Friday, February 08, 2013
NOTICE: BLOG MOVING
Thanks very much to everyone who has ever read this blog, linked to it, or left a comment, and thanks especially to my one follower. Please feel free to follow me over to the new address!
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Sustainability and Consumption
Like most Americans, I can't claim that everything I or my family do is sustainable, but I do recycle virtually everything that can be recycled where I live, walk or take public transportation often (like many other Americans), avoid eating fast food much of the time, and frequently buy used items, particularly used books. If anyone has other suggestions, or other things they do that reduce consumption, please leave a comment. (The article has some worthy ideas.)
Sunday, January 06, 2013
Paul Krugman For Treasury Secretary!
(If you want background information on Krugman, it can be found in his New York Times column; also, here is an article I wrote recommending a particularly good piece of his.)
Saturday, January 05, 2013
President Obama won the election; the next time around, he needs to act like it more than he did this time.
The "Austerity Lobby"
The Washington Post isn't a "liberal rag," as so many conservatives think, nor does it push a right-wing party line like the Examiner or the Washington Times. It should instead be considered the house organ of the austerity lobby.
Monday, December 24, 2012
The Missouri Gun Control Referendum
It’s instructive to look at the map of counties that voted against concealed carry (available here) and compare it with census data. First of all, while the general pattern that one would expect holds–urban and suburban areas all voted against concealed weapons, and most rural and small-town counties voted for–there were exceptions, including at least three rural counties that voted against.
It’s even more fascinating to look at the eleven counties that voted against, and note how many of them are competitive, or even Republican. Populous and suburban St. Charles County outside St. Louis, which votes very consistently for the GOP, voted against, as did Clay County, outside Kansas City. Cole County, outside Jefferson City, is another red county that voted against. St. Louis City, not surprisingly, voted 2 to 1 against the referendum, but so did St. Louis County, a historically-Republican and affluent suburban county that has since moved to the Democrats.
This last place is especially noteworthy. Much of the Democrats’ political success in the 1990's, and again in the late 2000's, depended on populous, affluent, inner-ring suburban counties like St. Louis County that had been solidly Republican as recently as the 1980's. (Other examples include Westchester County, New York, Bergen County, New Jersey, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Fairfax County, Virginia, and the outer portions of Cook County, Illinois.) These are areas where gun control was and is widely supported, as evidenced by the results cited here and other things, such as the successes of otherwise-conservative pro-control politicians like Rep. Henry Hyde.
In other words, far from being a “political loser,” being pro-gun control may actually have cemented Democratic victories in many populous states.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
One Small Hope
Thursday, November 29, 2012
More Election Analysis
Of course, one can look on the bright side and note that Obama still did very well in many other traditionally Democratic white working-class areas, such as northeast Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, and much of Iowa and Michigan. There were even some places where he did better than in 2008, notably the St. Lawrence region of upstate New York and central Ohio. There are probably many reasons for this--religious outreach of the type that has helped other Democrats in Ohio, Joe Biden (whose great performance in the debate made him more important in the campaign), the stimulus, support from the Clintons are but a few. That said, I think the auto company bailout, which the Democrats embraced with pride during and after the convention, was the number-one cause. Populism can still help Democrats, and shouldn’t be forgotten; indeed, I am still convinced it is the way back in places like the South that have moved toward the GOP so heavily in recent years.
–It’s interesting to see how hard and set the partisan patterns of many states and municipalities are, even in the candidates’ proverbial back yards. In Obama’s home state of Illinois, for example, he won primarily the same counties and cities that tend to vote Democratic heavily, with only a few exceptions. This of course still means that like most Democrats, he carried the state (since those areas are also the most heavily populated). That said, it’s interesting to see, especially compared with 2008 or his Senate race in 2004, how many fewer votes he got in southern Illinois. Similarly, Mitt Romney did only slightly better than McCain or George W. Bush in his home state of Massachusetts, and came nowhere near carrying it. Some of what are constantly referred to as “swing” counties or states really aren’t that, and not acknowledging this distorts campaign coverage and skews priorities badly. Wisconsin is constantly referred to as a swing state, for example, even though it hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1984. (Yes, Wisconsin does have a very conservative Republican governor right now, but keep in mind that Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Wyoming all have Democratic governors, and no one ever calls them swing states in a presidential campaign.)
Many people in the media rightly noted that hard partisan preferences like these limit the campaigns’ interests in states that always seem to vote for the same party. This means that even very populous states, like California and Texas, are bypassed by both campaigns simply because they vote for the same party every four years. (This ignoring of populous states was particularly egregious in Obama’s case, since he was supposed to be the heir of Howard Dean and his 50-state strategy; I’ll discuss that at greater length in another post.) In assessing this, the media needs to keep in mind that no one makes the people in these states and counties vote the way they do; it’s not the fault of the people in California or northern Illinois that a majority of them vote Democratic, nor is it the fault of the people in Texas or southern Illinois that they do the opposite. People (such as the Washington Post editorialists) who think that any congressional district that is at all partisan is somehow “gerrymandered” and undemocratic should keep this in mind. There is no way to draw district lines in northern Illinois that won’t result in several of them leaning to the Democrats.
