Kansas Independent Might Be Key To Control Of Senate

With control of the Senate so close, anything which might alter a race in a state felt to be dominated by one party could have huge ramifications. Sam Wang offers a plausible scenario which could make Kansas competitive:

In national politics, Kansas is considered as Republican as they come: Mitt Romney carried the state in 2012 by twenty-two percentage points, and the last Democratic Presidential candidate to carry Kansas was Lyndon Johnson, in 1964. But this year, the reliability of Sunflower State politics seems to have been upended. With control of the Senate in a tight, uneasy race, Kansas may be a game changer on a national level, thanks to an unusually strong independent candidate.

The Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts, is heartily disliked by Kansas voters: his approval rate is only twenty-seven per cent, even lower than the thirty-three per cent who approve of President Obama’s performance. Roberts, who is in his third term, recently survived a primary challenge by the radiologist Milton Wolf. Dr. Wolf ran under the Tea Party banner and gained attention for posting gruesome X-ray images of gunshot victims on his Facebook page that were accompanied by macabre banter with his friends. Still, Roberts’s margin over Wolf was only forty-eight per cent to forty-one per cent. It seems that Kansas voters will seriously consider just about anyone but Roberts.

Except, maybe, a Democrat. Shawnee County’s district attorney, Chad Taylor, cruised to a relatively easy victory in the state’s Democratic primary, but in recent general-election surveys, Taylor trails Roberts by a median of six percentage points. Kansas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Franklin D. Roosevelt was President, and it’s unlikely that it will this year.

The third candidate in the race is the businessman Greg Orman. Orman, who comes from Olathe, a city in the eastern part of the state with about a hundred twenty-five thousand people, has been crisscrossing Kansas by bus, meeting voters and preaching a message of fiscal restraint and social tolerance. A former Democrat, he decried the gridlock and lack of action in Washington, and now declines to identify himself as a member of either major party.

Orman’s formula seems to be working with Kansas voters. Despite the fact that thirty per cent of voters still have not heard of him, a recent Public Policy Polling survey shows that in a one-on-one matchup, Roberts would lose by ten percentage points, forty-three to thirty-three. In contrast, Roberts would survive a one-on-one matchup with Taylor by a margin of four points. So if you’re Roberts, you either want Taylor and Orman to split the vote, or to run against Taylor alone.

This means that, paradoxically, Pat Roberts’s political future may depend on his Democratic opponent staying in the race. And that, in turn, affects the balance of power in the closely contested Senate—by converting a Republican seat into an independent one.

Control of the Senate appears to be so close that one seat could certainly make the difference. It would be ironic if the key race turns out to be in Kansas due to backlash against how far right the Republicans have moved.

The first question is whether the Democratic candidate would really get out of the race and if Orman would really win. Polls show that there is an excellent chance of this happening should Taylor agree to drop out. The Democratic Party has plenty of incentive to offer Chad Taylor a lot in return for agreeing to this, and he certainly might accept a decent offer considering that he is not going to win if he remains in the race.

The next question is whether Orman would then caucus with the Democrats if he won. Chances are better that a former Democrat than a former Republican would do so, but he might also look ahead to having a better chance of holding on to the seat long term in Kansas if he becomes a Republican.

If Orman wins there will be intense pressure from both sides, and it might also impact the leadership of either party. Orman has said that both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell “have been too partisan for far too long” to gain his vote of confidence. Would members of either party initiate a revolt against their leader if they thought it would mean retaining control?

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Quote of the Day: David Letterman on Bill de Blasio

“Here in New York City we have a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He’s 6 feet, 7 inches tall and his wife is a former lesbian. She’s a former lesbian although she can be called back to active duty on a moment’s notice.

