"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Showing posts with label Elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elections. Show all posts

Monday, November 5, 2012

An Appeal to Heaven

The Pine Tree Flag

The day of the election is at hand. The Prolix Patriot has written before in these pages of the attacks on religious freedom by the Obama Administration. If the President is re-elected tomorrow, these attacks will doubtlessly continue with renewed hostility and vigor. Furthermore, regardless of which candidate wins tomorrow (or in the following weeks if it's very close) people of all religions will still have great difficulty living according to their faith in our decadent society.

Whether in the abuses heaped upon celebrities like Tim Tebow or a formerly anonymous elderly bus monitor in New York, we live in a culture that despises virtue. In the 22nd Psalm, we find a description of the persecutions that have always faced people of faith and conviction. Whether in the jeers of unruly schoolyard bullies or the hectoring of the liberal media, people of faith seem to always be on the defensive, but as the scripture tells us, this is all to be expected for those who seek the path of righteousness.

Religion tolerates unbelief because we have faith that with time and love we can convert the hard of heart to a fuller understanding. All we ask is to be allowed to practice our faith in the meanwhile. When the government joins in that attack however, the situation becomes more desperate. There are many policies which a religious person might find offensive, but President Obama has crossed an unprecedented line by requiring people of faith to violate their own consciences in the service of those policies.

It is altogether fitting then that an early motto in the fight for independence of this country was "An Appeal to Heaven." The phrase alludes to the works of John Locke, the philosophical forefather of American self-government.

What is my Remedy against a Robber, that so broke into my House? Appeal to the Law for Justice. But perhaps Justice is denied, or I am crippled and cannot stir, robbed and have not the means to do it. If God has taken away all means of seeking remedy, there is nothing left but patience. But my Son, when able, may seek the Relief of the Law, which I am denied: He or his Son may renew his Appeal, till he recover his Right. But the Conquered, or their Children, have no Court, no Arbitrator on Earth to appeal to. Then they may Appeal, as Jephtha did, to Heaven, and repeat their Appeal, till they have recovered the native Right of their Ancestors, which was to have such a Legislative over them, as the Majority should approve, and freely acquiesce in.

When the fate of freedom is at its most perilous, we may find our hopes dashed and our faith tested. However, we would all do well to remember the words of the 146th Psalm, "Put not your trust in princes: in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation." The Prolix Patriot hopes that this will be the last word he ever needs to write about President Obama, but even if Obama is able to continue his attacks on religious liberty in a second term, there is a saying that God always settles out of court. Our faith may be attacked and even criminalized, but in the end, we shall prevail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

As Goes Ohio...

As we enter the final two weeks of this election cycle, let us consider the question of whether President Obama or Governor Romney can win without Ohio. Currently, the only two bellwether states with any kind of reputation are Ohio and Nevada. These two states have only voted against the winner three times between them in the last hundred years: Nevada once in 1972 and Ohio twice in 1944 and 1960, and that last was one of the closest elections in history. Ohio especially, which has a population of 11.5 million to Nevada's 2.7 million, has become THE essential state to win for anyone who seeks the Presidency. Thus we have the saying, "As goes Ohio, so goes the Union."

You may be asking yourself, what is a bellwether anyway? The bell is obvious enough, but the wether has nothing to do with meteorology, but rather derives from the German widar or ram and is most often encountered in animal husbandry. The story goes that shepherds would place a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (the wether) to keep track of the whole flock, the thinking being that the ram would stay with his ewes wherever they roamed. This is not the most flattering comparison, but nevertheless, residents of bellwether states typically consider it a point of pride because of the unique role they play as an indicator of broader trends in electoral politics.

Following the etymology then, the chart above classifies states into sheep and bellwethers based on comprehensive election results from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. The sheep (shaded in yellow) are states which have voted with the winner three or more election cycles in a row. Aside from Franklin D. Roosevelt, no president has served more than two full terms--and indeed this is now constitutionally prohibited--so three in a row is more than just happenstance. The bellwethers (shaded in green) are states that have voted with the winner for three decades or more and have begun to acquire a more exceptional historical status.

