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11/06/2004

Exit Polls

CNN has posted much of the exit poll data.

Moral Values

We must come to terms with "moral values," how the GOP branded itself as the party of "moral values" and how durable support for the GOP is among those people that proclaimed "moral values" as their chief reason for voting.

The first step is to strongly reassert the moral character our specific positions. Those who advocate hiding our beliefs are playing into conservative hands, conceding the immorality of our policies and blithely returning to the pluralism that, though good and necessary for the country, is routinely attacked by conservatism as a characterological defect. Pluralism, of course, should be defended in its own right as a moral good, but embracing it without defending it is a recipe for failure.

The second step is to attack the character of movement conservatives. They are hypocrites, liars and thieves - and we need to make sure the people know it. Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Mitch McConnell - these people need to be personally attacked for their hubristic reaches for power and personal aggrandizement, their disrespect for the people and democracy. George Bush lies all the fucking time. He is an arrogant piece of shit that doesn't respect the people enough to tell them the truth about anything. He thinks the people are rubes and idiots, yet we don't punish him for it.

The third step is to persuade the people that personal character is shown through actions, not words. George Bush talks the talk, but he doesn't deliver shit. Actually he does deliver shit: torture, graft, and lies. Since the founding, conservatism (John Adams) has advocated personal, character driven conceptions of morality as necessary to some metaphysical moral valuation of the character of government. Liberalism, or republicanism, has countered with a specific and clear public morality - listening to the good faith opposition, offering public justifications for policy decisions, transparency and respect for the people, honesty in government. Bush's claim to morality is entirely based on his monogamy and his artful use of code words - even his "strength" on terrorism was built on a "moral" foundation, rather than anything credible. We need to turn Bush's anti-democratic actions and sentiments into an actionable defect. We need to revive secrecy and deception as moral issues.

Finally, we need to turn education - as a policy matter and as a personal matter - into a moral virtue, rather than a defect. Anti-intellectualism is the organizational core of modern conservatism, it is singularly devoted to building a chip on the shoulders of "heartland" voters. Nuance is denigrated, ignorance is "authentic," intelligence is foreign. We can not let this stand.

See: CJR, NYT 1, NYT 2, CBS, Poynter.

Split the Democratic Party

There are sharp regional and ideological divides within the Democratic Party. These divides to date have been a weakness, letting the GOP tar one wing of the party with the regionally unpopular views of the other, forcing wings of the party to compromise their principles for the sake of avoiding alienation of the other.

Despite our divisions, we share much. We all embrace of good government, good process, and fact-driven policy. We study issues to look for solutions, not to delay reckoning. We share principles, valuing workers and labor, education, diversity, the environment, respect for our elders, and concern for those struggling to make ends meet. We share moral values, believing it wrong to wage war without cause, to favor the wealthy at the expense of the people, to pass the costs of our largesse on to our children.

It is time to turn our divisions into our strength. There are a number of Democratic caucuses in the Senate and House. We should consolidate and reposition the ideological caucuses to create two umbrella coalitions: one embracing urban liberalism and one embracing rural populism.

We could then brand and publicize the wittily named caucuses. Senatorial candidates in Kentucky should be able to say "I am a [Blue Dog] Democrat," and people should know what that means. Senatorial candidates in Massachusetts or California should be free to shout their liberalism from the rooftops.

Embracing the division would add new dynamism to the party. Now, the DLC condescends and attacks the Democratic wing of the party. The Democratic wing of the party ignores the DLC. Debates between the Progressive Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress, between The New Republic and the Nation, represent all legitimate sides of every political issue. The Republican Party adds nothing but lies and misinformation to policy debates, so why include them at all?

The divisions wouldn't be sharp, with people like Obama (and much of the industrial Midwest - Durbin, Dayton, Levin, Stabenow, Feingold, Kohl) fitting clearly into both. This wouldn't entail a return to the division of the Dixiecrat era - Dixiecrats are all Republicans now. We could have friendly discussion about national security strategy without the DLC accusing liberals of being Nevillish or liberals accusing the DLC of warmongering. Opening space within our party offers the opportunity of electoral improvement and reclaiming the "party of ideas" mantle.

Political Realignment

The post-2004 political landscape:

No Preemptive Strikes on Iran

Attacks on Iran are "inconceivable," according to British foreign secretary Jack Straw.

BBC: Pointing to talks with Tehran, Mr Straw said: "I don't see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran, full stop."
CSM is not so confident.

