Glad to be Wrong about the Election

I’m not about to give up my Pundit Guild card yet but I’m here to own up to some bad prognosticatin’. Early this year I wrote a series of blog posts arguing that the Democratic Party (which I’ve viewed as the lesser evil, in this era of “Red State Fascism“) was risking losing the election by running either a woman or black person. I wrote, for example, the intentionally overconfident title “The Coming McCain Victory’s Lesson for Antiwar Democrats,” and gave Obama a one-in-four chance of winning. So what went wrong (or, rather, right)? Obviously there was the collapse of the stock market, the drop in real estate prices, the bank failures, and the federal bailouts. McCain had a brief post-convention lead in the polls and then just before the election came the deluge of terrible news, which was blamed largely on the Republicans. Still, in retrospect, I think my analysis was flawed. I noted that Bush won every state in Dixie in both 2000 and 2004, while losing big in non-Dixie America. And I noted that Dixie-as-kingmaker was a new phenomenon. But somehow I failed to realize that this Republican regionalism was a weakness, particularly considering Bush’s narrow victory in 2000, when he ran as a moderate, Gore ran as a not-very-believable populist, and Nader ran as a liberal vote magnet. I now believe that Bush’s 2004 victory was probably largely due to voters’ desire to  appear resolute after the 9/11 attacks, and during two deadly military occupations. I just hope I was right about the “lesser evil” part….


Mother Night

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

~ Kurt Vonnegut



The Nukes of October“:

Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon’s plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it’s clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the “madman theory”: Nixon’s notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.

Nixon’s madman pose and Giant Lance were based on game theory, a branch of mathematics that uses simple calculations and rigorous logic to help understand how people make choices — like whether to surge ahead in traffic or whether to respond to a military provocation with a strike of one’s own.

The madman theory was an extension of that doctrine.
The sudden conclusion reinforced the madman pose.

Denying that there was ever a madman theory in operation, he emphasized that Giant Lance was designed to be a warning, not a provocation to war.

Presidential Eyes

I’ve expressed my disappointment that the Democratic primaries haven’t thrown up a more demographically electable antiwar candidate (here and here). I’ve been accused of over-emphasizing demographics but, judging by Michael Medved’s “The Blue-Eyed Rule,” the opposite may be true:

“It turns out that in all of U.S. history, only five presidents had brown eyes – John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, LBJ and Nixon. …

“[T]wo of our three presidents who faced serious impeachment proceedings (Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon) were among our brown-eyed minority. The other three brownies (John Quincy Adams, Chester A. Arthur, and Lyndon Johnson) all hoped to win an additional term as president but failed to do, falling victim to bitter political critics and rivals.

“The general incidence of blue eyes in the population is about 16% today. In 1950, it was estimated at 30%; in 1900, 50%. …

“[O]ur population almost certainly never featured the 89% blue-eyed incidence of all our presidents. …”

Advice for Obama

David D. Friedman & his readers suggest some things Obama can do get libertarian Republicans to vote for him (“Thoughts for Obama“):

“[A] possibility that occurs to me is to take advantage of the budgetary implications of Obama’s opposition to the Iraq War. If the U.S. pulls out, we will get a ‘peace dividend’ — a whole lot of money now being spent on the war will be available for other purposes. No doubt lots of people, in both parties, will have ideas for ways of spending it.

“Suppose Obama commits himself not to let the peace dividend be spent on new projects, or at least not all of it. Suppose, for instance, that he promises that at least half of the saving will be used to reduce the budget deficit. That puts him in the position of the fiscally responsible candidate, which should appeal to conservatives as well as libertarians. And it is a pledge that McCain cannot match, since he supports the war and so is not going to have any peace dividend to allocate. …”



McCain Victory, Part 2

In my previous post I argued that since (1) the only Dem candidates who’ve been able to win the presidency in the past 4 decades have been white, Protestant, southern males; (2) the country strongly prefers a Democrat for Pres in ’08; and (3) most Americans regret invading Iraq, the Dems should have selected an antiwar, white, Southern, Protestant male candidate — & should keep this in mind next time. I received some good replies to the 1st post, so in this post I’ll continue the discussion & reply to some of the replies.

In writing the 1st post I stumbled on “Why the GOP’s Southern Strategy Ended” (Part I & Part II) by (the late) Jim Chapin, which is full of interesting, relevant info. (The strategy ended because it was a complete success.) Chapin wrote: “[I]n the entire post-Civil War period, the only candidates who required Southern electoral votes to overcome a loss in the rest of the country were Grover Cleveland (twice), Woodrow Wilson (once), Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George W. Bush” [in 2000 & 2004]. This surprised me. Even though the Dixie Rules rule applies to past 40 years, it’s only been in the past 2 elections that Dixie reversed a GOP loss in the rest of America. This suggests a few things to me. First, as has been widely noted, Dixie’s electoral power has risen with the population shift to the Sun Belt. Second, the Democrats’ selection of a white, Southern, Protestant candidate signals to swing states outside of Dixie that the candidate is less beholden to the party’s constituency of Yankees, cosmopolitans, ethnic minorities and union workers. Third, Dixie’s new power has freaked out Democrats, thereby pushing them to select a demographically anti-Dixie candidate — nonwhite, non-Southern, semi-foreign, Muslim dad, secular upbringing, liberal, etc.

