Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Jefferson on Steroids

George Will offers his take on the new book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Lewis is the author of Moneyball, the 2003 bestseller that examined how the small-market Oakland Athletics stayed competitive in the financially top-heavy world of baseball and introduced "sabremetrics" to the general public. As Will notes, Lewis “is advancing a new genre of journalism that shows how market forces and economic reasoning shape the evolution of sports.”

Lewis’s latest case study involves college football, which has always been willing to accommodate the, uh, academically challenged but athletically able young men who serve as cash cows for the institution. Pro football then reaps the benefits of what is essentially a free farm system. In this particular case the efficient causes of change are Lawrence Taylor (the prototype athletic, pass-rushing outside linebacker) and Bill Walsh (architect of the West Coast and similar offenses, which spread the field) This combination can be lethal for quarterbacks unless their blind side is protected against freaks of nature like Taylor. This means the left offensive tackle for right-handed quarterbacks. Which means that the left tackle’s economic value has skyrocketed. Which means that freaks of nature are now being recruited to play what had hitherto been about the most obscure position on the field. Which means that colleges are willing to look the other way when admitting left tackles as well as quarterbacks and running backs.

Lewis’ book describes one of those freaks of nature – a freshman tackle at the University of Mississippi with an I.Q. of 80 from the mean streets of Memphis who bounced from foster home to foster home. At the end of the day much of the story revolves around the missionary spirit of the young man’s current parents – Ole Miss graduates and fanatic football fans, and evangelical Christians, who want to make a life for their foster son. The book is replete with colorful tales of creative recruiting and accreditation. Whether this is a depressing or uplifting tale will depend, I suppose, on how the young man’s life and career turn out. Be sure there will be a sequel if this one sells – Lewis isn’t immune to market forces either.

The NCAA has just come out with its latest study on the academic performance of college athletes, which indicates that they now graduate at slightly higher rate than the non-athlete student body (63-61%) after six years. The average for football remains below that level, 55%, as does basketball, 46%. The methodology used by the NCAA -- recently changed to accommodate complaints by coaches -- undoubtedly cooks the books, as does the federal methodology used to calculate overall graduation rates, so it’s hard to say what’s really going on. Here at the University of Virginia, we have just opened the posh John Paul Jones arenafor basketball – sorry, UVA hasn’t suddenly gone patriotic; it’s named after the father of a big donor. This has led to the usual criticism. One professor termed the new arena "Jefferson on steroids." He noted that 50 academic chairs could have been endowed for the money spent on the facility. As if John Paul Jones and the rest of the donors were going to do that.

Jefferson on steroids -- that’s about the only accusation that hasn’t been made against the Sage of Monticello. I wonder if the author of the Declaration could play left tackle?

Should be really be shocked that gambling is taking place in Casablanca? Lewis’ book is hardly a revelation. I would tell you some stories related to me by my great uncles, who were college athletes in the 1920s and 1930s, except they would get several universities placed on probation. My own view on the subject, as I have said, is that if it is corruption, it is magnificent corruption, and we should lose sight of neither element. Although there is great room for reform in college athletics, there is much more need for revolution in the colleges as a whole. Start there first. Somehow I don’t think Donna Shalala is doing much on either front.

Greening Election?

On Friday NPR’s "Living on Earth" show had me on with Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and you can listen to the podcast or read the transcript here. It was edited down from almost 40 minutes of back and forth, and unfortunately cut out some of the best of the debate between us, but such is life.

Veteran’s Day Nota Bene

In addition to the usual tributes owing today, a squib in the Washington Times yesterday notes that there are only 12 American veterans of World War I still alive, down from 25 last year. Average age: 108. This might be the last Veteran’s Day we will have them amongst us.

Is Jim Webb the New Zell Miller?

Quite possibly, as we and others have been suggesting.

Saletan on the Emerging Sciences of Research Cloning and Embryo Implantation

Here’s a remarkably, if not completely, fair and balanced account of the arguments on both sides of the so-called stem cell war. You may or may not think embryos are human beings with dignity and rights, but you only a fool would refuse to think deeply about the fact that we’re starting to mess seriously with the foundations of human life. On this issue, as on some others, the Democrats’ appeals to compassion and fundamentalist bashing are meant to stifle reflection.

Observations and Predictions

All of this talk about "bipartisanship," "working together," and "reaching across the aisle" has made me want to reach for my airsick bag, except that the chances of such nonsense actually occurring in in inverse proportion to the rhetoric of the moment. Remember the old joke: there are two parties in America--the Stupid Party and the Evil Party. And when the two parties get together and do somethine really stupid and evil, it’s called "bipartisanship." What’s going on right now is fairly understandable: a chastened Bush, and emboldened Democrats, are talking nice to get pole position with the public. Not to worry; they won’t be singing Kumbaya for very long.

Let’s offer here not one, not two, but three cheers for partisanship. While partisanship often manifests itself in unlovely and thoughtless ways, it does represent a division, as old as Hamilton’s feud with Jefferson at least, between two coherent philosophical camps in modern politics. Take prescription drug pricing: Democrats sincerely believe in the benevolent exercise of government power to regulate drug prices. Republicans just as sincerely believe that bureaucratically-controlled drug prices will distort the market in important and unwelcome ways over time. (Tie-breaker goes to that great cognitive dissonant, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who I heard say at a dinner back in 2000 that drug price controls were essential to containing health care costs, but that once we did so, "We’d better hope the Swiss pharmaceutical industry stays healthy." He, at least, was one Democrat who was clear that drug price contols will exact a cost in innovation.)

The point is, the partisanship of serious differences should be celebrated. If nothing else, they permit accountability. Everyone knows tax cuts are a Republican idea. If we don’t like them, we know who to blame, and who to turn to to fix it. Let the debates begin.

Predictions. Another issue like drug pricing is trade. A number of people have been predicting a rise of protectionism coming. Perhaps. Yesterday I spoke with a very very smart economist who calls the macro shots for one of the more successful hedge funds in New York, and he mentioned a prospect I haven’t heard anywhere else: Watch for a Democratic attack on the Federal Reserve six months down the road, especially if housing prices are still sliding or stagnant. It has happened before (see: 1982, when Reagan stood up to both parties’ attacks on Paul Volcker on Capitol Hill). Over the last few years, the Republican Congress has been assailing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which tend to be Democratic sinecures as well as the embodiment of Democratic economic policy ideas. The Fed is an outpost more of Republican economic policy, and as such a juicy target for populist liberals, who don’t like big banks and finance much anyway.

File this one away for the spring.

Painless Sex Change

SLATE’s fascinating Saletan keeps us up to date on the latest scientific breakthroughs. They’re several, but here’s two: It turns out we mated with the Neanderthals, and that made us smart enough to kill them all. And in New York City it’s now possible to change your sex after an appropriate waiting period simply by checking a new box on the form. No operation needed!

Podcast with Lawler

I talked with Peter Lawler today about the election, why the Republicans got a thumping, what it will mean for the President’s last two years, as well as for the future of the GOP. He even touched on what the Democrats are likely to do and how their actions will be received. Peter didn’t ignore Iraq in his conversation, nor did he ignore the future of Hillary Clinton. Smart guy, this Lawler.

Two books added to the pile on my nightstand

Paul Kengor was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, both escapism for these dark times and a reminder of the role Republican Presidents can play in articulating and carrying out a principled foreign policy.

I also just received a review copy of Michael Keren’s Blogosphere from the good people at Rowman & Littlefield. The publisher’s promotional material describes the book this way:

Michael Keren compares bloggers to terrorists, arguing that while the methods advocated by the two groups are obviously very different, they both represent a similar trend, one of diversion by respected but disenchanted citizens from the norms of civil society to a fantasy world in which the excessive use of words—or bombs—would make everybody listen.

