Saturday, November 29, 2008

Few Voters Registering Third Party

Few Take Advantage of Green, Libertarian Registration

Less than one Iowa voter in every 2,000 has taken advantage of a change in state law that allows people to register with two third parties.

The Greens and Libertarians fought hard in court for the change, which established a petition procedure for parties to earn a place on the voter registration form without winning the two percent of the top of the ticket vote required for full party status. An out of court settlement, later enacted into law, kicked in on Jan. 1, and the first registered Green was "elated" at the chance to express his preference.

But through Nov. 26 only 1357 voters--0.05 percent--have registered with one of the third party "political organizations." 937 are Libertarians and 420 are Greens.

The Greens had full party status in Iowa for two years, after Ralph Nader won 2.2 percent of the state's vote in the 2000 presidential election. At the end of the two year run, Iowa had 2,480 registered Greens. That's only one of every 700 voters, but it's six times more than they have now.

Holly Hart of the Iowa Greens says there has been "slower but steady growth" in Green registration during 2008 than there was in 2001 and 2002. "Since there has been far less general interest in high-profile third party candidates in the past two cycles, and more aggressive recruiting by the Dems, I am not surprised that the growth rate is slower than before," she said.

Libertarians also seemed on the verge of a breakthrough in 2008. Ron Paul was seeking the Republican nomination, true. But his network of email contacts and online contributors would have been a priceless tool for Libertarian nominee Bob Barr. Paul endorsed Constitution nominee Chuck Baldwin instead, and . Barr scored the half a percent range that's been typical for Libertarian nominees for the last 20 years.

"For every registered member you have, you get three or four votes for your top of the ticket candidate," said Kevin Litten of the Iowa Libertarian Party. "My goal is to make that number grow, and I don't know how yet."

Further down the Iowa ballot, the Greens and Libertarians stayed out of Iowa's 2008 U.S. Senate race. Both parties ran candidates against Tom Harkin in 2002 and Chuck Grassley in 2004. The Greens only ran in one congressional district, and the Libertarians ran in none.

"The big difference is the level of awareness of the option. Nader made a big splash and a lot of people were excited about his candidacy, which led to a lot of people making the effort to register Green," said 2nd District Green congressional candidate Wendy Barth. "Last year a quiet little modification was made to the state law, and only a few people went out of their way to take advantage of it."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Sarah Palin proven right about the bloggers!

In honor of the holiday, and the governor of Alaska, I am posting from yes, my parent's basement...

and in my pajamas.

photos: Jeff Deeth

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Redlawsk on Big Ten Gay Marriage Poll

Big Ten Poll: Majority support Same Sex Unions

A Big Ten poll released Tuesday shows 28 percent of Iowans support same-sex marriage. "The key is that in addition another 30% support civil unions, so you get a majority in favor of legal recognition of same sex relationships," said University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk.

The poll was conduced in mid-October, before California's Proposition 8 ended legal gay marriage in that state.

"Iowa has a history of being in the forefront on civil rights issues," said Redlawsk. "I think that's mostly a midwestern sensibleness, a bit of a 'it seems reasonable' thing."

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 9 soon on an appeal of a lower court ruling that opened a window of several hours in which gay marriage was legal in Iowa. One couple successfully held a ceremony and several others got licenses.

The poll showed that with a Supreme Court ruling, support for marriage increases to 35 percent, with another 27 percent supporting civil unions but not marriage.

If the court rules in favor of marriage, the issue is sure to be a hot one in the 2009 Iowa Legislature. Republicans pushed for a vote on a constitutional amendment, but majority Democrats stopped it.

"Intensity always outhustles soft support, no doubt about it, especially on an issue like this where those in opposition are often in that position due to very strongly held core values stemming from religious convictions," said Redlawsk. "You can see the effect in the religion and frequency of church attendance breakdowns in the poll topline data."

Redlawsk said the poll did not include an urban vs. rural breakdown, but tbig differences show in the age breakdown. "Younger voters--those under 30--already show majority support at 50.5% for gay marriage. This suggests to me that the future will look very different from the past."

Full Iowa results (.pdf)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Braley to Energy and Commerce

Braley to Energy and Commerce Committee?

This week's palace coup in the halls of Congress may put Iowa's Bruce Braley on one of the House's most powerful committees.

Braley was a key backer of California Rep. Henry Waxman, who overthrew Michigan's John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The vote was a big win for alternative energy, climate change control, and for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a loss for the auto industry, the seniority system, and Iowa caucus enemy Dingell.

Braley's reward may be a seat on Energy and Commerce, a real plum for a second-term member. The Hill reports that the expanded Democratic majority will mean up to five additional Democratic seats on Energy and Commerce, and Braley is the only name specifically mentioned.

If the appointment happens, Braley will likely be a key ally to new chairman Waxman. Most current committee members, wanting to avoid alienating Dingell and hold on to their subcommittee chairs, voted for Dingell, but they were outnumbered by the rest of the House Democratic Caucus.

Another interesting shift: Dingell is likely to seek the chair of the panel’s Health subcommittee, in a move that will play to his strengths while avoiding his conflicts with the majority of House Democrats. As chair of the full committee, Dingell was out of line with most Democrats in blocking climate change and fuel economy legislation at the behest of his district's auto industry.

But Dingell has been a solid progressive on health care throughout his five decades--you read that right, five decades--in Congress, and will likely be a key House player on the issue as the Obama Administration pursues the issue. John Dingell has just suffered a major, humiliating defeat, but a health care win could close out his career with a victory that has eluded Democrats going back to Harry Truman.

Obama and the Godfather

It's True, I Have A Lot Of Friends In Politics

COURIC: What is your favorite movie of all time?

Obama: Oh, I think it would have to be the Godfather. One and two. Three not so much. So--so--but that--that saga I love that movie.

One of the very first posts I wrote on this site, six years ago, was titled "Everything I Needed To Learn I Learned From The Godfather." I'd seen the movie when I was young, but it wasn't until I was middle aged, with a decade or so in politics behind me, that I really got the Machiavellian machinations and political parallels.

So now we have a fun tool with which to analyze the new administration.

You're out, Tom: Vilsack was reportedly a frontrunner for Secretary of Agriculture but apparently is not a wartime consigliere.

The line we keep hearing, in the context of Joe Lieberman forgiven and Hillary Clinton at State, is "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer." Michael Corleone was speaking of Hyman Roth, a thinly disguised Meyer Lansky, when he said those words.

But remember what happened to Roth at the airport, after uttering the immortal last words, "I came home to vote in the presidential election because they wouldn't give me an absentee ballot"? Look at the fate of enemies outside the Corleone family and traitors within. Barzini, Tattaglia, Roth... Paulie, Carlo, Tessio... eventually "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" shifts to "I knew it was you, Fredo, you broke my heart."
COURIC: Do you have a favorite scene?

Obama: Love--love those movies. I--you know--so many of them. I think my favorite has to be --you know, the opening scene of the first Godfather where, you know, the opening scene of the first Godfather where the caretaker (sic) comes in and, you know, Marlon Brando is sitting there and he's saying "you disrespected me. You know and now you want a favor." You know it sets the tone for the whole movie. Now there--

COURIC: And all hell breaks lose, right?

Obama: Yeah, right. I mean there's this combination of old world gentility and you know, ritual with this savagery underneath. It's all about family.

Obama seems to have Michael Corleone's cool and calculation, and his patience of waiting till just the right moment, if not his murderous ruthlessness.

But just as Michael had enforcers Al Neri and Rocco Lampone, Obama has Rahm Emanuel,who once took the famous "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" Sicilian message too literally and sent a pollster a dead fish.

He also has a consigliere, in Joe Biden, whose own ambitions are off the table. Tom Hagen was ineligible to succeed the Don because of his non-Sicilian birth, and Michael chose a consigliere who was, by virtue of age, also out of the loop of succession and thus freer to give homest advice: "Who's a better consigliere than my father?" Barack, of course, was essentially fatherless, but Biden could play a paternal type of role.

The Don's "Never tell anyone outside the Family what you're thinking again" advice to Sonny sums up Obama's attitude toward leaks. The Don also said of Sonny: "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." And Obama takes it to heart, guarding his personal time as best he can.

Sonny Corleone was a bad don because he let his temper get in the way. Obama won't make that mistake. He knows, as Virgil Solozzo knew, that "blood is a big expense." But if I were Joe Lieberman, I wouldn't go fishing with Al Neri.

Chinese Democracy and Tuesday Clips

Today's Weather, Satan Feels A Cold Snap

Go get your Dr Pepper, it actually exists. How long did it take Axl to make an album?

  • I've gone from grad school to grandfather
  • Five whole presidential elections
  • There was still a Soviet Union
  • Only a year and a half... oh, wait, that's on Jupiter.
  • The cutting edge of technology: a 386 with a 30 meg hard drive and 640 K or RAM, and running Windows 3.1, DOS 5.0, WordPerfect and Prodigy
  • More than doubles the old obsessive compulsive rock star procrastination record held by Tom Scholz of Boston (1978-86)
  • But not as long as actual Chinese democracy.