Returning to our original question then, let us assume that Romney will win Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and Virginia. It is possible then that Romney could win Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, and New Hampshire and go on to win the Presidency without Ohio. Meanwhile, Obama could theoretically win those same four states while losing Ohio to Romney and still win the election. However, both scenarios are quite unlikely. According to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, Colorado and New Hampshire are to the right of Ohio while Iowa and Nevada are to the left. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that whoever wins Ohio will win the election.

It is worth noting that bellwethers are fundamentally a backwards-looking indicator of broader trends. As the old adage goes, "Every streak is good until it isn't." For example, as recently as 2004, Missouri and Tennessee were considered reliable bellwethers of the electorate, but both went to McCain in 2008 by a large margin. However, as the graph below illustrates, it is also true that if either Ohio or Nevada loses its bellwether status, there would be fewer such states than at any time since the end of Reconstruction--and that was with fewer states in the Union overall. Therefore, we can still make a few predictions about this election in the larger context of history.

If Ohio and Nevada lose their bellwether status and the election is decided on the barest of margins, it would signal that we have entered a new era of extreme hyper-partisanship similar to the antebellum period. In this scenario, Obama would certainly have lived up to his apparent goal of emulating the last President to come from Illinois, although not in a very good way. It would be a tragedy if after everything we have suffered through in the last four years that Obama's greatest similarity to Abraham Lincoln ends up being a legacy of bitter division and distrust.

There is also the possibility that Obama wins re-election with a broad mandate. In this case, Obama would be able to consolidate the disastrously extreme liberal policies of his first term and it seems likely that the Democrats' dream of a permanent majority would finally come true. Fortunately for conservatives, this seems more and more unlikely with each new poll. If Obama does win, it will almost certainly be by the narrowest of margins.

Finally, if Romney wins a solid victory it would signal a continuing realignment in American politics that started during the 1990's with the elderly and socially-conservative minorities continuing to assert ever greater importance in the electorate. The sheep today could become bellwethers of tomorrow. In the continuing realignment scenario, states like Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and especially Florida--all of which are leaning towards Romney in the most recent polls--may eventually overtake Ohio in electoral importance in future years. However, in this election, it’s still up to Ohio.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Liberal Chameleon

If You Don't Like My Principles, I Have Others

Last night's vice-presidential debate was the first time in our nation's history when two Catholics shared that stage, but this was not the only historic first of the evening. It was also the first time that a nationally televised debate constantly seemed on the edge of becoming a drunken bar brawl. Throughout the evening, Biden was playing to his far-left base, and like a chameleon, displayed all the left's most unattractive qualities. He was by turns haughty, surly, and morose. Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, Ryan was calm and consistent. Both men played to type in a way that was deeply revealing of their political philosophies.

In the opening phase, mainly in the area of foreign policy, the Vice President laughed and sneered with derision at every word that Congressman Ryan spoke, drawing unflattering comparisons to the Joker from the Batman comics. The left's unserious mockery of opposing views is all too common in public discourse today, such as when then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi snorted at the suggestion that the ObamaCare individual mandate might be unconstitutional. In the end, the joke was on her when the Supreme Court held that the commerce clause does have limits, and that the individual mandate could only be constitutional if construed as a tax.

Then, the topic shifted to the economy to entitlements in the second phase, and as Chris Wallace observed with evident dismay, "I don't believe that I've ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight." Vice President Biden and so-called moderator Martha Raddatz noticeably combined forces, at one point almost constantly interrupting Congressman Ryan and cutting him off without letting him respond to Biden's increasingly vicious verbal attacks. It is telling that in the area where Ryan is strongest--on economic and fiscal issues--there seemed to be a deliberate effort to block him from speaking.

On this point, many conservatives might complain of media bias, but during his debate preparations, Paul Ryan probably knew it was going to happen and decided to take the high road anyway. In the aftermath of Obama's humiliating defeat in the previous debate, many liberals criticized Jim Lehrer for not being assertive enough and Martha Raddatz obviously got the message. Both were terrible moderators for different reasons, but whereas Jim Lehrer's legacy as a well-respected veteran news anchor from an earlier and more civilized age remains intact, Martha Raddatz's fifteen minutes of fame are over, and she will now return to the comfortable obscurity she deserves as a correspondent for a network news program that hardly anybody watches anymore.

