Saturday, November 11, 2006

Now the facts come out?

I don't want to seem paranoid, but I was listening to my local all-news radio station this afternoon (WINS), when I heard a business report about a study that showed that companies which contribute more to political campaigns do better afterwards. That sounded reasonable -- by which I mean, of course, not that it's the way things should be, but rather it seems like an accurate reflection of the way things are. Companies that give money to help win elections have, for better or worse, more influence, entree, an ear to listen to their point of view. It's probably usually not a specific quid pro quo (although with the very corrupt Republicans it often seems to have been), just the ability to out across what they want.

But here's the thing: in 12 years of Republican dominattion of Congress, I don't recall hearing a similar report -- why is it that I hear it now, when a Democratic Congress has just been elected?

And, of course, the report didn't say anything about the fact that the companies which give the most are essentially the same for both parties, except that the Republicans get more.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/11/2006 09:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Help me decide...

...because I'm having a little difficulty with this: Is James Carville an idiot or an asshole? Or maybe both?

I mean, what kind of idiot talks about canning your master strategist immediately after he's helped to win you a major victory that no one really thought it was possible to win? And what sort of asshole leaks strategic information about your party's candidate to the other side?

I never could understand how Carville and Matalin could be married to each other and still be trusted by their clients -- now it looks like we know that we were the only ones who should have been worried.

But, more fundamentally, you don't can the general after he wins the battle, not if you're really interested in winning the war. And it doesn't really matter if he was the sole reason for the win, or merely a contributory reason, or didn't have anything to do with it at all -- when the line-up wins, don't screw around with the line-up! Life is too complex, and causality too difficult to establish conclusively that you don't make changes to a winning team unless there's a damn good reason to do so. I'm not thrilled about Rahm Emmanuel, but I'm not running around trying to dethrone him either -- and neither are people who matter (unlike me).

What is there about very basic facts of life like these that Carville doesn't understand?

Whoever is behind this totally stupid notion of dumping Dean, whoever is using Carville as their stalking horse, all I can say is s.t.f.u. and go about doing your damn jobs. (Are these people braindead, or is there something in the water in DC that sucks all the sense out of people's minds?)

[Edited for language.]

Update: Roger Keeling sent this around before he had read my post above:
I used to have enormous respect and regard for James Carville. But he married into the enemy camp, and gradually drifted away into insignificance -- it seemed an awful loss, actually. But now it's even worse. Here's why:

The Democrats, as you know, just won an enormous victory, fueled in no small part by the incredible performance of Dr. Howard Dean. Dean raised $51 million last year,about 20% more than the last non-presidential election cycle. He re-established the Party in states -- Deep Red states -- where for all practical purposes the Democratic Party no longer existed. For example, in some places Democratic headquarters offices were literally kept locked up for most of each year. There were NO organizers or field operatives in Indiana, for example. NONE. In some states, the state-level Democratic Party was actually bankrupt.

He bailed them out, and put field directors and communications experts into everystate. He rebuilt the entire National Democratic Party computerized membership and donor lists (an $8 million project by itself), something the GOP had done years ago. He listened to the netroots, and often put money where they -- taken together -- recommended that it go. He did all of this and much more, and his 50-state strategy paid off big-time.

So how do the old hands of the Democratic Party -- including James Carville -- repay all of this? Why, by talking about dumping Dean and replacing him with (are you ready?) the just-defeated Harold Ford of Tennessee. Not taking away anything from Ford, but the idea of him replacing Howard Dean is ludicrous.

Yet that was Carville's suggestion. Carville has signed on with the old-line guys, the DC-insiders, the ranks and rows of consultants who LOST year after year and yet, somehow, never lost their jobs.

I'm disgusted. Carville used to be a tough campaigner, and a plain-speaking breath of fresh air. Now he's just another member of the permanent Washington political class, blowing smoke out his ass. A pity, a profound pity!

Update (1/16): More on Carville.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/11/2006 04:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Consciousness explained (2)

262) Minds are in limited supply, and each mind has a limited capacity for memes, and hence there is considerable competition among memes for entry in as many minds as possible. This competition is the major selective force in the memosphere, and, just as in the biosphere, the challenge has been met with great ingenuity. For instance, whatever virtues (from our perspective) the following memes have, they have in common the property of having phenotypic expressions that tend to make their own replication more likely by disabling or preempting the environmental forces that would tend to extinguish them: the meme for faith, which discourages the exercise of the sort of critical judgment that might decide that the idea of faith was, all things considered a dangerous idea; the meme for tolerance or free speech; the meme of including in a chain letter a warning about the terrible fates of those who have broken the chain in the past; the conspiracy theory meme, which has a built-in response to the objection that there is no good evidence of a conspiracy: "Of course not - that's how powerful the conspiracy is!" Some of these memes are "good" perhaps and others "bad"; what they have in common is a phenotypic effect that systematically tends to disable the selective forces arrayed against them. Other things being equal, population memetics predicts that conspiracy theory memes will persist quite independently of their truth, and the meme for faith is apt to secure its own survival, and that of the religious memes that ride piggyback on it, in even the most rationalistic environments. Indeed, the meme for faith exhibits frequency-dependent fitness: it flourishes best when it is outnumbered by rationalistic memes; in an environment with few skeptics, the meme for faith tends to fade from disuse.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

263) As Akins observes, it is not the point of our sensory systems that they should detect "basic" or "natural" properties of the environment, but that they should serve our "narcissistic" purposes in staying alive; nature doesn't build epistemic engines.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)
citing Kathleen Akins
"On Piranhas, Narcissism and Mental Representations:
An Essay on Intentionality and Naturalism" (1989)

264) In a Thumbnail Sketch here is [the Multiple Drafts theory of consciousness] so far:

There is no single, definitive "stream of consciousness," because there is no central Headquarters, no Cartesian Theatre where "it all comes together" for the perusal of a Central Meaner. Instead of such a single stream (however wide), there are multiple channels in which specialist circuits try, in parallel pandemoniums, to do their various things, creating Multiple Drafts as they go. Most of these fragmentary drafts of "narrative" play short-lived roles in the modulation of current activity but some get promoted to further functional roles, in swift succession, by the activity of a virtual machine in the brain. The seriality of this machine (its "von Neumannesque" character) is not a "hard-wired" design feature, but rather the upshot of a succession of coalitions of these specialists.

The basic specialists are part of our animal heritage. They were not developed to perform peculiarly human actions, such as reading and writing, but ducking, predator-avoiding, face-recognizing, grasping, throwing, berry-picking, and other essential tasks. They are often opportunistically enlisted in new roles, for which their talents may more or less suit them. The result is not bedlam only because the trends that are imposed on all this activity are themselves part of the design. Some of this design is innate, and is shared with other animals. But it is augmented, and sometimes even overwhelmed in importance, by microhabits of thought that are developed in the individual, partly idiosyncratic results of self-exploration and partly the predesigned gifts of culture. Thousands of memes, mostly borne by language, but also by wordless "images" and other data structures, take up residence in an individual brain, shaping its tendencies and thereby turning it into a mind.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 801 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/11/2006 02:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Keeling: Do something about GOP cheating

Roger Keeling:
I would like to direct your attention to a nice posting at TAPPED.

