Saturday, November 08, 2008

The U.S. clearly elected Obama... but doesn't want liberal politics? Huh?

By LindaBeth

I am thoroughly confused about the media arguing that the election of Obama does not mean Americans want liberal policies or that Obama should pursue them. Say what?

via Media Matters:

Then there's CNN's John King Wednesday night. Just try to follow his logic:

KING: Without a doubt, the electorate voted for Barack Obama, but still perceives him to be a liberal. And one thing you don't want to do when you win an election like this, a sweeping election like this, is alienate the people here in a place like Cincinnati. Why? George W. Bush carried that county four years ago. You don't want to drive them away.


So, Barack Obama is making inroads in communities that not too long ago voted Republican. The last thing you want to do if you want to keep them four years from now is to alienate them with a liberal agenda.

Right... people voted for Obama, but don't really believe in his platform. They perceive him to be a liberal, but don't actually want liberalism? Communities who previously have believed in conservative politics voting for a liberal politician could possibly have changed their minds about what direction we need to take, could they? Especially since the last 8 years have been sooo successful! And you wouldn't want to alienate them by enacting the changes you said you would make. Is this even any sort of logic?

Don't forget, after Bush's 2.5% victory spread in 2004, he claimed (indeed, he insisted) he had earned political capital and that he was going to spend it. After Obama's 6 point win, it's rather audacious it to suggest that Americans do not support liberal politics, as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has been suggesting:

Saying over and over that we are a "center-right" nation will not make it so.

And if Obama's administration is successful, perhaps "liberal" and "progressive" can change from being dirty words and as labels that politicians don't want to embrace.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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The 20 male poses of facebook

By non sequitur

As always, I'm just stealing the title of the thing I'm linking to. This is a very funny blog post about the 20 poses males use for their facebook profile picture. I'm pleased to say I'm pretty sure I've never used any of them. It's very witty and entertaining. Enjoy your weekend.

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The audacity of hype

By J. Kingston Pierce

It can only be attributed to the Republicant’s’ dismal failures in this most recent election cycle, that they should think Sarah Palin would be their best hope of winning the Oval Office back from President Barack Obama in 2012. Increasingly marginalized, so desperate for new ideas and a new direction that it is soliciting public help in figuring out what to do next, and blind to the fact that its devastating losses this week resulted from its being too right-wing, rather than too moderate, the GOP is foundering on a national scale. Why its membership would think that Palin offers them their best lifeline is beyond me.

Yet, according to the polling firm Rasmussen Reports,

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Republican voters say Alaska Governor Sarah Palin helped John McCain’s bid for the presidency, even as news reports surface that some McCain staffers think she was a liability.

Only 20% of GOP voters say Palin hurt the party’s ticket, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Six percent (6%) say she had no impact, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

Ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin, including 65% who say their view is Very Favorable. Only eight percent (8%) have an unfavorable view of her, including three percent (3%) Very Unfavorable.

When asked to choose among some of the GOP’s top names for their choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, 64% say Palin. The next closest contenders are two former governors and unsuccessful challengers for the presidential nomination this year--Mike Huckabee of Arkansas with 12% support and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with 11%.

Three other sitting governors--Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Charlie Crist of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota--all pull low single-digit support.

Again, these numbers demonstrate how out of touch Republican’ts are with the feelings of the nation as a whole. Just prior to the November 4 election, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 59 percent of voters surveyed said Palin wasn’t prepared for the job of vice president, much less president. Can her reputation be helped by the latest revelations, coming from FOX News and other GOP sources, that Palin didn’t know that Africa is a continent, rather than a country, and couldn’t name the three members of NAFTA (Canada, the United States, and Mexico)? There’s a chance that her right-wing Christianist fans, the folks in possession of today’s Republican’t Party, might continue to look on her favorably. But she couldn’t win in 2012 merely by appealing to that narrow base. Which is why Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are already currying favor with voters and backers they may need for a White House run four years from now. They’re banking on Palin’s star falling far in advance of the next presidential contest, and they hope to be there to pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, conservative political columnist Robert Novak--who’s
in denial that Obama won a governing mandate this week--is already touting disgraced former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the great white hope for GOPers in 2012. Writing in The Washington Post, Novak concedes that

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

Even one of his strongest supporters for president in 2012 admits it is a “very risky choice.” But Republicans are in a desperate mood after the fiasco of John McCain's seemingly safe candidacy.

Republicans seem chastened by the failure of seeking moderate, independent and even Democratic votes. They are ready to try going back to the “old-time religion.”

One Republican critic of Gingrich concedes that he has an “unlimited” energy flow and a constant stream of ideas, an important commodity in a party that appears to have run short of ideas during the Bush years. But there is widespread concern about what is described in the party as deep “character flaws” of Gingrich’s that would be difficult to overcome in a presidential campaign.

Nobody in Republican ranks, however, matches Gingrich’s dynamism.

“Deep ‘character flaws.’” That’s an oblique way of recalling that Gingrich threw a temper tantrum when he was denied prime seating on Air Force One during President Bill Clinton’s time in office; that he presented his first wife (of three) with divorce demands while she was still in a hospital bed recovering from surgery for uterine cancer; and that he was so arrogant, he thought he could shut down the federal government in 1995 and cast the blame on Clinton, only to have the American public turn on him instead. As fellow Republican’t Hall of Shame member Tom DeLay recalled in his 2007 book, No Retreat, No Surrender, Gingrich “made the mistake of his life” in testing the patience of Americans by trying to undermine Clinton’s authority.

Perhaps in comparison with Gingrich, the stumbling Sarah Palin looks good as a candidate four years from now. But it’s pretty foolish of Novak or anyone else in the GOP to begin speculating on who might take up the Republican’t banner in 2012. First, they ought to consider whether that banner stands for anything anymore, and if so, what. In the absence of such soul searching, the GOP is just a party on autopilot.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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Intelligence -- the next phase

By Carol Gee

President-elect Barack Obama got his first in-depth regular intelligence briefing from DNI Mike McConnell, according to Joby Warrick at the Washington Post. Obama was asked about this at his first news conference yesterday, but he declined to discuss it in any depth. To quote the Friday article (Post's links):

For nearly an hour yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama met with two of the country's top intelligence officers for an important rite of passage: his first full-blown classified briefing on national security.