As the debate entered its mercifully brief final phase, Biden's tone changed dramatically when questioned about his views on abortion in the context of his professed Catholic faith. Shifting from his earlier jocosity and bravado, he suddenly seemed to bow his head and assumed a very serious and reverent tone of voice--almost as if seeking absolution for his many sins--as he tried to explain his own warped personal vision of Catholicism which somehow permits murder of the unborn under one of the most grotesque abortion policies in the entire world. Even atheist liberal European countries have some limits on when and how abortions can be performed, but not in Joe Biden's America.

Through it all, Paul Ryan maintained his composure and, like an accountant, stuck to the numbers and the hard facts throughout the debate. His performance was entirely consistent with his whole worldview, as a man of faith who is guided by principles over political considerations. Conversely, Biden constantly changed his mode of attack, just as he has changed his positions on the issues many times throughout his long career in the Senate. In the end, the liberal chameleon finally showed his true colors, and we were offered the clearest picture so far in this entire election of how extreme and how unhinged the political left has become.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Joe "Sixpack" Biden?

They built it.

This past Labor Day weekend, one of the panelists on the "Chris Matthews Show" said something so preposterous that it defies belief, even for the shameless liberal pundits that are the staple of MSNBC’s political coverage. According to Joe Klein, Congressman Paul Ryan is upper-middle class while, "Biden is a working class guy," (around 16:30)--not a symbol of the working class or born of a working class family, mind you, but actually working class in the here and now in his capacity as Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate.

The irony of this howler is even more bitter when we consider that Labor Day was once more than just the last day the pool is open and actually a real celebration of the working man, like those glorified in the mural by Diego Rivera above. Conversely, how can a man who has served in the Senate for nearly 40 years now ever be described as "working class" by any definition whatsoever? The U.S. Senate is modeled after the original Roman Senate for which membership was open only to the wealthiest and most prominent citizens of the Republic. As a practical matter, the same is true in America today.

Furthermore, if Paul Ryan--who, like Biden, has spent his entire career in public service--is wealthy and a symbol of Republican plutocracy with his comparatively modest income in the House of Representatives--which is modeled after the British House of Commons, incidentally--wouldn't that imply that Biden is also one of the evil wealthy capitalist pigs by virtue of his higher salary and longer tenure in the more august upper chamber?

The only other explanation for Biden’s lower socioeconomic status is that he has foolishly outspent his means (all taxpayer funded, of course) and taken out a second mortgage on his million-dollar home, multiple lines of credit with his life insurance as collateral, and squandered more taxpayer funds on his infamous first-class daily commute on Amtrak while Ryan has carefully and judiciously invested his more modest income to build up a greater fortune for the security of his family and future generations.

Given that our overextended entitlement programs closely resemble Biden's finances, this comparison is particularly instructive. Who should we trust more to manage the public fisc? In these lean times, we should place our trust in the proverbial ants who built up their store of provisions during the days of plenty than with the profligate grasshopper Biden. Like the grasshopper of fable, Biden's song and dance would be entertaining if we were at our ease in the golden days of summer.

We do not have that luxury. In these bleak and desperate times, we need men and women of substance and integrity like Congressman Ryan who understand that reforming entitlements is more than just a political game and is not merely necessary, but will become an existential crisis for our democracy if not solved within this decade. We cannot wait for 2016 to finally give serious thought to the defining issue of our age.

Fortunately for the future of this country, regardless of whether Mitt Romney wins or loses the election, Ryan will be in charge of the budget--either in the White House or in the House of Representatives. Democrats should be careful about mocking the man for his financial success, because they're going to have to work with him to mend the nation's finances whether they like it or not.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

In an election that was supposed to be about jobs and the economy, President Obama now finds himself in a battle over the signature accomplishment of his presidency--namely, ObamaCare. Democrats made a huge miscalculation by rushing the law to passage with a nakedly partisan majority, but now the Obama Administration is compounding the error by pushing ObamaCare through the courts and using its regulations to attack religious freedom in the midst of an election year. This chain of errors stands a good chance of costing Obama re-election.

