Michigan Republicans Promote Election Rigging Scheme

Michigan wound up with far right Republicans in control of state government during the GOP sweep of 2010. This has led to problems including passing a so-called “right to work” law, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, and state government attempting to ignore the will of the voters in legalization of medical marijuana. While most states have given up on the idea of trying to rig elections,  many Michigan Republicans are still pushing for this:

Republicans handed Bobby Schostak another two-year term as state chairman Saturday and overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to change Michigan presidential electoral vote rules in a way opponents charge is intended to distort election results in favor of GOP candidates.

By a 1,370-132 margin at the party convention in Lansing, GOP members approved a resolution backing a proposal from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, to divvy-up 14 of the state’s 16 electoral votes according to which candidate got the most votes in each congressional district. The other two would go to the state-wide vote total winner.

That switch from a winner-take-all formula that has been in effect 175 years could water down the dominance Democrats have had in Michigan in presidential elections for the last 24 years.

Critics say the plan would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes last year, although he lost by more than 500,00 votes to President Barack Obama state-wide. With the win, Obama captured all 16 Michigan electoral votes.

Lund introduced a bill to make the revision last year but it was unsuccessful. Hesaid he intends to reintroduce it in 2013, but leaders of the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers haven’t publicly announced a position on it.

Governor Rick Snyder, who is more moderate than most of the Republican elected in 2010, is not currently supporting this proposal. However, Snyder has often given in to the radical right, such as in reversing his position and signing “right to work” legislation in late 2012.

The current winner take all system in effect in all but two states might sound undemocratic, but provides results far closer to the national popular vote than allocating electoral votes by Congressional district. Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote has won the vast majority of elections. The 2000 election provided a notable exception with Al Gore winning the popular vote but George Bush winning the electoral vote. Reviews of the results in Florida afterwards did show that Gore would have won Florida (and therefore the election) if there was a state-wide recount, but not in the more limited recounts sought by Gore which were ultimately shut down by the Supreme Court.

There are two problems with the Republican proposal to allocate electoral votes based upon Congressional districts. Republicans hold a larger number of Congressional districts than they should receive based upon numbers of votes for each party due to gerrymandering. Even if not for gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities compared to the more rural Republican voters would result in Democrats controlling a smaller number of Congressional districts–winning by larger margins in cities than Republicans would win in other areas.

While is is preferable that the winner of the popular vote becomes president, allocating electoral votes by state helps to level out these issues and provides a result far closer to the popular vote than the Republican proposal would. Of course the Republican proponents realize this and prefer rigging elections to providing a platform which more voters would support. Even many Republicans oppose this. Hopefully some oppose this in support of democracy. Other motivating factors for some Republicans is the hope that they can carry an entire state and receive all of its electoral votes in the future, and fear of their state becoming less meaningful to candidates and receiving less attention during elections.

Yes, Propaganda Does Make A Difference

Howard Krutz calls on Obama and Gore to stop whining about the right wing media:

Now it’s true that Fox or Limbaugh can boost or batter any lawmaker, and that they can help drive a controversy into the broader mainstream media. But we’re talking here about the president of the United States. He has an army, a navy and a bunch of nuclear weapons, not to mention an ability to command the airwaves at a moment’s notice. And he’s complaining about a cable channel and a radio talk-show host?

Sure, ultimately Obama is more powerful when it comes to going to war than Fox is, and Obama was able to win reelection because less than half the country believe the misinformation coming out of Fox and talk radio. That doesn’t alter the fact that having a propaganda network disguised as news does cause a substantial number of people to believe many things which are not true.

How many people vote for Republicans based upon blatantly untrue arguments such as that Republicans support small government or fiscal responsibility? How much more difficulty is it to bring about economic recovery when so many voters are misled by Republican Voodoo Economics? How much harder is it to deal with problems such as Climate Change and health care reform when so many people are fooled by right wing misinformation?

Would we have gone to war in Iraq if not for untrue Republican  propaganda claiming that Saddam threatened us with WMD and was involved in 9/11?  How many votes are affected by falsehoods such as that Barack Obama is a Muslim or a socialist? While Obama did win. would Kerry have won if not for the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars?

How many people are voting for Republicans, against their interests and the interests of the country, based upon fear and hatred instilled by right wing propaganda? Yes, this is not the same as having an army, navy, and nuclear weapons. but that doesn’t mean that the right wing noise machine is not a terrible weapon for evil.

