Free Markets, Free People

Elections

Obama OK But Congressional Democrats In Trouble

Charlie Cook, one of the most respected of the political prognosticators, continues to sound the alarm for Congressional Democrats. Since August, Cook has been telling them they’re headed for electoral disaster in the 2010 midterms if they don’t change their ways.

Most of the erosion of support has taken place among independents. Although the country still seems willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, at latest for the time being, they’re not willing to extend that to Congress. The threat to the Democratic majority in the House, unsurprisingly, comes in the districts of the Blue Dogs:

I am becoming convinced, based on this and other research, that although many independent voters are disappointed in specific things that Obama has done, they still hope that he will do well and believe that he might. To be sure, red America has already given Obama the thumbs down. And blue America just wishes he would be more liberal. But it’s purple America, the independents who voted for Democrats in the 2006 midterm election by an 18-point margin, that makes the biggest difference right now. Most House Democrats live in blue America and show little awareness that their party has a problem. However, the Democrats’ majority is built on a layer of 54 seats that the party picked up in 2006 and 2008 that are largely in purple — or even red — America. Democrats ought to keep in mind that 84 of their current House members represent districts won by President Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008.

A whopping 48 of those Democrats — eight more than the size of their party’s majority — are from districts that voted for both Bush and McCain. That America is very different from the Democratic base in blue America, and it sees many major issues very differently.

Two things to note – as Cook notes, the number of Blue Dog districts comprise more than the Democratic majority in the House. If independents continue to desert Democrats in the numbers they have, it is not at all inconceivable that they could lose every one of those districts (all of which voted for Bush and McCain).

Secondly, the other point to understand is the leadership comes from the “blue” side of the tracks – safe blue districts – consequently they’re most likely not going to back off on their more liberal agenda (Pelosi’s claim that the health care bill will not pass the House without a “public option” being a perfect example). That could end up mortally wounding Democrats chances in those 84 districts that are traditionally red districts – enough so the Republicans regain the majority.

The political tea leaves continue to point to trouble from Democrats as well:

The 17-point advantage that Democrats enjoyed in the January Gallup Poll (when “leaners” were included) shrank to 5 points in August. Their edge on the generic congressional ballot test has vanished, according to most national polls. For three years, Democrats enjoyed high single-digit or low double-digit leads on this question — a very good indicator of which direction (and how hard) the political winds are blowing as a congressional election nears.

Of course the question is “can Democrats recover before November, 2010?”

What we are seeing is an electorate growing just as disgusted with the Democratic majority as it did with the Republican one in 2006. The mounting ethics problems of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., combined with ongoing allegations about House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and others on his panel threaten to make matters still worse for their party.

Despite Nancy Pelosi’s promises to have the “most ethical Congress ever” when Democrats were swept into the majority in Congress, she’s shown no stomach for actually taking on the tough ethical problems the House Democrats face. Cook is implying that unless they do (and they won’t), that combined with their agenda and the growing disgust among independents with both, could doom their chances of maintaining their majorities in 2010 (much less likely in the Senate, but the Democratic majority may be much less than at present by the end of election night).

Some Democrats are beginning to see the possibility of such an occurrence. Joe Biden said recently that the agenda the administration is pursuing is over if Republicans win in 2010.

We can only hope Cook is correct – mixed government would be a God send given this president.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Should House districts cross state lines?

That’s the solution that came to my mind when I read this piece in the New York Times.

I don’t think my suggestion would violate the important aspects of our constitutional design.

As attractive as the idea of having fewer constituents represented by each Representative may be, increasing the number of seats to around 1,000 would make the House unwieldy.  Dunbar’s number reflects the difficulty of becoming familiar with large numbers of other people, so in very large bodies, it becomes difficult for one “side” to get to know the other.  That increases the tendency toward misunderstanding and factionalism, with negotiations handled entirely by a relatively small number of leaders, whips, and committee chairs.

Then there are logistical issues involved with more than doubling the size of the House (where will they all sit?), and — this might be a minor issue, but — do we want to pay 1,000 Congressmen and their staffs?  Do we expect that Congress will produce better legislation with 1100 members than it does with 538?

But the status quo does seem flawed.  The Senate may be designed to give some people more representation than others, but that’s because the Senate traditionally was supposed to be the great protector of the states.  The House was intended from the start to represent the people directly rather than the people as represented by their states, so for one legislator to represent 958,000 people (Montana) while another represents 527,000 (Rhode Island) doesn’t seem quite right.

There are a number of places where it strikes me as natural that a House district would cross state lines, because the people on either side of the border have more in common with each other than they do with other people in their state.

