Browsing the archives for the elections category.

Please, Make It Stop …

elections, Hillary Clinton

Just encountered a woman on Facebook who was screaming that Hillary Clinton plans to privatize Social Security.

This particular panic came about because of a headline on an opinion piece in Forbes titled “Clinton Might Be Moving Toward Social Security Privatization” that offered absolutely no evidence of anyone on the Clinton team thinking about SS privatization. Do read it; it’s short. Basically, the author says that Social Security is a mess, and how else will Clinton save it but privatization? Seriously; that’s the argument. I am not making this up.

There’s a lot of regressive stuff I fear Clinton might pull, but that is not one of them. Remember all the crazy we went through with Dubya’s privatization plan more than a decade ago? The more Bush talked about his plan to “reform” Social Security, the less popular the idea got. And that was before the 2008 crash.

Having invested so much political capital in this issue, President Bush embarked on the first of what proved to be a long series of tours crammed with events at which he pitched his plan to the people. It soon became apparent that it would be a tough sell. Within weeks, observers noticed that the more the President talked about Social Security, the more support for his plan declined. According to the Gallup organization, public disapproval of President Bush’s handling of Social Security rose by 16 points from 48 to 64 percent–between his State of the Union address and June.

By early summer the initiative was on life support, with congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray.After Hurricane Katrina inundated what remained of the President’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. By October, even the President had to acknowledge that his effort had failed.

Since then, Democrats have been running on promises to protect Social Security from the evil machinations of privatizing Republicans. Even Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Bush’s plan would put “Americans at risk of losing their retirement savings with the ups and downs of Wall Street.” The 2016 Democratic Party platform plainly states “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.”

In short, this is an issue in which the Dems have absolutely no wiggle room. And I don’t think they’re so stupid they don’t know that. If on the remote chance Clinton were to offer a Bush-style plan as part of some “grand bargain” with a Republican Congress, the political fallout on the entire Democratic Party would be radioactive.

So, while I distrust Clinton in many areas of policy, privatizing Social Security is very low on my list of Ways Hillary Might Sell Us Out.

And the whole point of that Forbes article was planting that headline in the magazine, so that soft-headed progressives and Greenies would link to it and get hysterical, possibly costing Clinton some votes. It was bait.

Yesterday I linked to an article by Josh Marshall that explains what “oversampling” means to a pollster.

Campaigns do extensive, very high quality polling to understand the state of the race and devise strategies for winning. These are not public polls. So they can’t affect media polls and they can’t have anything to do with voter suppression.

Now you may be asking, why would the Democrats skew their own internal polls? Well, they’re not.

The biggest thing here is what the word ‘oversampling’ means. Both public and private pollsters will often over-sample a particular demographic group to get statistically significant data on that group. So let’s stay you have a likely voter poll with 800 respondents. The number of African-Americans in that sample is maybe going to be 100 people, maybe less. 800 people is a decent sample for statistical significance. 100 is not. So if you’re trying to draw conclusions about African-American voters, levels of approval, degree of opposition or support of a candidate, demographic breakdowns, etc. you need to get an ‘over-sample’ to get solid numbers.

Whether it’s public or private pollsters, the ‘over-sample’ is never included in the ‘topline’ number. So if you get 4 times the number of African-American voters as you got in a regular sample, those numbers don’t all go into the mix for the total poll. They’re segmented out. The whole thing basically amounts to zooming in on one group to find out more about them. To do so, to zoom in, you need to ‘over-sample’ their group as what amounts to a break-out portion of the poll.

In other words, campaigns and parties do not “oversample” demographic groups in order to generate fake poll numbers. That hasn’t stopped half the Intertubes from reposting headlines like WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL EXPOSES Clinton Campaign and Mainstream Media “RIGGED POLLING”. And the people posting this that I’ve seen are lefties. The links are followed by comments such as “Money talks and if they don’t listen, thee is always the threat of imminent ‘suicide’ to keep witnesses silent.”

