is by how much. John Kerry got 1,803,800 votes here in 2004, which is the current record, second to 1,786,422 votes for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Al Gore got 1,616,487 votes here in 2000. With a record turnout expected, Barack Obama could shatter the records with 2,000,000 votes. The other thing to watch in Massachusetts is whether Barack Obama for President scores more votes statewide than John Kerry in his reelection bid for Senate. You don’t have to vote for Kerry’s opponent to help this along, just don’t vote for Kerry. Remember, Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it.

National Popular Vote – As we all learned in 2000, the popular vote total doesn’t count, except for bragging rights. Look for Barack Obama to break the 70,000,000 vote mark. George W. Bush holds the current record with 62,040,610 votes in 2004. John Kerry has second place with 59,028,444 votes in 2000.

U.S. House of Representatives – The three races I’m following are Steve King v. Rob Hubler in Iowa’s 5th congressional district, Michelle Bachmann v. Elwyn Tinklenberg in Minnesota’s 6th congressional district, and Jean Schmidt v. Victoria Wulsin in Ohio’s 2nd congressional district. Also look to see if any incumbents get punished by their constituents for voting for or against the October financial bailout.

U.S. Senate – There has been talk that the Democrats might reach the magic 60 seat mark in the Senate, which under Senate rules would enable them to prevent Republican filibusters and make it much easier to pass legislation. However, that talk ignores the fact that seat 60 would be Joe Lieberman, who Democrats tried to purge from their party in 2006 and who is now campaigning for John McCain. So, if you’re staying up super late to get the final Senate results, you may need an intervention.