. . . The Obama camp has offered no hints of how it plans to fill top intelligence posts, including the positions of director of national intelligence, now held by Mike McConnell, and CIA director, held by Michael V. Hayden. The decision is particularly complicated, because the rules and traditions for selecting intelligence officials are somewhat different from those for other administration appointees.

Unlike the directorship of the FBI, the top posts at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence do not come with a set term that transcends presidential administrations. And, while both officials are appointed by the president and serve at his pleasure, the White House has broader discretion in filling intelligence posts and can elect to keep the current leadership in place.

We did hear a bit, however. P-E Obama said that intelligence gathering can always improve, adding that he believes there has been improvement already. Already in the national security groove, he declined to tell MSNBC's Candy Crowley whether anything he heard "gave him pause."

President-elect Obama now has an official transition website, "" Here is what the "agenda/homeland security" section has to say about Intel and civil liberties. To quote:

    Improve Intelligence Capacity and Protect Civil Liberties

  • Improve Information Sharing and Analysis: Barack Obama will improve our intelligence system by creating a senior position to coordinate domestic intelligence gathering; establishing a grant program to support thousands more state and local level intelligence analysts and increasing our capacity to share intelligence across all levels of government.

  • Give Real Authority to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board: Created by Congress and recommended by the 9/11 Commission, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board needs to be substantially reformed and empowered to safeguard against an erosion in American civil liberties. As president, Barack Obama will support efforts to strengthen the Board with subpoena powers and reporting responsibilities, will give the Board a robust mandate designed to protect American civil liberties and will demand transparency from the Board to ensure accountability.

  • Strengthen Institutions to Fight Terrorism: Overseas, Barack Obama will establish a Shared Security Partnership Program to invest $5 billion over three years to improve cooperation between U.S. and foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This program will include information sharing, as well as funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and the targeting of terrorist financing.

Warrick's WaPo article speculated about heads of Intelligence Services replacements and revealed that McConnell expects to be replaced as DNI, but that General Hayden might be willing to continue to head the CIA, stating that,

Within intelligence circles the speculation is centering on former intelligence officials who are close to the Obama team, including John O. Brennan, the former interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), former ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee. . .

Both men [Haden & McConnell] assumed their current jobs in Bush's second term and were not directly tainted by the controversies over faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or the decision to use waterboarding and other harsh techniques on suspected terrorists in secret CIA prisons.

When the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill was passed in June 2008, I was very disappointed that (then) Senator Obama voted for it. We now know that his vote was clearly a manifestation of his Pragmatist self, intended to reinforce his national security credentials for the election. My post written at the time includes his statement about what drove his decision. My hope today is that his Constitutional Law professor self will kick in and make changes that will reinstate our lost civil liberties. Time will tell.

The Obama transition website,, has a section titled "American Moment," where readers are invited to "share your story" or "share your vision." Transparency and participation being the hallmarks of an Obama presidency, I am thinking of sending our next president (ONP, as opposed to OCP, our current president) some thoughts from my Civil Libertarian self. Any suggestions?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The airwaves were full of compassion and light

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What a week. I still feel like I'm exhaling.

I have a lot to get to, and I will, this weekend, much more on the election and on what lies ahead for Obama, but, for now, here's a wonderful video that Creature and I posted earlier this year. Set to Roger Waters's "The Tide is Turning," it's deeply moving and profoundly inspirational, capturing what Obama's win was all about.

If you haven't seen it yet, please take the time to do so.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

The Reaction in review (Nov. 7, 2008)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By Capt. Fogg: "Le mot juste" -- this fine little post captures President-elect Obama's first news conference.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Gap narrows in Minnesota Senate race, recount looming" -- The closeness, along with the complexity of the race for Minnesota's Senate race is explained, leaving Michael with mixed feelings about Lieberman if the Senate goes to 59 Dems (see "The boot.")


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Something Stinks in Alaska" -- Michael reacts to the story of a possible "ton" of missing votes in the Alaska election count.


By Libby Spencer: "The audacity of hope" -- Libby's post is so beautiful expressed that you absolutely must not miss it; her tears are our tears too.

By Dan Tobin: "The audacity of hope looks less audacious today" -- Dan's wonderful and uplifting post begins, "In the heat of the moment I promised 1000 reasons for exultant joy, but for now I'll just offer two, one about race, and one about America."

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Reflections on the election" -- Michael's wise and objective "take" on the election across the border that has meant so much to him.

By Carol Gee: "President-elect Barack Obama" -- Conclusions about the meaning of this momentous election, along with the emotions of the day.

By Carl: "A dream delayed, but not denied" -- Share the joy as our New York blogger celebrates Barack Obama's victory in a magnificent piece of writing.

By non sequitur: "What the election means to me, or Some Emo election post" -- Our returning writer pens a great and edgy piece, filled with fascinating "takes" on this very big political thing we're experiencing.

By Mustang Bobby: "Political history" -- Bobby skilfully reminisces about his campaign and election experiences, shedding light on memories that could also have meaning for the rest of us.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Live-blogging the 2008 presidential election: 'Change has come to America.' " -- From 6:30 PM to 1:30 AM, Michael's put up another tour de force, ending with Obama's e-mail to supporters and 49 great comments.

By Creature: "Nice stuff" -- Creature features a couple of lovely election vignettes saying, "The importance of tonight cannot be overstated."

By LindaBeth: "Maddow on a new poll tax" -- This post advocates for less onerous voting procedures, includes video.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "BREAKING NEWS: Obama's grandmother dies" -- Michael's sensitive rendering of this material deserves a second look.