More than half the states and numerous other parties have joined together to challenge the individual mandate provision which would require every American to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. Meanwhile, although the Catholic Bishops initially supported some form of healthcare reform, they are now united in opposing the implementation of the law by the Secretary of Health and Human Services which will require religious institutions to provide contraceptives that can also be used for do-it-yourself abortions.

As the battle for ObamaCare reached a climax in the spring of 2010, all of the maneuvering and political posturing was exhausted and the final sticking point was an amendment to the bill to ban the taxpayer funding of abortions. The Democratic majority had succeeded in quashing any objections over the enormous cost of the bill and the weakness of many of its policies, but a small cohort of pro-life Democrats led by Bart Stupak of Michigan had managed to hold out. By folding on this issue, Bart Stupak committed political suicide, but he may ultimately end up taking President Obama with him.

Conservatives are hopeful that the Supreme Court will strike down ObamaCare either wholly or in part on the basis of the individual mandate, but if the Court does not strike down the law, this will open up an even more horrifying possibility. If the individual mandate and HHS regulations are upheld, it will mean that there is effectively no limit on what the federal government can compel citizens to do. Indeed, because of Stupak’s cowardice, there is nothing in the law to stop the government from requiring abortions in difficult pregnancies if a bureaucrat decides that saving both mother and child is too costly.

It is ironic that as the debate over ObamaCare is being reignited the Gospel reading yesterday tells of a battle between Jesus and the Devil:

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit: he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!"

The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."

Like the possessed man of scripture, ObamaCare suffers from a Devil inside. As the old proverb states, “the Devil is in the details,” and in the rush to win passage of the law, Democrats failed to consider the full implications of its various provisions. Indeed, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “…we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” By failing to scrutinize the law and allow deliberate consideration of its many provisions, the Democrats have unleashed a terrifying power that is already being turned to evil designs.

America is a nation of laws and although our laws sometimes seem contradictory and inefficient, they are the only protection we have for our most basic freedoms. In the dramatization of Thomas More’s final days, the film “A Man for All Seasons” spells out what is truly at stake in the fight for religious freedom today:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake

We would do well to remember this and to consider the full implications of every new law before we consent to it. Unless ObamaCare is overturned and repealed, we are only witnessing the beginning of a descent into a tyranny that resembles the forced eugenics of Nazi Germany or the population control policies of Communist China. It may seem unthinkable that this could happen in America, but when the law is perverted and its safeguards removed, we are truly at the mercy of the Devil—such as it is—and our destruction is all but certain.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iowa Caucus Ends the Myth of Romney’s Inevitability

Mitt Romney received more votes than any other candidate in last night’s Iowa Caucus, but for the establishment and media favorite to win the nomination, that’s not good enough. Romney is not an inspiring candidate, so he needed to win convincingly to prove he can appeal to more than just the moderate wing of the Republican Party. However, instead of emerging as the clear winner, he emerges bruised and weak. Romney’s win last night was so narrow that he will continue to face strong opposition in the weeks and months ahead.

The biggest story is of course Santorum’s stunning rise from relative obscurity to come within eight votes of Romney. One after another, other challengers have surged as the anti-Romney candidate, but they peaked too soon to see any benefit in the caucuses and primaries. Santorum, on the other hand, was right to praise God in his speech last night for his very providential surge on the eve of the first-in-the-nation contest in Iowa. 75% of votes last night were cast against Romney and the winner of that group was unquestionably Santorum.

Romney’s biggest problem is his lack of message. In his “victory” speech last night, Romney merely reiterated his standard nebulous bromides about American greatness and there was even a moment prior to the speech when his staff began setting up a teleprompter in front of his lectern before being hurried away when someone realized this might make for an unfavorable comparison to President Obama. By contrast, Santorum gave an emotional speech which was well calibrated with an appeal to social conservatives, working-class “Reagan Democrats,” and even a nod to the Tea Party.