I think this is important stuff. But I also think that it's important for Democrats to do a LOT more than what Perlstein recommends here. They need to really put their minds to this:: assemble a blue-ribbon committee of the left's best strategists and law enforcement-type people, advertising folks, etc., and really come up with a RESPONSE that will blow the Republicans out of the water next election when they try to pull this flim-flam.

It should start with a MULTI-YEAR educational campaign. For example, every single minority voter in the United States -- every last one! -- ought to be reached several times, not just once, with information about these sleazy Republican tricks. Every black church, for example, should be given educational materials for the preacher to relay to the faithful (you don't need to name the Party even, nor talk about it in any partisan way. This is basic civics: voting and every citizen's right to do so). More openly partisan could be direct mailings, interviews in the minority press and radio, etc. They should repeatedly reach people with the messages during the two years prior to the election, and then again intensively in the month or two before the actual elections.

But of course, the problems go well beyond the minority community, and the solutions should go beyond that community as well. We should be doing a lot of broad targeting, based on likely states and districts as much as on particular sub-categories of voters. We may need our new Democratic majority in Congress to think about passing some tough laws that will enable law enforcement to ferret this stuff out and really throw the book at the people who engage in it. That might once in awhile catch up an imbecile Democrat, but mostly it'll catch scads of criminally-minded Republicans. After all, what Perlstein said about this kind of filth being woven right into the DNA of the Republican Party is absolutely true; and nothing is going to get it out except a LOT of them going to prison, and LOT of bad publicity for the stinkin' racketeering enterprise that IS their political party.

So I agree with him about the Democrats having ads up a week before the election. I think I already said as much in my last posting on this topic. But it should go far beyond what he suggests. Democrats should plan -- well in advance -- for MAJOR ad buys (radio and TV as well as print) in all the places where this sort of thing has happened a lot, and also in any really tight races that subsequently develop. (How do you stop the kind of degeneracy that came from Laura Ingraham? I don't know ... but if there is ANY way to legally punish her, e.g., lawsuits, boycotts, whatever, then Democrats ought to be doing it.)

Bottom line, just as I said a few days ago: we should never again be caught flat-footed like we've repeatedly been. The best defense is a good offense, and that's what we need: to slam them -- hard -- before they can once again dust off the dirty tricks and start screwing us once again.

The suppression techniques the Republicans use can only be effective when the electorate is effectively divided and, despite my earlier prediction and the result of the election, that is still pretty much the case in enough of the country that we can't be assured of our elections representing the true will of the people unless the cheating is dealt with. This should be a high priority for the Democratic Congress, but I'm also afraid that real action won't happen until we once again have control of the Executive and can insure fair enforcement of the laws. So, in the meantime, we really must take all the defensive actions we can and, as Roger says, also go on the offense with pre-emptive moves.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/11/2006 02:05:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Photography: Sunset Silhouette

click to enlarge

Daryl Samuel (1992)

Location: Orange County, California

Previous: Hands With Softball / On Alcatraz / Cameras / Lighthouse / Photographer At Work / Patio Chairs / Greek Church / Santa Fe Mailboxes / Rocking Horse / Sunset Sandpiper / Hands / Bird of Paradise / Feeding the Pelican

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/10/2006 02:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Keeling: Send a message to Reid

Roger Keeling writes:
Did you see this posting at Glenn Greenwald?

Get over and read it. And then, I think the blogs should act. We need to send out a signal to Reid and other Democratic Senators -- the ones already in the Senate, not the new crop who won't be sworn in until January -- that it's time act already.

Seems that George Bush has signaled that he desperately wants a malodorous piece of crap that Congress almost passed before the election, "The Terrorist Surveillance Act," sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson, passed ASAP. Of course he does: it will give him and all his cronies a get-out-of-jail-free card by conferring legality on his criminal acts. Of course, even if passed, the Act could be declared unconstitutional. But it would be far better just to deep-six this piece of filth in the first place.

And -- lookie, lookie! -- no elections for two full years. So anything the Democrats do right now will be long forgotten by everybody except the GOP itself.

What they need to do is simple: make it well known that if the GOP dares to bring that cruddy bill up, it WILL be filibustered. As long as necessary. Given that any session of Congress convening now is doomed to be a short one anyhow, this would not be a very difficult filibuster to carry off. Just the prospect of screwing up everybody's Christmas should probably be quite enough to make the GOPers back down. (Do I need to point out, however, that they should be eagle-eyed, on the lookout for any sleazy tricks like convening the Senate at 3 a.m. and ram-rodding the bill through before any Democrats even know what's going on?)

Actually, it might be possible to get some of the surviving "moderate" Republicans to sign on in opposition to this thing. Collins and the like might see the wisdom in siding with the Democrats on something like this. Surely there are some inducements that Reid could offer that would more than offset any annoyance from a lame duck Bush Administration.

Anyhow, it may well be that Reid and other "minority" Senate leaders have already decided that this piece of crap should not be passed, and have made up their minds to do something about it. But we don't really KNOW that. So maybe now would be a good time for the netroots to take an interest and start publicizing the issue.

Just a thought.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 11:33:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Lincoln, Lincoln, you've been thinkin'

Lincoln Chafee, working out his post-election blues, wonders whether he'll stay a Republican or not.

Lincoln, it really is a Big Tent party, we welcome all sorts of people, but maybe someone should make clear to you that we don't need you now. You see, when you held a Senatorial seat, you controlled something that was of value to us, and if you had decided to change parties when yours was taken over by radical authoritarian right-wingers, it would have helped us tremendously, and been a boon to the country as well. But, no, instead you decided to stay on with the Republicans, obstensibly so that you could continue to bring pork into your state (never mind that the fact that you wouldn't be able to bring home the bacon as Democrat was a sign of how corrupt and malign the Republican governance of the Senate was), and became a figure without influence in a Congress dominated by neanderthals from your party. You made a stupid, short-sighted choice, despite my practically begging you to come over from the Dark Side (and here, and here, and here, and here), and you lost your seat because of it.

So, if you should decide to join us now, we welcome you, but don't expect to be anything important -- maybe you can run errands or get coffee or something, as you start the long hard slog back up the hierarchy.

P.S. Note to Harry Reid: Given what happened to Chafee, and noting that Susan Collins of Maine is up for re-election in 2008, would it not be a good idea, now that we have something to offer her, to go to work on her to get her to crossover? Wouldn't that be cheaper than mounting an expensive campaign to beat her?

