“Vigol had beaten up a tax collector and burned his house”
-The tea party motto
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Exxon executive with no government experience, but close ties with Russia. Slam dunk, right? Tillerson is a savvy business elite with government connections that run very deep, and with very important boosters, like former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates is said to be the person that brought up Tillerson to Trump for SOS. That should be reassuring since Gates is one of the few remaining Republican patricians that is willing to govern in a legitimately (not rhetorically) bipartisan manner.
Tillerson’s hearings have been contentious, with several Republicans voicing serious reservations about voting to confirm him to the post. However, I believe they will heed his decent answers to their concerns about Russia, and he will eventually be confirmed with some Democratic support, 68-32. Even still, he might be the only cabinet pick to face a no vote from a GOP Senator, which is quite remarkable given the controversies and lack of experience of other candidates.
Secretary of the Treasury: Steve Mnuchin
Goldman Sachs executive keeping the streak of ex-Goldman execs running the nexus of monetary and fiscal policy. At least he was one of the financiers behind Mad Max Fury Road. Jest aside, before the bombshell that he failed to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets, I would of thought he would be confirmed with something like 81-19, but now Democrats have more credibility to say there is something awry here. That said, I doubt it sinks his chances. Now we are looking at something closer to a party-line vote with some sporadic Democratic support, 59-41.
Secretary of Defense: James Mattis
Trump’s best cabinet pick, with something to like on all ends of the spectrum, from doves that appreciate his calculated nature and seriousness in deliberation, and hawks that love his anti-Iran suspicions. I have heard leftist circles call him a war criminal, but that perspective is not shared by many Democratic senators.
The Warrior Monk will either be confirmed by acclimation (no recorded vote) or if there is a recorded vote, at worst it will be something like 88-12.
Confirmed 1/20/17, 98-1 (51-0 R; 45-1 (Gillibrand) D)
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has a long, well-known history with confirmation hearings. In fact, he only came to the Senate because he was denied a judgeship on the circuit courts. Even considering his baggage and fairly extreme views, there is ZERO chance Sessions will be denied confirmation? Why? First, because many Democratic senators will defer to one of their own, that they know well and generally respect (Cory Booker’s theatrics notwithstanding). I expect Al Franken and many of his ilk to vote to confirm Sessions, which will undermine their credibility with the party base. Second, for Sessions to fail nomination, three Republican senators would have to vote against confirmation. That is very unlikely. One person above all exemplifies how unlikely this is: Susan Collins–the most liberal Republican in the Senate–introduced Sessions in his first hearing. She expounded his virtues and proclaimed he is not a racist. Good to know. When the most liberal Republican is one of his biggest advocates, it suggests this confirmation was signed and sealed before it even started.
Sessions is confirmed, 74-26. His time at DOJ may not be long, as he should also be considered a dark horse candidate for Trump to appoint to the Supreme Court. He would likely fail confirmation, if that were the case, since the stakes would be even higher.
Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke
On its face, a very solid pick. Zinke is perhaps the squeakiest clean nominee Trump put forward, or at least top two with Chao. He says the right things about conservation and seems like a decent person. One of DOI’s biggest issue purviews is on indigenous issues, and Montana is generally pretty good to its native population (in a comparative sense). However, despite his modest proclamations, Zinke will probably favor liquidating more federal lands, which in isolation is not so bad, but in conjunction with deregulation, cronyism, and imminent ecological disaster foretells a dangerous tenure at the helm. Arctic drilling is sure to be a priority in this administration.
Will definitely be confirmed, and probably by a fairly large margin given the low regard people hold in DOI jurisdictions, and Zinke’s station as a current representative. 94-6.
Secretary of Agriculture: Sonny Perdue
After much delay, Trump finally selected former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be his ag secretary. Although Perdue is very conservative, has a history of pseudo-racist remarks, and may have improperly benefited from sweet heart land dealings while in office, he is actually very mainstream and is among Trump’s safest picks. He will likely work toward the long-standing GOP goal of eliminating farm subsidies, but as someone who has benefited from them, perhaps he minimizes the amount of change from former Secretary Vilsack. Perdue will be confirmed 67-33.
Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross
Billionaire who had an “illegal” immigrant working in his home. That exact dynamic–hiring an undocumented immigrant for domestic are–has sunk several nominations in the past. It would be him too, especially since Democrats have little to like about Ross. 56-46.
Secretary of Labor: Andrew Puzder
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price
Tom Price has long been a far-rightist trying to pull the party over with him. He gained influence as the head of the Republican Study Committee, where he espoused practical versions of non-mainstream ideas. Price has long been in hot water for ethical lapses, and the latest alleged insider trading will not help. Will anyone in the GOP care? Perhaps. At this point, it seems he will fail to get the majority needed for confirmation, which means he likely will not face a vote (why put a failing nominee up?).
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson
Eternally fascinating that of Trump’s biggest early surrogates within the GOP, Carson–not Christie, Giuliani, or Gingrich–that gets a governmental job. The others have ample experience, but Carson’s novice understanding of most things non-medical has propelled him to Corinthian heights.
I agree with what his surrogate Armstrong Williams noted in November, which is Ben Carson is not qualified to run an executive department. Of all of Trump’s picks, this is the most likely to fail during the confirmation process. His support base is limited to the GOP, but if he has a series of good meetings with some Democrats, it could become a minimal bi-partisan vote. I suspect Carson never reaches the vote stage, and instead, after Carson receives enough grief he and GOP leaders will tell Trump to let it go. The one potential saving grace for Carson’s candidacy is the GOP does not value HUD much, and the amount of damage Carson can do in that department is not terribly high. He could still run the department incompetently, but it might not be a FEMA level disaster.
Carson may be the only casualty of everyone Trump has put forward, but it won’t be because of Democrats. His incompetence in office may have utility to them. If he fails, it will be because enough GOP members realize Carson has neither the know-how nor disposition to run an executive department. At this moment, I expect him to be confirmed 50-50 with VP Pence breaking the tie.
Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao
Competent career GOP technocrat and wife of Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Selecting Chao shows Trump does plan to govern to some extent beyond the boilerplate arch-conservative ALEC type of agenda he will pursue. Whether Chao is the person to oversee a massive trillion dollar investment in infrastructure is less clear, but that opacity can leave some hope while many still believe Trump will deliver.
Unanimous passage by voice vote (or something like 99-0, with McConnell abstaining).
Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry
Qualified by proxy because he is idiot king of Texas, but actually has very little demonstrated knowledge on energy policy, let alone nuclear policy. Insofar as he is just a figurehead of a very large department, his commitments to fossil fuel extraction and against transitioning to renewable energy clearly indicate how Trump’s administration will operate for its four years.
Reluctantly confirmed, with only a handful of Democratic votes. Slight chance he could be a casualty of the confirmation process, but not due to skeletons or lack of qualification. Perry might just come across as too dumb or unaware. 62 to 38.
Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos
Of all the nominees Trump put forth, she should be contested the most. She and her whole family of in-laws have a warped view of religion in government and education (as well as the role of mercenaries in a democracy). Flatly, she is an opponent of public education–no need for euphemisms about being for charter schools or vouchers. She also lacks any expertise whatsoever and will likely stumble over and over again throughout her tenure.
Will three Republicans decide to reject her appointment? Very doubtful. Even if she is incompetent, her antipathy toward public education is mainstream within the GOP, so they will take the lightweight to accomplish a larger agenda. Still, someone might vote no. 51-49.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: David Shulkin
Secretary of Homeland Security: John F. Kelly
[I didn’t get around to predicting Kelly’s vote share, but as a respected member of the national security apparatus, and given the continuation of the Washington Consensus across the parties on security issues, I would have thought he would received at least 75 votes. He got substantially more.]
Confirmed 1/20/17, 88-11 (51-0 R; 35-11 D)
United Nations Ambassador: Nikki Haley
Haley has no record of foreign policy, but the daughter of Indian immigrants, it is assumed she has a world outlook. Haley is not much of an internationalist, but compared to Trump, she looks like Woodrow Wilson. Other than descriptive features, I am not entirely sure why Trump wants Haley to represent the country in the UN, but she should have no problem get through the process. Not much is riding on the position.
Office of Management and Budget: Mick Mulvaney
Mulvaney and Trey Gowdy always seemed like the two South Carolina reps from the Tea Party wave most destined for notoriety, mainly because they crave it (more the latter than the former). Mulvaney generally comes across poorly as a smarmy, sharp-toothed operator, but he is also clearly intelligent and has some ideas. With any of this help him at OMB, which requires someone above all else with solid judgment? I am not sure. But if his failure to pay taxes does not sink him, little else will. He is confirmed 64-36.
Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt
Yep, Trump did it. Trump fucking did it. He nominated one of the most well-known climate skeptics in Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has sued the federal government and EPA numerous times to allow his state’s fossil fuel industry to pollute and exploit the environment. I get the problems farmers have with dust regulation in their cultivation processes, but the environmental contamination–and EARTHQUAKES–caused by fossil fuel extraction. Although Oklahoma has long been an oil state, the recent movement to maximal natural gas extraction through fracking is wrecking Oklahoma’s nearly faultless plains terrain. Here, take a look at how unique Oklahoma’s ecological topography and earthquake ubiquity are compared to other states.
Notice all the earthquakes? Perhaps they are all not caused by fracking, but a history of the state shows earthquake activity in this region used to be relatively rare, and is now commonplace. Well, luckily the defender of this order will be able to have some power to nationalize this trend by lessening regulation of a resource extraction method that causes this problem. Pruitt is among the most likely to face unified Democratic oppositions, sans Joe Manchin. However, it is unlikely Susan Collins or any other Republican opposes his candidacy. Democrats will be on notice, however, that voting for this confirmation will likely be used against them in a primary in the future. Therefore, Pruitt will become EPA administrator, 61-39.
Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon
The fairy tale story of Linda McMahon’s ascendency in politics continues. After failing to buy a Senate seat in two consecutive elections (and setting records for campaign spending in the process), the Grand Ole Party will reward one of its least successful, but richest members with a cabinet position. Nevermind that Linda McMahon knows nothing about how to foster small business, since she and her husband practice a trust style of capitalism.
SBA is not usually deeply contested in confirmation hearings, so she will get passed into executive office. I doubt she will receive universal acclaim, but she will likely receive 60+ votes, perhaps as much as 80. Being rich helps in this setting. Final vote: 66 to 34
So I, like everyone else except for some comedians, got the election wrong. Even though Hillary is leading Trump by over 1,000,000 votes (61,913,199 votes (47.9%) 60,911,924 votes (47.1%) as of 11/16), Trump won the election with a strong electoral college showing, 306 to 232.
First, it is really important to note the obvious, which many in the media seem to be missing here. With the exception of Florida–a perennial tossup–all of Trump’s gains were in the Rust Belt. Hillary’s support in many western states was either as good or better than Obama 2012, she made gains in Texas (almost 600,000 more votes than Obama 2012), forced Trump to win by plurality in Arizona (although this is arguably more the product of Gary Johnson’s vote share) and only slightly fell behind Obama’s high water marks (2008 or 2012) in Georgia and South Carolina, and had a wider margin of victory in Virginia. The Northeast trended toward Trump, but only by a few percentage points (for example, Hillary lost 3 percentage points on Obama’s 2012 margin in NJ, even amid increased turnout). The only exception in this region is Upstate Maine, which swing to Trump by a net spread of 20 points. In short, in the aggregate the West, South, and Northeast did not shift very much in this election. What did shift was the formerly industrial Great Lakes/Appalachian states that moved heavily toward Trump. A combination of Trump turnout surge among uneducated white workers, lack of turnout among urban African American voters, and suburban Obama voters fleeing the Democrats explain the general political terrain in these states.
Why did suburban voters switch from Democratic support to pro-Trump?
Trump won 50% of the suburban vote, while Hillary won 45%, a pretty sizeable margin in the largest geographic electorate (49% of the electorate, compared to 34% in the big cities, and 17% in rural America. Why did this happen? This one really comes down to the fundamentals, and speaks the least to either of the two candidates unpopularity or transformative campaigning. Many forecast models actually had a generic Republican beating a generic Democrat in this election, based purely on a handful of variables. Among them, the two most important predictors are how long the party in power has held office, and the economic growth rate leading into the election. Well, the Democrats have held the executive office for eight years, which generally favors the out-party to gain the presidency. The only exceptions to this in the 20th century are Taft following TR’s two incomplete terms, Truman winning in 1948 after assuming the presidency after FDR passed, and George HW Bush winning his solitary term after Reagan’s 8 years (some consider only the latter to be analogous to the current situation given the shortened time-frame of the former, and Truman’s station of VP in the latter). Economic growth rates have been steady, but low in 2016. The first quarter had a recorded growth rate of 0.8%, the second 1.4%, and the third (ending with September) had 2.9%. Except for the last quarter, this country has not seen very much economic growth this year. While it is always unclear on what basis people feel or understand economic conditions in their everyday lives, it has historically been a good indicator into the public mood on staying pat or changing leadership.
For these basic reasons, in all likelihood suburban voters (“middle America”) were going to swing to some degree to Trump. America does have a strong tradition of switching party in power following a two-term president, and these are the types of people that generally see to that. It is also important to note this category of voters is the least likely of the three (with high white voter turnout and decreased Black turnout) to be instructed by aversive, reactionary racism. Although Trump made both latent dog-whistle (“law and order candidate,” “Make American Great Again,” etc) and overt racist pleas (banning Muslims and portraying Latin American immigrants as criminals), these voters predominantly voted for Obama in not just 2008, but also 2012. The racial backlash against the president argument and nativist appeals may have some import for this voting bloc, but it is no way the dominant explanation for the suburban switch to the GOP.
The states in which this was the primary cause of the shift are Pennsylvania and Ohio. Although Iowa is not generally conceptualized as a suburban state, the bellwether facet to this category does apply to the Iowan electorate.
Why did Black voter turnout decline so dramatically?
Although turnout was actually higher in absolute terms this election that 2012 (something pundits continue to get wrong), this aggregate trend belies group dynamics. I have yet to find a good metric for white or Asian turnout, but it is clear Latino turnout was up and African American turnout was down. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada all trended more heavily towards Democrats than expected, almost exclusively due to the rise of Latino mobilization. However, the gains in the West were more than offset by the losses in major Midwestern urban areas, such as Wayne County in Michigan, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, and Cuyahoga County in Ohio.
The margin of victory for Trump in Michigan (+10,000) and Wisconsin (+25,000) were notably much smaller than the difference between Obama and Hillary’s vote share in the two biggest metropolitan areas. Turnout declined in Milwaukee County from just under 491,000 in 2012 to just under 430,000 in 2016. Notably, Hillary won the same 66% of the vote in the county as Obama in 2012. In Wayne County, total votes cast went from 814000 in 2012 to around 766000 in 2016. Hillary did receive less support than Obama by proportion (67% to 73%), but had turnout been the same as 2012, she would have carried both states.
It should be noted Black turnout was a bit higher in places the Atlanta metro area, greater New Orleans, and Philadelphia, and also lower in Southern Florida, northeast North Carolina, Wyandotte County in Kansas, Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Shelby County in Tennessee. So what explains this variance in Black mobilization, since a clear geospatial pattern is not immediately clear?
As of now, I have three leading hypotheses. First, the obvious: Obama was a Black male, while Hillary is a white female. The racial distinction is self-evident–plenty of social science scholarship has demonstrated all people, and especially African Americans, tend to show higher levels of support, trust, and efficacy towards officials that share their descriptive features. It is expected that Hillary would lag behind Obama for this reason alone. But importantly, Hillary’s gender could have been an impediment in the Black community, which is not exempt from chauvinism. However, it is unlikely that descriptive features alone explains such a steep, concentrated decline, let alone the regional variation of the decline.
The second hypothesis is Hillary Clinton’s immense unpopularity ended up mattering a lot more than Trump’s even higher unpopularity. According to Pew in late October 2008 Obama had a favorability of 60%, while Hillary in late October had 43% favorability. Specifically to the Black community, the ubiquitous feelings of support among voters for Obama during his initial election could only be made by Hillary if Hillary was Black. Other scholarship has shown the Black voters rally around Black candidates under fire, but Hillary’s whiteness impedes a similar steadfast support for her candidacy (Clintonian honorary Blackness notwithstanding). Clinton’s inability to craft a convincing message in decreasing police violence against African Americans, lack of attention to employment strategies, and lingering questions about her loyalty to egalitarian change could also help explain her lack of standing in the Black community. But this approach is a very coarse measure, and explains none of the variation manifest in the maps.
The third, and perhaps leading hypothesis, is the role of heavy-handed voter ID laws across the nation, but most concentrated in the Rust Belt states Donald Trump flipped.
Obstructive–and biased–impediments to vote, such as voter ID laws, tend to favor Republican causes, since the people most affected by ID requirements tend to be less economically secure, which is more common in the Black community, for immigrants, the poor, students, urbanites, and the elderly. Noticeably, only the very last constituency is even remotely pro-GOP. So if voter ID laws tend to decrease the Democratic electorate, and frequently African-American voters, is it possible these laws had some effect in this election? The answer is yes.
Most of the states with the most pernicious voter ID laws–Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee–saw a decline in Black turnout during this election. The only two exceptions to this rule are Georgia and Virginia, which makes some sense: the Clinton campaign spent a lot of time encouraging turnout in and around Atlanta, while Virginia has a Democratic governor that went so far as to pardon incarcerated members of the population with an important election in sight. Additionally, Texas had an increase in turnout, but it is unclear whether Black turnout was up with Latino turnout, or if the latter simply masked a decline in the former.
The only ways to truly understand whether voter ID laws played a role in the election, beyond the recognition of a pattern, is twofold. First, interviews with voters that can testify to the increased hardship in voting and interviews with those that did not vote and their reasoning. Second, a calculation of IDs issued based on demographics would confirm a bias in which groups failed to gain the necessary IDs to vote.
States that were most affected by the decrease in Black mobilization are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio (although the latter would not have been a Clinton state even with more Black support–see suburban voter explanation).
Why did working class whites support Trump?
The most common explanation for the outcome is that disaffected white, working class voters with low educational attainment broke hard for Trump, and moreover, they turned out in high numbers to voice their displeasure with the status quo. Importantly, neither of these points are proven with the data, even if they are true. White voters made up 70% of the electorate in the election, their lowest number on record (down from 72% in 2012 and 74% in 2008). Moreover, according to exit polling Trump won about the same proportion of whites as Romney did in 2012 (Romney won 59%, Trump 58% with more third party candidate share). What about turnout? It is actually very difficult to find counties with mostly white residents that increased in turnout. For example, turnout was up by 2.5% in Hall County, Georgia, but although this is a heavily Republican county, whites only constitute 2/3 of the county population. Since both the Ds and Rs gained around 4,000 votes, it is not clear the white backlash thesis is correct.
So while it is plausible that uneducated whites in the Rust Belt feel unrepresented by both parties, leading many to favor the outsider candidate, the evidence does not show increased white support for Trump, either in the form of preferences or turnout. If anything, Trump’s 1-3% gain in vote share among Hispanic, Black, and Asian voters, and decreased turnout among Black voters, seem more consequential.
Trump did improve on Romney’s figure in regards to those that made under 30k a year–from 35% to 41%. If we assume many of these poorer voters were white (which is a hefty assumption), there is a good explanation for this change, especially in the Rust Belt. Trump preached isolationism and the false promise of being able to hedge job loss in manufacturing, and even restore many of these jobs. This plea to voters would be a successful frame, given the job loss in heavy manufacturing and lack of trade adjustment funding for jobs training with each successive free trade agreement. However, Trump will not succeed on this promise unless the labor force in the region is willing to work for 4 dollars (or less) an hour. Tax incentives are not enough to reverse private sector-led globalization and deindustrialization that has been occurring since the 1970s. The government can certainly facilitate the flight of business to other countries, but reversing that trend would require government-funded factory construction and jobs training, which there is little evidence any politician favors. The Democratic alternative–at least among the left side of the party–is economic diversification of the region, such as making education attainment higher in the region, jobs training in high-tech manufacturing, and increased demand-side stimulus to allow poorer citizens to use federal funds to redistribute wealth in their local economy.
This explanation is the most shaky for Trump’s victory. It is not clear there was an appreciable increase in poor white turnout in this election. Absent state-level exit polls in the Great Lakes, the data will not prove this point. If poor white voters were consequential in any states, it would have been predominantly the Great Lakes and Appalachia, both of which have been trending GOP for quite some time.
What about race?
With the immense amount of race-hate spewed by Donald Trump throughout the election, it is certainly plausible it activated, or made manifest, racism in the electorate. The endorsement by KKK and neo-Nazi groups of Trump, violence against racial minorities at Trump rallies, and rise in hate crimes are all reasons to assume race played a seminal role in this election. Moreover, the post-election ascendance of Steve Bannon to the top of the executive branch shows there is some work to promote white supremacy in government, if only descriptively and not substantively (although there is definitely room for both in a Trump administration).
