Posts Tagged ‘Are the primaries over yet?’
I got to thinking last night on Twitter that while it would probably be possible to design a worse system than the one U.S. political parties use to select their nominees, it definitely wouldn’t be easy.
- We start off with weekly contests in individual states, none of which are representative of the demographics of the nation as a whole. The early states vote in an arbitrary order, but this order stays the same every year.
- Then, all of a sudden, several states start going all on the same day. Soon after, we have “Super Tuesday,” on which a huge number of states vote. After this the process is expected to be effectively concluded, even though the majority of the states have yet to do anything.
- Each state generates its own internal processes for selecting a candidate. Some are caucuses, some are primaries; some allow cross-over voting, some don’t; some allow early voting, some don’t; some are winner-take-all, some aren’t. Some of the results are just straw polls that don’t even count. As a result, no outcome in any state is directly comparable to any other.
- The assignation of delegates is likewise almost totally arbitrary, both in terms of representality at the convention—there’s no direct relationship between delegates and population—but also in terms of the rules for how the delegates are to be assigned within each particular state. Nearly every state allows the vote total and the delegate count to diverge, some quite seriously. Some states bind their delegates to the vote results, others don’t. And then there are a large number of superdelegates who are chosen through other, even more arcane procedures.
- And the whole process takes two years, with the vast majority of the debates happening months before any votes are cast and almost no debates happening during the time people are actually supposed to be making their decisions. The meaningful voting, Iowa to Super Tuesday, takes place over about a two-month stretch of this span.
This is nuts.
Sunday night links.
* Is Twitter the Drudge Killer? We can only dare to hope.
* The Art of the Movie Poster. (Thanks, Ron!)
* Sanford says he won’t resign. Okay, then, impeachment.
* Steve Benen against bipartisanship. Also at Washington Monthly: early movement towards fixing the Democratic primaries for 2012 and beyond.
* Today is the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. MetaFilter remembers.
* Planetary #27 finally on its way. October.
* New Hampshire officially passes marriage equality. It looked for a while like nitpicking from the governor’s office might actually kill this; very glad it didn’t.
* Country first: Lindsey Graham admits he puts the Republican Party before the good of the nation.
* In the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination, a frequent Fox News guest has put photos and addresses for the last two late-term abortion providers in the country on the Web.
* Obama speaks in Cairo.
* The recession: a global view. It’s important to remember how good America actually has it—and that the current level of hardship in the States is, relatively speaking, not even all that bad.
* Here comes heath care. Donkeylicious says Team Edwards has something to crow about here. Maybe, but the health-care justification for Edwards’s (and later Hillary Clinton’s) candidacy long past viability was always weak—the plan you campaign on is never the plan that gets passed.
* And sad news: Bill, killed. Early reports declare David Carradine a suicide.
Okay, a few more.
* Carteret Islands evacuated due to the islands’ sinking against rising sea level.
* Advantage Canavan: Joe Trippi says there’s no truth to the rumors that Edwards staffers had a secret plan to bring down the candidate.
* Raised by anthropologists: Profile of Ursula K. Le Guin.
* The fallacy of authorial intent: The director and writer of The Usual Suspects disagree on what happened in the film.
My very first use of the “Barack Obama” tag was on August 30, 2007, when I wrote of some now-vanished article concerning some saber-rattling HRC comments on Iran:
Hillary Clinton, working as hard as ever to make it impossible to support the Democrats in 2008.
A few months later, in December, I was more explicit:
God save us from the Clintons.
So you can imagine how happy I am to see Hillary Clinton apparently being offered, and accepting, Secretary of State.
I see the logic of it, accept the political wisdom of it, but good lord, this is not what I had in mind.
10:37 PM: In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
10:22 PM: Good line from Obama on McCain: In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine.
10:17 PM: Reaching out to Clinton’s supporters now, being far more gracious than I think I could be in similar circumstances.
There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn’t just about the party in charge of Washington, it’s about the need to change Washington. There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren’t the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn’t do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – we cannot afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say – let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.
