Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why Indiana?

Kos wrote a piece showing state shifts in Presidential voting the last two elections on Thursday. Take a quick look.

Paul Rosenberg at Open Left followed up with a post pulling in Gallup poll numbers on change in party ID amongst voters. Take a look.

These make for a great lead-in to a question that has been rumbling around in my head since November.

Why Indiana?

In particular it is a question for pollsters, strategists, and Indiana people out there… Why Indiana?

In pondering this past election cycle I find myself surprised by only one thing… Indiana… well, two things, that one lonely electoral vote in Nebraska too. North Carolina came over to us one election cycle earlier then I expected but I consider that a very nice treat not a surprise. All the other states fell as expected. Except Indiana. Why did we win Indiana? And how do we build on that?

I think pundits, pollsters, strategists, political consultants and politicians are likely to make some serious mistakes in evaluating this past election and using it to predict future results. Two major factors came together uniquely in the 2008 election that will not be repeated in the future. Those two factors are the complete and total disaster that was the Bush/Cheney administration and Barack Obama, the first African-American to be nominated and subsequently elected President in the United States of America.

So, while some Democrats turned delusional in their victorious ecstasy gloat about “permanent Democratic majorities” and Republicans do whatever the Republican equivalent of navel gazing is while wailing and gnashing teeth over their massive defeat, the fact of the matter is that weak and poor governing on the part of Democrats could easily bring back the slim Republican majority that is their highest possible achievement level and return Democrats to the navel gazing self criticism that seems to come so easily to them.

During this past election cycle Democrats were energized by the opportunity to finally be rid of the Bush/Cheney disaster and the desire to ensure that it was not continued by another Republican. Minorities and liberals amongst Democrats were further energized by the opportunity to finally advance the civil rights movement that has been stalled since 1968 by electing the first African-American to the Presidency. Make no mistake this is a huge barrier that has been broken. Independent voters were similarly energized by the opportunity to be rid of Republican mis-rule and the desire to give Democrats a chance to dig us out of this mess. Reasonable and responsible Republicans, the same.

Which brings us to Indiana. Indiana is a very rural, conservative, white, Republican state. The last time it voted Democrat for President was in the Lyndon Johnson landslide against Barry Goldwater in 1964. Prior to that it was FDR’s first 2 elections during the depression. Going backwards between then and the birth of the Republican Party in 1860 Indiana has voted Democratic only 4 other times and of those 3 were in the 1800’s. In 2004 it was a 60% - 39% Republican state.

So, is this just an anomaly like 1964? Or is there something to be learned here? FDR is the only one to put back-to-back Democratic victories together but even he didn’t manage to win Indiana in his next two elections. Working with that small amount of information… is it economic populism? Or are there other lessons to be learned here?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aaah! I love the smell of fair and balanced media in the morning!

Schneider: Bipartisanship? What bipartisanship?

While Bill Schneider carefully doesn’t blame but certainly implicates Congressional Democrats for the lack of bipartisanship in stimulus bill. And none whatsoever for House Republicans despite their 0 votes.

"All the talk about bipartisanship that we have heard over the last several months went down the drain," House Republican leader John Boehner complained on Friday.

No counter quote from House Democratic leadership.

Obama also ran into a wall in his effort to build a bipartisan cabinet when his choice for Secretary of Commerce, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, withdrew his name from nomination.

No mention of Obama’s having already brought in other Republicans.

One reason is that members of Congress don't necessarily share Obama's passion for bipartisanship. Congressional Democrats see a partisan mandate in the last two elections. The voters threw out the Republican Congress in 2006. Then they threw out the Republican White House in 2008. If that is not a mandate for Democrats to govern, what is?

No mention of House Republicans clear intent or comments about obstructing the Democratic agenda.

Republicans saw the stimulus plan as a challenge to their core principles.
"We aren't interested in growing the size of government," Boehner said on the House floor.

Oh really? Perhaps we should review House Republicans actions when they were in control and see just how important that principle really is to them. Oh… and by the way… it is pretty clear that the House Republicans core principle is gaining and holding power at any and all costs. Everything else is a secondary principle.

