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Election 2012 | Green Dragon
Nov 112012
 

Months ago, when I first launched Green Dragon, I wrote a post about the implications for the future of the Republican Party of the effectiveness of the Obama campaign’s critiques of Bain Capital and its vulture capitalism. I said a civil war within the Republican Party was coming…one that would make the Tea Party split look like a garden picnic.

Well, it’s here.

Each of the GOP’s three major blocs is reeling, trying to make sense of a campaign result it did not anticipate and which flies in the face of its core beliefs. With the reelection of the President, trouncing of anti-abortion candidates and unprecedented approvals both of marriage equality and election of openly gay legislators, Republicans now know that 2008 wasn’t a fluke. It appears finally to be dawning on conservatives that their imagined version of the United States simply is not real.

Take the Christian right, for example, who seem at last to be figuring out that they do not represent the values of most Americans. Their internal narrative has always been that if they can just get out their message, most Americans will agree with them. But this time they turned out more than ever, and issues like women’s rights to contraception and abortion and gay rights were front-and-center in the national campaign narrative. And they got their clocks cleaned.

I think many of them are now realizing that America isn’t what they always thought it was. Some have begun thinking that they don’t want to be Americans any more (though they wouldn’t say it that way)…instead, they want to carve themselves away from the places that aren’t “real” America, and create that imaginary Christian Murikkka they’ve always hoped for.

All three of the major GOP constituencies are in a world of hurt and confusion. The Plutocrats got nothing out of all that Citizens United spending; the Teahaddists saw broad support for a party that put itself squarely behind higher taxes on the rich as well as progressive social issues…and now they’re having to listen to party leadership opining that they must make common cause with a buncha dirty Meskins in order to have a prayer of succeeding.

This is a storm long brewing, and it is definitely here. None of these constituencies has anywhere to turn in a quest for a return to national political viability that doesn’t put a dagger through its most cherished nonnegotiables: backing away from attacks on women’s health rights and civil equality for the Christian conservatives; accepting higher taxation and regulation of industry and markets for the corporatist Plutocrats; abandoning racism and extremist positions on taxation and the role of government for the Tea-Party types.

I don’t see any of them but the Plutocrats being smart or realistic enough to be able to make those moves. Sure enough, today Bill Kristol says that raising taxes on millionaires won’t destroy the country. Not that Kristol is either smart or realistic—in fact, he’s so reliably wrong that when he says this, it give me pause—but he’s a sure indicator of what the Rulers of the Universe are willing to go for.

For 40 years, Republicans have succeeded by feeding voters a steady diet of dog-whistle racism, empty gestures to social conservatives, and anti-government rhetoric, all the while taking a wrecking ball to our national institutions, previously inviolable values, and the very Constitution itself. It was a strategy of division, and now it has come home to roost: increasingly in the minority, Republicans are divided not only from the majority of the country, but from one another.

I wouldn’t say it is what they deserve, because frankly, those who devised and pursued this strategy deserve far worse. But I will say this: it’s about damned time most of the country can see how bloody awful these people really are.

At publication, the Dragon was EATING POPCORN

Nov 082012
 

“We need Latinos”.

That’s the only consensus conclusion being drawn by Republican talking heads after watching their candidates walloped on Tuesday. Seeing the Latino vote climbing steadily, GOPers today all seem to be nodding soberly and agreeing that, yep, they need them some Latinos.

(Well, okay, except for Viagra Rush and Bill-O the Clown. Those guys are just fulminating about the end of “traditional America”, apparently simply shattered at the prospect of a pluralistic society not ruled by old white guys.)

So: what’s wrong with that? The thing about the Latinos, I mean.

Well, to begin with, Republicans who are soberly talking about the urgency of getting with some brown people today are seemingly operating out of a stereotype of the Latino voter as Juan Valdez: a simple, hardworking and basically conservative Catholic, who is only backing Democrats because of the immigration issue.