However, the likelihood of either racial backlash against America’s first Black president or activated white supremacy by Trump being the defining facet of this election is very low. Not because it does not matter–which it obviously does–but because there are ample legitimate reasons to feel that the country is going in the wrong direction and that government is not responsive to the needs of the disaffected. Essentially, it is true some voters were mobilized by Trump’s white nationalist sentiment, but this race-centric theory fails to explain much of the suburban shift from Obama to Trump.
What can be stated about race is that racist rhetoric was not refuted by the public at-large or Trump supporters. Although we cannot know if Trump’s supporters were motivated by racism, we can safely say they were not deterred enough by Trump’s racism to vote for another candidate. This is kind of an odd dynamic, but in essence, we can say Americans are not racially liberal enough as a whole to rebuke a clearly racist political campaign. It should be noted there are probably many conservatives, like Mitt Romney and many in the Mormon community, that decided supporting another candidate (perhaps one less bigoted like Evan McMullin) was the thing to do. (Side note, I am a bit disheartened that so many Mormons decided to stick with Trump, as I suspected he would be the least attractive candidate of the main three Utah was considering.)
What about gender?
Gender is another important variable, especially with the disproportional negative media and political attention Hillary has experienced since the 1990s. She is perhaps the most scrutinized political figure in American history. Trump’s entire stamina critique of Hillary seemed to be about gender, veiled in her health episodes. It is safe to assume her gender is part of this, as is her relation to Bill’s promiscuity, her opportunistic position-taking and her email server issues. There are both legitimate and illegitimate reasons to be hesitant to support Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, Hillary’s support among men and women is nearly the same proportion as what Obama achieved in 2012 (the only big difference is the presence of third party candidates). Is it possible patriarchy is so ubiquitous in American society that women were self-policing and hyper-critical of Hillary in a way that would not occur if she were a man? Sure. Again, until we have enough interviews of women saying any woman is not well-suited to be president, we cannot posit out thin air that gender discrimination is a dominant explanation for what happened in this election.
What about immigration?
Immigration definitely mattered in this election, arguably more than race and gender. Many of the suburban voters claimed to be motivated by immigration related issues, such as building the wall or deporting undocumented residents. The anti-Latino sentiment of Trump clearly worked to mobilize Latino communities in Nevada, California, Texas, and Arizona. And unfortunately, Trump’s policy details are arguably most developed on the immigration question–a low bar, but true nonetheless. Luckily, it appears House Republicans are less apt for mass deportations than what many previously expected, so maybe a combination of meaningless fence construction and some path toward citizenship will occur. According to exit polling, those that claimed immigration was the most important issue supported Trump 64 to 32. However, among the four issue options, immigration was tied for last with foreign policy at 13%, while terrorism received 18% and the economy reached 52% (Hillary decidedly won the economy and foreign policy, while Trump won terrorism and immigration).
What about the urban-rural divide?
This is pretty clear as an important dynamic, with Trump setting records in rural areas. The resentment rural voters feel towards cities is palpable and somewhat justified: governments are located in cities, and government services are best delivered in cities. This dynamic often leaves the countryside feeling alienated from spending decisions, with little to show for their tax dollars. If the conversation ended there, an anti-establishment vote would be legitimate and easy rectify (show a new commitment to delivering services in the country). However, it is much more complicated, and heavily tied up into stereotypes and anachronistic notions of what modern governments should do. Many people in rural America have a skewed perception of what city dwellers are like. Sure they like lattes and ombre haircuts, but dependency on government support is not nearly as ubiquitous in cities as one might expect. In fact, the opposite is actually true: in what some term “red state socialism” many rural states receive more federal funds per outgoing tax dollar that do metropolitan states (New Jersey perennially getting the least for what they pay). Moreover, antagonism towards government in the countryside seems to deny the presence of social problems unique to cities that require collective governmental action, such as housing segregation, concentrated poverty, crime, and infrastructure maintenance. While the cultural divide between rural and urban folks is unlikely to get resolved, it is probably not a good sign to see the parties reshaped as metropolitan versus agrarian, as both geographic locations stand to gain from concerted government action to address the struggles in each environment.
Concerning this election, there is ample evidence that rural resentment of urbanites spurred support for Trump. There is some multicollinearity here, though, since race, class, partisan sorting, and ideology are correlated with settlement type, meaning it is difficult to ascertain the causal power of urban-rural cultural divide separate from those variables.
What about the media?
The media is culpable for this outcome in myriad ways. First, the unfettered coverage of Trump’s every move, from eating pizza with a fork and knife to taking a shit at 3am is a sign of the repugnant state of sensational, now tabloid, journalism. Making money is a necessary means to finance a news operation that allows for extensive investigative journalism, but money-making cannot be an end in itself. Trump should get a lot of credit for running a staff-less campaign and his innovative use of directly calling into news shows, but breaking regularly scheduled programing to cover one of his many rallies became gratuitous and transparently about ginning up the horse race.
Second, the lack journalistic push-back on Trump’s many false statements enigmatically fits in with the dominant to trend to draw a false equivalency on all sides of a debate. Hate speech cannot be covered as anything other than hate speech. Although the media was by-and-large critical of Trump, much of it was less fact-based and more focused on pot-shots and sensationalized quotes.
Third, the over reliance on tracking polls to explain dynamics on the ground directly contributed setting up high expectations for Hillary. There are examples of celebrities and journalists traveling around Michigan and perceiving it to be a Trump state, but the media did not seem aware of this sea change due to stable poll results and a lack of care for understanding Trump supporters.
A media that is solely concerned with ratings, and sanctimoniously dismisses a candidate that continues to beat expectations is a recipe for disaster. I do not think it is fair to claim the media should have known Trump could actually win–that is way to much to ask of anyone–but a more nuanced coverage of his bases of support would have changed expectations going into the election.
Did James Comey cost Hillary the election?
In the immediate days after the election, I would have summarily dismissed this claim. The polls showed very little movement beyond the pre-existing trend toward Trump because of the FBI reopening the investigation of Hillary’s emails. However, exit polling tells a different story about the effect of the very late announcement by Comey, which was only a week and half before an election. The weekend before the election the FBI concluded no further action would be taken on Hillary’s email scandal (although Anthony Weiner will surely be less lucky). Exit polling shows a trend: Clinton did better with voters that decided before September, while Trump did better in September and October. Importantly, those that decided to vote in the last week (after Comey reopened the investigation) supported Trump 50 to 38, while those that made up their minds in the last few days (after Comey cleared Clinton) supported Trump 46 to 44.
Hillary picking up supporters after the Comey clearance can really only be explained by two answers. It is possible as the weight of the decision to support one of the candidates became more salient, voters decided supporting Trump was a less responsible move than they had previously felt. Or, Hillary was gaining steam after a lackluster October and the emails derailed some of her “momentum.” Both could be true at the same time, but this pattern in the exit polling suggests the emails might have had some effect. In either case, Comey’s meddling in the campaign and lack of control of his own agents at the FBI (with all the leaks), suggests he has lost institutional support for his leadership. Therefore, Comey should resign effective immediately, since he is neither serving the public nor FBI interests, but is strictly looking out for himself.
While it seems likely the Comey fiasco had some effect on deterring support for Clinton, it is still unlikely that the margins are perfectly correlated with areas where she needed more support, like in the Great Lakes. Until we see evidence from voters in that region that the emails mattered on a large scale, this episode will remain a stain on the cycle, but not a determinate one.
I meant to write this several weeks ago with much more depth (especially to examine who won each Senate debate; Loretta Sanchez unintentionally did her best Sarah Palin impression in her debate with Kamala Harris), but the night before the election is pretty much the last time to make any sort of predictions. So here we go:
Hillary Clinton will be the first female president in US history, while Donald Trump will create a new media empire that effectively destroys Fox News. These are both positive developments in what has been a truly odd election. The map above shows Hillary winning 328 to 210. Interestingly, this map shows Hillary winning Utah, which is no mistake. Evan McMullin’s compassionate conservativism campaign will likely pull significant support, but that will primarily come out of Trump’s margin. I expect the results in Utah to be a plurality for Hillary of 34.5%, to McMullin with 34.3%, Trump with 29%, and Johnson with 2.2%.
Although I was pushing for Trump to win Florida (a dystopian candidate for a dystopian state), it now seems Cubanos are voting in droves against the standard bearer of their party.
The Senate elections will lead to a 50-50 seat tie in the upper chamber. Duckworth and Feingold defeating GOP incumbents is foregone, but after that the GOP candidates are well-equipped to survive in this anti-Trump environment. Jason Kander will defeat the archetypal conservative deal maker in Roy Blunt, while Maggie Hassan will narrowly beat Kelly Ayotte. Joe Heck will carry Nevada even as the state votes for Clinton, primarily due to his seeming moderation and calm temperament.
A momentous day in the presidential cycle is upon us. Bernie needs to win a majority of the states just stay in the race, and Rubio and Cruz each need to win several states to maintain any hope of stopping Trump.
Here are the predictions for how today will shake out, first on the Democratic side.
Alabama: Hillary (76-24%)
Arkansas: Hillary (68-32%)
Colorado: Bernie (53-47%)
Georgia: Hillary (72-28%)
Massachusetts: Hillary (51-49%)
Minnesota: Bernie (58-42%)
Oklahoma: Bernie (55-45%)
Tennessee: Hillary (59-41%)
Texas: Hillary (64-36%)
Vermont: Bernie (88-12%)
Virginia: Hillary (60-40%)
These results relegate Bernie to a near impossible chance of beating Hillary on delegate count.
Now the GOP:
Alabama: Trump (42) Cruz (24) Rubio (22) Carson (8) Kasich (4)
Alaska: Trump (46) Cruz (27) Rubio (15) Kasich (9) Carson (3)
Arkansas: Trump (34) Cruz (33) Rubio (21) Carson (7) Kasich (5)
Georgia: Trump (36) Rubio (28) Cruz (22) Carson (10) Kasich (4)
Massachusetts: Trump (45) Kasich (22) Rubio (20) Cruz (11) Carson (2)
Minnesota: Trump (32) Rubio (29) Kasich (19) Cruz (17) Carson (3)
Oklahoma: Trump (33) Cruz (29) Rubio (22) Carson (9) Kasich (7)
Tennessee: Trump (38) Cruz (29) Rubio (17) Carson (11) Kasich (5)
Texas: Cruz (35) Trump (33) Rubio (20) Carson (7) Kasich (5)
Vermont: Trump (37) Kasich (25) Rubio (25) Cruz (10) Carson (3)
Virginia: Trump (33) Rubio (29) Cruz (20) Kasich (11) Carson (7)
Trump wins big, and Cruz can spin that he is (again) the only one that can beat Trump, even if only every now and then.
Everyone else 8%
The primary season is up and running with Iowa now in the rear view mirror. On the Republican side, we get to find out who the arch-conservative, eventual primary loser will be. On the Democratic side, traditionally we do not learn much (for both of these claims, see Iowa as being a poor predictor in general). But are these truisms correct this cycle. Here are the facts:
Hillary Clinton edged out Bernie Sanders to win the Iowa Democratic Caucus. Good for her, right? Not so much. Hillary had a very large lead in Iowa for months, and Bernie Sanders was able to mobilize progressives, young voters, and neighboring state activists to saturate Iowa the last three weeks of the campaign. Winning by 0.3% in a non-winner-take-all-state is not much of a victory. The two candidates will leave with nearly the same amount of delegates, and come next week when Bernie wins New Hampshire, he will actually take the lead.
A few other takeaways:
-Shockingly, I will lead off with Martin O’Malley and this incredible feat: some people actually do like him! Instead of railing on his shockingly low support in Iowa, I will instead suggest he exceeded expectations by proving some people would choose him over the ethically questionable Hillary or commi bastard Bernie. So although O’Malley is sure to drop out any day now–unless he really likes to lose by epic levels in a small field–he and his family can leave Iowa knowing they are not without support from some people. Fittingly, he has no geographic base of support, but instead, sporadic support in some rural counties.
-Bernie effectively peeled off the sizable left in Iowa and got out the youth and co-op farm vote to match Hillary’s party regulars and moderate base. Although Hillary technically won (or did she?), it matters very little in the scheme of things. What matters is Bernie took on Hillary’s onslaught of name-rec and resources and walked away tied after round 1. That is incredible someone not descriptively suited to beat Hillary (i.e. he is a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn… not a sizable bloc like Obama and African-Americans). Bernie’s strength in the most progressive part of the state–the southeast–is a clear indicator of where he gets his support.
For now, Bernie is effectively the front-runner for the next couple of weeks. Certainly Hillary’s ground game, and more importantly, advantage among party elites (superdelegates) will lead to her collecting a series of victories on super Tuesday. But if Bernie can continue to win the states with the most active left or legacy of populist socialism (Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Dakota, West Virginia, Michigan, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii), the last primary states may take him seriously enough to spurn their devotion to the Clintons. As it stands, Bernie has a very low chance of winning California, Texas, New York, Illinois, or Florida. If he can win one of these states, that would signal a very large sea change in in either the calculus of ethnic minorities, or an incredible turnout among youth voters. In is nearly unforeseeable for Bernie to start winning moderate or home-owning types, even if they have reservations about Hillary’s character. Texas will be the first of these states, and a key race to watch (Bernie will win NH and Hillary is very likely to win Nevada and South Carolina).
-Regarding Hillary, if I were in her camp I would still be optimistic. That is because this is a long race, and Hillary’s structural advantage across many multi-ethnic and non-leftist states makes her a clear favorite, even still. That said, Bernie has all the momentum, and she really needs to find a more convincing talking point that I am the best suited to win the general, and I have a lot of bipartisan experience. As much I actually believe that stuff, as a progressive, neither are likely to make me support her over Bernie. Going negative will not beat him either. The only way to beat Bernie, other that holding constant until the convention and winding an underwhelming plurality of the delegates, is to prove to progressives Hillary’s policies will continue and expand Obama’s legacy. Not only will she be mindful to steward the country through necessary, but unpopular decisions, but she will actually achieve success on progressive policies. That requires her to tell anecdotes about specific GOP senators that favor climate change, carceral reform, and raising the minimum wage. Because if those senators do not exist, then we are just as well off electing an authentic progressive icon than a competent statesman that might lead to non-progressive policies as much she gets the progressive ones. A history of bipartisanship is not enough; that these senators still exist, and on issues progressives care about, is key to Hillary proving her pedigree.
Oh, and overall, I think it is fair to say Iowans just do not like Hillary Clinton.
And now the GOP, the party of America! With a vast misinformation campaign, aided by a dumb leading opponent, arch-conservative (or so he makes everyone think) Ted Cruz took first place. Several people have suggested Trump’s refusal to participate in the last debate really hurt him among those that were still undecided. However, Ted Cruz looked especially bad in that debate, which to me suggests these undecided voters likely did not move toward Cruz, but some other candidate, which ostensibly could have been Trump. At any rate, Marco Rubio had an incredible night, and is the real big winner on the GOP side.
-Cruz winning is not surprising, given that Rick “Santorum” Santorum won in 2012. Iowa loves batshit unelectable conservative types. And given the large size of the field, the real advantage of “winning” Iowa is people making a big deal about you “winning” Iowa. If the media depicted event in Iowa as being a fairly bad predictor of subsequent events, the bandwagon effect would be much smaller (and it is already very small). They key question about Cruz are: when Trump inevitably quits the campaign, will those voters go to him? Same with Carson? And even if they pule into his camp, a combined 61.2% of the vote in Iowa is still probably not enough to predict the strength of that candidate in normal states. A conservative standard bearer, yes, but the eventual nominee, probably not.
-What I consider the biggest story of the nigh: Bush fails hard. Really hard. I don’t care how conservative Iowa Republicans are, 2.8% of the vote for a fucking Bush is ludicrous. If Jeb does not win New Hampshire, which he likely won’t, then I do not see how he can continue his campaign. The one ray of light is Marco Rubio is also not positioned to win New Hampshire, which means some moderate has to step into the fray. Kasich and Christie are well-suited to win New Hampshire, and they are not nearly as moderate as Huntsman in 2012, which should help them a little.
-Marco Rubio is the big winner of the night. He has seemingly pulled in enough regular conservatives to push him ahead of the moderate-only club of Republicans (Bush, Christie, Kasich). Now, Rubio will be able to get the moderates and eventually coalesce a strong election constituency around him, which one might even call “the establishment.” Most interestingly, Rubio surged atop college town enthusiasm. If he and Sanders make it to the general election, it might be the first time in American history in which the key deciding election group was young people. High turnout among college students and 20-somethings has propelled both of these candidates forward. But belying the “all college students are indoctrinate liberal” tag, Rubio (and Rand Paul) genuinely appeal to younger voters. One can argue endlessly about whether that is false consciousness by these youths or principled conservatism, but the feat of simply getting these kids excited is a high order. Rubio can authentically claim to be the leading non-batshit candidate at this point, which is especially stunning given his own history of being pathological liar.
-Surprisingly, there is not much to say about Trump. The accusations of electoral fraud by the comb-over against Cruz are really entertaining though. Seeing that he has continuously said he won every debate-business-election-farting contest in human history, the fact that he is 0/1 in election season (a zero percent success rate over his electoral career in the GOP) is interesting. The maverick in him could upset the conventional wisdom and he can take New Hampshire, but all the momentum is against him. Whoever his supporters are, at some point they will get burned out. That time might be sooner than later (and then he wins New Hampshire and I have reassess the world).
-Ben Carson achieved his high water mark for a primary this year. He will not fare any better moving forward. He might stay in to continue his public presence before his book releases, but his candidacy is essentially over now that the conservative side of the field is becoming more settled.
-Rand Paul has suspended his campaign. I do not know what he was expecting in Iowa, other than potentially winning the Iowa City area. But Rubio took those votes. So Paul will move on to concentrate on his jeopardized senate seat, but we will see him again in 2020 and 2024. I do believe at some point he will be a top 3 candidate in the party, although I honestly thought that could have been this election. Paul must eternally hate Rubio for stealing his campus cred.
Overall, the key story in Iowa is really the roll of college students in providing insurgent candidates with their support. Both Sanders and Rubio received large turnout in the college towns.
Well publicized and–in political time–hasty removal of Confederate flags, and soon iconography, across the South is pushed in a bipartisan lens as positive steps toward national reconciliation after the terrorist attack in Charleston. In isolation, the removal of Confederate iconography is good. There are many other symbols particular to the South that capture the heritage and alienation that is the Southern experience in America. Many of them do not possess the clear racial tinge of the Confederate, slave-economy-then-Jim-Crow flag.
Out of ignorance, many people cling to that flag as a token of how the South has generally been an other in the American polity. Whether that otherness is because of external victimization or a conscious choice by Southern leaders to foment alienation as a tool of collectivization around single-party, stratified socio-economic hierarchy is a question for another day. (Hint: it is mostly the latter.)
The Confederate flag should be elevated high atop the tallest flagpole in each state that has strong governmental policy in place to encourage racial discrimination. By removing this symbol of oppression, political leadership claims credit for a generational victory while doing literally nothing to lessen racism in society. In some sense, it would seem better to keep the flag as a symbol of ongoing racism in places it occurs, especially since it now seems to make conservatives uncomfortable and businesses are superficially deterred from operating in these states.
The National Conference of State Legislatures puts out some incredibly handy reports every year. One such report surveys the state of voter ID laws in the states. Below is a recoloring of their map to show greater contrast in state-by-state laws. Dark green states have a low amount of discrimination in voting procedures (i.e. voter ID laws), while the transition to yellow and red denotes an increased form of lawmaker directed institutional discrimination. There is a very high correlation between the implementation of draconian voter ID laws and the presence of a GOP governor and unified GOP legislature. That in itself is evidence the GOP’s recent turn toward “social justice”–removing the confederate flags–is purely symbolic in an effort to keep heat off of their more harmful, purposefully created discriminatory policies.
This map is slightly misleading, as several dark green states actually passed voter ID laws. North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin’s voter ID laws have either been struck down by the courts or set to kick in late 2015 or 2016, so this map does not fairly characterize the intent of the legislative and executive regimes within those states. However, it does indicate the state and federal judiciary seem to remediate some of the worst tendencies of state lawmakers and Nixonian types like Scott Walker. New Hampshire’s voter ID law is also set to become strictier in the new year.