Provocative, eh? R&L, by the way, is offering a discount on web orders, so if you want to be provoked, go to their website to order the book.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for October

Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Carolyn Barnett

Jim Huff

Lisa Hatch

Grace Morgan

Kevin Gilhooley

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter November’s drawing.

Religion and the 2006 elections

I haven’t thought it all through yet, but it strikes me that a good place to begin is Terry Mattingly’s post at Get Religion. Mattingly points also to this Beliefnet piece by Steve Waldman, whose conclusions are worth noting:

To cement the gains with religious voters and Catholics, the Democrats will likely need to develop a more moderate position on abortion. These new pro-life Democrats will surely press the case; it’s an open question how the pro-choice Democrats who will still dominate the party will react.

Thanks to the Iraq war, Democrats now have an opening to win over more religious voters. However, the Iraq war won’t dominate forever and Democrats will now need to prove themselves worthy of centrist religious voters by altering their views on some social issues and dispelling the image that they’re hostile to faith.

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts as I get the chance to look more closely at the data and at what the Democrats do.

I remain convinced that an early test, which President Bush can perhaps force by announcing that he’ll sign it if it crosses his desk, is the Democrats for Life’s
Pregnant Women Support Act, which is a classic pro-life Catholic/blue dog Democrat supported bill that needs more Republican co-sponsors. Supporting and, I hope, passing this bill would offer an example of principled bipartisanship. It’s absolutely the best thing pro-life folks can hope to get from the 109th or 110th Congresses. And it’s good politics, both for the message it sends about bipartisan cooperation and about the challenge it poses to the new Speaker about her commitment to both bipartisanship and a big tent Democratic party. She can’t be permitted any sort of fig leaf here.

Update: This article by the WaPo’s Alan Cooperman is disappointingly unilluminating. While we learn, for example, that Democrats won a marginally larger share of the white evangelical vote in 2006 than in 2004 and that Catholics swung to the Democrats this time, Cooperman says nothing about the relatively religiously conservative Democrats who won election. In a year where they faced a party that seemed intellectually and ideologically exhausted, saddled with an unpopular war, Democrats are not so religiously radioactive that some people would rather slit their wrists than vote for someone with a "D" next to his or her name.

I don’t think that Democrats should be too confident that the strategy they employed this year will work every time. Sooner or later, those morally conservative religious voters will ask themselves whether they’re really getting or going to get anything of substance from the party to which they lent their support this year.

James Webb: True Democrat

I think it is an interesting fact that James Webb now finds his home in the Democratic Party. No crazed liberal, for sure, people are remarking on his conservative leanings and how they may serve to irritate the liberal core of the Democratic leadership in Congress. I look forward to seeing that. On the other hand, there are apparently good reasons for Webb’s distancing himself from the Republican party in recent years and finding his way home to the Democrats. And they have to do with fundamentals and foundations stretching back to the origins of the GOP and the traditions of the pre-1960s Democrats. They have to do with fundamentals that Republicans would do well to think long and hard about before 2008. What is it that makes a James Webb want to be a Democrat and a Michael Steele want to be a Republican?

Matt Peterson over at The Remedy brings our attention to some recent comments Webb made about what I suppose Webb would call "The War Between the States" and the motivations for it. Good Republicans in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln cannot support these views. We may make common cause with Un-Reconstructed Southern partisans in fighting some of the excesses of post 1960s liberalism, but when it comes down to fundamental questions like the origins of sovereignty and natural rights--we must part company. He is right to be a Democrat. It is his natural home.


Scott Johnson has a few good thoughts on Rumsfeld, with a few appropriate links.  

Red States

Despite what you may have heard on Tuesday night, color the following states red: New Jersey, New York, California, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Indiana.

More accurately, color them scarlet. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ surprising victory over Louisville has thrown the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) into turmoil or talk radio and blogger heaven, depending on your point of view. Rutgers, despite its current undefeated record, has no chance to play in the national championship game against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan. That leaves, in order of current BCS ranking, the following one loss teams still officially in the mix: Florida, Texas, Auburn, USC, Cal, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisville (once it is re-ranked). My home state Boise State Broncos, even if they finish undefeated, have no shot. The number-crunchers seem to think that Florida and USC, because of strength of schedule, have the inside track over the other schools if they win out.

I have mixed feelings about Thursday’s game as I do generally about the current structure of college football. (Set aside the fact that money rules absolutely – if it is corruption, it is magnificent corruption – but that is a story for another time.) The games are always more interesting when the traditional power programs – Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Notre Dame, etc. – are competing for a national championship. On the other hand I dislike the fact that the BCS system is so openly an oligarchy, skewed to protect the big programs and power conferences from the upstarts, more so even than college basketball. Merit can only slowly overcome bloodlines and deep pockets, and usually not for long. Rutgers simply does not have the multi-year track record to convince the system that it belongs. West Virginia and Louisville, two other Big East schools with a chance to go undefeated, did have sufficient pedigree, but barely and then only because enough traditional powers had lost at least one game. And Rutgers will probably soon slide back into the equestrian class at best. Reality – and the probable departure of its outstanding coach, Greg Schiano - will out.

An example of big big school arrogance: those who argued that there should be a rematch of Ohio State-Michigan for the national championship if their first game was close, rather than allow an undefeated Big East team into the title game.

The best case scenario under the current system would have been a mixed regime, where a big name (Ohio State) played a credible, high-powered upstart (Louisville) for the national championship, with the other bowls having intriguing traditional matchups (e.g., USC-Michigan) and a mixture of the new (Notre Dame-Boise State). Rutgers’ win should be celebrated for its own sake but ironically it did not help the immediate cause of the less big guys. I say less big because in the world of Division I-A college football, there are no true Horatio Alger stories. Rutgers is as close as one can get, but the system won’t allow us to see it through.

Governing in the spirit of the concession speech

Peggy Noonan is at her moving best this morning. Can everyone remember what’s most important?

What it all means

I think that Charles Krauthammer has it about right. A few snippets:

[T]he great Democratic wave of 2006 is nothing remotely like the great structural change some are trumpeting. It was an event-driven election that produced the shift of power one would expect when a finely balanced electorate swings mildly one way or the other.

This is not realignment. As has been the case for decades, American politics continues to be fought between the 40-yard lines. The Europeans fight goal line to goal line, from socialist left to the ultranationalist right. On the American political spectrum, these extremes are negligible. American elections are fought on much narrower ideological grounds. In this election, the Democrats carried the ball from their own 45-yard line to the Republican 45-yard line.


[B]oth parties have moved to the right. The Republicans have shed the last vestiges of their centrist past, the Rockefeller Republican. And the Democrats have widened their tent to bring in a new crop of blue-dog conservatives.


The public’s views on what we ought to do with the war remain mixed, as do its general ideological inclinations. What happened on Tuesday? The electorate threw the bums out in disgust with corruption and in deep dissatisfaction with current Iraq policy. Reading much more into this election is a symptom of either Republican depression or Democratic wishful thinking.

Read the whole thing.



This is worth reading, carefully, on Lieberman, which phone calls he took on election night, which he didn’t, and so on.

A rare public admission

This, from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, MI5’s head, is sobering. "She said that, since the 7 July bombings, five further major conspiracies in the UK had been thwarted." Read the whole thing and wonder why this especially secretive person is speaking.

Gerson on the new evangelicalism

Is there a home for this Michael Gerson in the post-’06 election Republican Party, or in the conservative movement?