They don’t seem to understand that Latino voters are Americans. In fact, millions of them were born and grew up here. They went to American schools, grew up in American society and, remarkably enough, they are not bewildered and amazed by smartphones and indoor plumbing. They have opinions on issues other than immigration. They’re no more stupid or gullible than any other segment of the population.

So that’s the first problem: your cutting-edge assessment that maybe you should be, I dunno, a little less racist, maybe, is rooted in assumptions that are…racist.

Not to mention the strategic problem, of course, that budging on immigration policy will make the Tea Party and Southern white racists’ heads explode. But on that, I just say boo effing hoo: you cultivated them, now you’re stuck with trying to keep them.

As I see it, the real mistake the Republican hand-wringers are making is in completely ignoring the real lessons of having lost two Presidential elections in a row and failed by every standard in this one despite a weak economy and limitless money faucet: their policies are unpopular and don’t work, and they have been deliberately deluding themselves that this isn’t so.

Republicans are in a bubble. They are only talking with or listening to people who think exactly like themselves, surrounded by an infrastructure of fable-tellers—conservative media, right-wing think tanks—which feed them a constant stream of fauxformation that reinforces their delusions about policy alternatives, about Democrats, and about what voters really want. That’s why they are all so danged shocked that the polls turned out to be right, that Nate Silver’s math outperformed Peggy Noonan’s gut feeling in predicting election outcomes.

If the Republican Party wants to remain viably competitive on a national scale, they have to become more like Eisenhower’s Republican Party: preferring a market-based, private-sector-centric approach to economics while recognizing that there is a legitimate role for governmental oversight and public works, and meanwhile standing for the liberty of the individual so long as that liberty doesn’t hurt anyone else. But rather than looking at this most fundamental of political problems and realizing that their dreams of a libertarian paradise or Jesusland or whatever the hell they’re trying to do are never going to happen, they just keep doggedly clinging to their increasingly discredited and unpopular policies, hoping to find some magical marketing strategy that will help them to sell America a s**t sandwich.

You don’t solve that by “getting some Latinos”. You solve it by facing reality. America is an increasingly heterogenous society. Women are a majority of voters. Young people are engaging in politics again. The middle class really has been nuked by Reaganomics. Climate change is real. Acceptance of civil equality for gay people is rising fast, and isn’t going to stop. Most people support abortion rights.

These are facts. Throwing a bone at a demographic while continuing to deny that your entire worldview is based in delusional fictions is not going to win you elections any more. Blithely lying about anything and everything is no longer persuasive: the public has caught on.

Predictably, however, the prescriptions being offered by leaders of the various Republican factions this week boil down to: get some of them Latinos, and move more in the direction of [INSERT FACTION HERE]. To head further into Crazyland.

You are now on the wrong side of both history and reality, Republicans. You can’t resolve that with some pretty packaging targeted at a group of people you have treated with naked hostility and contempt for decades. You solve it by starting to offer a product that seems to voters as though it might be useful in some way, instead of a pointless and irrelevant widget.

If you want to become nationally competitive again, you need to face facts, and tough your way through the inevitable civil war you must endure between your Plutocrats, Theocrats, and Teahaddists to a new agenda not rooted in delusion. Otherwise, the most you can possibly hope to do at the federal level is to serve as a spoiler now and again.

You don’t “need Latinos”. You need to wake the hell up.

On publication, the Dragon was KEEPING IT REAL

Nov 072012
 

This is a grab-bag of observations I made on Facebook the day after Democrats’ electoral romp on November 6, 2012. Stuff I thought readers might find interesting. FWIW…

 

The people in the GOP we are NOT hearing from today (in the wake of the Republican trouncing) are the social conservatives/Christian right. They are the anchor around the neck of the Republican Party, and they are ***INCAPABLE*** of moving one inch on their flagship issues of abortion and hating gays. Their leaders will not let them. Huckabee is talking about trying to get to Latinos, but it was WOMEN who drove Obama’s victory more than anyone else, and the Robertson crowd is never going to move off its position on abortion. It raises too much money for the televangelists and it’s too convenient a tool for whipping up fervor among low-education social conservatives.