I mean, I’m as weary of knee-jerk rah-rah yay for our side as anybody. But this perpetual screaming hysteria is absolutely exhausting. I wish there were nothing on the Web but cats and babies.

In other news — the text of the talk I gave Sunday is posted here.

Share Button

The Least of Four Evils


John Oliver on the fringe candidates, Johnson and Stein.

I’ll be on the road tomorrow; will check in tomorrow night if all goes well.

Share Button

Startling New Revelation About Al Gore


So a guy on my Facebook friend’s list posted that Hillary Clinton’s problems in the polls have “everything to do with gender. One only need to look at the false equivalency and over reactions to anything Clinton and the blindness towards Trump’s criminal activity.”

But if you’ve been paying attention these past, oh, 36 years, the false equivalency thing has been going on since the Carter-Reagan contest in 1980. The Dem candidate gets picked apart; the GOP candidate gets a pass.

This reached a peak during the Bush II years. In 2000 Al Gore got slammed for random things like misstating the cost of dog food. Remember when the talking point on Gore was that he was a “serial liar”? Meanwhile Bush had some major ugly things in his background as a businessman and as a governor that got overlooked.

Gore also was called out because of his fashion sense — too many earth tones. Remember that one?

So I’ve come to a startling conclusion: Al Gore is a woman. And maybe John Kerry is, too.

Another Al Gore related tidbit — this weekend I ran into a wingnut making fun of Al Gore’s environmental predictions. Gore had predicted that global climate change would be causing flooding on the coastlines by now. Ha, ha, the wingnut said.

But, dude — global climate change IS causing flooding on the coastlines now.

The wingnuts won’t recognize truth until they’re underwater in boiling seas, I’m afraid.

Also — I’m thinking about live blogging the debate tonight. Anyone interested?

Share Button

Red and Redder

elections, Obama Administration

I’m getting ready to resurrect the old slogan “Better dead than Red.” Of course, back in the day, “red” meant “Communist.” I’m struggling to come up with a term that sums up what “red” means now, other than “we are so screwed.”

In Red State Missouri the general election candidates are all running on the platform of Redder Than Thou. There’s an open seat in the governor’s mansion; the two candidates are:

  • Chris Koster, the Democrat, who brags about being tough on crime and how he is endorsed by the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police. After Ferguson, that’s, um, a tad alarming.
  • Eric Greitens, the Republican, whose primary campaign ads featured him gunning down some farmer’s field. His major selling point is being former Navy Seal.

I’m pleased to say Kostner is ahead in the polls. Kostner appears to be okay on women’s reproductive rights and also on marriage equality and Obamacare. He may be trusted to continue the illustrious legacy of the current governor, Jay Nixon, who functioned primarily to veto whatever nonsense the legislature came up with. Greitens will, I fear, do to Missouri what Sam Brownback did to Kansas, and also will green light whatever shit-for-brains laws the state legislature comes up with. If Greitens wins, I would advise anyone with business interests in the state to get the hell out before the inauguration.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt, patron saint of lobbyists, is up for re-election. He’s one of those incumbents who feels as if he’s been around since Reconstruction, but it’s probably only been since the Coolidge Administration. The man’s a walking archetype of what’s wrong with Washington. If Blunt were an actor, he’d be the guy they’d always want to cast as the fat cat politician. Naturally, Blunt, who has never served in the military, enjoys the endorsement of the NRA and has featured this prominently in his campaign.

The NRA released an ad attacking Blunt’s opponent, Democrat Jason Kander, who is currently the Missouri Secretary of State. Kander released this ad:

Basically, Kander has the nerve to think there are some people who shouldn’t have guns. People with criminal records, for example. He’s also on the record as being opposed to “stand your ground” laws and thinks there are some places civilians shouldn’t be carrying guns,, such as schools. This makes him an official Enemy of Freedom as far as the gun nuts are concerned.

