The next four years: realistic version

by John Quiggin on November 3, 2004

While I’ve tried to be open to more optimistic possibilities, it’s far more likely that the second Bush Administration will be more of the same, and worse. The problem for the winners is that the consequences of the Administration’s policies, still debatable in 2004, will be grimly evident by 2008, and there will be no one but Republicans to take the blame. In purely partisan terms, as I argued several times before the election, this was a good one to lose.

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Flipping coins

by Daniel on November 3, 2004

It has struck me that it is probably more cost-effective for me to make this point once, in a front page post on CT than to try to add it to every single comments thread in the Democrat blogosphere. OK, lads, it hurts to lose. But can I ask a couple of questions which seem to be unrelated to the topic of “whither the Democrats”, but which in fact are.

1. If a coin has a bias such that it comes up heads 52% of the time, how many flips of the coin would you need to make to be reasonably confident that it was not a fair coin? A) 1 B) 2 or C) a lot more.

2. If you flip a coin four times and it comes up heads, heads, tails, tails, then does it make even the slightest bit of sense at all to spend the next month thinking about what major structural changes need to be made to the coin if it is ever to come up heads again?

Legislating for Morality

by Henry on November 3, 2004

“William Bennett”:http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/bennett200411031109.asp on the moral challenge facing America.

bq. Having restored decency to the White House, President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal (“The Great Relearning,” as novelist Tom Wolfe calls it) — no less in legislation than in federal court appointments. It is, after all, the main reason George W. Bush was reelected.

Let’s leave Bennett’s well-known hypocrisy to one side – this proposal, (which I suspect has a lot of support among Bush supporters), tells us a lot about what’s wrong with modern US conservatives. Traditional conservatism (from Burke through Oakeshott) is deeply suspicious of projects that try to remake the values of a society, especially when their instruments are “politics and law.” It shares this bias with certain tendencies on the left (viz. James Scott’s Seeing Like a State). What Bennett and his cronies are proposing isn’t conservative in inspiration; it’s a radical experiment in social engineering. It doesn’t try to build on the values already present in a society, but instead to impose a set of mores by brute force. In short, it’s a cultural revolution. We already know that the new administration is likely to be bad news for “conscientious libertarians”:http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2004_10_31.html#005610 – it may turn out that it’s going to be equally unpleasant for conservatives (as opposed to ‘conservatives’).

Via “Andrew Sullivan”:http://www.andrewsullivan.com/index.php?dish_inc=archives/2004_10_31_dish_archive.html#109950616544439177.

MASSIVE VOTING MACHINE FRAUD!!!!

by Daniel on November 3, 2004

Academics from Harvard University have conducted statistical tests on the output of voting machines and concluded that there is less than a 1% chance that their results could have been generated in any way other than massive voting fraud.

Of course, we shouldn’t get too excited about this right now. For one thing, their work has been called into question. And for another thing, they were talking about the Venezuelan referendum. But I’m certainly not above using cheap shock tactics to draw attention to a really interesting piece of statistical argumentation.

It’s one of those cases where there are points on both sides, and both sides have, extraordinarily, managed to treat each other with respect and not throw around “Devastating Critiques” of each other. I think that Mark Weisbrot has the best of it; his analysis of the audited “clean” sample shows the same result as the allegedly “dirty” sample. The only way that one could have got that result fraudulently would rely on a level of compromise of the Carter Centre’s random selection apparatus that seems very implausible.

But Rigobon and Hausman are correct to say that it is troubling, to say the least, that the audit sample shows a very different relationship between polling station size and the “Si” vote; I’ve been thinking about it off and on for a month and I can’t come up with any reason why that might be. If you’ve got some spare time on your hands (and if you’re a Democrat, you do), both papers are worth a read, if only to clear your palate after the crap that’s been thrown around at the Lancet study (btw, on that subject, I will post more, but in the meantime, nice one, Chris Lightfoot).

(PS: I misspell Rigobon’s name out of ignorance of how to create accents in HTML rather than any other kind)

Religion and politics

by Eszter Hargittai on November 3, 2004

[As I pulled up CT to post this, I see that Kieran just wrote about something similar. Not shockingly, we were trained in the same Sociology Dept.)

Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes today makes the argument that “the Democratic Party’s first priority should be to reconnect with the American heartland”. He continues later by saying that “One of the Republican Party’s major successes over the last few decades has been to persuade many of the working poor to vote for tax breaks for billionaires.” Precisely. I am always shocked when I have conversations with people – doesn’t happen too often, but I try to do it when possible – who are clearly hurting the most by Bush’s politics, but who are nonetheless avid supporters.

Kristof goes on to address the issue of religion and politics in particular.