For what it’s worth, I think he’s right about the younger generation of evangelicals:

Republicans will find it increasingly difficult to appeal to the new evangelicals with tired symbols like school prayer or the posting of the Ten Commandments. And candidates like Senator McCain will need to be more creative in their outreach than an uncomfortable speech at the Liberty University commencement. These activists will expect serious proposals on an expanded moral agenda—as President Bush has delivered on human trafficking and global AIDS. And they will not respond to a crude libertarianism that elevates the severe pleasures of cutting food stamps or foreign aid over the pursuit of the common good.

Stated another way, what place does Sam Brownback have in the post-’06 election Republican? Party/conservative movement?

Life and marriage issues are important, but so is a concern with "widows and orphans." What strikes me as missing from--or at best implicit in--Gerson’s piece is a serious engagement with the question of whether government programs are always the best or the necessary instruments of compassion:

Hurricane Katrina revealed a kind of persistent poverty that leaves many Americans with no connection to, or stake in, the American economy. It also revealed a political class in Washington, in both parties, that seems to view this as an unfortunate fact of life, rather than a scandal that must eventually be addressed. A new faith-based agenda should include policies that provide help for overwhelmed pastors and neighborhood activists who are salvaging discarded lives; encourage mentors for abandoned children, and promote wealth-building to overcome the economic legacy of slavery and segregation.

He says he’s not a utopian, and I believe him. But he seems to take our wealth for granted and doesn’t say anything about the role of the market in addressing the problems he so eloquently characterizes.

Gerson is extremely smart, thoughtful, and sophisticated. I wish I could be confident that the "new evangelicals" he describes will have sound practical judgment to go along with their decency and moral energy.

And I hope--but am not confident--that Republicans and conservatives can find a way to converse with these folks, providing some of the soundly practical ballast that Democrats and liberals who can appeal to their decency and moral energy can’t necessarily provide.

Update: For a little more on Gerson’s article, go here, and pay attention also to Paul Seaton’s comment below. MOJ’s Rob Vischer gently tweaks me in his comment on Gerson. Here’s what I said in an email response to him:

Republicans--of whom I’m unfortunately one--deserve the tweaking. When I worked on Capitol Hill in the late 70s, liberal Democrats seemed tired and intellectually out of gas. Those descriptors could surely be applied to current Congressional Republicans at least. They’ve gotten away with it (until now) because Democrats couldn’t offer a plausible alternative. (I know that the strongest case I could offer for electing or reelecting Republicans was: look at the alternative. That doesn’t inspire confidence, and didn’t deserve to, but there was little to which I could point beyond that.) I’m not sure that that has changed, although there are some interesting sparks across the way.

I think stiff competition--as the enemy of complacency--is good for both parties. Democrats will have to think in order to hold onto power, and Republicans will have to think if they’re going to get it back. And I "think" that each party can help the other think. it will be interesting to see, for example, if the Republicans can force Democrats to choose between the two abortion reduction bills currently in circulation. If Republicans overwhelmingly supported the DfL bill, but not Rosa DeLauro’s measure, Democrats will have to figure out how big their pro-choice/pro-life tent is.

Let me add that I disagree somewhat with
Amy Sullivan’s thin argument. Winning back evangelicals and Catholics on essentially style grounds in Michigan and Ohio--in a very bad Republican year--doesn’t prove a thing. There has to be something substantive to close that deal. I nominate the Pregnant Women Support Act, which I discussed here, here, and (briefly) here, as an opening bid.

The Best Explanation of the Disaster I’ve Read

. . . is here. Mulhern is particularly apt when describing the actual (as opposed to the mythical) failures of Bush. A taste:

When President Bush cast the war in Iraq as a war for the benefit of Iraqis with vital collateral benefits for the U.S., sensible people recognized his argument for the nonsense it was and tuned him out. By choosing to cast it that way, President Bush guaranteed that the war would have shallow support at best. He also guaranteed that it would drag on long after that shallow support dried up entirely . . .Maybe we need to find an Iraqi version of Pervez Musharraf. Maybe we need martial law and an American military governor. Maybe we need a partition that rewards the Kurds and disappoints both the Sunnis and the Shiites. Maybe we need some combination of the above. In any case, we need to stop talking about how the war can serve Iraqi purposes and start talking about how it can serve ours. Republicans had their chance to do that and they squandered it.

I would only add, by way of softening Mulhern’s blows and perhaps reminding us that politics is never simple, that the real failures of Bush became ever more difficult to condemn because he was under constant assault for imagined failures. Defending him against those imagined failures and character attacks (e.g., Bush lied, Bush is arrogant) made it difficult to spend much time on the real problems. Besides, he was the belle we brought to the ball. I do hope we fill our dance card better next time.

More required post-election reading

This, dashed off before turning in after a night on television looking at returns, is why Michael Barone is peerless among psephological pontificators and pundits.

The Thumping and its consequences

Andy Busch thinks that the "elections have put American politics back on its normal historical trajectory." Jonah Goldberg writes: "These elections were neither a repudiation of conservative values nor an endorsement of the Democratic Party." John Moser remembers the 1946 mid-term elections how Harry Truman looked at his predicament and what he did about it. He also has some very specific recommendations for what George Bush should do during the next two years.

The Inmates are Restless

In my last posting I commented on the National Basketball Association’s crackdown on unsportsmanlike conduct on the court. The athletes are unhappy about it – and predictably the Players’ Association is threatening to appeal to a different sort of court. "I really think it’s incumbent upon the commissioner to kind of tell the referees, instruct them they got to back off a little bit," Billy Hunter,the Association director, has warned. "I think what may ultimately happen if it continues to occur is we will probably be compelled to bring an unfair labor practice action or something. Try to seek some relief, at least to have the issue either heard or at least elevated so that it gets a lot more public attention than it’s currently getting."

The players’ case does have merit, although not to the point of legal action. One argument against the zero-tolerance policy (although the NBA does not call it that) is that highly competitive athletes respond automatically to perceived injustice, just as fans and good citizens do; and that the NBA has gone too far in trying to control honest emotions. More to the point I think: the NBA is and always has been a players’ game. Not a coaches’ game. Not an officials’ game. The new interpretation of unsportsmanlike conduct gives too much power to referees to decide the outcome of the game by ejecting a key player (like Mike Bibby and Carmelo Anthony) at a critical juncture. Even the mild-mannered (if whiny) Tim Duncan has run afoul of the new regulations. Coaches point out that the crackdown means that marginal officials – those with the poorest judgment, the worst game management temperament – now have a license to kill.

The truth lies somewhere between the two positions. It should be resolved through experience and good judgment. No one wants professional basketball to become like major league baseball (although MLB has become much better), where frequent screaming at umpires without penalty is punctuated by ejections for no apparent reason. The situation is complicated, however, by growing player resentment against Commissioner David Stern for such arbitrary decisions as mandating a stricter dress code and insisting on a new basketball despite frequent player complaints.

Perhaps a non-controversial figure such as Donald Rumsfeld should be brought in to soothe tensions.

Dead skunk, but not in the middle of the road

Dick Armey urges Republicans to address this question:

How do we once again convince the public that we are in fact the party many Democrats successfully pretended to be in this election?

How, in other words, do Republicans articulate "a positive, national vision that is defined by economic opportunity, limited government and individual responsibility"?

I think that there’s something to be learned from 1994, but it will be hard to lead a similar "revolution" against a party that has only controlled Congress for a couple of years. Democrats can surely lose Congress in 2008, but it will take Republicans longer, I fear, to win it back.