Despite Obama's outreach to them, congressional Republicans felt excluded by the Democratic majority. At the same time, some House Democrats balked at the spending cuts made by the Senate in order to get even a modicum of Republican support.

No mention of the White House removing sections of the original bill that Republicans objected to and then still didn’t allow a single one of their members to vote for.

One reason for public suspicion: The stimulus plan came only a few months after the deeply unpopular Wall Street bailout. Most Americans resented the fact that the federal government -- indeed, the Bush administration -- was spending hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the institutions that were responsible for the financial crisis.

Ah yes. What was that about core princples and growing government? How much money did the Republicans authorize a Republican President to spend?

Republicans will keep up a chorus of complaint and might try to undo pieces of it. If the economic recovery is slow -- and Obama has warned that it may take years, not months –

Particularly if the Republicans continue to work against the interests of the American people by obstructing the President’s agenda.

… the plan will be a continuing issue of partisan controversy.

Of course it will. There are Republicans involved!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Which of these statements is just like the other?

Ryan Grim has Arlen Specter coverage at The Huffington Post:

"When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today," said Specter, "one of my colleagues said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' My Republican colleague said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' I said, 'Are you going to vote with me?' And he said, 'No, I might have a primary.' And I said, 'Well, you know very well I'm going to have a primary.'"

"I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation," he said.

Specter was asked, How many of your colleagues?

"I think a sizable number," he said. "I think a good part of the caucus agrees with the person I quoted, but I wouldn't want to begin to speculate on numbers."


And Matt Corley has RNC Chair Michael Steele at Think Progress:

STEELE: Yeah, no, Glenn. I’m not gonna, look, I’m not going to soft pedal this with you. I’m not going to try to blow smoke either. The reality of it is, you are absolutely right. You have absolutely no reason, none, to trust our word or our actions at this point. So, yeah, it’s going to be an uphill climb.


Indeed.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What the American People have to say about bipartisanship

Many people are quick to point out that Democrats make the mistake of thinking that “the facts speak for themselves” and therefore the facts should make peoples decisions for them. Experts make it clear that in fact (pun fully intended) people make their decisions based on emotions. They point out that Republicans won elections during the 1980’s and 1990’s by appealing to emotion and that Democrats lost by counting on the facts to speak for themselves. Be that as it may, it is still important to pay attention to the facts and learn what they have to say. So, let’s take a look at some facts from the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

The American People speak loudest through elections. In the 2006 election cycle the American people sent a strong message regarding their opinion of the Republican Party by handing the Democrats a clean sweep of the Republicans.

In 2006:

Democrats gained 6 Governorships by defeating 1 incumbent Republican and capturing 5 previously Republican held open seats.
Republicans gained 0 Governorships.

Democrats gained 31 US House of Representative seats by defeating 22 Republican incumbents, taking 8 previously Republican held open seats and 1 previously Independent held open seat.
Republicans gained 0 House seats.

Democrats gained 6 seats in the US Senate by defeating 6 Republican incumbents.
Republicans gained 0 Senate seats.

A complete sweep of this sort had never happened in the history of American electoral politics. Republicans did not win a single seat held by a Democrat. Not one. The American People took control of the US House away from the Republicans and gave it to the Democrats. The American People took control of the US Senate away from the Republicans and gave it to the Democrats. The American People took control of the majority of the 50 state Governorships away from the Republicans and gave it to the Democrats. At the State Legislative level Democrats also had sweeping victories taking majority control of several state legislatures but it was not quite the complete shutout seen at the federal and gubernatorial level.

In the following election cycle of 2008 the American People continued with the strong, loud and ought to be clear message they are sending (shift to present tense intentional) to Washington by virtually duplicating the clean sweep of 2006 with a resounding victory for Democrats across the board.

2008 was a Presidential election year. The American People took the Presidency away from the Republicans and gave it to the Democrats by electing Barack Obama to be the American People’s President of these United States of America with over a 9,500,000 vote margin. This translated to over a two thirds margin in the electoral college. A dominating, landslide victory for the Democratic candidate.