Gail Collins commented on this race, and added:

Now Hillary Clinton is running on centrist reforms like background checks, while Donald Trump wants to eliminate gun-free zones at, say, nursery schools and give people from Missouri the right to carry their permit-free concealed weapons in Midtown Manhattan.

In gratitude, the N.R.A. has been running an ad that shows an intruder smashing into a house where a woman is sleeping, alone. When the terrified resident opens the safe where she keeps her gun, said weapon vanishes, and it’s pretty much curtains. This could happen to you, if you let Hillary Clinton take away our “right to self-defense.”

Of course, a woman is less likely to be shot by an intruder than by a member of her family. And really, Missouri, do you want to have everybody in St. Louis carrying a concealed weapon? Let’s talk.

Blunt is leading in the polls, but it’s close enough that Kander “has a shot.” Please, oh please …

Share Button

Stuff to Read About Trump

Bad Hair, elections, Obama Administration

Charles Pierce argues that now is the time for the Republican Party to die. See also The End of the Republican Party at FiveThirtyEight.

While I don’t see the Republican Party disappearing anytime soon, Donald Trump’s chances of becoming POTUS are sinking faster than cement shoes in the East River. Per FiveThirtyEight, on July 30 it was Trump, 50.1, Clinton, 49.9. Now it’s 18.4 and 81.5, respectively. At this rate Trump will be in negative numbers by Monday.

A former Wall Street Journal reporter writes about his days covering Donald Trump. He writes that Donald Trump is a bad, bad businessman.

A former deputy director of the CIA endorses Hillary Clinton. This is the juiciest bit:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

Trump’s erratic behavior is getting so much media attention that Hillary Clinton is nearly invisible. This may be helping her also.

Clinton’s biggest problem now is that she’s not doing so well among Millennials.

And yet even though roughly three-fourths of all battleground-state Millennials expressed these disparaging views of Trump, the survey found Clinton drawing just 43 percent against him in a four-way race that included libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. While Trump attracted only 24 percent, nearly as many picked Johnson or Stein, and the rest said they were either undecided or wouldn’t vote. By comparison, Obama carried two-thirds of Millennials in 2008 and three-fifths in 2012.

But in comparing two-way and four-way polls at Real Clear Politics, it seems to me that the two fringe party candidates, Stein and Johnson, are taking votes from both Clinton and Trump about equally. So that may be a wash.

Fortunately, the Olympics will give us a little relief from politics. Enjoy.

Share Button

On Safari


I’m visiting family in the Ozarks. It is very quiet here. Unlike Brooklyn, there are no firetrucks or ambulances roaring by every ten minutes; no incessant construction and traffic noise. It’s like a decompression chamber.

The big event in the community today was a golf cart parade followed by a hot dog roast. But it’s raining, so I didn’t go. I hope the rain doesn’t cancel all the local fireworks displays. Otherwise it will be a few days before something else happens.

The politics ads are very depressing here. One candidate after another gets on television and swears to be a constitutional conservative who will protect our rights to guns and to refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. One guy actually shoots a gun in his ad.  They’re also big on cutting taxes and reducing crime. (When “crime” is mentioned, the ads show what appear to be videos of Ferguson.)

The Missouri state legislature, which always was crazy, spends most of its time coming up with ways to restrict abortions and gay rights and un-restrict guns. I can’t tell that they do anything else. The primary function of the governor, a Democrat, is to veto stuff. He vetoes a lot of stuff. But his second term is about to expire, and he can’t run again.

The Democratic candidate for governor, Chris Koster, is a centrist who at least is good on reproductive rights and gay rights issues. I don’t have a sense of where he stands elsewhere.  The Republican candidates are tripping all over themselves to earn the title “Crazier Than Thou.” If any of them get into the governor’s office, the state is doomed.

Share Button

It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Spinning Is Over


There are election results, and then there is the post-voting spin contest. Especially in the case of Iowa, the latter is arguably more critical.