But it's gotta be done soon to give people time to get used to the change.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 09:48:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


(3089/898) Consciousness explained (1)

256) The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)*

* The analogy between the sea squirt and the associate professor was first pointed out, I think, by the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

257) I find it breathtaking [...] that when musical composition competitions are held, the contestants often do not submit tapes or records (or live performances) of their works they submit written scored, and the judges confidently make their aesthetic judgements on the basis of just reading the scores and hearing the music in their minds. How good are the best musical imaginations? Can a trained musician, swiftly reading a score tell just how that voicing of dissonant oboes and flutes over the massed strings will sound?
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

258) A neurosurgeon once told me about operating on the brain of a young man with epilepsy. As is customary in this kind of operation, the patient was wide awake, under only local anesthesia, while the surgeon delicately explored his exposed cortex, making sure that the parts tentatively to be removed were not absolutely vital by stimulating them electrically and asking the patient what he experienced. Some stimulations provoked visual flashes or hand-raisings, others a sort of buzzing sensation, but one spot produced a delighted response from the patient: "It's 'Outta Get Me' by Guns N'Roses, my favorite heavy metal [sic] band!"

I asked the neurosurgeon if he had asked the patient to sing or hum along with the music, since it would be fascinating to learn how "high fidelity" the provoked memory was. Would it be in exactly the same key and tempo as the record? Such a song (unlike "Silent Night") has one canonical version, so we could simply have superimposed a recording of the patient's humming with the standard record and compare the results. Unfortunately, even though a tape recorder had been running during the operation, the surgeon hadn't asked the patient to sing along. "Why not?" I asked, and he replied: "I hate rock music!"

Later in the conversation the neurosurgeon happened to remark that he was going to have to operate again on the same young man, and I expressed the hope that he would just check to see if he could restimulate the rock music, and this time ask the fellow to sing along. "I can't do that," replied the neurosurgeon, "since I cut out that part." "It was part of the epileptic focus?" I asked, and he replied, "No, I already told you - I hate rock music."
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

259) Philosophers' Syndrome: mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

260) Up till now [the development of proto-consciousness], we can suppose, nervous systems solved the "Now what do I do?" problem by a relatively simple balancing act between a strictly limited repertoire of actions - if not the famous four F's (fight, flee, feed, or mate), then a modest elaboration of them.
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

261) We're all zombies.* [...]

*It would be an act of desperate intellectual dishonesty to quote this assertion out of context!
Daniel C. Dennett
Consciousness Explained (1991)

Note: "3089/898" is the designation I've given to the project of posting all my collected quotes, excerpts and ideas (3089 of them) in the remaining days of the Bush administration (of which there were 898 left when I began).

As of today, there are 803 days remaining in the administration of the worst President ever.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 09:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A victory for...

So, as we've been discussing, the pundits have (as usual) got it all wrong: this election wasn't a victory for conservatism, as they would have it. On the other hand, it wasn't exactly a victory for progressivism either, although that argument has the advantage of being more nearly correct.

Instead, this election was a clear victory for pragmatism.

Politics is not about absolutes, it's about getting the best deal possible for your side under the circumstances, and about changing the circumstances to get a better deal next time.

I sure hope we keep this in mind over the next two years, as we decide upon someone to be our Presidential candidate.

There's a distinct possibility (I can smell signs of it in the air already) that my fellow progressives and liberals, heads swelled by Tuesday's outstanding victory, are going to start (again) to look at Presidential candidates not on a pragmatic basis, but against an absolute scale of progressive values, and put their energy behind someone who fulfills strict ideological requirements without having a ghost of a chance of actually being elected.

My wife has a magnet on our refrigerator door which says "My home is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy," which is precisely the way we should look at all those Presidential candidates who will now be coming down the pike. We need someone who is progressive enough to help heal the grevious wounds to the body politic from over a decade of Republican rule, but mainstream enough to not turn off a lot of people right from the git-go.

In this election, we were able to get behind a lot of candidates using criteria very much like that, and we had tremendous success. I hope we don't abandon that methodology now that it's worked for us, and revert to ideological absolutes in the next two years.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 11:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Setting the blame

Just before the election, Publius wrote:
At the risk of premature chicken-counting, one thing I’m most looking forward to tomorrow night is the post-mortems from the political geniuses on the cable networks on where Republicans went wrong. Of the many things that annoyed me in the aftermath of 2004, the one that stands out is listening to pundits on TV explain how extreme and out-of-touch Democrats had become (despite winning the popular vote in the last three presidential elections and 48% of it in 2004).

And so, tomorrow, people on CNN are going to dust off the post-2004 script and switch the names around. Post-election reporting is, after all, essentially a Mad Lib. The [name of party] lost the election in [geographic area] because the party veered too far from the political mainstream. The [name of party] will probably need to reexamine itself and become more moderate on social issues.

My reaction to this was lost in a comments thread which went in a different direction:

I disagree -- you will *not* here this from the pundits tomorrow night about the Republican party, because the *Democratic* party is the *only* party which it is acceptable for the media to call "extreme." There are no Republican extremists, or right-wing extremists, only left-wing or Democratic ones.

No, you're going to hear a lot about the President's advisors (*never* the President) being "out of touch" with Americans, you're going to hear a bit about Democrats exploiting the terrible personal tragedies of the Iraq War for their (nefarious) political purposes, you're going to hear quite a bit about all politics being local (to take the onus off of Bush, despite the Democrats' successful strategy to nationalize the election), and you're going to hear about corruption and scandals, but only about individual instances and the Democrats' exploitation of them, never about the institutionalization and systematization of corruption under the Republicans.

But never, not once, will you hear from the punditry a serious criticism of the Republican Party for being ideologically bizarre and extreme.

I haven't been monitoring the media all that compulsively since the election (in fact, I spent a good portion of yesterday sleeping), but it's my impression that what I wrote was pretty accurate. I have yet to hear one of the many talking heads on CNN or MSNBC or Fox blame the Republican debacle on that party having become too conservative. In fact I've heard just the opposite, that the party wasn't conservative enough, and that the Dems won because their fielded conservative candidates.

Clearly, the punditocracy is not going to let loose of its perceptions easily. It'll take, I think, a couple of weeks for someone to break through with a new conventional wisdom that will be generally accepted, and it will then be acceptable to talk about the failure of the Republican Party to represent the views of the electorate. Unfortunately, when this happens, the old "Democrats are too liberal" meme will also make a comeback at the same time, since such "balance" is required. It won't be any truer than it used to be, there won't be any new evidence to support it, but our New! Improved!! Media doesn't actually require evidence or proof to adapt a notion as its own, as long as they can get enough of the Usual Cast of Characters to spout it on cue.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 08:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Reality bites back

Glenn Greenwald:
It's one thing to assess reality and draw the wrong conclusions from it or exercise wrong judgment about it. Everyone does that.

But the President and his followers don't just do that. Like children -- or, more accurately, like those who are driven by an unshakable, faith-driven belief that they are Right -- they just ignore reality when it isn't what they want it to be or think it should be, and they just magically invent a different reality that they like better, and then stay there. [...] The President and his followers simply don't accept or live in reality and literally don't believe in facts.

