Some months ago, I was looking forward to two cases of (semi-)presidential democracy in East Asia that would be having nonconcurrent presidential and legislative elections with a short gap between each country’s two elections. South Korea (a pure presidential system, notwithstanding the existence of an office of ‘Prime Minister’) had its presidential election on 19 December. It has its National Assembly election on 9 April. Taiwan (a semi-presidential system) had its legislative election on 12 January, and its presidential election just this past Saturday, 22 March.
One of my research interests dating back to graduate school days is on the effect of electoral cycles in systems with elected presidencies. In fact, this was the topic of one of my three papers that formed the core of my dissertation1 Electoral cycles and their impact on party systems and representation are also the theme of a 1995 article I published in the American Political Science Review.
Most presidential systems seem to have concurrent elections–presidential and legislative elections on the same day (or legislative on the same day as the first round of presidential elections in the case of runoff systems). I have not done a systematic count of systems in a while, but that seems to remain the case. Almost all semi-presidential systems, on the other hand, have nonconcurrent elections. In most cases, that is because the term lengths of the two institutions are different, not because of any systematic design principle in having legislative elections come ‘x’ number of weeks/months before/after a presidential election. These democracies with different term lengths thus may have the legislative election at almost any point in the presidential term, varying by presidency.2
The result of most electoral cycles being either concurrent or for completely separate term lengths is that there are relatively few cases of legislative and presidential elections that take place in close temporal proximity to each other very closely (but not on the same day). In my grad-school work and subsequent publications I have referred to legislative elections that come shortly after presidential elections as honeymoon elections. The reverse situation, where legislative elections are followed closely by presidential, are counterhoneymoon elections.
The expectation–as suggested by the term–is that a honeymoon legislative election would result in a boost to the legislative representation of the newly elected president’s party (or bloc). And, almost without exception, that is empirically the case. One of the rare exceptions is from one of this year’s East Asian cases: In South Korea, 1987, there was almost complete stasis between the vote share obtained by the president and that obtained by his party at the legislative election shortly after. It was, of course, a three-way election, with the outgoing dictatorship’s candidate winning on 36% of the vote. So, perhaps the honeymoon effect does not work with “departing” dictatorial parties, or perhaps it does not work with winners who have relatively small pluralities instead of majorities or near-majorities. It is hard to say because we don’t have a lot of cases and because we really do not have a good theory of the causal mechanism at work in the honeymoon effect (or its rare absence). Does it result from the excitement and mobilization of change, in which case it may require alternation (thus “excusing” the Korean case because the former dictator’s party was being reelected)? Calling it a “honeymoon” election assumes, of course, that there is a rally around the new president, even by those who might have voted for other candidates–something that clearly did not happen in Korea in 1987.
The counterhoneymoon concept suggests something quite the opposite of the honeymoon effect. Whereas the honeymoon election allows the new (or newly reelected) president to take advantage of his or her maximum public support and translate it into a politically supportive legislature, the counterhoneymoon election may be a signal of the relative support of various parties and factions leading into the presidential campaign.
Both effects, if present, would be expected to result in relative political harmony between the two branches, but through contrary mechanisms. In the counterhoneymoon phenomenon, the outcome of the legislative elections serves as a sort of “primary,” sorting out the alliances, parties, and factions that are best positioned to win the voters’ favor in the looming presidential election. The identity of the next president is not yet known (assuming a competitive campaign), but the various contenders may be the heads of parties or intraparty groups that are jockeying to be president. Obviously, in the honeymoon, the president is both known and just getting started, and the legislative election takes place before the opposition has time to regroup.