By Edward Copeland: "Pre-election day hopes" -- Edward voices ideas about election outcomes with which many of us can identify.

Bonus Feature by Carol Gee -- Brand new website address of the Office of the President-elect: ( The site invites citizen participation with space to input inspiring campaign or election day stories. Stop by and take a peek or just leave your own story.
"Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." -- President-elect Barack Obama

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Le mot juste

By Capt. Fogg

A kind word turneth away wrath and saying just the right thing can create confidence. President-elect Barack Obama said all the right things and looked as presidential as anyone ever has in his first press conference this afternoon. Chris Matthews even had to admit that there was no sign of a "redistributive" mood in his tax plan although in fact there never was, and who could resist a smile when Obama compared himself to a mutt from the animal shelter?

This is a man confident in himself and who appears to be confident in his ability and confident in our country. It's in sharp contrast to the anonymous e-mail I got last night showing the Obama campaign logo as African tribesmen danced almost naked around a fire. So while I've come to feel that for once I voted for someone I believe in rather than the lesser of two evils; while I am at this moment as proud of the USA as I have been and more proud than I have been in many years, I'm beginning to daydream about blowing the heads off racists.

A Christian friend of mine once said that such people were ignorant and should be pitied. I know he's right, but it doesn't help. It only encourages them. So whoever you are "floridajoker" be aware that pity only makes my aim better.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Gap narrows in Minnesota Senate race, recount looming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Coleman was up by 725 on election night and declared victory on Wednesday, but the gap kept narrowing. I had it at 694 on Wednesday afternoon, then at 462 just a couple of hours later. By yesterday morning, it was 438. It's now at 239:

-- Coleman: 1,211,540
-- Franken: 1,211,301

(Or: 42 to 42.)

Coleman pressed Franken not to push for a recount, arguing that it would be too expensive (actually, it will cost only about $86,000), but Franken rightly declined, saying that "a recount could change the outcome significantly" and that the "goal is to ensure that every vote is properly counted."

Coleman declared victory -- with the word "VICTORY" posted on his website -- after Franken said he would proceed with the recount, which, as the Star-Tribune noted (link above), "would [have been] automatic because of the closeness of the vote." (Franken also said that "his campaign was investigating alleged voting irregularities at some polling places in Minneapolis.")

Coleman's "victory" declaration was clearly a pre-emptive move in the spirit of Bush 2000. Like "Mission Accomplished," though, it could come back to haunt him.

The recount hasn't started yet, but Franken has still made up ground. One reason is human error. For example (link above):

Just as Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was explaining to reporters the recount process in one of the narrowest elections in Minnesota history, an aide rushed in with news: Pine County's Partridge Township had revised its vote total upward -- another 100 votes for Democratic candidate Al Franken, putting him within .011 percentage points of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

The reason for the change? Exhausted county officials had accidentally entered 24 for Franken instead of 124 when the county's final votes were tallied at 5:25 Wednesday morning.

"That's why we have recounts," Ritchie said, surveying the e-mail sent in from the county auditor. "Human error. People make mistakes."

Very true, but the technology isn't perfect either. As Jon Chait points out at The Plank (and it's from his post that I'm linking to the Star-Tribune articles), the optical scan ballot system used in Minnesota are prone to error, too.

It may be too much for Franken to make up the remaining difference, but a recount is absolutely necessary. You never know.


There were, post-election, four undecided Senate races: Minnesota, Georgia, Oregon, and Alaska. Oregon has gone to the Democrat, the whole situation in Alaska stinks, Georgia is poised for a run-off, and there will now be a recount in Minnesota.

I don't expect Chambliss, the Republican incumbent, to lose the run-off in Georgia (where he won by three but didn't quite make it to 50 percent), but the Democrats could end up taking both Alaska and Minnesota, which would give them 59, including Lieberman.

(Which is what I was projecting before Tuesday -- yes, I thought they would win both Alaska and Minnesota.)

I've argued that the Democrats should give Lieberman the boot, but what if they're at 59? Hmmm.

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Post-election: Time for everybody to regroup

By Carol Gee

Few in the progressive blogosphere have totally adjusted to the excitement of a new election reality. It will take some considerable time for me to regroup after the election, to adjust to all this. Events, however, have a way of taking over. Therefore, our job is to just get on board and catch up.

Noteworthy events -- Neilson reports that 71.4 million people watched the election returns. Regarding Republicans, Julie Myers is resigning# early as the Head of ICE in the Department of Homeland Security. This followed her apparent leak of Obama's aunt's name and immigration status. GOP policy changes are being discussed among the old guard. Bill Kristol thinks it would be a good idea to keep PNAC going,# "to help Omama if he does the right thing." God help us! And among Congressional Republicans, resignations and switches are happening with the speed only losers can muster. And all John Boehner seems to be able to do is bluster. The Alaskan election situation* is very murky, and all Palin fans do is continue to dig their hole deeper.#

Regarding Democrats -- At the same time, a winning Obama is also moving with speed on setting his permanent White House staff, but for very different reasons. Get used to these names: Rahm Emanuel -- Chief of Staff, Robert Gibbs -- Press Secretary, and Larry Summers (in the lead for Treasury Secretary), according to Fortune Magazine. It cannot happen too soon. President-elect Obama has already spoken with a significant number of world leaders. Our current president's (OCP) economic summit is scheduled for November 15. President-elect Obama has not yet decided whether to attend.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Krugman on Obama's mandate

By Libby Spencer

Building on Digby's call to action, our honorary DFH Paul Krugman works the new narrative. Read it all but here's a few choice grafs:

Maybe the best way to highlight the importance of that fact is to contrast this year’s campaign with what happened four years ago. In 2004, President Bush concealed his real agenda. He basically ran as the nation’s defender against gay married terrorists, leaving even his supporters nonplussed when he announced, soon after the election was over, that his first priority was Social Security privatization. That wasn’t what people thought they had been voting for, and the privatization campaign quickly devolved from juggernaut to farce.