The problem with this particular modus operandi (or, actually, since it goes deeper than that, modus vivendi) is that eventually reality bites back. That's what's been happening in Iraq, and it's what happened on Tuesday.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 07:51:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Why (they think) they lost

We heard the first of it last night from the pundits, the idea that the Democrats had won because they fielded conservative candidates, and the corollary that America rejected the Republican Party because they not longer considered it conservative enough.

Untrue, of course. The Democrats fielded candidates who were all along the political spectrum, depending on where they were running (isn't that one of the points of democracy, that elected officials represent the views of the electorate in their districts?). Some were conservative (relative to the center of the party, not to the ultra-conservative radicals of the Republican Party), other were liberal, most were moderate, as befits a party which is center-leftish and not leftist. It's a party that really is a Big Tent, not one that only pretends to be one, as the Republicans do.

As for the corollary, that the Republicans lost because they are no longer conservative enough, Georgia10 nails it:
When you can't get an abortion ban passed in freakin' South Dakota, America isn't trending conservative.


I don't pretend to think that the American electorate has overnight become as liberal as I'd wish them to be, but they certainly can recognize when an ideology has failed (although it may take a distressingly long time for them to do so) and that it's time to give the other guys a chance. In that respect, those who characterize the election as anti-Republican instead of pro-Democratic are correct, but so what? In our system as currently constituted, those are the choices, it's a zero-sum game.

The Republicans had their chance and they did an amazingly bad job at running the country, a truly execrable one, perhaps among the worst spells of governance this country has ever seen, and they've now paid the price. That they would want to soothe their egos by placing the blame elsewhere is understandable, but it doesn't make it true, or even reasonable.

Simon Rosenberg calls it A day of reckoning for the conservative movement.

2006 will become known as the year American conservatism reached its peak, and our 20th century politics fought one [of] its very last battles.

That's pretty much what I had in mind back in the beginning of October when I wrote:

The 2006 mid-terms will break the back of the right and deal a near-death blow to the Republican Party as now constituted. I don't think it will shatter entirely, there may be (barely) enough moderates hanging on to by their fingernails who will be emboldened and will take back the party, but, at least for the time being, the right's control of the Republican party and, through it, their hegemony over the Federal government will be just a very, very bad memory. Bush/Cheney will still be in power, and still dangerous, but the tide will have turned and they will no longer be able to rule in the same way.

That seems quite prophetic now, especially considering that back in January I wrote:

Our entrenched ultra-conservative elements have actually taken over the government, and for years now have put all their energy into taking apart the liberal state they despise so, no matter the social or economic costs.

Fortunately, it seems as if the worm may be turning, and more liberal and rationalist elements may be poised for a comeback. Of course, I'd like to see some real progress in this year's mid-term elections to be certain, and there's plenty of ground that still needs to be recovered, but it really does feel as if we've already seen the high-water mark of the fundamentalist / ultra-conservative / anti-rationalist / neo-con resurgence.

Anyone know where the mantle of prophet is lying around? I'd like to try it on for size.

Update: Digby (as always):

This election proves that the Democrats are the mainstream political party. We just elected a socialist from Vermont and a former Reagan official from Virginia to the US Senate. We elected a number of Red State conservatives, true, but we are also going to have a Speaker of the House from San Francisco. We cover a broad swathe, ranging from sea to shining sea with only the most conservative old south remaining firmly in the hands of the Republican party. The idea that this is some sort of affirmation of conservatism is laughable. It's an affirmation of mainstream American values and a rejection of the Republican radicalism this country has been in the grips of for the last 12 years.


In an pollster post-mortem today, Chuck Todd said the Democratic Party has become a big tent party by accident. That is not the case. The fact is that over the last few years a rather imagination-limited, but well-funded, establishment waited for a chance to exploit Republican weakness as 9/11 began to fade, while a practical, visionary activist wing emerged to build a new political landscape. This is anything but an accident. It's been in the works since at least 1998 as the netroots kept the truth about Republicans alive while the media were writhing together in orgiastic Clinton/Gore loathing and Bush sycophancy. There would have been no big victory last night without it.

And regardless of our pragmatism, make no mistake: real fighting progressives are once again active players in this game, coming in with money and energy and ideas. As Perlstein's piece [in The New Republic] shows, this new group of energized progressives are not children, 60's hippies or fools. We are not asking for a seat at the table. We're not begging for a voice. Neither are we crazed ideological revolutionaries in the Gingrichian mold. We're simply progressive American citizens who are taking our seat and demanding our say after 12 long years of being shunted aside as if we have no place in this party or this country.

They can have their bizarroworld interpretations of events and they can crown a new crop of "boy geniuses" who played nicely by GOP rules. It doesn't matter. The Republican Revolution is dead. And the mainstream, progressive Democratic majority is silent no more.

Pragmatic progressivism, I like it -- and as we look forward to 2008, we should embrace progressive populism as our platform.

Update: Mark Schmitt, for one, doesn't mind the "Democrats won because they ran conservatives" spin:

The Republicans might get some satisfaction out of claiming that these new Dems are more conservative, but what do they gain from that? The fact is that they are Dems for a reason, and the reason is not the old "Daddy was a Dem, Grandpappy was a Dem" of the past, but the simple fact that even fairly conservative people cannot tolerate what the Republican Party has become. That's their shame, not something for them to brag about!

The fact is that the Democratic Party has been a centrist, moderate party for some time, in the sense that on balance the party’s governors, legislators and policy agenda fully represent the center of public opinion. (As shown, for example, by the fact that the viewpoint of independents was very much in line with that of Democrats.) But it was a damaged brand; it needed a remake of its image. This is a chance to do it, by showing that the party has in fact incorporated the center. Highly visible veterans, openly religious candidates, and social conservatives like Casey send a cultural signal, not an ideological one, a signal that this is a party you can be comfortable in. Sometimes you need to seem like you have changed just to make people understand what’s been going on all along.

The underlying story of this election, and one that the press will eventually understand, is that there are now two parties in this country: A constructive majority party of the center-left on one side, and on the other, a regionally based faction of the far-right party, now stripped of its last moderates, a remnant that is probably the most ideologically extreme minority party since the New Deal. The "conservative Dems" spin, even if wrong, helps move this understanding forward, and that's fine.

Tom Schaller does mind, and has the evidence to shoot this particular foresaken meme down.

Pull back the lens and what appears to be happening this year is a regional-ideological partisan correction in which Rockefeller-Ford Republicans are purged from the NE/NW Rust Belt, and prairie progressives pick off selected seats in the Far West. The regional realignment over the past 40 years, which slowly converted Dixiecrats into Republicans, has now entered its final stage, as voters north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi provide a countervailing response to the southern-led Republican majority.