Medicins sans Frontieres leaving Iraq

Medicins sans Frontieres is withdrawing from Iraq due to security concerns, especially insurgent attacks on humanitarian workers. Its international staff left two weeks ago, and its 90 Iraqi staff will soon be discharged. MSF had provided significant health care to Sadr City. Its absence increases the severity of the humanitarian crisis precipitated by the impending assault on Fallujah, partially explaining its withdrawal:

"It generally can be said that from the very beginning the coalition forces regard humanitarian organisations as a force multiplier, in other words, to meet their political and military goals. And we cannot accept this at all," she added.

Continuing Targetting of Iraqi Security Forces

Three Iraqi guardsmen were beheaded Wednesday by insurgents from the "Brigades of Iraq's Honorable People." Ansar al-Sunna beheaded an Iraqi Army officer, Hussein Shunun, abducted from Mosul. From Juan Cole, an early Reuters report on the three car bombings that killed as many as twenty Iraqi security forces early Saturday.

British Redeployment Fiasco

Three Scottish Black Watch soldiers were killed by a car bomb in the triangle of death on Thursday. I wish Blair would do more to restrain Bush's adventurism, but the sacrifice of the Black Watch should be commended.

Guardian: The brother of one of the Black Watch soldiers killed yesterday in Iraq expressed anger this morning over the regiment's deployment to a new base just outside the war-torn Sunni triangle.
Craig Lowe said that his brother, Private Paul Lowe, did not believe that the Black Watch should have been deployed in central Iraq and that his family was "heartbroken" over his death.

He told reporters: "He said he didn't think he should be there because the regiment has already done their time over there, the first time, so he didn't think they should be back," he told reporters.

Asked what he thought about George Bush and the war, Mr Lowe replied: "He just thought he was an arsehole for starting a war over nothing, trying to get money and oil."
British troops are already experiencing mission creep.
Reuters: As Scottish Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond said public grief over the deaths would soon turn to anger.

"The Black Watch has been sent in to do an impossible job -- that is 800 Scottish soldiers replacing 4,000 American marines."
Update, 11/16/04, 10:37 PM EST: Thanks to lawnorder for the link. For more on the British redeployment situation, see here and here. The situation highlights how far our credibility has fallen.

Also, for those discussing Gulf War Syndrome, the BBC reported that Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi thinks low level Sarin exposure is the likely culprit; the AP reported some of the findings here.

Cusp of Fallujah Assault

We are in final preparations for a large scale assault on Fallujah. Kofi Annan has come out strongly against it, warning in a letter that an assault risks "alienating Iraqis when their support for elections was vital." Iyad Allawi rejected Annan's contentions and "US officials were outraged by Mr Annan's letter, which highlights the divisions over the way to achieve peace in Iraq." Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi, of the Association of Muslim Clerics, said: "If the US invades the city of Falluja or any other city in Iraq, all the [Sunni Arab] clerics in Iraq will call for a boycott of the election." Interim Iraq President Ghazi Yawer opposes a "military solution" to the Fallujah situation.

American troops are awaiting the go ahead from Allawi.

Gulf War Syndrome Caused by Sarin?

The BBC is reporting that Gulf War syndrome is related to low level exposure to Sarin gas. A leaked US Department of Veterans Affairs' Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses report finds that GWS sufferers have neurological damage consistent with low level Sarin exposure and "lower levels of an enzyme which breaks down sarin-like compounds."

11/05/2004

Harry Reid

Daniel Kreiss of Exegesis isn't happy with the selection of Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader. I'm not thrilled with him either, but for different reasons. Reid's voting record is as good as it gets in the Democratic party, with the exception of his hostility to women's reproductive rights. Lets look at some of the votes Kreiss highlights:

  1. Reid voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996) This was DOMA. It was a resolution, not an enforceable law. It is a morally abominable resolution, but it received broad bipartisan support, including the vote of liberal lion Paul Wellstone. Wellstone conceded that it was a bad vote, an instance of placing reelection and political expediency over principle, but there was obviously significant pressure on Democrats to vote for DOMA to minimize it as an issue just before the campaign. Reid wasn't up for reelection in '96, so he gets less leeway, but it still isn't a fatal vote.

  2. Reid voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001) This was the Patriot Act. Russ Feingold was the only Senator to vote against it, and he comes from a narrowly Democratic swing state.

  3. Reid voted YES on limiting death penalty appeals. (Apr 1996) This was the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. It was a Clinton administration initiative passed in the wake of the Okahoma City bombing. It's not a good bill, but it was strongly supported by the party (91-8).