This year, however, Mr. Obama ran on a platform of guaranteed health care and tax breaks for the middle class, paid for with higher taxes on the affluent. John McCain denounced his opponent as a socialist and a “redistributor,” but America voted for him anyway. That’s a real mandate. [...]

What F.D.R. said in his second inaugural address — “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics” — has never rung truer.

It's too early to tell how an Obama administration, (gee doesn't that still sound like a miracle), will play out. I continue to harbor some residual fear that he will move too much to the center right, but he's surprised me many times in the last two years over this hellishly long contest. For the first time in decades, I really do feel there's hope for a more progressive future. It's a good feeling.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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A self-evident truth

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is one of the best post-election cartoons I've seen -- from WaPo's Tom Toles (via Slate):

Though there is still a long way to go, and still much to do, Americans should be very proud of their country and its noble ideals. I certainly am.

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Nailin' Palin, Wasilla Hillbilly

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Following up on co-blogger non sequitur's post from last night on the post-election attacks on Palin, here's the now-infamous report from Carl Cameron on Fox News (via Josh Marshall). Partly in response to these attacks, pro-Palin conservatives are circling the wagons. RedState, for example, has launched Operation Leper, aimed at exposing the attackers in the McCain campaign and destroying them. (Also, Palin's chief cheerleader in the right-wing punditocrazy, Krazy Bill Kristol, is going after the leakers in the McCain camp. He is no doubt upset about the attacks on Palin.)

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The boot; or, what the Democrats should give Lieberman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Lieberman met with Reid yesterday, and, as HuffPo reported, apparently wants to remain in the Democratic caucus (and to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee):

Reid offered Lieberman a deal to step down as chairman of the homeland security committee but take over the reins of another subcommittee, likely overseeing economic or small business issues, officials said.

Immediately after his meeting with Reid, Lieberman told reporters that he had not made a decision about his future in the caucus, and appeared to launch his first public appeal to members of the Democratic steering committee, whose members decide committee chair assignments.

"I completely agree with President-elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe. That is exactly what I intend to do with my colleagues here in the Senate in support of our new president, and those are the standards I will use in considering the options that I have before me," Lieberman told reporters.

How does Lieberman have any options left? Why should he be allowed to choose what he wants to do? As far as I'm concerned, he shouldn't just be kicked out of his prestigious chairmanship, he should be kicked out of the caucus altogether.

I've made the argument before, in his favour (though quite some time ago -- so long ago that I can'd find the link right now -- UPDATE: here it is), that the Democratic Party should be inclusive enough even for Lieberman to have a place in it, but the fact is, he's no longer much of a Democrat, if one at all, and, ultimately, the party needs to have its standards. It's not just that he supported McCain and took every opportunity to slam Obama and his Democratic colleagues in Congress, it's that he seems to relish his Republican-leaning, Bush-friendly independent status. Which is fine. Let him be an independent. As Harry Reid put it following the meeting, "While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our Caucus." Surely that's an understatement.

Anyway, no decisions have been made as to Lieberman's future, and, at least for now, he's keeping his beloved chairmanship.

As Jane Hamsher put it, "Enough is enough." If you agree, sign the petition.

Whether they end up with 56 or 57 seats, not counting his, the Democrats don't need him anymore. Besides, it's not like he's a reliable Democrat anymore. Even with 59 seats, what guarantee would there be that he would side with the Democrats on tight votes, or to help them reach 60? It seems to me they'd be better off trying to win the support of moderate Republicans like the two from Maine, Snowe and Collins, than caving in and hoping for the best with Lieberman.

Even now, all he's doing is trying to get the best deal for himself from whichever party will give him the most, and spinning his calculated machinations as agreement with Obama. The Democrats should give him nothing at all.

Enough is indeed enough. Democrats, give him the boot.

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Idiot of the Day: Joe Wurzelbacher (yup, he's still around and still smearing Obama)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Joe the Plumber: welfare queen (and one of the stupidest people in America).


(He was also our IotD here. Everytime he opens his mouth he's an IotD. He needs to fade into obscurity again. Now.)

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Obama names Rahm Emanuel his chief of staff. So what does it mean?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Clintonite and Congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted Obama's offer to be his chief of staff.

Like David Corn and Ezra Klein, I'm ambivalent about it. On the one hand, Emanuel hasn't exactly been an ally of the liberal-progressive elements in the Democratic Party. On the other hand, he's a tough, hard-nosed insider and aggressive partisan with White House experience. So what does his appointment mean? What does it signal with respect to the Obama presidency?

-- Is Obama signalling that he prefers centrist Clintonism to progressivism, that he'll govern from the center and twist arms as required?

-- Is Obama signalling that he'll be aggressively partisan with respect to Congress, that he's tough and ready to do battle?

-- Is he signalling anything at all?

Here's how I put it on Wednesday: "I'm not sure this signifies much. It's too early to conclude that Obama will govern from the 'center,' or that he will align himself with the less progressive side of the party. What is essential is that Obama have a chief of staff in whom he has full confidence and can place his full trust. Emanuel, in that regard, may be right for the job."

In other words, this is about the very close relationship that a president has with his chief of staff. The president must like and trust his chief of staff. That was certainly the case with Bush and Card and it also seems to be the case with Obama and Emanuel. Emanuel will likely be more of a hands-on, policy-oriented chief of staff, but, in the end, his job will be to run the West Wing and manage Obama's internal and external relationships. If Obama thinks that Emanuel is the right man for the job, then so be it. End of discussion. I trust Obama's judgment.

Then again, as Corn puts it: "Emanuel might make a good CoS for Obama. He knows how the White House operates. He knows how Congress works. He's fierce; he's smart. And Obama needs someone with experience and brains for this tough job. But should the White House of a president seeking change be run by a fellow who has done so well in the conventional and monied ways of Washington?"