This transformation is occurring at the Senate, House, and gubernatorial levels. Indeed, because Rust Belt Republicans will be replaced by progressive Democrats, regardless of the final 2006 results, both chambers of the 110th Congress will become more progressive among the growing shares of Democrats and more conservative among the shrinking ranks of Republicans.

Strangely enough, the TV pundits who spent a fair amount of time bemoaning the fact that the loss of Republican moderates like Lincoln Chafee would help increase polarization in Washington didn't seem to mind that the Party had been essentially taken over by the far right-wing, which had done everything possible to neuter those moderates and make them irrelevant. Nor did they speak up and suggest that those moderate Republicans might find a happier home in the Democratic Party (which would have been true).

No, they were obsessed back then with the idea that the Democratic Party is ultra-liberal and entirely out of the mainstream, and now that the Party has revitalized itself and forced itself back into power, they're similarly obsessed with the idea that the new Dems are conservative and that they're going to have problems serving under Nancy Pelosi. They forget (and many of them have no excuse for doing so, since they were around at the time) that the Democratic Party has a lot of experience keeping a coalition of sometimes opposing viewpoints together and working, which is why I don't expect any problems at all. To begin with, the new Dems aren't as conservative as the pundits make it, nor is Nancy Pelosi the arch-liberal they make her out to be.

Update: Ronn Zealot, in a comment on Tapped:

It has taken exactly one hour for me to get sick of the meme that Democrats have suddenly embraced conservatives.

Democrats have ALWAYS embraced conservatives - as well as liberals, moderates, Jews, Catholics, gays, straights, African Americans, Latinos, soccer moms, immigrants, union leaders and war veterans. And so on.

The Democrats embrace all points of view and occasionally LISTEN to their constituencies. The resulting cacophony is what makes Will Rogers' old line continue to resonate.

Contrast that to what the Republicans did with their constituents - blue-collar Reagan Democrats, Christian conservatives, military-minded people and the rich:

- The Reagan Democrats were betrayed by 25 years of economic stagnation and an attempt to take away the last safety net, Social Security.

- The Christians were betrayed by Foleygate and its coverup and probably weren't to happy to find out - via David Kuo - that the GOP considered them laughingstocks.

- The military-minded were betrayed by the senselessness that is the Iraq War.

In the end, the GOP hung by their true constituency, the rich. But there aren't enough rich guys to win an election.

Update: Kevin Drum contends, not all the persuasively, that the reason for the Republican's loss is simple: they pursued popular policies in Bush's first term, but didn't do so in his second term, and paid the price. But, really, the exit polling shows that only one of the Republican policies was a controlling factor in the election: Iraq, and the choice to go into Iraq was made and implemented in the first term, not the second. It may have been generally supported but it was never popular in the sense Kevin's using -- there was no widespread popular impulse to attack Iraq, rather there was acquiescence in the apparent necessity to do so based on the Administration's false evidence and propaganda push.

Update: Krugman:

[I] hope and believe that this election marks the beginning of the end for the conservative movement that has taken over the Republican Party.


Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 04:42:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Election Projections Survey (aftermath)

[A comment by Charlie Cook and updated aftermath chart]

There are still some House races pending, but at least for the moment it looks like the House will end up being 232-203 (that's a direct reversal of what it was before) and the Senate, with the declaration of Webb being victorious in Virgina, will be 51-49. Looking at the Survey, just judging by the numbers, without going into the nitty-gritty, Larry Sabato had the most accurate call for both houses.

Interestingly, Alan I. Abramowitz, who used a statistical method to generate his House prediction from generic polling, also predicted the House accurately, although his Senate prediction was way off.

This could change, of course, if the final result in the House turns out to be different from 232-203.

Update: It's been pointed out to me, by John Mangino, that I have the Rothenberg Senate numbers wrong. I saw his range of 4-7 Democratic pickups, and automatically took the lowest (4) for his entry, but somehow missed that he said that 6 was the most probable. That would make Rothenberg's Senate prediction 51-49, not 49-51 as I have it here.

click for a larger view

[click on the chart for a larger view]

[Note: This chart has been updated here.]

Alan I. Abramowitz study / American Street (Kevin Hayden) / Bafumi-Erikson-Wlezien study / Campaign & Elections (Morgan E. Felchner) / CNN / Cold Hearted Truth / Cook Political Report / CQ Politics / DC's Political Report / Jacob Eisenstein / Election Junkie / Election Predictions / Election Projection / Electoral Vote / Evans-Novak Political Report / Gallup Poll / The Groundhog (George Axiotakis) / Hotline TV / Kos (Daily Kos) / Leip Atlas / Majority Watch / My Election Analysis / MyDD / National Journal Insiders Poll / New York Times / NPR (Ken Rudin) / NRCC/NRSC leaked data / Political Cheat Sheet / Political Forecasting / Politics1 / / Predict06 / Rasmussen / Real Clear Politics / Roll Call / Rothenberg Political Report / Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball / Robert Silvey: Rubicon / Slate / Superribbie / Tapped / Tradesports [Map] / Washington Post Crystal Ball / David Wissing: Hedgehog Report / WSJ/Zogby

Iowa Electronic Markets

Generic House: Polling Report / B-E-W study / Mark Blumenthal / Jay Cost / Charles Franklin / Matt Shugart / unfutz

Wikipedia: Senate / House

Previous reports:
7-Nov / 6-Nov / 5-Nov / 4-Nov / 3-Nov / 2-Nov / 1-Nov / 31-Oct / 30-Oct / 29-Oct / 28-Oct / 27-Oct / 26-Oct / 25-Oct / 24-Oct / 23-Oct / 22-Oct / 21-Oct / 20-Oct / 19-Oct / 18-Oct / 17-Oct / 16-Oct

For a permanent link to the survey,
and for explanatory notes, please use:

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 03:33:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Get over it, and get ready

Roger Keeling on the aftermath:
Well, that was certainly refreshing.

Now get over it, and get ready. Too often in the past, we Democrats have brought home victories and then assumed it was time to "get to work" on solving the nation's problems, time to "reach across the aisle," to find "bi-partisan solutions," yada, yada, yada.

Well, yes, we DO need to get to work trying to undo the horrors of the last six years (of Bush) and 12 years (of a GOP House). We do need to get to work solving the nation's problems: Iraq, health care, election reform, corruption, minimum wage increases, and so much more.

And, sure, we should "reach across the aisle," go through elaborate shows of seeking common ground with Republicans ... and even really doing it where you find someone, now and again, genuinely interested in cooperative action.

But do not forget this: the rightwingers do not think they've lost the war. They don't even think they've lost a battle. Hell, I doubt they even think they've suffered a major setback. They think -- at most -- that the unspeakably evil liberals, working hand-in-hand with Satan, have managed to get the upper hand in a minor dust-up.