  4. Reid voted YES on rejecting racial statistics in death penalty appeals. (May 1994) He voted in favor of a resolution opposing the Racial Justice Act, which was opposed by the Democratically controlled Senate 58-41.

  5. Reid voted YES on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003) It passed the Senate 84-14. He later supported a filibuster of the conference report on the bill.

  6. Reid voted YES on $40 billion per year for limited Medicare prescription drug benefit. (Jun 2003) The bill didn't look nearly as bad initially. It passed the Senate 76-21, with 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats opposing it.

  7. Reid voted YES on welfare block grants. (Aug 1996); Reid voted YES on welfare overhaul. (Sep 1995) The block grant Bill passed 78-21. Welfare Reform passed 87-12.
I don't support any of those votes. But in no case was Reid voting against the Democratic Party line. I want our Minority Leader to be partisan and aggressive. By all appearances, Reid is that.

Unfortunately, he's from Nevada. He won on Tuesday with 60% of the vote, but Kerry ultimately lost. Nevada is trending Democratic, and Reid's status as leader may accelerate the process. My concern is that he may be forced into a Daschle-like bind of leading the party against his own electoral interest.

Trashing Trust in Government

The 2004 election calamity is certainly multi-causal, but a major factor that hasn't received its due attention is the changing character of trust in government. For forty years, the GOP has systematically attacked the specter of "government," always a code word for any authority not part of the conservative movement. Aided by naive libertarianism, movement conservatism has villified government while simultaneously convincing the public that their government programs are non-government.

They have effectively transferred trust in government from our shared institutions to their partisan machinery. The civil service stands in the way of our national security, the state department is infiltrated with treasonous francophiles, and the CIA is filled with partisan backbiters. Social programs are led by liberal elitists who want to take money from poor white folks and give it to rich black folks, courts are led by activists who want to force men to wear dresses, agencies are led by socialist land grabbers. Meanwhile, corporate pork is economic stimulus, tax expenditures are "giving money back to the people," reregulation is deregulation, and on and on.

In the wake of 9/11, public trust in "government" was at an all time high. Over the last three years, the campaignistration effectively seized that trust, to the point where a significant subset of the population was far more willing to accept obvious untruths from the conservative machine than actual facts from objective and professional information sources.

The Other Missed Opportunity

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post reported:

The war has sometimes taken unexpected turns, one of which brought the Bush administration into hesitant contact with Iran. For a time the two governments made tentative common cause, and Iran delivered hundreds of low-level al Qaeda figures to U.S. allies. Participants in Washington and overseas said Bush's deadlocked advisers -- unable to transmit instructions -- closed that channel before testing Iran's willingness to take more substantial steps. Some of al Qaeda's most wanted leaders now live in Iran under ambiguous conditions of house arrest.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the talks broke down because the US refused to crack down on the Mujahadeen Khalq (MEK). The US refused, in part, because of backchannel communications between the DoD and shady characters like Manucher Ghorbanifar.

According to Juan Cole's analysis of contemporary reporting, one of the detainees held by Iran was Zarqawi.

Brutal

My heels are still bruised from knocking on 1200 doors in Louisville, KY. When I shower, my feet burn, still cracked from walking miles in a driving rain.

We lost Kentucky bad. The results are available on the KY election results site, but I'll run down some highlights:

  • KY 3: Anne Northup held onto her seat, absolutely destroying Tony Miller. This is the race I was working on, and we were clearly and painfully hampered by the weakness of our candidate. My liberal friends in the area thought Miller was a laughingstock, an idiot of Bushian proportions. Throughout the weekend his debate with Northup was replaying on public television, and he looked woefully uninformed and underbriefed. Northup would respond to his stump speech attacks on her, and Miller would simply repeat them. A lot of people split their ticket, going for Kerry/Edwards, Mongiardo, and Northup.

    Kerry/Edwards: 50.4% (170,114)
    Bush/Cheney: 48.8% (164,547)

    Mongiardo: 59.6% (198,494)
    Bunning: 40.4% (134,683)

    Miller 37.8% (123,997)
    Northup 60.3% (197,714)

    In favor of Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage: 60.2% (186,716)
    Against Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage: 39.8% (123,671)

    Mongiardo crushed Bunning by almost 64,000 votes in Jefferson County/Louisville, Kerry won by 6000 votes, and Miller lost by 74,000 votes. Part of this is explained by Northup's bipartisan support, predicated on her ability to bring home approprations for the District. The willingness to split tickets is a sign of swing voters - the 2004 results indicate that there are 70,000 swing voters in play in Louisville, more than 20% of the electorate. Most of these are sporadic voters, but they're still out there.