Every state that makes it harder for anyone to voter, but especially those that face barriers to entry such as the poor, elderly, naturalized citizens, and students, should be stamped with a Confederate flag in proportion to how much they discriminate. The nationalization of this Southern symbol might be useful, as plenty of Northern and Plains states implement racism and discriminatory policies, but because the legacy of racism in these areas was not economic-based, but instead social, people often ignore how pernicious racism is across America. The map below converts the NCSL map into a simple demonstration of how discriminatory state voting regimes are as denoted through the size of the affixed Confederate flag. Even states that do not dabble in voter ID-based oppression still receive a small Confederate flag, since other policies, such as race-based incarceration disparities (California and New York lead the pack), police violence, educational outcomes, school closures (Rahm Emanuel in Chicago), housing costs, unregulated predatory banking practices, and general economic deprivation are supra-state, national problems.
The Confederate flag is the symbol of race war, white supremacy, slave economics, state sanctioned violence, and cultural warfare. Because many of these issues still pervade society, politics, and public policy, I argue the Confederate flag should remain a visible symbol of ongoing discrimination. I fear taking it down will supplant rightful discussions about racial inequality. Many political leaders have already argued racism is a thing of the past, but the prominence of the Confederate flag has always hampered the legitimacy of these claims. Now that the flag is being removed–to join lynch mobs and the word nigger in the annals of “heritage” lost–racism deniers will have fewer visible symbols of ongoing racism. If not for videotaped police perpetrated beatings and murders of people of color, the US media might never address issues of race.
Race still matters, and irresponsible politicians that downplay its relevance in state policy contribute to ongoing racial inequality. They should have to see what they defend everyday, in the form a detestable flag.
Sixth Party System has been out of commission for too long, and what better way to return than with a roundup of all the GOP candidates for president. We have some real quality people… in America, and none seem to be running for president in this field. Oh well, one of them will advance to the general, so we may as well get to know them. The format is simple: below each picture I will explain the type of candidate, why they are running, their chances of victory, and their support base. I will handicap each candidates chance of winning the GOP primary, and if that is above zero, their chances in the general election. This is the chance of winning the presidency overall, not the likely popular vote share. Since the national electorate leans Democratic right now, anything over a 33% chance of victory denotes a strong candidate. Moreover, this percentage is estimated with the assumption that Hillary will be the Democratic candidate. If she somehow loses the primary, then all of the chances to win would be much higher. Just add 10% to each number and that is how they would fare against Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, or any other Democrat.
Primary chances are zero sum among the candidates on this page, whereas general election chances are variable since it is a new, discrete game for each candidate versus the Democrat. Structurally, Republicans face an uphill struggle to win over the national electorate, which means no GOP candidate is favored to win over Hillary in 2016. A strong GOP candidate can make it a tight race, as some of these candidates could capably achieve. Some might even win the presidency in 2016, but it would be close. Who can win some Great Lakes states, the upper South, Colorado, and/or Florida?
Well, let’s see!
Jeb! Bush (smug autocratic former Governor of Florida)
Type: neo-conservative patrician
Purpose for running: legacy, turn
Chance of winning primary: 21%
Chance of winning general: 40%
Base of support: moderates; people who like dynasties; neo-cons; GOP establishment; he wishes Hispanics
Geographic base: national, but primarily the Northeast, Florida, and the Sun Belt
Jeb! (pronounced yeb) Bush is attempting to craft an image of himself that reeks of inauthenticity. A man of the people–namely Hispanic people. The problem is he is neither of the people nor his he Hispanic. But what he is certified as is a politically connected son and brother of former presidents, and a former governor of a swing state. That pedigree would generally make him the odds-on favorite to win in a party that has historically observed an it-is-your-turn approach to candidate selection. The problem is the party has become more conservative, and the “activist” class has managed to forge the most powerful narrative, which now reverberates in formerly moderate circles. The fractured field actually helps Bush–almost everyone is to his right and will fight it out for the looney tunes vote–but he has looked quite underwhelming in these early stages of the campaign.
With his classical training as a political operative in mind, Bush’s inability to answer the “knowing what you know now, would you invade Iraq?” question is astonishing. I contend if you were to ask him that question right now, you would get a different answer.It is a pretty simple question, which from his perspective would have a telegraphed answer: yes, with some caveat. That is it. He cannot refute his brother’s vision of Iraq and domestic security without hurting his own brand. Whether Jedediah likes it or not, he is conjoined with Dubyah at the hip on nearly everything. Moving away from his brother’s legacy is only remotely possible if he at least surrounds himself with different people and espouses different wisdom on the area, but his advisers are the same people that masterminded the war, and his messaging is also the same.
Back to his ethnicity, Bush is badly hurt by Marco Rubio’s presence in the campaign. Although Rubio is Cubano, his skin color and general straight-shooting manner leave him in a much better position to court Hispanic voters than Bush, who married a Mexican woman and has a biracial child, but is himself a product of an Aryan Episcopalian aristocratic family.
Jeb!’s bumbling, tone-deaf, and incredibly back-heeled campaign is inherently cynical. It operates under the clear modus operandi that he is destined to become president, and that if he avoids controversy and gotcha’ moments, his connections and name recognition will keep him in the race until early November 2016. No matter what he overtly stresses or claims in his manicured public gatherings and speeches, Bush’s campaign is not about earning it (the candidacy), but enduring it (the campaign).
Ben Carson (blind neurosurgeon in Maryland)
Type: Tea Partier/take-my-country-back(er)
Purpose for running: profit
Chance of winning: zero
Base of support: Tea Party; conservative policy wonks and intellectuals (too small a group to build a base)
Geographic base: a couple of people at the selfish Johns Hopkins medical school
Carson’s primary reason for running for president is to sell books. Plain and simple. This is a profit-making endeavor, although I do not doubt his sincerity when he decries the PPACA as the worst form of social control since slavery, or that same-sex marriage is really not that different from bestiality. And while I find him a pretty boring, inconsequential candidate or pundit, there is something to be said for how infatuated many Tea Party groups are with his person. Do they think he has smart ideas? Do they like his tenor? Are they just looking for any black conservative, and Allen West is busy right now? All I know is Ben Carson hails from the JHU medical school which is famous for bogarting resources that the rest of the university would benefit from. Fitting that side of the school would produce a vitriolic GOP candidate.
Chris Christie (cartel Governor of New Jersey)
Type: metro machine conservative
Purpose for running: ambition and power
Chance of winning primary: 2%
Chance of winning general: 31%
Base of support: white homeowners; very confused good governance types; labor haters; network of cronies; Italians; police and firefighters.
Geographic base: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic
The Culture of Corruption candidate really hurt his credibility with the whole Birdgegate debacle. It is obvious the whole thing was orchestrated because of how he runs his operations. The facts as currently available in the public surely disqualify him from overseeing a nation of diverse thought–some that do not jive with his thinking. Especially in this historical time period, in which federal security state affairs are at a crossroads, a Nixonian candidate like Christie or Walker is quite dangerous. Christie is very enigmatic: he seems to be go-getter, no nonsense type, as seen in how he handled Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, he is petty, abusive towards any opposition (e.g. questions), and he maintains a solid record of carving out special interest privileges. If you have to live under the reign of any of these candidates, Christie might be among the least pernicious, but that says more about the field of candidates than Christie’s acceptability. Such a pity; before the scandal I thought Christie could give Hillary a run for her money. Although he is still a strong campaigner, he is unlikely to make it through the GOP primary, let alone topple Hillary.
Ted Cruz (vacuous false-idol Senator from Texas)
Type: opportunist, McCarthyite, Tea Partier
Purpose for running: attention and profit
Chance of winning primary: 1%
Chance of winning general: 3%
Base of support: Tea Party; Minutemen; various anti-government types; people who gravitate towards false idols
Geographic base: Sun Belt, Big Sky country, Washington D.C.
Ted Cruz loves attention more than anything else, such as power, governance, policy, esteem. This run for president is not serious in any way, but simply an opportunity to keep his name in the public eye so that he can sell books, book speaking engagements, and engage donors. He is a weak candidate in any general election that has at least 1/3 non-GOP voters, which makes his reelection in Texas precarious. Therefore, time is of the essence for Cruz to cash in on his exploits, lest he be left with no policy achievements and not enough money to show for his time in politics. The real kicker is if Cruz used his education and ability to cajole colleagues to do as he says for a greater purpose, he could potentially be a formal leader and decision-maker within the party. It is fairly clear he does not want this sort of responsibility, unless of course that would keep him in the public eye ever more. Cruz is one of the few in-government vanity candidates, which usually hail from non-elected circles.
iCarly Fiorina Version 0.32 (failed business executive in California)
Type: business conservative
Purpose for running: vanity, life-meaning
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: California Republican Party
Geographic base: Certain Silicon Valley home, Orange County
Fiorina’s version number is to suggest she has regressed below the 1.0 status, into a walking, talking demagogue. Aside from Ben Carson, she might be the least qualified person to become president. Unlike Carson, she has executive experience and has run for elected office, but short of the Trump, she has failed at being an executive as she ran HP into the ground. HP’s products, profits, innovation, market share, brand loyalty, and worker morale all declined under Fiorina. Since her departure, HP has actually returned to form to some respect, showing crappy leadership indeed outweighs decent thinkers and workers when it comes to final product. She is a vitriolic, bitter person that is very insulting and defensive in just about every setting you will see her in. California is light on the GOP bench, but even there, she is a horrible, horrible candidate. The 42.2% vote share in the California Senate race against Barbara Boxer looks pretty good, as does winning Ventura and San Diego counties. However, the year of that election was 2010, and Boxer has long faced mainstream issues with getting Socal white middle class votes, which suggests a) the impressive counties Fiorina won had more to do with dislike for Boxer, and b) 42.2% in 2010 is actually pretty awful. A stronger candidate could have brough Boxer into plurality victory territory–still a loss, but a more respectable one. Fiorina does not deserve to be president or vice president, and she really has no particular base of support to justify her candidacy. Seriously, who supports Fiorina?
Lindsey Graham (limp-wristed Senator from South Carolina)
Type: Neo-conservative war hawk
Purpose for running: policy, keep neo-con hawk line on the agenda
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: neoconservative war hawks; legal community; log-cabin Republicans
Geographic base: coastal Carolinas, D.C., Southern cities
Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman made up the holy trinity of neoconservative war hawks in the Senate between the late 1990s and 2010. They were bipartisan, but generally agreed on a conservative, anti-darkies agenda. Now in 2015, Lieberman is gone, with Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire subbed in, but Graham still has all the same answers. “Invade, invade, 9/11. bomb, invade, kill, 9/11, radical Islam, war, Iran, Benghazi, bomb, security, kill kill kill.” I suppose it is disingenuous to use quotes, but I stand by those terms as a pretty good paraphrase. His presidential run is not in any way to win, but instead to do two things: become a potential VP candidate, but more importantly, keep the hawkish line in the official discourse.
I guess this presidential run means Lindsey will not announce his coming out of the closet any time soon, but I sure hope Graham accepts his homosexuality soon and drops the facade of being a lifelong bachelor.
Mike Huckabee (snake oil selling former Governor from Arkansas)
Type: evangelical conservative
Purpose for running: profit
Chance of winning primary: 9%
Chance of winning general: 22%
Base of support: Evangelical movement; certain right-wing populists; some moderates that view his rhetoric and governance as two distinct, almost disconnected paths.
Geographic base: Bible Belt, south of the Ohio River, east of the Colorado
Mike Huckabee has managed to transform from mild-mannered, pragmatic conservative governor to hate-filled, pandering, solicitous demagogue in a matter of eight years. Where Huckabee used to come across as an authentic populist with religious commitments, he now seems to represent purely reactionary elements within the country. Further, he tends to use language that foments anger and increases general hostility toward government instead of framing his perspective on issues as problem-solving what others fail to fix. These changes point towards a general lack of interest in governance, and instead, a growing interest in money. If he has a secondary motive, it might be to grow his power within the American baptist and evangelical communities, but even this may now simply serve as a vehicle for resource extraction through peddling snake oil products like crappy health care coverage after the PPACA, or weak cure-alls to diabetes. Among all the profit-motivated candidates in the race at this time, he still has the largest political base and greatest chance to at least win some primaries. He has done it before, and even if he has lost the esteem of more serious voters, his burgeoning power within the religious right affords him a strong, motivated base to turnout in droves.
Bobby Jindal (awkward malware Governor of Louisiana)
Purpose for running: self-meaning, VP bait
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: none really, but some conservative policy wonks like him
Geographic base: parts of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal is not a well-liked or popular political figure in any circles. Louisianans don’t like him, so he has no geographic base. Big money types have all-American good ol’ boys like Walker and Bush to turn to. Youths don’t like him. I am sure he holds some esteem in the Indian community, which on balance is more conservative than most Asian American communities, but that base is not strong enough in the GOP to do much. He tends to play up new generation leadership with fresh ideas, much like Rubio (and in his awkward, vague manner, Cruz), but Jindal does not actually have many ideas. School choice? Stopping Iran from getting a nuke? Repealing Obamacare? Keystone XL? Nothing innovative or original about this stuff. Even in a weak field, he would likely finish near last, but here, Jindal stands no chance. Chances are Jindal becomes a highly paid lobbyist for an oil company after he leaves the governor’s mansion.
John Kasich (calculating Governor of Ohio)
Type: Reaganite, pragmatic conservative
Purpose for running: governance; ambition
Chance of winning primary: 3%
Chance of winning general: 48%
Base of support: Beltway players; moderates; policy wonks; Reagan era pols; in-government bureaucrats; business interests without conservative social agendas
Geographic base: Great Lakes, D.C.
Governor Kasich is a savvy politician, well-seasoned in decades of austerity era American governance. He probably aspires to be nearly as conservative as most of the other candidates here, but unlike them, when he perceives public sentiment is against him, he will compromise. The Issue 2 debacle in 2011 seems to have shaken the depths of his conservative agenda, but that likely made him a better general election candidate and representative of broader interests. Perhaps the fact that he has a conscience precludes him from becoming the GOP candidate, but if he somehow made it to the general, there is a strong chance he could beat Hillary to become president. When an authentic conservative willing to make deals to keep the country moving has almost no shot of winning the Republican primary, something is seriously wrong.
George Pataki (bored former Governor of New York)
Type: security statist
Purpose for running: relevance, life meaning, probably profit
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: Giuliani type well-to-do metropolitan homeowners who fear minorities and crime
Geographic base: places hit with terrorism, suburbs, and exurbs
As a fringe candidate running purely out of boredom and a dwindling sense of life-force, Pataki at least fulfills the security state fear monger role Giuliani usually fills. Aside from that, not much to say about Pataki except he is unlikely to gain any traction short of a terrorist attack that somehow he forecasted. That should also make him a prime suspect if one is to occur. He has a reputation as a New York conservative, but short of James Buckley, he would still seem quite moderate to the GOP base. A meaningless campaign for a meaningless person.
Rand Paul (the less disgusting Senator from Kentucky)
Type: libertarian extraordinaire
Purpose for running: keep libertarian line in public discourse; sell books
Chance of winning: 18%
Chance of winning general: 28%
Base of support: paleo-conservatives; libertarians; Bourbon GOP; college-aged white males; Ayn Rand readers.
Geographic base: national, college campuses
Every now and then Rand Paul will say or do something that seems cross-partisan and almost beneficial for the country, such as fighting the surveillance state and working with Harry Reid to retrench the prison industrial complex and enfranchise felons. That is really good stuff, and his voice within the GOP is much more important than the many Democratic civil libertarian analogs, which is quite ironic since the GOP is supposed to be the party of limited government, reserved rights, and skepticism toward governmental power. As some–but not all–political observers understand, the GOP actually seems to be the party of inflated and wasteful government, which is an interesting method of decreasing public confidence in government, which thereby bolsters claims to dismantle parts of the state that actually do serve a purpose, such as the welfare state. Anyone who followed Reagan’s presidency understands this tactic well: starve the beast to create the crisis in which retrenchment takes hold; make government so heinous regular folks will call for deregulation and the marginalization of public goods. But while these conservatives, starting with Nixon, the expansion of state oppressive apparatuses such as the surveillance and carceral states belies much of their retrenchment messages. This is where Rand Paul is both confounding and refreshing: he generally wants to dismantle nearly everything across the board, which includes conservative-led police state structures. Paul’s several filibusters have certainly kept these items on the agenda and disallow quick, bipartisan reauthorizations, even if he fails at the end of the day. Launching a filibuster when you are publishing a book about your filibusters is also a nice way to profit from these seemingly symbolic articulations.
That is where Paul becomes a little easier to figure out than say, Scott Walker: Paul wants to spread the gospel of libertarian doctrine, and if that forces him to lose some allies while he makes some money, so be it. The senator is not running for president to win, but instead to keep his agenda in the public eye, and to further build his middle-class white college boy base into a larger network. Perhaps one day he will become the GOP candidate, but right now the primary voters are not libertarians, but instead generally Huckabee type social authoritarians. In the past, Paul has pandered to this crowd (see any of his comments on civil rights), but he seems less content to make that a focal point in his current campaign. Although the Paul electorate is not fully formed, the elder (Ron) Paul did exceedingly well for an insurgency campaign in 2012. Perhaps Rand will go even further this time, which means several states outright. That libertarian strain is strong in California, Colorado, Maine, the Dakotas, and possibly Kentucky (for obvious reasons).
Rick Perry (moronic former Governor from Texas)
Type: states-rights evangelical conservative and secessionist
Purpose for running: relevance
Chance of winning primary: 5%
Chance of winning general: 2%
Base of support: secessionists; racists; Texans
Geographic base: Texas and parts of the Sun Belt
Oh Rick Perry, why do you want to advertise your stupidity? I know glasses can be perceived as a sign of intelligence, but that is if you adhere to Khmer Rouge assessments of intelligence, in which Perry should probably take the glasses off lest he be led to the killing fields. As if the glasses were not enough, he also obtained a lecturer job in the political science department of Texas A&M, which is actually a pretty good school and department despite it being his alma mater. What would complete Perry’s transformation into the conservative’s intellectual would be the ability to articulate clearly, write legibly, and remember one’s argument. Once he gets those down, National Review here he comes!
As if Perry’s meltdown last cycle was not enough, Perry is back for more. If he was the only southern conservative with occasional bouts of racist psychobabble, he might actually have a chance to make it to the final three. However, this cycle has Huckabee, Jindal, Santorum, and Cruz, which is a clown car of the same ilk. They will splinter the vote to the point that a “moderate,” northern conservative, or libertarian might carry the day, further marginalizing the quite formidable southern bloc. Perry is probably in the race to provide liberals with laughs and to potentially hype a forthcoming book about Texas secession and why he hates America so much. Of all the fringe candidates, Perry has the highest likelihood a winning a state primary (South Carolina maybe), but he will quickly lose steam and implode, much like happened to revisionist pseudo-historian Newt Gingrich.
Marco Rubio (thirsty Senator from Florida)
Purpose for running: ambition and hopeful VP pick
Chance of winning primary: 11%
Chance of winning general: 35%
Base of support: politically illiterate young people; moderates; certain Tea Partiers; Club for Growth
Geographic base: Southern Florida
The man that drinks scared, Rubio loves to tell everyone how much he likes hip-hop, and apparently, electronic music. Well that’s nice. I like hip-hop too. Oh, you like Tupac and Biggie? Me too!!!! I guess you have my vote (says no one). Although I do not doubt his sincerity with liking rap, I definitely think his infatuation with dub step is pure pandering. That said, in a general election equipped with rock the vote campaigns, he might benefit from some of these statements. But there are very few Republican primary voters who share his authentic interest in 90s hip-hop. If Rubio is crafty enough, he will try to learn a thing or two from Rand Paul and storm college campuses for his voting base. Simply put, Cubanos are not a large enough population in states out side of Florida, which will likely go for Bush over him, though I could be wrong on that. Rubio is betting the farm on this campaign as he is not running for reelection in the Senate–unlike unscrupulous Rand Paul–which implies he is either very confident in winning/gaining VP nod, or he does not want to be in DC anymore and would rather run for FL governor or get a show on Fox. Rubio’s message has predominantly focused on international issues, such as Iran and ISIS, with sprinkles of Obamacare and entitlement talk. I doubt these combination will go very far in such a crowded field, but I am hesitant to dismiss Rubio the way I do with other candidates. Historically he has shown a unique leadership style, such as his state-crossing idea generation tour when he was a state lawmaker, which allowed him to craft an image as a visionary man of the people. I do not see him doing such things nowadays, but if he can stay in the race past the first primary months, I think he could be a serious candidate that is capable of pleasing both establishment (“moderate”) GOP business interests, as well the Tea Party. Moreover, he then adds in the youthful vigor element to contrast with Hillary, and who knows, maybe he pulls off an incredible upset. Stranger things have happened.