Today, they are back in full force. Their opposition research offices are humming. Their field organizers are putting in a full day. Their fundraisers are planning the next mailings and phone calls. Sure, they're no longer doing the stuff you do in the weeks and days before an election; instead, they're doing the stuff Democrats too often start doing in, say, the months before an election. Only they're doing it
right now.

To anyone who will listen, they are demonizing us already. In their inner councils, they are plotting the next round of dirty tricks and sleazy acts. They are at war with us, and they haven't conceded one damned thing. They want to destroy us, and that hasn't changed one bit.

If the Democrats drop their guard, if they don't press forward on the battle -- absolutely every single minute in every single way -- they will be setting themselves up for a very sad election night in 2008.

* * * * *

One bit of clarification. In my postings below, I resisted the urge to predict any of the races. I wanted us to take over the House and was, cautiously, willing to believe that the polls weren't lying, and that really was about to happen. I truly didn't think the Senate was within reach, though I wanted it badly. I'm glad for my caution: soothsaying is a sucker's game I'd rather not be in.

But I did make some comments based on the idea that, maybe, we would take the House at least. I cautioned against trotting out long wish lists and detailed agendas. Still, now with all of Congress in our hands -- such a delightful thought that is! -- it may be far more appropriate to think about the agenda, the reams of legislation that we can push. Sure, George may pull out a veto pen. But there's only so much of that he can do before it starts hurting the GOP even more. So maybe Democrats really can start, cautiously, dreaming some big dreams.

Update: More from Glenn Greenwald.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/09/2006 02:21:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tonight's step forward

Well, it's 2:09am Eastern, and Jim Talent just conceded in Missouri. With Tester ahead in Montana, that puts control of the Senate on the results in Virginia, which it's possible we won't know for some weeks, due to canvassing and recounts. Webb's ahead by just a slim margin (12,000) and has declared victory, and if that holds up the Senate will be 51-49 Democratic, a result I thought was possible, but not probable.

At the moment, the House is projected to be 235-200, so my prediction of 230-205 / 50-50 seems like it will end up being too pessimistic -- and I couldn't be happier about it.

A great first step to putting this country right again.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/08/2006 02:16:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Projections Survey (11/7)

[Aftermath: 11/9]

Well, here's a bonus. Many more sites updated their numbers today than I expected, so I decided to do an Election Day iteration of the Survey. Before the numbers, though, here's my prediction again:
Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Now, today's report, just hours before the polls close here on the East Coast:

click for a larger view

[click on the chart for a larger view]

Alan I. Abramowitz study / American Street (Kevin Hayden) / Bafumi-Erikson-Wlezien study / Campaign & Elections (Morgan E. Felchner) / CNN / Cold Hearted Truth / Cook Political Report / CQ Politics / DC's Political Report / Jacob Eisenstein / Election Junkie / Election Predictions / Election Projection / Electoral Vote / Evans-Novak Political Report / Gallup Poll / The Groundhog (George Axiotakis) / Hotline TV / Kos (Daily Kos) / Leip Atlas / Majority Watch / My Election Analysis / MyDD / National Journal Insiders Poll / New York Times / NPR (Ken Rudin) / NRCC/NRSC leaked data / Political Cheat Sheet / Political Forecasting / Politics1 / / Predict06 / Rasmussen / Real Clear Politics / Roll Call / Rothenberg Political Report / Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball / Robert Silvey: Rubicon / Slate / Superribbie / Tapped / Tradesports / Washington Post Crystal Ball / David Wissing: Hedgehog Report / WSJ/Zogby

Iowa Electronic Markets

Generic House: Polling Report / B-E-W study / Mark Blumenthal / Jay Cost / Charles Franklin / Matt Shugart / unfutz

Wikipedia: Senate / House

Election timeline: 2.006k / Swing State Project / CQ Politics / Rothenberg / Scoresheet


click for larger image click for larger image
click for larger image click for larger image

Analysis: Not much new to say about the situation that I didn't say yesterday.
  • The long-term Democratic Senate trendline clearly crossed and passed the Republican line, but not significantly enough to say that the race isn't essentially tied -- which you can see in the averages, the average trendline and the automated projection.

  • On the other side of the ledger, there's little or no hope that the Republicans can hang on to the House, but it still doesn't look like the Democratic victory there is going to be a huge one. The margin should be comfortable, but not massive.

  • The prediction I made yesterday (230-205 and 50-50) is still well supported by the evidence of the Survey, so I'm sticking with it.

If you haven't already done so, please make sure to get out and vote!

Update (11/9): It's been pointed out to me, by John Mangino, that I have the Rothenberg Senate numbers wrong. I saw his range of 4-7 Democratic pickups, and automatically took the lowest (4) for his entry, but somehow missed that he said that 6 was the most probable. That would make Rothenberg's Senate prediction 51-49, not 49-51 as I have it here.

It's interesting to note that if I had had the correct numbers, the unfutz automated projection for the Senate would have been 51-49 and not 50-50. However, I'm fairly certain that I would still have taken as my own prediction 50-50.

Previous reports:
6-Nov / 5-Nov / 4-Nov / 3-Nov / 2-Nov / 1-Nov / 31-Oct / 30-Oct / 29-Oct / 28-Oct / 27-Oct / 26-Oct / 25-Oct / 24-Oct / 23-Oct / 22-Oct / 21-Oct / 20-Oct / 19-Oct / 18-Oct / 17-Oct / 16-Oct

For a permanent link to the survey,
and for explanatory notes, please use:

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/07/2006 03:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Our bold and brilliant media (#472)

A headline on
Analysts: Discontent over Iraq may favor Dems

Ya think!?

BTW, what's with CNN declaring Florida as a "battleground"? Did they neglect to write a new script and just recycled the one from 2004? How is Florida a battleground in 2006? True, it'll be fun to watch the Katherine Harris shipwreck go to the bottom, but that's hardly a competitive race of national importance.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/07/2006 10:45:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Chris Matthews is confused

I've served on juries about a half dozen times in my life, both state and Federal, criminal and civil, everything from mail fraud to murder, and when you're serving jury duty you're constantly told by the judge not to form an opinion about the case, and not to talk about the case with anyone, including your fellow jurors, until the case have been turned over to the jury for deliberation. Now, I understand why they say these things, but, in fact, the admonition not to form an opinion is ridiculous on the face of it -- we all constantly form opinions about what's going on around us, and we can hardly stop doing it and remain conscious, aware and functioning normally. It's the other warning that makes sense, not to talk about the case, because it's in discussion with others, or, in fact, the mere utterance of one's opinion, that the opinion becomes fixed and can no longer be as easily influenced by new information, like another witness or the opposition's presentation of their case.

So, what's most important, the way I see it, is not to avoid making judgments or having opinions, but to avoid having them get set by committing to them, even by the simple act of writing them down or saying them outloud. Keep those opininons to yourself, because it's easier for them to remain tentative and provisions, and be changed without losing face or feeling compelled to stick with what you've said.