Normatively, then, a honeymoon cycle is “best” if one wants to maximize the chance that the president has political domination over the legislature. Is a counterhoneymoon cycle normatively preferred if one wants to make the presidency maximally dependent on the electoral sorting out of competing parties and factions?3 Perhaps. However, the cycle is so rare. Only Colombia has used it regularly, and it appears that the legislative elections have indeed served such a function, though I do not think the pattern has been systematically analyzed from this perspective.4
What has all this to do with South Korea and Taiwan? Alas, not as much as I had hoped when looking ahead to these two countries’ nonconcurrent elections in the Decemberâ€“April period. The initial election of the current cycle in each country–legislative in Taiwan and presidential in Korea–was not competitive enough to be of much interest from this “electoral-cyclist” perspective.
In Taiwan in January, the incumbent DPP was defeated quite badly, and the opposition KMT and its allies wound up with three quarters of the seats. Not a lot of counterhoneymoon sorting out going on there. Nonetheless, there may have been some, on the intra-alliance dimension, as the KMT’s almost total dominance over its own allies may have altered the internal balance. A hypothesis to that effect would be somewhat more convincing if the allied People First Party had announced the opening of discussions of a possible merger with the KMT between the legislative and presidential elections, rather than immediately after the latter. That is, suppose the two parties had been jockeying for leadership of their alliance and had decided on their presidential candidate only after the legislative result was clear. As it was, the KMT presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, backed by the PFP, won Saturday’s election, 58.4%-41.6%, an outcome that was not really ever in doubt.5 And certainly whether the candidacy would go to the KMT leader or that of the PPP was not in any way sorted out by the counterhoneymoon legislative election. In fact, given the change in the legislative electoral system for this most recent election (from mostly SNTV to MMM with a small proportional-list tier), most of the intra-alliance balance had to have been negotiated before the legislative election.
In the South Korean case, Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party won the presidential election decisively, 48.7% to 26.2% for his nearest challenger, Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party. There may not seem to be much of a honeymoon increase possible from that large a victory. However, considering that the current president’s party won only 35.8% of the vote in the 2004 legislative election (when it was in opposition, having lost a relatively close 2002 presidential election), any substantial increase from that share by the party so soon after winning the presidency would indeed look like a honeymoon effect. We will have an idea of the extent of such an effect in just over two weeks. As for a good case of counterhoneymoon elections in action, Taiwan failed to give us one, and we may not have another example soon. That is unfortunate, because I have long thought that the counterhoneymoon cycle just might be the normatively preferred one.
The dissertation had the snappy title, Duverger’s Rule, District Magnitude, and Presidentialism. One of its points was to explore the extent to which the presence of presidential elections, and their temporal relationship to legislative elections, impacts the Duvergerian effects expected on the legislative party system from variations in district magnitude. [↩]
There is some variation in these systems in whether they are on the same date when they come up in the same year. For instance, in El Salvador (5 years presidency, 3 legislative), the legislative and first-round presidential election are concurrent every 15 years (next in 2009). But when France had both elections in 2007, they were on separate dates, as was the case under the (pre-coup) Chilean constitution of 1925. [↩]
If, on the other hand, one wants to maximize the potential for divergence, one would presumably want legislative elections to occur only at the presidential midterm. The only such case I know of is the Dominican Republic since 1996 (although in the most recent example there, the president’s party actually scored dramatic gains). [↩]
Before the introduction of presidential primaries by the Liberal party in 1990 and the leftist alliance in 2006, and especially when the quasi-SNTV system was used before 2006, the intraparty competition for legislative seats (and other offices before subnational elections were moved to a separate cycle) may have affected the presidential nominating process. And in years when the primary has been competitive, the various pre-candidates not only were competing to win the nomination, but also to develop their own “coattails” within the party. With the new electoral system being open list (parties may present closed lists, but most lists are open), this competition may be only somewhat attenuated, if at all. A research agenda going forward! [↩]
Despite the efforts of the ruling DPP, which takes a harder line on relations with (Mainland) China, to exploit pro-sovereignty sentiment by holding a concurrent referendum on the status of Taiwan/Republic of China and Taiwan’s possible admission to the UN. There was also a KMT-sponsored referendum on the ballot, proposing a more “flexible” strategy. Both referenda failed. [↩]
And just yesterday morning it was the vernal equinox.