Kurtz argues that “MSNBC can be counted on to defend the Democrats almost around the clock.” First this isn’t entirely true as MSNBC does have conservatives on the network, and MSNBC’s liberals have been known to criticize Obama, not being essentially a part of the party apparatus as Fox is. Beyond this, while MSNBC does frequently correct the misinformation presented by Fox or Rush Limbaugh, this does not reduce the damage caused by the right wing propagandists. Not many fans of Rush Limbaugh turn on MSNBC and change their views once exposed to the facts.

Kurtz has a strange rational for why the right wing media exists:

What liberals sometimes forget is that the conservative media took root because many Americans felt the fourth estate was too left-wing. ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post all strive for fairness, in my view, but there is little question that they have a social and cultural outlook that leans to the left. Collectively, they have far more weight than Fox, talk radio and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Much of the media (although no longer The Washington Post and broadcast networks) do lean towards the left socially and culturally, meaning they are more likely to  support the values of American liberty and Democracy while opposing the authoritarian mindset of the right. As Kurtz admits, they strive for fairness. How does this provide justification for the right wing in responding with media outlets which intentionally promote falsehoods disguised as news? It is difficult to measure which has more weight, but, as I pointed out above, their comparative influences does not diminish the harm done by the propaganda outlets of the right.

Quote of the Day

“It has been two days, and Florida still hasn’t finished counting all the votes from Tuesday night’s election. Of course, it’s gonna be weird when they’re finally done and they’re like, ‘The winner is – Al Gore?'” –Jimmy Fallon

Where We Stand In The Final Weekend Of Campaign 2012

The polls are looking favorable for Obama going into the final weekend before the election.

From the battleground states:

Colorado: Obama 46%, Romney 46% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Colorado: Obama 50%, Romney 46% (Public Policy Polling)

Colorado: Obama 47%, Romney 45% (Denver Post/SurveyUSA)

Florida: Obama 48%, Romney 46% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Iowa: Obama 49%, Romney 45% (Gravis)

Michigan: Obama 52%, Romney 47% (Rasmussen)

Michigan: Obama 52%, Romney 46% (Public Policy Polling)

Nevada: Obama 50%, Romney 44% (Mellman)

New Hampshire: Obama 50%, Romney 44% (New England College)

New Hampshire: Obama 50%, Romney 49% (Gravis)

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 47% (CNN/ORC)

Ohio: Obama 49%, Romney 49% (Rasmussen)

Ohio: Obama 47%, Romney 45% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 46% (We Ask America)

Virginia: Obama 48%, Romney 45% (Reuters/Ipsos)

Virginia: Obama 49%, Romney 48% (We Ask America)

Wisconsin: Obama 52%, Romney 45% (We Ask America)

Daily Tracking Polls:

ABC News/Washington Post: Obama 49%, Romney 48%

Public Policy Polling: Obama 49%, Romney 48%

Purple Strategies: Obama 47%, Romney 46%

Rasmussen: Obama 48%, Romney 48%

Reuters/Ipsos: Obama 46%, Romney 46%

Rasmussen typically has a two point Republican bias. Still, just showing a tie has Dick Morris backing off on his predictions which I discussed earlier this week.

Romney could still win, but would have to out-perform the polls by over two percent to have a chance. The Denver Post has nine electoral college predictions–showing different combinations of states which lead to an Obama victory.

Supporters of each party are looking for ways in which their party could out-perform the polls (with Obama merely needing to match the polls at this point). Both parties have argued that early voting is helping them. The problem for the Republicans is that much of their early voting is occurring in southern states which will go Republican regardless of when people vote. The real question is not who is getting the most early votes, but whether Democrats will increase their total turnout with early voting. Polls of all registered voters typically show the Democrats doing five points better than polls of likely voters. If the Democrats can narrow this gap they can boost the numbers above.

Back in 2004 liberal blogs were counting on the Incumbent Rule to give Kerry the victory. The basic idea is that if the incumbent is running at under 50 percent, the majority of undecided voters will break for the challenger (already knowing the incumbent), giving a challenger who is close behind the victory. That didn’t work for Kerry, and it doesn’t look like this will work for Romney.