If an agreeable method of choosing where those lines are drawn can be devised, I see only one major difficulty with this idea.  That is: how to treat electors for the Electoral College.  If a district straddles two states that vote differently for president, the solution I see is this:

  • Each state delivers its 2 base electoral votes to whoever wins the state.
  • Any district which doesn’t cross a state border delivers its elector to whoever won the state.
  • If a district straddles a state border where the states voted differently, its elector votes for whoever won the district.

That might actually improve the Electoral College.

But perhaps I’m missing some other important snag here.  Your thoughts?

Congress: Get Rid Of Them All

According to Rasmussen, if given the choice of a single vote to turn out or keep all the members of Congress, 57% would vote to boot ‘em:

If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure how they would vote.

Of course that’s more of a feel-good poll than reality since we all know that incumbents are usually reelected and that happens because for the most part those in each Congressional district feel the problem is the rest of Congress and not their guy or gal.

However, it is a number which does point to the underlying unrest among the population – and not just about health care.

Back in October, prior to the election which saw increasing Dem margins, 59% said given a single vote to turn out the whole Congress, they’d do so. That was in the middle of the “crisis” and frenzy of TARP.

Obviously “turning them out” wasn’t something which happened then, but the fact that we had a rather historical presidential election can be assumed to have had some salutary effect. 2010, on the other hand, is a purely Congressional election year. Again, the probability of turning the whole Congress over is practically nil. But it could be a bloody year for incumbents as we’re seeing some of the early polls indicate. If the anger remains at this level and the politicians continue to ignore it as they seem to be doing, I predict that 20 seat losses in the House may be considered the best outcome to be hoped for when election day rolls around.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

Democrats And The “Senior” Vote

More polling to consider from a Politico article:

“Seniors are one of the most attentive and engaged constituencies, especially on health care issues, and we’ve seen that in the Medicare Advantage programs,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

A July 31 Gallup Poll found that just 20 percent of Americans aged 65 and older believe health care reform would improve their own situation, noticeably lower than the 27 percent of 18- to 49-year olds and 26 percent of 50-to-64-year-olds who say the same.

The senior citizen problem could pose a serious problem for the 2010 election cycle.

Older Americans turn out in much higher numbers than other age groups during midterm elections. In 2006, the 55-and-older age group still had the highest voting rate of any age group, at 63 percent, even though younger voters turned out in record numbers for a midterm, according to census data. Half of all votes cast in the 2006 midterms were from voters age 50 or older, according to AARP. And one out of four were AARP members.

Of course, one of the ironies the left likes to point to is that seniors are actually saying they don’t want their socialistic, single-payer system changed. I think that’s a very lazy bit of analysis. I would instead suggest that since seniors have no choice about their socialistic, single-payer system (they’re automatically enrolled at age 65) that what the system is has nothing to do with the protest. They had no choice in the matter.

Seniors are a very tuned in group when it comes to health care because they know what they have is all they can have and the government is talking about legislation to cut that. And one of the areas targeted is the private insurance that covers the gaps Medicare doesn’t cover:

But Obama is talking about finding hundreds of billions in savings from Medicare — cuts supporters say will trim fat from the program — including slashing $156 billion in subsidies to Medicare Advantage, a privately administered Medicare program.

The cuts will also target the amount health care providers are paid to treat Medicare patients.

One of the dirty little secrets about the cost of private health care that you’ll never hear the Democrats or the Obama administration point out is the tremendous amount of cost shifting that goes on from the private sector to cover the public sector.

For every dollar of health care delivered to a Medicare patient, the government pays, on average, $.94. Medicaid only pays $0.86. However, health care providers are able to squeeze those nasty old private insurance providers for $1.34* for every dollar of health care provided. That’s how badly government has distorted the health care industry. It then has the temerity to scream that the private side is “bankrupting” us. Meanwhile it is the private side that has, for decades, been subsidizing the public side.

But back to seniors. Seniors know you don’t recover or save health care costs from healthy people. Seniors also know that they’re in the group in which most health care dollars are spent. Consequently, any savings, a stated goal of the so-called “reform” is most likely going to come from their part of the health care pie.

The proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage are real, but Democrats are also fighting full-blown myths that have gained traction, attacks claiming that reform would create government “death panels” authorizing euthanasia.

The rhetoric is designed to rattle seniors already nervous about health care

because they pay a higher percentage of their income for health care

than younger Americans and face rising costs on fixed incomes, said Jim Dau, a spokesman for AARP.

“Some are simply trying to derail health care reform by targeting seniors, by scaring them, making them, frankly, more dubious, more nervous,” said Dau.

Dau’s protest simply has no legs. The House legislation targets Medicare and talks about cuts to that system. That’s not something the protesters have made up to “rattle” seniors. Instead, it is something which exists, in writing.

