Not Ron Paul or Huntsman – Maybe Johnson, Maybe Obama

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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40 Responses

  1. Nob Akimoto says:

    While presidential elections are important symbolically, I think a lot of lessons we’re seeing since 2010 is simply that there’s a lot of stuff that is dependent on the make-up of Congress and of state government. In both cases Arizona is a pretty ripe battleground, and I think you’d have a decent chance of making an impact there if you were to focus your efforts on getting folks excited about candidates who might win in marginal congressional districts. (This is of course assuming that the redistricting plan falls through and you stick with current districts. If instead the courts tell Jan Brewer to shove it the field’s wide open.)

    There’s a senate seat and a bunch of congressional seats up for grabs. Finding the best possible candidates there would be the best possible way of making Obama hew closer to your policy preferences.Report

    • Mike in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Gerrymandering is a large part of the problem. The control of state legislatures, and of the House of Representatives, has indeed quickly gotten to the point of inanity.

      There are too many politicians of both parties running in “safe districts” and not enough “marginal districts.”

      Here’s a great explanation of the phenomenon.

      The other problem is current efforts in certain states controlled by Team Red to disenfranchise – via newly constructed “it’s a tax but not a poll tax” BS, ever-tightening “ID Requirements”, and FUD campaigns – voters who are in demographics (elderly, poor, etc) that tend to vote Team Blue.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Mike says:

        Yes, gerrymandering is a very real problem. Frankly, I think we have too much politics in government. The GOP these past few years have certainly illustrated that to me.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          I have always thought of gerrymandering as a necessary evil.  On the one hand, every time I see it done it makes me a little angry.  On the other hand, since geo-demographics are always changing, it seems like it will always be a thing everyone tries to take advantage of… so I kind of prefer that it’s done so blatantly, by both sides, all the time.  Seems like there’s an expected balance that way.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Well, gerrymandering is further evidence that if something – anything! – has political value, it will be fundamentally exploited for political purposes. Even transmogrified into unrecognizable shapes and patterns.

            There must be a natural law in there somewhere: over time, any thing with political value will trend increasingly towards being entirely corrupted by politics.Report

          • Mike in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            In practice, Gerrymandering is a great way for the “our way or the highway” folks to ensure that the other side has no say.

            It’s also a way they can CONTINUE to ensure that the other side has no functional influence on government, by continually redrawing the maps to keep the out-of-power party in the “minority.”

            To give one great example: Texas (which I’ll use because it is (a) large and (b) indicative and (c) the numbers were easy to get), a “Red State”, is something close to evenly split in terms of Republican-vs-Democrat. If we take the 2008 presidential race, McCain got 55% of the vote there to Obama’s 45% of the vote.

            Theoretically, what we ought to see then is a similar close-split in the legislature, right? Except that it’s not. Thanks to Gerrymandering of districts, the Texas House is 101 Republicans, 45 Democrats. The Texas Senate is 19 Republicans, 12 Democrats. To the US House of Representatives, they send 23 Republicans and only 9 Democrats.

            All of this is achieved by deliberately, consistently piling all the “likely Democrats” into as many stronghold districts (90%+) as they can, while spreading the rest into as many “strongly outnumbered” (30-40%) districts as possible.

            There wasn’t much difference in the 2008 elections from today, either. In fact, if you look at the makeup of the delegation over the years, it’s pretty consistent that “redistricting” has been pursued in a definitive way to functionally disenfranchise the “other side.”

            In what alternate dimension do we call something this clearly corrupt a “Representative” form of government?Report

            • Nob Akimoto in reply to Mike says:

              No, but it does show that who is in charge of the DOJ is VERY important. See: Texas and its current fight over redistricting.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to Mike says:

              And conversely, Maryland went for Obama 61-38 but with the current redistricting (under a Dem State Legislature and Dem Gov) will have probably have 7 out of its 8 seats go Demcrat in 2012 (up from 6 out of 8 now).

              The fight in Maryland though was over whether there were enough majority-minority districts.  (currently there are 2, and one of them was sliced up a little to poach the Western Republican seat.  Trying to add a third though, would have guaranteed two safe Republican seats).Report

          • James K in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            The problem with relying on adversarial process to rein in gerrymandering is two-fold:

            1) It consolidates the power of the two major parties.  They can collude to keep 3rd parties from being able to get an electoral foothold.

            2) On some issue (such as making seats hard to contest) the incumbent politicians have the same interests irrespective of parry affilitation.

            I think the solution is to remove human discretion form the process as much as possible.  I understand there are mathematical tools available that can judge the extent to which districts are gerrymandered.  These tools could be used to rein in the worst of the excesses.