In honor of its now being “officially” spring, according to the solar calendar, here’s looking at one of the first fruit trees to bloom every spring (the Kuban Burgundy plum, foreground), and one of the last of the peach/nectarine varieties to reach full bloom (the Panamint).
If I did not know any better, I might think it was Pesach; …the full moon after the vernal equinox…
But, wait, it’s a leap year. Still a month to go. That’s good, because it seems like the perfect evening to raise a toast to spring. It is, after all, a religious obligation on this night.
In reflecting on the very different political constituencies of Obama and Clinton (about which I have written before), and then reading of Huckabee’s comments yesterday on the whole Wright stuff,1 I was moved to ask:
Why not have a four-way race?
Huckabee has shown over and over again the extent to which he represents a very different coalition from that which has sustained the national Republican party and upon which McCain’s campaign depends, just as Obama has been doing the same on the Democratic side.
There is no good reason why we should let a minority of the electorate in winter and spring whittle these four down to two in the fall contest. So, in the spirit of renewal and newness on this first day of spring:
Let’s go for four!
Of course, this would be much better with instant runoff or a second-round system. But let’s do it anyway, and if it winds up reminding Americans of the undemocratic way in which the constitution says to pick a President when no one gets a majority of the electoral vote, so much the better.
And, of course, in no way do I mean to imply that the contest should be restricted to these four.
Before the speech, if youâ€™d asked me which candidate Iâ€™d support if I could vote, Iâ€™d have said Obama. After the speech, itâ€™s quite different.
Iâ€™ve lived in the US for the last four years as a permanent resident, and been quite happy here. Hearing Obama speak made me feel for the first time that I genuinely want to become a citizen of this country and a part of the larger project that he talked about, regardless of specific disagreements I might have. You hear a lot of guff in politiciansâ€™ speeches about how great America is; Obama seemed to me to be challenging America to be great, which is a very different and much riskier thing, as well as something I find much more compelling and attractive. [My emphasis]
I had the same feeling–the part about challenging America to be great, rather than taking it as a given. Perfection is a process–or a project–not a state of being.
Obviously, I already am a citizen. But when I hear the vitriol from the right–the authoritarian right, not the Reverend Wright1–I often feel the instinct to give up that birthright citizenship. They are not talking about the America I was taught in my youth to love by my (mostly very pro-Reagan) family.2 The American right is certainly not talking about the America the founders thought they were establishing.
On the other hand, when I hear Obama speak, I feel I am hearing genuine authenticity about what it means to be a citizen of this country. Yes, he is a politician, and by profession I am primed to be skeptical. But I think I can tell when a politician is sincere. I believe Obama was when he spoke on Tuesday, when I felt I was listening to real patriotism in action. And a call to action.
Henry notes that it’s easier for an academic to say nothing, because “weâ€™re not supposed to talk about sincere personal commitments without some degree of ostentatious sighing, display of jaded skepticism etc.” Yeah, that’s how I approached this contest from the start. But the more I heard, the more I became convinced that Obama has a really unusual combination of personal qualities that could result in a transformative presidency.3 The speech was substantive and compelling as it touched a whole bunch of “third rails” of American politics. Yesterday, after reflecting upon the speech, I finally opened up the Ladera Frutal account to send my token contribution to the campaign.4 There are times to be a spectator and times to be an analyst. And then there are times to get involved in what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a difference. Can one man really do it? No. It’s up to us. And Obama is the first politician with a realistic chance of winning the presidency that I have heard say precisely that.
The comment thread below Henry’s post (up to 112 comments, at last check) is worth perusing, too.
