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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Electoral Math is for Losers

Steve Gilliard used to say that all the time, that electoral math is for losers. He got a lot of people all het up about it, too. But the more I see Democrats--good, solid, thoughtful, intelligent, all-on-the-same-side Democrats--carefully crafting arguments around which candidate to support (or not) in the primaries based on "electability" and the vagaries of the Electoral College, the more convinced I am that Gilliard is right: This gets us nowhere and serves to do nothing but sow dissension among us.

I should be clear: I'm not calling all those who fiddle with electoral maps and count the electors on their fingers and toes losers. When I say that electoral math is for losers, I mean that counting electors is, ultimately, a losing strategy. I'll elaborate in a moment.

Am I defensive? I mean, after all, most of the people spelling out electability issues or predicting Electoral College doom are doing so to argue against Howard Dean. I am, it is well known in these parts, a long-time Dean supporter. So, then, is it just a reflex mechanism on my part to say that only a loser would argue against Howard Dean based on electoral math? I don't think so. I firmly believe that a bean-counter approach to 2004 is ultimately the worst strategy we can take (no offense to bean counters in the audience).

First of all, electability is a canard. We are a full year, basically, away from November 2004. George W. Bush is consistently at or below the level of "generic Democrat" in head-to-head polls. Yet most candidates most of the time fall behind Bush in head-to-heads. Sure, there's a state poll here and there showing some candidates up and some down, or a national poll every once in a while with one guy up over the others. But in the end, if we're looking just at the polling data from today, the Democrats all have roughly equal shots if you average the polls, and the Democrats, with an unnamed candidate, have an excellent outlook in general.

But when people talk about Howard Dean's unelectability--or, for that matter, any Democrat's--the polls are secondary. It's all about personality. Dean's too angry. Dean's (perceived as) too liberal. Dean's too gruff. Contrariwise, Clark's too militaristic to attract former Greens; Kerry's too lackluster; Gephardt's too old-school; Edwards is too young. And so on. For the most part, there is nothing objective in these elecability arguments.

What really sticks in my craw, though, is the unspoken but ever-present sense among the Democrats making these electability claims that one candidate or another (usually, again, Howard Dean) will not have the full support of the Democratic Party--or at least some Democratic voters. This is bad voodoo, my friends. Look, I'm hip-deep in the Dean campaign. I have as much invested in this as anyone. And yet, if Dean is not the nominee, I have no intention of just walking away, or of only giving lackluster support to the nominee. Why? Because Democrats must win next November.

I put that in italics so there would be no question where my loyalty lies. I want Bush out of Washington. Period. I don't care if the Democrats nominate a limp rag, I will bust my hump going door-to-door for that scrappy little rag. And face it: With about a bazillion dollars to spend next year, the Bush campaign will be hard for any Democrat to beat without all of us working hard for victory. If all you plan to do is sit on your butt if your guy doesn't win, then I don't want to read your whining about how all of the other guys can't win.

Now about that pesky Electoral College thing. You and I both know that the only thing that guarantees a win in 2004 is 270 or more electoral votes. So why, then, do I think all of this electoral math is for losers? Simple: Did you ever notice how southerners get upset whenever anyone reminds us that we don't need the South to win? You and I both know that there is very little chance that the Democrat will win Mississippi. But if all goes according to plan, our guy will be the president in Mississippi just as he will be the president in Massachusetts. And we cannot campaign nor can we act as though the South is not a part of this country or a part of this race. (Plenty of other states or regions can be substituted in the preceding without changing a thing.)

You may believe that the election will be decided in just a few key battleground states and you may want to bother over which candidate you think has a better shot in those few key battleground states. But that's not what I want. I want a candidate who campaigns to win the election, not a candidate who campaigns to win, say, Tennessee.

When we start talking about who looks good in the South, or who looks good in the Midwest, or who looks good in whatever pet state you think will be the deciding one in 2004, we lose sight of the big picture. We are in this election as Democrats, and we will win as Democrats. We are not the party of one region or another. We are not the party of one group or another. We represent the majority view on every major domestic issue in the country, and it's time to win--and win the whole country. I don't want to hear about how one guy will win one state. That's loser talk. I want to hear about how we will win period in 2004.