For what it’s worth

I crunched a few numbers this morning and get this preliminary result: Democrats won 51.93% of the gross two-party Congressional vote, while Republicans won 48.07%. In raw numbers, that’s 36.1 million to 33.4 million. There are two things that make these numbers (which I took off the CNN website) inaccurate. First, not all the votes have been counted or recounted. I don’t think, however, that small shifts in the final totals will make a huge difference here. Second, CNN doesn’t provide numbers in races where the candidate runs unopposed. There were 4 unopposed Republicans and 30 unopposed Democrats. In other words, the Democratic edge in the national House totals, corrected for unopposed seats, is surely closer to 53-47 or 54-46.

Of course, these were 435 individual contests, all of which had a national dimension but also a local, individualized dimension. There were blue dog Democrat winners, as well as moderate Republican victors. There were good and bad campaigners. There were scandals to which voters paid attention and those to which they didn’t.

I don’t have comparative data for previous elections in front of me (can anyone point me to some?), so I don’t know how much of a shift this is (I’m betting not more than a couple of percentage points from the last few elections).

The nation remains closely divided.

Stated another way, the entire Democratic margin in the House vote can be found in three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Pelosi’s First Miscue?

Nancy Pelosi told Brit Hume on Fox News tonight that the war in Iraq is "not a war to be won but a situation to be solved."

Small wonder The Economist this week describes Pelosi as "a combination of a Stepford Wife and Jesse Jackson."

The Upside of the Negative Landslide

The opinion of voters really hasn’t changed since 2004. So, as Jody Bottum explains at FIRST THINGS, there’s no reason to be discouraged about 2008:

The general victory of conservative referendum measures across the country seems to say...[c]onservatives are tired of the war, not tired of conservatism. They’ve lost patience with Republican corruption and incompetence, not with the right in general. They’ll live to regret that, I think, particularly if Justice Stevens retires from the Supreme Court next year, as it is rumored he will. But, whatever the Democrats attempt over the next two years, the presidential election of 2008 was not settled yesterday.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

If you want to console yourself by arguing that the political fundamentals on the ground haven’t really changed all that much, consider these two posts. This is a very closely divided country.

Those who argued that George W. Bush had no mandate in 2004 can’t really say that they have one now.

On the other hand, if they want to follow in GWB’s footsteps and take a high-stakes gamble, I’ll take that bet. I think trying to govern from the right was a safer bet in 2004 than trying to govern from the left is now.

McCainia? Not So Fast

Hugh Hewitt, like Schramm, is always overly optimistic. So his predictions were, of course, wrong. But it’s better to be short on predictions and long on analysis, in my opinion. Hewitt’s got some good insights today, chief among them is this one:

The long and short of this bad but not horrific night was that majorities must act like majorities. The public cares little for the "traditions" of the Senate or the way the appropriations process used to work. It demands results. Handed a large majority, the GOP frittered it away. The chief fritterer was Senator McCain and his Gang of 14 and Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, supplemented by a last minute throw down that prevented the NSA bill from progressing or the key judicial nominations from receiving a vote. His accomplice in that master stroke was Senator Graham. Together they cost their friend Mike DeWine his seat in the Senate, and all their Republican colleagues their chairmanships. Senator McCain should rethink his presidential run. Amid the ruins of the GOP’s majority there is a clear culprit.

Very good advice for the senator. But do you think he’ll take it?

Only One Thing to Do

Good thing I’ve been appointed the official sommelier of NLT, as there’s only one thing to do for the next two years: drink well.

I’m starting tonight with an appropriatedly named wine, Optimus, from L’Aventure winery in Paso Robles. Unfortunately it is sold out (though a new release is on the way). Fortunately, I have a lot in stock; at least enough to get through the swearing-in phase of the new Congress, which will be followed inevitably by the swearing-at phase of the new Congress.

Rumsfeld Out, Gates In

Rumsfeld is resigning. Sounds from Bush’s careful wording as though he may have been pushed.

The replacement is interesting: Robert Gates, former head of the CIA. Gates had a bit of a confirmation fight when Bush Senior appointed him to head the CIA in 1989: Will the new majority Senate Democrats make a fuss over Gates now? I wonder. Could be the first of several well-placed Bush traps for Democrats to make themselves look bad. My guess is he will face a sober grilling about career military officers’ complaints about Rumseld, and then win easy confirmation.

Berry College conference

I’m going to miss this shindig, but that doesn’t mean others should. Go cry in your beer or martinis with Peter.

If you want to cry with me, you’ll have to show up in Macon on Thursday, November 16th.

What will or should happen next

First, Republicans have to realize that this is about as big a defeat as can be expected in the House, given modern redistricting technology. There should be no solace taken in the fact that the result was pretty close to the average six-year-itch election.

Second, Republicans in the House need to recognize that they need new faces if they’re to recover some (or all) of the ground they lost last night. And not just new faces. As the resident "compassionate conservative" in these parts, I recognized the risk that GWB was taking in trying to move his party in that direction. House Republicans basically took his willingness to expand government in the short term as an excuse to engage in pork barrel politics. The result was an uninspiring performance that all too easily could be characterized as corrupt "business as usual." Republicans have to relearn and remake the argument for personal responsibility and small government.

Third, President Bush has to serve the ball into the Democrats’ court on Iraq. We cannot, and he will not, "cut and run." Democrats now share responsibility for the future of that country. If they’re not willing to engage in responsible bipartisan deliberation on how to win in Iraq, they deserve to be cast back into the political wilderness.

Fourth, President Bush should vigorously resist any Democratic attempt to hamstring our efforts at fighting terrorism. Here’s a place where he can successfully wield, if need be, the veto pen, and win political points in doing so. This election can’t be read as a mandate for scaling back our surveillance efforts.

Fifth, should there be any high profile judicial nominations, President Bush shouldn’t under any circumstances put forward anyone other than a principled conservative. No Souters, Kennedys, or Mierses. Make the Democrats stand up to or embrace the extremist interest groups that are most vocal about judicial nominations.

Sixth, President Bush and Congressional Republicans should embrace the Democrats for Life abortion reduction bill. So long as they cede no ground in the moral condemnation of abortion, this bill is good for both policy and political reasons. Most importantly, it will compel the Democratic majority (see, I can write those words) to choose between a practical means of reducing the frequency of abortions and toeing the Planned Parenthood line.

Podcast with Hayward

As promised earlier, my podcast with Steve Hayward on yesterday’s election is now available. The conversation was good. Things look bad for the GOP now. The question is for how long. I’ll be doing another podcast later today with NLT’s champion election prognosticator, Peter Lawler.

All honor to Lawler

Yup, he got it right, for the right reasons. He’s also right that some of the close losses (Virginia, especially) were avoidable.

I’ll buy him the alcoholic beverage of his choice next time I see him.

Left Turns

Well, we may have to alter the name of this site, at least for today. My predictions were off by 100%; on the other hand, my post-election thoughs from 2004 look pretty good:

If the Democratic Party were a publicly-listed company, I think I might be tempted to buy a few shares. It is great fun watching the torment and back-biting going inside the Democratic Party right now. But as Benjamin Graham and John Templeton taught, the best time to buy a stock is at the moment of maximum pessimism, and that moment is right now for the Democratic Party.

Of course, today could be the high-water mark for Democrats. With the stock market art record highs (though early morning stock futures are down sharply at the moment), the obvious play is to short the Democratic Party.

More thoughts on the upcoming podcast.

Lawler’s Honor

Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance. I was most distant from the reality of things. My prediction was most wrong. Peter Lawler was exactly right. He is the real student of politics, a political scientist, if you will, one who sees into the cause and effectual truth of things. And honor is his reward. Well done, your wisdom rang out in the streets, and now we regard it. I will send something other than a mug!

What should Bush do?