For now, I'll give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Knives come out for Palin

By non sequitur

Okay, so I just stole the title of this article. Apparently McCain's aides are wasting no time not only blaming Palin for the loss but visiting as much public humiliation upon her as they possibly can. The article has some juicy details--the aides claim, for instance, that Palin spent far more on clothes than the infamous $150,000, and that she even had campaign staffers buy her things using their private credit cards (something the campaign chieftains discovered only this week when the staffers asked for reimbursement). And, of course, there's plenty of information that is now comic but would have been terrifying had McCain won: apparently Palin insisted that South Africa was a region of the larger country of Africa. Yes, country. And it seems the Republican Party is sending a lawyer to Alaska to catalogue and reclaim all of Palin's clothing purchases.

In other words, things have gotten very nasty very quickly. Why? Some possible explanations I can think of:

1) Pure, genuine anger. The McCain advisors really believe Palin lost them the election, and/or that she was a horrendous pain in the ass to have to deal with (apparently she refused tutoring before her disasterous interviews with Katie Couric, then "threw angry temper tantrums over their mishandling of her when the Couric interviews went badly"). The campaign managers held their tongues as best they could while the election was still going on (which really wasn't very well), and now are letting it all spill out.

2) Self-preservation. However execrable you think Palin is (and believe me, I'd rather find myself saying "President Tom Cruise" than "President Sarah Palin"), she can't be blamed for the choice to put her on the ticket. Nor, I would think, was it her decision to spend so much of the final weeks of the campaign in Pennsylvania rather than Ohio or Florida, long after all the public polls had it safely in Obama's column. Palin the ditzy hillbilly makes a good scapegoat.

3) Concern for the future of the GOP. For the sake of the party's future, these advisors may want to torpedo Palin's national political career as best they can now (by the way, was I the only one amused when McCain made a point of mentioning that Palin would be returning to Alaska?). They agree with those who are saying this election marks the end of the southern strategy and social wedge issues as effective national political tools (I talked about this a little here). I would love to see a Palin-Huckabee ticket in 2012, but thinking Republicans have every reason to try to stop such a thing from happening. So it's interesting to wonder if this is some kind of long-range political calculation.

In the end, I doubt it. I suspect the dirt-dishing and name calling--Palin and her family behaved like a band of "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast"--is largely just frustration and an attempt to pin all the blame on a politician who is considered equal parts laughable, contemptible and frightening by everyone but the ignorant and irrational base of the Republican Party. Whatever the motivation, it is entertaining.

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Idiot of the Day: Silvio Berlusconi

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Actually, idiot may not be the right word for it. For what the Italian prime minister said today reflected not just foot-in-mouth disease, to which he often succumbs, but mind-boggling ignorance:

I will try to help relations between Russia and the United States where a new generation has come to power, and I don't see problems for Medvedev to establish good relations with Obama who is also handsome, young and suntanned.

That's right. Berlusconi called Obama suntanned.

If he was joking, then he's a jerk. If not, then he's a narrow-minded fool.

Anything is possible with one of Europe's most corrupt and detestable leaders.

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Could Obama actually win an electoral vote in Nebraska?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Believe it or not, yes (like Maine, Nebraska apportions its electoral votes by congressional district):

[Obama's] odds of bagging an electoral vote in Nebraska grew stronger this morning, with word that 10,000 to 12,000 early ballots and 5,200 provisional ballots are left to count in Douglas County.

Obama won about 61 percent of the early votes counted before Tuesday's election. If that percentage holds with the early ballots left to count, Obama stands a strong chance of winning the Omaha-area 2nd Congressional District.

Republicans did not concede defeat this morning, but they acknowledged the long odds.

John McCain held a 569-vote lead over Obama in the 2nd District at the end of Tuesday.

Not that it matters much at this point, but of course it helps Obama, in terms of his mandate to govern, to have won all over the country, including in a Republican stronghold like the South (Virginia, North Carolina), in formerly Republican-leaning swing states like Nevada and Colorado, and in traditionally Republican states like Indiana.

Winning even just a single electoral vote in a solid red state like Nebraska -- which I must admit I didn't think was even remotely likely -- would be an extra bit of icing, a dollop of sweetness, on the cake that was the 2008 election.

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Something stinks in Alaska

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"What In The Hell Happened in Alaska?" asked Nate Silver yesterday.

Good question.

As of right now, Republican incumbent Ted Stevens is leading Democratic challenger Mark Begich 48 to 47 (with 99 percent reporting) in their Senate race. The margin is 3,353 (with almost 210,000 votes counted).

As I mentioned yesterday, however, there are tens of thousands of ballots left to count: absentee and early ballots, as well as questioned ones.

So what stinks?

1) As Nate Silver points out, even with all the ballots left to be counted, the total number of votes will only be about 270,000, far less than the 313,000 cast in 2004.

2) As Nate also points out, the polls showed Begich well ahead. And it wasn't just the Senate race. The polls also showed Republican incumbent Don Young well behind Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz in their House race (Young ended up winning by a fairly large margin, 52 to 44) and the presidential race much closer than it turned out to be (McCain won by 26 points). So, "even if Begich were to make up ground and win a narrow victory, this would seem to represent a catastrophic failure of polling."

Nate posits three possible explanations:

1) Democratic complency (suppressing Democratic turnout and keeping turnout down overall).

2) Heavy Democratic bias in absentee and early voting (meaning that Begich could overtake Stevens and the other two votes could tighten).

3) Heavy Democratic bias among the "questionable" ballots (meaning that many Democratic votes weren't counted, suggesting possible corruption).

All three may be right.

What remains curious, though, is the significantly lower vote count than in 2004 -- can complacency really be the reason? Don't rule out the possibility of corruption here, or at least a Florida-like bias against Democratic ballots.

Alaska, after all, is hardly a bastion of clean and open government.

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Ending the conflict

By Carol Gee

It will not be quick or easy. By conflict I mean the wars abroad and those at home. Many of feel that this election has ended our "long dark night" of discouragement, pessimism and battling to change things. "Unity" and "reconciliation" were among the watch words used to describe what CHANGE meant. Where to start?