So don't show me your electoral math. Don't complain about some candidate's personality and call it electability. Instead tell me how we're gonna win. That's the talk of winners.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Louise the Rabbit
1994(?)-November 24, 2003



'Mid brown castor fur
A little pink tongue darted.
She licked everything.

Rest in peace, little rabbit girl.

UPDATE: Thanks to all leaving condolences, and to NTodd for directing you all here. If you so choose, in memorium you can make a donation to the House Rabbit Society.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

The Cake has now been Taken

I got found yesterday on Google with the search string (I shudder to type this) "Aaron Carter armpits" (somehow I was in the top ten).

I think in the last couple weeks I set a pretty high standard, what with that posting once, sometimes twice a day. I should have saved them all up and spread them out; I have some guilt now because the last week has been dry around here.

I'm working on a write-up of my visit with way-cool Wisconsin state superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster last Friday. This past week has also been NCLB testing week, and I'd like to get some thoughts down about how all that went (like you don't know what I'm going to say already!). Tonight I have tickets to a house concert with Cosy Sheridan, so those posts probably won't be until next week.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Fun with free image hosts

Maggie:


Howard Dean:


The interview that led to my appearance in USA Today (I'm the one who doesn't look like Jill Lawrence):



All pictures by Mrs. Folkbum Sarah ("I'm not Mrs. anybody!"), who famously gets forgotten for her photos. There's a story in that for later.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Okay, I'm giving up the themed post titles

It was fun while it lasted, but I'm moving on. Anyway, no big news to report.

Oh, there was an eclipse.

And Howard Dean has rejected matching funds at the request of 85% of the people who voted in his "poll." The most telling bit of news: "During the two-day vote, supporters of the campaign pledged or contributed over $5.3 million with an average contribution or pledge of $116.89." So, going into the vote, word in the street was that Dean had already topped $5m in contributions for the quarter. Add to it this $5.3m, and Dean's at over $10m for the quarter with 60% of the quarter left to go. At this rate, he will raise $25m easy for the quarter. Ouch.

Here's an interesting one on the likely AFSCME endorsement, too. Every week, National Journal runs a "Democratic Insider" poll to find out who "insiders" think will win the nomination (I found it through Political Wire). For the three weeks that they have run this poll, Howard Dean has won it. I noticed this week, among the list of "insiders," this bit: "INSIDERS (candidate affiliation or endorsement, if any): [. . .] Gerald McEntee [. . .]." Gerry McEntee, of course, is the president of AFSCME. I would have loved to have been in the room to hear what McEntee said as an "insider" and why!

"Boston Bound" is done at OSP, with Howard Dean and a bonus edition of predictions.

Friday, November 07, 2003

You can try again, it might work next time

I've mentioned the odd Googling that happens to get people here. Today it was from the German version of Google: "Das Web wurde nach Mousepads mit Winnie Puh durchsucht.  Ergebnisse 1 - 3 von ungefähr 5. Suchdauer: 0.30 Sekunden." I was number two on the list.

I guess Google in Germany is a lot like Google here. It turns out that when you suche das Web with common words, it exludes them: "'mit' ist ein sehr häufiges Wort und wurde in der Suchanfrage ignoriert."

I have to say that Suchanfrage is my new favorite word. (For a long time, my favorite word was fardel, which you can find most famously in Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech.)

Oh, and OSP has part five of my "Boston Bound" series up, on Dick Gephardt.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

And the only friend you can reach isn't a good friend at all

Let me take a moment to thank Joe Lieberman for doing something right in this campaign. Notice that his name is missing from this sentence:
Gephardt, Clark and Kerry are working together once again to try and stop an endorsement.
And how about this whole SEIU plus AFSCME deal? Is that just mind-blowing or what? I was, in fact, going to title this post "Holy Fucking Shit," but then I thought the Dar Williams fans would get confused.