If the parties, especially the Republican party, want to do well in the parts of the country that aren’t receptive to their message, maybe what they ultimately have to do is change or re-tune that message. The Democrats came back in 1992 after three successive presidential defeats by fine-tuning their message and discarding the most hardline and least popular parts of it; I see no reason why the GOP should never have to do the same.
Of course, there are exceptions to these rules; truly competitive places still exist, like Michigan’s famous Macomb County outside Detroit (which Obama won, by the way). Furthermore, looking closely at the results makes it clear that ticket-splitting does happen, and not just in the states with gaffe-plagued GOP Senate candidates this year, like Indiana and Missouri. A significant number of people obviously voted for Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Joe Manchin in West Virginia while voting for Romney. Barney Frank, in his book Speaking Frankly (still one of my favorite books about politics), spoke of convincing the people who vote for Democrats for Congress to vote for Dem presidential candidates as well; doing so would open up doors for Democrats, and is still great advice.
–Speaking of redistricting, the voters in my home state of Maryland had a rare opportunity to vote for or against a partisan redistricting plan, and voted for it overwhelmingly, in a rebuke to the Washington Post and others who insist that any district with partisan leanings is “gerrymandered.” (By the way, I don’t believe that gerrymandering is a good thing; I just don’t think that every district with partisan leanings is gerrymandered. I think the ideal is a mix of partisan-leaning and competitive districts.)
Perhaps the many Democratic voters in Maryland didn’t like the fact that Republicans in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Texas (to name a few states) had produced maps that were at least as partisan, and didn’t want to unilaterally disarm, as the Post would have them do. In any case, the Post editorialists can claim one victory for a pet cause, gambling; Maryland voted narrowly to expand gambling. (A gambling initiative lost in Oregon, however.)
–Speaking of referenda, I am always fascinated with looking at referendum results around the country; as David Sirota and others have pointed out, it’s an opportunity to analyze and appreciate democracy at its most direct. (A good summary of referendum election results can be seen at this PDF.) Many have rightly mentioned that same-sex marriage is the big winner of the year, winning in all four states in which it was on the ballot. Same-sex marriage opponents will never again be able to claim that marriage equality is everywhere an imposition on voters who don’t want it.
I am personally proud to say that I volunteered in one of those contests, Maryland’s Question 6. Looking at the results, it is inspiring to see that Question 6 passed in all but the most conservative jurisdictions in Maryland, and that African Americans, who were so often said to oppose it, clearly voted in significant numbers for it, since the referendum won in majority-black Baltimore City and almost won in Prince George’s County (in this case as well, religious outreach made a huge difference). Strangely, this election is also being touted as a huge success for advocates of marijuana legalization, even though legalization won on the ballot in two out of four states (it won in Colorado and Washington and lost in Arkansas and Oregon). Winning half of the races doesn’t seem like a great triumph to me.
Looking at lower-profile races, it’s interesting to note how often liberal positions won, although they certainly did not do so everywhere. In California, an initiative to repeal the death penalty lost, but one to weaken the “three strikes” laws actually passed, something that would have been unimaginable in the high-crime early 1990's, when three strikes laws were very popular.
For unions, the election is described as mixed, and indeed, a much-touted bill codifying the rights of government employees to bargain collectively failed in Michigan. This is too bad, since that kind of proactive approach is a great idea, and I hope it is tried and succeeds in other states. On the other hand, the unions actually won more than they lost; a bill limiting the use of union dues failed in California, and another that would have required a super-majority to increase public employees’ pensions failed in Illinois. (I'm happy about this last one simply because I think that supermajority requirements are almost always a bad idea no matter what the subject.)
The biggest union success was the repeal of a law giving the Michigan governor wide powers to take over local jurisdictions that are perceived as failing. What fascinates me is that the bill lost over much of the state, even in many rural areas; the main support for it was in suburban areas near Detroit (which, of course, is the subject of takeover attempts under the law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder). I am hoping that this heralds a lessening of the tensions between urban and rural America that have made our politics more ugly in the last forty years, and will discourage suburban and statewide politicians from restricting the rights of city dwellers. Only time will tell, of course. (Here is a good rundown on liberal referendum victories by the always-enjoyable Jim Hightower that I used as a source for this article. It's well worth reading, although I wish he had included the Illinois and Michigan victories that I describe above, since they're as significant as the results he does include.)
Labels: 1992 Election, 2012 Election, anti-urban bias, Barack Obama, conservatives, Democratic Leadership Council, E. J. Dionne, gay/lesbian issues, Howard Dean, liberals, Mitt Romney, Religious Left, Republicans