Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Political Analysis Bunk

Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post is dead on that we should ignore that the 2009 elections mean this or that garbage from the analysts.

Marcus writes:
"do the off-year results foreshadow anything for a president's reelection three years down the road? Hardly. Of the 10 elections in which one party won both states, a president of that party was elected six times in the following presidential contest."
She continues:
"So it's possible, for example, that Obama's performance has turned off some of the Virginians who voted for him last year and played a role in the race between Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell. But Deeds was a lousy candidate, McDonnell a far more adept one. Virginia is a purple state, but purple with a decidedly reddish tinge.

But as to the question of whether Tuesday's results portend very much for Congress in 2010 or Obama in 2012, the answer is: not really, all the commentary notwithstanding."

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post does make the obvious yet good point that the dems are heavily reliant on the young voting demographic. And that could prove a real problem in the midterms.

Dark Horse Dispatch gets closer to the intentions of voters in the three "big" races on Tuesday as Sides at The Monkey Cage correctly says is the vital information needed to make robust political analysis. While Dark Horse's use of exit polling is not the best data it is more than we have seen elsewhere.

Dark Horse writes:

"Exit polls in both the NJ and VA elections show that a majority of independents supported Republicans. In Virginia, 62% of them voted for the GOP victor Bob McDonnell, while 37% voted for the Democrat Creigh Deeds. In NJ, GOP winner Chris Christie captured 58% of their votes, while defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine got 31%.

So this means that Steele is right, and that this vital voting bloc is turning their backs on the Democrats and President Obama, yes?

Not if you listen to what these voters themselves told pollsters: When explicitly asked if their votes yesterday were indicative of what they thought about the President, 57% of independents in VA and 60% of them in NJ said —- NO."

Previous Posts
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up
Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up II Sphere: Related Content

Poor Rush - Why Does Race Keep Getting In His Way

I received the new issue of The New Republic today. Jonathan Chait finds the problem that Race has with Limbaugh. We worth the click and read. Chait writes:
"So whether Limbaugh is 'racist' is a near-meaningless question. Suffice it to say that he's intensely race-conscious and constantly plays upon white racial paranoia. In Limbaugh's world, racism is everywhere--it's just directed at white people. Earlier this year in Belleville, Illinois, two kids who happened to be black beat up a kid who happened to be white in what witnesses and police say was a non-racial dispute over seating in a school bus. Apparently, the color-blind analysis of that incident is the following:

"Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,' and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white."

Chait is correct that whether someone says Rush is a racist is meaningless at this point. Chait finishes:

"The conservative is a double victim--of false accusations of racism and of racism itself. Limbaugh moans, 'Frankly, the biggest problem I face in the current climate of political correctness is that I'm color-blind about it.' Poor Limbaugh--he tries so hard to avoid race, but it just keeps finding him."

Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up II

"So thank Doug Hoffman for showing the GOP establishment that a conservative can win in upstate New York and for saving us from the disaster of Dede Scozzafava."
Writes John McCormack at The Weekly Standard. I am not sure how he arrives at this conclusion. A conservative did not win proves that a conservative can win, makes no sense.

Of the counties that overlap the NY-23 congressional district and the NYS-122 Assembly district Scozzafava won them handily in her last contested Assembly race. In 2008 she was unopposed on all lines on the election ballot. In 2006 she was opposed by Democrat Karl Williams. In 2006 she carried Jefferson County by more than 20 points over the Democrat while Hoffman in 2009 lost by three points. IN 2006 Scozzafava carried Lewis County by roughly 30 points over the Democrat while in 2009 Hoffman won by only four points over Owens. In 2006 Scozzafava carried Oswego County by more than 25 points over the Democrat while Hoffman in 2009 was over Owens by only two points. Finally in 2006 Scozzafava carried St. Lawrence County by more than 30 points over Williams the Democrat while in 2009 Hoffman was crushed by Owens by over 16 points. (Forgive me for being so dull, but I could not does this quickly any other way).

With that said Scozzafava was not an unknown quantity. Of the 11 counties that make up the NY-23 these four are the largest by population if you remove for Onieda County. Onieda was carried in 2006 by the Democratic Assembly candidate and in 2009 was carried by Owens by 17 points.

I think it is being ignored that John McHugh the predecessor to the NY23 seat was not a terrible conservative as judged by the American Conservative Union. There is absolutely nothing that tells me that the 2009 result is a victory for conservatives.

Previous posts:

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills

Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills - Follow Up

John Sides at The Monkey Cage asks What NY-23 (and VA and NJ) Mean. Sides addresses the theory that yesterdays results are a referendum on Democratic leadership:
"absent more evidence, we simply don’t know if they were referenda on Obama, on Corzine and Kaine, or on none of the above. Interpretations of elections depend on the reasons for voters’ choices. You can’t simply ask voters why they chose a candidate, or whether a particular factor mattered. People do not accurately report on their own mental processes. You can’t simply look at the at overall levels of opinions — what percentage approves of Obama or is dissatisfied with Corzine, etc."
Sides points out the Washington Post's Dan Balz odd contradiction:"

"Especially when these interpretations are contradictory mush like this from Dan Balz:

Off-year elections can be notoriously unreliable as predictors of the future, but as a window on how the political landscape may have changed in the year since President Obama won the White House, Tuesday’s Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey delivered clear warnings for the Democrats.