On to the replies:

Eugene Costa wrote:

“Actually it much simpler than that and boils down to Ohio, which was stolen twice. That will be harder to do this year.”

Reply to reply:

McCain is very popular in New Hampshire. If he wins New Hampshire, loses Ohio, and gets all of the other states Bush won last time, McCain will win.

SubHuman wrote:

“Clinton and Obama are pro-corporate, pro-AIPAC and pro-WAR candidates, Kucinich, Gravel and Dr. Paul were the ONLY anti-WAR and pro-America candidates.”

Reply to reply:

I believe that war & empire hurt most corporations’ profits — though they certainly enrich politically connected parties — so it’s not necessary to be anti-corporate to be antiwar, and it’s entirely possible to be anti-corporate and pro-war. I haven’t seen anything that suggests that Obama is pro-war. (I don’t buy the Obama wants to attack Pakistan meme.) But, sure, if Clinton is the Dem’s candidate, any anti-imperialists who don’t believe in voting for the lesser evil should register a protest vote. My view is that the Dems are complicit but less responsible for Iraq, Guantanamo, torture, etc., so all things being equal, the Repubs should be voted out as punishment.

Eugene Costa wrote:

“Obama … already has a built-in Southern Strategy, as both the Republicans and their bellicose and born-again Southrons know very well.

“Thus the fantasy and distraction of the above mapping and prediction as any longer pertinent …

“Kucinich apparently sent an early feeler to Paul about an independent run. Paul rejected it.

“Kucinich is now more important out of the race than in.”

Reply to reply:

I don’t know what the Obama Southern strategy is. If it’s to rally the African-American minority, seems to me that’s a losing strategy, as the majority is likely to win any racially charged contest.

Kucinich = Nader. In 2000 I thought there wasn’t much difference between Gore & Bush, & I now think I was wrong.

Dmaak112 wrote:

“McCain will win. In spite of what we Americans like to believe about ourselves, we love war.”

Reply to reply:

Polls show that Americans regret invading Iraq, dislike the president that ordered the invasion, & want to replace his political party. I don’t know why people would be lying to pollsters about this — & the Dem takeover of Congress supports it.

Nuttyone wrote:

“Those of us who support Obama because we dislike Clinton will vote for him but will stay away, or even worse, vote for McCain if Hillary is the other choice. Polls or not, I’m telling you what the people on the street are feeling, not the party-faithful, but keep pushing Hillary if Democrats want to lose again. “

Reply to reply:

I’m not pushing Hillary. I said that the Dems should have selected an antiwar, Southern, male, white, Protestant (being a military vet wouldn’t hurt either). Hillary is a semi-Southern, female, more-or-less pro-war candidate.

Thanks for your politeness — we’re showing the blogosphere how it’s done.


The Coming McCain Victory’s Lesson for (Antiwar) Democrats

Polls & the politics betting markets suggest that Obama is the candidate most likely to be elected president. I think a McCain victory is more likely so, to get my 2 cents in before the post-McCain victory deluge, I’ll explain in advance why I think the Dems will lose, & what they can do about it.

First, where are we now? The polls I’ve seen indicate that Americans want the next president to be a Democrat rather than Republican by a margin of 16 to 18 percentage points. Asked to choose between Clinton & McCain, however, potential voters consistently choose McCain by a small margin. Obama beats McCain in hypothetical head-to-head contests, by somewhere between a (statistically insignificant) few points and about 10 points. So, right off the bat we can see that either the Dems have picked candidates that are liked less than their party, or the Repubs have picked a candidate who is more popular than his party — or both.

Election futures markets have the best prediction track records — better than pundits or polls. The Intrade market currently gives Clinton a 17% chance of winning the presidency, McCain a 34% chance, & Obama 49%. The odds of the Dems, as a party, winning are 66% to 34%. Strong stuff, but I believe that the Democratic candidates’ demographic profiles are likely to lead to a Republican upset.

What type of president does the country want? A Southern, male, Protestant, Democrat, of northern European descent, who was moderately opposed to the Iraq war.

The demographics are straightforward. Since the Democrats led in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending their support from the South, there have been ten presidential elections, in which the Democrats have nominated 8 candidates. Five candidates were from somewhere other than Dixie, and all 5 lost. The 3 remaining candidates are white male Southern Protestants. Two of them won outright at least once, & the third (who was hurt by running with a Jewish Yankee and against a Southerner) won the popular vote.

It’s very unlikely that a candidate will lose the entire South this year yet still win the national election. Since neither of the Democratic candidates fits the demographic profile of a winner in the South, an obvious question is: have Southerners’ preferences changed? And the answer, judging by the past 2 elections, is: no. The Bush/Cheney ticket was more Southern than both the Gore/Lieberman and the Kerry/Edwards tickets, and every Southern state went to the former, while Bush lost both elections outside of Dixie. (Gore/Edwards would have won either election.)

It’s hard to put odds on this year’s election. McCain isn’t a Southerner; Clinton is sorta half-Southern; the mood in the country is pessimistic; the Repubs are discredited… In a normal year, & just going by demographics, & not knowing the VPs yet (Gore would be perfect), I’d say Obama would have a 1 in 5 chance of winning the election; Clinton would have maybe a 1 in 4 chance. This year? Obama or Clinton will have about a 1 in 3 chance of winning, I’d guess.

The Dems need a Southern strategy.