And, as I point out above, if you’re a senior you don’t have to be an MIT grad to understand from where the euphemistic “savings” have to come. From the group where most of the spending occurs – duh?!

“Death-panels” and other nonsense aside, seniors have sniffed out the plan and aren’t happy with it. And, again, if you look at the rooms in which these protests are taking place, there are a tremendous number of grey heads evident.

So, we have independents (below) not happy with this power grab in the health care area and we have seniors obviously not happy. Are Democrats paying attention at all or, like Dau, do they plan to wave it all off as opposition dirty tricks and pretend all will work out for the best after they ram this through?

2010 is looking like a lot more fun than I believed it would be.

~McQ

————

[*] Those numbers came from Betsy McCoy, former Lt. Gov of NY, in an interview. McCoy is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a patient advocate.

Welcome To One-Party Rule (Updated)

It’s now official: only one party has the reins to power in Washington, DC:

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled Al Franken the winner of last November’s Senate race, putting the former “Saturday Night Live” star on the brink of becoming a United States senator and Democrats on the cusp of holding a dominant 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the court upheld a three-judge panel’s April 14 ruling that Franken defeated Republican Norm Coleman in the race by 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast. The 32-page was remarkably decisive, picking apart and rejecting one Coleman legal claim after another.

[...]

If Franken is seated, Democrats would hold a 60-40 majority in the Senate, the largest the party has enjoyed in a generation. Sixty votes are needed to break filibusters, ensuring that if Democrats stay united they would be able to cleave the GOP’s last lever of power in Washington. A Franken “yes” vote on health reform, climate change legislation and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor gives Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) even more of a margin for error on these major votes.

Democrats were already celebrating the result.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty already stated that he would sign the election certificate for Franken if directed to do so by the Supreme Court, so this is pretty much a done deal. Coleman has not indicated whether he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Minnesota Republican Party doesn’t seem to sanguine about pushing further:

Even Minnestoa Republicans – highly disappointed by the ruling – weren’t ready to call for a federal legal challenge.

The Minnesota Republican Party issued a strongly worded statement, saying the ruling “wrongly disenfranchised thousands of Minnesotans who deserve to have their votes counted.”

But the chairman-elect of the party, Tony Sutton, made no mention of next steps, only saying, “As we move forward, our deeply flawed election system must be dramatically improved to ensure our state’s elections are fair, accurate and reliable.”

Assuming that Coleman doesn’t seek cert., or if he does that no stay of the decision is put into place, then Franken will be seated as early as next week. With a vetofilibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the Democrats won’t need to play parliamentary games like using reconciliation bills, or the like, and instead will simply shove legislation down the throats of the minority. So get ready for cap-and-trade, government health care, huge tax increases, and a host of other government programs that don’t need and can’t pay for.

The only downside for Democrats is that they can’t credibly blame the fiscal and economic woes on Bush anymore as they will have cornered the political market. I say “credibly” because they will continue to do so, and the media mostly won’t call them on it, but such claims will be laughably false. The real question is, how and when will this come back to haunt them?

UPDATE: Coleman concedes.

In Iran, The Beat Goes On

Literally. The NY Times reports:

The authorities showed little inclination to heed chastisement by outsiders as a senior cleric called for demonstrators to be punished “ruthlessly and savagely.”

At Friday Prayer in Tehran University, the senior cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, referred to the demonstrators as rioters and declared, “I want the judiciary to punish leading rioters firmly and without showing any mercy to teach everyone a lesson.”

Reuters quoted him as saying that demonstrators should be tried for waging war against God. The punishment for such offenses under Islamic law is death, Reuters said.

As for the murder of the woman named Neda, now a symbol of Iranian resistance worldwide, Khatami also dismissed that as propaganda ploy:

Khatami said Neda was shot by government opponents for propaganda purposes. “By watching the film, any wise person can understand that rioters killed her,” he said.

Any hope for a new election, or even a recount were dashed by the Guradian Council:

The 12-man Guardian Council’s statement leaves little scope for more legal challenges to the election result, short of an attack on the position of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has expressed strong support for Ahmadinejad.

“The Guardian Council has almost finished reviewing defeated candidates’ election complaints … the reviews showed that the election was the healthiest since the revolution … There were no major violations in the election,” said Kadkhodai.

And while government thugs have been pretty successful in keeping protesters off the street, other signs of resistance are still evident:

There were other signs of continued resistance. A few conservatives have expressed revulsion at the sight of unarmed protesters being beaten, even shot, by government forces. Only 105 out of the 290 members of Parliament took part in a victory celebration for Mr. Ahmadinejad on Tuesday, newspapers reported Thursday. The absence of so many lawmakers, including the speaker, Ali Larijani, a powerful conservative, was striking.