This came to mind recently when I read the Washington Post's "13th Bienniel Crystal Ball Contest" predictions for the upcoming election. Eleven people heavily involved with politics, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and progressives, were asked for their predictions about the election, and those predicitions were published by the Post -- except that one prediction wasn't printed. Chris Matthews had a prediction, but his was marked "Ballot Sealed - Predictions won't be revealed until next week because Matthew is anchoring MSNBC's election night coverage."

This seems to me to be precisely backwards. Instead of keeping his opinions personal and to himself, and thereby preserving at least the possibility of anchoring the election returns in an unbiased way, Matthews commited himself to predicting what will happen but won't let anyone know what he said. So in watching Matthews' performance, one is hobbled in detecting possible bias on his part by not knowing what he said, merely that he said something. It would have been best if Matthews has not participated in the contest at all, but as long as he did, we should know what he's thinking so we can take those opinions into account when watching him.

In the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford says of the spies and counter-spies he's dealing with "What is it with you people? You think that not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth." Matthews seems to harbor the same kind of confusion. Next time, he just shouldn't play, or, if his ego really requires that kind of stroking, he should let us know where he's coming from.

P.S. It's interesting to look at those WaPo Crystal Ball predictions to see which of the participants are clearly gaming the system (Mary Matalin, for instance, who predicted that the Democrats would pick up 14 seats, just shy of control of the House, or Democrat Paul Kir, who predicted a Dem pick-up of 48 seats) and which ones are seriously trying to predict what's going to happen. One nice thing about most of the websites I included in my Survey was that, whatever their personal politics, they made a concerted effort to be unbiased in their evaluations of races.

Update: The original title of this post was "Chris Matthews is an idiot," but I softened it because I didn't think the post supported that contention. Now that I've read this, I rather wish I hadn't changed it.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/07/2006 03:37:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Election Projections Survey (11/6)

[New report: 11/7]

Although I hope to do a post-election analysis, this will be the final pre-election report of the 2006 Survey*, and I'd like to take a moment to thank those folks who helped and encouraged me in the last three weeks, by sending me sites, adding to and correcting my entries, and by linking to the survey. First of all, many thanks to DavidNYC of the Swing Street Project who did all those things for me and more, but my thanks also go to C.H. Truth and Indy Voter of Coldhearted Truth, Scott (the "Blogging Ceasar") Elliot at Election Projection and Jordan at Election Junkie. My apologies to others who may have linked to me without my knowing it: thank you, I appreciate it greatly.

* Update: Actually, enough sites have updated again that I'll be posting another report later on today (11/7) probably around 6pm Eastern.

Now, so I don't bury the lede, here is my prediction for tomorrow's outcome. No great shock, considering how things have been going in the Survey in the past few days:
Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

As has been the conventional wisdom for at least 10 days now, I predict that the Democrats will take the House -- but with only a wave and not a tsunami -- while the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, if only by Dick Cheney's fingernails.

I'll have more to say below about this prediction, but first our regular look at the numbers.

click for a larger view

[click on the chart for a larger view]

Alan I. Abramowitz study / American Street (Kevin Hayden) / Bafumi-Erikson-Wlezien study / Campaign & Elections (Morgan E. Felchner) / CNN / Cold Hearted Truth / Cook Political Report / CQ Politics / DC's Political Report / Jacob Eisenstein / Election Junkie / Election Predictions / Election Projection / Electoral Vote / Evans-Novak Political Report / The Groundhog (George Axiotakis) / Hotline TV / Leip Atlas / Majority Watch / My Election Analysis / MyDD / National Journal Insiders Poll / New York Times / NPR (Ken Rudin) / NRCC/NRSC leaked data / Political Cheat Sheet / Political Forecasting / Politics1 / / Predict06 / Rasmussen / Real Clear Politics / Roll Call / Rothenberg Political Report / Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball / Robert Silvey: Rubicon / Slate / Superribbie / Tradesports / Washington Post Crystal Ball / David Wissing: Hedgehog Report / WSJ/Zogby

Iowa Electronic Markets

Generic House: Polling Report / B-E-W study / Mark Blumenthal / Jay Cost / Charles Franklin / Matt Shugart / unfutz

Wikipedia: Senate / House

Election timeline: 2.006k / Swing State Project / CQ Politics / Rothenberg


click for larger image click for larger image
click for larger image click for larger image

Analysis: Well, everything continues pretty much as before. The Senate long-term trendlines finally cross after kissing/not kissing for a couple of days, but it's too close to the election to be a harbinger of a Democratic advantage -- it's just an indication that we're pretty much on the same track we have been for the past 10 days. What it mostly means is that the Senate is a dead-even tie, which is also what the automated projection and the averages trendlines say. Every indication here is that the Senate is so darn close that a tie is the most reasonable prediction.

In the House, trendlines project to 228-203-(4) (average) or 226-200-(9) (long-term), the averages themseves agree to 227-204-(4) and the automated projection gives 229-206. Given the number of unassigned seats still kicking around the various projections, this seems like pretty good agreement.

Throughout the previous reports of the survey, I attempted to be reasonably conservative, so that when an analyst gave a range of numbers for a Democratic pick-up in the House, for instance, I would use only the lowest number in the range, or the one the analyst said was most likely. For this last report, I wanted to plug in the highest numbers in these ranges to see what happened. The result was this:


click for a larger view

So here we see the upper range of the projections, and it's not all that different from the bottom range: one additional seat for the Democrats in the House, and one in the Senate. (Of course that single seat in the House is relatively meaningless, while the seat in the Senate gives them control.)

I could use this as a reason to bump up my projection to 51-49 in the Senate, but I just don't think it's going to happen. Although the Democrats seems to be getting their wind back after a couple of days of tepid Republican "momentum", it still doesn't look like enough to me to put them over the top. It could happen, but I'm not convinced it will.

The House is a different matter. Let's take a last look at the generic House polling graphs:

click for a larger view click for a larger view

These don't look too different from the last time I looked at generic polling, and that's because they aren't. There's been a lot of chatter about the race tightening up, but there's really no indication of that here -- we're still looking at the Democrats holding about a 14 point lead on the Republicans, which is enormous. That means that if I was inclined to predict a Democratic tsunami (which I'm not) there would be justification for doing so.

However, the entire point of doing the survey was to provide a different kind of data for projecting the result of tomorrow's election, so ignoring the results in favor of emotion or my personal desires seems silly. Looking at all the numbers the Survey has generated all together, it seems to me there's more than enough to support my predictions of 230-205 and 50-50. (I could have gone with 229-206, but I couldn't leave emotion out of it entirely -- the extra seat represents my optimism.)


Democrats 230 (+27) - Republicans 205

Democrats 50 (+5) - Republicans 50

Update: Since so many of the sites in the Survey rely heavily on poll-reading to make their assignments, this post by Charles Franklin on the efficacy of polls predicting election outcomes is quite interesting.