    Add your favorite time metaphor in the comments.

    Now, the news from this century:

  • One of the best things about taking over the government, aside from actually, you know, taking over the government, is the swath of vacancies Obama's creating through his Cabinet picks. Gives us political junkies something to write about post-election.

    Ambinder has a good overall guide to implications, and CQ looks specifically at Arizona, where Gov. Napolitano is set for Homeland Security and Rep. Raul Grijalva is on the short list for Interior.

  • I lost the link, but one wag suggested that Obama get NY Gov. David Patterson to fill the likely Hillary Senate vacancy with... Bill, thus keeping him busy and behaving. One thing's for sure: won't be Eliot Spitzer.

  • In Delaware, the outgoing governor names Ted Kaufman to the Biden seat. Who?!? Former Biden chief of staff in a blatant seat-warmer move while Beau Biden cools his heels over at the war.

    Kaufman is the first placeholder senator since Harlan Mathews of Tennessee, who filled Al Gore's seat in `93 and `94. I'm not counting Dean Barkley of Minnesota, currently running a close race for third in the Minnesota recount with Lizard People. The Body made that appointment the day before that awful election when Wellstone died, so there was never a chance for the appointee to run.

  • Speaking of recounts, up in Waterloo Jeff Danielson picked up 8 votes on the second go-round and keeps his state Senate seat for the Dems.

  • We've all seen the red and blue county maps that the GOP likes to show off, as if to argue that the red counties of Nebraska with more cattle than people somehow indicate a landslide. And then there's the distorted shape maps that blow urban counties up to match population. But here's a new trick to use: opacity. The vast rural stretches are near-invisible, while the places where people actually live are bright blue (or, less often, red).

  • And if you're REALLY, really jonesing for some returns, it's election day in... Greenland!
  • Monday, November 24, 2008

    Iowa Electronic Markets Within Half A Point

    Iowa Electronic Markets Within Half A Point
    The Iowa Electronic Markets got it right again:
    With all the votes counted, the Iowa Electronic Markets predicted the final vote count in this year's presidential election to within a half percentage point.

    Prices on the IEM's Vote Share Market predicted that Barack Obama would receive 53.55 percent of the two-party presidential popular vote, and John McCain would receive 46.45.

    After the ballots were counted, Obama received 53.2 percent of the vote, and McCain received 46.8 percent, leaving an average error per contract of only .3 percent.

    The average absolute error by public opinion polls, meanwhile, was 1.2 percent.

    Software as a Subversive Activity, Part 2: Ticket Splitting

    Software as a Subversive Activity, Part 2: Open-Source Ticket Splitting

    The votes are in and people want more Linux posts. That's mostly because the first post got linked on first one Linux site, then another, and the ballot box got stuffed.

    Since I like the political metaphors, let's look at how to split your ticket. You can vote for open source software without making The Big Switch to Linux (yet).

    Microsoft dominates three big branches of the computing experience: the operating system, the browser, and the office suite. At the top of the ticket, the operating system race, Microsoft wins in a landslide with about 90 percent. The Mac is at around 8 and Linux is pushing toward 1. That looks a lot like Obama's margin in the District of Columbia.

    From how can they handle the cognitive dissonance of marxist and dot com?

    On the other hand, the open source party is competitive in the next race down the ballot, the browser contest. I checked my site stats right before the inbound Linux link skewed them and only a little more than half of my visitors are still using Internet Explorer. Nearly 40 percent are using Firefox. That's a comfortable first step into the world of open source that you may have taken without even knowing it. You can leave IE on your Windows system while you try it—in fact, you don't have much choice. IE is almost impossible to remove from a Windows installation.

    Firefox is cross-platform compatible, meaning you can use it on a Mac, in Windows, or in Linux. When I made The Big Switch, I was already working in a comfortable browser while I learned the new operating system, like being in a new apartment sitting in your favorite old comfy chair. And if you're browser-based with your email, it'll be that much easier.

    If you're using a stand-alone email program, that's a little more of a commitment but there's options. I used Outlook Express for years, but Mozilla's Thunderbird was able to import all my messages, folders and contacts, and I switched to that full-time months before The Big Switch.

    The other leg of Microsoft's dominance is Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, Power Point, and Access. Here, too, there's open source options you can try alongside Microsoft. Open Office is a complete suite that will open Microsoft formats like .xls Excel sheets, .doc Word documents and .ppt PowerPoints. It will also let you save in those formats, and I'm still in the habit of doing that. I swap my checkbook spreadsheet back and forth between Open Office and Excel constantly, saving it in Excel format, and barely notice the difference. (In contrast, Microsoft Office won't let you save in Open Office formats.)

    The stickiest part of my transition was Microsoft Access. Open Office has a database program, and while it will link to an Access database, you can't just import one in and convert it. If you were starting from scratch, the Open Office format might work, but since I was already in so deep I stayed in Access. One of the ways Microsoft maintains market control is the principle of addiction: you're in, you're hooked, can't get out of the endless cycle of expensive upgrades and limited compatibility. If you commit to the Big Switch, and you're not an ideological purist, you'll do what I have and find the ways to look back to Gates world occasionally.

    If you're curious but not yet committed you can also, like many third party people, have it both ways. With a bootable CD, you can try Linux without wiping out Windows. You can also install some versions of Linux as an application within Windows. (I'd already made The Big Switch by the time that came along, so I haven't tried it.) And if you're serious enough and have a decent-sized modern hard drive, you can do what I did: choose between Linux and Windows at each startup with a dual-boot system.

    In Part 3: Terms to help you talk like a Linux geek.

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Conservation Bond Recount

    The Johnson County conservation bond recount is in the books, and the vote shifts were miniscule. Yes lost five votes and No gained one, out of more than 73,000 cast, and the winning Yes margin dropped from 60.789% to 60.785%.

    That's an LBJ or Reagan sized landslide by percentage, but by the rules of the game that required a 60% supermajority, it was close. What could Flip No have done differently? Two big mistakes, as I see it: they lost campaign time and they didn't recruit any supervisor candidates.

    A supervisor campaign would have opened a second front in the fight, and frankly the traditional media pays more attention to candidate races than ballot issues. Sure, there was a last-minute letter to the editor encouraging a write-in vote in the Board race. But the bond was placed on the ballot on June 26, two months before the candidate filing deadline. Getting a candidate on the ballot doesn't take nearly as many signatures as the recount petition (250 for an independent, or the Republicans could have held a nominating convention, as opposed to 645 for the recount, a mark they doubled).

    The bond issue was under discussion, and Yes was organized, as far back as February. And obviously, Flip No had the skills to organize, as seen by their quick turnaround on the recount petition. But the first public reference I find to the No campaign is October 13, only three weeks before the election. By that time, 14,876 voters had requested ballots. That's 20% of the final grand total. In a county where 55% of the total vote was absentee, a late start is a big problem. Even so, No almost won.

    In a one person one vote democracy, strength of feeling is not directly reflected in election results. A "Hell, No!" counts the same as an "uhhh, parks sound kinda cool, I guess." The way intensity plays a role is in the organizing. The No side clearly had more intense support at end game, while Team Yes had trouble competing for volunteers and attention in an idea marketplace that was All Obama All The Time. Could another couple months of campaigning, reinforced by a candidate or slate pushing the issue, have turned the votes around? To be honest, I think so.

    The recount adds another exclamation mark at the end of "Hell, No!!" to underscore the anti-tax message. Maybe that will resonate through some other Board decisions. Maybe that was the idea, as recount No leader Lori Cardella told the Gazette: "Hopefully this calls into question whether the Board of Supervisors had the best interest of their constituents at hand or their special interests." Fair enough. But it would have been easier to turn 500 or so votes around before they were cast rather than after.

    Baby Picture Sunday

    I did a real story yesterday, so today you get baby pictures

    Shopping and looking sharp in that jacket.

    Grandson Elias is eight months old now.

    I may be a messy eater, but I've got great eyes.

    Saturday, November 22, 2008

    Possible 2012 candidate Bobby Jindal in Cedar Rapids

    Jindal praises faith-based help in Cedar Rapids

    “The heroes in these storms are not the federal government, they're the people,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told a Cedar Rapids crowd at a flood recovery event that looked a lot like a Republican Party breakfast.

    The ballots aren't even counted yet, literally (Linn County is still working on a recount in the 14-vote Renee Schulte-Art Staed legislative race) but the opening shots of the 2012 Iowa caucuses are being fired. Mike Huckabee was here two days ago, now Jindal.

    Ostensibly the speech was a non-partisan “Rapid Recovery” event, followed by a tour of areas damaged in the summer flood, but you wouldn't know it from the crowd. A partial list of GOP dignitaries in the crowd of 150: Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, state party co-chair Leon Mosley, ex-congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, ex-legislative candidate Emma Nemecek, Johnson County GOP chair Bill Keettel, new county supervisor Brent Oleson, state central committee member and blogger David Chung... the only way I knew this wasn't officially a Republican campaign event was the lack of patriotic ritual and rally music. The only Democrat I recognized was mayor Kay Halloran.

