Democrats To Get More Electoral Votes

North Carolina appears to be on the verge of changing the winner take all system for distributing electoral votes. Candidates would win electoral votes based upon winning in counties instead of state wide, with the state wide winner stiill receiving an additional two votes. With fifteen electoral votes, even if North Carolina remins a red state, the Democratic candidate should pick up a few votes.

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Centrists Win As The DLC Loses

Writing in The New York Times, Noam Schieber has an op-ed entitled The Centrists Didn’t Hold. He discusses the DLC, equating the organization with centrists beliefs. He offers a good run down of the conditions which briefly made the DLC an organization with influence among Democrats:

Before the Clinton presidency, the leadership council’s critique of the Democratic Party had merit. Many voters emerged from the 1970s and early ’80s deeply skeptical of liberalism. As Mr. Clinton put it in his 1991 speech, people who once voted for the Democrats no longer “trusted us in national elections to defend our national interest abroad, to put their values in our social policy at home or to take their tax money and spend it with discipline.”

The council grew out of frustration with Walter Mondale’s crushing 1984 defeat. Mr. Mondale had maneuvered to win the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s endorsement during the Democratic primaries, but his victory was pyrrhic. The endorsement solidified Mr. Mondale’s reputation as the candidate of special interests. In order to shake the label, Mr. Mondale proposed raising taxes to cut the deficit, which only worsened his image among swing voters.

During the 1980s and ’90s, the council played a vital role in curbing both the perception and the reality of liberal excess inside the Democratic Party, and its efforts paved the way for Mr. Clinton’s ascendance. The council’s medicine worked. The centrist wing of the party won important battles on welfare reform, crime and the budget. By the late ’90s, Americans trusted Democrats to run the economy and keep their neighborhoods safe.

The DLC’s fortunes declined when they no longer had Bill Clinton in the White House. Instead we had greater unity among Democrats as “George W. Bush taught Democrats of all stripes that their differences with one another were minor compared with the differences between them and Republicans.”

Today the DLC has little support and Democratic candidates are ignoring their meeting. This should not be confused with a decline in economic centricism. The DLC lost its credibility because of taking the wrong side on major issues. The war and the reaction to George Bush’s war on freedom (or war on terrorism as conservatives like to call it) separated the DLC from both the left and many former centrist Democrats. Economic centrists such as Howard Dean and John Kerry drifted from the DLC as they stressed opposition to the war, and such opposition to the war replaced economics in dividing between left and liberal. For a time, even a moderate such as Dean was considered  far left for opposing the war. Today, opposition to the war has become the mainstream, centrist view, leaving the DLC even further out in the wilderness.

Schieber mentions Iraq, but stresses the bankruptcy bill as an issue in which the DLC’s views differed from most Democrats. Despite taking the liberal side on this issue, he also notes that the party continued to embrace some centrist economic ideas:

In an implicit rebuke to their Democratic colleagues, these New Democrats declared their support for the bill “as champions of both personal and fiscal responsibility.”

But Democrats had by this point done much to establish themselves as proponents of “personal and fiscal responsibility.” They were in no danger of trashing the party’s post-Clinton reputation.

The problem isn’t that centrist ideas didn’t hold, but that the DLC moved to the right while the center changed. As the Republicans have moved to the extreme right, the Democrats have taken over the center both by the worthwhile changes in attitude brought about by the DLC and because Democratic ideas on issues such as the war and health care now represent the majority, middle of the road views. Centrist ideas have won, while the DLC has lost due to move to the right.

John Edwards, Attack Dog

Yesterday I criticized John Edwards for attacking Obama and Clinton for disagreeing with each other. If a candidate were to take a consistent position that this shouldn’t be done it would be one thing. One of the many reasons I find Edwards lacking in integrity is that one day he comes out saying this while on another day he is the one launching the most specious attacks on other Democrats.

John Edwards’ hypocrisy can be seen in his earlier attacks on Obama and Clinton. These attacks began before the New Hampshire debate, but a portion of them can be seen during the debate in this video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty5X5X8Y89U]

I see Edwards’ statement yesterday as simply another one of his attacks on those leading him in the polls.

Its a shame that John Edwards wasn’t willing to go on the offensive when requested by the Kerry campaign in 2004, prefering to preserve his faux “nice guy” image for 2008.