            Another option would be to use a different voting system for congress, such as Single Transferable Vote or Proportional Representation, which require fewer districts, or none at all.  After all, the reason the Senate doesn’t have this problem is that the only boundaries they use are very hard to change.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          The solution to Gerrymandering is simple: Repeal the Apportionment Act of 1911 and return us to the level of representation we had 100 years ago (soon to be 101).

          But I repeat myself.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Mike says:

        I’m very much aware of what Gerrymandering is. However, Arizona is one of the states that has chosen to go the route of a non-partisan redistricting committee. Latest news here from what I can tell.

        Given that AZ will have a fair number of competitive districts, I think there’s plenty to be said here on finding candidates that match Erik’s preferences.Report

        • Mike in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          “After months of heated public debate and intense legal wrangling, the commission voted 3-2 to make several tweaks to a draft map that had left Republicans feeling shortchanged.”

          Short version: “Nonpartisan” my ass.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          Yeah, go to a Republican-leaning site that focuses on redistricting like and see what they think of Arizona being non-partisan.Report

  2. BradP says:

    But I also believe that in a recession we need pro-growth monetary and fiscal policy.

    Obama isn’t going to accomplish that, and what he has accomplished on that front has been characterized as either inefficient or insufficient by experts on both sides of the “stimulus” issue, am I correct?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to BradP says:

      That’s a fair criticism. And trying to explain the failure of the stimulus on political possibility grounds (ie., that a bigger stimulus would never have made it through Congress) doesn’t change the fact that it was a failure – at least in terms of what it was supposed to achieve. On the other hand, there is the idea that borrowing is cheap right now, so there’s that …

      Personally, I think for the next decade (or two?) we’ll be living in a stimulus-resistant economy. We’ve don’t have any sectors to stimulate.Report

      • BradP in reply to Stillwater says:

        I agree with that completely.

        I just think the ED is a little wrapped up in the progressive siren song, and I understand that.  I would love to see prudent financial activity undertaken by the government, and such activity would dictate infrastructure investment in times of high unemployment and low interest rates.

        But I would just like to pose the question to E.D.:  If you would like pro-growth monetary and fiscal policy, who would you like administering it?

        All we have to choose from is warmongering corporate lackeys of some degree, and I would think Kain understands this.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to BradP says:

          I’d be fine with printing more money and then sending checks out directly to people to spend themselves (on top of some much-needed investment in infrastructure, including digital infrastructure, which would not be stimulative so much in the short-term but would make good sense in the long-term.)Report

          • BradP in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            That’s perfectly reasonable, and I would agree.

            The question is, however, who would you trust to follow through on that?

            Its easy to come up with the whats of good governance, its the hows of good governance and its agency problems that are difficult.  When you get to this level of bureaucracy and complexity, I think the “how” becomes a problem with no good answer.Report

  3. Mike says:

    I’m in the same boat as you, Kain. There’s a better chance of the sun spontaneously going supernova tomorrow morning at precisely 8am GMT than Kansas going for Obama over the GOP nominee. If I were in a swing state, my decision would be a lot more difficult, but his certain defeat frees me to vote for who I think is the best candidate rather than the best candidate with a legitimate shot at being elected. If Gary Johnson gets the LP nomination or Buddy Roemer gets the AE nomination, they’ll be at the top of my list.Report

  4. Kim says:

    Not so sure about AZ going red. it was surprisingly Blue last time, and the Latinos are increasing (maybe? actually, the folks I knew down there headed home. but all the graybeards can’t be happy as Phoenix becomes a wasteland…)Report

  5. Brandon Berg says:

    What exactly are the policy implications of the Ron Paul newsletters that concern you?

    A second Obama term might not be so bad if the Republicans can hold the House. Doesn’t matter who’s in the White House if Congress won’t give him the legislation he wants to sign. And one-party Republican rule didn’t go so well. Not sure how I feel about Obama potentially nominating Scalia’s replacement if he should die, though.Report

  6. I’m not convinced that a strong LP party, or other 3rd party, run will hurt Obama.  I can imagine a scenario in which people who don’t like Romney, but don’t want to vote for Obama, would vote for the 3rd party gal or guy.

    I could be wrong, of course.Report

  7. Tom Van Dyke says:

    The affectionate and attentive EDK reader saw this one coming from a mile away, although not expecting it to arrive quite this soon.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Affectionate at least. No, i’ll still likely vote Paul in the primary. The general is the problem.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        So, you’re a registered Republican then.