Basically, a poll that shows one candidate ahead by 10 points will correctly indicate the winner of the election 90% of the time, one that shows a 5 point lead will be correct only 60-65% of the time, and polls that show a 1 or 2 point lead are only correct about 50% of the time. Polls that show ties are good at predicting extremely close outcomes.

Update (11/9): It's been pointed out to me, by John Mangino, that I have the Rothenberg Senate numbers wrong. I saw his range of 4-7 Democratic pickups, and automatically took the lowest (4) for his entry, but somehow missed that he said that 6 was the most probable. That would make Rothenberg's Senate prediction 51-49, not 49-51 as I have it here.

It's interesting to note that if I had had the correct numbers, the unfutz automated projection for the Senate on 11/7 would have been 51-49 and not 50-50. However, I'm fairly certain that I would still have taken as my own prediction 50-50.

Previous reports:
5-Nov / 4-Nov / 3-Nov / 2-Nov / 1-Nov / 31-Oct / 30-Oct / 29-Oct / 28-Oct / 27-Oct / 26-Oct / 25-Oct / 24-Oct / 23-Oct / 22-Oct / 21-Oct / 20-Oct / 19-Oct / 18-Oct / 17-Oct / 16-Oct

For a permanent link to the survey,
and for explanatory notes, please use:

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/07/2006 02:06:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, November 06, 2006

The first priority

At the end of 1972 film The Candidate, Robert Redford's Bill McKay, the progressive activist who runs for Senator to publicize his ideas but was supposed to lose, has won the election, and he has a question for his campaign manager: "What'll we do now?". (It's the basic existentialist angst ending it shares with The Graduate.)

Roger Keeling has some thoughts on what to do beginning on Wednesday:
Assuming that everything goes as it now appears – Democratic control of the House – then the best game in town in the coming weeks will be that of advising the Democrats on what they should do with their new-found power. It’s a game everyone – from famous pundits to lowly bloggers– can play: cook up your very OWN agenda for reform. “If I were Nancy Pelosi, THESE are the new laws I’d be pushing.”

I say, resist the urge, at least in public. Yes, there are things the Democrats will be able to do: investigate GOP corruption and incompetence, reform the House itself (as Nancy Pelosi has already proposed), and block any idiocies from a GOP-controlled Senate. But beyond that, they are sadly constrained. With the GOP still controlling the executive branch and Senate, progressive legislation has little chance of becoming law. So let's just keep the dream lists to ourselves, please, unless we can actually demonstrate some real electoral utility in publicizing them.

There is one big exception to this, however, something I think the Democratic Party ought not only make a priority, but a big and NOISY priority ... even if it’s doomed to death in the Senate or a quick presidential veto. Not a list, but a single broad category: election reform.

Focusing on this – making it either the biggest of priorities, or nearly so – has the virtue not only of being morally right, but pragmatically beneficial to future Democratic Party efforts even if it can’t actually be passed into law at this time.

Start with a simple bill mandating that in all federal elections, electronic voting equipment must print out a copy of the completed ballot for the voter: an audit trail. I understand one of the most elegant solutions proposed would have the printer create a Scantron card. Citizens would punch in their votes, get the printed version to check for accuracy, then drop it in a regular ballot box. The electronic vote is what would be initially counted because it's fast and automatic. But if a recount were demanded, the electronic figures would be ignored; instead, the paper Scantron cards would be re-counted and considered the final and authoritative record.

Lawyers among us might address the issue of whether or not the U.S. Congress can, under the constitution, impose such requirements on how the states conduct elections. But assuming that such a federal law would, indeed, have real force, it would be absolutely worth passing even if were doomed in the Senate or from a veto. Because once our side had acted, it would become a righteous club with which to beat the GOP on the head. That’s why it ought to be done with the biggest fanfare possible, backed up with an ongoing – long term! – campaign to constantly pound the GOP with. “Why won’t they pass this common-sense law to protect our most precious national heritage, our democratic process?” It’s one thing for the GOP to quietly sink such proposals when the Democrats don’t control either house of Congress – and, from what I’ve read, that’s exactly what they’ve done over and over again lo these past six years. But it’s quite another to try that crap when one house of Congress HAS passed the legislation, legislation simple enough to reprint in not-especially-large newspaper ads, or on the backs of doorhangers. Legislation that makes obvious sense.

(And again, as ALWAYS, the Democrats should simply expect NO help from the media – not even a modicum of real coverage. If they do give some positive coverage, consider it a bonus. But otherwise, expect either silence, or actual antagonism, and plan accordingly. Among other things, plan on bashing the media along with the GOP).

I wouldn’t stop there, of course. They ought to identify the most annoying, dangerous, or corrupt election practices the GOP has cooked up – like “robocalling”, push polls, bogus front groups – and either ban or regulate the practices, increase penalties so much that Republican operatives will no longer just think of fines as a cost of doing business, or both. Banning robocalling, for example, wouldn’t be too hard. I believe Indiana already has, by banning all automated, recorded telephone messages completely. Some other things might be much harder (regulating push polls, for example, which must necessarily entail first amendment issues), but we should at least consider how to regulate them.

Again, there may be no chance on earth of actually passing these things into law through a GOP-controlled Senate and over a Bush veto. But there would be a world of virtue – moral and practical – in at least putting the issues on the table and forcing the Republicans, on the record and as publicly as possible, to refuse to act.

Now I won’t repeat all the usual arguments about the need for reforms like these. I trust every progressive blog reader understands the insidious nature of the “Diebold vote,” and how they may be stealing votes – stealing elections, especially close ones, up and down the ballot – with astonishing ease.

But I will say that, a day away from the election, it is incredibly depressing to see the reports coming in to Josh Marshall’s TPM site and elsewhere about GOP dirty tricks all over the country ... and no truly effective weapons with which to fight back.

And then to learn that, for example, in San Diego poll workers were directed to take the machines HOME WITH THEM. To someone who knows how to do it, apparently the Diebold machines can be hacked in about 30 seconds ... and all that’s necessary is to hack one of them in order to screw up the results from all of them. (One report I saw said that researchers at Princeton University videotaped the process, proving just how absurdly easy it is). The reform above wouldn't necessarily stop this, but might well make it so marginally useful that no one would bother: they could mess up the electronic record, but the printed one would be unaffected ... and would, effectively, act as living evidence of tampering. I mean, "10,000 votes for Smith versus 9,500 for Jones" in the electronic count would look mighty suspicious when the paper count showed 12,000 for Jones versus 7,500 for Smith.

So if we have the House – finally – let’s do something about this. National health care and a repeal of the ShrubReich’s most insidious tax policies are important, but complex and absolutely doomed to failure until the Democrats control more than one half of Congress. But these electoral reforms, even if they can’t become law, will put the Republicans even more on the defensive than they already are, and set the stage for real reform as soon as we do manage to retake control of the government.

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/06/2006 05:32:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Election endgame

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, 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.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 11/06/2006 05:16:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


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