November 09, 2002

One good thing about Republican control, of course, is the fact that there will be more bankruptcies in the future, which is always a good thing when you are a bankruptcy attorney. The Bankruptcy Reform Act presently before Congress (also known by my compatriots in the field as the "Full Employment Act for BK Attorneys Act") will now almost certainly pass.
I wonder if any blogger on the left who wasn't critical about the lack of substance of Democratic Party candidates before Tuesday can be taken seriously on their criticisms afterward. I seem to recall a lot of cheerleading in the weeks leading up to the election, a lot of talk about how our "GOTV" effort would lead us through, etc. It's disingenuous to start blaming Terry McAuliffe now when he had so many enablers last week. We certainly can't blame Ralph Nader for this one.

November 08, 2002

Having lived in the "Valley" my entire life (so far), it was with a sense of melancholy that I noted the defeat of the secession effort at the polls this past Tuesday. I voted in favor of it, mainly because I knew it had no chance of passing, and I feel it might one day be beneficial to pursue this course. They allowed you to vote for Mayor and Councilman for the mythical city, as well as its hypothetical name. Since my tax attorney was running for council, I voted for her, and she actually "won". I wrote in my own name for mayor, and now must wait for the tabulation of absentee and provisional ballots before I know how well I did; if I beat out "Tupac Shakur", I will consider that a moral victory. Of the five potential names for the city that never was, I picked Mission Valley, which of course finished dead last, well behind the winner, San Fernando Valley, and even the fourth pick, Camelot.

Notes for next time: Although secession narrowly passed within the Valley (it lost b/c it got wiped out in the rest of LA), it really only did well west of the 405 Freeway, which splits right down the middle of the Valley. Woodland Hills, the affluent area where I used to live, and where I was still registered to vote, voted for it overwhelmingly. Secession did miserably not only in the less affluent East Valley, which has become heavily Latino, and which backed away from the movement once it became clear that it would do nothing to create an autonomous school district, but also in the area between Valley Vista and Mulholland, which is one of the most affluent areas of the city. As this article points out, the reason for the opposition here was quite different: residents tended to feel more tightly connected to the rest of Los Angeles than their brethren in the West Valley did.

South of Valley Vista, one was more likely to see one of those ubiquitous lawn signs opposing secession, with its WE LOVE L.A. in purple and gold, quite a nice touch in a community where the Lakers are one of the few common touchstones. When secession seemed a possibility, those opposing originally sought to run a negative campaign, with stupid arguments that secession was little more than a racist plot to deprive South Central LA of property tax funding from the suburbanites, as if Sam Yorty was plotting the whole thing from beyond the grave. In time, once it became evident that no significant Democrat was going to support the movement, and its passage became less likely, the anti-secessionists were able to pursue a more positive campaign, focusing on the benefits of keeping the city together, united. Subconsciously reminding voters that LA wasn't simply a monolithic entity downtown that eats our taxes and shorts us on services, but a community that many of us still view with some degree of affection, with its beaches, its culture, its art and museums, its symphony, and yes, its Lakers.

The backers of secession weren't able to craft a positive message that really resonated with voters, not bothering to convince people south of the Santa Monica mountains that an amicable split might be beneficial to all, and in the end showing only that there was substantial sentiment west of Reseda Blvd. to break away. Secession supporters are now promising that it was unfair for the rest of the city to vote, ignoring the fact that east of the 405, the movement was just as unpopular, and that in a democracy, people have a right to vote on an issue that's going to effect them for years to come. If this ever comes up again, we are going to have to do a much better job convincing ourselves that we can create something as good and as unifying as the Lakers.
The Alabama governor's race may well make Florida 2000 seem like a D.A.R. social, for those who feel nostalgic.
Tom Daschle has apparently found a job more suited for his talents....

November 07, 2002

As expected, the Appeasement Wing of the Democratic Party weighs in, insisting that keeping to the middle of the road is the way to win elections, in spite of what happened Tuesday. The example that is always used is Bill Clinton, who triangulated his way to two terms, as opposed to George McGovern, who was destroyed thirty years ago. That, of course, misses the point: moderate Presidential candidates who know how to pick their fights is a good tactic for any political party, since in order to win, you have to pick up disparate states, like California and New Hampshire, Texas and Ohio. But this wasn't a Presidential election; it was a congressional election, where the potential base of voters for each candidate was much narrower, and where voter turnout is much more contingent on getting the base out. The Democratic Party did spectacularly well in state and congressional races during the last period of Republican dominance (with the exception of 1980), by running candidates who appealed to the base. What may work at the national level isn't going to help locally, and vice versa.

But with all the recriminations, I think it all comes down to one key fact: we ran by trying to hide our beliefs, and lost. It always sucks to lose, but it's better to lose fighting.
For poli-sci students with an interest in California politics, or for amateur campaign consultants: this is a county-by-county map of the vote percentage in the race for State Controller, which is essentially tied. Use it as a template for estimating future races, or whatever....