I’ll be talking with Steve Hayward this morning for a podcast and let him comment on this debacle, but for now these few lines from Jonah Goldberg at NRO made me smile:

"I think James Baker and Dick Cheney should take Bush out to the woods around Camp David. After 24 hours in a sweat lodge, he should be given only a loin cloth, a hunting knife and a canteen of water. Bush should then set out to track and kill a black bear, after which he should eat its still beating heart so he can absorb its spirit. He should then fly back to Washington in Marine 1. His torso still scratched from the bear’s claws, his face bloodied and steaming in the November chill, he should immediately give a press conference at which he throws the bearskin on the front row of the press corps, completely enveloping Helen Thomas, declaring, ’I’m not going anywhere.’

This will send important messages to Democrats and well as to our enemies overseas, who are no doubt high-fiving as we speak."

My Study Showed

Listen, there’s no hope in MT and VA. That means the Rs were A LITTLE unlucky on the close ones. A normal distribution of the tight races would have been 50/50, as I predicted. I was hopelessly romantic and meritocratic in making foolish predictions on Steele and Ford, which I admitted at the time

And the House will be around 30 (plus or minus,prob. plus), for the reasons I gave.

So I take no (or just a little) pleasure in announcing this: My predictions were almost exactly right. And my reasons for making them were almost exactly right. It’s Iraq and corruption in that order, stupid.

So I’m wating for NLT prize (and not one of those stinkin’ mugs), and I’m available to 2008 Republican candidates as a high-paid consultant. (And to Prof. Pat Deneen: We theorists can guess election outcomes with the best of the social scientists.)

Remember that one secondary reason Democrats won because in most of the key races they had better candidates and ran a better campaign overall. In MT and VA, it’s wasn’t the Iraq war that finally did the Rs in, and in some of the close House races attractive and relatively moderate Ds prevailed. The severity of the outcome was quite avoidable.

Grasping at straws

It’s down to Montana, where Jon Tester holds a 2,000 vote lead with complete results still not in from five counties. For one (Meagher, with a total population of under 2,000), there are no results. For two others, (Gallatin and Yellowstone), under 40% of the precincts are reporting. Those are two of the most populous counties in the state. Gallatin is home of Bozeman and Big Sky. Yellowstone is home of Billings. Fergus County, in which 69% of the precincts had reported, is relatively small (with probably a total of over 5,000 votes). Lake County, where 91% of the precincts had reported, has a population of around 28,000, about a quarter of which is native American.

Fergus and Gallatin counties have posted what appear to be complete unofficial results on their websites. Burns picks up a few hundred votes on Tester in Fergus, but loses them in Gallatin, plus a couple hundred more. It all comes down to Yellowstone, whose unofficial results are no more complete than what’s on the CNN website.

And, of course, to the recount.

Everything Old is New Again . . .

. . . even Nancy Pelosi and her purple pants suit. Well, I’m feeling purple and plenty blue after this election.

But here’s something old that might just as easily be new and it about fits the bill right now. Charles Kesler wrote this in 1998 after another disappointing Republican performance in a mid-term election.

Of course, in 1998 we were blissfully ignorant of the looming Jihadist threat and we did not realize (at least not in any concrete way) that the end of the Cold War did not bring with it the end of common enemies who should unite us. I believe the threat we face now is just as ominous as the one we faced in the Soviet Union and ought to be enough to keep the marriage going. But it seems that this alone is not enough to keep some of us satisfied (and, in principle, they’re right) and neither can they keep it going by keeping up appearances . . . Conservatives apparently really do need to "find themselves." I hope there is time for this self-indulgence.

It’s not that I am opposed to all kinds of self-indulgence. I generally think it is a good thing to know who you are, after all. It’s just that this is really, really lousy timing. It should have been done years ago, of course. We’re not a young movement, we conservatives. But since we didn’t spend our youth in sufficient self-reflection, why couldn’t we just stick it out until the kids (i.e., the Democrats) grew up? Still, if it must be done, Kesler’s article (as well as his many other works on this same theme) are the all-important starting point.

Late night thoughts

I have a little more stomach for this than Steve Hayward does, but I’ll be in bed shortly as well.

Democrats will have the kind of majority in the House that Republicans now have; that is, they’ll pick up 25-30 seats. The two Democrat-held Georgia seats that RCP rated as toss-ups still seem to be too close to call, though I hold out only the slightest chance that Republicans will pick up one of them (either GA-8, where incumbent John Barrow is clinging to a lead of less than 1,000 votes with 92% of the precincts reporting, according to CNN, or GA-12, where Republican challenger Mac Collins has an almost 1,200 vote margin with 94% of the precincts reporting). I wouldn’t be shocked to see recounts in both races.

One thing to remember: there were an awful lot of close races won by Democrats in a year that was bad for Republicans. It’s going to take a bit of doing to convert those hitherto Republican seats into solid Democratic gains. In some cases--like Heath Shuler’s seat in western North Carolina--they’ll have to be able to establish their independence from the national Democratic Party, or the national Democratic Party is going to have to change to accommodate them. Will the Clintonian "Third Way" be resurrected? Will the netroots put up with this?

Of course, Republicans will have to clean house in order to be able to challenge these vulnerable Democrats in two years. And the situation in Iraq will have to look quite different.

As for the Senate, I think the three seats the Democrats need to take control are all within their grasp. Virginia is a cliffhanger, with Webb up by less than 2,000 votes with 99% of the precincts reporting. There will be a recount. Talent is leading in Missouri, but apparently no votes have been counted from St. Louis or Kansas City, which suggests to me that his prospects are dim. And Jon Tester is leading Conrad Burns in Montana; I suspect we’ve seen the bluest parts of the state report, but I’m not confident that Burns can pull that one out. Which leaves Maryland, which everyone but the Washington Post is calling for Cardin. There’s the small matter of 200,000 absentee ballots I noted here. In other words, we can all go to sleep because control of the Senate won’t be decided for a couple of days.

Update: O.K., I’m not quite ready to call it quits, though perhaps with these results Max Burns and Mac Collins should. Both races are close, but it looks like the Democratic incumbents will hold on.

Midnight Thoughts

It looks like the Ds take the senate. I must have been a bit tipsy when I went against the facts and went with Steele, who didn’t come close. Allen just fell behind after leading all night. MO is impossible, MT very unlikely. The Ds get more than 30 seats in the House; 40 may be in reach. R vote is way down even when they’re winning. Iraq is the main reason, but corruption etc. turned out to be more important than I thought. But all in all it really is a "negative landslide."

UPDATE: 100% of the VA vote is in, and Allen is down 2300. Very, very unlikely that a recount could reverse that. Consider all the dumb things he had to do to lose by so little.

UPDATE 2: It turns out Fox was wrong about 100%. The new story is that 99.26% is in and Allen is down 1700. So it’s not quite over.

Doesn’t Look Good

I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.

Mind Your Manners

Excuse this interruption of your NLT election coverage. I fiddle while Rome burns.

Technical fouls in the NBA this season are up 48%. Big time players are being thrown out of the game at a record pace. A mildly harsh glance or gesture merits the hangman’s noose from rabbit-eared referees. This is no surprise. League officials made it known before the season that they would implement what might be called the Rasheed Wallace rule to crack down on those coaches and players who engage in "conduct detrimental to the game." ’Sheed, for those of you who don’t follow the NBA, is the notorious ref-hater who plays for the Detroit Pistons and whose performance theater whenever he is assessed a foul must make his old college coach, Dean Smith, blush.

If you are curious, the NBA rule book (Rule 12, Section V) defines unsportsmanlike conduct meriting a technical foul to include: (1) Disrespectfully addressing an official; (2) Physically contacting an official; (3) Overt actions indicating resentment to a call [Running tirades, continuous criticism or griping]; (4) Use of profanity; and (7) Taunting.