    Congressional primary loser Peter Teahen spoke early; a civic thing or a political thing? He was on the ground doing Red Cross work at Katrina, so there's that connection. “There is a new age of leadership in Louisiana today.” Making recovery partisan? He wouldn't be the first to politicize the Katrina aftermath...heck, that's a big part of why Jindal even is governor. Of course, Bobby almost won in 2003. How would all this have been different if Katrina had been on Jindal's watch instead of Blanco's?

    We'll keep an eye on Peter Teahen the next couple years; MMM is already looking like she's running again. “Faith based groups will attract donations that will not go to government agencies,” says Teahen, and he rolls with that a while.

    No TV or national press present, just print (AP's Glover, Gazette's Lynch) and bloggers (EE/II's Waddington), plus a couple Louisiana press. Teahen pronounces “bureaucracy” as if he's saying “Barack-ra-see.” Maybe I'm just hearing that. Or maybe we just created a new GOP meme.

    Jindal sat with Teahen and Northey (their official portfolios outranking the political titles for the day). The mayor was next table over.

    Bob Vander Plaats, 2006 lieutenant governor candidate, got to intro Jindal; are we SURE this wasn't a campaign event? And is it Campaign 2012 or Campaign 2010? Both, I suspect; Vander Plaats has been high-profile since Nov. 4 with a “stick to your values, social conservatives” piece in the Register as the GOP regroups.

    BVP talks at length about “character” in flood recovery. “We saw a whole different type of leadership (in Louisiana) because of character.” (Again, the implied Blanco dis).

    After thanking Iowans for post-Katrina help Jindal compares notes: “People matter more than regulations and red tape.” (applause) “It's better to have to ask for forgiveness than permission, especially when you're dealing with the federal bureaucracy. You can always write an apology to the bureaucrats later.” He tells a story about bureaucrats looking for proof of insurance mid-hurricane. “You tell FEMA what you need, don't wait for the government to tell you what to do.”

    Louisiana has had more colorful governors per capita than any state in the union. This man is filling the seat of the larger than life Longs, country singer Jimmie “You Are My Sunshine” Davis, and kleptocrat Edwin Edwards, after all. And Jindal, too, is a unique character: a young man in a hurry, governor at 37, and the nation's first Indian-American governor.

    The story I remember is that Jindal, who was given a more traditional Indian name at birth, came home from kindergarten and told his parents that from now on his name was Bobby. He's a classic red white and blue first generation American. Jindal looks like he's the guy on the other end of the tech support line in Bangalore, but the voice is pure gumbo as “Saint Bernard Parish” and the occasional “y'all” drawls out of his mouth. “I was born and raised in my home state of Louisiana,” he says with pride.

    “You need to see it through to the end, and the end is long after the national press had moved on,” Jindal says of disaster recovery.

    “The faith community was critical to our recovery, we need to help them do their good work.” Lots of examples of private sector help at emergency time, bracketed by comments on how much more effective that was that government help. We heard “Lemme give ya three or four examples” a lot, and the talk was anecdote-heavy. Bobby is a storyteller, swift-paced and extemporaneous.

    “I'm not here to beat up on the federal government,” Jindal disclaimed, yet that seems to be a theme. If this run does happen, look for a template something like this speech. “You've got to be ready to partner with the private sector and the faith based groups.”

    Best line: “You really think people would volunteer to eat an MRE instead of the food we have in South Louisiana?” As chef Justin Wilson would say, I ga-ron-tee we'll see more of Jindal in Iowa.

    Update: Douglas Burns at Iowa Political Alert caught the West Des Moines event.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Friday clips

    Oh my God, they're turkeys!

  • The turkey pardoning ceremony is an inherently silly ritual of politics, and this would be funny even if it wasn't Palin. But the fact that it is Palin makes it ROTFL.

    Watch as she gives the interview right in front of the guy feeding turkeys into the head chopper. MSNBC was showing a censored version; this is unedited.

    The second funniest clip involving turkeys ever. This is the funniest.

    Oh, the humanity!

  • Jackie Norris: Michelle Obama's chief of staff. Way cool for Iowa.

  • New York Times says: Abolish the electoral college!
    Three times since the Civil War — most recently, with George W. Bush in 2000 — it has awarded the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. The president should be the candidate who wins the votes of the most Americans.

  • A neat graph of demographic vote shifts this year.

  • R U gay? No, R U? Prince is now homophobic, which is really funny considering how many times I got called "faggot" for playing his music in 1983. Almost as annoying: A search for a quick punchline informs me that Prince aggressively bans his videos on YouTube and they're only on AOL and preceded by ads. So no link love.

    I'm keeping the beret anyway.

  • Help me out here, readers. In the post-election lull, I'm in a retrospective, regrouping, greatest hits mood. Note the minor layout changes. I also tried to upgrade the very dusty blogroll, but seems to be out of order. Having listened to Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series disks of outtakes, I'm a firm believer in the idea that writers are often the worst judges of their own best work.

    So I turn to you the readers, with a little trepidation, Last time I left a major decision up to you I got stuck with a pink hat. But I'll ask you again anyway, so help me choose the Best Of. Email me or comment me.

    I'll take requests for the music player too. I know it's very MySpacey, but it's very Deeth too.
  • Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Iowa's Clout May Increase Under Waxman

    Iowa's Clout May Increase Under Waxman

    Iowa may have been a big winner in today's epic vote that stripped a major committee chairmanship from the senior member of the House of Representatives.

    Rep. Henry Waxman of California was elected chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, defeating incumbent John Dingell of Michigan. The vote was a 137-122 secret ballot in a closed door meeting, but Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo was one of three speakers on Waxman's behalf.

    The Politico reports that Braley "lash(ed) out at Dingell for standing in the way of environmental reforms. He even complained that the speaker had to go around him to enact a renewable energy bill during the Democrats' first year in power."

    The Waxman-Dingell rivalry that culminated in today's vote goes back decades. “It was like Zeus and Thor in there, hurling lightning bolts at each other. You just wanted to duck and get out of the way,” California Rep. George Miller, another leading Waxman supporter, told Congressional Quarterly. Despite mixing his Greek and Norse pantheons, Miller chairs the Education and Labor committee, and Iowa's Dave Loebsack is seen as a close Miller ally.

    "Congressman Loebsack is looking forward to working with Chairman Waxman to repair our broken health care system and to reform our nation's energy policy," said a Loebsack spokesperson.

    The switch is seen as a loss for the seniority system and a gain for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian who has long been close to Waxman.

    "If it moves, it goes through the Commerce Committee" is the old Capitol Hill saying about the committee's broad jurisdiction over legislation, and in Waxman, the Obama administration will have a more certain ally than Dingell on energy and climate change issues. The change benefits wind and ethanol producing Iowa. Waxman has long supported stronger clean air and fuel efficiency standards. Dingell, as befits his Detroit area district, is a staunch auto industry defender.

    Another way the move helps Iowa: Dingell and his wife, Democratic National Committee member Debbie Dingell, are among the leading critics of Iowa's first in the nation caucuses, and played big roles in Michigan's move to leapfrog past the DNC-approved primary calendar. Less clout for the Dingells means more clout for Iowa at scheduling time. (Having a friend of the caucuses in the White House won't hurt, either.)

    Dingell was first elected at age 29 in a 1955 special election to replace his late father, and is on track to set a record early next year as the longest serving member in the 220 year history of the House. But despite being the "new guy," Waxman has been in the House 34 years, joining Congress in the 1974 Watergate class that included Tom Harkin.

    Advice for Republicans

    Advice for Republicans

    The 2012 Republican caucuses begin today with Mike Huckabee's Iowa visit, as Republicans continue the navel-gazing that inevitably comes with a loss. (Been there, done that.)

    I know I'm probably the last guy who should offer the GOP advice. But consider this week's must read, Kathleen Parker's Washington Post piece provocatively headlined "Giving Up on God." No, not existential angst; political angst.
    "Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that."

    Marc Ambinder analyzes: "There are two secrets, actually: one -- that the 'leaders' of the various movements within social conservatism are ill-adapted to modern politics and can exacerbate tensions between the movement and outsiders; and two--that a large part of the Republican establishment believes they can pander to these voters, not address their core concerns, and still rely on them for support."

    Social conservatives are at once the GOP's greatest strength and greatest weakness. I'm not telling Republicans to abandon the social issues; that's not my place. And frankly I have a bias in wanting to win those issues and get them off the table.

    As a member of the left end base of the Democratic Party, frankly, I expect to get screwed one in a while. Defunding the war, impeachment, gay marriage, Lieberman--that's an incomplete list from just this year.

    In the process of endless disappointment, we've learned to choose our battles. And that's all I'm recommending: choose your battles.

    On some of the social issues, conservatives are popular. Stop freaking out, Barack's not taking your gun away. You won that fight. Faith-based programs have some appeal. The school voucher fight is still a live one. (Just analyzing here, not agreeing.)