November 06, 2002

Amazing, isn't it, that in California, a dispirited, unenorgized Democratic Party, with little in the way of a GOTV effort, an unpopular incumbent at the head of the ticket, and low turnout, still had the greatest night in its history. Take a look at the comparison here between the 1998 and 2002 votes: if all of Lundgren's voters had cast their ballots for Simon, he would have been elected Governor.

Well, it didn't matter to me: I voted for the Green candidate in that race, and I would not have lost a minute more sleep had Simon won by a single vote. The drawback of living in a one-party state....
The Red Sox have hired stat-man Bill James to be an advisor to club management (link via WarLiberal), which will be to baseball fans what Pauline Kael's hiring by Paramount in the late-70's was for cinema buffs. To those of you who have never heard of him, he popularized a form of numbers-crunching about twenty years ago called "sabermetrics", which looks at baseball from an objective standpoint, rather than the subjective drivel that usually comes from sportswriters. He was also a great writer, who used to have an iconoclastic edge that shone in his Baseball Abstracts of the 1980's. He lost most of his edge when he decided to capitalize on the "Fantasy Baseball" fad in the '90's, and he tends to flip-flop on his opinions nowadays: he must have changed his mind in print about a half dozen times on whether Don Drysdale belongs in the Hall of Fame. But no baseball fan who even has pretensions to being a freethinker can be without his Historical Baseball Abstract, or his book on the Hall of Fame.
The double whammy of Shaheen and Bowles losing having occurred early in the evening, I was in less of a celebratory mood when I got home from the job. As such, I have an undrunk case of PBR at the homestead, which I am sure the "contrarian" now known as the "Mr. Samgrass of the Left" would happily down in my stead.
Of greater significance than whether the GOP is now in full control of the federal government is that the centrist, appeasement wing of the Democratic party, the so-called "New Democrats" or "neoliberals", is dead. Their candidates all lost. Their non-confrontational philosophy was tried, and found wanting. Among liberals, only Mondale lost, and that was entirely due to the unusual set of circumstances by which he entered the race; if Wellstone had lived, he would have won.

And that's characteristic of his type; fighters either win, or give the other guy a bloody nose. There's no point mincing words: even if the Democrats had retained control of the Senate, it is highly improbable that they would have used their power to any effect. During the 18 months following the Jeffords split, can one name a single area where they took the battle to the GOP? With a tax cut in place that will act like a lymphoma on the economy for the next decade, was there ever a serious effort made to challenge it, much less repeal it? Did anyone, besides the late Paul Wellstone, take up the fight against US imperialism in the Middle East? At the end of the campaign, the only reason given to vote Democratic was "prescription drugs" and the threat of a federal judiciary made up of neo-klan whackos from the Federalist Society, ex-prosecutors with fantasies about executing minors and the retarded, and Uncle Toms of whatever color. As scary as that might sound, it's not enough to motivate your base to get out and vote, or to lure swing voters in sufficient numbers.

But then again, it's only a two seat loss in the Senate, five in the House. We still have large enough numbers to commit some mischief. Go get em....
Maybe California should secede. An excellent analysis of yesterday's elections can be found here, although it still doesn't deal with the reality of this election, which was pretty much fought in states won in the last election by George Bush. For all the jeremiads we will be hearing about what the loss of the Senate means, we should remember that from a similar position, the Republicans were able to defeat President Clinton's health care plan and tie up most of his economic plan in the first two years of that Administration. Think filibuster. A single motivated Senator can tie up the government for days at a time. If the Prez tries to nominate right wing nuts to the federal courts, demagogue. Show no mercy. And quit worrying about whether Zell Miller is going to switch parties; for all intents and purposes, he already has.

November 05, 2002

The votes haven't all been counted, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that tonight is not our night. The Democrats will lose at least two Senate incumbents, maybe three, plus the Mondale race isn't looking too good, while the GOP has captured all of its open seats, and will probably hang on in Colorado as well. When we wake up tomorrow morning, the Republicans may have a 52-46-1 edge in the Senate, and Trent Lott may not give a rat's ass what Lincoln Chafee does (the other seat, in Louisiana, will be determined by a run-off in December). It's possible that the losses the Democrats will suffer in the House will be even greater; the one bright spot, albeit a very faint one, is that the party managed to do well in governor's races (hey, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and maybe Alabama--just great, the new base for our party). It appears the "GOTV" effort was a joke, and African-Americans decided to sit this election out.