The rule itself has not changed. Players have been saying bad things about officials and life in general ever since James Naismith nailed up the first peach basket. Referees have always used their best judgment as to which of these actions actually merits a technical foul or ejection from the game. Most of the time the referees, especially in professional sports, will look, or listen, in the other direction. Control of the game is what matters to them, not amour-propre. Although different referees have different standards, there is a generally understood line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For instance, contrary to common wisdom, there are typically no "magic words" that will get you thrown out of the game, despite the ban on profanity. What matters is how the words are used. One can usually advise an official that he has made a poor (fill in your own favorite word) call without penalty. But if you tell him he is a poor (same word) official, it’s time for an early shower. There is also an element of gamesmanship in establishing or challenging the line. Players and coaches will try to intimidate weak officials. They will beg to encourage make-up calls. Coaches might draw a "T" and even get kicked out of the game to inspire their own team or the crowd – the famous Red Auerbach ploy.

It is therefore a matter of interest when the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior is redrawn deliberately as a matter of policy. Several years ago, apparently in an attempt to appeal to hip-hop culture, NBA referees were told or permitted to take a somewhat more relaxed attitude toward player behavior. The result was Rasheed Wallace and players like him as players pushed the boundary as far as they dared. Another result, arguably, was the riot in Detroit two years ago when players rushed into the stands during a fight that started on-court. After last year a number of the NBA’s most experienced officials reportedly said, "It’s Rasheed or us, take your pick. We’ll quit unless you do something." The ladies and gentlemen who pay the big bucks to sit at courtside, and the NBA’s more staid corporate sponsors, presumably had something to do with it as well.

So we now have the NBA adopting the Rudy Guiliani approach of taking care of the small stuff, arresting graffiti artists and window-breakers to make a larger point about law and order. The NFL – the most violent and most regimented of the major sports – has always been of this persuasion, to the point of carefully defining which end-zone celebrations are allowed and which are not. They cracked down again this year. Lambeau leaps are grandfathered in, but lying on the ground and using the football for a prop is strictly verboten. Get that, T.O.? Such rules seem silly. Can you really legislate good taste, let alone sportsmanship? But the NFL reasons that if you do not draw the line firmly, the players would soon be conducting animal sacrifices after a touchdown. You may laugh, but last season Chad Johnson mentioned that he was planning to use a reindeer he was keeping in his garage for his latest extravaganza.

If you’ve attended or seen a high school recently – I’m sure it’s true in junior high as well – the behavior of the pros definitely filters down. And so if your local rec league referee isn’t quite as forgiving as in the past, perhaps you’ll understand. In any case, the NBA’s latest lessons in minding your manners are worth following.

Dionne on the Republicans

What do people think of today’s E.J. Dionne, Jr. column on the Republican blood-letting he anticipates? I think he’s right that there are and will continue to be battles within the G.O.P. They will, of course, be exacerbated if there are big losses today, but the kind of focus brought about by defeat (or a close brush with defeat) surely wouldn’t hurt.

Ashland vs. Hillsdale

While Ashland vs. Hillsdale in football does not take on the Homeric proportions of Ohio State vs. Michigan, it is a serious contest, and the good guys won the last one about a month ago. The president of Ashland University—a man who has done many good deeds in a naughty world—made a bet with the president of Hillsdale College. The latter lost. And while I say that a friend should bear his friend’s infirmities, I’ll let Arnn wear his own.

NRO predictions

Are here. They’re more optimistic than The Weekly Standard’s.

Occidentalism and the Intellectuals

I’ve been reading an engaging book called Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit. It’s a broad, sweeping work--probably too much so for something so brief--but among its many interesting arguments is that today’s suicide bombers have no genuine precedent in Islamic history, but that, like the earlier "death cult" of the Japanese kamikaze pilots, have their origins in the poisonous soil of 19th century German romanticism, with its volkisch racial ideology, its disdain for liberalism and capitalism, and its hatred of urban culture. He notes how the 9/11 bombers, like the kamikaze before them, had educations that were far beyond those of their ordinary countrymen. Anyway, this particular passage struck me:

Where the free market dominates, as in the United States, intellectuals feel marginalized and unappreciated, and are inclined to be drawn to politics with grander pretensions. Taking their freedoms for granted, they become easy prey for enemies of the West.

Staying the Course with My Prediction

Based upon my conversations over the last couple of days more than any scientific survey (the studies really disagree right now anyway), I still say this will be a very Democratic day. The main issue is Iraq. (The secondary issue is do-nothing complacency and corruption; as Fred Barnes points out the Republicans easily could have done more to get people’s minds of the war.) Lots of Reagan Democrats and ordinary conservatives are voting Democratic for the first time in a while. They think the war wasn’t necessary, it’s been conducted incompetently, and there’s no realistic plan about what to do now. I’ve repeatedly heard the claim that the Iraq war has more compromised than enhanced our security. Nobody much is saying the Democrats have a plan or could do better; it’s more that the administration needs the wake-up call. I’m not evaluating these claims today, although obviously a vote that will comfort our enemies and make the president’s tough job of adjusting the course more difficult isn’t the remedy I recommend to those who make them. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we will feel their strength today in the House elections. It’s good to remember that lots of people voting Democratic today agree more with the Republicans on most issues.

Buy Kool Aid Stock Now

Today’s New York Times story, For Democrats, Even a Gain May Feel Like a Failure, contains this wonderful nugget from Charlie Cook on what will happen if Dems fails to take the House: “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide."

Victory for the Left-Not.

Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes in today’s Wall Street Journal much the same thing we’ve been saying in our various podcasts and NLT postings:

The [Democratic] victory, assuming there is one, will hardly be glorious, and long-term trends are still distinctly right wing. . . By all rights, the Republicans left in Congress after this election should be able to pool to work in one minivan. Instead, they are probably facing a 10% setback in House seats--hardly a disaster by midterm election standards. What’s more, many of the Democrats at the vanguard of today’s political "revolution" are not exactly left-wing zealots. Robert Casey, who leads incumbent Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, opposes abortion rights. On issues of gun control and immigration, Senate candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee sounds like a Republican. James Webb, who seeks to unseat Virginia Sen. George Allen, actually used to be a Republican. The lesson is that Democrats can win modestly if the Republicans implode, and preferably if they look more or less like Republicans. This is hardly a mythic victory for the American left; indeed, the larger cultural picture--in which the election is but a minor political datum--remains strikingly bleak for American liberalism.

Read the whole thing.   

Today and tomorrow

I know that all our readers are going to vote or have already voted. And I doubt that there are any fence-sitters in the NLT precincts.

I’ll be up late tonight, though without any expectation of knowing the final shape of Congress, unless it’s a total blowout. You see,those darn absentee ballots (200,000 in Maryland alone) are going to take forever to count, and they’ll make a difference in what I expect (or is it hope?) will be close races.

If the Democrats retake one or both chambers, Michael Kinsley hopes they don’t stick to this document. Here’s what he has to say:

"New Direction" quite rightly denounces the staggering fiscal irresponsibility of Republican leaders and duly promises "Pay As You Go" spending. But in the entire document there is not one explicit revenue-raiser to balance the many specific and enormous new spending programs and tax credits.


For national security in general, the Democrats’ plan is so according-to-type that you cringe with embarrassment: It’s mostly about new cash benefits for veterans. Regarding Iraq specifically, the Democrats’ plan has two parts. First, they want Iraqis to take on "primary responsibility for securing and governing their country." Then they want "responsible redeployment" (great euphemism) of American forces.

Older readers may recognize this formula. It’s Vietnamization -- the Nixon-Kissinger plan for extracting us from a previous mistake. But Vietnamization was not a plan for victory. It was a plan for what was called "peace with honor" and is now known as "defeat."