Marco Rubio finished a “strong” third, only one percentage point behind second-place The Donald. Already the Establishment types are pinning their hopes on Marco as the guy who will restore sanity to the election and become a reasonably presentable GOP nominee. The Chicago Tribune wants to believe that Trump wasn’t even a factor last night, even though he did beat Rubio. Behind the scenes, Toast! will be pressured to drop out and endorse Rubio. He’d probably rather eat live frogs.

What to make of the Clinton-Sanders virtual tie? Some spinners are smugly saying that Sanders had to win big to remain viable, so Clinton is the big winner, even though (as of this morning) the race is still too close to call as far as news media are concerned.

But other reports say the Clinton campaign is “unnerved.” Andrea Mitchell reported the Clinton folks were in meltdown.

Mr. Sanders showed strength in unexpected ways that could signal trouble for Mrs. Clinton, performing surprisingly well in rural counties and small caucus precincts, and even making some gains among Hispanic Democrats, his advisers said on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Sanders won several counties that Mrs. Clinton carried in 2008 in conservative-leaning southwestern Iowa and in the northern part of the state, including Cerro Gordo County, where Mr. Sanders drew three times as many people as Mr. Clinton as the two men held dueling rallies last Wednesday night.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s friends and former advisers from Arkansas and the White House planned to meet her in New Hampshire to provide moral support and energy to her campaign team. Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight.

Her backers said the results in Iowa should not be given too much weight. Spoken like a campaign that just had a wakeup call. My sense of things is that Sanders may be winning the post-election spin contest. However, it remains to be seen if he can win any primaries other than New Hampshire.

This breakdown shows that Sanders had the overwhelming support of younger participants, while older voters went for Clinton. It also shows that people still consider Clinton to be the one who is safely electable. That’s a bubble Sanders needs to burst if he’s going to win after New Hampshire.

Share Button

We Need Some New Dogs, ‘Cause the Old Tricks Ain’t Workin’


My insight into politics 2016 is that the old political tricks that used to win elections don’t work any more, and the candidates who realize that are the ones who are winning.

For example: Once upon the time, the candidate with the biggest war chest, the most money, had a huge (or is that “yuuuuuge”?) advantage. More money, more ads, more votes. But that’s no longer true.

In this strange primary season, there is little relationship between money spent on ads and poll numbers for candidates, at least on the Republican side. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, the top two spenders, have spent about 10 times as much on ads as have the two polling leaders in Iowa, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who until recently bought far fewer ads than their rivals.

At this early stage of the race, the negative correlation between spending and support appears to be the result of the ever-evolving media landscape and a few other factors, some unique to 2016: a celebrity front-runner, a crowded field, questionable campaign strategies and voter burnout.

I remember reading a few years ago that television ads were getting less bang for the buck with every passing election cycle. I’d like to believe viewers are better at recognizing bullshit than they used to be, but the truth is we’ve all been so saturated with advertising that, unless it is unusually clever or funny, we tune it out.

(Example of funny/clever ad; not from U.S. television)

I don’t know if that makes me want to buy the dumplings, but at least I would remember the ad.  The problem is, how many funny/clever campaign ads can you think of? And would the infamous “Daisy” ad of 50+ years ago work today, or be laughed at?

On the Dem side, IMO Hillary Clinton’s biggest blunder is that she’s trying to run a 1990s-style campaign against Bernie Sanders, who is way not a 1990s-style candidate. Charles Blow nicely sums this up:

… instead of Clinton finding a way to express that her plans are more tangible than Sanders’s, and her chances in the general election are stronger than his, she and her campaign have made some incredulous inferences about Sanders’s honor.

Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her.

There are a tremendous number of echoes starting to be heard between the way Clinton ran against Obama, and the way she is running against Sanders. …

… If Clinton can’t find a positive, energetic message to project, and soon, she is going to be swept away by Sanders.

Clinton’s off-the-wall swipes at Sanders do connect … with Clinton supporters. I see the same talking points repeated ad nauseam in social media. But people who are not already in the tank for Hillary are not buying them.