      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        What problem?  All roads lead to Obama. The sky is blue.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          It’s possible that I will vote for Obama. I’d say it’s more likely at this point that I will vote for Johnson. It will not be an easy lever to pull either way given my distaste for voting third party.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            We’ll see, EDK.  I’ll seal my prediction in an envelope.  😉Report

          • Sam M in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            The vote for Obama would be an interesting choice. Even if Paul wrote the newsletters and believed every single word of them, I see little chance of that impacting any real policies.

            Obama, on the other hand, would continue to run the foreign wars, Gitmo and a host of other things that he has run for the past few years. This is not speculation. We have a track record.

            It’s an interesting claculation. The idea seems to be that “racist” is an absolute, unequivocal non-starter. Or even a whiff of racism. Again, fair enough. But… administering Iraq and Afghanistan and and the civil liberties is not?

            I’d vote for Roemer before that.Report

            • E.D. Kain in reply to Sam M says:

              I have no worries about Paul’s actual policies. I have a problem with the racism and bigotry expressed in those newsletters being directly attached to the POTUS. I’m leaning toward Johnson, like I said. In a month I could swing back to Paul. I’m fickle if you haven’t noticed.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Well, Paul’s also a liar, EDK, unless you buy his denials about the newsletters, which seems a lot for a reasonable man to swallow. Even if he didn’t somehow read the stuff his byline was on, he was laying down with some really dirty dogs, and has the fleas to show for it.Report

              • Sam M in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                “I have a problem with the racism and bigotry expressed in those newsletters being directly attached to the POTUS.”

                Fair enough. But what about the racism and bigotry of hard policies like the War on Drugs? These are policies that Obama has actively pursued.

                Rhetoric matters. Motives matter. But at the end of the day, if what you really care about is something like the “black community,” would it be better to vote for an NAACP board member who supports the War on Drugs, or a KKK member who opposes it? It’s all fine and good to care about racism and bigotry being expressed in newsletters. But if you honestly think that the War on Drugs is leading to countless deaths, millions of unjustified incarcerations, the devastation of communities across the land, and I think you honestly do believe that, it would seem that a vote for Paul would be the only choice. Except maybe a vote for Johnson.


              • E.D. Kain in reply to Sam M says:

                Right, and Johnson right now is more and more appealing. Look, I totally understand and even largely agree with what you’re saying. But the extent of these newsletters is really bothersome. Even though I really do like Ron Paul, I’m not sure that I could pull the lever for him after this – even fully agreeing with you on the policy questions. I think this sums up my feelings pretty well. I might feel differently if Johnson were not an option.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Sam M says:

              Maybe I’m reading Obama somewhat differently.   Obama’s heroes are Lincoln and to a lesser extent in modern times, (more as a cautionary example) Bill and Hillary Clinton.

              Bill Clinton turned his war in the Balkans over to the military, lock stock and barrel.   He didn’t interfere with the war making and kept steady pressure on the warring parties with competent statecraft, culminating in the Dayton Peace Accords.   Wesley Clark gave him a big win where every other warrior going back into ancient history had anything beyond a draw.

              Now I don’t propose to compare Libya to the Balkans beyond this cursory level, but Obama’s intervention in Libya was more like Clinton in the Balkans than Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Ecch, it’s a terrible comparison, I’ll grant you, eventually we did put boots on the ground as peacekeepers, but not for well over a year.   And we’re still there, more here.

              Lincoln grew ever-angrier as the Civil War dragged on.   He relieved commander after commander in search of someone who could win.   He found his man in Grant and Grant found his winner in Sherman and by God he got his victory.   The big loss came after the fighting ended:  Reconstruction was a botch, resulting in hurt feelings to this day.

              Obama tried to close Gitmo, the GOP would have none of it.   I’m not going to stick my neck out and say Obama’s been a firm advocate for civil liberties and open government as he promised.   He’s proven a sore disappointment in those regards.   But I just don’t see Endless War as part of Obama’s policy.   I see something else entirely, a president who has the human decency to know good men are dying for him.Report

  8. TomG says:

    I have the dubious “luck” to live in New York, so my vote for Gary Johnson ends up being a protest vote. But I feel that it’s my only option. I cannot support Obama much less vote for him, after the things he has failed to do in the field of freedom. None of the Republicans come close either – they are anti-evolution, anti-choice, and none save Paul is willing to end the War on (some) Drugs (and too many want to ratchet up the anti-Iran rhetoric).

    Voting for Gary Johnson is something that I won’t have to apologize for, or explain away. I won’t have to figuratively “hold my nose” in the voting booth.

    I refuse to buy into the false notion that by voting a third party I am merely helping one of the main two parties – that is one of the ways the big two stay in power, of course…by marginalizing anyone who seriously looks at alternatives.Report