The lack of a compelling message is a severe handicap for Romney. In the coverage last night on Fox News, Brett Baier stated that the Romney Campaign spent roughly $110 per vote while Santorum only spent about $1.50 per vote. Although the numbers are slightly different, data from BuzzFeed corroborates the vast difference between Romney and Santorum’s spending levels. Looking at it another way, Romney spent about 29% of the total money to win about 25% of the vote, while Santorum spent less than 1% of the total money to get almost exactly the same number of votes.

As a result, Romney’s performance in Iowa in 2012 was no better than his performance in 2008. Despite being the establishment favorite, outspending every other candidate except Rick Perry, higher overall turnout, his many advantages as a campaign veteran, and with better organization on the ground in Iowa than any candidate except possibly Ron Paul, Romney’s share of the vote remained virtually unchanged from where it was four years ago.

In the end, Romney won a costly and hollow victory in Iowa. Although he leads the polling in New Hampshire, the same was true in 2008 before John McCain’s upset there. Because of his perceived weakness, Romney will be the subject of withering all-out attacks from Newt Gingrich, Santorum, and Jon Huntsman in New Hampshire and South Carolina in the next few weeks. If Romney does somehow manage to win his party’s nomination, it will be a long and painful contest.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

National Popular Vote: An Alternate History

The Prolix Patriot has written in the past on the virtues of the Electoral College system, but the liberal campaign to institute a popular vote for presidential elections is in the news again. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a proposal whereby participating states agree to give their electors to the winner of the popular vote, regardless of the votes cast for either candidate within the state. The compact will automatically go into effect if enough states join it to give the NPV states control of at least 270 electoral votes.

The election of 1960 was razor thin. Thanks to shenanigans in Chicago and other major Democratic strongholds in the Northeast, Kennedy won the popular vote by a margin of about 100,000 votes, but because of the Electoral College system enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers, Kennedy had a clear mandate of 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219. Now, let's pretend the NPV had been in effect.

Polls in Nixon's home state of California close a full two to three hours after those in Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. As reports come in that Nixon is only down by a small margin (less than 0.25%), the Nixon campaign pushes organizers and supporters in California to get a few more voters out to the polls in Republican-leaning precincts to swing the national popular vote over to Nixon's favor.

When California finally begins tallying votes, voila, the final count comes in with Nixon ahead by 500 votes. Even though Kennedy should have a clear victory in the Electoral College, the NPV rules require Kennedy strongholds of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland (all current NPV compact members) to give all their votes to Nixon. Given the slim margin, both the Kennedy and Nixon campaigns start requesting recounts and filing legal challenges, counter-suits, and injunctions in almost every state in the Union.

California, Texas, Illinois, and New York are simultaneously adjusting their vote tallies when it becomes clear that Kennedy may still win the popular vote. Nixon supporters in California react by launching a signature drive for a ballot initiative to leave the NPV interstate compact. Meanwhile, disgusted with the possibility that a Republican may take the election, Mississippi's unpledged electors announce they will give their votes to Kennedy.

Lawsuits galore are now headed to the Supreme Court, and then, as an added twist, Kennedy supporters and the press start a campaign to pressure Eisenhower's Supreme Court nominees to recuse themselves from any election-related cases, because Nixon served as an advisor to the Eisenhower administration's nomination and vetting process. By the time the dust has settled the decision on how to resolve the crisis is left in the hands of only four justices with a real possibility of deadlock.

As popular outrage builds with the escalating crisis, Eisenhower convenes all 50 governors at an emergency meeting in Dallas to consider the possibility of deploying the National Guard to maintain order. While traveling from the airport to his hotel, he is assassinated by a disgruntled Communist sympathizer named Lee Harvey Oswald. Nixon is sworn in as acting president while the results of his own election are still being litigated and tabulated. Massive riots and violence break out across the nation and Nixon declares "temporary emergency measures" in an attempt to bring the situation under control.