Unreliable, yet clear!"

Previous Post Sphere: Related Content

Infant Mortality

The rate of infant mortality in the United States is frighteningly high. 6.9 out of 1,000 babies die before one year the New York Times reports today. That is slightly less than three times the rate in Sweden. Nearly 30,000 babies died in the United States in 2006 before the age of one.

Among factors cited in the article was the increasing utilization of Cesarean section births in the U.S. As a point of anecdotal evidence I remember the the Cesarean option being pushed pretty hard by hospital staff as my wife and I were awaiting the arrival of our son in 2007. Sphere: Related Content

Mountains Out Of Poll Hills

Why does the media punditocracy insist on imbuing Tuesday election results with so much predictive power of future elections. In the states and district that comprise this would be backlash against the the democrats and the president a total of roughly 16 million people live. That is about five percent of the total national population. I have not heard any convincing evidence of this great shift from the 2008 presidential election result. So I took a quick look at some election results and attempt to show that the 2009 results are not that revealing.

The turnout for the three races in 2009 was 4.4 million. From these same three political geographic areas the turnout in 2008 was 6.7 million. In VA turnout was down 47 percent. In NJ, turnout one year later is down 40 percent. In NY23 turnout declined by 36 percent. It does not seem like a repudiation of the 2008 national mandate. It is safe to assume that turnout will rise in next year's mid-term congressional elections and then again in 2012. The people who vote in off years, can I say dull electoral years, are severely self selected. The more committed people come out for these elections so we need to take the result with a bit skepticism.

Going down the ballot in VA and NJ reveals more information that takes away from the conventional media wisdom that 2009 is predicate for the next two elections. In NJ 31 out 51 legislative elections went democratic. In VA five out of 15 went democratic. These are not shifts from a historical perspective.

In a structure of government that is designed to be slow and not subject to whims, the media creates an illusion that the president can make changes that are immediately witnessed on the ground. As interesting as the discussing the predictive value of off year elections the media creates expectations that are unreal and unfortunately we the people buy it.

I think this is an indication of the value of the 24 news environment.

Note that my quick math on these numbers may be off slightly. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Privacy And Petitions

The question in Washington state about the privacy of signers of public referendum petitions is interesting and a valuable discussion to have. The question is whether the signatories of petition can be made public. The question of privacy has been raised because of the effort to publish the names of signatories to a referendum petition to prevent domestic partnership rights to same sex couples.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that publishing the names of the referendum supporters may violate protections of free speech. I make no claim to understand the esoteric legal issues this raises but I do understand the function of the referendum process. The function of public referendum is to circumvent the established legislative process. The referendum is a de facto piece of legislation and that means that signers are de facto legislators, similar to sponsors of legislation in a formal body. I can't support any democratic form of government in which there is any benefit in allowing anonymous legislators to introduce legislation to be introduced and passed.

The issue of safety is a concern. It would a tragedy if a petition signer was attacked because of their having signed a petition. But does that concern trump the principle of protecting the people from the tyranny of the majority. While the safety of the signers is a concern is it a greater concern than the protecting the rights of a minority of the people to be subjugated by the passing of the referendum. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It Is About Time

It is about time that the United States lifted the ban on immigrants with HIV. The pressure from gay rights groups that culminated a few weeks ago has extracted President Obama from his policy coma for gay rights. He still has a some work to do but this is a good start. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sen. Tom Coburn Kills Armadillos And Water Moccasins

He also likes to kill legislation. A short profile in Friday's New York Times displays Coburn's penchant for obstructing the legislative process. Is operating as an encumbrance in a legislative body designed to encumber achieving anything positive?
"'I’ve always considered myself an opposition within the opposition,' said Mr. Coburn, whose willingness to block, delay or neuter bills through an array of procedural measures has made him an effective nuisance during his five years in the Senate.