10:15 PM: The nominee.
10:13 PM: Obama thanks his grandmother, and gets a little bit misty-eyed about it.
10:08 PM: Obama taking the stage now.
10:00 PM: Obama wins Montana.
9:59 PM: Last word on Clinton tonight: It may be that nobody in America has more invested in Obama winning now that Hillary Clinton does. If he loses, the bulk of the Democratic Party will point to what she said (and didn’t say) tonight, and we will not forget.
9:55 PM: Olbermann reporting now that Clinton gave her speech in a basement with no TVs and no cell phone service, perhaps deliberately so, so that no one in her audience would know she’s already lost.
I suspect those people already knew, and, like Clinton, they just don’t care.
9:53 PM: Yglesias: I probably shouldn’t write any more about this woman and her staff. Suffice it to say that I’ve found her behavior over the past couple of months to be utterly unconscionable and this speech is no different. I think if I were to try to express how I really feel about the people who’ve been enabling her behavior, I’d say something deeply unwise. Suffice it to say, that for quite a while now all of John McCain’s most effective allies have been on Hillary Clinton’s payroll. Yes. Yes.
9:50 PM: The question is, “Where do we go from here?” This has been a long campaign and I will be making no decisions tonight. Followed by a plea for donations at hillaryclinton.com.
Anyone who primaries Hillary Clinton in 2012 is getting a check from me.
9:48 PM: She’s got the crowd chanting “Denver” now. JESUS CHRIST.
9:40 PM: Okay, now she’s seemingly dialing it back again. The beginning and end of this speech sounded a lot like a dignified concession—only the middle third sounded like damn the torpedoes. I honestly don’t know what to make of it.
9:39 PM: Seriously, she’s taking this further? Seriously?
9:37 PM: I was just typing that this is Hillary’s “Mountaintop” speech—she may not get there with us, but she has shown her supporters the Promised Land.
Then she started in with this stronger candidate / popular vote bullshit.
She’s got her crowd booing now at the thought that this is over. My God. The horror. The horror.
9:35 PM: Reporting from the future, TPM Election Central has the full text of Obama’s speech tonight in Minneapolis.
Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
9:32 PM: Hillary coming out now.
9:19 PM: Fox has called South Dakota for Clinton, which hopefully won’t give her reason to declare herself the nominee tonight as well. (We were already playing under “next vote wins” rules.)
Much of the discussion on MSNBC is centering around this absurd kabuki dance currently being played out over whether or not Clinton merely wants to be asked to be VP, or if she would actually take it if asked. Dear God, Obama, do not ask Clinton to be your VP under any circumstances.
9:16 PM: Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC says that Clinton is demanding a private sitdown with Obama before she’ll concede or embrace his candidacy. Matthews calls super-double bullshit on this: “Why are they telling the media they want a secret meeting? Why not just have one?”
9:04 PM: Jesse Taylor, having returned to Pandagon after a years-long absence, gives Srinivas a run for his money on the definitive word on McCain’s speech: McCain’s speech was inspiring. Literally dozens of people standing in a room, booing things.
Meanwhile, MSNBC has had its mind totally blown by Obama’s victory, almost as if no one could believe this was happening even as it seemed inevitable over the last few months. Chris Matthews is even comparing this moment to the fall of apartheid in South Africa, which is a stretch, but not by all that much.
9:00:01 PM: MSNBC cuts into McCain’s speech to report that Barack Obama,
winning Montana, is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party. History: made.
[Ed: He'll win Montana, but the polls are still open there. MSNBC is actually just projecting that he'll be pushed over the 2118 line no matter how he finishes tonight.]
8:59 PM: Srinivas, my old political co-blogger from ’04, has the definitive line on McCain’s speech in Google Chat: so where was all this the last 5 years johnny boy
8:57 PM: Good points from Matt here.