As I just said over at PoliBlog: “We should draw a very clear distinction between Falwell [or Hagee and others] and Wright, and not conflate them… One said that G-d punished America… The other said that 9/11 was blowback for American government policy abroad. I would hope we could tell the difference here. [↩]
It is interesting–to me, anyway–that I think I might have convinced my mother to vote for John Anderson in 1980. Or maybe she was just humoring me (no, not mom). But she had been very, very pro-Reagan when he was Governor and radio personality, and in his presidential run in 1976. And most of the immediate family was pretty Reaganite. And Nixonite. (Long story of family ties that I might reveal some day!) So, I had an early, but unthinking, identity with the California-style Republican party (even though my list of early political heroes–Muskie, Nader–included no Republicans). I often say it was Reagan who pushed me out of the Republican party. [↩]
Don’t ask me to define that. I am not speaking as an academic at this moment (in case you hadn’t noticed). [↩]
The first of many such tokens, I suspect. As long as he remains a viable pre-candidate and continuing if he is the general-election candidate. [↩]
Earlier this month, voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, elected to make their city a modern democracy. Sixty-five percent voted to adopted instant runoff voting, and just over three fifths voted for public campaign financing.
Most people adhere to the â€œnever gonna happenâ€ theory of electoral systems reform. In relative terms, the public financing movement (aka â€œclean electionsâ€) receives boatloads of cash annually. Yet hereâ€™s an example of how the impossible – changing the voting system – can be more popular than the slightly less impossible – â€œgetting the money out of politics.â€
Democracy: Rule by the majority, on behalf of the public. A radical idea. Coming soon to a city, state, and nation near you. If you work for it.
By popular demand, this is hereby declared an open hole for planting on the Democratic (or Republican) primary/caucus/convention procedures.
I have been wanting to write something for a while, but burdens of work and back pain that force me to minimize time in the chair have kept me from it.
So, plant away. The only ground rule (get it?) is that this should be focused only on the rules and possible improvements, and not on the candidates, per se. The Florida and Michigan debacles, and what to do about them, are also fair game.
I first became aware of Gagauzia in the early 1990s when I served briefly as a consultant with the ABA’s project on constitutionalism in Eastern Europe. One of my projects was to review the constitutional arrangements of Gagauzia, which was established for a Turkic minority (who are Orthodox Christians) living in this southern corner of Moldova. The region’s population is around 30,000.
The world hardly knows of Gagauzia, and that is to its credit in some respects. In Southeastern Europe (the Balkans), a region that has known more than its share of ethnic conflict, this autonomous region has been a success story. Hopes that it would serve as a model for resolving Moldova’s conflict with its breakaway region of Transnistria unfortunately have not been realized. In fact, it could be argued that the Moldovan authorities made a “separate peace” with the Gagauz, forming a federacy to stave off demands for a deeper federation that would encompass Transnistria, Gaugazia, and the Moldovan heartland as separate units.
From left to right, here are a Moro, Sanguinelli, and Tarocco blood orange, all harvested at Ladera Frutal within the past week.
Obviously, these samples vary quite a bit in both external and internal color, with the Tarocco bloodiest on both sides of the peel.
In favor, they really are quite distinct. This was the first time I had ever tasted two or more different varieties in sequence, as it is our first year of any significant (and overlapping) crops on these trees.
I would rate the Moro as the best flavor, followed by the Tarocco. It is actually not an easy call. The Moro has more of the berry flavor notes that lead some sellers to market these as “raspberry oranges.” The Tarocco is milder, but very balanced and after a few tastes, I started to get some unusual complexity, kind of like a fine red wine. (I have also seen blood oranges sold as “burgundy oranges,” although those I have seen sold that way were always Moros.) The Sanguinelli was the most tart of the three by far, but not overly so. It just has less interesting flavor. However, fruit remaining on the tree may simply benefit from more time, and the tree itself is the smallest and least mature of the three.
The Moro is also the most immediately recognizable as an orange by flavor, despite clear differences when compared to a navel or Valencia. The others taste a bit more like a different class of citrus fruit, with the Tarocco even having a “chewy” texture that could almost make you think it had some grapefruit or pummelo in its bloodlines (though, to my knowledge, it does not).