Clinton could just as easily make a positive argument for herself, saying that while she supports Sanders’s ideals, her more incremental approach has a better chance of actually working to realize those ideals than his “revolution” approach. That’s a very compelling argument, I think, and one that could win over people on the fence. But instead she’s going for cheap smears, and that does nothing but underscore her own negatives — in particular, the perception that she has a history of selling out progressive principles for her own political expediency.

And yes, her campaign is starting to sound like a re-run of 2008 — when she lost, as I recall.

Share Button

Need to Know


There are a lot of postmortems of Scott Walker’s failed campaign. The most basic reason his campaign failed is lack of money. He had all kinds of super-PAC money, mind you, but it seems there are rules about using super-PAC money for common campaign expenses like paying one’s staff, travel, renting campaign headquarters, etc.

And while Walker may have had some megadonors ready to write checks, he couldn’t raise money from small donors that he could use for the campaign essentials. According to this article, one direct-mail solicitation campaign cost more money than it raised. There are also complaints that Walker’s campaign manager “went big” too soon. Back when Walker was a front-runner, the manager hired a big staff, a PR firm, and lots of consultants to keep the Big Mo going.

Maybe they should have spent the money hiring a more exciting candidate. The small donors dried up after the first debate and never came back.

(Lest anyone think this will bring about the demise of unlimited campaign spending, see Steve M.)

The campaign apparently also had to hire people to explain to Walker what a President does. Frank Bruni (yeah, I know, it’s Frank Bruni):

I’m weary and wary of politicians whose ambitions precede and eclipse any serious, necessary preparation for the office they seek. Walker is a perfect example.

I kept hearing and reading — after he’d obviously decided to run for president — that he was being briefed by an emergency crew of wonks. Shouldn’t that have happened first? Shouldn’t he have been paying attention all along, out of a genuine interest in this sort of material rather than a pragmatic one?

In the Republican primary battle, though, not knowing stuff apparently doesn’t matter.

Donald Trump has prospered, and he’s utterly unapologetic about all of the matters that he hasn’t taken the trouble to bone up on and all of the experts whom he hasn’t bothered to consult.

When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked him where he gets his military advice, he said: “I watch the shows.” He presumably meant “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation,” though I don’t think we can rule out “Survivor” or “Game of Thrones.”

Time and again, Trump pledges to amass the proper information just before he needs it — no point in doing so now, before he finds out if he’s hired — and he predicts that he’ll shame everyone then with his abracadabra erudition. He’s a procrastinating college freshman planning an all-nighter before the final exam.

I already talked about Trump’s and Fiorina’s issues-free campaign websites on this post. Ben Carson does have an “issues” section on his website, but it doesn’t say shit.  For example, he plans to repeal Obamacare, but the only idea presented for replacing it is Health Savings Accounts. (As a writer, I recognize bullshit “filler” copy when I see it. Carson’s issues page is all filler.)

Basically, the current “top three” in the Republican field have given us no clue what specific policies they might pursue in office, and indeed have given no indication they’ve thought about it much. “ISIS is bad” is not a foreign policy plan, folks.

Marco Rubio’s issues page has a lot more verbiage, most of which is dedicated to complaining how awful President Obama’s policies are, followed by some simplistic bullet list of what Rubio will do better. For example, his plan to reduce the debt consists of cutting spending and “reforming” (which means cutting) taxes. Oh, and he wants a balanced budget amendment.

“The Tax Foundation found that our plan, over the next decade, would increase GDP by 15 percent, boost wages by 12.5 percent, and create almost 2.7 million full-time jobs,” Rubio’s website boasted. Note that the Tax Foundation has ties to ALEC . Krugman took the Tax Foundation apart awhile back when it claimed there had been no long-run upward trend in income inequality.

Looking at the last of the GOP Most Likelies, Jeb! doesn’t have an issues section, but instead has dribbled out random policy positions on his “news” section.