“The new mayor is not to be confused with current Mayor Bloomberg, the outgoing mayor. He’s a former leprechaun.” –David Letterman

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Polls Show Saner Republicans Unhappy With Nuttier Tea Party Wing

Polls are showing that an increasing number of Republicans  now dislike the Republican Party, along with once again showing that the Tea Party represents the lunatic fringe. First from Washington Wire:

October was clearly a cruel month for both President Barack Obama and the Republicans, both of whom saw their images slump to new lows in Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling.

But hidden within the data is a more disturbing reality for the Republican Party. Put simply, Democrats are largely content with their own party, while distaste among Republicans for the GOP has grown exponentially this year.

First Read believes it is the non-Tea Party Republicans who are breaking away from the Republican Party:

Non-Tea Party Republicans are breaking from the GOP: Our NBC/WSJ poll has shown that fewer respondents are identifying as Republicans. So who is leaving? Well, one set of numbers gives us a big clue. In a three-way generic congressional contest, the Democrat gets 35%, the third-party/independent candidate gets 30%, and the Republican candidate gets 28%. You might think that it’s Tea Party Republicans who are siding with the third-party/independent candidate. But you’d be wrong. The third-party support is coming mostly from self-identified independents and NON-Tea Party Republicans. In other words, it’s the NON-Tea Party folks who are splitting from the GOP. Here’s the data:

Among Democrats: 73% back the Dem candidate, 2% support a GOP candidate, 19% third party/indie
Among Republicans: 65% GOP candidate, 2% Dem, 28% third party/indie
Among Tea Party Republicans: 72% GOP candidate, 0% Dem, 25% third party/indie
Among NON-Tea Party Republicans: 58% GOP candidate, 5% Dem, 32% third party/indie
Independents: 13% GOP candidate, 12% Dem, 61% third party/indie

And if you dig even deeper into the demographics, you see that a lot of groups that usually lean GOP (but ONLY lean) are the ones most intrigued about bolting to a third-party candidate. A year ago, many Republican Party leaders were concerned about Tea Partiers leaving the party (it’s something Erick Erickson has threatened from time to time). But according to this polling data, the threat is from SOFTER more moderate Republicans.

A Pew Research Center survey shows just one example of how the Tea Party represents the bat-shit crazy wing of the GOP:

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades, a figure that has changed little in the past few years. While partisan differences over climate change remain substantial, Republicans face greater internal divisions over this issue than do Democrats.

Just 25% of Tea Party Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, compared with 61%of non-Tea Party Republicans.

Greg Sargent added further information on the breakdown:

Ron Brownstein has suggested that climate change — along with social issues — is one of a handful of priorities that is increasingly important to the very voter groups that could well give the Democratic Party a demographic edge over the GOP into the future. That “coalition of the ascendant” includes young voters, minorities, and college educated whites, especially women. I asked Pew for the percentages among these groups who believe there is solid evidence of global warming, and the theory is borne out:

* 73% of those aged 18-29 believe it’s happening.

* 76 percent of nonwhites believe it’s happening.

* 67 percent of college educated whites believe its happening.

The correspondence between social conservatives, who wish to use government to impose their religious views on others, and those who deny science is no surprise. I suspect that it is the views on social issues held by the Republican base which will do more to marginalize the Republican Party as their views become to be seen as increasingly repugnant by growing numbers of people.

Sargent also points out that Republicans not only disagree with the scientific consensus, but many are unaware of what the scientific consensus is: “Most Democrats say there is scientific consensus on global warming (71%). Only 41% of Republicans say that scientists generally agree, while 48% say they do not.” Again, this ignorance on the part of anti-science Republicans comes as no surprise.

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New York Soda Ban Invalidated

There was a major strike against the Nanny State today: A New York State Supreme Court judge struck down Michael Bloomberg’s regulation banning sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.  He described the law as “arbitrary and capricious,” and questioned if it would be effective as intended to reduce obesity rates.

