Archive for November, 2006

Explaining Carville

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I think I know where James Carville is coming from.  Understand, I don’t think it is a good place or one that could lead to a constuctive place for the Democratic Party, but I can slice together the disparate bits from the “James Carville — Howard Dean” feud and come to this explanation.

I saw a quip that Carville has a, quote-in-quote, 50 state strategy.  And I suppose he does.  We are dealing with egos here, and the end result is that we are dealing with two different electoral maps here.

I remember once leafing through what I presume is the latest book by he and Begala.  Understand I don’t see any real reason to read any book by Paul Begala and James Carville (I think the book Carville wrote with Mary Matalin on the 1992 election is worth reading), as they strike me as unsubstantial pamphlets.  They appear to have striked up a cottage induistry of these quick mid-level political books, and I expect one to be churned out fairly shortly.  What I remember seeing in leafing through this book was comments on the difference between Clinton’s map in 1992 and the coastal enclaves that have befallen Gore and Kerry.

James Carville’s mental image for Democratic Party success is essentially a recreation of the 1992 and 1996 map for Clinton.  This makes some sense, as it befits his Louisiana up-bringing, and the ghosts tugging from the Solid South, and his political success as political strategist.

Look at the electoral maps for 1992 and 1996.  Clinton won Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana, and West Virginia.  Barring a fairly large political landslide, the next Democratic presidential candidate is not going to win these states.  The election shifts in the map are quite striking: Virginia just well might be the deciding state in the next presidential election, says Larry Sabato.  In 1992, it was as far off Carville’s map as any other state.  (Ditto, say, Nevada.)

So I understand Carville’s 2000 suggestion that Gore choose Zell Miller as a running mate.  And I understand why he wants to replace Howard Dean with Harold Ford, Jr.  Toss these two candidates with Clinton, and you have this triangulation strategy of mish-mashing and weaving together traditional Republican and traditionally Democratic themes and grasping for a political center, which appears to be what James Carville would have a Democratic Party do from here on into eternity.  I have no doubt that Ford ran as good a campaign as any Democrat could in Tennessee, but the landscape was not particularly good.  Tellingly enough, Ford lost his election.  And I will note that while famously the Democrats won re-election for every Senate, House, and Governor race, the cloest calls were a couple of House races in Georgia.

Meanwhile, while James Carville is stuck with his old electoral map, the Republican Party grapples with the shifting electoral map. 

Beginning with the 1996 election, the GOP tide, as it receded, did so unevenly. The South stayed strong, still recording GOP takeaways from Democrats until this year, but the two coasts and the upper Midwest were becoming much more difficult territory for the GOP. By now, the de-Republicanization of these regions is about complete, and the problem has spread to the high plains, the Midwest, and the noncoastal West, such as Wilson’s district in and around Albuquerque.

That more or less leaves the GOP with a majority it has the potential to turn out only in the South. And unless Republicans are content to be a regionally strong minority party, they need to do something different.

Howard Dean’s comment: ” This is some kind inside the beltway silliness.”  Move along, nothing to see here, interesting only because I can dissect what the heck a James Carville is.

Two images tell two stories

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

That’s the leadership team for the Majority Democratic Party.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a craftily created third position to reward Chuck Schumer for his Democratic Senatorial Committee job, and fourth in command Patty Murray.

And, sadly standing in the background, looking out of place, wondering what might have been, John Kerry.  (Kudos to Tim Riley.)

Am I to believe that the final two years of the current Bush Admininistration going to be a restoration of the old Bush Administration?  (Curiously, when Bush tumbled into office, I had assumed that the new Bush would be something of a stupider second act for the first Bush Administration.  Things didn’t quite work out that way.)  It seems to be the new media narrative, and it is jarring.

Questioning Political Smarty-Pants

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Mel Martinez is the new head of the RNC, replacing Ken Mehlman.  Because, I suppose, of the political judgements he has shown in the past:

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2005 — Sen. Mel Martinez acknowledged today that an anonymous memo listing political talking points on the Terri Schiavo case that was passed on the Senate floor came from his office.

The memo was first reported March 18 by ABC News’ Linda Douglass on “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.” It referred to the battle over the removal of the feeding tube from Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, as “a great political issue.”