    But other social issues which were winners in the 1968-2008 divide and conquer alignment of Nixon and Wallace and Atwater and Rove are losers in the long run.

    Gay marriage is a generational conflict. People who came of came of age before Stonewall, when homosexuality was literally classified as a mental illness, simply didn't talk about it. That age cohort drives the slim majority that voted yes on Proposition 8--and they won't be voting in many more elections. I know the religious right sees that, and it's behind the effort to cement marriage bans into constitutions before their voters die off.

    Yes, a lot of people are deeply conflicted about the morality of abortion and don't like it. But you know what they like even less? The government telling them what to do. That's a conservative impulse if anything.

    And some of the niche issues of the religious right are active vote-killers now. Issues like opposition to stem cell research and the Terry Schaivo circus scare middle of the roaders away. And denial of evolution makes us look like a joke to the rest of the world. Why is Darwinism good economics but bad science?

    Finally, when priests start denying people communion because they voted for Obama? That's reeeeally scary. I know it's the church doing that and not the political system, but people see it as part of the same subculture.

    I don't know the Christian conservative subculture. I know OF it; sometimes I see its channels as I flip through the cable, sometimes I see incongruous ads featuring "stars" I've never heard of. I've even been trained to recognize some of the dog whistles.

    What I do know is numbers, and I pity the Republican dilemma. The social conservative subculture is probably 25 or 30 percent of the country. In a winner take all electoral system, with its bipolar bias toward two parties, that's enough to control a party.

    But it's not enough to win.

    The Republican philosophy of self-reliance and personal freedom has deep roots in American history, as does the Democratic philosophy of "I am my brother's keeper." Libertarians, like social conservatives, are quick to leap to issues that they deeply care about but which don't have mass appeal. Ron Paul was a flawed candidate, whose message was popular in spite of himself.

    But the Jeffersonian argument that government is best which governs least? A party that advocates consistent freedom in matters economic and personal? That's a Republican party I'd like to engage in a dialogue.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    The making of a Linux geek

    Software as a subversive activity: The making of a Linux geek

    I last booted Windows on my year-old laptop on October 8, according to my SETI@Home stats. I hadn't realized my conversion had been so complete, but over the course of the last few months, I found myself in Gates World less and less for fewer and fewer things.

    So it seems I'm now officially a Linux Geek, as much for ideological reasons as technical ones. Taking power away from a giant corporation, and putting it in the hands of an egalitarian community, appeals to me. Marketplace decisions are political decisions; there's a difference between shopping at New Pioneer Co-Op and shopping at Wal-Mart.

    First off, for the uninitiated, some Linux 101. I'm assuming that you know next to nothing about this. I'll also figure that if you're reading a local political blog, you're inquisitive enough, smart enough, and latently geeky enough, to dig deeper if you want.

    You all know the I'm a PC, I'm a Mac ads, so you know that there's more than one way to run a computer. The group of programs that make a computer know that it's a computer and do computer stuff are called the operating system. Windows is an operating system, as is Mac's OS X, and some of us really old folks remember DOS.

    You could call Linux the third party of operating systems. I'm not saying whether Windows or Mac are Republicans of Democrats, but Linux is definitely the Libertarian Party. “Free as in beer, free as in freedom,” goes the slogan. And like a third party, there's some good ideas, some dogma, and they're up against some serious power.

    The free beer part is, you do not pay money for Linux. A big percentage of the cost of a typical PC isn't the chips and drives—it's the Windows license. You take your money and give it to the second richest person in the world. Instead of being written and sold by a giant corporation, it's maintained and made available by the community of users. That's the anarcho-libertarian part that's ideologically appealing to me.

    Sounds like a nice utopia. But like any electronic media-—movies, music, on-line journalism-there's an underlying problem with the business model. Somebody, somewhere, has to feed the beast with some money. Some of that happens—there's customized projects, tech support, and developers with various IT companies with an interest in the subject. But some of the motivation isn't monetary; it's people building the tools they want and need. “Often, the reasons have much to do with the usual human desire to fill a need with a solution," writes Linux For Dummies. “In fact, any human resource expert will tell you that people who choose to do a job of their own free will produce the highest quality products." (That's how this blog started.)

    The freedom part refers to open source. Source code is the sequence of commands that the über-über geeks write in programming languages. You then take a program called a compiler to convert the source code into an “executable” program--the 1s and 0s that the machine understands. In the Microsoft mindset, a purchaser gets the compiled program but the source code is a closely guarded proprietary secret. You get the software they wrote, use it the way they say, you wait for them to patch the bugs. In Linux world, the source code is open for everybody to see, adapt, and maybe improve. Whenever you're proofreading anything, extra sets of eyeballs means more chances someone will see the mistake.

    This is where the dogma comes in. Some Linux advocates insist on purity: no closed-source software. Others are willing to compromise for a driver here or compatibility there. And yet others are trying to figure out how to make Microsoft programs run on a Linux system (yes, it can be done). You don't have to vote a straight ticket.

    I can tell you more about that, but in the true Linux spirit we'll leave it up to the community.

    More Linux posts?
    Free polls from

    Update: Yes wins; part two looks at easing into open source gently with cross-platform compatible applications.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Joe Lieberman and Unclear Journalism

    Joe Lieberman, Tom Harkin and Unclear Journalism

    Joementum gets to keep his chair, from which he will no doubt continue his Obama-bashing. Outrage is exploding over at Kos, as well it should.

    After this, I don't want to hear anyone complaining about Ed Fallon, or anyone, voting for Ralph Nader ever again. If Joe Lieberman is forgiven, then the statute of limitations on party disloyalty has been determined to be less than 14 days, and that's long expired for anything from 2000.

    But for the moment let's look at some unclear journalism:
    Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Pat Leahy, D-Vt., spoke against allowing Lieberman keep the Homeland Security and Government Affairs post. Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and John Kerry, D-Mass., were among those speaking in his favor, according to a Democratic aide, who spoke anonymously to discuss a private meeting.

    Some, like Iowan Tom Harkin, still harbor hard feelings for statements Lieberman made during the campaign. Harkin took particular offense when Lieberman said a vote against funding the war in Iraq without a deadline for a troop withdrawal meant Obama had voted to cut off funding for troops in harm's way.

    "That's outrageous, what he said," Harkin complained.

    Is the "some" in which Harkin is included "Some..among those speaking in (Lieberman's) favor?" Or is it "some" as in "some Democratic senators"? It's hard to tell from the structure.

    Harkin clearly had the nerve to speak out against Lieberman, a nice improvement from the "forgive and forget" he told Iowa Independent right after the election. But the question is, and is: was Tom Harkin part of the 13, or part of the 42?

    The Caucuses' Greatest Hits: Revisited With New Material

    The Caucuses' Greatest Hits: Revisited With New Material

    Album releases, like elections, happen on Tuesdays. And greatest hits sets always come out in the holiday season. Today, for example, we get the 43rd different version of a Rod Stewart compilation, for people who can't figure out free downloading.

    With that in mind I dug into the vaults.

    Two years ago, I wrote a history of the Iowa caucuses where I ranked the contests in order of significance. I've updated this classic collection, just like they always added a new song to the greatest hits album to make you buy the same songs over again. My two new tracks: an all-time classic and a cover version of a 1996 mid-chart hit.

    Original text begins here with no changes except a couple strikethroughs and re-numbering. The 2008 sections are added where they belong. For now.

    I’ve followed presidential nomination politics closely since 1980, extremely closely since 1984 (motivation: I was doing a humorous speech on the primaries in intercollegiate speech competition and needed to keep my jokes up to date), and from a front row seat as an Iowa party activist since 1990. Apply salt in grains or blocks as needed.

    This is my first attempt at an ongoing series about the Iowa caucuses. The idea is mostly to focus on the kind of stuff the locals know but the national folks miss. This first time, though, my in-state perspective is just in the anecdotes.

    First question: Do the caucuses REALLY matter? How important are they in terms of overall impact on the nominating contest, the presidency, and history? Here’s a look back, categorized and countdown formatted (with apologies to Casey Kasem). In the process of writing, I surprised myself and changed my own number one.

    Not Worth The Airfare To Waterloo

    15. 1984 and 2004 Republican. The Republican tradition is to hold no presidential vote at all in incumbent re-elect years. Or in years when Republicans otherwise reside in the White House.

    14. 1996 Democratic. The word went down from Des Moines to the Democratic county chairs: “The President would like a unanimous re-nomination and this WILL happen.” Self-starters in a couple lefty college precincts elected a very small handful of Nader and Uncommitted protest delegates, but those results got delayed till past the newspaper deadline and thus went down the Memory Hole. Clinton came out and campaigned the final weekend, largely to step on the GOP story (Actually Being President trumps winning the caucus), but it was in basketball arenas, not chat n’ chews. Only time I've ever caucused for the eventual nominee.