    Miller's performance is nearly identical with the gay marriage amendment vote - precinct data will show how highly correlated, but it is probably an accurate reflection of the Democratic base vote. That Miller failed to get anything more than the base vote is a damning indictment of his campaign.

    Northup's seat will likely remain one of the two or three highest Democratic performance districts held by a Republican.

  • KY 4: This race hurt a lot more than the Miller race. Nick Clooney was by far the superior candidate. He was well liked throughout the district, had high name recognition, and ran an excellent campaign. His opponent wasn't qualified to be dogcatcher. The Republican base in KY4 may be over 50% now.

    Clooney: 43.9% (129,872)
    Davis: 54.4% (160,982)

  • Senate: Just looking through the county level data, Mongiardo won Eastern KY, held his own in central KY, and won Jefferson County big. He lost Northern KY (KY4) and Western KY (KY1 & KY2) big. He lost the state by around 18000 votes.

    Bunning is an idiot, and has been since he was in Congress when he represented Northern KY. His roots there, combined with its social conservatism, explain the resilience of his performance there. I haven't tried to explain his performance in Western KY, but as the "Southern" part of the state, it's probably related to the gay marriage amendment.

10/31/2004

Missing Zarqawi

On the heels of last Monday's WSJ resusciation of Khurmalgate comes Daniel Benjamin's "Holy Zarqawi" in Slate. Benjamin argues that the administration's passing on Zarqawi was an artefact of its regime fetish. It's a decent reading of the tea leaves, but a bit unpersuasive, if only because I can't fathom the contours of the fetish.

The charitable reading is that the scientific and technical ability to threaten the United States is located mostly in states, and that we can not trust certain regimes to operate according to classical deterrence models in their disposition of those materials. But Bush couldn't be bothered to secure al Qaqaa or a number of other sites that were supposedly the meat of the regime conception of terrorism.

Bush couldn't have passed on Zarqawi because he was concerned about state threats because he is not concerned about state threats. As usual, I am left without an explanation for Bush's behavior (Katherine R. maybe?).

LA Times: For myself and other reporters who were on the ground in Baghdad during those days, this oversight does not seem surprising. Coinciding with the arrival of the Americans, Baghdad succumbed to an orgy of looting and, eventually, to wholesale sabotage, all of which took place under the tolerant and overwhelmed gaze of the newly arrived U.S. soldiers. That U.S. troops could have visited Al Qaqaa, inspected the explosives and then moved on without securing them — evidently unaware of the high-level importance of the site — seems completely in keeping with the extraordinary lack of coordination between senior commanders and their troops in the field that we witnessed on a daily basis.
Kevin Drum; Delong; Justin Logan; Yglesias.

News from the Field

Sporadic voters haven't heard about the new Osama bin Laden tape, or much else, apparently.

There is a large correlation between people too lazy to vote and people too lazy to put on a shirt before answering the door (women included).

There are a lot of pipa in the universe of sporadic voters, people who believe exactly 180 degrees the opposite of reality.

Sporadic voters aren't always in the reality basd community. One woman ranted for 3 minutes or so about immorality in the White House. She seemlessly segued from wartalk to blowjob talk, apparently not realizing that George W. Bush was not William J. Clinton.

Kerry-Edwards have done a good organizing job in Louisville, considering it's not a swing state. Signs and "Kentuckians for Kerry-Edwards" bumper stickers are everywhere. I'm frankly surprised the campaign would bother printing up unique stickers for a state like KY.

DCCC volunteers are excited about Obama coming to campaign with Mongiardo tomorrow.

My group of five volunteers knocked on about 800 doors today, and had about 350 contacts. Individual performances ranged from 175/300 to 24/50.

There were about 175 volunteers out today in the DCCC effort, 35 groups of 5, which could have knocked on about 25,000 doors.

The DC crew arrived at 10:30 AM after getting on a bus in DC at 10:00 PM last night. A ten hour trip took twelve and a half hours. We started knocking on doors at eleven. Hopefully our productivity will increase with rest.

Students from all across the heartland are volunteering with the DCCC. We have people from Northern Illinois University, Valaparaiso, and several other colleges. About a hundred and thirty people are from the colleges.

All of this is DCCC alone. Mongiardo has his field operation, DSCC has its field operation, Tony Miller has his field operation, and Kerry-Edwards has its field operation. I don't have a very good feel for what is going on with the other operations.

 

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