If it were just about their insistent fantasy of trying to return to the world of “Mad Men”, that would be a solvable problem for the GOP. But “Mad Men” is the Plutocrats’ fantasy and goal. The social conservatives’ fantasy is Jesusland, and tolerance is anathema for them. That’s the GOP’s real problem: they need all those ignorant Southern/Midwestern white Christians. They can’t get anywhere nearly enough votes without them. And they are an absolute stake in the ground which prevents the party from moving strategically.

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More election musing: the dispossessed.

One of the remarkable things about Barack Obama’s first Presidential campaign was that he tossed the conventional wisdom about who would vote and who wouldn’t. He looked for groups of forgotten, ignored and untapped voters in places no one had looked for years: the young, for example. Low-propensity African-Americans and Latinos. He went to those constituencies, registered them, organized them and won. And then he did it again in 2012.

One less-recognized part of that strategy was Team Obama’s major effort to register and turn out Native Americans. In low-population, high-Native states like NM and the Dakotas, Native American votes can be a deciding factor. And as it turns out, in North Dakota this time around, they were: they were the deciding margin that gave a Senate seat to Heidi Heitcamp over Rick Berg.

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Oh, and…that complete repudiation of the retrograde-fantasy, straight-white-male-rulership,hateful, antifactual, antidemocratic travesty that has become the brand and agenda of the Republican Party?

We totally built that.

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I’ve been involved in FOUR elections that were decided by less than ten votes, from Sonoma City Council to an alderman race on Cape Cod. Anyone who tells you a vote doesn’t mean anything just isn’t informed. It means *everything*.

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Given the Republicans’ complete shellacking in this election, it does bear pointing out, friends, that the scary super-secret voting machine software patches owned and manipulated by Tagg Romney did not materialize.

(Ohio Secretary of State Jon) Husted and the rest of the GOP tried everything they could this cycle to suppress the vote, because the system actually does deliver a result based on voter choices. Let’s try to remember that when the conspiracy theories start flying around next time.
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Here’s my take: the Powers want us not to care. It reinforces the narrative they’re trying to push: that nothing matters, that you can’t fight city hall, that the fix is in. They want us to go back to watching Jersey Shore and playing Angry Birds while they carve the world for their feast.

But the truth is that we aren’t like that at all. We’re suckers for a dream: we’re Americans. We want to believe, and we will exert quixotic effort in the name of our belief. I know that I wouldn’t think twice if I had to stand in the rain for a couple of hours to vote–I’d wear a coat and chat with the next person in line, if I had to.

But I wouldn’t consider not voting–not for one minute. I’m a shareholder in the future, goddamn it. My opinion matters. And so does yours. We aren’t the victims of history, nor its spectators. We MAKE history. We are its exponents.

We COUNT, you and I.

 

At publication, the Dragon was REALLY DAMNED HAPPY

Oct 242012
 

As always happens at the end of a high-profile election cycle, the world is a-Twitter (heh) with polls these days. Those of us who concern ourselves with such things breathlessly watch for each new bloc of data, sifting the crosstabs and sampling characteristics in attempts to read which way the trends are going, both nationally and state-by-state.

This post isn’t really about that. If you want good information on the state of the Presidential election, I commend you to Nate Silver at the New York Times and The Princeton Election Consortium as places for a well-reasoned look.

This is more about the limits of polling as an election predictor. Polls are useful tools, but there are people they can’t reach. They have to make guesses about who will vote and who won’t, and sometimes those guesses are wrong. Disparities between the results of different polls are usually a combination of simple margin error (the luck of the draw relating to the particular people they happened to talk with), plus the differences in those guesses made by the various polling organizations.