I spend a large part of the day treating patients with diabetes and understand what Bloomberg is trying to accomplish, but this is not a proper function of government. This is certainly not the end of this issue as Bloomberg has announced plans to appeal. Hopefully the appeal will fail, but perhaps the news surrounding this issue will cause some to reconsider their self-destructive habits. Ultimately we can try to educate, but the final decision rests with the individual.

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Survey Shows Fewer People Misled By Fox While Republicans Continue To Be Brainwashed By Misinformation

Public Policy Polling did their fourth annual survey of trust in news (or pseudo-news) organizations. Trust in Fox is down, most significantly among independents:

PPP’s annual poll on TV news finds that there’s only one source more Americans trust than distrust: PBS. 52% of voters say they trust PBS to only 29% who don’t trust it. The other seven outlets we polled on are all distrusted by a plurality of voters.

Just like its actual ratings, Fox News has hit a record low in the four years that we’ve been doing this poll. 41% of voters trust it to 46% who do not. To put those numbers into some perspective the first time we did this poll, in 2010, 49% of voters trusted it to 37% who did not. Fox has maintained most of its credibility with Republicans, dropping just from 74/15 to 70/15 over that period of time. But it’s been losing what standing it had with Democrats (from 30/52 to 22/66) and independents (from 41/44 to 32/56).

We find once again this year that Democrats trust everything except Fox, and Republicans don’t trust anything other than Fox. Democrats put the most faith in PBS (+61 at 72/11), followed by NBC (+45 at 61/16), MSNBC (+39 at 58/19), CBS (+38 at 54/16), CNN (+36 at 57/21), ABC (+35 at 51/16), and Comedy Central (+10 at 38/28). Out of the non-Fox channels Republicans have the most faith in PBS at -21 (27/48),  followed by NBC (-48 at 18/66), CNN (-49 at 17/66), ABC (-56 at 14/70), MSNBC (-56 at 12/68), CBS (-57 at 15/72), and Comedy Central (-58 at 8/66).

When it comes to asking Americans which single outlet they trust the most and least out of the ones we polled on, Fox News once again wins both honors. 34% say it’s the one they trust the most, compared to 13% for PBS, 12% for CNN, 11% for ABC, 8% for MSNBC, 6% for CBS, and 5% each for Comedy Central and NBC. Fox News is the choice of 67% of Republicans, while Democrats basically split their allegiances four ways between ABC and CNN, both at 17%, and MSNBC and PBS, both at 16%.

Even more Americans identify Fox News as the outlet they trust the least- 39% give its that designation to 14% for MSNBC, 13% for CNN, 12% for Comedy Central, 5% for ABC and CBS, 3% for NBC, and 1% for PBS. 60% of Democrats give it their lowest marks while Republicans split between MSNBC (24%), CNN (19%), and Comedy Central (14%) on that front.

The poll shows, as we’ve known for quite a while, that Republicans tend to distrust actual news outlets and believe that the misinformation spread by Fox is true. While sad, this is not surprising. Fox (along with other right wing outlets) spread a false narrative to promote their political goals. Part of the misinformation spread by the right wing noise machine is that actual news organizations are biased, and that only the right wing outlets present the truth. As the message from the right wing media frequently conflicts with objective facts, it is not possible to trust both Fox and actual news organizations. People will believe one or the other. It is fortunate that significantly fewer independents are being misled by Fox than in the past.

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Democrats Take Lead In Party Affiliation

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gallup consistently projected a lower percentage of the vote for Obama compared to most other polls. A major factor was probably underestimating the percentage of the total voting population which leaned Democratic. Gallup may or may not still be underestimating Democrats, but regardless of total numbers they now report (probably well after the fact) that Democrats have reestablished a lead in party affiliation:

An average of 47% of Americans identified as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned Democratic in 2012, compared with 42% who identified as or leaned Republican. That re-establishes a Democratic edge in party affiliation after the two parties were essentially tied in 2010 and 2011…

Americans last year continued their trend toward greater political independence. The 40% who initially identified as political independents matched the record high from 2011. That is particularly notable, given that the usual pattern is for the percentage of Americans identifying as independents to decline in a presidential election year. In each of the last four presidential election years, dating back to 1996, the percentage of independents was lower than in the year prior to the election…

The rise in independence is perhaps not surprising, given the low esteem in which Americans hold the federal government and the political parties. But with most Americans willing to at least express a leaning to either party, it does suggest the potential for the parties to gain more solid adherents in the future.