Other factors might also alter the results compared to the polls. The Libertarian Party, along with the Constitution Party in Virginia, might take a small number of votes away from Romney. I don’t see the Green Party as being a threat to Obama this year as Nader was to Al Gore in 2000. The Constitution Party’s candidate, Virgil Goode, is from Virginia and has the potential of taking enough votes from Romney to give Obama the state in a close race, while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might be a spoiler in some western battle ground states.

There is speculation that the polls might be under-counting Latino votes, possibly enabling Obama to do several points better in some states, as Harry Reid did when running for reelection two years ago.

Under counting cell phone users might also play a part. Polls using robocalls are legally not allowed to call cell phone, underestimating younger voters who are more likely to vote Democratic (assuming they do show up to vote). Polls not using cell phones do try to adjust their numbers but at least one Democratic pollster believes that Obama is actually  doing much better than the polls show.

These factors favor Obama, and there is one more trend which helps Obama. He had the far better week, denying Romney the chance to regain the momentum he held after the first debate.  Besides just dominating the news, he benefits from comments from Chris Christie, the endorsement from Michael Bloomberg, and the report of an increase in jobs created. There is very little time left for something to happen to change the trajectory of the race.

 

Eliot Spitzer To Replace Keith Olbermann at Current TV

It hardly comes as a surprise that Current TV has fired Keith Olbermann. Olbermann has a long history of difficulty with employers, and there had been reports of conflicts this winter with regards to anchoring primary coverage. Current has hired Eliot Spitzer to start tomorrow, denying Olbermann a chance to say sign off on air. Spitzer’s show on CNN only lasted nine months.

Current has issued the following statement:

To the Viewers of Current:

We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet.  We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.

We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily — especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.

As we move toward this summer’s political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press (“Full Court Press” at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller (“Talking Liberally” at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).

We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Gov. Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.

All of these additions to Current’s lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal — the goal that has always been central to Current’s mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voices are too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.

Sincerely,

Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
Current’s Founders

Olbermann has been responding on Twitter, including the longer version via TwitLonger:

I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Media Decoder pointed out the difference between Olbermann’s audience at Current as compared to MSNBC:

In his forty weeks on Current TV, Mr. Olbermann had an average of 177,000 viewers at 8 p.m., down from the roughly one million that he had each night on MSNBC. Just 57,000 of those viewers on any given night were between the ages of 25 and 54, the coveted advertising demographic for cable news. Still, Mr. Olbermann ranked as the highest-rated program on Current, as Mr. Hyatt acknowledged earlier this month.

 

Romney Damaged By Line When Taken Out Of Context

Mitt Romney’s statement “I like to fire people” certainly sounds far worse when taken out of context. It is being compared to John Kerry’s gaffe, “I voted for it before I voted against it.”  Both quotes have quite different meanings when heard in full context. Romney likes to be able to be able to get rid of insurance companies which don’t do the job (failing to acknowledge that this is exactly what he would be able to do with the exchanges which are to be set up under Obama’s health care plan). Kerry was explaining that he did not oppose military spending and that he did vote for the spending in one bill while he voted against it in a subsequent bill due to a change in how it would be funded.

The problem is that Kerry’s line out of context reinforced the attack on him as being a flip-flopper while Romney’s line makes him sound like an evil member of the one percent as opposed to being a jobs creator. This could wind up hurting Romney because of the determination of Newt Gingrich to undermine Romney’s campaign during the primaries. In this way in is somewhat analogous to Al Gore first raising the Willie Horton attack against Michael Dukakis before the Republicans. (On the other hand, Gore did not make the attack in the same manner as the Republicans later did.) It was one thing for conservatives to say Mitt Romney is not conservative enough, potentially helping Romney in a general election campaign. The latest attacks, including taking this line out of context as well as some valid criticism of Romney’s business record, can undermine Romney’s arguments in a general election campaign.

It remains to be seen how severe this line will hurt Romney’s election chances. One thing is clear. If there ever was a chance that Donald Trump would be made Romney’s running mate, this makes such a move far less likely.

 

Nader Gives Up On Challenging Obama

Ralph Nader, the man who helped give us George Bush and the Iraq War, has conceded defeat in his activities which would increase the chance of making Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich our next president. The Hill reports that Nader has given up on his attempt to launch a primary challenge against Barack Obama. “I hate to say but it’s over,” Nader told The Hill. One can only hope that this applies to Ralph Nader’s involvement in politics and not only his current activities.