His at-times hyperbolic rhetoric, fervent social conservatism and seeming indifference to whether or not people like him have made him something of a lightning rod. 'If we wiped out the entire Congress and sent common people who have no political experience, we would get far better results than we have today,' he said in a remark typical of how he views the institution."
How true do you think this statement is:
"'If you look historically, every great republic has died over fiscal issues,' he said. 'That is the biggest moral issue of our time.'"
Is Tom Coburn the embodiment of the obsolescence of the senate? Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Liberals Love David Brooks

Gabriel Sherman at The New Republic explains the relationship between the White House and David Brooks and why liberals read his column. Sherman writes:
"That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. 'I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,' Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” In the fall of 2006, two days after Obama’s The Audacity of Hope hit bookstores, Brooks published a glowing Times column. The headline was 'Run, Barack, Run.'"
He continues:
"Brooks concedes that his place on the political spectrum has shifted somewhat over the years. 'I used to think conservatives were right about the big things--the Soviet Union, economic growth,' he explains. 'Now, on a lot of issues, I think liberals have been right about some big things, like rising inequality. Both sides of the education divide are within the Democratic Party. . . . The Republicans are sitting this one out. And, then, the war in Iraq has caused me to rethink things in a much more modest [way], and that is Burkean, too.'"
"As much as any columnist, Brooks speaks to these left-of-center suburbanites. After all, he is known for attracting liberal readers who normally can’t stand conservative pundits. 'I get a lot of people who say, ‘I’m a liberal and you’re the only one I read,’ ' Brooks says. 'Sometimes, it can be a little condescending. . . . But you take the readers where you can get them. I do wish more people walked up to me and said, ‘I’m a conservative and I love you.’ But, mostly, they don’t read the Times.'"

Sphere: Related Content

Let's Build That Wind Farm Now

After a short period time from the passing of Ted Kennedy we should begin the process to approve and construct the wind farm of the Massachusetts shore. The Boston Globe writes:
"As the country’s first proposed commercial offshore wind farm, and the only project of its kind this far along in the approval process, Cape Wind could open the door for developers to harness the vast wind energy resource along the nation’s eastern seaboard. The approval could make Massachusetts the trailblazer of a power source that is an essential part of the country’s strategy to address global warming and to achieve energy security."
Sphere: Related Content

The State Of The GOP

Former Reagan Economist, Bruce Bartlett, explains the problem with the GOP and why he left the party. Bartlett writes:
"Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is 'what can we do to screw the Democrats today.' How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?"
He continues:
"I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP."
Sphere: Related Content

Jack Nicholson Attended The Kennedy Funeral

Photo is from Boston Globe. Sphere: Related Content

The Affirmative Action Class

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has nailed the problem of nepotism in the pundit and political class. Greenwald wrotes:
"They should convene a panel for the next Meet the Press with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it's really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There's a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters."
Sphere: Related Content

Ted Kennedy

The weekend long memorial of Ted Kennedy was surprisingly emotional for me. I don't know why, but I cried. Perhaps it the some strange mythical status that my Irish Catholic (OK not really, but I can't escape all of it) background places on the Kennedy name. I was in Washington D.C. last week when Senator Kennedy pasted away and watched as the flag at the National Zoo was lowered to half staff by a National Park Service officer. I was at the zoo about to see an elephant and a zebra and the sight of a man lowering the flag because someone I had never met died made me sad. I have not gotten very emotional about the passing of other public figures but I felt connected to this one. I can't imagine this will happen to me or the country again for a long time.

I watched most of the services over the weekend, switching back and forth between CNN, MSNBC and Fox News to witness the differences in the coverage. I think the Fox News coverage was better than the other two. I think the Fox folks tended not to get too emotional about the death and the events after. I found that refreshing as I was emotional already. CNN had its usual panel of too many people that made the coverage strange. I think at one point CNN had seven people on their panel, not including Anderson Cooper who was the host. MSNBC's coverage was uncomfortable. First Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews should not be in the same room with each other. Their joint discomfort with each other is palpable even if you are just hearing them speak. Olbermann attempts at soaring rhetoric sometimes seems forced and distracting. While Matthew's feeling is genuine his overt emotions was not comforting. By far the best person involved in covering the events this weekend on the three cable networks was MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. Unfortunately she was only involved on Friday.

Of all the written memorials to Senator Kennedy, I found Andrew Sullivan's essay in the Times to be the fullest, but there are many others that were just as good. I enjoyed the Sullivan piece because it is not the gushing liberal writing on the loss of the great liberal senator, it is the thoughtful conservative writing about the loss of the great American and part of the myth that is America.

Sullivan writes:
"Kennedy’s insistence on what he saw as racial justice and his deepest passion, universal healthcare, framed his legacy. There wasn’t a gay rights bill this compulsive heterosexual didn’t champion. Even if you disagreed with him on some issues, as I did, there was nothing subtle or contrived about his liberalism.

It was a big-hearted sort of politics, an expansively righteous sense of duty and, as such, an integral part of what makes Anglo-American politics work. Conservatism needs a Reagan and Thatcher; liberalism needs its Kennedys. Because we all need myth and we all need royalty – even if it is strained through the sieve of democratic rule.

Enoch Powell once remarked that all political careers end in failure. The strange thing about Kennedy is that his own might end posthumously in success. His anointed son Obama and a Democratic Congress will almost certainly pass a bill this autumn that will expand access to healthcare to all Americans. He fought for this for 40 years; and despite extreme resistance, peaking now, it seems clear that the Democrats have the votes to pass universal insurance, paid by government subsidy, for private healthcare."

Sphere: Related Content
Add to Technorati Favorites