Rick Santorum (talking airbag and former Senator from Pennsylvania)
Type: Christian conservative, blue collar conservative
Purpose for running: profit, nothing better to do
Chance of winning primary: 1%
Chance of winning general: 8%
Base of support: 19 & Counting; disenchanted conservative union workers; nuclear family idealists
Geographic base: Rust Belt
Rick Santorum is an utter moron, but lately I have realized he is probably not a bad person. Moreover, he has a strain of preferences in his career of taking pro-worker stances on some issues when the GOP line would be to his right. Granted, these are rare and often meaningless, but my point is he is not the worst. He might be a fundamentalist, but he has some common sense. He also has a low IQ, which hurts his ability to answer questions and communicate in an effective manner. Anyway, Santorum is not a threat to win this election–he seems to struggle to find an audience willing to listen to him. Unfortunately, that means this race is simply about keeping his name out there so he can make enough money off of family biographies to buy the his eponymous domain name. A frothy mixture indeed.
Donald Trump (ego-maniacal profiteer)
Type: xenophobic business conservative
Purpose for running: vanity and self-meaning
Chance of winning primary: 3%
Chance of winning general: 1%
Base of support: himself; interests abroad
Geographic base: Suburbs, NY and Chicago, Northeast
Trump is the most prolific troll in American political history. Unlike most human beings, when Trump makes an assertion at the beginning of a sentence, he has no problem completely disowning that view by the end of the sentence. Where many people are bound by consistency to decrease cognitive dissonance, Trump will float from one string of ideas to another that completely contradicts what he just said. He is neither principled nor conservative, which is what the base really wants. He is an opportunist who says what he thinks people want to hear, which may strike people as untrue, but that is what does. Many members of the GOP hate Mexicans, but Trump does not. And yet he feels very at ease with attacking anyone of that nationality as likely criminals or moochers. He makes business deals in quick succession with Chinese or Arab autocrats and tyrants, then will vilify their whole lot as enemies of the state. Wouldn’t that make Trump a traitor? Anyone that allows the words that fart out of Trumps disgusting head to bother them is misunderstanding what Trump represents in the cosmic collective: Trump is the desperate fame worshiping failure that thinks he has all the answers, when he has exactly zero solutions to anything. No matter how well he polls in New Hampshire, or any other state, the egomaniac will never gain elected office with a diverse electorate. He could run for mayor of Greenwich if he wanted, and might win, but that is about as high as this vanity candidate can buy his way into elected office. Now he could become a diplomat for a winning candidate he financed, but then he would have to knock off the racism, which might be asking too much.
Scott Walker (sinister Orwellian Governor of Wisconsin)
Type: smooth talking arsonist
Purpose for running: power, policy, ambition
Chance of winning primary: 26%
Chance of winning general: 46%
Base of support: Koch Bros™; multi-national business interests; homeowners; union haters; polarized and fearful public; bikers.
Geographic base: Great Lakes and Great Plains
First off, Scott is a such a cool dude. Like really. What a man of the people and just really humble, and hey, he is just like me: a commoner. He rides around Wisconsin in a rotund motorcycle, he has badges. I mean, so cool.
Too bad he is the contemporary incarnation of Richard Nixon. Seriously. He is the most Nixonian candidate this country has seen in… ever. His paranoia, quest for power, unscrupulous personal and institutional attacks on others, and his incredible ability to forge a seemingly benign message to cover up a dystopian policy is uncanny. Walker is the biggest threat of any candidate to become president, and then quickly deregulate an already deregulated country, open up nature reserves for resource extraction, and massively retool the surveillance/security state to Orwellian levels. Fear, like with Nixon, is his currency.
Walker is quite perplexing. The weirdest aspect of Walker’s person is no one really knows what he actually believes. It is easy to paint him as a mouthpiece for the Koch Bros™, willing to do anything for his big money donors in the quest for quid pro quo enrichment and political gain. But, he could also be a principled business oriented conservative, driven to implement his ideal vision of an American in which… businesses… and… Republicans reign supreme. But who knows to what extent he pursues his principles, discrete interests, constituent demands, or big business directives. Does it even matter?
The answer is no. Whether he believes in the policies or political tactics he readily employs hardly matters. What is known is that he pursues a deregulatory, union-busting, surveillance included agenda that would likely hurt almost every person in the country, whether they realize it or not. I could see the allure of seemingly normal, seemingly humble, seemingly direct leader that levels with people and claims to balance budgets and cut taxes. All this amounts to a middle class white male homeowner’s dream candidate.
Whether Walker is driven by personal goals or select interests, one thing is known: he is a power hungry politician that uses covert tactics to achieve his strategy of ensuring politics is filled with hatred, animosity, fear, and permanent crisis. In this context, he can step in and be the patrician leader business interests and scared people adore. God help us if ever becomes president.
Strictly about this campaign, he is among the most sophisticated politicians in the country, and he has an endless stream of dark money to keep him in the race long after most other candidates piss their sugar daddy off and bow out. I consider him the strongest primary candidate in the GOP, and among the top 4 strongest general election GOP candidate. If he wins Iowa, he could still lose in other states, but if he wins New Hampshire, I would say primary season will be over very quickly.
This election cycle is looking increasingly favorable for the GOP, but several interesting shake-ups are in the works. Here are the site’s predictions for the 33 Senate desks up for the taking:
(Disclaimer, this blog entry has been updated several times to add more text and debate links, but prediction winners and vote shares have not been altered. Whether they end up being accurate is less important that the fun of taking an educated guess several days before an election, and seeing how reality differs)
(Further disclaimer: I did change my prediction for the Louisiana Senate race on 11/2/14 to reflect a PPP poll that showed Maness with a 15% share. I have upped his share in my prediction to 10%, with a 3 pt reduction in Cassidy, and a 2 pt reduction in Landrieu’s share. I stand by my above disclaimer for all other race predictions)
Alabama: Jeff Sessions (R) v. write-ins.
Not much to say here. Sessions will win with about 81 to 87% of the vote. There must be some statewide office that Dems are looking to pick up but did not want to mobilize federally minded Rs to the poll. I could look into it, but who cares. Too bad, keeping one of the biggest tools in Congress honest is an admirable cause.
Results: 79R-16former D-2-1-1-1
Effect: R Hold.
Alaska: Mark Begich (D) v. Dan Sullivan (R) v. assorted third partiers.
If any Dem can win in Alaska, it is Begich. He is an independent-minded, frontier type politician, just like his daddy. He supports the worst energy industry tendencies to bogart federal dollars to profitable oil companies via tax expenditures (i.e. subsidies). However, this is an anti-incumbent year, with an out-party tilt, though not as dramatic as 2010. Dan Sullivan is a run of the mill Alaska Republican, with not nearly as much baggage as Joe Miller. To me, this is the toughest race to call this cycle. Begich is a much stronger candidate than Pryor, Braley, and maybe even Landrieu, but the votes just might not be there. That said, Alaskans would be wise to set partisanship aside and develop their seniority, which — considering his fierce substantive representation of the region — should satisfy the common economic interests of the region. Environmentalists may never have a representative of their own, but Begich is a smart guy. If Sullivan was a stronger candidate, none of the above would matter.
Effect: D Hold.
Arkansas: Mark Pryor (D) v. Tom Cotton (R)
Mark Pryor is definitely one of the dumbest members of the Senate. His father was an accomplished legislator, bringing in a new, more progressive type of southern politician in an era of Wilbur Mills types. But he is not his father. Pryor is little more than nondescript conservative Democrat. Cotton, on the other hand, is a Ivy educated vet, but funny enough, is not actually very bright either. Certainly Cotton is the more cerebral of the two candidates, but either Cotton is as big of an ideologue as he wants conservative Arkansans to believe, or he is a slightly smarter master manipulator of public sentiment, just to advance his career and quietly work to ingratiate himself within the GOP leadership. He could potentially be a bridge between the Tea Party and mainstream sides of the Senate caucus, as double speak is certainly a trait of his, but he has to get their first. And unfortunately for Pryor, this might all be quite consequential. Although Cotton is not the superstar many had hyped him up to be, he has enough partisan id in his favor to win this election, even if he has done little to deserve a raise.
Effect: R pickup
Colorado: Mark Udall (D) v. Corey Gardner (R)
Mark Udall has never been a great candidate. Unlike his more progressive cousin Tom to the south in Nuevo Mexico, Mark has never carved out an area of specialization in the Senate–either ideologically or on policy. By overemphasizing women’s issues, he did alienate much of the state that just wants balanced discussion, or anti-feminist who find it taxing to have to listen women’s needs. I happen to think his ads are spot on in showcasing Gardner’s anti-choice record (including the personhood bill he refuses to call a bill). But the winds are blowing against the Democrats in general, and Corey Gardner has made sure to moderate and obfuscate as much as possible to play off of people’s uncertainties and angst. Had
Winner: Pure tossup, but Udall
Effect: D Hold
Delaware: Chris Coons (D) v. Kevin Wade (R) v. Andrew Goff (G)
Not much of a race here. Coons is not a charismatic politician, but a solid hybrid populist-technocrat. Wade does not come across too poorly, but his critique of Coons is not sufficient to propel him to victory in blue state.
Effect: D Hold
Georgia: David Perdue (R) v. Michele Nunn (D) v. Amanda Swafford (L)
Perdue has very little to offer voters in terms of an affirmative agenda. More than any other candidate, he is simply running against Obama, who is the source for all ills in the world. Nunn, on the other hand, has posed herself as an independent pragmatist, cognizant of the problems this country faces and willing to work toward solutions. Now whether one would be better than the other is up to your ideological preference, and how you judge competence, but certainly Nunn has wiped the floor with the seemingly hollow man of Perdue. A stronger Libertarian Party candidate would likely play spoiler, perhaps on both sides, but Sawfford is fairly ineffectual, as she focuses more on the novelty of having a third choice than convincingly attracting support.
Effect: D Pickup
Hawaii: Brian Schatz (D) v. Campbell Cavasso (R) v. Michal Kokoski (L)
Without knowing the full history of the GOP side of this race, I am baffled how the party arrived at Cavasso as the candidate. Former governor Lingle could have pushed Schatz hard, but this election is a pure push.
Effect: D Hold
Idaho: John Risch (R) v. Nels Mitchell (D)
One of the most right-wing creeps will return to the Senate. In the debate, Risch did everything he could to steer away from any substantial issue to instead paint Mitchell as an Obama surrogate from California in an effort to legitimize his insurgent candidacy. Such a creep… I definitely think Idaho could produce better people than Risch. Even Crapo is better.
Effect: R Hold
Illinois: Dick Durbin (D) v. Jim Oberweis (R) v. Sharon Hensen (L)
Oberweis is a mega lightweight. His words carry no weight, he seems to lack any conviction on the issues. Durbin in a landslide. The question is, how far Obie runs behind Bruce Rauner–I figure somewhere around 12 points (which unfortunately means Rauner wins his race).
Effect: D Hold
Iowa: Bruce Braley (D) v. Joni Ernst v. Doug Butzler (L)
Braley had this election well in tow before making fun of farming Senator Grassley. Since then, he has alienated a large proportion of older voters in the state, who may look at Ernst’s general election stance as who she is, when her primary positions deserve extreme scrutiny. That said, she may be more moderate than her primary stances, and more conservative than her general, making her a median member in the Senate GOP caucus. It seems like Ernst has this race in the bag, which should serve as a lesson to anyone who disparages the core economic venture in the state and seeks a raise to higher office. You would not think that needs to be said, but Braley clearly did not get the memo.
Results: 50R-48D-2 all others
Effect: R Pickup
Kansas: Pat Roberts (R) v. Greg Orman (I) v. Randall Batson (L)
Orman is one of the best challengers in this election cycle. He comes across as even-keeled and clear-headed. In contrast, Roberts comes across as desperate and on edge, with a little (though not as much as other faltering incumbents) transparent hostility. I have heard numerous stories over the years of Roberts being the funniest man in the Senate–sharp witted and consistently entertaining. But Orman has created a pretty unique Tea Party-progressive coalition, which although mercurial and at risk of shattering at any time, might carry long enough to get him one term in the Senate. Once the Democrat got kicked off the ballot, this race really became a heated race.
Effect: I Pickup
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (R) v. Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) v. David Patterson (L)
McConnell is a seriously slimy pol, both pejoratively in his shifty appearance and questionable motives, and positively in his savvy ability to manipulate the general electorate into supporting him, even if no one likes the guy, This election will likely confirm all of the above, with McConnell barely getting by with a simple plurality (instead of majority) of the vote. McConnell’s explanation of certain issues, like keeping the Kentucky exchange (it is “okay”), while repealing the whole of Obamacare, and Kentucky’s dwindling economy over the last 50 years being somehow a product of Obama’s regulatory policies, are a bit hard to swallow. Lundergan Grimes is a very strong candidate who would likely defeat McConnell in 4 out of 10 races, but in a single election, winning is tough. She is also one of the few Democrats who is more likely to win in a midterm year than a presidential year, with a negative pull of Democratic presidential candidates in Kentucky, as well as a very small liberal base (college students, African Americans, intellectuals, environmentalists) to turn out in Kentucky. The one thing about ALG, and with many red state Democrats, is basically defending why they are even Democrats. In this race, she has not done a good job standing up for her party id, which essentially means she is more liberal than what she expects would fly in Kentucky. Much of being a red state Democrat comes down to confusing enough voters into thinking you are something you are not, or simply benefiting from antipathy toward the GOP candidate. Both seem true here, but the latter may not move enough voters into Lundergan Grimes’ camp. I should say McConnell also has to deceive voters to receive votes, as most normal people would not support his particular use of tactics or dystopian policy views, even if they identify as conservative. Patterson is the clear spoiler here, but my calculation is he pulls about equally from disenchanted ultra-conservatives as potential Democratic independents who resent liberal elitism. The vote margin will be within 8000 votes, or about 0.6% of the total vote.
Effect: R Hold
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) v. Bill Cassidy (R) v. Rob Maness (I)
Unlike Lundergan Grimes above, Landrieu is the genuine article conservative Democrat. She nearly killed Obamacare, she wanted to let BP skate with barely any penalty for destroying the Gulf, and she has often risen to the Senate floor to challenge progressive reforms offered by less senior members. On paper, Cassidy should beat her, based on the party id structural advantage, midterm year, and Cassidy’s history of pulling some African American votes to his side. However, Cassidy is campaigning in a very erratic manner, which makes him look very unstable (watch the debates above). In contrast, Maness has seemed lackadaisical and ill-informed, although he does come across as a fairly nice person. Landrieu is a very savvy campaigner and knows her state as well as any governor or senator in the country. The question becomes will she receive enough support in the general to avoid a runoff (which depends on Maness’ ability to pull votes from Cassidy)? The answer is no. Then she is disfavored from victory in a runoff. But I think she will fail to receive a majority in the general, and still win in the runoff, even with key Democratic base voters staying home. What explains this, I do not know–which may mean I am wrong–but she has done it before and can do it again.
Results: Plurality in general (46D-44R-10I); Majority in runoff 50.1D-49.9R
Effect: D Hold
Maine: Susan Collins (R) v. Shenna Bellows (D)
Put simply, the Democratic Party of Maine likes Susan Collins for some reason. More than respect, more than “she is a formidable candidate so we will not challenge her”–there is something going on there. Collins is a great legislator (though not as prolific as Olympia Snowe), and there is little reason to make a change in a state as independently liberal as Maine.
Results: 67R-32D-1 others
Effect: R Hold
Massachusetts: Ed Markey (D) v. Brian Herr
Markey and John Kerry are very similar legislators, and as such, he will be returned to Congress with almost a Kerry-like electoral margin. I expect him to achieve fully Kerrydom in the next cycle in 2020 with a 70% share.
Effect: D Hold
Michigan: Gary Peters (D) v. Terri Lynn Land (R) v. Jim Fullner (L)
The disappearing candidate strategy of Land (which is why there were no debates) will turn out not be a winning one. Peters wins. Pretty dumb strategy considering the best time to defeat an incumbent party is when they have to replace a long-time candidate. Peters will not be as vulnerable in 2020.
Effect: D Hold
Minnesota: Al Franken (D) v. Mike McFadden (R) v. Steve Carlson (IP)
Franken has tailored a Minnesota first image by advancing local issues and only speaking to local press. He is a smart, dedicated leader who represents the interests of members of the public who may hold more conservative views. His debate performances have been quite underwhelming, but luckily his opponent McFadden is indefatigably moronic in his line of critiques and ideas. I could pick so many baffling quotes to display here, but I do not quite care enough to do it. Well, ok, I will do one. He supports revenue neutral tax code reform, “because we have 17 trillion dollars of debt.” Doesn’t that suggest the government needs more money? Or is the debt not the point, but and ideological commitment to not raising taxes is actually the motivation?
Effect: D Hold
Mississippi: Thad Cochran (R) v. Travis Childers (D) v. Shawn O’Hara (Ref)
Childers being as conservative as he is will demobilize Democrats from seizing the momentum against Cochran. Cochran’s appeals to black voters in the primary may bolster his totals this go-round.
P.S. If write-ins were accepted (which I do not think they are), I would expect McDaniel supporters to aggregate into about a 17% vote share. 46R-36D-17McDeezee-1Ref
Effect: R Hold
Montana: Amanda Curtis (D) v. Steve Daines (R) v. Roger Roots (L)
Curtis acts like she is taking one for the team by falling on the sword this election, which I think is unsavory being that Daines is not a perfect candidate and could be called out on more things. But Daines does have a strong legislative temperament and actually possesses a semblance of competence that many freshman Republicans sorely lacked. Although I think Curtis is more intelligent on the issues that she conveys in a debate forum, her lack of eloquence reduces the ability of voters to project competence at the next level. That is key since Daines has used competence as his explicit number one quality.
Effect: R pickup
Nebraska: Ben Sasse (R) v. David Domina (D) v. Jim Jenkins (I) v. Todd Watson (I)
Sasse is not the worst conservative to have around, but is a fairly standard pseudo-moderate. But his opponent Domina is much less attractive candidate. He is a mild idiot–he can explain his positions on issues, but does not seem to understand the root of the concepts he is addressing. And example, when asked in a debate to name a conflict, if any, he would have opposed sending the military, he said Bosnia and Albania. Ok, not a bad answer. But in answering the question, he stated authoritatively that the primary role of the the US military is eliminate threats beyond our borders at the lowest possible level of appearance. Uh… no. Not at all. Independent candidate Watson seized on this in his response, addressing the need to be more defensive, to which Domina stated the point is to never be on defense by always being on offense. Wow. That would Domina in the extreme right with his foreign policy and defense views, perhaps even of John McCain. Basically, Sasse skates by with simple answers, his youth, and party id to get to the Senate. Who knows, maybe he is capable of doing something good…
I was ready to end this post but then Domina said Israel saves the US billions of dollars by defending itself, because the alternative is to have a substantial military presence in the Middle East. Ok… so we do not have a military presence in the region, let alone an enormous one?
Effect: R Hold
New Hampshire: Jeane Shaheen (D) v. Scott Brown (R)
The Great Carpetbagger Scott Brown followed through on moving to New Hampshire–which according to him he was never not a part of–and challenged solid, if not amazing Jeane Shaheen. In theory, Brown should be able to beat Shaheen in a midterm election in the most conservative northeastern state. However, Brown will lose for several reasons. One, carpetbagging is not well-received in contemporary politics. Historically, it mattered very little, except for northern Unionist moving down the former Confederacy to run shit after the Civil War. Only in the last 50ish years have enough states solidified that you cannot hold office in one state then attempt to attain office in another. Put simply, people look on candidates from other states or districts as not them, and suspicious for even attempting to manipulate them or meddle in their affairs. Second, Shaheen is a fairly strong candidate. Yes, she has lost an election in the past, but she has a strong record within the state and even with current attacks on her, is a fairly moderate Democrat. Third, Brown’s campaign has been so excessively negative and snarky, I do not see who would switch a previous vote for Shaheen for a prospective vote for Brown. He has fear mongered on ISIS and Ebola well beyond the median fear mongering politician in the last few weeks (which is an incredible statement since overacting to this public health issue has become a characteristic of American political culture). I would not be shocked if Brown won, but I figure it is more likely New Hampshireans (New Hampshirites?) would consciously vote in a strategic manner to split their delegation. This state has a record of somehow making that happen.
Effect: D Hold
New Jersey: Corey Booker (D) v. Jeff Bell (R)
The question is how transformative a politician Booker will become, as gauged by his electoral margin. Booker’s conservative, Main street, Third Way form of liberalism is actually a step back from Lautenberg’s overt progressivism. But Booker connects with people exceptionally well, which just like President Obama, allows him to build coalitions that exceed that of a standard moderate or progressive Democrat. That said, the large coalition may not materialize in election returns, which is a bit confusing. Bell is a weak candidate. If Christie can pull Dems to his side, I am sure Booker can gain a reciprocal amount of GOP votes. (The dirty secret in NJ politics is that they are not that far apart on most issues.) Anyway, Booker wins, but probably not as big as he will in 2020 (assuming he does not allow a replacement to run while he seeks the presidency).
