Sunday, December 30, 2007

Edwards surging in Iowa?

Man, talk about a nail-biter:For the record, I am strongly supporting Edwards, although I think Clinton will be the nominee. That's based on insider support, endorsements, etc. The polls are a jumble. Given how much insider support Clinton has, the polls just shouldn't be this close so near to the primaries.

Obviously, Clinton can lose Iowa and still become the nominee -- her husband didn't even contest it in 1992 and he came in second in New Hampshire. I think a loss in Iowa and NH would be more crushing for Obama than for Clinton, since he has less insider support to fall back on. But what happens if Edwards wins Iowa? He's trailing by a lot in NH. Could an Iowa win change that?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Maybe California's parties aren't so strong

This would never have happened to Dick Daley:

State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata was carjacked at gunpoint from his state car in North Oakland today.

Perata, 62, of Oakland was unharmed in the incident, which happened at about 1:45 p.m. as he was stopped in his state-leased red 2006 Dodge Charger at a red light at 51st Street and Shattuck Avenue.

Why I Like Edwards

This all really starts with Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?. As I've mentioned, I think this is a very enjoyable book, even though it gets a great deal wrong, as demonstrated in Larry Bartels' devastating critique. What Frank gets right is that conservative opinion leaders in this country want to define the nation's main political schism as one of culture, not class. It make sense for them to do so: wealthier voters prefer the Republicans and poorer voters prefer the Democrats. That's not spin -- it's empirical fact. Since Republicans can't win by just talking about policies that benefit the wealthy (who are relatively few in number), they try to erase the economic divisions, describing their supporters as the salt of the earth and the Democrats as out-of-touch elites.

Where Frank's book fails is that it largely buys into this culture argument. That is, he maintains that culture war politics are actually working - that working class whites are abandoning the Democrats due to cultural appeals. As Bartels shows, that's not true. If anything, the class schism in this country has become more pronounced over the past few decades, with the wealthier far more likely to vote Republican than they used to be. Working class whites are still plenty Democratic. The main difference from earlier decades is that white Southerners are no longer Democrats. That has nothing to do with Republican culture war speeches and everything to do with the Civil Rights Movement.

What does this have to do with Edwards? Everything. None of the other Democratic candidates (except maybe Kucinich, but he's got a host of other problems) are talking about politics in class terms. They've accepted the culture war arguments, which is why Obama tries to reach out to Christian conservatives and why Hillary Clinton supported an anti-flag burning law and why John Kerry was spotted duck-hunting in the last election. They don't seem to realize that that's not the way the electorate rolls. Edwards seems to get that.

Edwards has been criticized for being too strident and angry this year. His attitude may have even cost him the endorsement of the Des Moines Register. So be it. Frankly, I'm a bit distrustful of anyone who can look at this graph without getting hot under the collar. The gap between the rich and the poor is large - about as large as it was in the 1920s - and growing. This issue needs to be addressed. Edwards is the only one addressing it.

Strip away all the hot air about Republicans liking NASCAR and beer and Democrats liking Volvos and wine and you see that the real split between the parties is economic. And it's not just rhetorical - poorer people do better under Democratic presidents than they do under Republican presidents. Poorer voters seem to get this, and there are a lot more of them than there are wealthy voters.

So I say let's support Edwards. Let's have the conversation about class. And let's put it to a vote.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Hee hee.Source:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Separated at Birth

The Denver Post's "Separated at Birth" piece is cute. Not all are great, but I rather enjoyed Giuliani, Paul, and Richardson.

The Party Decides - in Colorado, anyway

Interesting piece in the Denver Post today showing how both parties are managing to winnow the field and avoid primaries in next year's U.S. Senate race in Colorado. The Republicans are apparently doing it by use of something called "Rule 11":

To help clear the field, the party invoked a formal process under what's known as "Rule 11." Dating back to at least the mid-1990s but little-known among many of the GOP rank and file, Rule 11 allows the national party to abandon its traditional neutral stance and back a candidate long before a primary vote.

It required the signature of the state party chairman and Colorado's two national Republican committeemen. Of the three who made the decision to back Schaffer, one — because he holds a seat on the National Republican Committee — was Bob Schaffer.

So this is a story that's both party-centered and candidate-centered - Schaffer is taking advantage of a party rule to help himself. Apparently, Schaffer wouldn't enter the race unless he was pretty much guaranteed a primary-less ride. The Democrats don't have such institutional rules, but the state party chair is clearing the field anyway:
When Democrat Mark Benner recently suggested he would challenge U.S. Rep. Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs for a chance at the Senate seat, state party chairwoman Pat Waak began a series of discussions with Benner "about other ways to get the issues he is interested in out there."
This isn't a new situation. There's been surprisingly little intraparty competition for some very competitive seats in the past few years. Bill Ritter was virtually unopposed by other Democrats in last year's gubernatorial race, and the GOP establishment managed to shut down Marc Holtzman's challenge to Bob Beauprez in that race. Both parties rallied around their more moderate candidates in the '04 Senate race (Salazar and Coors), despite the more ideologically pure candidates (Miles and Schaffer) winning in the caucuses.