To appeal to middle America, Democratic leaders don’t need to carry guns to church services and shoot grizzlies on the way. But a starting point would be to shed their inhibitions about talking about faith, and to work more with religious groups.”

This is a point Amy Sullivan has been making throughout the year (and earlier). She has written tirelessly and convincingly about it numerous times in several venues.

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Moral Values

by Kieran Healy on November 3, 2004

What were the most important issues for voters in the election? If you were reading the polls, and listening to the media chatter before the election, the answer would have seemed clear: Iraq or the War on Terror and the state of the economy. In news coverage of the campaign, in the Presidential debates and in the blogosphere blather, the election was fought on these issues. But from about 10pm last night onwards, and increasingly so this morning, commentators suddenly started talking about the importance of moral values in the campaign. It was all over the news this morning.

The “exit poll data”:http://us.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html show that 22% of the electorate thought that “moral values” was the most important issue in the election, and these voters went for Bush nearly 80% to 20%. The ratio is reversed for the 20% who thought that the Economy was the most important issue. In the case of Iraq and Terrorism, it’s interesting to see, first, that these are two separate options.[1] People who said “Iraq” (15%) went for Kerry 75% to 25%, while those who said “Terrorism” (19%) went for Bush 85% to 14%. But the main issue for voters was moral values and it seems to me that there was basically no sustained media analysis on this point prior to the election. I want to know why. Were the pollsters keeping quiet about it? Was it an error in their categorization? For instance, did they lump a bunch of things including moral values into an “Other” category early on and then just focus on the Economy vs Iraq/Terror trope for the campaign?

So it seems to me, in short, that “Amy Sullivan’s analysis”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0306.sullivan.html has been vindicated by the results. She first articulated it in June of 2003, well before it was clear who was going to win the Democratic nomination and “reiterated”:http://www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=252572&kaid=127&subid=170 it more than once recently. Right now the Democrats don’t have a plausible spiel on morality. I don’t mean that they’re less likely to be moral people, just that they don’t have a coherent way of talking to their own base — let alone the electorate — about what they stand for in religious terms. The fact that it _is_ just a spiel can be seen from the fact that — as Sullivan has also pointed out — the upper reaches of the Bush Administration are not exactly staffed with devout Christians and the President, unlike Kerry, hasn’t been to Church in years.

Late in the day, Kerry’s began to talk about his faith a lot more explicitly in his stump speech. It does seem like his campaign was starting to see the importance of the issue to voters. But I didn’t see this question getting the kind of coverage the data show it merited.

fn1. I want to know whether voters are just asked to say what their view is, or whether they’re presented with a laundry list of choices. I imagine it would have to be the former.

Voting in Gambier

by BillG on November 3, 2004

Gambier is a tiny town in rural Knox County, about 90 minutes northeast of Columbus. It’s where Kenyon College is and where my son cast his first vote. He tells me that there were only two machines for 1300 registered voters. There was an unprecedented turnout and one of the machines was frequently going out of service. Waits were up to 9 hours long.

Doubtlessly, needlessly long lines disenfranchised some Ohio voters. This is inexcusable. Does it help explain the apparent Bush victory? I doubt it.

What I saw on the street in Columbus was that the Republicans were better funded, better organized, and smarter about mobilizing their voters. I bet they also knew more about their people than the Democrats. The Democrats were polling, whereas the Republicans conducted a census. The Republicans were probably more successful in tailoring communications to individual voters and I’m sure they had a plan to get each one to the poll.

What will the Republicans do next with this machine? Rove and Norquist have been candid about plans for a political realignment. They are likely to have some success. Can the Democrats continue to block hard right judicial appointments? I also expect organized political pressure to bring the media into conformity.

The slow boring of hard boards

by Henry on November 3, 2004

“Mark Schmitt”:http://markschmitt.typepad.com/decembrist/2004/11/pottery_barn_ru.html suggests that there’s a ray of hope for the Democratic party.

bq. But politically, it at least avoids a situation where Kerry would have borne the responsibility and blame for Iraq or for raising taxes. All accountability now rests with Bush and his party. Everything that’s been swept under the carpet until after the election will come creeping out. And the best use of all the resources of people, brains, money, and coordination that’s been built this year, in addition to developing a stronger base of ideas, is to find ways to hold Bush, DeLay et. al. absolutely accountable for their choices. I really believe that this will be like Nixon’s second term, and thus the seeds of a bigger long-term change than could have occurred just by Kerry winning the election.