This margin completely swamped the combined margin of the previous 2 Republican Presidential victories combined. George Bush’s electoral vote margin was a slim 5 in 2000 and a larger 35 in 2004 for a combined total of 40 electoral votes compared to Barack Obama’s single election margin of 192 electoral votes. An almost 5 to 1 ratio. The popular vote is even more demonstrative of the American People’s opinion of the Republican Party. George Bush won the 2004 election by roughly 3 million votes and, you may recall, lost the popular vote in 2000 by roughly a half million votes. This combined 2.5 million votes is again swamped almost 4 to 1 by Barack Obama’s 9.5 million vote victory.

But wait. There’s more.

Also in 2008:

Democrats gained 1 Governorship by winning 1 previously Republican held open seat.
Republicans gained 0 Governorships.

Democrats gained 21 US House of Representative seats by defeating 14 Republican incumbents, taking 12 previously Republican held open seats.
Republicans defeated 5 Democratic incumbents. 4 of these were seats Democrats had won from Republicans in the 2006 sweep. Only 1 was from a long term Democrat and that was the indicted William “Cold Cash” Jefferson for whom Democrats did not turn out to vote.

Democrats gained 8 seats in the US Senate by defeating 5 Republican incumbents and taking 3 previously Republican held open seats.
Republicans gained 0 Senate seats.

The combined two-cycle total is:

Democrats:
1 President
1 Vice President

7 Governors

47 US Representatives
14 Senators

Let’s look at what the American People had to say from another angle:

Republicans:
-1 President
-1 Vice President

-7 Governors

-47 US Representatives
-14 Senators

It is admirable that the newly elected President Barack Obama wants to heal the divisions in this country. It is important that these divisions be healed. It is also admirable that he is reaching out to Republicans and attempting to include them in his administration and in discussions about the direction of the country under his stewardship. And it is admirable that he has made a point of reaching out to segments of American society that consistently voted for Republicans during their narrow victories in the early part of the decade and remained with the Republicans during their crushing defeats in 2006 and 2008. This is important and I hope he continues to do it.

However… the American People have made clear that they have rejected Republican policy and Republican governance. Resoundingly so. The newly elected President of the United States of America has been given a mandate his predecessor never had. His mandate is the same as his campaign theme…

Change.

The newly elected President and 111th Congress have been in office just under a month now. The Republicans that remain in elected office in Washington have made it clear that they intend to obstruct the agenda and mandate of the Majority Democrats to the best of their ability. This was made no clearer than their lock-step NO vote on the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan in the House. Zero Republicans voted in favor of the bill even after Democrats agreed to drop certain provisions important to Democrats and the American People. Both Republicans and Democratic Leaders should make note of that 0 number. The American People elected 0 Republicans the last two election cycles. 0 Republicans voted in step with the Democrats that the American People did vote into office. Be assured that the American People are well aware of the relation between those zeros and their relation to the coming 2010 mid-term elections as well.

Democrats in the US Senate, US House, and the White House have a strong and unequivocal mandate to govern as Democrats. While they should continue to reach out to their Republican colleagues in an effort at re-creating the bipartisanship that once governed this nation effectively this must not be done at the expense of heading the voice of the American People and advancing the Democratic Agenda that the American People overwhelmingly voted for in 2006 and 2008.

It is admirable that President Obama has nominated multiple Republicans to serve in his cabinet. It is particularly remarkable that they have included such Republicans as Judd Gregg. The news that Mr. Gregg decided today that he simply could not work with the President should not come as a surprise to anyone. His views have always been too the far right fringe that the modern day Republican Party holds. There are very few “moderate” Republicans left in elected office these days. Perhaps 3 total. Mr. Gregg’s inability to work with the President during this time of economic crisis is akin to the Republican House caucus voting against the American People’s economic recovery act. There can be no mistaking where the Republicans priorities lie. They are lock-step with the hard line far right fringe agenda that the American People have so overwhelmingly rejected.

Thank you for trying Mr. President. But it is time to move on to accomplishing what we sent you to Washington to do. You have a lot of work ahead of you and no time to waste in doing it. There are plenty of highly qualified, capable Democrats that are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard on advancing the agenda We the American People elected you to put into action.

Note:
This is a cartogram of what America looks like. We are not a Center-Right nation. We are not Red and Blue.

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To see more please see this Scientific American article.