How did Colorado's parties suddenly get so strong? And how come the presidential race is comparatively so chaotic?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Partisan maps

I recently got Maps: Finding our Place in the World as a holiday gift. This is the companion book to an exhibit on maps at Chicago's Field Museum. It's a really wonderful book. I've been reading through the chapter on mapping American history by Susan Schulten, a colleague of mine, and I came across Reynold's Political Map of the United States (click to enlarge):
Somehow, I hadn't seen this one before. It's incredible. It was made in 1856, with the clear intent of raising sectional ire among non-slaveholders. The stats along the bottom make clear that slaveholders had a disproportionate share of power. As Reynolds wrote:
Of the 6,222,418 white inhabitants of the South, only 347,525 are owners of slaves. And yet this faction controls every branch of the Federal Government, and wields its influence for the increase and perpetuation of Slavery.
As the book makes clear, this is far from an isolated example of maps being made to serve a political purpose. But I was surprised by how profoundly political this map was. Note the pictures at the top: John C. Frémont and William L. Dayton, the presidential and vice presidential nominees of the Republican Party in 1856. I wonder if the newly-founded Republican Party actually commissioned this map, or if Reynolds was just an avid supporter.

Friday, December 21, 2007

California Assembly DW-NOMINATE film

I mentioned this video in a previous post (and Monkey Cage was nice enough to reference it). I managed to get the whole thing up on YouTube, so you no longer need to download the giant Quicktime file.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians

Awesome idea for a website. (Hat tip to Monkeys for Helping.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Parties and class

Kudos to John Sides for taking on Carol Darr's silly claims about class differences. To wit:
Since most Republicans live in rural America, where they are less likely to have broadband Internet, “we’re not fighting with a fair piece of the pie,” [“Republican Internet strategist David] All says. [Carol] Darr [a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School] also points to differences between the parties. “The people who are white and working-class tend to be Republican, particularly those who are white, working-class, and religious.” She characterizes Democrats as “ostensibly being the part of the poor and working class, but they end up being the yuppie party and most people at universities tend to be Democrats.”
Sides, along with several commenters, succeeds in demolishing all these claims. But then, proving that Sides' blog is much more popular than mine, Darr herself joins in the fray, ending with this comment:
My thoughts about the class divide between Dems and Republicans are summed up by a quote that I've always thought was attributable to Ambrose Bierce (but I can't find it in his "Devil's Dictionary):
"The problem with the Democrats is that they say they're for the poor and they're not; and the problem with the Republicans is that they say they're for the rich, and they are."
Sigh. So now we've gone from claiming that Republicans represent common folk better than the Democrats to the idea that there are no class differences between them. Poppycock. (Sorry to use such harsh language.)

Whether that quote came from Ambrose Bierce or not, it is plainly untrue today. When was the last time a Republican ran for office claiming to be for the rich? There are a lot of mistakes in Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas," but one thing he gets exactly right is the modern Republican rhetorical style: the reframing of class without reference to income. Republicans describe themselves and their supporters as the salt of the earth while painting Democrats as elitists.

Republicans are obviously free to say what they want, but reporters do their readers a disservice when they buy into such false claims. There are profound and easily verified differences between the two parties in terms of class.

As any any exit poll will show, poorer voters tend to vote Democratic, while wealthier voters tend to vote Republican. Here it is graphically:What's more, which party governs has important consequences for the economy. As Bartels demonstrates, poorer Americans see much greater income growth under Democratic presidents than under Republican ones. He produced this graph. Learn it. Know it. Live it.

Choose, Republicans!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Democratic capitulation

I still don't understand it, but Digby has an excellent post on the subject here. She ends with this gem:
Here's a little story from a book called "The Genius of the Jewish Joke" by Arthur Asa Berger:
Three Jews were going to be executed. They were lined up in front of a firing squad and the sergeant in charge asked each one whether he wanted a blindfold or not.
"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the first. "Yes," he said, in a resigned tone.
"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the second. "Ok," said the second.
"Do you want a blindfold?" he asked the third. "No," said the third.
At this point the second leaned over to the third one and said "Take a blindfold. Don't make trouble."
That's the Democratic electoral strategy in a nutshell.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Polarization in the California Assembly

I recently updated my animated movie of spatial plots of the California Assembly from 1901 to 2003. Keith Poole provided the code, which I tinkered with a bit. The plots show the first two DW-NOMINATE coordinates. The horizontal axis represents the left-right dimension. The vertical axis represents, well, whatever it represents. Usually, at least for California, it's a geographic dimension, pitting north against south. Today, the second dimension is virtually nonexistent. But the really interesting thing is the left-right polarization, particularly after the end of cross-filing in the 1950s.

Oh, and I added music. (Click image to view. Very large Quicktime file.)

Update: Video now available on YouTube.

Combining Research and Tourism

You know how everyone says that Hawaii is a relaxing paradise? Well, it is. We hung out at the beach with the kids all week. We ate and drank. I did a lot of snorkeling. It was all quite nice. Okay, it rained quite a bit, but it was always in the 70s or 80s, and the water never dropped below 75˚F, so the rain wasn't much of a deterrent.