Abroad includes all of the Middle East. President-elect Obama has committed to ending the occupation of Iraq in a responsible way, and refocusing on the conflicts in Afghanistan and the nearby border regions of Pakistan. This will amount to first figuring out what to call the new conflicts, besides the "war on terror," such a misnomer. After that it amounts to a laser beam focus on destabilizing and interrupting al Qaeda. Then the entire military needs to be repaired and re-purposed. Well, optimism says that all should be a piece of cake, huh? The pessimists among us will say that it will be impossible to disengage from Iraq; it is too fragile and we dare not "lose."

Discouraged others say that the military industrial complex is too formidable to reform or refocus, let alone dismantle.

At home includes conflict within and without the two main political parties, conflict among social classes and ethnic groups, and even the conflicts within our families and smaller social circles. No problem says the optimist. We'll get started on that right away, too. Whoa, there, say the pessimists. Does not psychology, sociology, anthropology and political theory maintain that conflict is a natural and inevitable part of the human condition? Homo sapiens is a fighting species, biologically programmed to favor the winners to be the fittest, the survivors? Pessimistically, we could always be fighting.

Conflict, how to end it? The cynic in me says, forget it. The job is too big and too hard. I talked about the weight of the world on our new leader's thin shoulders in yesterday's post . My friend betmo's comment was this:

"We are all a bit older and grayer and more subdued after 12 years of the yoke of wrong rule. The weight of the world should be shouldered by all of us. We should lift Obama up to be the leader he needs to be by shouldering the responsibility for change - millions of shoulders carry a lot of weight."

Conflict remains at home and abroad. Where is the rational middle ground to start to diminish conflict? What should we realistically work towards, now that we the people of good will are all joined in this common effort of CHANGE? I cannot think of a better way to look at the question that though my reader's powerful thoughts.

We cannot afford to be overly optimistic or pessimistic. We must figure out what is realistic. And it is realistic for me to say to myself, not speaking for anyone else, I am capable of figuring out what my shoulders can carry. I know what I know how to do, what I have the capacity to accomplish, what are realistic goals that can be met just by me alone. Whew! That feels do-able, rational and realistic. I cannot presume to speak for, dream for or plan for others. That is theirs to do... or not.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Where McCain did well: Poverty, race, and the vote against Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Via Yglesias, check out this interesting map showing where McCain did well in '08 in relation to Bush in '04.

It makes sense that he would do better in Arizona and Alaska, as well as in the Florida panhandle and parts of Georgia (given his military record), but his strength was clearly in that dark-red swathe that, from west to east, begins in Oklahoma, sweeps across Arkansas, Tennessee, and northern Alabama, dipping down into northern and eastern Texas, as well as most of Louisiana, and then moves to the northeast into eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, the western tip of Virginia, and, ultimately, southwestern Pennsylvania.

What to make of this? Well, it's not entirely clear. Why northern Alabama but not, so much, northern Mississippi? In fact, why Mississippi hardly at all? (Without looking into it closely, I suspect that high black turnout had a lot to do with it.) Similarly, why not South Carolina? (Perhaps because Obama did well there in the primaries and there was lingering anti-McCain sentiment from 2000.)

Well, I would suggest that it has more to do with Obama than with McCain. In a word: race.

The dark-red swathe doesn't correspond to Appalachia strictly speaking, and of course there is racism all over America (in Idaho, for example, where there is no red at all), but these are states with substantial working-class white populations, and where Obama had problems during the primaries -- Hillary won Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and, of course, Pennsylvania (although there were other factors at work there, such as the fact that she had the Democratic establishment behind her). The only exception is Louisiana, which Obama won, and where there is a large black population, even post-Katrina, in New Orleans. In fact, other than Louisiana, these states don't have any major urban areas with large black populations -- other than Memphis, Tennessee, perhaps. There is no Atlanta in Arkansas or West Virginia, for example.

North Carolina, which isn't red, is an interesting exception. Obama seems to have won it narrowly, significantly outperforming Kerry. Along with Virginia, it seems to be trending blue.

One other thing: The dark-red swathe isn't just predominantly white, it's also exceedingly poor. So it seems that McCain did well -- actually, did his best -- in a part of the country that is poor and white. Again, though, that no doubt had much more to do with the colour of his opponent's skin than with anything about McCain himself.

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Merkley defeats Smith

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Oregonian is projecting that Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley has beaten Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in Oregon's closely contested Senate race. Smith was ahead on election night, and into yesterday, but late-counted votes from Multnomah (Portland) and Lane (Eugene) counties put Merkley over the top.

It is currently 49 to 46 for Merkley, with 82 percent reporting.

This brings the Democratic total to 57 seats. (For more on the ongoing races in Minnesota, Georgia, and Alaska, see here.)


UPDATE: Smith concedes.

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Facebook wingnuttery

By Michael J.W. Stickings

'Impeach Obama' groups pop up on Facebook

And don't even compare these groups to the 'Impeach Bush' ones. Bush has eight years of offensive presidential behaviour behind him. Obama was just elected two days ago.

If I may make the understatement of the day, there will be certainly be no shortage of craziness, viciousness, and utter nastiness directed at President Obama.

(I think that's the first time since the election I've written "President Obama." It felt really good. And it looks even better.)

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By Carl

I don't know if you noticed it, but towards the end of the presidential campaign, a new talking point was trotted out by the punditocracy in the face of an overwhelming defeat: "America is a center-right nation."