The Great Party Purge of 2002 begins tomorrow. Goodbye Daschle. So long Gephardt. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, McAuliffe.
By now, you've probably heard that the VNS exit poll service the networks use has caught a bad case of the measles, and will not be able to give us general exit poll data about the opinions of the voters, etc. It could still be used for projections, but in all likelihood, won't be, due to the general lack of credibility those numbers now have. No reputable news service (well, maybe Fox) would dare call the governors race in Florida, or the US Senate races in New Hampshire or South Dakota, based on those numbers (besides the controversy last time in Florida, in 1996, some networks incorrectly called US Senate races in Maine and New Hampshire for Democrats based on VNS numbers). So just sit back, relax in front of your computer or TV, memorize the various Secretary of State websites, stick with one TV channel (CNN is the best bet, then FoxNews, then MSNBC--if your only choice is CNBC or the networks, turn on 24 and get the results in the morning paper), cook some popcorn, maybe order a pizza, crack open a case of PBR or Old Mil (better the cheap stuff, since you may be drinking a lot), and see history develop.
Drudge and TalkingPoints have two different sets of exit poll numbers out, but both have Democrats easily taking GOP Senate seats in Arkansas and Colorado, Kirk losing in Texas, and Carnahan and Cleland both losing (BTW, you might like to put the following sites [most of which I have permalinked] on a sort of Net spincycle for the rest of the day: MyDd, DailyKos, RealClearPolitics, TalkingPointsMemo, Drudge, KausFiles, and, of all places, the National Review, which has a real neat, minute-by-minute take of today's happenings.)
Here's someone who's memorial service will be a particularly joyful one for the nation: Tom DeLay, who decided to use an election eve rally to make fun of Paul Wellstone.
A good breakdown of what the conventional wisdom may be like tonight, hour by hour, can be found here, along with a typical Beltway howler. The writer mentions that this year the networks may be more hesitant to use exit polling to call races, after the "blunder" they made in calling Florida for Gore early in election night 2000. Pardon me, but GORE WON FLORIDA !! Well, at least he did, if you tabulate a) the voters' intentions on the day of the election; or b) the actual votes, hanging chads and all. The butterfly ballot, votes that were never counted, a Jim Crow-style purging of close to 100,000 black voters from the rolls, a politicized Supreme Court: all of those factors combined to give W. a narrow victory.

So, in any event, the exit polls nailed Florida dead to rights in 2000. Where the networks blundered is when they called Florida for Bush later that evening. And don't be surprised if you read about miscounted and uncounted ballots, "felons"(ie. non-whites) being turned away from the polls, etc., in the next few days. If there is one thing that the GOP is good at, it's following a winning strategy.
Since there are fewer Senate and governors' races tonight, they're pretty easy to keep track of, so political junkies probably already have their checklists prepared in that regard. For critical House races, DailyKos and MyDD have set up a pretty handy list for your use and enjoyment. And keep watch on the early results from Kentucky and Indiana; the polls close there at 6:00 EST/3:00 PST. Lastly, for hardcore junkies, this is the one day you actually have a good excuse to visit the Drudge Report, where he posts semi-accurate exit poll data during the day.
If you're registered to vote, you might as well go out and do your patriotic duty today. I mean, it won't kill you.

November 04, 2002

If there's one thing I don't understand, it's why Democrats can't put up a decent, well-financed candidate for statewide office in Ohio.
If you want a good reason to vote tomorrow, check out the new election blog run by Jesse Taylor, which scrupulously details efforts by the far right to intimidate voters at polling places across the nation. Of course, Florida stretches the envelope in that regard. Check out somr of the attempts in Missouri and Arkansas by the GOP to encourage African Americans not to vote, a far subtler approach than simply i.d.-ing such voters as "felons".
Tomorrow's election day, and like all election days, the media and the pundits are all over themselves calling this the "most important election in __ /since 19__". Whatever. It kind of reminds me of the old Duane Thomas line about the Super Bowl, that if its such an important game, why do they have to play it again next year. In retrospect, the election of 1998 was far more important than this election: the results crippled the efforts to remove Bill Clinton from office, while assuring that most of the large states would have GOP governors when redistricting took place. Even if the Republicans win back the Senate, it will be, in all likelihood, a narrow majority, and much can still be done by a member of the minority party if he wants to obstruct, thanks to the filibuster. Furthermore, in that event, any further weakening of the economy will be blamed solely on the Administration, and Bush will lose in 2004.

The focus this time is mainly on the Senate: if the GOP picks up a seat, that party will control all three branches of the federal government for the first time since 1933. The latest Gallup poll suggests they will do it, as well as increasing their majority in the House, which would be unprecedented; the Republicans have never gained House seats in a mid-term election during a Republican Administration. Said poll gives that party a six percent edge in the generic party preference battle, reflecting a CBS/NY Times poll showing the GOP with a seven point edge. Other polls, including Zogby and the Washington Post/ABC, indicate that the Democrats have a slight edge: for what its worth, Zogby and CBS were the only polls last time showing Gore winning the popular vote. MyDD has a good breakdown of why these polls differ so dramatically; the key variant is Gallup's propensity for viewing Republicans as being more likely to vote, which skews their results to favor the GOP and tends to ignore Democratic skill in getting its supporters to the polling place. We'll know who's right tomorrow, but my hunch is that the GOP has too many close races to defend to capture the Senate, and will have to settle for the consolation of increasing its majority in the House.

November 03, 2002

Another good way to get instant horse race news is to use the News-Google search engine.