I think he’s right – the emphasis over the next four years has to be on organizational groundwork, “the strong and slow boring of hard boards,” and holding the new administration responsible for its (likely) failings. As Schmitt says, the Democratic party has better organizational foundations, and less reliance on big donors than it has had in decades – if it can build on this, it has some prospects. However, I fear that a second Republican administration will do serious and perhaps fundamental damage to the fabric of the US political system. Both the aspirations of the current administration to an imperial presidency that is accountable to no-one, and the DeLay policy of systematically gerrymandering Congressional districts while denying the minority policy any voice in policymaking, mark serious setbacks to democracy, which are likely to be greatly reinforced over the next four years. It’s going to be very hard to roll this back.

The poisoned chalice and a tiny ray of hope

by John Quiggin on November 3, 2004

If Kerry does win after all, it will be under the worst possible circumstances. A minority of the popular vote, a hostile Congress and the need to prevail in a vicious legal dogfight in Ohio. The Republicans will be out for impeachment from Inauguration Day, if not before that. At this stage, a Kerry victory would produce the worst of all possible worlds – responsibility without power.

All things considered, I’d prefer a Bush victory at this point. That said, I think a second Bush Administration will be a disaster in all respects, economically, socially and internationally. To those who supported and voted for him, I’ll say “be careful what you wish for”.

The future looks awful, but I thought I’d sketch out the optimistic scenario, which is, roughly speaking, a repeat of Reagan’s second term.

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Punch-drunk

by Ted on November 3, 2004

I’m going to bed; all your base are ably handled elsewhere. Just one thing…

It’s admirable that so many citizens were willing to wait for hours to cast their vote. But they shouldn’t have to. Four-hour lines shouldn’t function as inspiring symbols of human perseverance. They’re bugs in a voting system from which we have every right to expect better.

I can’t predict how this election is going to play out, but I suspect that we’ll all be too burned out to generate much interest in election reform for next time. That’s a shame.

Election Night Open Thread

by Kieran Healy on November 3, 2004

I know you’re all getting your election night news from CT anyway, so chat away if you like. The “BBC has a nice flash application”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/americas/04/vote_usa/map/html/default.stm that’s feeding off AP Projections and the latest returns to give a good overall battleground map. “CSPAN”:http://network.ap.org/dynamic/files/specials/election_night_2004/us_map_govsenhouse/index.html?SITE=CSPANELN&SECTION=POLITICS&reload=true has a good map as well.

For the key swing states, there’s “The Florida Department of State Count Page”:http://enight.dos.state.fl.us/20041102_SUM_PRE.html and the “Ohio Secretary of State Count Page”:http://election.sos.state.oh.us/results/SingleRaceSummary.aspx?race=PP.

*Update*: So things are moving along nicely. It’s 7pm, I’m on my 3rd cocktail, and the closest thing to solid food I’ve seen since lunchtime is a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. I feel just like “Wonkette”:http://www.wonkette.com, except without the pathological desire to get fired from whatever job I have at the moment or the desperate, aching need to sell out to any television network whatsoever. The Food Network. “CMT”:http://www.country.com/. Please. I don’t care. I can’t keep attending panels and affecting a superior attitude to “these losers”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002787.html.

*Update 2*: The Republican legal strategy in Ohio “seems to be premised”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_10_31.php#003921 on the idea that the fewer votes that are allowed to be cast, the less voter fraud there will be. This is like the old Argentinian strategy that, in order to keep the support of the silent majority, you have to keep the majority silent.

*Update 3*: It’s turning into a real nail-biter. Big Republican turnout in Michigan. Arkansas and Missouri to Bush. No clear resolution in Florida, and Ohio has Bush ahead. Florida is gearing up to count absentee votes till Thursday and the Republicans are already tying up the courts in Ohio in an effort to suppress the vote. It’s going to be a long night — possibly lasting till later this week. On the other hand, people are still in line to vote in places like Columbus and Oberlin. So I’m not giving up yet.

*Update 4*: I wonder whether you could do a county-level analysis of where the electronic voting machines were, to see whether that predicted any discrepancies between the exit poll data and the results as recorded. Tricky. (Mini-update: looks like the final exit polls were a negligibly different from the result, so never mind about that.)

*Update 5*: Well, looks like it’s going to be Bush — though Kerry is right not to concede until the votes have been counted in Ohio. It’s frankly amazing that the country is so evenly divided. I mean, what’s it going to take to break the deadlock in this country?

Handling traffic

by Eszter Hargittai on November 3, 2004

It’s interesting to see how Web sites may alter their presence this evening to deal with their anticipated traffic. Earlier today when I visited Zogby International they still had all sorts of graphics on their front page. Now they just show their predictions on a text-only page. I’d be curious to hear if people have come across other sites that have altered their homepage content in anticipation of unusually large traffic tonight that they are not otherwise prepared to handle.