While I’m questioning the political judgement of professionals, I bring to your attention something from the 2000 presidential election that a blogger dredged up when James Carville called into question Howard Dean’s “50 State Strategy”, saying we won despite it and not because of it.  (As though the Democrats could have picked up 28 seats by starting off with the assumption that there could and would only be about 30 seats available to win.)

By choosing former Georgia governor Zell Miller as his running mate, Al Gore could add intellectual brainpower, rhetorical firepower, and lots of plain old populist piss-and-vinegar to this staid election.

And I thought Joseph Lieberman was bad!  Well, congratulations for bringing Bill Clinton to a presidential victory, and congratulations for being a saavier political consultant than Bob Shrum, but… James Carville does realize that George Bush spent part of the 2006 election campaign stumping for a candidate in Idaho, doesn’t he?

And I’d be remissed if I don’t mention Karl Rove:

Rove’s miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn’t just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his “metrics” were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House—enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists—to study just how wrong the polls were.

Pride cometh before the fall, and I think I’ll spend a few more posts contemplating what a stupid thing a “Permanent Republican Majority” is.  I’ll make it the basic theme of this post – election phase pre – government convening few months.

Speaker of the House… Doc Hastings?

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

I scratched my head reading this now out-dated and irrelevant editorial — titled in the Yakima Herald “The Wrong GOP Congressman is in Political Trouble”, titled in the Seattle Times “This GOP waterboy should go”, a shrug at Reichert and a slap at Hastings.

The line I’m scratching my head at is: And there’s speculation he’s on the short succession list for speaker of the House.  Saints, preserve us.

Huh?  What?  Did I miss something?  Apparently I did…

The list is controversial and, at least one congressional scholar says, may be unconstitutional.  It was devised to ensure a calm transition if terrorists were to hit the Hill and Congress couldn’t quickly elect a new speaker, as spelled out in the Constitution.  But these days, the disaster most likely to hit Hastert, R-Ill., is the Mark Foley scandal involving sexually explicit e-mails to underage congressional pages.  The speculation is that Hastert, who likes those who like him, named reliable GOP members to the list.  At the moment, Hastert is in a public dispute with the House Majority Leader, John Boehner of Ohio, and not exactly hugging the next most powerful Republican, House Whip Roy Blunt.  But when members say “Hastert loyalist,” they frequently say “Doc Hastings.”  Hastings, R-Pasco, became Hastert’s protégé several years ago.

All of which is meaningless today.  Dennis Hastert is now perhaps not a back-bencher, but a mid-bencher.  If it would have taken a nuclear strike on Washington, DC to make Doc Hastings the unconstitutional Speaker of the House in the new post-armegeddon America, that chance is now completely gone.  (And I like the idea that “Hastert loyalist” is/was synanomus on Capitol Hill with “Doc Hastings”.)

Likewise, the other, more traditional means that Doc Hastings would have gotten to the title “Speaker of the House”:

Conversely, in Eastern Washington, Bush Country, Rep. Doc Hastings, who might have wound up House speaker if his Republican Party hadn’t lost its edge,

Maybe Doc Hastings will be Speaker of the House yet.  See, the Republicans will lose the next few elections, to the point where Doc Hastings is the only Republican Representative left.  And, the tide will turn in the next election, where the Republicans will take back control of the House and Doc Hastings will be the only Republican with any type of Seniority.  His dream is there yet!

Another flaw with the construction of The Permanent Republican Majority

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

I never knew whether this figured with Karl Rove’s calculations, but I gathered it did obliquely — tucked away into which areas of the nation are growing fastest and which are growing slowest.  But it gathered quite a bit of credence.  It was one of New York Times Magazine’s Year of Ideas “Ideas”.

See, religious people breed more than secular people do.  And the correlation of societal attitudes and politics correlates amazingly well from one generation to the next.  Hence, the future lies with the Party of God.  The Republicans are simply breeding faster than the Democrats, because they take stock in the phrase “Be Fruitful and Multiply”.
I knew intuitively from the start this was bunk, insofar as it goes to political futures, but I could never and still can’t explain where the problem lies.  Surely it’s true in some degree that parents pass values on to the next generation, and surely the most religious hew more to this rule than the secular would.  I present for your consideration The Amish as an extreme example: deeply religious, the kids have an opportunity to leave that life behind, and they do not.  But that may be the point: there’s is exponentially a tighter and more constrained society than ours.