Marc Ambinder writes about an RNC memo “that portrays the Democratic Party in a state of disarray and claims that legions of Hillary Clinton voters are poised to jump to John McCain.” As Marc says, “privately, many Democrats would agree that that ‘united’ is not the best adjective to describe the party right now.” If anything, though, I think this ought to give McCain serious pause. How is it that he’s in a dead heat with an opponent who’s party is an a maximum state of disunity?
Meanwhile, McCain drones on. “My friends, that’s not change we can believe in.” How long until he’s reduced to chanting “No, we can’t!”?
8:49 PM: Is that Bush getting booed at a McCain event?
8:46 PM: Now he’s after Obama, in a rather ham-fisted way. He’s actually coming across as pretty smarmy—mean-spirited, petty, and nasty.
I’m actually surprised McCain decided to give another speech on the same night as Obama. I thought he wasn’t going to do this anymore, as the contrast is just too stark to do McCain any favors.
8:35 PM: Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.
—John McCain, 1998
He’s on TV now, shamelessly sucking up to Clinton’s supporters. Pathetic.
8:30 PM: Tonight’s the night. The AP has already reported that Obama has the nomination cinched tonight—his speech tonight in Minneapolis (at the site of the 2008 RNC Convention) should be one for the ages. Keep watching.
So here’s the case that I will be making over the coming days. We have won the popular vote which best represents the will of the people, more people have voted for me than any other candidate in the history of presidential primaries. We are winning the swing states and the swing voters that Democrats must win to take back the White House. And in every poll that has been done independently in the last several months I am beating John McCain in the key states. I have proven that I have what it takes to get the 270 electoral votes that is required to win back the White House.
The only popular vote totals that show Clinton ahead have her receiving 330,000 votes in Michigan to Obama’s 0. For the love of God, have some dignity.
Despite chants of “Denver! Denver!” from angry supporters at the RBC meeting, and despite Harold Ickes’s spittle-flecked diatribe that same night, Huffington Post and Drudge (1, 2) are running with stories that Hillary Clinton will in fact suspend her campaign tomorrow, with supporting evidence pouring in from such sites as The Field, Daily Kos, TPM and Politico. At long last.
Meanwhile, in other political news, the Politco has an interesting piece making the case that support from the Drudge Report has boosted Obama. (Via The Stump.) There’s three things to keep in mind here: first that Drudge has just as often gone after Obama, especially about the Wright nonsense; second that Drudge made his name taking down Bill Clinton and that there’s no love there, even given the Clinton campaign’s attempts to cozy up to Drudge this cycle; and third that Drudge is a complete and unrepentant scumbag and one of the single worst actors in both American politics and media culture.
As the Clintons learned very well this primary, the scorpion lets you take him halfway across the river first.
Now that the primary season has nearly run its course, a different pattern can be seen. Followed day by day, the race for the Democratic nomination has been the most exciting election in living memory. But viewed in retrospect, it is clear that it has been quite predictable. All the twists and turns have been a function of the somewhat random sequencing of different state primaries, which taken individually have invariably conformed to type, with Obama winning where he was always likely to win (caucus states, among college-educated and black voters, in the cities), and Clinton winning where she was likely to win (big states with secret ballots, among less well-educated whites and Hispanics, in rural areas). Even the initial drama of that week in early January – when Obama’s victory in Iowa had seemed to give him a chance of finishing Clinton off, only to be confounded by her victory in New Hampshire, which defied the expectation of the pundits and had them all speculating about what had swung it (was it her welling up in a diner? was it hastily rekindled memories of Bill? was it hints of hubris from Obama?) – turns out to have been an illusion. Iowa was Obama country (younger, smaller, caucus meetings) and New Hampshire wasn’t (older, bigger, voting machines). The salient fact about this campaign is that demography trumps everything: people have been voting in fixed patterns set by age, race, gender, income and educational level, and the winner in the different contests has been determined by the way these different groups are divided up within and between state boundaries. Anyone who knows how to read the census data (and that includes some of the smart, tech-savvy types around Obama) has had a good idea of how this was going to play from the outset. All the rest is noise.