I’m not at all surprised to find a large segment of voters who both consider themselves independent and acknowledge that they are most likely to vote Democratic. I see no reason why voting for the more sane party in a two-party system must mean personal identification with the party. I’ve never really considered myself to be a Democrat, but with the Republicans having been taken over by extremists I certainly would not vote for them. Of course the crazier the Republicans become, the more I have begun to identify with Democrats by default. Republicans seem determined to compete with themselves in taking extreme views which are totally out of touch with reality, becoming an increasingly smaller tent.

One of several factors involved is that the Democrats are a large tent with a wide variety of viewpoints and no unifying philosophy beyond not being bat-shit crazy like Republicans. I will agree with any given Democratic candidate a variable percent of the time. On the other hand, it has become very rare to agree with anything coming from the Republicans, and even when I disagree with Democrats I can at least see a coherent argument for their position.

Of course there may be nothing new here. It has been well known that most self-identified independents tend to vote for one of the political parties. Then there’s  Will Roger’s famous quote, “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

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Romney Fails To Buy Election; Conservative Extremism Defeated

Republicans spent four years obstructing economic recovery to promote their main goal of making Barack Obama a one-term president. Mitt Romney sold his soul to the radical right. Millions were donated by conservatives hoping to elect a candidate who would give them a slightly lower marginal tax rate, possibly costing some  more than paying the taxes would. Not only was Obama reelected, Tuesday was a victory for liberalism over the authoritarian right with voters objecting to Republican policies of increased government intrusion in the private lives of individuals.

Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both lost, perhaps a gift from God for those who support the right of a woman to control her own body. Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana, and Grand Rapids, Michigan voted to decriminalize it.

In 2004 Republicans might have defeated John Kerry by boosting turnout among social conservatives by placing votes on gay marriage on the ballot in several states. Since then the nation’s attitude has changed, but until yesterday legalization of same-sex marriage only came from the legislatures or courts. Yesterday voters turned out to pass measures supporting same-sex marriage in Maryland and Maine.

Some Republicans believed that a proposal to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota would bring out more evangelical voters than expected by the pollsters, tipping the state and ultimately the nation to Mitt Romney. Republican pundits and blogs have had multiple theories to promote their predictions that Romney would win and the polls were wrong. Instead facts prevailed with the polls, and those predicting based upon the polls such as Nate Silver, turning out to be right. If this was simply a matter of partisans being overly optimistic about their chances this might be understandable. The problem is that the conservative media promotes an alternate reality which ignores facts on a daily basis, ignoring the facts which should be considered when deciding policies on matters such as the economy, health care, and the environment.

One argument from Republicans was that the polls were wrong because they over-sampled Democrats. (Some Democrats made the same mistake in denying Obama’s temporary fall in the polls following the Denver debate). I was confident of an Obama victory as soon as the exit polls showed that the electorate closely resembled what was shown in the polls. Party identification is fluid, with voters supporting Obama being more likely to identify themselves as Democrats. This also must be considered when hearing reports that the polls showed a lead for Romney among independents. Large numbers of the independents who voted for Obama in 2008 now call themselves Democrats. The Republican name as become so toxic that many former Republicans now call themselves independents, making it likely that a substantial number of such independents would vote Republican. In the past centrists and independents had much more overlap than now. While independents now lean Republican, centrists voted Democratic in substantial numbers.