Now, a good political scientist should be able to figure out a way to visit tropical islands and do research at the same time. Jerry Wright at Indiana has been collecting roll call data from state capitols, but he is stymied with Hawaii because they almost never have a contested roll call vote there. The legislature just agrees on everything. Now, things are nice there, but they can't be that nice. Decisions are being made somewhere else. But where? This sounds like a good area to investigate.

My co-conspirator Greg has some other ideas about bringing Samoa, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands into the purview of state politics. It might also be nice to compare these governments with those of independent nations like Jamaica. I wonder if NSF is willing to fund this sort of research.

The Edwards advantage, revisited

I hate to make too much of one poll, and these general election matchup questions asked a year before the general election just can't be too accurate, but man look at this:Paired up against four of the five leading Republican candidates, Edwards does way better than the other Democrats. He's leading Romney - still the likely GOP nominee - by more than 20 points. McCain is obviously the strongest Republican in the field according to this poll, besting Clinton and tying Obama, but Edwards beats him, as well. And all this despite Edwards' more liberal policy stances. I'm not sure why Edwards doesn't do as well against Thompson - maybe Edwards' main appeal is the thick Southern accent (which Huckabee doesn't have), and Fred has that in spades.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hawaii blogging

I'm on Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian islands. It's beautiful. Sorry blogging has been light.


From the NY Times discussion of a recent primary poll:
In a week when Mr. Romney delivered a speech intended to deal with concerns about his religion — he would be the nation’s first Mormon president — the poll found that little more than half of Republican respondents thought the United States was prepared to elect a Mormon to the Oval Office. That said, it also found that 45 percent were unable to say what Mr. Romney’s religion was.
Let me see if I've got that right. Roughly half of Republicans think Romney is unelectable because he's a Mormon. The other half doesn't yet know he's a Mormon. Romney can't like that news.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Here we go again

Catch Bush's response to David Gregory this morning?

I just love the scenario that Bush is painting. He wants us to believe that some variation on the following conversation between Bush and National Intelligence director Michael McConnell happened back in August.
McConnell: Mr. President, we have some new intelligence on Iran's nuclear program.
POTUS: Okay, what have you learned?
McConnell: I can't tell you yet.
POTUS: Good enough for me.
Either Bush is a tool because he expects us to believe this, or he's a tool because this is actually what happened. Either way, one thing's certain....

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I finally watched the interim Battlestar Galactica movie "Razor." And I have so say... really good. It covers some great material, including how the Pegasus responded to the initial attacks on the colonies, how the crew discovered the Cylon spy among them, Admiral Cain's war crimes, etc. Plus, we're introduced to some weird offshoot of the Cylons who never evolved from their 1979 form. Totally old school toasters. It rules.

But you know what I hate? It's the way sci-fi, even good sci-fi, is usually dismissed by entertainment reviewers. They always seem to set sci-fi apart from every other form of entertainment, intimating that it's just for kids or nerds and therefore doesn't need to be taken as seriously.

Here's an example from the Denver Post's review of "Razor":

Adoring fans claim "BSG" is a high- minded series dealing with humanity's struggle for survival and lapses into barbarism.

The rest of us dismiss it as a "Star Trek" clone, a revamped version of the 1970s original, with updated sex-and-violence eye candy and men barking "Yessir" to women in command.

That's pretty obnoxious. Couldn't a decent reviewer, particularly one who's admittedly not an adoring fan, actually assess whether it's a "high-minded series dealing with humanity's struggle for survival and lapses into barbarism"? Does the reviewer (Joan Ostrow) have to wink at "the rest of us" to say that it's no different from any other show that takes place in space?

Either Ostrow doesn't know it or doesn't want to admit she knows it, but there is an extraordinary range of material within the sci-fi genre. Some of it flat out sucks. ("Galactica: 1980" comes to mind.) Some of it, notably like the current BSG, is cutting edge socio-political commentary. Can you imagine a review of "Gladiator" that went like the following:
Adoring fans say it's a high-minded movie about duty, revenge, and a soldier's struggle to restore order to an empire. The rest of us dismiss it as a revamped version of the gladiator films of the 1960s, with updated sex-and-violence eye candy and men dying in skirts. You make the call!
No, we wouldn't accept that. But somehow action movies can be taken seriously for their content, while sci-fi can't.

Oh, here's how Ostrow finishes up her otherwise positive review of "Razor":
Is this a good time to join the "BSG" journey? In the end, "Razor" may be a two- hour layover during which we decide not to take the rest of the 22-episode trip.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Keep your eyes on Ritter

You heard it here first: Gov. Bill Ritter will be the Democratic nominee for vice president next year.

Okay, just a guess, but why not? He's a popular, Western governor who passes the key test of not saying a lot of stupid stuff. He's moderate, but can win some points with unions. Yes, he's pro-life, which would bother a lot of the party, but he managed to win resoundingly here last year without causing pro-choice activists to bolt the party or field a primary challenger. Mainly, he keeps quiet on the issue.