I hope we don’t have to share Kinsley’s hope.

Update: John Fund has a useful election watcher’s guide.

Update #2: If (or should I say when?) there’s litigation, this site will be indispensable.

Stanley Scores

Over at The Corner, Stanley Kurtz scores with this very droll look at how the left might react to an election loss:

For one thing, we might see profanity at liberal web-sites. That may seem unlikely. After all, liberalism is historically characterized by an affinity for reasoned discourse and fair procedure. Yet my fear is that the level of anger consequent on a last-minute Democratic loss could lead at least a few left-leaning bloggers to deploy curse words. That would significantly erode the web’s reputation for civil.

There’s more. Read the whole thing.

Margins of Error

Peter notes below Nancy Pelosi’s precrimination to the effect that if Dems lose tomorrow, it will have to because they were cheated (i.e., Rovian mind-rays, hacked Diebold voting machines, etc.), just as I have been predicting for several weeks. That it is inconceivable that liberals might not be popular reveals much about the ongoing decay of the liberal mind today.

One should stop and reflect that it is the liberal reaction to the Florida 2000 disaster that has brought us to this point, namely the demand that we had to have national voting legislation and electronic voting machines to replace the chaotic paper ballots, punch cards, and other aspects of our decentralized voting system.

Elections always have sloppy elements even without reaching to fraud; there is always going to be a margin of error in voting with localized administration and various and sundry methods of casting votes. 99.9% of the time it doesn’t matter, as the margin of victory is beyond the margin of error. And even accounting for fraud, the mistakes and thefts probably even out over the long run between the two parties. There’s always another election two years ahead. Above all, problems with voting have hitherto been localized or decentralized; at least the 2000 disaster was confined to one state.

Once you demand that voting be standardized and made electronic, you prepare the perfect conditions for wild conspiracy theories to take root, even when they have little or no basis in fact. It will undermine our democratic process to have the fever swamps of the left deciding that elections can no longer be trusted. How long before we see another Chicago 68-style eruption in the streets?

Of course, the left may go way too far and discredit themselves with their allies in the media. A few days after the last election, I happened to have dinner with Bill Schneider of CNN; his Blackberry was pinging about every 15 seconds with another moonbat rant about how the Ohio election had been stolen, that the electronic voting machines had been altered by military radar planes that Bush sent over Ohio, and so forth. (Other political reporters were receiving the same mass barrage.) Schneider just shook his head in amazement, and shrugged that he was going to have to change his e-mail address.

Other election predictions

NRO’s John J. Miller’s calls are here. SA’s Steve Dillard’s calls and endorsements are here. SDP’s Jon Schaff shows that he needs a drink for Peter Schramm’s flask here. Alternatively, he should read Quin Hillyer’s piece over at TAS Online.

On the left, this MyDD blogger thinks the Republicans will probably hold the Senate (and that Ford will lose Tennessee because of racism; does that mean that Blackwell, Swann, and Steele will lose because of racism too?). The folks at Washington Monthly are getting nervous. Robert Kuttner is cautiously optimistic, suggesting that "unless there are levels of theft and fraud that would truly mean the end of American democracy, a Democratic House seems as close to a sure thing as we ever get in American politics three days before an election." And as Steve Hayward noted,
Noam Scheiber is worried about the latest polls, especially this one.

Update: Makos Moulitsas tells us what he expects here; note that he’s still drinking the Lamont Kool-Aid.

Update #2: RCP’s Jay Cost explains why he trusts the Gallup generic ballot poll and why he expects a Democratic pickup of between 11 and 27 House seats. Ruy Teixeira is more hopeful based on the Gallup numbers, but he doesn’t seem to take into account Cost’s observation that pre-’94 and post-’94 generic ballots offer different sorts of predictions.

On the difficulty of making predictions

This article by Andy Busch makes an even dozen he has written on midterm elections for us. They are full of interesting information, always thoughtful, and always lead the reader toward a deeper understanding of American electoral history. I like this one especially. It seems a perfect thing to consider one day before the vote, on why it is so difficult to make predictions. Not that that stops us from making them, of course! Just because we have PhD’s doesn’t mean we can’t guess with the best of them, does it? See our predictions here. To keep track of them all, including the latest polls, let me remind you to go to Real Clear Politics, the best site for politics on the internet (i.e, the planet).

Conservative Political Correctness at Penn?

Could the conservative flap about Amy Gutmann and her photograph alongside a student in a "suicide bomber" costume end up backfiring? Toward the end of the Inside Higher Ed article Joe references below is a link to The Torch, the blog of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE, which has spent years defending individuals and groups on college campuses from speech codes and accusations of "insensitivity," wonders, I think rightly, whether this flap isn’t going to make their jobs harder. "Lest Halloween parties become the next frontier for the campus sensitivity police," writes FIRE senior program officer Tara Sweeney, "people need to recognize that Halloween is a good time for satire, and that sometimes a costume is just a costume."

As for those commenters at NLT who have defended Gutmann and the fellow in the costume, I hope they will remember their charitable attitude the next time an issue like this comes along.

Maryland (and Virginia) races

This WaPo article gives much more attention to the Virginia race than to the races in Maryland, while this one suggests that the endorsement of Steele by a number of Prince Georges County Democratic insiders was more a shot fired across the bow of their party than anything else.

By contrast, this WaTi piece focuses on the Steele/Cardin race and the role of churches in it. After this bit from a sermon, it would be impossible to say that Republicans are alone in abusing religion for the sake of politics:

"Everyone who’s your color is not your kind," the Rev. Delman L. Coates told the mostly black congregation at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton. "All your skinfolk is not your kinfolk."

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the Democratic nominee, who is white, looked on from the front pew as Mr. Coates subtly disparaged supporters of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the Republican nominee and the first black elected to statewide office in Maryland.

"On Tuesday, we have to have more on our minds than color," the preacher told the roughly 1,500 parishioners. He rattled off a list of unsympathetic black people, including the slave who alerted the masters to Nat Turner’s rebellion in 1831 and the black man who shot Malcolm X in 1965.

He drew parallels between the election tomorrow and the biblical account of Jews choosing to free from crucifixion the thief Barabbas instead of Jesus Christ. The minister asked how the crowd that loved Jesus only days earlier was tricked to switch from "Jesuscrats" to "Barabblicans" for that vote.

"Can’t you just see the commercials that were designed to endear Barabbas to the crowd," he said. "I can just see Barabbas well dressed, well groomed [and] holding a puppy."

The reference to Mr. Steele’s TV ads drew laughter from the congregation and prompted several worshippers to stand and applaud.

I’m waiting for Jim Wallis and David Kuo to remind Rev. Coates that Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

This Baltimore Sun article covers much of the same ground.

The best Maryland story comes from
the Sun, which takes a close look at the ground game in the Free State. A sample:

Political parties and interest groups are grappling with shifting demographics and party affiliations. There has been huge growth in voter registration in Prince George’s and Charles counties since 2002, much of it among black residents, said Thomas F. Schaller, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Overall, party affiliation is dropping, and there are more registered independents than ever.

Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University political science professor and sometime Democratic activist, said the decline of Maryland’s Democratic clubs has made the party less effective in mobilizing turnout on Election Day.

"Thirty or 40 years ago, there were Democratic clubs in most working-class and even lower-class neighborhoods, both black and white, and they provided the core of workers on Election Day," Crenson said. "Those organizations have almost entirely disappeared, and so the party work force barely exists."

Read the whole thing.

Update: I somehow missed this WaPo article on the churches and the Maryland campaign.

Update #2: Kuo steps up to the plate on Rev. Coates’s "vile rhetoric."