Republicans Avoid You Tube Debate

The CNN/You Tube debate has sparked more controversy than any other Democratic debate. No wonder most of the Republicans want no part of it. So far only Ron Paul and John McCain are willing to attend. I never doubted that Ron Paul would attend as such a format plays to his strengths and, agree or disagree with him, he  shows the guts to defend his views. It also makes little sense for an underdog to give up such a chance to shake up the race, which would also explain why McCain is also willing to attend. He might also hope that a good answer to an odd ball question could help restore his lost reputation as a straight talker.

The most likely explanation is that the Republican candidates, who promote a world view which is counter to fact, have far more to risk than the Democrats in facing unpredictable questions. Instead the Republicans limit themselves to safe events where the questions are predictable.

While this is the safer move, it could backfire by giving the impression that Republicans are out of touch with modern technology, reminiscent of when George Bush Sr. was amazed by a supermarket scanner, as well as out of touch with the young. This is especially a problem in light of the latest Democracy Corps poll showing  erosion of support for the Republicans among the young. On the other hand, maybe they are wise to stay away considering the antipathy of the young towards the war and the religious right.

Unsurprisingly, the liberal blogosphere is in agreement in knocking the Republicans on their unwillingness to participate. Josh Marshall mocks a Republican line in asking, “if they can’t face Youtube how can they defeat the terrorists?”

Reaction among conservative bloggers is mixed, with not all defending the GOP candidates.  Patrick Ruffini writes:

This is a big mistake. The Democrats are afraid to answer questions from Big Bad Fox News Anchors, and the Republicans are afraid to answer questions from regular people. Which is worse?

It’s stuff like this that will set the GOP back an election cycle or more on the Internet. No matter the snazzy Web features and YouTube videos they may put up, if they’re fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of interacting with real people online, what’s the point?

Having spent the better part of a decade working at the intersection of politics and the Web, I can’t help but feel of a deep, deep sense of dismay that we’re missing something so basic. This is EXACTLY why I am afraid that we will be outraised by $100 million or more in 2008.

Yes, some of the questions on Monday were trivial. Yes, they were partisan. (I expect many of the 9/17 questioners to be partisan Republicans.) Yes, they were messy. But so is democracy. And the fact that some place so much faith in the broken mainstream media over a benign format like this one says a lot about the difficult straits the Republicans are in right now.

Ruffini does briefly mention the weak defense some Republicans are giving in falsely equating the You Tube debate with the decision of the Democrats to boycott debates hosted by Fox. The Democratic decision has nothing to do with being afraid of the questions, which are likely to be as predictable as any media questions. The Democrats have declined to debate on Fox to avoid giving it legitimacy as a news organization in light of their history of reporting on such events by distorting the views of the Democrats while claiming to be providing fair and balanced coverage. As Fox does not live up to basic standards of journalism, they should not be treated as journalists or a news outlet. The CNN YouTube debate might not fit traditional models of journalism, but at least it does what it claims to do, in contrast to Fox.

Obama Consistent Despite Criticism From Political Radar

Journalists love to play “gottcha” but in this case the criticism of Barack Obama from Politcal Radar doesn’t hold up. They write:

In a pre-debate interview with a columnist for the Miami Herald, Obama said that he would meet with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez but he stipulated that he would only do so “under certain conditions.”

“Under certain conditions, I always believe in talking,” Obama told the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer. “Sometimes it’s more important to talk to your enemies than to your friends.”

This is totally consistent with the statements attacked by Hillary Clinton. I never interpreted his response during the debate to mean he would speak to anyone and everyone without any conditions what so ever. Often heads of state refuse to negotiate with others because they have stringent preconditions that the other must make concessions before they are even willing to meet. I interpreted Obama’s comment as being open to discussion without setting such preconditions as to the outcome of the negotiations before a meeting even takes place. It is absurd to think that Obama would agree to meet without any conditions at all. His statement that “Sometimes it’s more important to talk to your enemies than to your friends” is consistent with his more recent statements.

While Obama has been consistent, I’ve also noted that Clinton came far closer to Obama’s condition back in April than she did during the debate. Clinton also sounded more like Obama when interviewed by Keith Olbermann in January:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENQxZGk1XQ4]

So much for Hillary Clinton’s claims that Obama’s views are “irresponsible” and “naive.”