We are used to thinking of such a constitutional crisis as a preposterous and impossible scenario, but if the NPV ever goes into effect, this is exactly the sort of crisis that could happen in the very near future. In fact, the Heritage Foundation and the State Leadership Foundation hosted an event this morning with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell which examined just these sorts of problems. As former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley Smith once observed, “We are so accustomed to stable, generally good government that we sometimes forget that failure of government structures is historically much more common than success.…[W]e tinker with our success at our peril.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

To Your Health

The Doctor Will See You Now

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to one of the challenges to ObamaCare which means that a decision one way or the other on the constitutionality of the individual mandate will be issued by the Court in June of next year. Conveniently, the Republican presidential primaries will be wrapping up at the same time and President Obama will begin debating the presumptive Republican nominee. While Obama is wishing he could talk about something else, next year's debate will be centered on Obama's obsession with heath care reform amidst a failing economy and rising unemployment.

All of this is bad news for President Obama. While he may have the bully pulpit, the President has no authority in the deliberations of the Supreme Court or in the process of amending the Constitution. The only influence the President has in the former is the appointment of justices. In this, his nomination of former Solicitor General Elena Kagan may come back to haunt him during the general election as her position on ObamaCare prior to its enactment is re-examined by the public after the Court's decision in June.

We cannot know how the Court will decide the case, but in some respects, it doesn't even matter which way the Court rules. The magnitude of public opinion against the ObamaCare individual mandate is overwhelming. In addition to the 28 states that have sought to challenge the law in the courts, 18 states--including, most recently, the key presidential battleground of Ohio--have enacted laws which oppose some element of ObamaCare, and no less than 45 states have proposed similar legislation.

The only states which have not mounted any challenge whatsoever to ObamaCare are the coastal liberal strongholds of California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Predictably, the District of Columbia also has no objections to the individual mandate. With numbers like these, the states are in a position to amend the Constitution regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. History has shown that even the threat of an Article V convention has usually been sufficient to pressure Congress to respond to the will of the people.

President Obama entered office with no real leadership experience and an ideological obsession with reshaping the very essence of American life. Ironically, Obama's allies in Congress and the media who proclaimed the "historic" achievement of health care reform will be proven correct, although not in the way they had hoped. The combination of incompetence and hubris that came together in the failed ObamaCare legislation will be remembered forever as the centerpiece of Obama's failed presidency.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Presidential On-The-Job Training

After last night’s speech, one gets a sense that President Obama is desperate to prove to a skeptical public that he is in charge. However, the President fails to understand is that leadership is about more than just giving commands. Leadership requires respect, wisdom, patience, and above all, humility, but Obama never had to learn these hard-earned virtues prior to his inauguration.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."

Indeed, there are only six other presidents who, like Obama, were elected without any prior executive experience--defined here as either a former governor, military officer, or both:
  • John Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • James Buchanan
  • William Howard Taft
  • Warren G. Harding
  • Herbert Hoover
All either lost re-election, or in the case of Harding, died in office. When given a choice, the people clearly decided that they didn't like the results of the first term enough to give these presidents a second chance. Given Obama’s falling poll numbers and unpopular policies, he will have a long and difficult re-election campaign ahead if he is to avoid a similar fate.

Many presidents failed to win re-election despite their experience in the military or the governor’s mansion. Recent one-term presidents like Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush all served with distinction in the military. Other one-termers like John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, and Rutherford B. Hayes were all governors. And then of course there is the oddity of Grover Cleveland, who was the only president to lose re-election, but then later come back to win a second non-consecutive term.

It is clear that previous executive experience--even in the presidency itself--does not guarantee re-election. Sometimes events are too powerful for even otherwise great and accomplished men to overcome. Patience and humility are essential virtues when confronted with the unexpected and the uncontrollable. Wise presidents know the limits of the office--and the limits of human nature.

Obama doesn’t have any of these advantages. History shows that lack of experience almost guarantees an unsuccessful presidency.  This is even worse for Obama, who is powerless in the face of continuing economic uncertainty.  As Vice President Biden once said--as he so often does--in an unguarded moment of unintentional honesty, "The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."