    13. 1992 Republican. Ranked up a little because the inside the Des Moines Beltway (yes, non-Iowans, Des Moines has a beltway) decision NOT to hold a vote while the Buchanan Brigade was tearing up New Hampshire was a strategic win for Bush Sr.

    Ultimately Irrelevant

    12. 1992 Democratic. Hometown boy Tom Harkin runs and wins big, though not as big as it looks (that’ll be a later discussion). Paul Tsongas, already on the ground in Iowa, bails. A couple feints from Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown but nothing serious. In the end, Iowa kept first place after `92 only because Harkin jumped on the winner’s bandwagon while the other rivals couldn’t hide their obvious contempt for Clinton. (Jerry Brown probably wrote himself in that November.) The long term importance of 1992 may be that Hillary Clinton didn’t have to shake hands and eat hotdish in towns like Courthouse Center and East Pole Bean.  Comic relief: An Iowa City dorm precinct elected a Jimmy Carter delegate.

    11. 2000 Both. On the Democratic side Al Gore beat Bill Bradley in what was merely the first moment in the overall national dynamic; Dollar Bill made his stand on friendlier turf in New Hampshire. The truly significant GOP event was the summer 1999 buy-a-vote straw poll that winnowed out more candidates (E. Dole, Quayle, and Buchanan bolting to Reform) than the actual caucus (Orrin Hatch, as if that wasn’t obvious). This one was like one of those boycott-era Olympics: Bush Jr. won but the toughest competitor, McCain, was a no-show. Comic relief: People who took Gary Bauer seriously, Alan Keyes in Michael Moore’s mosh pit.

    Secondary event in nomination contest

    10. 1980 Democratic. The incumbent won the first test of Kennedy-Carter, but that battle of giants was played out on a national, even global, stage and Iowa was a bit player.

    9. 2008 Republican. Important tactically to the dynamic of the contest but not central to the result.

    Mitt Romney was looking like the guy to beat in December 2007. Which Mike Huckabee did in January 2008, after first beating Sam Brownback at the Ames Straw Poll to win the mantle of THE religious conservative candidate. Had Iowa Republicans gotten behind the Mitt, they may have headed off the chaos that was the GOP field in January. Instead, we proved that there was no there there for Fred Thompson, and that the Ron Paul Яэvoutionaries were noisy in disproportion to their actual numbers. But really, we just stirred the pot, and the decisive event was in Florida between two men with Screw Iowa strategies, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

    Downmodded a notch below 1996, because that year the Iowa winner actually won the nomination. May move up in a few years if Huckabee goes anywhere in 2012.

    8. 1996 Republican. Frontrunner Dole wins, some all too obvious field winnowing (Dick Lugar???) happens. Phil Gramm gets out too, but his real stumble was in Louisiana’s jump-the-starting-gun contest a week earlier. What might have been: Pat Buchanan was within 3% of Dole, but the fundamentalists in Cedar Rapids backed Alan Keyes instead; Keyes thus won the second biggest county. One minister at one mega-church makes a different choice, and we’d have had a major upset. Comic relief: Easily the funniest caucus! Bob Dole, genuinely witty in his non-Satan mode, Steve Forbes the android, Alan Keyes… but they all pale next to Morrie Taylor, the tire magnate who literally tried to buy a win one vote at a time. Failed miserably but looked like he had more fun than the rest put together.

    7. 1988 Democratic. Gephardt narrowly wins. Some Paul Simon loyalists still point to a couple late reporting counties and say otherwise (real-time rules on reporting results have been enacted since then), but this one proved the winner-take-all-news theory. Al Gore is the first to use the Screw Iowa strategy.  It's never worked (save for the Tom Harkin year), but nevertheless Gore wound up outlasting the two Iowa leaders. But the contest came down to Dukakis vs. Jackson, neither of whose fortunes were affected by Iowa.  Comic relief : Gary Hart’s last minute return to the race, campaigning with his wife.

    Significant event in nomination contest

    6. 1988 Republican. Pat Robertson pushes Bush Sr. into third place. Robertson was insignificant thereafter, but the blow made Bush go on a fight of his life attack against Bob Dole in New Hampshire. Dole took the bait and was goaded into “stop lying about my record.” This convinces Bush Sr. that hard negative was the way to go. That road went through the flag factory and Willie Horton, and ended at the White House. Comic relief: Al Haig.

    5. 1984 Democratic. Gary Hart barely squeaked past his old boss, George McGovern. But second, no matter how distant, was enough to make him the anti-Mondale and propel him up about 40 points in eight days for a New Hampshire win, a brief but genuine shot at the nomination, and (pre-Donna Rice) 1988 front-runner status. The Right Stuff sank like Gus Grissom’s capsule, and you're an old timer if you catch that reference.

    Decisive event in nomination contest

    4. 2004 Democratic. Nothing that happened after Iowa mattered nearly as much as what happened in Iowa.  The guy who won got the nomination, the guy in second gets VP.  And the guy who came in third...

    The Dean Scream goes down as the most memorable caucus moment, but everyone forgets The Scream was after The Much More Important Disappointing Third Place.  Iowa was the whole ball game in 2004.

    Made History

    3. 1976 Democratic. This one made both Jimmy Carter and the reputation of the caucuses themselves. Carter didn’t actually win this, you know. He was second to Uncommitted. But I know folks who still brag “Jimmy Carter slept on my couch.”

    I’m torn about ranking the only caucus that directly produced a president merely SECOND. But read on.

    2. 1980 Republican. In the first true Iowa Republican caucus (more on the two party history and the very significant differences later), an obscure former ambassador, spy boss, and failed Senate candidate George Herbert Walker Bush shocks the ten foot tall colossus of the GOP, Ronald Reagan. This one win puts Poppy on the map and ultimately on the ticket (after the botched Ford “co-presidency” deal at the `80 convention).

    So why rank this ahead of Jimmy Carter, especially since Bush Sr. lost that 1980 nomination? The ripple effect. No Iowa win = no Bush 41. And with no Bush 41, do you REALLY think Bush 43 would have made it on his own? History needs a major rewrite without that 1980 caucus.

    As for history and the caucuses themselves, a mixed bag.  Irrelevant nearly half the time, critical a little less often.

    New Number 1: 2008 Democratic. There's no question the 2008 Iowa Democratic caucuses created a president. Iowa was the honing ground for Barack Obama's message and appeal and ground game. We eliminated the entire second tier, and proved that voters in one of the whitest places in America would support a black candidate. Remember, a lot of African-American voters were sticking with Hillary Clinton before Iowa, because Obama "couldn't win." Iowa shattered that myth and the perception of Clinton's "inevitability."

    It's too soon to tell, but those of us who crammed into gyms last January may have ushered in not just one president, but a whole era, a new alignment of states that ends the 1968 Nixon-Wallace southern-western coalition for good.

    2008 is a whole new map. The Solid South has shattered, and Republicans are retreating to the mountains of Appalachia and Utah. (In a realignment, you look for counter-trends, and what better example than West Virginia, which went for Carter in 1980 and Dukakis in `88?) Barack Obama fueled this alignment, which would not have been possible without that Iowa win.

    The 1976 caucuses made one president, but his victory is a mere footnote to a Republican era, brought about by the intensity of Watergate and the Nixon pardon. The 1980 Republican caucuses made two presidents, but they followed the electoral footsteps of others.

    How many presidents in an era? Only time will tell if Obama is able to hold it for a second election and transfer this alignment to a successor. If the 2008 caucuses usher in an Obama Realignment, like the FDR Relignment or the Nixon-Wallace Realignment, they could lead to four or five presidents. Thus, the number one rank.

    For now.

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Stuff I read This Weekend

    Stuff I read This Weekend

  • Bleeding Heartland has a really good thread aimed at the fellow bloggers: How did YOU do with your predictions? My thoughts, among many others, are there.

  • One thing I said in my prediction post: "Should Obama win the presidency, especially if he carries Florida, will Democrats finally let go of their obsessive hatred of Ralph Nader?" Apparantly not, as Kos launched not one but TWO anti-Nader tirades over the weekend.

    Kos neglects to differentiate between folks who went for Nader in 2000 vs. those who stayed with him in `04 and `08. Nationwide, about 80% of the Nader 2000 vote went elsewhere; here it was closer to 90.

    Just remember, before he was Saint Al the Martyred Non-President with his Nobel Prize and Oscar, and before W showed us just how bad things could get, Gore was just another DLC-wing moderate. Leaving aside the electoral math, the choice of Nader over the relatively progressive Kerry or Obama makes little sense, but over the 2000 model of Gore, it does. Don't forget, Old Version Al thought the best qualified person to be a heartbeat away was Joementum. Who has proceeded to do just what us Nader 2000 folks were pilloried for: Bolted the party.

  • Speaking of Lieberman, There's a Senate Democratic caucus vote on that tomorrow. A SECRET ballot. On Friday, the two Vermont senators, Pat Leahy and Bernie Sanders, went public saying he should be stripped of the Homeland Security chair. The secret vote helps anti-Lieberman forces who can express themselves honestly without violating "courtesy."