This Tarocco is not the most common strain sold under that name, but a recent selection that I obtained through a CFRG arrangement with the UCR Citrus Variety Collection. It certainly deserves to be widely released and better known.
There is a very interesting “Guest Pollster” post today at Pollster.com by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Karl Sigman of Columbia University. It concerns simulations based on the Survey USA 50-state polling. Please go there for the important methodological overview, which includes an explanation of why “votes” is in quotation marks in the excerpt below:
…the national popular “vote” is tight as of late February. Obama wins 51.5 percent versus McCain’s 48.5 percent. Clinton also wins by an even razor thin margin, 50.7 to 49.3. With 30,000 cases, both estimates are statistically significant. McCain would be in the actual popular vote lead less than one time in 20.
That being said, our simulations yield a 88% chance of Obama beating McCain (with 306 Electoral College votes on average versus 233 for McCain), and a 74% chance of Hillary beating McCain (with 285 Electoral College votes on average versus 253 for McCain).
…there is sufficient variance in the outcomes, so that McCain wins a nontrivial portion of the simulations, even with Obama as the opponent. Our two million simulations remind us that the popular vote winner is not always the Electoral College winner, although probably due mainly to chance…
As I noted earlier in the week, the chances of a victory being quite high for either Democrat, the most important consideration ought to be the nature of the coalitions each would construct in a general election. Even more important is the related potential for a realignment that allows a Republican defeat without Democratic dependence on the more unsavory elements of the party’s old coalition–the Wallace/Reagan “Democrats.” Even better when these factors also correspond to the candidate with the greater victory chance.
Today are parliamentary election in Iran. A commentary a few days ago in the Daily Star of Lebanon says it well: “Paradoxically, Iranian elections are abnormal by both democratic and autocratic standards.”
I have discussed the complex relationships among elected and non-elected institutions in Iran’s unusual electoral-authoritarian regime before. (Just click either of the block titles in the “Planted in” line above.)
Want a taste of the tropics? Forget the plane ticket. Go to the grocery store and take your pick: aÃ§aÃ sorbet, mangosteen iced tea, pomegranate granola, noni smoothies, yogurt-covered dried goji berries and more.
There is, however, one glaring error in there. Pomegranates are anything but tropical. And they are hardly rare (even if not well known in the USA till recently). Pomegranates, after all, are mentioned over and over again in the Tanakh, including as evidence of the riches of the Promised Land and as key symbols in the Temple. They also are a staple food item in several Middle Eastern cultures, such as Iran–e.g. the marvelous fesanjen.1 Last I checked, the Holy Land and Iran were not tropical.
Thanks to Steven for calling my attention to this article.
Yes, the link is Jewish; I could not find my preferred vegetarian link to a source on Iranian cuisine. It is usually a chicken or duck dish, but I have had many excellent vegetarian versions at Persian restaurants. Besides, the link is about Purim (’tis the season!), the events of which are set in Persia. [↩]
If you have not seen the Survey USA 50-state polls, or maps derived from them, you should go over to Pollster.com or Cogitamus before reading the following. Better yet, you should look at both, as these two linked items use slightly different–and both useful–ways of presenting the same data to show possible differences between a Clintonâ€“McCain and an Obamaâ€“McCain matchup. I will leave aside for now the important caveats about the methodologies of the polls (I will assume that they are valid, and equally so in all 50 states) and about these polls being, as Mark Blumenthal put it at Pollster.com, “less useful in forecasting the ultimate result than they are in gauging the relative strength of both Clinton and Obama as of last week (February 26 to February 28).”
Taken at face value these results show quite different natures of the underlying coalitions each candidate has built to date. My expectation is that, with either candidate as the nominee, the ultimate shape of the race would be more similar than these scenarios imply. (And it is a shame we can’t have an actual experiment to find out!) Nonetheless, in an election that could be decided again on rather small margins, different tendencies in the mobilization of coalitions by one or the other potential nominee could have significant impact. They could signal a possible “realignment” of at least the Democratic coalition, and perhaps of US politics more generally.