Effect: D Hold
New Mexico: Tom Udall (D) v. Allen Weh
Unlike his weak sauce cousin up north, Tom Udall has risen to near moral leader status in the Senate. It may be because New Mexico is more liberal than Colorado, but the Tom version of Udall has staked our coherent and logical positions on topics across issues, which has allowed him to cultivate a clear image in the eyes of voters. I venture to wager if Tom was running in Colorado, even with his more left-wing record, he would beat Gardner at least 54-46. But anyway, about this race: … not much to say… Udall returns to the Senate and advances good government reforms.
Effect: D Hold
North Carolina: Kay Hagan (R) v. Thom Tillis v. Sean Haugh
You would not think the architect of kicking voters of voting rolls and requiring state issued ID to vote would seek a raise, let alone proudly campaign on his legislative accomplishments during a campaign. But that is Thom Tillis. He has serious guts, I will give him that. But he will not win, primarily because of his record, Hagan’s solid get out the vote effort, and Libertarian Haugh’s place on the ballot (which will pull votes almost solely from Tillis).
Effect: D Hold
Oklahoma 1: James Inhofe (R) v. Matt Silverstein (D)
The prickly curmudgeon of the Senate asks voters for their support for the 5th time, with what pitch exactly? He is going to continue to aggressively deny reality and stop the illegal Muslim Manchurian programmed Obamar? This may prove to be Inhofe’s most successful vote share in Senate elections, as he traditionally receives either 55% (one time) or 57% (three times), but this time, he is polling in the low 60s with almost 10% undecided. His opponent is a classic lightweight who portrays himself as not a DC insider, but the Democratic version of Tom Coburn. Ok, so why should anyone vote for you?
Effect: R Hold
Oklahoma 2: James Lankford (R) v. Connie Johnson (D) v. Mark Beard (I)
Among the freshman GOPers to arrive in the House in 2010, I always thought Lankford and Kevin Yoder of Kansas City would rise high within the party apparatus, as both are classic Republicans (not Tea Partiers, even when they have received Tea Party support) and they both have deep baritone voices, which gives their words an extra “I am an adult” feel to them. Both of them consistently serve as presiding speaker in the House, which is a sign of courting leadership support. I took no higher pleasure than watching Lankford beat wack-job TW Shannon in the GOP primary, even as Shannon paraded the anti-reality GOP stars around to increase his crypto-fascist cred. Shannon’s lose indicates Oklahoma may have a strong moderate Republican wing, which belies Inhofe’s repeated success over the years. Langford’s Christianity has seemingly played a role in not fear mongering on Ebola, suggesting the US cannot abdicate its role as a leading force in eradicating the disease by sealing the border and ignoring Africa (which interestingly, Johnson then took the screen everyone approach). I expect Langford to run ahead of Inhofe, as I imagine there are some Dems who will vote for Langford, who would not vote for Inhofe.
Effect: R Hold
Oregon: Jeff Merkley (D) v. Monica Wehby v. Christina Lugo (G) v. Mike Montchalin (L) v. Karl King (I)
Merkley is one of the leading reformers of the Senate, and although he has seemingly allowed himself to drift leftward, he is still a pragmatic, innovative leader akin to his fellow Oregonian Ron Wyden. Wehby, on the other hand, is an ineloquent speaker, with a seeming level of disingenuous distortion that motivates her fleeting campaign. Her primary health care recommendations, aside from the numerous plagiarized ones, is to… lower costs? She strikes me as one of those doctors who writes her own scripts for muscle relaxers, which then proceeds to take before every interview she gives. Her lackluster campaign will lead to a libertarian Montchalin picking up some of her prospective voters. Lugo’s vote share is not as much a reflection of dissatisfaction with Merkley, but simply a baseline level of support the Green Party receives in the northwest.
Effect: D Hold
Rhode Island: Jack Reed (D) v. Mark Zaccaria (R)
No contest. Reed and Whitehouse represent their state extremely well, and there is not disconnect between the average voter or body of voters and their two Senators. I take it from polling Zaccaria is a weak candidate, but even if he were stronger, Reed is well entrenched.
Effect: D Hold
South Carolina 1: Lindsey Graham (R) v. Brad Hutto (D) v. Victor Kocher (L) v. Tom Ravenel (I)
Weirdo disgraced ex-Treasurer/reality star Ravenel is running a Tea Party campaign to syphon votes from Graham, with no chance of victory whatsoever. Graham, now free of his scary primary, can fulfill the role he likes the most, which is to lecture the population on how bipartisanship and war-hawkery are the way to go. His opponent Hutto strikes me as quite capable and makes pretty convincing arguments that South Carolina should think about switching representation at this point. But that said, there are enough right-of-center moderates who would generally vote blue dog, but for Graham specifically will cross party lines. Graham wins, but with his lowest percentage in his career.
Effect: R Hold
South Carolina 2: Tim Scott (R) v. Joyce Dickerson (D) v. Jill Bossi (A)
Tom Scott is very popular in South Carolina–no Democrat in the whole state could be him in this particular election. Dickerson is a very weak candidate to begin with. One thing that is odd about Scott is he leans very heavily to his right side when he gives stump speeches, which is quite disorienting. Is it a tell that he is lying about something? Is there a medical explanation? Does he even realize he does this?
Effect: R Hold
South Dakota: Mike Rounds (R) v. Rick Weiland (D) v. Larry Pressler (I) v. Gordon Howie (I)
Rounds has a solid economic development record (and by that I mean, right place right time), to send him straight to Congress. Weiland is a progressive in a state that has been steadily obliterating any left-wing sense. Pressler probably represents average/median voter the best. Howie is just to attack Rounds. Pressler could have beat Rounds if Weiland was not on the ballot.
Effect: R Pickup
Tennessee: Lamar Alexander (R) v. Gordon Ball (D) v. Danny Page (I)
Alexander’s only threat was (and always will be) in the primary, as he is a moderate and responsible Republican, which makes him public enemy number one to many ultra-conservatives. Well, he got through the primary and faces a competent, though overall uninspiring Democrat in Ball. Then there is Page, who is campaigning to the right of Alexander. No matter, in a general Alexander is quite formidable, and he will skate to victory.
Effect: R Hold
Texas: John Cornyn (R) v. David Alameel (D) v. Rebecca Paddock (L) v. Emily Marie Sanchez (G)
After surviving the grass-roots onslaught of the great populist icon Steven Stockman (hopefully my sarcasm was obvious), Cornyn will meet business Dem Alameel, which says about all you need to know about his ability to mobilize the D base. Hispanic mobilization is probably more important than black mobilization at this point, but they are both necessary for a Democrat to win statewide. Although I appreciate Alameel’s heated rhetoric blaming Cornyn for the free trade, outsourcing, and stagnant wages that characterize the US economy, I do not see how that would attract enough outright conservatives to beat the tone deaf ideologue of Cornyn. After all, there are many more of Cornyn’s lot in the general electorate than Alameel’s. If this were a presidential year, Alameel would probably crack 40 percent.
Effect: R Hold
Virginia: Mark Warner (D) v. Ed Gillespie (R) v. Robert Sarvis (L)
Ed Gillespie just rubs people the wrong way. He seems smarmy and unrelatable. His fear-mongering and laying all the nation’s ills at the heels of the Democrats and Mark Warner just do not fly. Warner is a corporate technocrat who rarely does anything too poorly or too well. He is calculating and plays to his strengths. He and Time Kaine are the template for the type of Democrat that can win statewide in Virginia, and I doubt that will change (ever). He has a seat for life, unless he faces a primary from the left.
Effect: D Hold
West Virginia: Shelley Moore Capito (R) v. Natalie Tennant (D)
It is sad to see how far Moore Capito has deviated from being a cerebral moderate pragmatist, now portraying herself exactly like Tea Partiers: Obama is to blame for everything, Harry Reid is an obstructionist, and the GOP does no wrong. From the debate above, it seemed quite obvious the Tennant may be a lefty, but her critiques of SMC were very strong and she positioned herself well as the true change the paradigm candidate. But none of that will matter as the state continues to shift Republican, and Moore Capito is the most electable member of that party in the whole state. She will likely maintain the seat for over 12 years.
Winner: Moore Capito
Effect: R Pickup
Wyoming: Mike Enzi (R) v. Charlie Hardy (D) v. Curt Gottshall (I) v. Joseph Porambo (L)
Enzi is going nowhere in the most conservative state in the union. Among most Republicans, he is actually one of the more integrity filled, honest brokers (which has got him in hot water with right-wing activists before). As is often the case, this seat is his until a formidable enough Republican defeats him in a primary.
Effect: R Hold
I should get back to doing these more often. For whatever reason, I found myself watching the entire 1992 Vice-Presidential debate, and I was surprised with several things. One, Al Gore was much more aggressive than in any other setting I have since seen him in. Although he is still mechanical by human standards, I did not get the feeling he was an alien sent to Earth to save us from ourselves. Now it just seems like he came from a dystopian future Earth where Reagan reigned into his 130s. Considering climate change is still a debate happening only in one party, he comes across as quite innovative in this setting. Two, James Stockdale seemed extremely out of it, even though he came across as a nice person. Although his service is… service, I do not think Vietnam was a particularly important issue to the American electorate during the early 90s. Three, watching I remembered why Dan Quayle is regarded so poorly by so many people. He seems to have an attack-dog mindset, with very little factual substance to back up a lot of his claims. Most importantly, he speaks like shit, even when it is prepared. In his concluding remarks, Quayle proclaims, “Do the ‘merican should demand that their president tell the truth? Do you really believe, do you really believe Bill Clinton will tell the truth? And do you, do you trust Bill Clinton to be your president?”
I guess you cannot blame his son for not being so bright. It would be very tough to grow up dealing with such psychobabble and not imitate it.
Regardless of the reasons for Russia deploying military personnel to southeast Ukraine, the aptitude of American politics to affect this process requires the media, public, and policymakers to understand a set of dynamics that have developed in since the USSR dissolved and Yeltsin ushered in the contemporary mob state. First, any criticism of Obama’s leadership in dealing with Putin—that somehow he is a weak leader and that someone else would do it better—affixes a simple partisan motivation to a deep-seeded structural reality. Namely, no American president in the last century would send troops to back up a deeply divided and volatile Ukraine. Even Harry Truman, who sent “military advisers” to bolster Turkey and Greece, would not send troops in this situation. Even Lyndon Johnson, who was so insecure in his knowledge and confidence to handle foreign affairs that he erroneously escalated the war in Vietnam, would not send troops into a country neighboring Russia (or within the USSR as Ukraine was during the 1960s). Here is a cold hard fact for any anti-Obama neo-conservative who thinks Lindsey Graham, John McCain or Ronald Reagan would handle this situation better: America has no military power on in the former USSR part of eastern Europe. Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the threat of Iran, have fostered American military relations with the Turkic -stan countries, the extent of U.S. military power in eastern Europe is far inferior, NATO notwithstanding. The extent of military planning in the former Soviet bloc essentially at missile defense planning. No military bases housing American troops exist in this region, with the closest being in Germany and Turkey.
We cannot project our power might here! And if we could, why would we?
Economic sanctions, trade restructuring, and collective pressure through diplomacy (both bilateral, trilateral, and through the UN) are the only possible mechanisms to express displeasure with Russia. Constant dialogue with the pseudo-governing parliament in Ukraine to ensure they do not make the mistake of attacking the Russian military is also paramount. If Russia decides to take any more regions in the country, an argument for self-defense and action would be highly legitimate, but as it stands, Ukrainian forces cannot survive a war with Russia. The only way out of this is to negotiate a preferential deal for Russia and Russian sympathetic Crimeans, and have a full withdrawal of Russian forces. As long as Russian troops maintain a presence in the region, they will pay a continuous price for such behavior. So far, no one has died, kidnappings have not been reported. This is as symbolic as it is belligerent. Cooler heads must prevail.
For America’s part, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox (albeit unlikely), must maintain an objective understanding of what is transpiring in Crimea. Showcasing partisans such as Lindsey Graham, Newt Gingrich, and John McCain, should be met with direct question of “what would you do differently?” It should not be sufficient to simply talk in terms of leadership, since it is an intrinsically subjective quality, but instead decision-making. If the aforementioned conservatives disfavor military intervention, which they have, then they should spell out what their viable alternative is to the Obama administration’s policies.
Most of the talk regarding this year’s midterm election centers on the the Republican chances of taking the majority in the Senate. Though Democrats are on the defensive with a disproportionate amount of red-state Democratic centers seeking reelection, this is not the only majority changing storyline in Congress. The Republican controlled House sits at 234 R, 200 D and 1 vacancy (Republican Bill Young’s St. Petersburg based district). The Dems will likely have to net +18 districts in to gain the majority in 2014, which is a tough pull considering the decreases in district competitiveness across the country. Nonetheless, myriad fluid factors, such as candidate strength, local issues, national mood, weather, third party candidates, migration, and the confluence of money may override simple considerations of voter party id and previous election results. That said, here is a map of those districts that provide the greatest potential for democratic pickups in the House in 2014:
Below is a ranking of which seats should be prioritized the most, based on incumbent vulnerability and district demographics. The rankings are debatable between individual lines, but as a bloc, the top 10 should be easier than 11-20, and so on.
Whether it is district demographics (IL-13, CA-31, CA-21) or weak incumbents (Benishek, Bentivolio, Amash, Noem), a strong Democratic candidate and at least 75% turnout of Obama supporters from the 2012 election, should lead to a net gain of at least 8 seats. To get the other 10, several of these candidates need to publicly implode with scandal, and the national mood needs to shift back to the pro-Dem levels during the government shutdown. Though this may be a best cased scenario, not many (any?) people foresaw a 63 seat GOP gain in 2010, so a more modest Dem gain is not beyond the pale. At some point, strong candidates (previous electeds, well funded, district ties) need to step up in off years to compensate for the decreased pro-Democratic turnout. The status quo has a lot of inertia right now, and it would not be surprising if Democrats lost a seat or two in the Senate, and picked up a couple of seats in the House, creating a null effect in changes of power structures in Congress as a whole.
Today was such an important day in Senatorial (and in fact, American) history, that it warranted the first post in eleven months. Though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has long earned the respect of his peers for keeping his party together and being adept at using parliamentary procedure in the Senate, today Reid solidified his place in history by changing the rules of the Senate. The abusive use of the filibuster has marred the Senate for much of Bush’s second term, but its exponential rise under the Obama presidency has made its continued place in the system untenable. Filibuster reform advocates, such as Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), petitioned the leader to change Senate rules at the opening of the 113th Congress. The changes on the first day of the session, and succeeding agreements that intermittently pop up, hardly affected legislative output, and showed the weakness of “gentleman’s agreements.”
Unlike the highly institutionalized House of Representatives, the Senate does not operate based on lengthy and clearly defined rules, but instead, operates on precedent and cultural norms. Essentially, the House of mechanistic and routinized, a legislative body created to empower the will of the people as seen in the majority of representatives. In contrast, the Senate is a deliberative body, created to consider the validity of legislation in the other chamber, advise presidents on their appointments, and ratify treaties. Further, the Senate runs on comity and interpersonal relationships between members, which is supposed to encourage statesmanship, bipartisanship, and consensus, beyond what a pure majoritarian body encourages. The Senate, unlike the House, is a minority controlled body: not in leadership or committee chairs, but in deference to the minorities prerogatives and input into the processes the body propounds. This system has worked fine over the years, as long as members of both chambers understand their roles; Representatives advocate for the will of the majority of voters through affirmative government policy, while Senators rise above quibbles, to think about the effect of the policies would be on the country, and to refine it to the most moderate, median-voter-pleasing form.
But as the party system changed from the fifth to the sixth, and liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats switched parties, bipartisanship as a practice (and concept) waned. Paired with social migration, in which voters tend to live around those they agree with on ideology, and party primary changes, which exclude general voters in favor of party loyalists, you end up with legislators who do not understand their partisan counterparts, and worse, do not even seek to try and bridge that gap. Legislators who work constructively to build consensus are often demonized on both sides, leading to the further erosion of moderate legislators in Congress (see the primary losses of Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Lugar (R-IN), Spector (R & D-PA), and Bennett (R-UT), and Representative Castle (R-DE); and retirements of Senators Voinovich (R-OH), Hagel (R-NE), Bayh (D-IN), Snowe (R-ME), Nelson (D-NE), Dorgan (D-ND), and Bond (R-MO)). For the Senate to work in its 20th century manner, it would have to be filled with members who want to work with one another to create necessary public policy. The increasing polarity is only one half of the equation; the other half is the type of people joining the Senate more an more often. These people cater to party bases as the primary objective; not policy. General elections have become secondary to primary elections. Finally, the legislators that wield the most influence, financially and organizationally, are becoming more and more clustered on the extremes of demagoguery. Demagogues do not want to legislate; they want to instigate. A perfect storm occurs when demagogues with anti-government philosophies gain power, which is the case for 12 (or 13 if you include Chuck Grassley) of the 45 Republicans currently seated in the Senate.
What is startling is how the parties are changing every successive election, with less and less policy driven individuals being elected into the Senate. Of the demagogues I enumerated above, over half of them have entered the Senate after the 2010 election. Is it due to the anger against Obamacare during that election? One can only hope, though the trend of GOP party purity (whose purity?) does not seem to be going anywhere.
So today, after being so apprehensive as to indicate this would never happen, Harry Reid overruled the presiding officer (as advised by the parliamentarian), to change the cloture rule on executive appointments (except those to the Supreme Court) from a 60 vote threshold to a simple 51 vote majority. Chuck Grassley’s distorted talk about packing the courts (by offering three judges to a three judge vacancy) will now actually lead to packing the courts. Obama can nominate nearly 100 judges to different federal courts, and that number is likely to climb to 150 by the end of his presidency (creating a 3D to 2R national balance on the courts). This change in the cloture rule, so that the 60 votes only applies to legislation and SC nominees, has ushered in a new era in Senate history. This is the beginning of majority rule in the Senate.
What of the Democrats? Are they blameless in this predicament? No, but false analogies often blame both sides equally for what one side is more responsible for. The current problem of government productivity is because of Republican base pandering and irrational hatred of the president. But Democrats are equally responsible for the quality of legislation deteriorating, and for public policy to take a back seat to political processes. I will not address this point too much within this post, but essentially, the administration of government is becoming increasingly inefficient, poorly targeted, cumbersome, and misguided. A new paradigm of policymaking must be created that is not based on logrolling, pork-barreling, particularized benefits, or ideological purity. The new system must revolve around pragmatism in making government work for the people, which only the Democratic party is in a position to achieve (therefore it is their responsibility).
But back to the question of blame and solutions. Senate Democrats have been slow to understand the depths of the body’s problems, and therefore, deserve some blame for it getting this bad. Take for example Carl Levin of Michigan. He, along with Senators Pryor and Manchin (both conservatives), voted against the change today. His rationale was that it sets a horrible precedent for future Senatorial rules changes, and intimated there may have been another way. His idealistic view is not ingrained in reality, and his stature within the party has carried much water on this issue. He himself probably deferred action on filibusters by working with Senators McCain, Lieberman (when he was around), Snowe, and Graham to create agreements that were not adhered to. It is old guard Democrats like Levin who are ill-equipped to successfully legislate in the current Sixth Party System. Their memories of the better days inhibit their ability to diagnose the issues and solutions to contemporary problems. Ideology does not matter much in this discussion; what matters is understanding changes in society and party dynamics that warrant changes in institutions. Otherwise, our governing institutions simply look illegitimate and out of touch, like the outgoing senator.
Though the filibuster is still around on the more important legislative votes, Abe Lincoln would say a house divided cannot stand, and Senate with domain specific rules surely cannot either. This means soon the Senate will completely remove the filibuster from use on all matters. Every course of action will require just the majority caucus to push through legislation. One can argue this is a sad day for deliberation, but since that has largely disappeared anyway as a product of the low quality people elected to this branch (the House included) nowadays, responsible party government will have to take over. There are definite downsides to this approach, which means party voters need to hold their members more accountable than they have so far, which we have no reason to believe will happen. Essentially, the filibuster’s removal will not save the entire system, nor will it destroy it. But it does allow the legislative process to fulfill its duties more readily, which inherently benefits the causes of affirmative government policy over those who wish to destroy, or obstruct, the government. Will there be examples of Republicans using this change to their favor, on perhaps horrifying draconian measures? Yes, but there is always bad with the good.
This is a step in the right direction. Chamber differences will still create a system in which the bodies negotiate with one another, and further, the checks and balances in the system will keep radical change from happening too quickly. But at least change can happen, now that the filibuster is on its last legs.