    I'd like to see worse than losing the chairmanship. Give him no committee assignments at all, just let him cast floor votes.

  • Enough about losers. Let's look at the Big Winner. Barack and family are trying to enjoy the last scraps of Normal Life, but there's a strong possibility that he may have to give up the CrackBerry. And a really cool Kos diary on the history of the Obama's house, which was delayed to post election because of the Ayers conspiracy theorists.

  • Finally, this headline and byline: "How To Save A Major Automobile Company" by Neil Young.
  • Sunday, November 16, 2008

    North Carolina Senators Don't Get Re-Elected

    North Carolina: The Senate's Revolving Door

    Iowa went through a stretch in the 1970's as the revolving door of the U.S. Senate. With a combination of defeats (Miller, Clark, Culver, Jepsen) and retirements (Hickenlooper, Hughes), no Iowa senator was re-elected from 1966 to 1986.

    Nowadays, Iowa is a giant of Senate seniority with two five-term senators, outranked in total now goes to North Carolina. Since 1968, no one except Jesse Helms has been re-elected to the U.S. Senate from the Tarheel State.

    Granted, Helms held that seat for 30 years. Elizabeth Dole took his place in 2002, only to lose her re-election bid to Kay Hagan this year. But it's the other Senate seat that has really seen turnover.

    The last senator re-elected to the Class 3 seat was Watergate era hero Sam Ervin in 1968. Since his retirement in 1974, the seat has seen no fewer than seven senators, in a sequence that reads like a list of Spinal Tap drummers.

  • Democrat Robert Morgan took over the seat in 1974, but lost in 1980 to...
  • Republican John East, who announced his retirement in 1986 and then, in ill health, committed suicide. He was briefly replaced by...
  • James Broyhill, a House member who had already won the 1986 Republican Senate primary. But Broyhill lost the general to...
  • Democrat Terry Sanford, a former governor making a comeback after a decade or so out of office. But in 1992, Sanford lost his re-election bid to...
  • Republican Lauch Faircloth, who proceeded to lose in 1998 to...
  • none other than John Edwards, who just recently re-emerged from the shadows. Edwards must have known the seat was jinxed, because he quickly adopting the old Fred Harris strategy of "run for president, because I've got a better chance at that than I do of getting re-elected." Even though state law allowed Edwards to run for both vice president and re-election in 2004, Edwards went with the up-or-out approach.
  • With the seat open in 2004, Republican congressman Richard Burr took over from Edwards. Given the history of the seat, and the blue trend in North Carolina, Burr has to be a little nervous.

    Believe it or not, this isn't even the highest turnover era in North Carolina history. Through a combination of deaths, appointments, and primary defeats, six men held the Class 2 seat in 12 years between 1946 and 1958. That included the infamous 1950 primary, when Willis Smith beat appointee Frank Graham. Jesse Helms, who later held this seat, made his bones working on the race-baiting Smith campaign, which featured a faked photo of Graham's wife with--a black man.

    My, but things have changed.
  • Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Estrich on Clinton

    Estrich: "Hillary Could Have Won" (yawn)

    With the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? buzz in the air, some PUMAs just never give up. Susan Estrich:
    More of McCain's voters would have voted for Hillary than Obama voters for McCain. Based on the exit polls, Hillary not only would have won, but she would have won by more than Obama did.

    There is no point in crying over spilled milk, especially when there is a fresh carton on the table.

    Yet she is doing just that. Estrich continues:
    Those of us who yearned to see a woman -- and specifically a woman named Hillary Clinton -- take the oath on January 20 can at least find solace in the knowledge that we were right about the most important issue: She was electable. She could have won
    Riiight, Susan. Because you know so much about winning from running the campaign of President Dukakis.

    OK, OK, that was too snarky; let's address the meat of the argument.

    "Hillary would have meant no Sarah Palin." True that, double true. But another running mate would only have made McCain stronger.

    "With Hillary, there would have been no experience issue." Because, of course, Obama can't win because of the experience issue. McCain ceded that anyway, and none of the other potential running mates--Pawlenty, Romney, Crist--come even close to Joe Biden.

    "With Hillary, the Democratic base of low-income white voters would have been solid." Obama held onto most of that, except in Appalachian enclaves, and also had big wins in the Hispanic and Jewish communities that he "couldn't win." New Mexico? Blue. Florida? Blue.

    Estrich leaves two major points unsaid. First, Obama's margin of victory came from young people, uniquely energized by Obama and strongly opposed to the war that Clinton voted for. Put Hillary at the top of the ticket, and plenty of those voters stay home or throw a protest vote to Nader, Barr or McKinney.

    The other thing Estrich leaves unsaid is the pathological hatred the right wing feels for the Clintons. Sure, they toned it down, even made cynical appeals to Clinton and her supporters, but only when it was clear she had lost the nomination and that Hillary-bashing was no longer in their best interest.

    You think the socialist, pallin' around with terrorist stuff was bad? Just go back to the tapes of the Republican debates, where Rudy Giuliani said "Hillarycare" almost as much as he said "9/11." Go back to the Limbaugh and O'Reilly archives from 1992 till about Super Tuesday 2008.

    So with Hillary, McCain gains the plus of an angry, energized base without the minus of Palin to alienate moderates and independents, and the Democrats get no youth vote surge. To me, that spells a much closer race, not a bigger Democratic win.

    Nate The Great at FiveThirtyEight
    expounds on this:
    What would Clinton's numbers have looked like if she had actually endured ... you know ... a campaign? What would Clinton's numbers have looked like after the Republicans had gotten done accusing her of being a socialist, a puppet for her husband, and an all-around conniving you-know-what?

    Hillary Clinton might have beaten John McCain by more than Barack Obama did. She also might have lost to him.

    But--and this is more important than the argument itself--why ask the question in the first place?

    Senator Clinton and former president Clinton reconciled themselves to the loss, knocked the ball out of the park with their convention speeches, and campaigned enthusiastically and effectively (she more so) for Obama. If they're over it, why isn't Estrich? Is this about Hillary Clinton, the person, or is this the generational angst of "I want a woman president before I die?"

    The Democrats had a Hobson's choice in the primaries. Nominate Clinton, and risk alienating an entire generation of enthusiastic young voters. Nominate Obama, and injure the founding mothers of the feminist movement.

    The Democrats chose the future over the past, and that may have actually increased the chances of a female president in our lifetimes. Perhaps not in our mother's lifetimes, but in our daughter's. Looking at the presidential returns and the Proposition 8 returns from California, we see a new generation of voters that's more progressive on issues social, economic, and international. They're more open-minded to something new, like say, a woman president.

    A Clinton loss to McCain in a scorched-earth general election might have pushed The Ultimate Glass Ceiling With 18 Million Cracks several notches higher. But Clinton's campaign, and in a way Obama's win, lowers that barrier. Let's hope that when it breaks, it's not a cynical token like Sarah Palin and more of a qualified leader like Hillary Clinton.

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Four Iowa Counties Flip To McCain

    Four Iowa Counties Flip To McCain

    Four Iowa counties which went Democratic in one of the biggest Republican landslides ever voted for John McCain last week--and one of these things is not like the others.

    Swing State Project took a long-range look at voting trends and found 97 counties nationwide that backed Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in the 1984 landslide, yet supported John McCain while Barack Obama was scoring a--what should we call it? Let's say "comfortable victory."

    Those counter-trend counties are concentrated in Appalachia, but four spots appear in Iowa. Three of these double-maverick anti-bellwethers are small rural counties: Davis, Monroe, and Ringgold. But the fourth is high-growth, suburban Dallas County.

    Iowa was one of Mondale's stronger states at 46 percent, and the 1984 election was near the height of the farm crisis of the 1980s. That would help explain Davis, Monroe, and Ringgold.

    Dallas County trended Republican between 2000 and 2004 as well, and a strong Republican performance there was key in George Bush taking the state back from the Democrats in 2004 after a Democratic winning streak dating back to Michael Dukakis in 1988.

    Democrats are looking to Obama's election and the changed map, with wins in states like Indiana and Virginia that last voted Democratic in 1964, as a sign of realignment. One way to spot a realignment is to look for counter-trends of voters moving against the stream, and these four Iowa counties help make the case.

    Swing State Project also found 85 counties nationwide that went for Bob Dole in Bill Clinton's solid 1996 win, but have now gone for Obama. None of those are in Iowa, and they tend to be large urban and suburban counties. "The sum population of all Mondale/McCain counties? 3,197,000," writes Swing State. "For all Dole/Obama counties: 25,846,000. There's pretty much the story of the 2008 election right there."

    Open Left also looks at long-range trends. comparing 2008 to 1988. This map includes the eastern half of Iowa. There's not much of the green that indicates a trend from Dukakis toward Obama--but then again, Dukakis overperformed in Iowa as it was one of the handful of states he actually won. Johnson County only gets a little bit greener, but there wasn't much room for improvement. The Quad Cities are greener, as is the state's northeast corner, but the Dubuque area trended slightly Republican in the 20-year comparison.