It is truly remarkable how split down the middle this contest has revealed the Democratic Party to be. Actually, not right down the middle, as Obama has had a persistent lead throughout, as I have been reporting here after each batch of primaries. But his overall margin is small, just like I expect the margin to be in November. The key is whether the different underlying coalitions point to substantively different marginal effects come November. I think they do.
The split between two roughly equal blocs reflects fissures that have been present in the Party for a long time. However, never before has the divide been so equal among just two candidates. Somewhere–I wish I had kept the source–I read a pundit’s remark that Obama was mobilizing both the Hart and the Jackson wings of the party, whereas Hillary Clinton was mobilizing the Mondale wing. This remark, of course, refers to a contest all the way back to 1984. While simplistic, I actually think the remark borders on profound.1 More importantly, Obama has pulled off something that no other “Hart” has come close to doing–uniting the well educated and new-economy groups of Democratic voters with elements of the older Democratic coalition, principally African-Americans.2 And that is why he is the likely nominee. Nonetheless, the “Mondale” wing is still large and important, and if Obama is indeed the nominee, he needs some combination of it and the “Reagan Democrats” who represent yet another (wayward) wing of the Party that obviously Mondale could not hold. Could Clinton hold them?3Labor organizations are clearly worried, whoever the Democratic nominee is, and will be starting a campaign to attack McCain on economic issues shortly.
Keeping Reagan Democrats–or, as we’ll see, perhaps an even earlier group of wayward Democrats–in the fold is perhaps behind the remarks that have generated so much news this week by Mondale’s running mate, Geraldine Ferraro, essentially saying that Obama is lucky to be black or he would not be getting any attention. I tend to agree with DHinMI (one of my favorite Democratic bloggers) that:
Please follow the link to see the argument developed. My point in raising this is to ask whether this is a part of the Democratic coalition that we should want the Party to get back. I say, no. Sure, winning and bouncing the Republicans from power is of utmost importance (in my humble estimation), but if there is a way to accomplish that without courting groups the Party has lost to fear of “the other,” whether domestic or foreign, I say go for it. No brainer. End of discussion. Obama must be your candidate.
But can Obama really win? Can he replace Reagan/Wallace Democrats that he might not be able to attract with enough new voters to make up for potentially not winning these wayward voters back by large margins? Yes he can.
Again, looking at the maps linked to above, we see the outlines of a potential different coalition that Obama could build to a general-election victory. The tally of the electoral vote at Pollster.com confirms what I think is the conventional analysis of the race: The Democrat should win either way, but it would be a more polarized race with Clinton. Against Clinton, McCain has 147 electoral votes as “strong” for him, but against Obama he has 118. Another 76 EVs lean his way against Clinton, but only 38 against Obama. Do the math:
147 + 76 = 223 vs. Clinton
118 + 38 = 156 vs. Obama4
With 270 to win, the Survey USA results suggest McCain would start out with 82.6% of what he needs as either “strongly” for him or “leaning” his way.
By the same token, Clinton’s combined strong + lean total is greater than Obama’s. Barely.
199 + 51 = 250 Clinton
209 + 35 = 244 Obama
Where the contest is really open is in the “toss up” electoral votes:
65 Clinton vs. McCain
138 Obama vs. McCain
A Clinton supporter could look at these numbers and say she is the “safer” nominee, precisely because it means less in the “toss up” category and her slight overall edge in both “strong” and “lean” states (which put her 92.6% of the way to victory). And such a Clinton supporter would have a point–if we ignore the coalitional dynamic I noted above. And if we ignore the underlying fundamentals that show this to be a year that a Democrat should win.5
While I do not believe that all of the states shown as “toss up” or even some of those shown as “lean” towards Obama really will go his way, I do think the results of this polling show the potential for a very different playing field if Obama is the nominee. As a result, they suggest that there are voters available who can replace the Reagan/Wallace Democrats that he might lose to McCain, but that Clinton might retain in greater proportions.