Republican strategy did not work because they did not realize how out of tune they were with the voters, or did not care. Once again, the Tea Party helped the Democrats pick up Senate seats and maintain control. Speaking out against abortion rights and contraception was a losing strategy. With Florida’s final results not yet in but appearing to go to Obama, supporting policies which would seriously damage both Medicare and Social Security also does not look like a winning strategy. Romney’s strategy of enormous ad spending, non-stop lying on the campaign trail, and voter suppression also turned out to be failing political strategies.

The extremism of the Republican Party makes it difficult to see how the Republicans can have much success in the future unless they change. William F. Buckley, Jr. was right when he fought to keep the equivalent of the Tea Party in his day out of the conservative movement. Barry Goldwater was right when he called himself a liberal in  his later years in protest over the influence of the religious right on the GOP. If Republicans could not win this year, when it wasn’t difficult to place the blame for the Bush economic crash on the incumbent, how will they do in future years after the economy continues to recover? Republicans can no longer count on their Southern strategy for guaranteed electoral votes. Virginia and most-likely Florida went to Obama, and Obama looked like he might also win in North Carolina before the first debate. In future years the Republicans will have a tougher time holding on to North Carolina, Arizona, and possibly Georgia.

The Democrats retain control of the Senate, and appear likely to continue this despite the manner in which the Senate is tilted towards the smaller, often conservative states. They might hold onto the House for the next several years due to the advantages Republicans received from redistricting after the 2010 elections. We might need to wait until 2020 to reverse this.

The presidency is now far harder for Republicans to win. Changing demographics will make it even harder in the future for Republicans to win based upon their main base of voter support–poorly educated, low-information, white Christian males. Republicans need more support from minorities, but that also means abandoning their strategy of obtaining votes by promoting fear and hatred of minorities among their base.

If Romney had won, Republican economic ideas might have mistakenly received credit for the continued economic recovery which is likely to occur over the next four years. This was the last shot for Republicans to block Obamacare, which may soon become a permanent part of the country as Medicare and Social Security have become. Barack Obama, not Mitt Romney, may have a chance to appoint the next few justices to the Supreme Court, preventing the court from overturning Row v. Wade and possibly reversing Citizens United. Conservatives wanted this election badly as many realized this could have been their last chance prevent the United States from being part of the 21st century. They lost, and it is difficult to see where they go from here.

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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.

 

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Mitt Criticized By His Father’s Longtime Aide

There was once a time in which there were moderate Republicans who did not hold positions which are bat-shit crazy. These included former Governor George Romney of Michigan, whose greatest sins were admitting he was brainwashed in Viet Nam and having a pathological liar for a son. One longtime aide to George Romney has been speaking out about Mitt:

A longtime aide to George W. Romney issued a harshly worded critique of Mitt Romney, accusing him of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways” and failing to live up to the distinguished record of his father, the former governor of Michigan.

Walter De Vries, who worked for the senior Mr. Romney throughout the 1960s, wrote that Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House was “a far cry from the kind of campaign and conduct, as a public servant, I saw during the seven years I worked in George Romney’s campaigns and served him as governor.”

“While it seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal – or an election,” he wrote, “George Romney’s strength as a politician and public officeholder was his ability and determination to develop and hold consistent policy positions over his life.”

Mr. De Vries’s stinging assessment was contained in a nearly 700-word essay that he distributed to a small group of journalists with whom he has spoken over the past year. He said it was an outline for a book that may or may not be published. A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign declined to comment.

A registered independent, who said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, Mr. De Vries has previously expressed reservations about Mr. Romney’s political postures in interviews, but never with such sweep.

In a telephone interview, he said he was motivated to write the essay by “an accumulation” of Mr. Romney’s actions, like his comment about 47 percent of Americans and his decision to campaign with Donald Trump.

Mr. De Vries said he was annoyed by Mr. Romney’s repeated references recently to his father as inspiration and influence on him.