    Obama Resigns Senate Seat

    Obama Resigns!

    Republican dream come true? Nah. The Senate seat. As of Sunday Barack is officially unemployed (my Republican readers can insert their own punchlines) or at best a self-employed freelance writer like me.

    All sorts of intrigue has long been underway in the special world that is Illinois Democratic politics. Jesse Jackson Jr. wants it bad; I get an email about every day from his list making the case.

  • But it's starting to look like Sarah Palin won't get that shot at a Senate race. Democrat Mark Begich has taken the lead, so it looks like the voters of Alaska kicked Ted Stevens out before his Senate colleagues could. Analysis of the ballots left to count from some blogger sittin' in his parents' basement in his pajamas shows advantage, Begich.

  • In New Hampshire, a GOP county treasurer gets knocked off by a college kid whose campaign consisted of 1) the D after her name and 2) $50 worth of Facebook ads. The incumbent showed lots of class:
    The current county treasurer, Carol Elliott, 68, called Ms. Sievers, 20, a “teenybopper” in an interview with a local newspaper, The Valley News, and said she had won only because “brainwashed college kids” had voted for the Democratic ticket.

    But Elliott neglected to blame some blogger sittin' in his parents' basement in his pajamas.
  • Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Recounts in Iowa Senate District 10, House 1, House 37

    Looks like not one, not two, but three Iowa legislative districts will see recounts in the next few days:

  • In Black Hawk County, Republican Walt Rogers wants a recount in Senate District 10. An administrative recount of two precincts narrowed incumbent Democrat Jeff Danielson's lead in the Senate District 10 race to 14 votes.

  • Also with a 14 vote margin: Republican Renee Schulte in House District 37, where the Gazette reports that incumbent Democrat Art Staed wants a recount.

  • In Woodbury County, Republican Jeremy Taylor is asking for a recount. Taylor is 60 votes behind incumbent Democrat Wes Whitead in House District 1.

    Some recount 101: Each candidate, the apparent loser and the apparent winner, names a representative to a recount board. The two representatives then name a third board member who is mutually acceptable and presumably neutral. (If they can't agree, a judge chooses someone.) The recount board makes the decisions, while the auditor's office provides assistance.
  • Johnson County Canvass Facts

    Election 2008: Johnson County By The Numbers

    The canvass is done and the 2008 election is in the books. Time to dig really deep into the Johnson County numbers. And we can dig deeper than ever before. Thanks to changes in the law, we now get the absentees broken out by precinct, and not just all lumped together. That makes a big difference when more voters in your county vote absentee than on Election Day.

    Obama won the early vote in every single Johnson County precinct. You might have guessed from the party breakdown of the requests--58 percent Democratic to 15 percent GOP with the rest no party or third-- but we now officially know. The early vote was closest in tiny Monroe Township, which Obama carried by one vote.

    In four precincts -- Coralville 6, Big Grove, Madison and Monroe -- Obama trailed on Election Day but won the combined, overall vote on the absentees. So if nothing else, the new law takes away bragging rights from Republicans who, in past years, could have claimed they "won" those precincts.

    But McCain did win two precincts fair and square on the combined results. Sharon and Washington, in the southwest corner, saw big enough Election Day wins to offset Obama's early vote leads. Those two townships have long leaned Republican, but weren't enough to save Jarad Klein against Democrat Larry Marek in House District 89.

    Looking at the combined vote, Obama ran at 75 percent in Iowa City and 64 outside, for an overall percentage of 69.9. Better than LBJ's 68.1-- but damn, I really wanted that 70. McCain ended up at 28.4--just below Dole, just above Bush 41 in 1992. But remember, those were three way races. (Trivia: Perot wasn't the strongest third party candidate ever in Johnson. That would be John Anderson in 1980.)

    The most likely McCain voter was an Election Day voter in Washington Township, at 61 percent. The most likely Obama voter would be an early voter in Iowa City 21, which went -- wait for it -- 90 percent Obama, 9 percent McCain on the absentee. (This is the precinct where, on the Election Day vote in 2000, Bush ran third behind Nader.) Still, that's not the most insane absentee margin for Precinct 21; Mary Mascher was at 91, and Harkin was at 92. That's with opponents, but it's getting near the margin you see for unopposed candidates running against the write-in line.

    Not much evidence of ticket splitting, especially on the Republican side where the top of the slate bunched tightly together. Miller-Meeks led Team GOP at 30 percent, with McCain at 28 and Reed at 25. Harkin ran about five points ahead of Obama. Loebsack ran about five points behind Obama, which roughly equals the five points that the third party candidates won.

    The Election Day voter was more likely to choose the straight ticket (30.5 percent) than the early voter (23 percent). 24 percent of all Election Day voters marked Straight D, vs. 14 percent of early voters. Democratic straight tickets led Republicans 4 to 1 on the early vote and 1.5 to one on Election Day. That's roughly in proportion to the rest of the voting behavior.

    But a lot of voters who don't mark the straight ticket line still vote mainly in one party. How else to explain the 55 percent that Rebecca Spears polled in House District 79 despite dropping out of the race months before and not even having the ambition to bother getting her name off the ballot?

    None of that is really all that crucial, beyond the bragging rights of "Democrats won really big" vs. "Democrats won really, REALLY big." The breakdown is more interesting when you look at Johnson County's closest race, the conservation bond.

    When the absentees went up at 70 percent Yes on Election Night, I thought: "It has to break even at the polls to win" the required 60 percent. It didn't quite happen, as Election Day was 51 percent no, but with five absentees for every four ballots at the polls, Yes made it with 60.8 percent. (The biggest loser on Election Day? No, not Chris "Not Tom Harkin" Reed. The jail.)

    Opponents got a late start on their Flip No campaign, while supporters worried that the earliest early voters would "undervote," or skip the issue.

    The problem with comparing early vote and Election Day is that the early voters were a heavily Democratic pool, so it's hard to figure out whether the margins are because the No campaign started late, or if the early voters were more inclined to support Yes in the first place. But it turns out the undervote was pretty much comparable across the board, ranging from 8.9 percent for rural Election Day voters to 13.5 percent for Iowa City absentee. The rurals were slightly more tuned in to the race, and significantly more opposed, but were outnumbered by Iowa City.

    Even in the student precinct absentee vote, a lot of which was cast at satellites three weeks before Election Day, the undervote peaked at around 25 percent.

    Overall, it was a little higher than the 10 percent undervote rate we saw in the 2000 jail vote, and just a little below the 12.6 percent undervote on the Idiot Amendment.

    Way, way below the 47 percent undervote on the last judge on the ballot. Just anecdotally, the judge percentages seemed almost identical to four years ago, maybe slightly up. I'm seeing 79 percents where I was seeing 77s or 78s. Guess the Iowa Christian Alliance campaign--vote no on all judges till they answer our surveys the way we want with details on abortion and gay marriage--didn't have much traction in the People's Republic. (It also got announced late, which doesn't help in a 55 percent early vote county.)

    One voter in 300 skipped the presidential race, which is comparable to past years. Weird, but it's a free country. One interesting thing: presidential write-ins were way up. The county had 60 or 80 of those each of the last four elections, but this year there were 342, more than any one of the third-party candidates. I haven't looked at them, but I suspect the Hillary PUMAs and the Ron Paul diehards are behind it.

    The president-only vote is in the range of the 4 percent that skipped the two-way Senate race or the 5 percent who blew off the multiple-choice congressional contest. But there's no way to cross-reference that. Someone could have voted, say, for president, skipped the other high-on-the-ballot races, and jumped down to the conservation bond.

    No particular geographic pattern to the write-ins or third parties, who all rounded down to 0 percent. Nader finished third, but waaay below the 6 percent he polled here in 2000. Almost the same exact number of votes as he got in 2004; 90 percent of the Nader vote evaporated after 2000 and didn't come back.

    Libertarian Bob Barr was fourth, followed by Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party, with Cynthia McKinney at sixth. In fact, McKinney polled fewer votes than the Green straight ticket line. In Iowa, an individual ballot mark overrides the straight ticket. That means at least 23 people marked the Green straight ticket, and then crossed over to vote for someone else for president.

    McKinney may have been hurt by the change in state law that gave the Greens and Libertarians a minor party, "political organization" status. Until this year the only way to get any sort of party status was to poll 2 percent for president (like Nader did in 2000) or governor. Now that there's a petition process, there's much less impetus to vote Green Party at top of the ticket. You don't have to choose between the presidency and the G on your voter card, and I'd guess that some Greens felt getting the Republicans out of the White House was a higher priority than McKinney's percentage in an obscure canvass book. Unless they were among the four people who read my world exclusive interview and voted for Gloria LaRiva.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Woodbury County Concludes Counting

    Dems Hold 3 of 4 Close Races as Whitead, Wendt Win in Woodbury

    While recounts remain possible, incumbent Democrats appear to have won three of the state's four closest races while losing one seat.