Also in LRB: Clinton supporter David Runciman explains how for all the sound, fury, and breathless reporting surrounding the 2008 Democratic primary, if anything we should be surprised by just how few surprising things happened. Demographics, in the end, was destiny—geography, not momentum, played the determinative role.
As insightful, I think, is this from Joseph Schumpeter in 1942:
It turns out that the best guide to what’s been going on during the ceaseless clamour of this election season comes from one of John Dewey’s contemporaries, the émigré Austrian economist and philosopher Joseph Schumpeter, who also died during Truman’s second term, in 1950. In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, written in 1942, Schumpeter pointed out that most people do not think much about politics at all: they simply respond to triggers in ways that require the minimum of mental effort. ‘The typical citizen,’ Schumpeter wrote, ‘drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field. He argues and analyses in a way which he would readily recognise as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective.’ The demographic determinism of this election campaign is evidence of the ease with which the main candidates have been able to exploit the instinctive reflexes of various segments of the population, and the difficulty that their opponents have had in overcoming these reflexes with competing arguments.
Olbermann had a “Special Comment” tonight on Clinton’s assassination gaffe:
For what it’s worth I think Olbermann’s outrage is pretty well-founded. I’m obviously no fan of the Clintons, but it’s bad enough to continue her quixotic campaign secretly hoping that something horrible happens to Obama so she gets to be the nominee after all—far worse to actually say it and remove all doubt. This was a Freudian slip, not an incitement to violence, and it certainly wasn’t anything she ever intended to say—but it unnecessarily invokes the grim specter of assassination that many Obama supporters have felt haunted by since Iowa. As she is the person who currently stands to most directly gain from such a disaster, her bringing it up seems, at best, unseemly. At best.
This may blow over, or she may have to soon end her campaign over this. We’ll have to wait and see what the media does with it over the weekend. Her non-apology apology certainly didn’t help.
In other primary news, The Field reports a surge of California superdelegates shifting to Obama—note this happened before the gaffe—as well as the tantalizing possibility that I may soon be forced to take back all the nasty things I’ve said about John Edwards.
Al Giordano at the Field is reporting that Hillary Clinton has expressly asked to be the vice-presidential nominee, and has been turned down. Markos thinks this is why Clinton has suddenly gone nuclear again in her never-ending effort to delegitimize Obama’s candidacy. If the latest polls from Virginia and California are any indication, however, Clinton’s arguments aren’t going to work:
SUSA: Obama wins Virginia
SurveyUSA. 5/18-22. Likely voters. MoE 4.1% (4/11-13 results)
McCain (R) 42 (52)
Obama (D) 49 (44)
We’re passing through bargaining, towards acceptance. We’ll be there soon.
Despite another big defeat in Appalachia, Barack Obama now has an absolute majority of pledged delegates, all-but-guaranteeing that he will be the Democratic nominee. Here he is tonight in Iowa:
Meanwhile, SurveyUSA is playing the veepstakes game, running likely VP picks head-to-head in various swing states. Here’s Pennsylvania, a key state for Obama which shows Edwards as a surprisingly (and, I think, deceptively) strong pick:
The real frontrunners, though, apparently aren’t being polled: Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, Arizona’s Napolitano, Virginia’s Tim Kaine. And I still like McCaskill.
“Everybody is going to be with Obama,” he added, referring to Clinton staff and supporters. “I have an undated check written out for Obama. I’ll send it when this is over.”
Monday afternoon links.
* PopMatters says happy birthday to Godzilla.
* Literary studies is in crisis!! Still!!! But lucky for us there is a solution:
Literary studies should become more like the sciences. Literature professors should apply science’s research methods, its theories, its statistical tools, and its insistence on hypothesis and proof. Instead of philosophical despair about the possibility of knowledge, they should embrace science’s spirit of intellectual optimism. If they do, literary studies can be transformed into a discipline in which real understanding of literature and the human experience builds up along with all of the words.
* More good news from North Carolina: Liddy Dole is polling neck and neck with her challenger for November, Kay Hagan, and it’s only May.