Friday, December 3, 2010

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

As armchair quarterbacks anaylze the aftermath of the 2010 election, potential presidential challengers are quietly gearing up for the 2012 cycle.  With sweeping Republican gains in statehouses across the country, the 2010 census apportionment is likely to give a slight edge to the GOP in congressional races, but more interesting are the demographic shifts which will benefit the Republican presidential nominee.

The map above shows the states which went to Obama and McCain in the 2008 presidential election, but with a twist.  Instead of varying the shading by the depth of partisan support, the darkness of each state instead corresponds to the predicted changes in the electoral college.  Meanwhile, several states are also shaded to indicate a potential weakness for the opposing party to pick up electoral votes in the 2012 cycle.

Dozens of states shifted perceptibly to the right in 2010, especially in the midwest.  Even President Obama's home state of Illinois, while still solid blue, is less so.  Mark Kirk won the Senate race there and the state legislature is slightly less lopsided in favor of Democrats than it was.  Also, like many liberal bastions, Illinois will be losing an electoral vote after the 2010 census reapportionment.

Republicans completely swept the 2010 election by winning races for governor, both houses of the state legislature, and a majority of the congressional delegation in seven states that went to Obama in 2008: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Meanwhile, Republicans also now control at least one house of the state legislatures in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Democrats can take some consolation that during redistricting they will at least have some leverage in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and West Virginia.  However, with the exception of West Virginia, none of these states are seriously in play for 2012--unless Hillary Clinton mounts a successful renegade primary challenge to her current boss.

Numerous factors, such as gerrymandered minority districts, weak turnout in an off-year, and the potential for improvement in the economy make it hard to draw strong conclusions from 2010 about the upcoming presidential race.  2012 will still be a very difficult year for Republicans, especially because there is no clear favorite with the widespread appeal that will be necessary to convince independents who voted for Obama to change their vote this time around.

However, Obama's political team should have reason to worry that no less than 117 electoral votes will be at stake in the seven states that slipped away from the Democrats in a complete rout this past cycle.  Adding other traditional battlegrounds like Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire into the mix presents a daunting race to the 270 electoral votes that will be needed to keep President Obama from joining the 15 million Americans currently on the unemployment rolls.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Party Is Over

The New York Times reports today on the passage by plebiscite of Proposition 14 in California, which outlaws party primary elections for all offices except the Presidency and party leadership positions. As is often the case with public referenda, an initiative which was put directly to the people will in the end take power away from the same people who supported it.

Supporters for the initiative claimed that the "top two" primary system would promote more moderate candidates, but this flies in the face of all logic. Quite to the contrary, California’s new system will promote more extreme candidates in some areas, while at the same time diminishing voters’ choices and influence in the rest of the state.

In districts which lean heavily one way or the other, the dominant party can run multiple candidates with the hopes of blocking the other party from the general election. But this can backfire as we saw in the electoral oddity of Republican Charles Djou’s special election victory in Hawaii last month with only 39% of the vote. Under Hawaii’s normal election rules this fall, he won’t stand a chance against a unified Democratic party backing a single opponent in a strongly liberal district.

Conversely, in districts which are evenly balanced, the "top two" system will encourage each party to choose one candidate to support before the voice of the people can be heard. As we saw in the public and acrimonious internal struggle of the NY-23 special election, Republican leaders chose Dede Scozzafava, whom they perceived as the strongest candidate despite voters’ opposition. This led to disaster and embarrassment for conservatives when Democrat Bill Owens won with only 49% of the vote.

California has always been weird, but it now joins Washington and Louisiana as the only three states that allow voters to pick candidates from multiple parties during a primary. Although the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the system in 2008, it ruled that the Washington’s version was too new to draw any conclusions about its fairness.

Examples like the ones above show how the "top two" system will result in anomalous results which run contrary to the will of the people--results which are bound to be repeated in the coming years as Washington and California continue with their experiments in hyperpluralism. Although it is entertaining to see the underdog do well in sports, this is a dangerous trend for our system of representative government.