As for our democratic society, there was a couple of months ago a conference of evangelical preachers sending out the warning siresns that our children are fading away from the Church.  I made a note of that because it conflicted with this Republican Baby Boom and Democratic Baby Dearth concept.  In the end, it came across as a warning hype to feed the coffers: we need money to stop this… why, in 30 years the US will be as Secular as those godless Europeans, and we don’t want that, so please send us your contributions!

But the contradictions work everywhere, even onto the personal level.  Start with the “Generation Gap”, and go onto self-conflict.  Something about the old maxim that “If you’re conservative when you’re young you have no heart, and if you’re liberal when you’re old you have no head.”  And you suddenly become a conservative when you start paying those taxes, or a conservative is a liberal who has been young.  It is a sign that liberals haven’t gotten ahold of the narrative that the counter to these semi-bumper sticker maxims don’t have as much popular currency — a liberal is a conservative who has a medical emergency and no health insurance.

This is simply by way of asking: are we really such static characters that this idea of “religious birthing” has any reality to it?  There is no dynamism in us as people and us as a society that society cannot help but change?

And hence goes another nail in the coffin of a supposed “Permanent Republican Majority”.

No Majority is Permanent. Karl Rove is a dumbass

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Where did Karl Rove get off believing in a “Permanent Republican Majority”?  I think it somehow fit in with this belief from that New Republic Reader, an argument that glues together based on one vantage point, but I can easily come up with a different vantage point to argure the other way.

The thing is, the nature of a two party government — which for all our love of third party fringe candidates past and present, (and Senatorial), is what we have — is that the people elect one party into power, get sick of them, and then elect another party into power.  Hence, there is no permanence to a majority.

Pride cometh before the fall.

Understand some things.  Thomas Jefferson almost established a true Permanent Majority, when he systematically destroyed the Federalist Party — an entity that he despised more than most Democrats or Republicans do today.  Argurably he did so by allowing the policies of the Federalist Party he found tolerable into the “Big Tent” of the Democratic — Republican Party, while disavowing the overtly monarchical nature of the Federalists.

I can’t really state what happened from there.  Andrew Jackson changed the nature of American politics, and something called “The Whig Party” came into being as a protest to Jacksonian Democrats.  But the Whig Party never had a chance, it’s ideology being firmly against any strength in the executive branch at all — its presidents thus being subserviant to the political mechanitions of its minions in the legislative branch (Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, god bless them).  Thus, the greatest Whig President in American history is William Henry Harrison — he died in thirty days.  Oh, and they could never really cement an opinion on the issue of Slavery.

The greatest legacy of the Whig Party is that any time a political party is on the outs, its fate will be compared to the Whig Party.  At the moment, neither party can be compared to the Whigs, though I saw partisan Republicans and slightly to the left of Democrat bloggers compare the Democrats to the Whigs in the past couple of years.

Sometime around the year 1928, the Republican Party could legitimately believe that they had something of a permanent Republican Majority, because as the great president Hoover said, “In America today, we are nearer a final triumph over poverty than is any other land”, a great public repudiation of the last Democratic President, three straight presidential victories, and a break-through into the only Democratic strong-hold.  It wasn’t much to be.  The public turned sour on the Republican Party.  The Democrats were said to be going the way of the Whigs; now the Republicans were said to be going the way of the Whigs.  If the Republicans could withstand that loss of faith, you get the feeling that the United States is now permanently stuck with these two political parties — shifting alliances though they may have we have the Democrats and the Republicans from here to eternity.

Understand too that within the great “Democratic Majority” of 1932 to 1968, the Democrats were dead and wholly nonfunctioning in 1952, and prematurely called dead in 1948.  A Republican president poked his head in — Eisenhower, just as Wilson had poked his head in at an earlier interval where Republicans had a lock on the map, and just as Grover Cleveland poked his head through still earlier, and Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton poked their heads in in an era where Nixon and Reagan could pile up 49 state victories.