Following the fiscal cliff votes, Steny Hoyer announced that Speaker Boehner would not put the Senate passed H.R. 1 Hurricane Sandy relief bill on the floor in this Congress. Now I was not particularly mad about this, as it will surely be passed in the first week or two of the next Congress, but one thing really pissed me off. The presiding chair of the House, Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas’ 3rd District, heard a motion to adjourn the House until Wednesday, following very heated pleas of politicians whose constituents were affected by the hurricane. As an ardent observer of parliamentary procedure, I listened as the motion to adjourn was heard. Womack spoke: “All those in favor say ‘aye'” which was followed by two, maybe three ‘ayes’. Womack continued: “All those opposed, say ‘nay'”, which was followed by the loudest cocaphony of ‘nays’ I have heard in quite some time; possibly 30-40 pleas to remain in session and discuss the issue. Quite suprisingly, Womack hesitated for a moment, looked around, then concluded: “the yeas have it, the House is adjourned…” I was left quite angry. In fact, all I kept saying to myself is, “wow, that is really unethical. I cannot believe he just did that.”
The chair of House proceedings is chosen by the Speaker of the House to act in his absence (which is most of the time). They are generally loyalists, good orators (like Kevin Yoder) and they are expected do their party’s bidding. When it is close, it is the prerogative of the chair to rule as he will, even if he knows his side has not reached the two-thirds threshold (fair enough). However, When two-thirds are not in the affirmative, and it is extremely evident, it is not uncommon for the presiding chair to rule against his party, which usually just means a recorded vote must occur. I have seen this in both parties, as Charlie Bass has done it against the GOP, and Jose Serrano did (laughingly) against Dems when they were in the majority. Unfortunately, Representative Womack clearly ruled against the majority in a blatant, unethical manner. With his position on the Appropriations Committee, it is clear he is a loyalist to leadership, but not matter what outcome may be desired, the will of the House cannot be denied. On an issue as heated as disaster relief, with a bipartisan desire to provide assistance, it is quite detestable for the presiding chair to conduct House business in this manner.
I watched as he left the podium and was approached by a fellow Republican. Womack extended his hand to shake hands after a long day of legislating, only to be denied by a clearly perturbed Congressman. A Democratic Representative briskly walked across the floor to give Womack a piece of his mind, only to have the C-SPAN feed cut out. I would have liked to see that interaction.
I will remember this throughout Womack’s time in Congress. As someone who has shunned the integrity of parliamentary pocedure, Womack’s unethical behavior will now live in infamy.
Considering how this man illegally financed his 9 million dollar Senate campaign with his disproportionately high severance pay from his old company, it does not surprise me that this man acts like he has all the answers. After all, he is where he is because of distorting Russ Feingold’s record and going negative, millions of dollars after millions of dollars (by the way, had that election occurred in a Presidential year, even one where a Republican won, Feingold would have won). Anyway, the amount of times Johnson uses revisionist economics, such as saying the Bush tax cuts and unfunded wars only accounted for 25% of the debt (neglecting to include Medicare Part D). In fact, nearly all of the pre-recession deficit was a result of those three factors, with larger economic forces such as health care inflation driving much of government spending (what is Johnson’s plan to lower health care costs? Other than tort reform and buying coverage across state lines?).
Anyway, there seems to be a fundamental fallacy that Johnson espouses frequently, which is that taxes are a punishment for being successful. If this is what someone believes, than why wouldn’t he propose an abolition of taxes? That’s right, because corny capitalism likes government contracts and defense spending, which Johnson is adamantly for. Johnson is one of the most ideological, nonsensical legislators currently in the Senate. He will not be reelected as part of the Scott Walker cohort, as major distinctions can be made between Walker’s brand of conservative legislative prowess, and Johnson’s inability to pass anything of import. Johnson’s committment to obstructionism, elitism, and condescension embody the worst aspects of the GOP, and politicians as a whole.
In a highly rehearsed confirmation hearing for the next Commander of the Afghanistan War, prospective nominee Joseph Dunford repeated platitudes of idealism relating to troop draw-downs and the ability of Afghanistan’s army to takeover the security mission within the country. I guess I should not expect anyone in the military to respond with honesty and candor, especially in a rehearsed committee hearing, but seriously, when do military men ever realize a mission cannot be fulfilled. Would any elected official be privy to a General’s apprehensions about a policy of war, if they even had such apprehensions?
It is tiring to think after 11 years the USA is still occupying a country that no single nation or foreign entity has ever successfully made to capitulate. Of all people, John McCain, the perennial hawk, is questioning whether the General is aware of enough to assume head command. Who knows what his motivation is, but at least McCain should realize this nominee will not decide the overarching policy in the area, as that comes from the White House. Listening a little further, McCain essentially claims the mission cannot be accomplished with the current draw-down timetable, but he is neither confident that if we stayed, that we have the strategy to fulfill the mission.
What will Afghanistan look like in 20 years?
I did not pay much attention to this uncompetitive race, but when I saw a non-partisan prognosticator claiming Ted Cruz is a future superstar in national politics, I decided to check out some of the debates between Cruz and his Democratic opponent Paul Sadler. Before I checked out these debates, I knew the election result. Cruz won 56.6% to Sadler’s 40.5% vote share. I thought, hmm, a Tea Partier winning well, but not impressively, a state where Romney won with 57% of the vote. Coming into the debate, I had heard Cruz was an expert debater. What I found did not quite conform to that view. He is methodical and premise oriented, which creates clear logical arguments, but in debate, premised arguments rely on factual efficacy. Much of what Cruz claimed throughout the debate were simply ordered talking points that mirror the Tea Party (and nowadays, GOP) mantras. Cruz’s delivery is understated, unoffensive, and yet, the crux of his policies would leave many people who might have voted for him in a worse position. He is an intelligent, educated man, but that begs the question, why does he hold his extreme views?
However, the revelation of these debates, and my belated viewing of them, was actually the sincere and effective manner in which Cruz’s opponent discussed issues. Even though Sadler would often admit, “maybe I am not explaining this as well as I need to,” the fact is, Sadler was more honest and straight with the voters of Texas. Where Cruz would avoid addressing what to do with current undocumented immigrants, or the DREAM Act, or balancing the budget, Sadler pinned himself to clear policy positions that he could work toward from day one. Now I do not know the baggage Sadler has, and I have been aware that he was not a first tier candidate, (as that candidate, former Army Lieutenant General Richardo Sanchez, dropped out), but his truthful and sincere approach very much impressed me. I could see him working to fix problems. Now for Texas, he may a liberal, but in national politics he would be a firm moderate, and the Senate needs many more of them to forge a new bipartisan way.
Too bad Sadler lost. I guess one of the Castro brothers will face Cruz in 2018, which by then, Texas will be an embryonic swing state.
Also, a word about Cruz. He now joins the extreme right faction of the Senate, and he and Mike Lee will construct a plethora of reactionary bills that most GOP voters would not even support. However, given Cruz’s education and background, I wonder if he, and possibly Marco Rubio, may change their tune at some point and move toward the middle. If these two Senators did that, they might contribute to the GOP becoming a next generation party, and thus ensure the GOP maintains its place in our two-party system. Cruz is the kind of politician who may never change, and may simply dig his heels in, but if he sees the light, he may be “a future superstar in national politics.”
A few thoughts:
Why not pile everything in at the end? The Sixth Party System likes handicapping as much as the next person, so let’s get to it:
Election Landscape: 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans, 2 Independents; 23 Dem caucus members versus 10 GOP.
Overall Senate Landscape: 51D to 47R to 2I (53D to 47R)
Arizona (retiring R)-Jeff Flake (R) versus Richard Carmona (D):
Flake is too odd to be a sure fire victor, which, coupled with Richard Carmona’s positioning as a right of center candidate, leads me to believe Carmona will win. He is one of the strongest localized candidates the Dems have recruited in a decade. His strategy will lay the groundwork for a further Dem penetration into red, Midwestern and Western territory.
Estimate: Carmona wins, 49.3% to 48.9% D+1 R-1
California (D incumbent)-Dianne Feinstein (D) versus Elizabeth Emken (R):
Feinstein is invincible in California, for one, she is to the right of Boxer (and most Democrats), which allows her to win a significant amount of voters in the Central Valley and Greater San Diego area. Secondly, she maintains liberal support based on her legacy in San Francisco following the Harvey Milk and Mayor Mascone. The base has not been pleased with her conservative ways in quite some time, and yet she has never received a serious challenge. Also, it helps the GOP conceded this seat by running a far-right campaign, just like Carly Fiorina did in 2010. Invincible, I tells ya.
Estimate: Feinstein wins, 64% to 34% No Net Change
Connecticut (Retiring I)-Chris Murphy (D) versus Linda McMahon (R):
Money talks, and Linda McMahon has tons of it. She has been attacking Murphy very hard, and it seems to have had an effect. However, a blue state is a blue state, and only a strong ideas candidate with integrity and credibility can pull off this upset—McMahon is not that candidate. Murphy fits the state well, as he could easily be a shill for the financial services sector, which is essentially the number one issue in CT political elite circles.
Estimate: Murphy wins, 53% to 46% D+1 I-1
Delaware (D Incumbent)-Tom Carper (D) v. Kevin Wade (R) v. Alex Pires (I):
Interesting blowout race, as Alex Pires has flanked Carper to the left, which may shift his margin of victory. Wade is a weak candidate, sort of a business Tea Party type. He makes incendiary remarks and uses faulty attacks to often to beat Carper. Anyway, Carper has a lock on this state, perennially (at least until the GOP begins to accept moderates back into the fold).
Estimate: Carper wins, 62% to 32% to 4% No Net Change
Florida (D Incumbent)-Bill Nelson (D) versus Connie Mack (R):
Nelson is a very unique and above-the-frey type of politician. Mack is trying is darndest to tie Nelson to Obama, but the voters of Florida know Nelson is his own type of Democrat, albeit predominantly liberal. Mack was actually a strong candidate, but he cannot beat Nelson, who is stronger. At least Mack and his imploding wife will have each other when they both lose their races. Even with Romney winning the state, Nelson will win.
Estimate: Nelson wins, 55% to 44% No Net Change
Hawaii (Retiring D)-Mazie Hirono versus Linda Lingle (R):
Cannot fault Lingle for a second; she is a strong candidate, a firm moderate, and a reasonable policymaker. However, the native son being on the ballot, and Hirono representing the island’s views closely, means Lingle is out to sea. She would have beat Ed Case, and truth be told, I would have voted for her over his slimey behind.
Estimate: Hirono wins, 57% to 43% No Net Change
Indiana (Retiring R, sort of*)-Joe Donnelly (D) v. Tricky Dick Mourdock (R) v. Andrew Horning (L):
The asterisk is because Dick Lugar, one of the great statesman currently in government, lost his primary; he did not want to retire, but the Tea Party got him. We all know Mourdock has repeatedly shot himself in the foot on various issues, not just God-created rape, but even without those blunders, Donnelly could have won. He is a centrist, much like the center-right electorate of the state, and in absolute terms, he is ideologically closer to Lugar than Mourdock. He is banking on people realizing this, and voting for him. I think they will. He is a strong candiate, who would have held Lugar to around 60%; Mourdock will not fare as well. Additionally, Horning will siphon a significant portion of anti-GOP conservatives that otherwise would have bit the bullet and voted for Mourdock. Horning is your classic libertarian, but with a slightly better niche combating the GOP from within, then leaving when his attempts let to no avail.
Estimate: Donnelly wins 51% to 46% to 3% D+1 R-1
Maine (Retiring R)-Angus King (I) v. Charles Summers (R) v. Cynthia Dill (D) v. Danny Dalton (I) v. Andrew Ian Dodge (I) v. Steve Woods (I):
Only way popular former Governor Angus “The” King loses is if Dill siphons enough far-left votes from him. Luckily, the presence of another liberal in the race, as well as three conservatives, will splinter all ideological groups, and the race ill become a cult of personality and name recognition. Both of those factors leave King atop the standings, and the king will join the Senate, where he will caucus with the Democrats. Interesting because all six leading, as in debate participating, candidates support Roe v. Wade, including the Tea Partier Dodge and Republican Summers.
Estimate: King 48% to Summers 31% to Dill 17% I+1 R-1
Maryland (D Incumbent)-Ben Cardin (D) v. Dan Bongino (R) v. Rob Sobhani (I) v. Dean Ahmad (L):
The presence of Sobhani attracts votes from both sides, limiting Cardin’s margin of victory, but also stymieing Bongino’s ability to attract a plurality. Non-race.
Estimate: Cardin 56% to Bongino 25% to Sobhani 12% to Ahmad 1% No Net Change
Massachusetts (R Incumbent)-Elizabeth Warren (D) versus Scott Brown (R):
Excellent race. Two strong candidates. Here is how both parties should proceed, by selecting district/state tailor made candidates that can attract voters of the opposite party. In this case, Scott Brown does not attract Dems that much, but he is incredibly strong among the state’s 50% Independents. However, this race will surely end in his defeat. Warren, though a member of the Harvard elite, has the important pedigree as an outsider turned insider reformer, and it is quite difficult to make her look bad. Brown has tried the carpetbagger stuff, but Warren fits the state’s interests well, and the voters will make that clear. Even in defeat, Scott Brown is one of the best GOP campaigners in the biz today.
Estimate: Warren wins, 49.2% to 48.3% D+1 R-1
Michigan (D Incumbent)-Debbie Stabenow (D) v. Pete Hoekstra (R) v. Scotty Boman (L):
Remember that racist ad with a Berkeley alum pandering to xenophobia? We were so proud to see one of our own contribute to racist propaganda!! Anyway, Hoekstra is not that weak of a candidate: yes, he is pron to verbal gaffs and racist/anti-Islamic behavior, but he has a manner that resonates with suburban males. However, that is not enough to overcome Stabenow. She has adeptly positioned herself as Ag committee chairman, which will benefit her in the rural parts of the state that Dems have trouble in. Of course, if a farm bill passed, that would be even better, but most concerned voters understand that issue was on the House side. Anywho, Stabenow wins by a wider margin than she should of.
Estimate: Stabenow wins, 56% to 40% to 3% No Net Change
Minnesota (D Incumbent)-Amy Klobuchar (D) versus Kurt Bills (R):
Way off the grid. Klobuchar us perhaps the best Democrat in the nation at attracting GOP voters, even though she is liberal. This race may see a 30 to 45 point margin. Here is an example of a candidate who has cultivated her electorate well.
Estimate: Klobuchar wins, 66% to 34% No Net Change
Mississippi (R Incumbent)-Roger Wicker (R) v. Albert Gore (D) (and some other cons):
Wicker is a vulnerable republican, as he is not very prolific at any policy field and has definite weaknesses in personality. However, the Dems have conceded this seat, for no apparent reason that to justify not spending money on a losing race. So you get some old foggy name Al Gore and that’s that.
Estimate: Wicker wins, 62% to 35% to 3% others No Net Change
Missouri (D Incumbent)-Claire McCaskill v. Todd Akin (R) v. Jonathan Dine (L):
Yup, never good to justify, or legitimize rape. McCaskill would have lost to Sarah Steelman by a good 7 points, but Akin is out of touch enough to cost his party this election. On merit, McCaskill does deserve to win, as she is a moderate in a moderate state, but Obama will drag her down a little. Essentially, to make up for the structural disadvantage, she needed the other guy to mess up and make himself look unelectable. Well, Akin did… loser. Dine will get the conservative voters who were disenchanted with Akin, but not enough to simply stay home.
Estimate: McCaskill 48.8% to 46.3% to 3% No Net Change
Montana (D Incumbent)-Jon Tester (D) v. Denny Rehberg (R) v. Dan Cox (L):
Suing the government because firefighters did not save enough of your large estate is not a flattering look for a politician. Such is the case with Denny Rehberg, whose selfishness and bad-guy qualities may cost him the race. Additionally, Dan Cox is a fairly strong Lib candidate, and will steal some votes otherwise allocated to Rehberg. However, structural factors, and Tester’s difficulty disassociating himself from leadership, will lead Rehberg to gain a promotion he does not deserve.
Estimate: Rehberg wins, 48.3 to 48.1 to 3.4 R+1 D-1
Nebraska (Retiring D)-Deb Fischer (R) versus Bob Kerrey (D):
Ben Nelson probably could have weathered the storm, even with the PPACA vote, but he chose to quit. Though I have had a lot of personal animus toward Nelson over the years, he has been valuable in key votes, and for that, liberals should be thankful (to some extent). Anyway, Deb Fischer was the second weakest potential candidate to emerge from the GOP primary, ahead of Tea Partier Don Stenberg, but behind established candidate Jon Bruning. And Bob Kerrey was the strongest potential candidate. However, the deficit in this race, caused by the hatred of Obama and rightward, intolerant turn of the general electorate, has left this race solidly for Fischer. Had Kerrey maintained his presence in NE, he could win, but being a “New York liberal” does not play well in Kearney.
Estimate: Fischer wins, 56% to 43% R+1 D-1
Nevada (R Incumbent)-Dean Heller (R) versus Shelley Berkeley (D):
Not hard to diagnose this race. Heller is from the rural northern part of the state, which explains his Tea Party conservatism, and Berkeley is a New York transplant from Vegas. Statewide elections in Nevada always hinge on either a) massive turnout in Las Vegas and Henderson, or b) the swing electorate in Reno and Carson City. This race will not benefit from heightened turnout like 2008, as home foreclosures and unemployment have made pro-Dem turnout less likely. Therefore, the race will be decided in Reno, where Berkeley is unpopular and is seen a too closely aligned with Vegas interest (and some conflict of interest stuff). Heller, on the other hand, has very little baggage other than his voting record, and can appeal to people with his reform minded rhetoric. I expect split ticket voters to favor Heller, as pragmatic moderates may see Obama’s predicament as not solely his doing, but nonetheless not support Berkeley’s elitist caricature.
Estimate: Heller wins, 51% to 49% No Net Change
New Jersey (D Incumbent)-Bob Menendez (D) v. Joe Kyrillos (R) v. Ken Kaplan (L):
Menendez seemed vulnerable going into the race, but Kyrillos has an incredible amount of trouble explaining his views on matters that put New Jerseyeans at odds with national Republicans. He still has not explained how he would vote on abortion legislation, which although it is not the premier issue, is just a microcosm of his policies as a whole. Menendez wins by default.
Estimate: Menendez wins, 56% to 40% to 3% No Net Change
New Mexico (Retiring D)-Martin Heinrich versus Heather Wilson (R):
Wilson is a strong candidate, with an interesting pedigree and reasonable stances for her electorate. However, New Mexico is moving away from the party, f not the values, that she is connected to. Heinrich was thought to be a much stronger candidate, but has proven lackluster; only good enough to win. Some might say that is good enough.
Estimate: Heinrich wins 54% to 45% No Net Change
New York (D Incumbent)-Kirsten Gillibrand (D, Working Families, and Independence) versus Wendy Long (R and Conservative):
Gillibrand has moved to the left since coming under the guidance of Chuck Schumer, and is being groomed to possibly be the first female president of the nation. Fortunately for her, she is well liked in all parts of the state, and as an indicator of how center-right voters view her, she received the Independence party endorsement. She will win handedly.
Estimate: Gillibrand wins, 68% to 28% No Net Change
North Dakota (Retiring D)-Rick Berg (R) versus Heidi Heitkamp:
Heitkamp is a superb candidate. In a midterm election, she might have won. However, in this presidential election year, she may be tied to Obama, and may lose the race by a slim margin. Berg has problems conveying his accomplishments, but his party identification may prove enough to gain a plurality. Too bad, Heidi is an ideas person to boot.
Estimate: Berg wins, 50.6% to 49.1% R+1 D-1
Ohio (D Incumbent)-Sherrod Brown (D) versus Josh Mandel (R):
Mandel is a very creepy and awkward guy. I do not doubt he patriotic, and I do not doubt in his heart, he believes what he stands for, but I do question how aware of social forces and inequity he is aware of. Watching the debates between he and Brown, it looked quite forced and gimmicky how he was trying to pigeonhole Brown. Brown was talking about policy, and Mandel was rolling in mud and trying to mislead people. His youth means he will eventually become Governor or Senator, but it will not be during this election. Some split ticketing, in favor of Brown (especially in the Southeast portion of the state).
Estimate: Brown wins, 53% to 46% No Net Change
Pennsylvania (D Incumbent)-Bob Casey (D) versus Tom Smith (R):
Tom Smith is not ready to join government. He has a very low level of understanding about both politics and policy, and I do not think that would change with experience. I think he would simply end up totting the party line in a mindless fashion. Watching the debates, it is clear Casey has learned from his position on the Joint Committee on Taxation, whereas Smith knows almost nothing. The surge for Smith has been because of the millions of dollars he has spent attacking Casey. It may have cut Casey’s margin, but will not change the election outcome.
Estimate: Casey wins, 58% to 40% No Net Change
Rhode Island (D Incumbent)-Sheldon Whitehouse (D) versus Barry Hinckley (R):
Whitehouse and his cohort Senator Reed are highly entrenched in Rhode Island. Even though Representative Cicilline is facing a tough reelection, almost all of detractors from Cicilline will still support Whitehouse. He is a smart legislator who minds the interest of his people. On the other hand, Hinckley has not gained any momentum as he has not found a line of attack that works against Whitehouse.