Let’s look at some of the specific states. First of all, Ohio is shown as safely Democratic with either candidate. But Iowa goes only to Obama and New Hampshire is toss-up only with Obama (but goes McCain against Clinton).6
Pennsylvania, to my surprise, is not in either Democrats’ column, nor is Michigan. Is it really possible that McCain could win these states? (I doubt it, but what do I know?) In any event, Michigan is in a toss-up state for both Democrats in the Survey USA poll (with both candidates around 45%), while Pennsylvania leans to McCain against Obama but is toss-up in a Clintonâ€“McCain race. New Jersey is toss-up with Obama but safe with Clinton; is it really possible that the Democrat could lose New Jersey? (No, I suspect.)
Oregon and Washington are shown as going to Obama, but not to Clinton. (It also seems unlikely to me that either would lose there.) Florida goes to Clinton, but is toss-up if the nominee is Obama. (I sort of expect Florida to go to McCain in either case–it swung towards Bush much farther than the nation as a whole between 2000 and 2004–but, again, what do I know?)
Where things get interesting is out West and on the border South. Since 2004, I have considered Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada to be potential pick-up states for a Democrat (maybe Arizona, too, if not for the other side’s nominee).7 But these poll results suggest that Obama has much greater potential in the West than Clinton has. In fact, all of these states are various shades of “red” if Clinton is the nominee, with the exception of New Mexico (toss up). In fact, all of the states of the Intermountain West show Obama either slightly ahead or not as far behind as they show Clinton.8
In the border South, Arkansas is the state that flips most dramatically depending on the candidate. Not surprisingly, it is safe for Clinton; however, if Obama is the nominee it is safe McCain. But Virginia and North Carolina enter the toss-up category with Obama as the nominee, but remain quite safe Republican if Clinton is. That seems reasonable to me. South Carolina even turns into a potential state the Republicans have to defend against Obama, though I do not really believe Obama can win it in a general.
Elsewhere, North Dakota goes to Obama, though not safely (nor likely; but again, what do I know?). Nebraska also becomes a toss-up with Obama but is strong McCain against Clinton, and South Dakota and Montana are Republican against either Democrat, but are more safely so if the opponent is Clinton. (Plainsly, we have found another region of the country where Obama has the potential to forge a different coalition from the Democratic national coalition we have known!)
But the really big surprise is Texas. Yes, Texas is a toss-up with Obama. I doubt very much any Democrat will win Texas in 2008. But this poll result is indicative of the ways in which Obama potentially opens up the race. Independent of specific state results, and keeping in mind again the caveats I mentioned at the outset, there is ample evidence that the coalitions are not only different in these primaries and caucuses, but potentially different as well in November.
Unless one really believes that any Republican can pick off some mid-sized and largish states that Kerry and Gore both won pretty easily (e.g. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), I think one should could conclude that most of the toss-up states are going to be won by Obama if he is the nominee. Added to his almost identical strong+lean set of electoral votes and slightly higher total of strong electoral votes than Clinton’s, it is hard to see why the nominee should not be Obama, if the choice were being made by some set of actors interested primarily in the success of the party as a whole. And, that is precisely how I would expect the “super” delegates to conclude, given that most of them are interested in down-ballot races where Obama appears to be a lot more helpful on the ticket than Clinton would be.9
President Obama may not change America and the world (but then again, maybe he can), but it most certainly looks like he can change the Democratic Party.
Can Obama lead a realignment? Yes, he can!