It is so pervasive, and moved so quickly through the blogosphere, that even John Meacham of Newsweek, who generally maintains the least veneer of plausibility and objectivity, trotted it out:

So are we a centrist country, or a right-of-center one? I think the latter, because the mean to which most Americans revert tends to be more conservative than liberal. According to the NEWSWEEK Poll, nearly twice as many people call themselves conservatives as liberals (40 percent to 20 percent), and Republicans have dominated presidential politics -- in many ways the most personal, visceral vote we cast -- for 40 years. Since 1968, Democrats have won only three of 10 general elections (1976, 1992 and 1996), and in those years they were led by Southern Baptist nominees who ran away from the liberal label. "Is this a center-right country? Yes, compared to Europe or Canada it's obviously much more conservative," says Adrian Wooldridge, coauthor of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America" and Washington bureau chief of the London-based Economist. "There's a much higher tolerance for inequality, much greater cultural conservatism, a higher incarceration rate, legalized handguns and greater distrust of the state."

Bollocks, as the Brits would say. The election Tuesday certainly put paid to the authority of most of these folks to speak "for America", for one thing, but, as David Sirota points out, poll after poll after poll suggests that Americans are moving away from centrist-right positions and towards center-left, and even leftist, positions on social issue after social issue.

It's sad, in a way, to watch the right-wing meltdown that's happened in front of our eyes, but not unexpected. When you've been running the show and silencing dissent for thirty years, it's hard to focus on what happens when the rug is pulled out from under you. Ironically, the election of Clinton in 1992 should have sent the Republicans scurrying for a re-evaluation of their positions and platforms, and more important, their slavish devotion to the forces of intolerance and religion.

The chipping away of the clear majority that the Republicans had under Ronald Reagan, in terms of the electorate at any rate, should have been a sign to Karl Rove and Newt Gingrinch and their minions and successors that a permanent Republican majority was not only improbable, but impossible.

When your echo chamber shrinks, apparently, you merely think it's becoming more and more crowded.

The overwhelming truth is, when America is in trouble, voters run towards progressivism. Right now, America is a center-left nation.

Greed has its place in the nation, and the grand struggle for the soul of this nation is between our liberal charitable "better angels" of Abraham Lincoln and our "greed is good" conservative philosophies of the Gordon Gekkos of the world.

Ironically, as Harry Truman was wont to point out, "if you want to live like a Republican, vote for a Democrat." It's true, as a cursory study of recent national economic history will show, the Carter years notwithstanding. Our brand of "socialism," the one the pundits were twisting their knickers about, is actually very good for all people, rich and poor. Greed, in small doses, is probably good for America.

America, in terms of current policy, is center-right. I make no mistake about that. The trouble with judging a nation by its policies is that, particularly in a two-party system, those policies are reflective of the people in power and the people in power are not necessarily the majority voice. Indeed, Barack Obama's greatest achievement may be that he has fused power and popularity. In this, his admiration of Ronald Reagan, anathemic as it may have been, holds true, since Reagan was the last president to have a clear and true mandate from the voters.

Thirty years ago, Mr. Meacham. A full generation ago. Now, the tide has turned.

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Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina (and my fairly accurate predictions)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

These were the three states I was focusing on going into the election, assuming that Obama would win the other battleground states (including Ohio and Pennsylvania), and they were the three I was paying the most attention to on election night (along with Florida and Virginia).

Here's an update:

Indiana: Called for Obama, who is up 50-49 with 99 percent reporting. That's a spread of just over 26,000 votes in a state with over 2.7 million votes cast.

Missouri: Still undecided, 50-49 for McCain with 100 percent reporting. But 50-49 doesn't quite capture it. With almost 2.9 million votes cast, McCain is up by less than 6,000 votes.

North Carolina: Still undecided, 50-49 for Obama with 100 percent reporting. Again, though, 50-49 doesn't quite capture how close it is. With over 4.2 million votes cast, Obama is up by just over 14,000 votes.


Now, with just Missouri and North Carolina left, it's currently 349-163 for Obama. Let's look back at my pre-election prediction: 375-163 for Obama. So far, if I may toot my own horn for a moment, I've gotten it all right. But I did give both Missouri and North Carolina to Obama. If the current results hold, he'll win the latter but not the former. Which will mean that I got everything right except... Missouri.

(Shaking my fists.) Missouri! Dammit.

As for the national popular vote, I predicted (in an e-mail to friends -- you'll have to trust me on this) Obama by seven points, 53-46.

Oh, what's that? It's currently 53-46 for Obama. Huh. Interesting.

Where I may have gotten it wrong was with the Senate, where I predicted the Democrats would end up with 59 seats post-election. It's currently 56-40. For more on the four undecided races, see what I wrote yesterday. It's possible that the Democrats will win three of the four, but unlikely. At most, I think, they'll win two: Oregon and Alaska. In fact, it looks like they'll win Oregon, now that the votes are coming in from Portland and Merkley has overtaken Smith.

(I also predicted the Democrats would pick up 28 seats in the House. So far, with eight races still undecided, they've only picked up 18. It seems I underestimated both the power of incumbency and Obama's influence down-ballot.)

Alright, enough horn-tooting. I'm exhausted, burnt out, and I need to get some rest tonight. I have a lot more to say, but it'll have to wait.

But keep checking back with us. As always, we'll have a lot more for you.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How the election played in Canada

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Obama's win was all over the front pages of our newspapers today and the lead story on our television news. From what I could tell, it was a really big deal for Canadians. I know that's not exactly a scientific way to put it, but I do know that public opinion polls showed overwhelming support for Obama leading up to the election, that there was genuine interest in the election and its outcome, and that, by and large, Canadians were paying very close attention. Certainly among the people I work with, political junkies at the Government of Ontario, the attention was obsessive. And as for me, well, just take a look at this blog.