Last Update: Andrew Sullivan used the "vile rhetoric" line at 5:39 p.m., Kuo at 9:32 p.m. My new theory is that Andrew Sullivan is David Kuo.

Penn Halloween update

For more on Penn President Amy Gutmann’s Halloween gaffe, you can go here, here, and here.


The late-breaking pro-GOP polls are making Dems nervous. Really nervous. One interesting finding from the Pew poll crosstabs (Pew was the most accurate poll in 2004): "Nearly 20 percent of independents told Pew that [Kerry’s] joke raised doubts in their minds about voting Democratic." From the New York Times account: Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Center, said the poll nonetheless found that Republicans were becoming more enthusiastic as Election Day approached."

If the GOP holds on in the House, get your earplugs out for Howard Dean’s scream.

Pelosi speaks

So, Nancy Pelosi, the would-be Speaker of the U.S. House makes an appearance. She speaks. She calls the GOP leadership a "freak show" and then says that she knows the numbers and there is no question that the numbers "are there for the 15", the only question is how many more, "today it’s 22 to 26"; and then this: "Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count -- from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.

’That is the only variable in this,’ Pelosi said. ’Will we have an honest count?’"

Now you see the set up; it is as explicit as possible. We will win (as everyone has been saying and knowing for all these months), that’s already a given, and if we don’t, ergo the counting was dishonest.

More Evidence I’m Right

Here’s a cool map and accompanying data from It includes predictions based on a reasonable averaging of the available polls. It shows the Rs with 49 senate leads and 4 toss-ups. That would mean 51 seats? Well, no, because the D candidate has a slight advantage, if truth be told, in each of the toss-up states: MD, VA, MT, and MO. So 50 is still the most informed calculation.

The Newest New Polls that everything that was within the famous margin of error remains there. Three things worth noting: Chaffee may still have a chance. And the "generic" congressional poll of that WASH POST has the Republicans now down only six. That is, as they say, a dramatic comeback. Maybe, maybe it’s explained by voters finally thinking about their particular vote for or against their particular congressperson more than teaching Bush a lesson. We’ll see if this translates to R gains in the key particular races.

Finally, here’s an optimistic article that explains that the general movement in the Mason-Dixon senate polls in recent weeks has been in a rather emphatically R direction. A Republican can now find reasons to hope, if everything goes right, that his party will only lose two senate seats. But I’m still not changing my prediction.

Election Forecast

Okay, I skipped the official NLT election forecast, waiting to see whether a late GOP surge was picked up in the polls over that last week as it was in 2002. There appears to be a slight GOP tide, but with few exceptions it hasn’t put many GOP candidates over 50% in the rolling average polls. But in 2002, there were many victorious Republicans (esp. Allard in Colorado) who were shown trailing badly, but still won.

Here with my tip sheet for handicapping the election, in the fashion of the World Series position-by-position matchups:

  • The usual rhythms of American politics and offyear elections: Advantage Dems.

  • The long-term realignment toward conservatism: Advantage GOP.

  • The superior Republican vote distribution--i.e., Republican district-by-district House majorities up to now have been more widely spread but smaller than the concentrated Dem majorities--is probably a wash or a negative this year, as only a small erosion overall could translate to large House losses at the margin.

  • The GOP turnout machine: Advantage GOP.

  • The economy: There are very recent signs that the solid economy is starting to help the GOP: Slight GOP advantage.

  • The Iraq War: Qualified Dem advantage. (Why qualified?--ed. The Kerry comment underscores the genetic problem Democrats still have on national security. This election will test the durability of the post-9/11 security voters. Despite Iraq, I am guessing some voters won’t flip for the Dems.)

  • Divided government impulse: Potentially big Dem advantage. To the extent that some voters see divided government as a modern substitute for the separation of powers, it will tip the balance in maybe 10 or more House races, turning a small loss into a rout. The caveat here is that quantitative political scientists say there is no empirical evidence to support the view that voters consciously split their tickets according this idea.

To continue the baseball metaphor, if good pitching beats good hitting, the Republican turnout machine and realignment advantages (good pitching) will equalize the Dems’ big hitter (issue) lineup. So herewith my WAGs ( wild-ass guesses) on the outcome:

18 seat Dem pickup in the House, and thereby narrow control. Bellweather district: As always, Anne Northup in Kentucky, where the polls close early. I lived in that district for a year, and it is the quintessential swing district. She’s won several tough races by decent margins (about 54%), and is a target this year. If she loses, then count on a bad night for Republicans. If she holds on (as I expect), then Republican loses will be modest.

Senate stays Republican 52-46-2. I expect some surprise upsets on both sides. I think Webb will beat Allen (and then torment Senate Democrats and the Kossacks much more than Lieberman). I think Steele will win in Maryland. One long shot that is looking longer is Bouchard in Michigan, but that might still surprise everyone. I think Chaffee and/or Burns will hang on, while DeWine and Santorum will lose. Kean might beat Menendez in NJ. Corker will pop his champaigne corks early in the evening in TN. The Missouri election won’t be decided for several days or weeks: expect a Florida 2000-style mess there.

Dem Smackdown

Orson Scott Card smacks down his own Democratic Party:

[T]here are no values that matter to me that will not be gravely endangered if we lose this war. And since the Democratic Party seems hellbent on losing it -- and in the most damaging possible way -- I have no choice but to advocate that my party be kept from getting its hands on the reins of national power, until it proves itself once again to be capable of recognizing our core national interests instead of its own temporary partisan advantages.

To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.

Elephant Graveyard?

Here is the Columbus Dispatch story on this Dispatch poll. Note the absurd numbers: Strickland ahead by 36 points, Brown ahead by 24 points! Am I supposed to roll over and pretend that conducting this kind of polling is what politics is all about? I will not do it. This is silly. While it is possible (anything is possible) that the GOP will lose by huge margins both in Ohio and nationally, I do not think that is the case. I think it is reasonable to think that they could lose between 13 and 20 seats in the House, and maybe even as many as four seats in the Senate. Saying they are going to lose anything more than that is being caught up in a frenzy (caused by bad polling and MSM/Dem spin). If you really think that the GOP losses will be huge (as Bill Kristol does; I spent most of Thursday with him and I respectfully disagreed then as I do now) you are discounting human deliberation and choice. This doesn’t mean that I think the GOP and Bush are as popular now as they were two years ago. I know they are not. Yet, I do not think that the bottom has fallen out of their popularity. While there is much dissatisfaction with the GOP and Bush (especially on three things, Iraq, spending, and corruption), we are not in Watergate or Vietnam mode. Nor has the country become more liberal than it was two years ago. In fact, arguably, the effective criticism of Bush and the GOP has come from conservatives. Not all of those critics will end of voting for the Dems. Besides, if the people are so anti-GOP, then the Dems would be making their real opinions more public, and would be led by Nancy Pelosi. Furthermore, they would not have run all these moderate or even conservative candidates around the country. In short, discontent does not a tidal wave make. If my hunch/guesswork/analysis/supermarket-conversation-polling is right, then most so called close races (circa three or four point difference based on a real poll) will end up moving GOP on election day. So I think the GOP will hold the Senate (holding on to MO, TN, MT, OH and taking MD). And the GOP will hold the House (by a vote or two); they will only lose one House seat in Ohio, the 18th, Ney’s old seat. I think Blackwell will lose by about four to six points, but DeWine will keep his seat, barely, by one or two pints. And the GOP will hold about half of the state offices in Ohio, including Sect of State, Attorney General, and state auditor. There has never been any question in my mind that Lieberman would win, by the way.


Check out Mary Katherine Ham’s video urging sopport for GOP campaign efforts. How can the Dems possibly win in face of this?