And the remark certainly crystalized things for me, as 1984 was the first Democratic primary I voted in (having voted for John Anderson in the Republican primary in 1980). It was also the one time in my lifetime when the California Democratic Party had primary voters vote for individual delegates, grouped on the ballot with the presidential pre-candidates to whom they were pledged. I voted for 2 Hart delegates, 2 Jackson, and 1 McGovern. It occurs to me that to the extent the McGovern wing still exists–and it was always probably my favorite wing–Obama probably has it, too. Whether that is justified or not is debatable. Whether he would want it or not is not. Luckily, McGovern himself has endorsed Clinton, on account of the help a young up-and-coming couple gave his campaign in Texas back in 1972, Hart, by the way, was McGovern’s national campaign chair. [↩]
Clinton–Bill, that is–famously united all the wings of the party. However, it was not something he did easily, or gently. Clinton’s credibility with the black community kept Jackson out of the primaries, even as Clinton would go on to have his (in)famous Sister Souljah moment. And as Jacob Levy reminds us, Clinton savaged that campaign’s best stand-in for Hart, Paul Tsongas, on his way to the nomination. [↩]
Bill did, no doubt helped a great deal by Ross Perot’s shaking them loose, at least at the time, form the Republican party. Interestingly, Perot’s emphasis on the deficit, echoed the big issue of Tsongas in the Democratic primaries. [↩]
Originally I had incorrectly typed the “lean” as 28, but I had the total correct. [↩]
The 2006 result, the much higher turnout in Democratic primaries, the recent special elections, and various generic polling indicators. [↩]
Neither Gore nor Kerry won Ohio, though the latter was clouded by the control of the state electoral apparatus by Bush’s campaign. Ohio was one of the few states that swung towards the Democrats between 2000 and 2004, that is, against the national popular-vote swing. Gore won Iowa, but by a margin less than the votes won by Pat Buchanan. Kerry lost it. Gore lost New Hampshire, but by a margin less than the votes won by Ralph Nader. Kerry won it. [↩]
Colorado and Nevada were among the few states that swung against the national swing between 2000 and 2004. New Mexico was close in both elections, but went with Gore in 2000 (very narrowly, in a state that was one of Nader’s best) and Bush in 2004. Colorado was another of Nader’s best states in 2000. Clinton won Arizona in 1996. [↩]
Even in Utah, it is striking: 65-27 against Clinton, 50-39 against Obama. No, Obama has about as much chance of winning in Utah as I have. It merely is indicative of Obama’s greater potential to win in places that we would not expect–other than Utah, that is. [↩]
The Cogitamus post has some very interesting observations about the relationship of the presidential race to the most competitive Senate races. An entry at DailyKos by Springer also has some coattails analysis based on the SurveyUSA poll. [↩]
French voters punished President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing party in the first round of municipal and regional elections last Sunday, with big gains by the left.
A report in the Globe and Mail mentions in passing the rather unusual two-round list majority system used in these elections:
Between the two rounds, political parties generally plunge into a frenzy of deal-making to consolidate their lists of candidates, with the smaller ones merging their lists with those of the mainstream parties.
I am not aware of any similar systems, but if they exist, I trust at least one of readers will know!
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has demanded a fundamental “redesign” of the British constitution as a precondition of any future power-sharing deal with Labour or the Conservatives.
Mr Clegg used his first major conference speech as party leader to insist that electoral reform would have to be accompanied by a raft of other changes if the Liberal Democrats were to talk to their mainstream rivals in the event of a hung parliament. He broke the long-standing taboo on discussion of post-election tactics to make it clear that he would negotiate with either the Conservatives or Labour, but insisted that he would not join the Cabinet as a mere “annex” to either.
Clegg proposes a constitutional convention, saying “If we want a political system that works for the future, we need to start again, from scratch.”1 The needed changes start with electoral reform, but go well beyond it: “a new system that empowers people not parties.”
In policy matters, Clegg also says the party will work for making taxes “fairer, greener and if possible lower.”2
The article had little on specifics of constitutional reform, other than noting:
Aides argued that political funding reform and decentralising control of public services such as the NHS would be important parts of a new constitution.
A parliament with no party majority is a distinct possibility at the next election. Are these proposals popular enough that they could make a “hung” parliament more likely?3 An election is not due till May, 2010, but may occur sooner than that.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4