“I just don’t see it,” he said. “Where is it? Is it on issues, no? On the way he campaigns? No.”

Mr. De Vries continued, “George would never have been seen with the likes of Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump.”

I know some might discount this because De Vries has voted Democratic, but it must be kept in mind that the same is true of many Republicans of the 1960′s who did not move as far to the extreme right as today’s Republican Party. This is not limited to the now-dead moderate faction of the GOP. In his later years Barry Goldwater called himself a liberal while protesting the growing domination of the religious right over the party. Despite how often his name is raised, the party has also moved far to the right of Ronald Reagan.

Recently, after Mitt Romney shook the Etch-A-Sketch, there has been a myth of a Moderate Mitt. While he has reversed himself on some positions, his views remain quite extreme. Besides, even if there really was a Moderate Mitt, there is no doubt that if president, Romney would rubber-stamp all the extremist laws passed by the far right GOP Congress and there is also little doubt that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who are acceptable to today’s Republican Party. The result of a Romney presidency would be far greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals, further rigging of the system to transfer the nation’s wealth to the top one-tenth of one percent, and increased risk of war.

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Legitimate Criticism of Obama, But A Poor Reason Not To Vote For Him

The attacks on Obama coming from Mitt Romney  have been counter to fact, which is one reason Romney continues to fall further behind in the polls. This does not mean there is not legitimate criticism to be made of Obama’s record. The Republicans are not going to criticize Obama where it is deserved as their positions are generally worse. Today Connor Friedersdorf has done what the Republicans never do–present legitimate criticism of Obama. While the criticism is legitimate, I still do not feel it justifies his decision not to vote for Obama.

Friedersdorf criticism is essentially based upon Obama’s foreign policy moves such as the use of drones in Pakistan, killing of an American citizen (although it is significant that the targeted American was working with al Qaeda) and sending troops into Libya without Congressional authority. The criticisms are all valid but I think that it is naive to ignore the difference with the party which moved the country to the right on these issues as opposed to the one which failed to reverse these measures. In an atmosphere in which we do face real dangers, and the Republicans are prepared to blame any future attacks on a Democratic president for not taking all the same actions they advocate, I don’t believe any president after George Bush would have behaved very differently. My bet is that if any Democrat short of Dennis Kucinich ad been elected his supporters would now be having similar complaints, and I’m not entirely convinced that even Kucinich would have wound up doing things much differently.

This is hardly justification for all of Obama’s policies, but it is a fact of life in our two party system. In our two party system, either a Democrat or a Republican will be our next president. Friedersdorf’s idea of voting for Gary Johnson is a meaningless protest. At least hopefully it will be meaningless, as opposed to the Nader vote in 2000 which helped give us George Bush, the Iraq War, and all of the national security nightmares which Friedersdorf  is right to be concerned about.

If there were really no difference between the parties today then such a gesture would be understandable. The fact is that there are major differences between the parties and there is no major issue where having a Republican in the White House would not make matters far worse.

In a two party system you are not going to get everything you want, and it makes little sense to be a one-issue voter or to demand ideological purity. The next president will likely choose the next three Supreme Court justices. I would far rather that this be done by someone who believes in our heritage of separation of church and state, supports a woman’s right to control her own body, and does not support the teaching of creationism in the schools. It is not hard to imagine the harm that three more conservative Republicans would do on the court.

On health care we would risk returning to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage to those with medical problems. We would see the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. We would see further redistribution of wealth to the ultra-wealthy, which is dangerous both to a market economy and to democracy. In this political climate I’m not sure whether Obama could do much about climate change, but I would certainly prefer a party in power which understands the challenges it poses as opposed to a party which denies the problem.

While I personally would prefer Obama over Romney on national security issues, there is plenty in Obama’s record to object to. The same is true with regards to the drug war. Even if we were to consider the parties equal on these issues, there remains major reasons why Obama is far superior to Romney. That is how voting is done in a two party system.

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