[UPDATE: Alert (and nit-picky :) ) reader Jeremy points out that Wesley Clark is not involved (it is Edwards instead) in the behind-the-scenes politicking to stop the endorsements for Dean. I didn't leave Clark out for nefarious reasons; I just thought the joke was funnier with Lieberman.]

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Even after the anger, it all turned silent

Untelevised seems to be missing. Does everyone else see just a blank screen? Where are you, Matt?

And I look out and say, "Yeah, she's really blonde"
bonus headline!

And at OSP, Kenneth Q. takes on the monumental task of refuting Ann Coulter. Godspeed, man.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion

Howard Dean is taking the populist thing in every direction possible, no? Now, he wants us to decide if he should abandon public financing in the primary:
I am writing to place the most important decision of this campaign in your hands. We need to choose whether we will decline federal matching funds or accept them. [. . .] This decision is no longer mine to make. This is a campaign of the people, by the people and for the people. Your successful effort of raising a historic amount of money through small contributions has made this choice possible. This is why I am putting this decision in your hands. I am asking you to vote on what kind of a campaign we will conduct from this point forward. No matter how well intentioned both our options are – the choice is difficult: do we choose option (a) to fund our campaign ourselves and decline matching funds, or do we choose option (b) and accept federal matching funds and the spending limits?
This announcement came early. It was not due to be made until tomorrow. If you want my honest assessment, I think he did it tonight because he got battered in the "Rock the Vote" forum tonight about the confederate flag. (And he lost some esteem in my eyes because he prefers peecees to Macintosh. Sigh.) But now the headlines in the morning will not be about his being battered in the debate, but rather his decision to turn the decision on public financing over to his supporters. Very shrewd.

I don't necessarily think it wise to forego the public financing in the primary--though Dean does make the point that we Dems are dead in tha water until after Boston--but this was a great media move on somebody's part. Dean owns the news cycle for the next week.

Taking out the compost

Go say congrats to another USA Today alum, Candidate's Wife.

(It was tricky finding an appropriate title for this post that matches my theme. But CW is in garbage janitorial supplies, so it works. Kind of. It's not a judgment on CW or her USA Todayness.)

I think magic's in the learning

Blog of a Math Teacher has a question: Teachers, what would it take for you to change what you do in class? Interesting dicussion to follow, I'm sure.

bostonbound.jpgAnd don't forget to drop by OSP for my Joe Lieberman Boston Bound post. And don't make fun of the logo; our design team didn't come through and I had to do it myself. :(

Monday, November 03, 2003

The child who played with the moon and stars

Congratulations to Mrs. and Mr. Kos on the birth of Aristotle Alberto. Much cooler than NTodd's cat.

If you're gonna get your heart broke, you'd better do it just right

For the Kucinichistas, Sharptonites, and Moseley Braunatics out there, I have a post up at OSP detailing what may be their only hopes for success in the primaries. It's part one in a six-part "Boston Bound" series.

I'm taking a cue from Atrios with the post titles for a little while. The bonus credit is still available for the first enterprising soul to get it!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

I have a good, I have an evil

This site is certified 29% EVIL by the Gematriculator This site is certified 71% GOOD by the Gematriculator

And bonus points if you spot the allusion in the post title!

Saturday, November 01, 2003

As cool as I am

I guess the prize for forgetting to submit my votes for the weekly "Best of Blogs" segment of Open Source Politics is that they vote for one of my pieces as one of the best. This week's BoB is "The Best of Us," a collection of good OSP posts from October. My "Wither College Funding?" post from a few weeks back made the cut.

I also recommend Loren Webster's "Goodbye to the Clean Water Act?", Dru Blood's "Why I Homeschool My Children", Patrick Taylor's "The Deportation of Maher Arar", Kenneth Quinnell's "T. Rex's North American Field Guide to Monsters: The Right-Wing Zombie", Barbara O'Brien's "Life, Death, and Politics", and NTodd's "Around the World in 80 Sentences (Or Half That)". The rest of them are just as good; I just don't have time to list them all here.

Go read. Now.