Nader held the naive view that challenging Obama would move the country towards the left. The Hill commented on this fallacy:

Presidential history, however, suggests that a primary challenge would have weakened Obama.

Presidents Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush all faced primary challenges during their reelection campaigns and all lost in the general election. Some political analysts also attribute Vice President Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 to former Sen. Bill Bradley’s primary challenge.

Others have also pointed to Nader’s 2000 bid as a spoiler for Gore. In the swing state of Florida that year, Nader received 97,488 votes. Gore officially lost the Sunshine State by 537 votes.

Nader was also naive enough to be surprised by opposition to his efforts from the White House. The move of the New Hampshire primary to early January is also cited as  interfering with Nader’s efforts, but I doubt they would have been successful even if this was not done.

While some on the left have also considered a challenge to Obama, others realize the folly of such efforts:

While parts of the left are dismayed with Obama, there are many leading progressives who believe a primary challenge would be political suicide.

The co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), have both said the Democratic Party needs to be 100 percent behind Obama.

Ellison in September claimed a primary opponent would “undermine our unity, and we need everybody in the same boat.”

Former Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) this week said that Nader “bears a lot of the responsibility for George W. Bush for eight years” and scoffed at the effort to challenge Obama from the left.

Obey told The Hill, “I mean let’s get serious: We have the gravest threat to progressive government that I have seen in all the years I’ve seen in politics.

“And if Obama can’t win in the next election, progressivism will take a huge, huge hit. Anybody who wants to nitpick with him as the nominee of our party is smoking something that isn’t legal. It’s ridiculous. I mean we will rise or fall based on how Obama does.”

The best way to bring about liberal change would be to consolidate the reforms made by Obama and attempt to achieve more in the future. There are no faults in the actions of Barack Obama which would be improved upon by helping a Republican become our next president.

Quote of the Day

“There’s already controversy with the Iowa caucuses. About a half hour ago, they found eight more votes for Al Gore.” –David Letterman

Keith Olbermann Announces Move To Current TV

Yesterday’s report that Keith Olbermann is going to Current TV has been verified:

Keith Olbermann announced on Tuesday that he will host a one-hour, nightly primetime show on Current TV starting in late spring. He will also become the “chief news officer” for Current. Olbermann had been without a television home since he abruptly left MSNBC, where he had hosted “Countdown” for eight years, in January.

For Olbermann, his move to Current gives him a chance to wield large influence over a a relatively tiny network. Current averages about 23,000 viewers in primetime every night–a far cry from the million or so viewers who watched “Countdown.”

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday morning, Olbermann said that “nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news that is produced independently of corporate interference.” He called Current “the model truth seeking entity” in television, and said that his new show was “the most exciting event in my career.”

Olbermann said the show “will be for all intents and purposes an improved and we hope amplified and stronger version of the show that I just did at my previous network.” He could not, however, provide details of the name and time of the show, saying only, “stay tuned.”

Al Gore, the chairman of Current TV, also spoke on the conference call. He said he was “extremely honored and delighted” that Olbermann was coming to Current. He said Olbermann was a “great fit with Current in every way.”

It will be interesting to see if Olbermann’s presence can improve the ratings at Current TV. The network already has a web site up announcing the show along with information on coverage. Their web sites lists Direct TV, Dish Network, Comcast Digital, Time Warner Digital, and AT&T U-Verse among satellite and cable companies which carry Current TV. A big name like Olbermann might also lead to increased demand and more companies carrying the network.

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/olbermann-said-to-be-going-to-current-tv/

Top Ten Highlights of the George W. Bush Library Groundbreaking

David Letterman’s “Top Ten Highlights of the George W. Bush Library Groundbreaking”

10. While digging, they found Obama’s birth certificate
9. Read warm congratulatory note from Osama and Julie bin Laden
8. Displayed thousands of books Bush pretends to read
7. George arrived wearing a flight suit and piloting the Conan blimp
6. Dubya only had three shoes thrown at him
5. Dug up thousands of Gore ballots from 2000
4. Bush gave Halliburton $300 million check just for the hell of it
3. George correctly pronounced the word “nuclear” (it doesn’t get any more groundbreaking than that)
2. After a few seconds of digging, Bush raised “Mission Accomplished” banner
1. Bush and Cheney celebrated the day with a long, passionate, open-mouth kiss