Basically, what happens in the U.S. affects us Canadians profoundly. It's as simple as that. And Obama's win was, and is, a celebrated event. We understand its historic significance. We understand what it means both for the U.S. and for the world. And we wanted change, too. In a way, the president of the United States is sort of our president, too. Not to take anything away from our own democratically elected officials, but the president wields enormous influence here. It may be indirect most of the time, but it is nonetheless tangible. The impact of American economic policy, for example, doesn't end at America's borders. Just like our friends to the south, if less intimately, and if less dramatically, we have suffered through eight years of Bush. Thankfully, we now have Obama.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along some anecdotal evidence of the significance of yesterday's election:

I work in downtown Toronto at the main provincial government complex. At lunch today, I went for a walk in search of The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal or USA Today. It's fairly easy to find these and other major American newspapers in Toronto, and I wanted one or more of them as keepsakes. But... nothing. I couldn't find anything anywhere. Everywhere I went, almost everything was sold out. At most, there were a few copies left of our major Toronto papers. At one newsstand, the guy told me that pretty much everything was gone by 10 am. Not just at his place but, from what he'd heard, pretty much everywhere.

Now, I realize that many of the copies may have been bought up by Americans. There are a lot of them here in Toronto. But what was clear was that I wasn't alone in wanting an American newspaper today. The election -- and specifically Obama's win -- was an historic event the likes of which we are rarely privileged to witness. And people, many people, many Canadians, wanted to remember it, to have something to commemorate it, to have a newspaper they could look at years from now, perhaps even generations from now, to show their children and grandchildren. It is that important to us.

As for me, my younger daughter is too young to take anything from the election, but I'm happy that my older one, who is eight, was able to be witness history. This morning, as I was getting ready for work, she called out to me: "Who won?" "Obama," I said, and she was happy. Barack Obama, after all, will soon be her president, too.

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The audacity of hope

By Libby Spencer

It was quite a night, wasn't it? I laughed. I cried. I'm still tearing up at intervals as I look at the photos and the full impact of this historic moment hits me. I feel about as stunned as I did on this day in 04, only this time it's in a good way. I want to stand on my deck and shout, "Thank you America for repudiating the lies and the hatemongering of the extremists who hijacked our country for so many years."

I want to go out and hug every single person who fought so hard to make this moment happen. Every campaign worker who toiled beyond human endurance to get out the largest vote in a hundred years. Every person who talked to their friends and families and neighbors and sold them on the idea that hope still exists and can overcome hate. Every blogger that risked carpal tunnel in a relentless assault of pixels on the intertubes, pushing back against the false narratives that threatened to turn this election into an American Idol contest.

Of course, the election of President Barack Hussien Obama is not the end of this fight, it's just the beginning. It's clear that he understands that too. I was struck by the tone of his acceptance speech. There was little jublilation over victory in his sober rhetoric as he hoisted the weight of his new responsiblities onto his slender shoulders. One can see the heaviness of that burden already manifesting in the increasing lines in his face and the new gray in his temples.

There's much work left to be done in bringing the millions of citizens who are even now stockpiling weapons against what they apparently truly believe will be the coming of some kind of Marxist-Socialist-Communist-Muslim-Gay-terrorist coup, back into reality, (assuming that can ever be done) and the dire problems that plagued us two days ago didn't disappear with President Obama's election. The world as we knew it before Bush won't ever return again. But I don't want to deal with that today. For this one day, I just want to savor the moment.

The whole world changed last night and although the challenges ahead are great, I believe we finally took a step in a better direction. For the first time in eight long years, I woke up without that crushing weight of concern bearing down on my chest about the future of my child and my grandchild. For this one day I just want to breathe that in. I want to wallow in the audacity of hope, and relish my rekindled pride in my President and our country. It's been a long time since I've felt it.

[photo credit]

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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What it all means; or, some bombastic post-election post

By non sequitur

First of all: brilliant, if uncomfortably true (and somewhat similar to what I wrote yesterday).

The Republican/right-wing spin seems to be that McCain only lost because of the financial that hit in September--when he was actually ahead in the polls! He had to deal with an unpopular incumbent, and then when the banks looked like they might fail, he couldn't get out from under that. But the fact that he did so well even against such "strong headwinds" just goes to show what a deeply conservative country this remains.

Sorry, I should have warned you to pick up your feet. Of course McCain enjoyed a post-convention bounce in the polls in early September; even Walter Mondale managed that. Of course there's a legitimate argument to be made that Bush is so unpopular because of his incompetence, not because of the substance of his policies, but on Iraq and his handling of the economy I don't think the two can be meaningfully separated. And one can't help but wonder why all those Congressional Republicans are going down in flames if voter dissatisfaction is aimed solely at a feckless executive branch.

I think Justin Webb has done a superb job of covering the election for the BBC, and I mostly agree with his analysis (or, perhaps more accurately, I fervently hope it's true). I quoted some of it last night in comments to Michael's live-blogging post, but the same argument is stated well in this column in The Times (which I saw via Webb's link on his BBC blog). The key point (and the part I most hope is true) comes at the end:

Democratic presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy had united the liberal North with the poor and dispossessed whites of the deep South. After the Civil Rights Act this link was broken. And Democrats struggled without this source of southern support.

Yet slowly what one might term a mass chattering class has emerged to make a northern liberal candidate like Mr Obama viable as they had not been since Kennedy. A record number of Americans now complete high school or go to college. There are 7.3 million American millionaires, and more than half the country now considers itself middle class and is working less and enjoying more leisure time. Even to be competitive with these voters the Republicans had to select an unconventional candidate. And still he lost.

We have reached the end of the Southern Strategy and that changes American politics profoundly.

The big themes of Republican politics - cut income tax, fight crime, reform social security, outlaw abortion, support marriage - no longer cut it politically. The Democrat tunes play better.

Tax cutting has lost its edge because 29 million Americans pay no income tax at all and because the Democrats have learnt how to blunt the message. Success has made crime less of a preoccupation. And the desperate need for Republicans to win votes among women makes their stance on abortion a serious problem.

The Republicans were forced to select a maverick because they did not have an electable mainstream Republican candidate. This was because the mainstream Republican agenda is no longer a winner.

Welcome to a new American president. Welcome to a new American politics.

I certainly hope so. In any case, today certainly feels good. Enjoy it with some appropriate music.

(But why is it suddenly winter? And what's with those boots?)

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