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.

Oct 182012
 

People have been talking for a long time about the obsession with the supposed “otherness” of Barack Obama on the right. Talking with a friend yesterday, it occurred to me that the three main epithet descriptors the more deranged elements of the Republican Party have used to refer to President Obama all mean exactly the same thing: Enemy alien.

Check it out:

“Socialist”: Teahaddists and Limbaugh-loving mouthbreathers have no idea what that word really means. What they mean by it is “an alien, enemy form of government”. You know, like they have in scary places like the Soviet Union, and France.

“Muslim”: “alien, enemy religion.”

“Kenyan” (code for black very black): “alien, enemy race.”

And then you have your “unAmerican, “doesn’t understand American values”, &c, &c. We can call them the Tea Party/Sununu talking points.

Enemy. Alien. Not one of us.

What do aliens supposedly do? They enslave you…so Tea Party Taliban shriek about “loss of freedom” under Obama. They take away your power…which in the United States, means your money. So they shriek about imaginary, gigantic tax hikes under Obama. They destroy your institutions and replace them with their own. So they shriek about the ACA “destroying freedom of religion”, about supposedly suddenly important budget deficits leading to a national meltdown.

Those who use these terms to describe the President are mostly parochial people with little education and who haven’t seen much of the world other than where they were born–and if they have, it’s likely it was from inside an institutional bubble, like the military or a school program.

The unfamiliar frightens and threatens them, and they therefore hate it. The fact that the nation is becoming more multicultural, more tolerant of sexual diversity and so forth simply panics them. They don’t know how to live in such a world or with people who aren’t like themselves, nor do they wish to do so. Being poorly educated, most don’t have many tools for learning to bridge cultural gaps of difference…particularly if it undermines assumptions of white privilege they have taken for granted all their lives.

As far as they’re concerned, it’s an alien invasion, and one of the pod people has taken over the White House. No wonder they need to cling to a story that he isn’t really American: it is intolerable to them that someone like him be “a real American”.

The vehemence of their hostility to those who don’t agree with them arises because they literally feel their survival is threatened. They are terrified. That makes them angry, and potentially dangerous.

The enemy aliens are here. They’re infiltrating us as we speak. They’ve taken over our institutions. Only our faith, our belligerence and our guns can save us.

Which raises the question, of course: how do you deal with governance when 1/3 of your country is made up of delusional paranoiacs?

At publication, the Dragon was AWAITING ORDERS FROM THE MOTHER SHIP

Oct 042012
 

Sorry I’ve been gone for a few days, folks. New content promised is coming, I swear.

Meanwhile, try the new stout. Particularly good barrel, I think.

 

This’ll be brief, but it’s interesting to me, and…well, this is where I write about stuff that’s interesting to me.

Today, in the digesting of the first Presidential debate, we are confronted with the collision of two nearly independent media realms: traditional broadcast, and the newly-risen social media, which have orders of magnitude more penetration, sophistication, and response speed than they did in 2008. And what we’re hearing from those two media realms is, for perhaps the first time ever, sharply divergent in relation to the same single event.

Traditional broadcast media: “Romney won!!!!!”

Social media: “Romney lied like a rug on every major topic he addressed, and here’s documentation.”

Now, don’t get me wrong: Romney swung for the rafters because he had to, Obama played it cautious because he could—but too cautiously, in the end— and so the “optics”, as pols and pundits like to say, were clearly in Romney’s favor. This, too, was noted in the record-breaking avalanche of tweets, liveblog streams and Facebook posts that tracked the debate in real time and continued after it.

But let’s face it: the traditional broadcast media has turned strictly into entertainment, and it needs a competitive horse race. So it was nearly impossible for Romney to lose this debate in their eyes, given how badly they needed him to win it.

What is interesting to me is that the sense I am getting of the emerging gestalt of the debate—the narrative understanding by the mainstream public—is a merging of these two story lines.

In other words: “Mitt Romney won by lying.”

So while Romney’s team feels momentarily invigorated, and the likes of CNN and ABC News happily chatter about a “game changer”, what is percolating into voters’ consciousness is a validation of Obama’s core messages: Romney is untrustworthy. He’ll say anything. He’s Machiavellian, just as he was in business. You’ll never really know what he stands for. You can’t trust him can’t trust him can’t trust him can’t trust him.

It takes awhile for fact-checking to catch up to felt sense. In some ways it never does. But what Romney gave Team Obama last night was a bonanza of tailor-made “after” clips for devastating “before, he said this, but now he says this” spots. Instead of having to reach back to dusty campaign footage no one cares about, now they have Mitt Romney lying his ass off in front of 67 million people…yesterday.

Meanwhile, his “win” doesn’t appear to have moved the needle at all…except among those who were supposed to be his base. And he still has nearly no possible roadmap to 270 electoral votes.

Take a breath, friends.

At publication, the Dragon was NOT WORRYING ABOUT IT