This is by far the most serious challenge to the present regime since the 1979 revolution which put them in power. And I’ll remind you again that it took a year from the initial protests for enough pressure to build (as other elements of the society joined the original dissidents) to the point that millions took to the streets and overthrew the Shah. And at this point, the mullocracy has nothing on the Shah’s regime in terms of brutality, oppression and totalitarian control.

~McQ

Some Mullahs Join Iranian Protests

Don’t forget that the 1979 Iranian revolution took about a year to gestate after the initial protests. And it picked up support from other elements of society as it grew.

In a blatant act of defiance, a group of Mullahs took to the streets of Tehran, to protest election results that returned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power.

Whether these clerics voted for Ahmadinejad or one of the opposition candidates is unknown. What is important here, is the decision to march against the will of Iran’s supreme leader who called the results final and declared demonstrations illegal.

This is an indicator that what happened in ’79 may be beginning to happen in ’09 as well.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mullahs rule supreme. They are the country’s conservative clerics; the guardians of the Islamic revolution and its ideologies. They’re loyal only to God and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Obviously that particular equation is under assault with these clerics physically making the point that their loyalty is elsewhere. Check out the article for the picture of these clerics among the protesters.

~McQ

The “Bullet Fee”

Shades of the Chicoms and Saddam Hussein.

A protester is shot dead in Iran. His father learns of his death:

Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a “bullet fee”—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

But we don’t want to be the “foil” so we’ll withold saying anything that might be misinterpreted. Well, except this:

But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic’s Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

Ed Morrisey calls this “despicable”. I say he’s being very understated in his criticism.

Pass the hot dogs.

Please.

~McQ

Mullahs Mulling New Governing Body

The political fallout within Iran of the protests against the regime and the election seems to be pretty dramatic. For the first time in 30 years, the mullahs who actually run the place are split and are looking closely at their method of ruling the country and considering what they would see as some rather drastic modifications.

One thing that some of the mullahs are unhappy with (finally) is the power concentrated in the position of “supreme leader”.

Iran’s religious clerics in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.

As mentioned before, the Assembly of Experts has the power to remove both the president of the country and the “supreme leader”. Rafsanjani has been at loggerheads with the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. 5 members of Rafsanjani’s family were arrested (and later released) during last week’s protests.

Members of the assembly are reportedly considering forming a collective ruling body and scrapping the model of Ayatollah Khomeini as a way out of the civil crisis that has engulfed Tehran in a series of protests,

The discussions have taken place in a series of secret meetings convened in the holy city of Qom and included Jawad al-Shahristani, the supreme representative of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the foremost Shiite leader in Iraq.

Serious stuff. And again, going back to what I mentioned in another post, a very large crack in the foundation of “divine authority” the regime is supposed to have.

The reformist clerics are calling for the protesters who’ve been arrested to be released as well. They claim that will help ease tensions. My guess is it will refuel the protests. No word on the clamp down on the media or the internet.

A couple of interesting quotes from protesters:

“The robocops beat us up badly,” one protestor told AFP. “Men and women were beaten up…. My whole body is bruised…. They confiscated my camera.”

Another witness said: “Lots of guards on motorbikes closed in on us and beat us brutally. “As we were running away the Basiji were waiting in side alleys with batons, but people opened their doors to us trapped in alleys.”

According to statements posted by witnesses on the social networking site Facebook, foreign embassies even opened the doors to injured protesters, among them the Danish embassy. The report was not confirmed by the Danish foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, in the US, the phrase of the day is “pass the hotdogs”.

~McQ

Hitchens “Gets It” Concerning Iran

He sets it up with these observations:

1. There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran’s foreign affairs. The deep belief that everything—especially anything in English—is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.

2. It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.

3. The tendency of outside media to check the temperature of the clerics, rather than consult the writers and poets of the country, shows our own cultural backwardness in regrettably sharp relief. Anyone who had been reading Pezeshkzad and Nafisi, or talking to their students and readers in Tabriz and Esfahan and Mashad, would have been able to avoid the awful embarrassment by which everything that has occurred on the streets of Iran during recent days has come as one surprise after another to most of our uncultured “experts.”

And he brings it home with this:

That last observation also applies to the Obama administration. Want to take a noninterventionist position? All right, then, take a noninterventionist position. This would mean not referring to Khamenei in fawning tones as the supreme leader and not calling Iran itself by the tyrannical title of “the Islamic republic.” But be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed. [emphasis mine].

For those of you who continue to miss this point, there it is, perfectly stated.

And, for those who find “hot dogs on the 4th” still acceptable for members of a regime presently engaged in viciously and murderously silencing their own people, one has to assume you believe in rewarding bad behavior by pretending it hasn’t happened. That’s not “diplomacy”, that’s simply an abysmally poor choice that signals weakness.

~McQ