Elections can have surprising results when more of one group of people turns out than pollsters anticipated. This can happen because of a unique motivating factor (say, African-Americans turning out for Barack Obama in 2008, or women voting in this election out of concern over reproductive and health care rights), or simply because pollsters guessed incorrectly about the interest level of that voting bloc and the capacity of the campaigns to turn them out to the polls.

In this election, all of these factors devolve to the benefit of Barack Obama. Here’s why:

Pollsters need to decide who they think will vote, and who won’t. They do this by applying what is called a “likely voter” screen to their data, selecting a subset of all the responses they received that represents an accurate representative sample, as they see it, of the larger electorate. The problem with this is that there are people who do not meet the criteria pollsters set to define a “likely voter” based on their past history, but who may very well turn out to vote. And there are others the pollsters simply have a very hard time reaching.

This is a real thing. Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was characterized by a wave of turnout by people of whom the conventional political wisdom was that they simply don’t vote in significant numbers. Likewise, Harry Reid’s retention of his Senate seat in 2010—the wave year of the Tea Party, in a purple state—was unforeseen by pollsters like Silver, whose track record in that election was otherwise sterling, and reflected Latino turnout none of the pollsters had anticipated.

Now let’s take a look at the Invisible Vote. Who are these people?

  • They’re new registrants: pollsters don’t have their contact information yet.
  • They’re the young, who haven’t been old enough to vote for long enough to be seen as “consistent” or “likely” voters.
  • They’re those who have only a mobile phone, but no land lines—which also tends to be younger voters.
  • They’re minorities who may be under-responsive to polling…and whose turnout is consistently underestimated in this election cycle.

Note that all of these constituencies, if they vote, are much more likely to vote for Barack Obama than for Mitt Romney. Romney’s voters tend to be older, white, male, social conservatives, and the affluent. All those groups have a far stronger history of turning out, and they easily meet the likely voter screen of pollsters. They aren’t off the radar: often, they are treated as the “norm” against which other constituencies are compared.

What this means is that Romney doesn’t have a pile of surprise supporters out there. His supporters are being counted in the polls…if anything, they are being overcounted, as the significance of these constituencies as a slice of the overall vote mix is often exaggerated.

Barack Obama, however, has thick veins of gold just waiting out there for him to mine. He did so in 2008 and his ground game is better this time than last. Yes, some enthusiasm has dropped off, especially among the young who thought he was going to deliver them their every dream. But thanks to Facebook and Twitter, everyone knows who Mitt Romney is now, and even if they’ve soured a bit on the President, they know he is bad news.

The Latino vote will be critical for the President’s chances in Nevada and Colorado, and he is currently polling at 3 to 1 over Romney with Hispanic voters. Special effort is being made both by the Obama campaign and by Latino organizations to register Latino citizens to vote, and to ensure that they do. If, as I believe, Latino turnout is higher than pollsters have projected, it will certainly be to Obama’s benefit.

Thus far, the Obama campaigns efforts to mobilize what pollsters may consider unlikely voters appears to be working. Early voting in places like Ohio and North Carolina show thus far that higher proportions of these constituencies are turning out than projected; higher numbers, in fact, than in 2008…while every pollster has assumed that minority and youth turnout will be lower this year than it was then.

Looking at the landscape today, Obama is still winning. He weathered Romney’s bump, his numbers are rising in the horse-race and, more importantly, extending his margins in most of the battlefield states, while Romney needs to run the table of such states to win. Right-leaning Real Clear Politics (which refuses to acknowledge even Michigan and Pennsylvania as in the President’s pile of safe states, when they certainly are) and the bizarre outlier results of Gallup recently notwithstanding, anyone not directly committed to the Romney campaign acknowledges that Obama is in the driver’s seat now, particularly after Romney’s unPresidential, amateur-hour showing in the foreign policy debate.

There are no grassroots pots of gold for Romney to find to help him win, whereas they are abundant for the President. The Invisible Vote may very well be the factor that tips some states his way, and ushers him to a second term.

On publication, the Dragon was: SEEING VOTERS. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE.