Roger Keeling, with some more thoughts on the election endgame:
Suddenly, Democratic control of the House seems less a sure thing than it did just days ago.
Oh, true, everyone is still calling it for the Democrats. But the race is tightening. That this could happen is astonishing, given the magnitude of Republican corruption, incompetence, and outrageous extremism. Just a few weeks ago, the split between the two parties was something on the order of 20 points.
How the hell does it keep happening like this? In the last two presidential elections, the GOP pulled it out at the last minute ... they really did. In 2004 particularly, knowledgeable people – with years of polling experience behind them, and years of experience against which to compare that year’s remarkable Democratic GOTV efforts – really believed that John Kerry was going to win the election, albeit in a neck-to-neck finish. He didn’t. The explanation then was the GOP’s sophisticated GOTV efforts, with their laser-like focus on the Christian right.
But what is the explanation this time? Last time, polls couldn’t have predicted because it had nothing to do with how the masses of people were thinking, and everything to do with how the GOP managed to get a select slice of those masses to vote when others did not. But now, it’s the polls themselves that are showing the change.
One explanation is the self-identification issue: it’s one thing, in the heat of a moment, to say “You bet I’m voting against the Republicans.” But there are a lot of people who – for better or worse – fundamentally identify themselves as GOP, as conservatives, and really, REALLY hate the Democrats. As the actual moment of truth approaches, many of them may have second thoughts. Perhaps that explains all of the polls drifting back, or some of it.
But I have to think that the GOP’s desperate last-hour campaign efforts are also paying big dividends. The problem is, I don’t think these efforts are particularly “desperate” (as in, “We hadn’t even considered using them except in a dire emergency.”) Nor do I think they’re last-minute, as in cobbled together in days or hours. I suspect they’ve all been very well thought out, the result of months – even years – of careful preparation. I suspect they planned to use them all along.
What I’m talking about, of course, are all the sleazy methods and hit pieces that are suddenly appearing. The robocalls, for example. I long ago concluded that the National Republican Party is nothing more – at all! – than a giant racketeering enterprise. These robocalls, designed from the ground-up to mislead voters, are the kind of thing that criminal thugs do. So too mailers like the one Josh Marshall at TPM just linked to (from New York’s 19th District).
This is all precisely why I’ve been so thoroughly unwilling to make any predictions. (Indeed, I’m now ashamed that in my posts below, I didn’t immediately qualify my evident assumption about the Democrats taking the House of Representatives). Every time I have felt any sort of real confidence, I’ve been disappointed to the point of tears. So now I predict nothing, expect nothing, do all I can to avoid that frustration and rage.
But all this raises a question to me: why are we Democrats ALWAYS caught so flat-footed by this filth?
How many elections do we have to endure before we figure out that the GOP is corrupt – utterly, absolutely, completely? How long before it finally sinks in that they are devoid of anything like decency or morals: that they really are craven degenerates? Use your own adjectives here: I personally think the English language has run out of capacity to describe these monsters. But the point is, they ARE this way. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue running election campaigns – endlessly into the future – that always end with us acting surprised when the rightwing democracy-haters, in their predictable cynical way, execute sleazy tactics to mislead voters and corrupt the system?
Why the hell isn’t the National Democratic Party, and state parties, prepared for this? Why don’t they have teams of lawyers ready to go to court to obtain injunctions? Why haven’t those legislatures and governorships controlled by Democrats begun passing tough laws to clamp down on these tactics ... laws backed with even tougher penalties, ones that would make even a Karl Rove think it too high a price to pay for a political victory?
Why hasn’t the Democratic Party set up a special fund for mass advertising specifically to respond to – and expose – corrupt GOP practices in the last days and minutes of campaigns across the nation? You need people in place – teams of writers and graphic artists, for example – to crank out replies. And, if necessary, companies able on a dime to distribute doorhangers, or newspapers with 3/4 page slots pre-reserved, specifically to respond to these things.
For example, in all the states where the robocalls are now occurring, wouldn’t it be great if all this past weekend and today (Monday) full-page newspaper ads, or TV ads, or mass distribution of doorhangers, had been used to intelligently and thoroughly explain what the GOP was doing? What we know for sure is that we can’t depend on the news media. They are deep into the pockets of the GOP, and – in general – never expose that Party’s corrupt practices in a timely and hard-hitting way.
I don’t pretend to know precisely what Democrats ought to be doing – at the ground level – to respond. But what frustrates me is that, apparently, the Democratic Party’s leadership (and Moveon.org, and Act Blue, and Kos, and all the rest) don’t know either.
As I write this, it still seems likely that the GOP is going to lose the House of Representatives. For that I'm grateful ... if it really happens. But a blow-out, a landslide? Apparently not. And what about the 2008 contests? When that comes around, will we – again – be shocked and surprised when the filth comes pouring out of Republican campaigns ... or will we, for once, be prepared to bash them back and make them think twice about ever doing it again?
Roger's right that the Republican voter suppression efforts were completely predictable, and it does seem as if our side doesn't really do anything about them except complain (and publicize them, which is helpful in a way -- but only if the media picks up on it, which they haven't shown any inclination to do). I'm not sure that legal remedies would be very useful, since the courts seems generally reluctant to insert themselves in a timely way into politics (hearings mean delays which serves the Republicans well), but certainly a counter-propaganda campaign should have been in readiness.
For instance, shouldn't Democratic candidates who have been hit by the Republican robo-call push-polling be going on the air with cheaply produced stand-up commercials that tell the people what's happening and hopefully take some of the curse off? We should all know by now that we cannot rely on the media picking up on this stuff, they only respond in that way to the Republican Noise Machine, not to ours.
Election endgames, rife with dirty tricks and ultra-negative advertising, that's what Rove and the Republicans are best at, it's what has put them in office in the first place. We know that, why aren't we prepared for it?
Update (11/7): Billmon on the "tightening":
Part of the trend shown in the Pew and ABC/Post polls may simply be "natural tightening" -- as Republicans and Republicans-who-call-themselves-independents come home to their party. But what needs to be kept in mind is that at this late stage the remaining independent undecided or soft leaners generally constitute the least informed, least involved and, in many cases, least intelligent segment of the electorate. Or, to be perfectly blunt about it: Many of them are completely fucking clueless, which means they tend to be the most easily manipulated by the kind of limbic, cesspool politics the Rovian machine now specializes in.
I couldn't have said it better myself. I see these polls, and wonder about all those undecideds -- what the hell has to happen to get these people to see what's going on? -- But maybe they're just plain dumb.
But as to tightening, other polls came out which seemed to show no tightening of the race -- which is what it looks like to me when I compare the current graph of generic house polling to the one I did earlier. (See near the end of my latest Election Projections Survey.)
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
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Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.