    In Woodbury County, Democrats held on to win two tight House races. In Iowa House District 1 incumbent Democrat Wes Whitead had 6,152 votes and Republican Jeremy Taylor won 6,092. At the end of Election Night, Whitead had a six-vote lead. In Iowa House District 2, incumbent Democrat Roger Wendt had 4,709, ahead of Republican Rick Bertrand with 4,429.

    Whitead and Wendt were both showing up as losers for several hours on Election Night due to delays in counting absentee ballots, which leaned heavily Democratic across the state. The Sioux City Journal reports that Woodbury County had absentee counting problems related to the new state law requiring absentee ballots to be tabulated by precinct.

    Late absentee results also had Rep. Elesha Gayman listed as a loser in House District 84 in Scott County for a while on Election Night, but the first-term Democrat regained the lead, and the seat, with the absentees.

    In Linn County, four out of nine late-arriving absentees were postmarked on time and counted in House District 37. The Linn County Auditor's office reports that two went to Republican challenger Renee Schulte and two were for Democratic incumbent Art Staed, leaving Schulte with a 14 vote lead.

    An email press release from House Democrats Wednesday afternoon began with the line "After expanding their majority to 56 in last week’s election"--math which would appear to exclude Staed.

    At the Black Hawk County canvass, the formal meeting where county supervisors certify results, incumbent Democrat Jeff Danielson had a 17 vote lead over GOP challenger Walt Rogers in Senate District 10. The Waterloo Courier reports that Rogers was confident enough in his Election Night lead that he gave a victory speech, while "Danielson was dejectedly leaving the Democrats' party even before President-elect Barack Obama delivered his own victory speech."

    Palin hates the bloggers

    Oh noes111 I iz hated agin!

    Two weeks ago we would have killed for a one on one sitdown with Sarah Palin. But now, while she tries really hard not to drool over that Senate seat that Ted Stevens' felony conviction and inexplicable, possible re-election win will open up, she keeps talkin' an' talkin' an' talkin'...

    Ms. Palin directed most of her media criticism at liberal bloggers, whom she twice called, “those bloggers in their parents’ basement just talkin’ garbage.”

    You know you want to see it again:

    For the record, I blog upstairs, and I shower and do laundry in the basement. Though I bet the wifi would reach.

  • Meanwhile, Palin defenders hit a new low:
    A roomful of academics erupted in angry boos Tuesday morning after political analyst Michael Barone said "“The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby."

  • As for other 2012 players besides Palin, Ambinder notes:
    By bankrolling opposition to same-sex marriage in California, the LDS church has earned some serious cred in social conservative circles.

    And the Prop 8 protesters -- those who are now protesting the church -- are only fueling the impression that when it comes to standing up for "traditional marriage," the Mormon Church is where it's at.

    This development has fascinating implications for 2012.

  • But Nate Silver--the breakout blogstar of 2008 at FiveThirtyEight--has the best take on the Prop 8 vote. There's a blame the minorities meme going around, but Nate says it's a generational thing:
    If nobody over the age of 65 had voted, Prop 8 would have failed by a point or two. It appears that the generational splits may be larger within minority communities than among whites, although the data on this is sketchy.

    The good news for supporters of marriage equity is that -- and there's no polite way to put this -- the older voters aren't going to be around for all that much longer, and they'll gradually be cycled out and replaced by younger voters who grew up in a more tolerant era.

  • The OTHER California ballot measure, which may have a more subtle but just as big impact on the nation's politics, is Prop 11, which takes redistricting away from the legislature and sets up an Iowa-style commission. It's narrowly ahead, says Ballot Access News. Seems to be running better in GOP areas. AHnold ist term-limited, ja, und Republicans in KahleeFORnya must not be counting on a gubernatorial veto pen when the Census numbers come out in 2011.

    California has long been a leader in the fine art of gerrymandering. With GIS mapping systems linked to voter and election returns databases, it's not even that hard anymore. But back in the `70s, Phil Burton did one of the all-time great gerrymanders in California, taking a dead-even delegation and getting a 27-18 Democratic majority. And he did it with pencil and paper and his brain.

    In relatively homogeneous Iowa the commission setup is simple. But California has a fair number of majority black and Hispanic districts in the LA area, and court rulings have held that those need to be kept. Not sure if Prop 11 addresses that; in any case we all know it'll end up in court.

  • But who needs redistricting when you get all these Obama coattail wins, in Virginia and North Carolina and Ala-freakin'-BAMA. There were a few near-misses, too. (Or, as George Carlin would call them, near-hits.)
  • Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture

    CQ: Vilsack Frontrunner for Secretary of Ag

    Not what he was hoping for 20 or so months ago, and not even number two on that Clinton-Vilsack ticket, but hey. Congressional Quarterly:
    Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has emerged as the frontrunner for the post of Agriculture secretary in the Obama administration, according to people close to the presidential transition team.

    Read that as "Team Obama is floatin' this balloon." Seems to be rising:
    Vilsack, a Democrat, has a powerful booster in fellow Iowan Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate committee that will hold confirmation hearings for the next secretary.

    Vilsack also got a thumbs-up from Iowa’s senior senator, Republican Charles E. Grassley .

    “In administrations that I’ve known, it’s always been beneficial for our state to have another Iowan closer to the seat of power,” Grassley said in a statement.

    Careful, Chuck. You're in need of an opponent in a couple years, our state is trending blue, and a cabinet post can be a nice stepping stone. Just ask the last Sec of Ag, Mike Johanns, who they now call Senator-elect.

    In any case it keeps TV's name out there and his options open. Vilsack got on Team Obama late but was seen a lot in the late days, doing the job of counter-message whenever the Republican ticket hit the state. He did similar work in his native western Pennsylvania, where Team McCain bet the ranch and lost. We journalists are such suckers for that balance thing, and you'd always get a Vilsack soundbite tacked onto the end of the McCain story.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Bonior: Obama's Opportunities Rival FDR's

    Bonior: Obama's Opportunities Rival FDR's

    A former Democratic congressional leader who's on the short list for a cabinet post in the Obama Administration says the president-elect has an opportunity to lead America like no president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    Obama has a “deep almost spiritual, hopeful message that he's capable of giving,” David Bonior told a Monday crowd of over 100 at the University of Iowa. “It doesn't work when you do it all that time, but he was fabulous on the campaign picking those moments.”

    Former Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.Bonior, a 1967 University of Iowa graduate, served more than two decades as a Michigan congressman and rose to the rank of minority whip, number two in the Democratic leadership. He managed John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign and has been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Labor.

    “He will be a great asset not only to our country but internationally,” Bonior said of the president-elect. “He is the embodiment, literally, personally, of the hopes and dreams of billions of people in the world, and it is a gift that you, the American people, have given the world.”

    Bonior did not openly speculate on his own cabinet chances. “I don't know (Obama) hardly at all, we've talked maybe four or five times” at multi-candidate events during primary season, he said. Bonior left Congress, redistricted out of office by a Republican Michigan legislature, in 2002, before Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.

    Still, Bonior's reputation as a labor and economic expert led Obama to include him in a group of economic advisors who met with the president-elect on Friday. “He told us our business was to deal with this immediate crisis,” said Bonior.

    Bonior also stressed the importance of helping his home state's auto industry, an issue Obama also raised during a Meeting with outgoing President Bush at the White House. “We've lost over 400,000 good paying auto jobs in the last six years,” said Bonior.

    Bonior said the early days of the Obama Administration will be critical for the labor movement, and he hoped the new president and the expanded Democratic majorities in Congress will move forward on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow a simple “card check” method of organizing unions. Instead of elections, which Bonior says are stacked in management's favor, workers would be allowed to organize unions simply by signing up.

    “It's what they do in every other industrial country in the world,” said Bonior. “The right to organize is a human right.” Bonior said the Senate, which stands at 57 Democrats to 40 Republicans with three races still undecided, may be the holdup. “It will require the power of the presidency, and it may require one or two Republicans, and holding all our Democrats together.”

    Bonior said union membership was not only important as a right, it played a key role in the 2008 election. Across every demographic, union members voted more Democratic than non-members. Bonior said this helped Obama rebuild a new version of a Roosevelt coalition, with emerging ethnic groups like Hispanics taking the place of the eastern European groups that Roosevelt relied on. He said the Hispanic vote had swung to the Democrats by 11 percent since the 2004 election, and was a major factor in Obama's wins in Florida, Colorado and New Mexico.

    Audience members asked if the Roosevelt comparisons set the bar too high for the next president. “I by no means want to equate what we're going though now with the great depression,” said Bonior, “but there are some parellels and some lessons we would be wise to follow.” Many problems, like inequality of income and an under-regulated stock market damaged by speculation, are similar, he said. The New Deal “was an activist govt that engaged its people and it made a huge difference.”

    “There was no safety net, no health care, no food stamps, no housing policy. The country was in deep despair. And what was needed then was bold leaders who could inspire based policy on the premise that govt could and should help its citizens. Roosevelt wasn't interested in baby steps.”

    “Boldness is not something we should be shying away from in these troubled times.”