Go back to the that letter to the New Republic.  We get sick of one party.  We throw the bums out, and replace them with new bums.  To claim that the Republican Party is tossed out only when the Republican Party makes mistakes is stupid, because it is in the nature of anyone to make mistakes.  Likewise, the idea that one party comes to power because the voters voted against the other party is true but immaterial:  Franklin Roosevelt was elected because of Hoover, not because of Roosevelt.  It works in the states as well, as you can say the same thing about Montana’s current governor.  This cannot be a liability: a party comes to power off the other party’s mistakes, and will maintain it with their own record of governance.

And understand too, this:  the Ted Stevens — Robert Byrd Pork tag team is now converted to the Robert Byrd — Ted Stevens Pork tag team.  The wheel churns, the mechinations for one party being out of favour switches to the reasons the other party will fall out of favour sooner or later.

So, again.  What was Karl Rove talking about and why were so many people willing to give it credence?

The Conspiracy thwarted?

Friday, November 10th, 2006

I had to scrouge back to find the Election Day Exit Polls for the ten Senate races worth watching.  The story from various partisan conspiracy theorists is that the exit polls have not correlated more or less precisely with the election outcome as of late, indicating chicanery.  Thus, Mary Mattalin is said to have told Bush early on the evening of Election day 2004 that he had lost. 

For 2006, the exit polls hew to within one percent of the results in all but two races.  To review these exit polls:


D: 52 …
R: 47 …


D: 53
R: 46


D: 57
R: 42


D: 57
R: 43


D: 52
R: 45


D: 53
R: 46


D: 50
R: 48


D: 53
R: 46


D: 48
R: 51


D: 46
R: 50

I am not going to bother to find the actual results, but the two that did not correlate within one percentage point are Virginia and Montana.  Coincidentally, or not coincidentally as the case may be, those were the two races that were decided by razor thin margins and that we left Election Day with an open question as to whether or not the results would be contested.  The losing candidates, Republicans Conrad Burns and George Allen, let the result stand, and conceded.

So the conspiracy theory, in the same vein that the results of the exit polls in 2004 were indeed the correct tally, are that these are the exit poll results here are indeed the correct tallies — which is to say, the Republican Party stole these two elections in order to keep control of the Senate, but were just not able to steal or disappear quite enough votes — the Democrat passed the five or six percent window that the genius Karl Rove, and you are entitled to your math but remember — he has “the math” — had set up.

I will say that these two races are the races I had the most emotional investment in insofar as I’m a member of Team Democrat.  And the reasons are going to seem a bit esoteric.  Montana is the Democrats’ magical gateway into the West, as everyone who gushed over Brian Schweitzer’s Gubernatorial victory knows, and a Jon Tester victory would make that belief a reality.  And Virginia is the Democrats’ great hope to chip into the “Solid Republican” South and make part of that their own, and Jim Webb was the best hope to move that forward.  My view of the map seemed a little polly-anna, maybe, but maybe doesn’t right now.

Or maybe that depends on whether you want to believe these two candidates won by 6 points or a couple thousands.  Or maybe it doesn’t.

I think a good thing to do is to review some articles from various pundits from the summer when Webb was nominated for the Senate run.  The conventional wisdom, a conventional wisdom of a sort that befuddles me not so much because it is/was wrong but because it’s meaningless in its paramoters, is that it is good that the Democrats nominated Webb because he will make Allen sweat a little and force him to exercise his campaigning skills, which will make him a better campaigner for this presidential run he’s engaging in right now.  George Will sticks out in my mind as someone who wrote that article.  It is curious, because either an opponent is strong enough that he can win or he’s too weak that he cannot win — there is no middle ground here, this imaginary middle ground where George Will and other pundits were hewing to back in the Summer.

One last note: Both Webb and Tester were grass-roots (and, I hate this term, “net roots”) backed candidates who defeated the early Democratic Party-picked options, though the Democratic Party quickly rolled behind Webb when they decided that, yes, however remote, Virginia might be won.  The candidates they defeated in the primary would have lost, which means that the Democratic Party would not have the Senate Majority right now without those two challengers.  Make of that what you will.

The Post Election Show

Friday, November 10th, 2006

A man stops at a stop light, looking like a person I’m supposed to know but can’t quite figure, and waves the “Ted Kulongoski” sign, smiling broadly.  I shrug and smirk.  Two days late for politicking, I figure.

A man behind me shouts out “Boo!  Boo!  Now go pay my taxes!  Boo!  Boo!”