And yes, I’ve looked at Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s web pages. In some cases HRC is still promising what she plans to do (climate change) and in others she has some plausible details worked out (reducing higher education cost). Bernie Sanders seem pretty firm about what he wants to do, although I notice his issues page leaves off climate change and health care, except for prescription drugs.  (He’s called for Medicare for All in the recent past.)

Then there’s the website On the Issues, which can be a useful place to get a general idea about a candidate’s position. Just for fun:

Here is the condensed version of Bernie Sanders positions on Social Security.  Now, compare that to Carly Fiorina. Um, see the difference?

Talk about buying a pig in a poke. Basically, if you look for them you find that most of the GOP positions amount to the same stuff they’ve been pushing for years — cut spending, especially on programs for the poor and retired  (but not defense), cut taxes, replace Obamacare with a few ineffectual tweaks that won’t help most people, give Israel everything it wants, ISIS is bad, ban abortions, pass a balanced budget amendment, hooray for guns, more drilling for oil, illegal immigration is bad, and there is no climate change. There are some exceptions to that list, but not many.

Share Button

Opposing Income Inequality Is the New Black

elections, Mittens, Obama Administration, Republican Party

It was funny enough when Rick Santorum tried to rebrand himself as an economic populist. But you’ll never guess who’s getting on the “we are the 99 percent” bandwagon. Well, unless you’ve already read this.

Mitt Romney, sudden champion of Americans trying to make ends meet — it’s coming off to progressives and veterans of Obama’s winning re-election campaign as a little too rich.

The 2012 Republican nominee’s sudden return to presidential politics already had them dusting off old attack lines. His reinvention Friday night as an anti-poverty warrior has them in a frenzy of excitement, even glee at what they see as the Democratic Party’s stroke of good luck.

Yes, children, Mittens now fancies himself to be the Savior of the Downtrodden. This is something like making Ronald McDonald the poster boy for heart-healthy diets.
His message, or as much as I can glean from news stories, is this:
  • Mittens really cares about poor people. He knows this because his wife Ann says so.
“She knows my heart in a way that few people do,” he said. “She’s seen me not just as a business guy and a political guy, but for over 10 years as you know I served as a pastor for a congregation and for groups of congregations… She’s seen me work with folks that are looking for better work and jobs and providing care for the sick and the elderly. She knows where my heart is.”
  • Liberal policies haven’t worked. Of course they haven’t actually been tried for decades because they’ve been obstructed by conservatives, but let’s not quibble. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, and this must be Obama’s fault. The fact that the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer since the Reagan Administration is water under the bridge.

“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”

  •  Mittens has a plan, something bold and original that hasn’t been done before. He explained to Republican National Committee members,
“The only policies that will reach into the hearts of the American people and pull people out of poverty and break the cycle of poverty are Republican principles, conservative principles,” Romney said to no applause from the Republican crowd.
I’m sure they forgot to applaud because they were struck numb by the boldness of Romney’s plan. And maybe he could get Gov. Sam Brownback to serve as an economic policy adviser.

Snark aside, it appears income inequality is going to be a big issue in 2016. Hillary Clinton also has been making noise about it and trying to tie herself to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a long-time friend and alleged progressive. Opposing income inequality is the new black.

But hearing it from Romney, de Blasio said, is a sign that income inequality has really arrived as the defining issue of the 2016 campaign.

“This is on the minds of more and more people around the country, because income inequality is basically the touchstone of what we’re dealing with right now,” de Blasio said. “It is very telling that a guy who’s trying to find his way back to political relevance will grab onto it.”

It is telling, and it suggests the 2016 election campaigns will be a ton of fun. But if we end up with a HRC-Jeb Bush general election choice the terrorists will have won.
Share Button
« Older Posts

    About this blog

    About Maha
    Comment Policy

    Vintage Mahablog
    Email Me

    eXTReMe Tracker

      Technorati Profile