Estimate: Whitehouse wins, 63% to 36% No Net Change
Tennessee (R Incumbent)-Bob Corker (R) v. Mark Clayton (D) v. Shaun Crowell (L):
Bob Corker, though a millionaire, was once considered a conservative reformer who may work independently of his party. Every now and then, this permutation of Corker still shows up on a procedural vote, but he has otherwise become the party’s median member. His Democratic opponent is an incendiary dixie-crat who the party disavowed in a state with a relatively strong bench. Crowell will take more votes from Clayton than Corker, but Corker will get some of the Democrat votes that might otherwise have stayed home. Crappy situation for the Dems, but Corker could not have wished for a easier election.
By the way, Clayton’s “Issues” tab on his campaign page is quite interesting. He praises Hillary Clinton and talks about “Snoopy bills” (privacy rights), while simultaneously .
Estimate: Corker wins, 71% to 24% to 4% No Net Change
Texas (R Incumbent)-Ted Cruz (R) v. Paul Sadler (D) v. John Myers (L):
Ted Cruz will fit nicely with the Rand Paul-Rob Johnson-Mike Lee-Jim DeMint faction of the Senate. Texas will become a purple state within the decade, but its current constitution is bright red. Paul Sadler is conservative, but the Texan electorate has no tolerance for a Democrat right now, period. Cruz will win despite Myers operating in the same space, as well as some other candidates. But that would only be a problem if the race was close, which it won’t be.
Estimate: Cruz wins, 55% to 44% to 2% No Net Change
Utah (R Incumbent)-Orrin Hatch (R) versus Scott Howell (D):
Hatch lucked out of the eponymous Tea Party state convention, and then the election was over. No much to say, except Hatch is as much a product of this era of ideological shift as any other Senator. He was an original sponsor of the DREAM Act in the Senate, but has since become an Obama conspiracy theorist and bad-faith dealer.
Estimate: Hatch wins, 68% to 31% No Net Change
Vermont (I Incumbent)-Bernie Sanders v. MacGovern (R) v. odd bunch:
I am watching the Vermont Senate debate right now, and man, between the pro-marijuana, China is Big Bird lady, and hippie burnout who thinks Sanders is a warmonger, to the lady who says bills need to be a few words, and the Austrian engineer who thinks the Democrats and Republicans are really only one party, Sanders looks outright moderate and reasonable. If there was one person I could work for in Congress, it would be Bernie Sanders. He will win this one with a wide margin, even though MacGovern isn’t that for from the median voter in suburban areas of eastern Vermont.
The moderator questioned him pretty hard about why he supports the F-35, which he was largely defensive in response. Interesting turn of events when Sanders is the pro-military industrial complex candidate. I actually agree with his pragmatism—local jobs valuable and should be preserved, while the greater policy should be changed.
Estimate: Sanders wins, 76% to 23% (1% for all other candidates) No Net Change
Virginia (Retiring D)-Tim Kaine (D) versus George Allen (R):
George Allen wants his old seat back, and the conservative political elite want it back for him. In this newly purple state, Tim Kaine and George Allen both hold a soft spot in the electorate, one for his father’s coaching experience, the other for his stewardship of Virginia into a job creating machine. Both are ex-Governors, both have high name recognition, and both wield incredible sums of money. This one will not be as close as it could, but in this Obama year, expect high turnout in Northern Virginia, ensuring Kaine’s victory.
Estimate: Kaine wins, 51% to 48% No Net Change
Washington (D Incumbent)-Maria Cantwell (D) versus Michael Baumgartner (R):
Cantwell is a New Democrat and her ideological pairing of state business interest, like Boeing and the tech sector, with her ability to speak on social issues, make her a well positioned candidate in her Washington. Baumgartner is also a unique Republican, as he seems to be the next generation of Tea Party deconstructionist, but seemingly a little more selective on what he is nihilistic about.
Estimate: Cantwell wins, 57% to 42% No Net Change
West Virginia (D Incumbent)-Joe Manchin (D) versus John Raese (R):
Rematch of the last special election, which was much closer than this one will be. Raese does not have credibility with voters and in many ways works against workers’ rights that some in West Virginia still value. On the other side, Manchin has tailored an localized image as the last protector of West Virginian interests, including coal in all forms and a commercial of him shooting a target with Obama’s face on it (pretty fucked up, regardless of who is President). His independence from his party, as well as his paternalistic approach (which he had as Governor), will lead him to an easy victory. Shelley Moore-Capito could have given Manchin a run for his money, but Raese cannot.
Estimate: Manchin wins, 59% to 40% No Net Change
Wisconsin (Retiring D)-Tommy Thompson (R) versus Tammy Baldwin (D):
In the most polarized state in the nation, it is possible this race replicates the electoral geography of the recent Scott Walker recall election. Both Thompson and Baldwin are strong candidates, Thompson because of his highly esteemed record in Wisconsin, and Baldwin because of the progressive views she holds. These two dimensions provide the two contending interests (labor, youth and educated progressives versus religious, rural and suburban conservatives). Pragmatic conservatives are not necessarily too far removed from Baldwin ideologically to inhibit their crossover.
Estimate: Thompson wins, 49.7 to 49.2 R+1 D-1
Wyoming (Incumbent R)-John Barrasso (R) versus Tim Chestnut (D):
Wyoming is the most conservative state in the country, which makes it even nicer that Chestnut is running as an authentic, reasoned liberal. The only major caveat is his energy policy, but being the way Wyoming is constituted, that makes perfect sense. Barrasso is well-entrenched, even if he is one of the worst offenders of misleading voters, distorting the truth, and operating in bad faith when he legislates (although, is legislating against his ideology?). Barrasso should imitate his compadre Mike Enzi, who is on the far-right, and yet has decent working relations with numerous moderates and liberals in the Senate. Still waiting for Freudenthal to run, maybe in six years…
Estimate: Barrasso wins, 68% to 29% No Net Change
Overall Change In The Senate: No Net Change! The Democrats will gain some new seats, while losing some in the Midwest, which will all be offset. Even two independents who caucus with the Democrats will return to the Senate (King will caucus with the majority, which will be Democratic once more).
I hope you enjoyed this set of predictions and did your civic duty and voted! If you have not voted early, make sure to take some time to vote today!!
The election is tomorrow, and accordingly, a belated electoral college prediction is necessary. I regret my inactivity on this blog in the last six months, but life sometimes pushes hobbies to the wayside. Let’s get into it:
Among the tossup states, it is my belief Obama will take all of the Rustbelt states, largely due to the auto bailout and ancestral alliance to unions (though the 2010 election showed union members are willing to leave the Democratic party). This means, regardless of the voter irregularities in the counting of votes in Ohio, which Governor Kasich’s character has ensured will occur, Obama’s margin will be large enough to where it is moot. Wisconsin may be even closer than Ohio, but the ground game, and national level thinking of the electorate, will once again make it a blue state.
Florida will go for Romney. Rick Scott becoming Governor of Florida shows the electorate there is among the least informed and aware in the country. There are simply not enough Jewish and black voters in Florida to overcome the caucazoid and Cuban conservative coalition. Florida will be a blue state again, but not this election. Virginia, in contrast, will go for Obama based on the yuppie class that populates the northern segment of the state. Their whole reason for even living in Virginia is due to the expansion of the federal government, so this constituency will break hard for Obama. Still a 50-49 race, but the victor will be the same as 2008.
Moving west, the pundits and pollsters seem to think Colorado is in Romney’s camp, but the demographics, and good governance history of Colorado, make me think otherwise. In truth, Romney is the perfect type of Republican for this state: moderate, sort of folksy (in a contrived way), and non-threatening. However, the voter intensity in this state will still favor Obama, as a whole new group of 18-21 years olds who are not policy oriented (and thus do not feel scorned by Obama’s continuation of Bush era policies) will vote as they would have in 2008. Expect a 51-48 victory there, with Gary Johnson pulling a max of 2% of the vote (leaving a 50-48-2 split). In Nevada, the preponderance of Mormons and the state’s nation’s worst unemployment figures should all aid Romney. Again however, demographic changes, and the inability (or lack of trying) to court Hispanics into the GOP has left a structural gap that cannot be made up this election. Expect a 51-46-3 split, with Gary Johnson pulling evenly from Obama and Romney in third place.
That leaves the electoral college at 303 to 235, in favor of Obamar. The overall popular vote will be something like 63,500,000 for Obama and 62,000,000 for Romney. As you can see, I expect lower voter turnout, by about 2 million voters, than in the 2008 election. Most of these would have supported Obama, but are to his ideological left and feel betrayed by not fighting harder for a progressive change agenda.
And that is the election. Next up in national politics: gridlock in Congress, a civil war in the GOP, and who will crack first on the sequester?
Turning on C-SPAN this fine Saturday morning has left quite the disgusting taste in my mouth. The Coalition of African-American Pastors is truly a vile, short-sighted association of bigoted and stubborn individuals. You might think that this group of supposedly “righteous” and “godly” men and women would comprehend that gay rights are analogous to black rights, and that all people seeking further inclusion to draw on the benefits that the majority receives should gain their support. Instead, what you will see when these people speak is one after another, a recitation of the struggle of the civil rights movement, and how they have learned from it, and for this reason they will deny gay men and women their own rights to adoption, medical benefits, insurance coverage and spiritual recognition. The cognitive dissonance is among the most I have ever witnessed, and yet this group so steadfastly believes what they advocate for is right, that not only will they argue against gay marriage, but they will abandon the support for liberal policies as advocated by President Obama to fight poverty, discrimination, make college affordable, and so on. Denying gays the right to marriage is the single most important issue in contemporary America, according to the CAAP. This myopic view has led the head of the CAAP, and the subsequent speakers, to plead with black Americans to “withhold their support” of Obama for his reelection. Now I do understand the argument that Obama has ignored black America, as he knows they are captive voters, and furthermore, if a third party or single issue group wants to be heard, they often have to attack the closest political ally in power to force responsiveness, but to think that the alternative candidate in Romney will hold the interests of Black America is quite obscene. It is clear from some of the participants that many of the CAAP did not even support Obama the first time, as many are aligned with conservative Republican groups such as the Frederick Douglass Foundation, so they agenda is less one of an epiphany and more an opportunistic means of fooling somewhat religious Black folk. I highly doubt this will work in costing Obama the election, but the repugnant and unaware bigotry of the CAAP should be widely condemned by any sensible follower of Jesus Christ, as they abdicate the whole of his teachings for a few cryptic lines of scripture in a book written by hundreds of men almost 2000 years ago.
The Sixth Party System is rolling out a new on-going series taking a historical look at various Representatives and Senators who have served significant roles in the history of Congress. Only retired members will be examined. This examination will largely be ethnographic, with some analysis of the policies put forth by the individual.
Our first member is Henry Hyde of Illinois. He is certainly not my ideological soul mate, but nonetheless, his accomplishments and importance in the House cannot be denied.
Used sexist jokes. Otherwise solid performance, especially his Mitt Romney routine.
I appreciate him asking the question about Obama’s marijuana crackdown. He even said “I don’t mean to be out of line…” which is very polite for Jimmy Kimmel. The press corps.’ silence on this issue is incredible. The effect this has on people of reasonable living is quite high compared to most policy constituents.
This is somewhat beyond the purview of this site, and warranted the creation of an ‘education’ category, but The Sixth Party System would just like to tell anyone reading this blog:
Whether you head a single parent household or have a spouse, all parents in the home should cultivate an environment that fosters intellectual curiosity and comprehension. Mom’s can do it, and dad’s can do it too. Just look, old Honest Abe did it:
Jim Costa is a slimy guy. He is the type of politician who rarely ever looks at the greater good and tends to focus on parochial issues. Additionally, he is the kind of politician who you can buy off to vote in a certain manner, especially if it is against his party and “liberals.” If that’s not bad enough, he does not support the large amount of workers’ interests in his district, which is the current CA-20 (soon to be CA-21), instead supporting the agribusiness industry that is ubiquitious with wing-nut politics and hyperbolic, hate filled propaganda signs along the 5 freeway (which often link him to Pelosi when he undermines her every chance he gets).
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Costa abandoned his current constituents, 79.07 percent of which will end up in the new CA-21, in favor of his buddy Dennis Cardoza’s would-be district. Announcing to run in your friend’s district is pretty shady, but well within Costa’s character. He effectively retired his only friend in congress so hopefully he makes new friends in the Republican caucus.
That district, known as CA-16 is centered in Fresno, and only contains 24.39 percent of his current constituents. Costa has done this for two reasons: One, his political base in Fresno, where he has represented the Portuguese Länder for many a year; two, he knew his support in Bakersfield and the surrounding area has been waning as people get to know him better, and furthermore, he feared a primary challenge from Astronaut John Hernandez.
None of this is new news, as Cardoza retired months ago, but nonetheless, I thought it would be meaningful to start focusing on some House races. All three of these guys seem pretty contrary to liberal, or god forbid progressive, values. The tone Hernandez strikes clearly shows he will continue in the Costa-Cardoza mold, but at least his campaign videos make him look pretty relatable.
In Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional district, David Cicilline faces a tough general election from Police dude Brendan Doherty. In a 67% Obama district, this should not be a race; however, Cicilline is in hot water for claiming Providence’s city finances were in “excellent financial condition,” when in fact the city was millions and millions of dollars in the whole.
Anyway, Cicilline is in trouble. And Doherty has been reported to be a very strong Republican in this blue state. So I decided to do some research and see how moderate he is, and potentially, if he has any unique understanding of the issues. He does not. His issues page on his campaign website is a joke. It certainly contains all the mainstay issues, but they are vague and very much of the Republican party line ilk. The only “moderate” stances are on civil unions (pro) and energy policy (which he is pro renewable energy; hardly going out on a limb). What I thought was interesting was his description for Health Care:
Health Care – We must find a way to maneuver through the incredibly complex and confusing health care changes our state and nation are considering. This must be accomplished in a balanced and measured, bipartisan effort by finding common ground with fiscal responsibility. I intend to focus on examining three elements I consider to be partly responsible for the deterioration of our current health care system: fraud, waste and corruption. I know quite a bit about fighting fraud, waste and corruption and will be a strong proponent of leading the charge to finally eliminate the related, skyrocketing costs.
Is that a joke? Health care inflation has almost nothing to do with fraud, waste and corruption. That is such a parochial understanding of perhaps the most pressing issue in the American economy outside of full employment and income inequity, and his answer is cracking down on fraud? Seems to me the man does not understand this issue, and the other ones are mostly platitudes. I guess he is running on character, which he claims to possess while Cicilline does not.
This race is still in the Sixth Party System’s eyes, a solid Dem seat. Cicilline will win, though he will trail Obama’s numbers by about 6%, which will mean a Cicilline victory of 58% to 40%.
On a side note, Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee endorsed Cicilline. I wonder how much of that is due to playing the establishment game, and how much has to do with Doherty not knowing shit about the issues.
So infamous douche bag Rick Santorum is set to dropout of the Republican presidential primary right before he has his ass handed to him in his home state. I wanted to thank Rick Santorum for the irreparable harm he has caused to the Romney campaign. I used to think Romney was a potentially moderate, straight-arrow enough candidate to appeal to the Great Lakes and Rust Belt area and potentially defeat Obama, but after this GOP primary, Romney looks weak and ideologically extreme, not to mention highly out of touch.
Also, it is worth noting that Santorum’s contention that you cannot take a single American history class in the University of California system was 100% wrong. In fact, here at Berkeley, we have a History B.A. program that specializes entirely in Colonial American and Contemporary American history. Also, as part of every student’s general education requirements, each student has to take one American Cultures class, one American Institutions class, and one American History class. That is a total of three classes that all have American historical overtones in the subject. Additionally, UC-San Francisco, which is a medical school, actually teaches American history as well, which was originally the only glimmer of potential honesty in what Santorum said. Of course, demonizing the state with the highest amount of delegates conveyed to me he was probably going to dropout before our June primary.
So this post is dedicated to perennial douche bag Rick Santorum, “cuz when I see it, it’s bullshit.” Yes Rick, the truth is bullshit. And you my friend, are a frothy mixture of anal juices and lube. Cheers to the perennial loser homophobe fearmonger normal-sized-man-with-a-little-man-complex!
By far the best news of the night was Ohio Representative and disgusting demagogue Jean Schmidt will no longer be a member of Congress come next January!! This is a wonderful, wonderful development. I’m sure Brad Wenstrup will be of a similar ideology to Schmidt, and perhaps resemble fellow ex-military (and lone Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus) Rep. Allen West in leadership potential, but that said, I am just happy to see a vile, reprehensible human-being like Schmidt leave higher office. I certainly hope she does not go back to nursing, since no patient, no matter how conservative, deserves to have their health monitored by this woman. GLORIOUS SUCCESS!!!!!
That might have been the only good news of the night. I guess Santorum and Gingrich staying in the race is also a good thing, as long as they keep attacking Rombot for being a corporate cyborg (or as Newt denotes Rombot, a “Massachusetts moderate”). The whole primary is garbage anyway, as every candidate except Ron Paul tells a lie in almost every sentence that has a factual component.
On the sad side, Dennis Kucinich will no longer represent Ohio in Congress. Hopefully this does not encourage him to run as the independent peace candidate against Obama, which could potentially hurt Obama’s reelection prospects as much as Nader hurt Gore. Kucinich could try Washington, but the deadline to declare will soon pass, and that is a highly farcical likelihood anyway. He definitely fucked up by talking shit about Toledo. That was stupid. Kaptur is the more reasonable legislator, in the literal sense of the word, but Kucinich has always had a broader ideological cause that represented the dove side of America as good as anyone. Seems fitting that Kucinich and Ron Paul will leave congress together, as they were the foremost bi-partisan tandem on anti-imperialism. No more points of privilege for Kucinich-Paul withdrawals from foreign countries, which were always entertaining to watch on C-SPAN. Kaptur should have fun eviscerating Joe the Plummer in the general,the results will probably be around 82-14 in favor of Kaptur.
Results (SPS prediction in parentheses)
1. The Mechanical Rombot… 771,842…. 46.4 (+1.4)
2. Pompous Incendiary Fathead… 531,294… 31.9 (+3.9)
3. “Santorum” Santorum… 222,248… 13.4 (+0.6)
4. The Revolutionary Conservative… 116,776… 7.0 (-4)
This map says a lot. Romney essentially took the areas that are most metropolitan and generally liberal or moderate. This map, if painted blue and red, would closely resemble an overachieving Democrat beating anout of touch far-right winger. This primary is truly pathetic. All pandering, so many lies, and no vision. If this country were left to these candidates to guide the nation, you may as well move to India because that is the type of economy they envision: a race to the bottom and gross economic inequity.
Praise Jesus! I swear, this guy will be the face of the Evangelical Right in the Republican Party once his playing career is over. Hopefully he will make for a less insidious politician than the current Evangelical hate mongers. I do not even know if he will reside in Florida again, but people will remember him…
Oh wait, is this about Tebow or the primary?
I guess the latter.
Here are the predictions:
1. Mittbot… 45%
2. Fathead… 28%
3. Santorum… 14%
4. Nostradamus Paul… 11%
The only caveat I might add is that Paul is very popular among college students and there are a lot of colleges in Florida. The thing is, do they participate in the Republican primary? Hopefully Nate Silver will have an exit poll consortium that sheds light on this cleavage. If college voters really turnout, Paul could get up 17%.
Whoohooh! Newt Gingrich for Presidente. The thing is, I heard Newt Gingrich was a Kenyan Mau Mau Socialist. Crazy right!? Here is my evidence: He is in a picture with Barack Hussein Obama; Newt did an infomercial with Nancy Pelosi; and worst of all, he does not think you should deport all illegal immigrants! SOCIALIST!!!
Anyway, enough of me trying to speak like an accusatory Republican. Let’s do some analysis!
Saturday’s Results (with my prediction in parenthesis):
1. Newt “I Am The Walrus” Gingrich… 243,153… 40.4% (40%)
2. Mitt “Am I Still Talking” Romney… 167,279… 27.8% (30%)
3. Rick “Santorum” Santorum…102,055 …17% (15%)
4. Ron “Isolationism To The Rescue” Paul… 77,993… 13% (12%)
5. Rick “I Still Get Votes After Dropping Out” Perry…2,494 … 0.4% (2%)
And how about a map:
South Carolina Primary Prediction
1. Newt “Dude, Where’s My Next Wife” Gingrich… 40%
2. Mitt “Rombot” Romney … 30%
3. Rick “Santorum” Santorum … 15%
4. Ron “The World Is Ending” Paul… 12%
5. Rick “At This Rate, I’ll Be Governor Forever” Perry… 2%
Whoohooh! More garbage to eat!
This is a demographical map of slave concentration in South Carolina from 1861. It seems to speak volumes about what the state has historically stood for: right-wing racism, incendiary behavior, violence, aristocratic commercial control, and general oppression of the black, and by the white, populace. When deciding what image to upload for this post, I considered John Calhoun’s portrait, a Nullifier Party poster, an image of a lynching in 1932, a Barbadian planter family portrait from the 1740s, an image of Strom Thurmond filibustering the Civil Rights legislation in the late 50s and 60s, or a picture of Fort Sumter being bombarded. How about this quote from Governor Tillman:
“We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”
If you love disgraceful history… then you will love South Carolina
Question time is always fun. What is most interesting to any American viewer is the constructive nature of the dialogue. What did Leader of the Opposition Miliband rise to ask Prime Minister Cameron about as this screenshot was taken? Infrastructure development and crony capitalism, accusing the Conservative government of allowing the railroad companies to raise rates on working families while executive pay increased with little government attention. PM Cameron said he was for infrastructure investments and that he would address the executive pay issue, whereas his opposition neglected it.
Why is this important? Both sides are in favor of infrastructure development during a recessionary/recovery period, and both sides are against executive pay excesses (at least publicly). This is a positive policy and oversight discussion, that though it may be heated, and yes, there are talking points, pointed fingers, and crowd noise, it is still a more productive government dialogue than the one Americans are accustomed to.
In the United States, it is always about political maneuvering and who can reduce government the most, and lower taxes the most, and badmouth institutions the most. While the Democrats typically concede their strongest bargaining tools before negotiations, thereby selling out their constituency, and Republican elected officials emulate their parties out of touch elites and not the economic interests of its constituents, both sides end up barking over who is to blame for the death spiral instead of properly fixing it. I do not know about the UK, but facts seem to matter less here than there.
Facts only matter to those who value them. How many congressman are driven by ideology and not an understanding of the facts? I would say about three-fifths, with the remaining opportunists and pragmatists with all the responsibility to create a constructive dialogue and effectively legislate.
Anyway, back to Question Time. Scottish Nationalism came up, and both parties seem to agree that the union benefits everyone within it, but that if Scotland wants more domestic decision-making institutions, they should be able to have it. Additionally, many questions were levied about maintaining, or increasing, the current tax burden on the richest Brits, to which Cameron usually responds with a remark about fairness, but that the point of taxes is to raise money, and that if these do not raise that much money they should be reconsidered. Not knowing the dynamics of the British tax code, I would say his position is pretty reasonable for the right-wing in a country, especially when America’s right-wing is against all taxes, in theory and practice.
A question on National Health Service solvency came up, to which Cameron said he, unlike his opposition, supports increasing the funds for the NHS for the next several years, and that he wants to make some reforms giving clinicians more say and looking into the effect alcohol has on draining health resources away from other potential sources. Again, seems reasonable. He is not talking about removing socialized medicine, or personal responsibility, or the nanny state. In fact, he seems to be positing that alcohol users either i) need to pay higher health costs for their actions (big government) or that alcohol should be harder to obtain (bigger government). Libertarians must hate British politics, as the most conservative party supports further restrictions on individuals.
The dialogue in a parliamentary democracy can afford to be far more vitriolic than in a system of divided government, yet a simple comparison between the two countries’ government seems to contradict that logic. Obviously size and diversity of the governed citizens is a component, but political leaders are supposed to forge consensus and construct successful policies, not subscribe to the lesser views of a polarized and ill-informed electorate.
“Vigol had beaten up a tax collector and burned his house”
-The tea party motto
First, the results:
1. Mitt Romney… 97,532 (39.3%)
2. Ron Paul… 56.848 (22.9%)
3. John Huntsman… 41,945 (16.9%)
4. Newt Gingrich… 23,411 (9.4%)
5. Rick Santorum… 23,362 (9.4%)
6. Rick Perry… 1,766 (0.7%)
7. Buddy Roemer… 945 (0.4%)
Second, the maps:
Winner by county (Blue is Romney, Green is Paul)
Winner by town (Purple is Huntsman, Dark Grey is “tied”, Light Grey is “no results”)
Bubble by size of winner’s lead (the biggest being Rockingham County’s 26.4% margin for Romney)
Third, FiveThirtyEight’s Exit Polls:
Four, Sixth Party System’s final analysis:
Who cares? After my Iowa writeup I realized none of this matters. I could tell you, Paul did well in the most rural and liberal areas of the state, that Huntsman’s support was primarily from independents, or that Romney essentially lives in New Hampshire so that he can win their electorate, but none of that matters. Huntsman will now drop out, meaning Romney is the only non-insane Republican left in the field. Essentially, this seals his candidacy, as too many caretaker type voters will simply be too afraid of a Paul or Gingrich presidency, and cannot take Santorum or Perry seriously. From here, the race will be defined by Paul conceding non-split delegate states, while finishing second in almost every state that does split their delegates. Santorum will rise above Newt from here on out, and Perry will never recover from his own cognitive shortcomings. Santorum will benefit from extremely conservative electorates, but Romney has all the endorsements that matter, so he will continue to win.
This is all quite disgusting.
What is the Republican Party at this point other than an economically anarcho-capitalistic and socially authoritarian fiefdom? Seems like this dynamic will not change until Republican voters realize how little they benefit from the votes they cast.
The Iowa caucuses were yesterday! Were you not tremendously excited!?!? So many choices, so many great builders of an egalitarian, fair, and prosperous society! So many innovative ideas to get America back on track!
Well, maybe not. Maybe there was not one decent candidate. That would explain the highly fractured results that this post will analyze. Another reason for the level of parity was simply due to market saturation and the stabilization of bases of support. With the exception of Michelle Bachmann (and Jon Huntsman, who did not campaign in Iowa), every candidate had a core geographic base within the state. This is noticeable when looking at the results, as supplied by Iowacaucus.com. This post will analyze why each candidate received the support from each geographic reason, though I will omit potential endorsement effects, since I am simply unaware and do not care enough to piece together the effect they had. First the results:
Wow, that’s amazing! So much parity, mmm parity. Anyway, my predictions were wrong, but I was 2/3 correct by having the top two so close; I guess I underestimated the extent to which Rick Perry would still attract votes, which helped Santorum pull closer to Paul and Romney, eventually nearly surpassing both of them.
1. Mitt Romney
30,015 votes; 24.6%
Strength: Biggest metropolitan areas
Romney received more or less what was expected of him, receiving a fourth of the vote. The problem is that the presumptive nominee should receive more than that, unless he is struggling. Romney won six of the eight counties that possess the eight biggest cities in the state, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport. The two he did not win, which were Woodbury county (Sioux City) and Black Hawk county (Waterloo), he was within 5% and 1% of the winner, respectively. Chances are he won those cities, but lost the more rural surrounding parts of the counties. Romney concentrated his personal appearances in big cities, and this decision shows why he ran strong there while Santorum took the sparsely populated counties, which he visited nearly all of. All in all, in could have been worse for Romney in this very conservative electorate, but it most certainly could have been much, much better for the only candidate that poses a threat to Obama’s reelection prospects.
2. Rick Santorum
30,007 votes; 24.5%
Strength: Northwest; West; rural conservative heartland throughout
Santorum’s strength lay in his conclusive reception as the most authentically socially conservative candidate in the field. For this reason, his map looks very much like a classic Republican versus Democrat map of the state, such as the 2008 presidential election:
Santorum’s strength arises from the cacophony of ideological views that spawn from ideological migration. As is the case with most of the following maps, the more conservative the candidate, the better they do in densely conservative areas, since the echo-chamber of extremism takes hold. The other side of the coin is the more liberal an area, the more likely they are to vote for a moderate Republican, since these voters are only conservative compared to their Democratic counterparts, but probably share many principles and beliefs. This explains why the moderate Romney and libertine Paul did best in the eastern part of the state, which is more liberal, densely populated, and youthful. Republican voters, and voters in general, reflect their surroundings, and the more uniform the views, the more extreme the result; whereas the more heterogeneous the views of those around you, the more temperate result occurs.
Santorum’s strongest showings were in the counties of Sioux and Lyon, which are by far the two most right-wing extreme conservative reactionary in the state, and possibly the Midwest. The hateful Dutch Reformed churches that preach hating the gays in these counties would clearly latch onto Santorum, who was known as one of the most anti-gay legislators in congress during his tenure. Elsewhere, Santorum did exceptionally well in the counties just west of Des Moines, which he frequented about as much as every other candidate combined. Santorum surged in a last minute frantic exodus of undecided social conservatives who simply learned enough about every other candidate to get turned off, which if this would have extended a little longer, might have also been the case with Santorum.
3. Ron Paul
26,219 votes; 21.4%
Strength: Eastern part, college towns, metro areas
Ron Paul’s support reflected where he spent most of his time, which was the eastern part of the state and big cities. I am not quite sure how many college-aged Republicans voted, but that demographic certainly provided his GOTV efforts and door-knockers. Paul’s map reflects his regional support was nearly the same as Romney’s, but he simply ran behind him in most of these areas, except Waterloo. I expected him to win the caucus, but the voters that would have supplied that victory instead decided to support Santorum as the safer bet, being less controversial and risky policy-wise than Paul. His messages still resonate with many conservatives, but his doctrinaire libertarianism does scare many of the more authoritarian minded social conservatives who would like to restrict, not increase, freedoms.
4. Newt Gingrich
16,251 votes; 13.3%
Strength: Rural northern and western parts
Gingrich’s numbers were fairly dissipated throughout, not winning a single county (which even Rick Perry won two). Gingrich was weakest in metropolitan areas, showing both a cultural difference with the candidate, and an educational difference, with the less educated people in rural areas succumbing to his demagoguery more than city folk. Not much to say about this map, other than it shows he had trouble holding onto all the people who said they supported him in polls, with the likely reason because they learned more about who he was and decided he is more repulsive than endearing. Quite the flame-out, but since all he wants to do is sell books, he ends up winning anyway.
5. Rick Perry
12,604 votes; 10.3%
Strength: The populist southern counties, and generally the west
Perry’s map shows a cleavage in the types of conservatives that participate in the Iowa caucus. The southern region is known to be very populist oriented, and evidently the counties of Union and Taylor thought Perry was a man of the people, or a successful leader. I guess his meet and greet in Creston went well. Very interesting concentration in the south, either because i) very few other people spent that much time there, ii) something about the region lends itself to southern leadership, or iii) proximity to Missouri somehow makes the demographics more southern oriented. I could look into this, but really I do not care why Perry did well in southern Iowa; he will drop out soon with a boatload of campaign dollars to run for a 4th term as Texas Executioner-in-Chief.
6. Michelle Bachmann
6,073 votes; 5%
Strength: Some southwestern and northern counties, but hardly any real support
Considering Bachmann was the only native born Iowan in the race, and she won the Ames poll, 5% was about the floor she could receive; and she hit the floor hard. So hard she will most likely drop out of the race. She did not campaign in any other states, so finishing 6th with all her eggs in this basket means she’s going back to Washington, to fight another day against the evil socialist (centrist) President Obama.
7. Jon Huntsman
745 votes; 0.6%
Huntsman… if he would have just campaigned here he could have surged like Santorum, except to a lesser degree being that his ideology is much more moderate. This map essentially shows nothing, being that the dark grey county is Worth county where he received 3 votes total. As a percentage, that was his best showing. So, this map essentally shows where he received one or more votes, which is hilarious.
Today we celebrate the death of a tyrant!
The death of the North Korean dear leader (which I guess is a pseudonym for tyrannical and oppressive military dictator), provided the politburo with an opportunity to pull people out of their houses under the threat of imprisonment to show how much they loved their oppressive domineer. The pictures featured in this post do not quite display how inauthentic this whole rouse was “live.” The whimpering of many of the military and non-military personnel was way over the top. As anyone who has actually experienced the shock of losing a loved one, the likelihood that you are going to be screaming and pacing back in forth in uniformity with a group of 12 people (all doing the exact same behavior) is very unlikely. People experience grieving differently, so the propaganda fails on a very basic level to capture human emotion, which makes sense coming from the most austere regime in the world.
The overwhelming number of people in attendance were in military garb, which makes sense since the country still has forced conscription. Additionally, military personnel may be easier to organize into a procession than the oppressed peasantry and workers who have been so brutally oppressed that their genetic phenotypes have actually changed as a consequence (such as height and dietary needs).
The North Korean regime, aided with China’s sympathetic media outlets, has claimed “hundreds of thousands” of citizens have come out to mourn the death of a truly grotesque human being. But watching the video, you can see there are about 5000-15,000 military personnel, and maybe 1000-5000 members of the public. These are just based on the visuals, but they are certainly propping this up to be a one of the premier civic moments in the country’s history. Unfortunately, everyone knows the depths to which the regime uses coercion to manufacture images of public support for the military dictatorship.
The use of American cars is also a funny note, since unlike South Korea, North Korea has not mastered the art of manufacture assembled production, especially not vehicles. Almost all of North Korea’s weapons and manufactured goods are from China or Russia (or some are stolen from Japan and South Korea, along with their citizens).
When I see these images, which are clearly feigned and poorly acted, I have to wonder: what if they were sad? What would they be sad about? Are they sad the man who oversaw the genetic debilitation of a people and isolation of a nation pass? Are they afraid that his overfed son will be a much worse leader? Are they worried that imminent random disappearings will take place if they stop crying for one second? Do they think Jong-un will exacerbate problems with the world community? If I had these questions spinning in my head I might half-heartedly cry too, out of confusion and pent up animosity to a regime that hates its own people more than anything else in the world.
I see plenty of reasons for the people pictured above and below to be very sad about the lives they have to live. I guess I just do not understand why they would be sad to see the man responsible for much of these conditions die. That unless the cycle of fear is still not over. One day, North Koreans will authentically have tears of joy when they are released from the bondage of one of the most anachronistic and vile regimes in the contemporary world. For their sake, and the sake of members of the global community who do not want to die at the hands of a North Korean nuclear onslaught, I hope the genuine tears of joy come sooner rather than later.
Ben Nelson retired from the Senate today. Huzzah. Ben Nelson’s retirement (paired with that of Dan Boren) may very well signify the complete denouement of the Fifth Party System. These two conservative legislators, were indeed, conservative Democrats. They have historically voted with Republicans just as often as Democrats; in 2011, Dan Boren voted with the Democrats 566 of 1,146 times (49.4%), while Nelson seemed to ironically get more with the program and voted with Democrats 182 of 229 times (79.5%). Nelson’s numbers are inflated because of the numerous votes on procedure in the Senate, which distorts areas of disagreement with opposition; unlike the House, the Senate still had moderates of both parties who could work with one another to win passage on some issues. A more filtered approach on the issues finds Nelson holds more conservative views than liberal ones. Boren might seemingly have a more conservative record, but that is due to his being in the House where his vote was simply not as necessary to propel the party agenda to fruition. On the one hand, I personally disagree with these people on most issues, and am happy to see them go; on the other, these seats are firmly Republican, so while the party becomes more ideologically pure, it does so at a negative electoral consequence. The Sixth Party System poses serious questions about bipartisan governance, and the increasingly dominant trend of party polarization. Either the voters pick a side and provide them with an extensive mandate, or legislative gridlock will be the norm.
Goodbye Senator Nelson and Representative Boren. You often voted against the party that you played an instrumental role in putting in power. What an odd feeling, knowing you helped an entity accomplish policy goals you did not favor. A special happy-to-see-you-go to Senator Nelson. You were a thorn in the side of progress. Your practice of quid pro quo politics for several major bills including the Stimulus and the PPACA showed you had little adherence to your ideology, since simply exempting your state from Medicare cuts was enough to override your beliefs and acquire your vote. Quite the enigma: Opposed the most imperative Health Care legislation since 1965, and yet his party identity was the reason it was able to pass.
As an avid reader of Daily Kos, (which interestingly enough had the best image of Rubio for this blog post) I am quite familiar with how Marco Rubio is opportunistic, inauthentic, and a compulsive liar. But waking up this morning to c-span and seeing the senator on the floor, I was curious what he would say. He was speaking about the oppressive “communist” regime in Cuba (big surprise). The Cuban regime is as close to Rubio’s arch-nemisis as any thing in the world (over such things as poverty, corruption, ill-functioning government, etc); basically, his fixation with Cuba defines his world outlook.
Anywho, I found his speech reprehensible. The hypcocrsy was dripping from his lips faster than his snake tongue could wipe it up. Two things he said really bothered me, considering his experiences:
1. Rubio spoke of the Cuban regime beating peacefully assembled protestors, which if substantiated, is a horrible way to treat your citizents. But shouldn’t Rubio care about Americans too? I think he should, and yet he has been silent on the preponderance of police violence on Occupy protestors throughout the country. I understand the right-wing position of command and control, tough on crime, police statism, but then why does he care if it occurs in Cuba. Oh yeah, they are not free, so violence against their citizens is worse than in the free and democratic America. Hypocrisy…
2. Additionally, Rubio and his staff claimed Univision was blackmailing him into doing an interview or Univision was going to run a negative story on his brother. If you believe this story, you would get the feeling Rubio is against blackmail. But during this same floor speech, he then mentions that he has placed two holds on presidential nominations until the white house looks at the Cuban travel issue. Two holds on unrelated presidential appointments in order for them to act in a manner he wants, which seems like blackmail to me. Therefore, Rubio is only against blackmail when it is against him, but he is perfectly willing to blackmail others.
This is Marco Rubio. He is a liar. He has no integrity. And he is going to be the senator from Florida for the next 5 years.
From the LA Times,
The issue of timing also could be important for a federal lawsuit filed this week by other Republican activists seeking to overturn the redistricting commission’s congressional maps. A separate group of Republicans, including former Rep. George Radanovich, filed the suit, which alleges that the congressional maps violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act by failing to protect minority rights in some places.
The three member court panel that is in charge of creating the new congressional districts in Texas (because Republicans overreached), issued its interim map yesterday, which is slightly nicer to Democrats than the previous one. But as this post will demonstrate, it could be much, much nicer to Democrats if they had control of the process and hired me to draw the lines. Picture below is the current map:
This map was created by Tom Delay in his infamous mid-decade partisan gerrymander, which set out to remove as many veteran Democrat congressman as possible (which it did, except for the persistent Lloyd Dogget and until 2010, Chet Edwards). This map has typically yielded around a 22-10, 23-9 congressional delegation in favor of the Republicans. Then the census data for 2010 showed the state was to gain 4 seats, and Republicans greedily tried to make all of them Republican, upping their advantage to 27 to 9 (in a state that voted 44% for Obama). So because of several consolidated court challenges to the proposed map, the court drew this one:
Now, it is certainly better than the previous one, but Republicans would still get a minimum of 21 of the 36 districts (if Dems gain every tossup and two lean R districts), but will likely collect about 24 on average. Pictured below is the map I drew, and though it can have a population deviation as large as 1200, most are fairly close (within+/- 200). This map has several wonderful qualities:
1) It limits safe/solid districts all around to just 19 districts, leaving 17 lean/tossup districts. The increase in district competitiveness should lead to more moderate, pragmatic legislators. These legislators are the glue in the traditional American political system, but have been disappearing as incumbent gerrymanders and party primaries lead to more radically polarized lawmakers.
2) It helps the Democrats! Though the Dems will have to win swing districts, they could potentially win 21 of the 36 districts (the exact opposite of the so-called wonderful court map). These Democrats may be moderates, but several of them should carve out a niche within each district, which in conjunction with population growth, should make some of the swing districts become lean/safe D over time.
3) This is all accomplished with very few odd shaped districts. Though some districts are enormous and some are tiny, they are normal shapes without any apparent partisan gerrymandering taking place (even though this is a Democrat gerrymander).
Here is a breakdown of Obama’s percentages in the current districts, the legislative version, the court version, and my version:
Even though this is a Democratic gerrymander, it is still essentially a fair map in that it has 14 Republican districts, 14 Democratic districts, and 8 tossups.
For more calculations and for replicability, here is a spreadsheet of these calculations:
Redistricting is something I am fascinated with, and yet it is something I have not yet added to this political diary. So here it is! Since the Nevada legislature could not agree on a redistricting plan, Carson District Judge James Russell had to design the districts instead. I must say, these are some exceptionally awesome districts—for Democrats. I really like the similarly sized second and fourth districts. You know, I also like the first and third. Why is this? Well, other than their wonderful compactness and contiguity, Judge Russell has managed to create three swing districts and one safe Democrat district. These swing districts were all won by Obama, which is a high watermark to replicate, but a good sign in general.
I tried to replicate the districts in my all-time favorite app, Dave’s Redistricting App (you must try it), and though the exact lines are different from the final map, I think I got pretty close. I did not just do this for cartography purposes, but it actually allowed me to obtain election data for the new districts. Here’s what I came up with: