Parsing the Election III: The Other Elections

Among the various bits of voting that happened last night, it’s important to remember that more than just control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate were on the line. There were also several ballot initiatives and local and statewide elections that need to be remembered. All of these are at least somewhat interesting, but there’s a few that really caught my eye.

First off, voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state all voted in favor of gay marriage. In the case of Minnesota this was, as I understand it, voting against an amendment that would have outlawed it, but I do believe that in Maine, Maryland and Washington, the vote was to make gay marriage legal.

The importance of this cannot be understated. The majority agreed, however reluctantly in some cases, that the minority should be granted very basic human rights. This was the first time this happened in the case of gay marriage, and I’m glad that it finally did. Now we just move on to the inevitable court challenges which I predict will end in the Supreme Court saying that states don’t have to perform gay marriages, but they do have to recognize them when performed legally elsewhere, thus basically invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act.

We should take a moment to understand that Obama saying he supports gay marriage likely helped this issue considerably. He really is the best President we’ve ever had on gay rights, though given that the second best, Clinton, was the one who gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, that isn’t saying much. Tell me McCain would have been as good on gay rights and I’ll call you a lair to your face.

The other major thing to notice form last night is marijuana seems to have basically gone mainstream. Some states legalized medical marijuana, but that’s nothing new and not terribly interesting to me. No, the real interesting thing is that Washington state and Colorado both voted to make recreational use of marijuana legal.

Now that’s an important thing. In the case of Washington, what will happen is that, eventually, marijuana will be sold in various state-run stores, rather like liquor already is (or at least it was when I lived up there). You would be allowed to possess up to an ounce at a time, which is…I don’t know. A lot? A little? I have no idea, because I don’t use the stuff. But I’m sure it’s something that will greatly please those who do.

Of course the federal government isn’t big on this whole thing, so you can look forward to many challenges. For the Republicans out there, this brings up an interesting question. Isn’t this a states’ rights issue? The people of Washington state have decided they want to give up on the drug war and let people have their weed. Doesn’t Republican ideology mean that you have to support them in this? If there’s any intellectual consistency, of course it does, but when we’re talking about the GOP, perhaps “intellectual” is not a word that should be used.

There were many other state and local elections last night, but those were the ones that really caught my attention. I’m done, at least for now, covering what happened in election. I think I’m going to go take a nap.


Parsing the Election I: The Republican Party’s Next Move

Four more years!

The election is over. The only state left to call is Florida. Last I saw, it was trending toward Obama and hopefully will end up there. An imperfect man will continue to lead our very imperfect nation, and hopefully all will go well enough that in 2016, we can elect another Democrat.

I have a lot of thoughts on what happened last night. Here they are in no particular order.

This was less about everyone thinking Obama was great than it was about everyone thinking Romney was, basically, a lying asshole. This was an election that the GOP should have won, due to how basically stupid the electorate are. A number of people bought into the largely inaccurate perception that Obama was a weak, do-nothing president who hadn’t accomplished anything of note in the last four years. Had the Republicans had a better candidate, they might have pulled it off.

But that’s the problem with the GOP. There was no better candidate that their fundamentally (and I use that word with great deliberateness), insane base would have accepted. Had they had someone like Jon Huntsman as their nominee, they might have had more traction. As it was, when the GOP candidates were people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, well, Romney is simply the most palatable of a really bad bunch.

The GOP needs to bear this in mind. They need to make sure they select a real moderate next time around, not someone whose opinions seem to vary by the hour. They also need to do a much better job of reaching out to minorities, especially Hispanics (more on how to do this in my Puerto Rico article that’s coming up next), and certainly need to do a better job of getting the youth vote. One CNN commentator I heard last night mentioned that once a young person had voted for the same party in three major election cycles in a row, it’s very likely that they will continue to vote for that party for the rest of their lives. By embracing the crazy and emphasizing the religious aspects of their party, the GOP has alienated the youth vote and basically lost an entire generation.

And I think that’s ultimately where the problem with the GOP lies. They continue to embrace the religious right, and, indeed, basically define the religious right. They aren’t the moderate religious sorts, like Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush I or even Reagan. No, they’re the party that embraces a view of reality that has nothing to do with facts. They reject evolution and global warming. They nominate people like Todd Akin, who famously made a series of dumb and wrong remarks about rape. They continue to try and force a conservative religious agenda on a populace that really doesn’t want it, especially among the younger voters.

For the Republicans to succeed in 2016, they need to have good, sane, moderate candidates. They need to weed out the crazy early on, and possibly have fewer debates, since that’s less chances for the crazies to get attention. They also need to properly and fully embrace immigration reform in a fashion that doesn’t include stupid concepts like self-deportation, but that rather provides, yes, amnesty. Most of us don’t like the concept of anything like amnesty, but those of us connected to reality understand that it’s needed. The GOP needs to understand that, too.

But I have a feeling that it’s going to take one more drubbing. They won the House, after all, and depending on what happens in 2014, they might keep it. I expect one final election where they double-down on the crazy and nominate someone like Rick Santorum, or possibly actually nominate Rick Santorum. I think the wing of the party that says, “Romney’s problem was that he was too liberal!” will hold enough sway to make that happen, and that likely will ensure that the Democrats retain power in 2016.

Know hope.

Live-Blogging the Election Results

So it seems to be completely finished. We’re still waiting for the results in Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado and Alaska, but they don’t matter. It’s over, it’s done. Now we can move on and make sure the next four years are even better for the country than the previous four have been.

9:18pm – CNN has officially projected Obama to win Ohio and therefore the Presidency. It is over. The American people proved they aren’t as stupid as I often think they are.

Thank goodness.

9:17pm – CNN has called Missouri for Romney. No shock there, and likely small comfort.

9:16pm – Oregon now. It is almost impossible for Romney to win this. MSNBC has called it for Obama.

9:09pm – CNN projects Obama to win Iowa and New Mexico. No surprises in either one.

9:03pm – CNN now projecting Wisconsin for Obama and North Carolina for Romney. About time for both. 238 vs 191.

9:00pm – CNN is projecting the following: Obama takes California, Hawaii and Washington. No surprises with any of these. Romney takes Idaho and Montana. Obama now leads 228 to 176 in the electoral college out of 270 needed.

8:55pm – Puerto Rico had their vote today. 53% voted to change their current political status, with 65% then going on to say they wanted to be a state. Hooray! With luck, we’ll have another state in the next couple years, with two more Democratic senators and some more Democratic congressmen.

8:50pm – CNN has called AZ for Romney, of course, and Minnesota for Obama, of course. 169 to 157 now, but CA polls are about to close, and we all know where that one is going.

8:46pm – Been fiddling with CNN’s electoral vote calculator. If Obama takes Florida, as looks likely, it seems like Romney could take every other swing state, including Ohio, and lose. Let’s hope.

8:27pm – I am updating this a lot less frequently than I expected to. Bah.

8:04pm – Wolf Blitzer: “We’re about to make a MAJOR projection!” And that projection is…New Hampshire for Obama. So…yeah. That’s another four whole votes! Wowsers.

8:00pm – Here we go! CNN projects Romney in Utah. So no shock there. That seems to be their only projection right now. 158 to 143.

7:56pm – Another 21 votes getting knocked out at the top of the hour. It’ll be MT, UT for Romney and IA, NV for Obama. Or so I predict. Because I have a brain.

7:46pm – CNN is projecting Elizabeth Warren to win the Senate seat in Mass, and Joe Donnelly in Indiana. This is looking better and better for the Democrats!

7:41pm – CNN has called PA for Obama. That’s another 20 electoral votes.

7:07pm – CNN is now saying the GOP will keep control of the House. This is, again, no real surprise.

7:06pm – So far, the election is going exactly as predicted by 538. Of course, even if Silver gets it 100% right, he’ll still get his numbers in the next election trashed by whomever they don’t favor.

7:00pm – The following states have been called for Romney: Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska (taking at least 3 of the 5 votes), North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, and Mississippi. Not a single surprise with any of these states. For Obama we have: Michigan, New York, and New Jersey. That brings us up to 152 electoral votes for Romney vs 123 for Obama.

6:56pm – 14 states with 156 electoral votes closing at the top of the hour, including here in AZ. Fun times soon!

6:42pm – In the latest edition of Unsurprising News, CNN is giving Alabama to Romney, bringing us to 82 for him, 64 for Obama, but don’t be discouraged, Obama fans. The major liberal states like New York haven’t finished voting yet.

6:37pm – Still waiting for the polls here in AZ to close. I am, of course, favoring all the Democrats. I’m also against the initiative that would limit us to only two people in each election, and in favor of the initiative that would make our 1% sales tax increase permanent. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best way we have to fund education at the moment, since our governor has no interest in doing so.

6:30pm – Romney gets Arkansas and Tennessee. No shocks here. That brings us to 73 votes for Romney and 64 for Obama.

6:28pm – A number of pundits have made claims about how the election is going to go. Many will be wrong, some spectacularly so. Nothing will happen to those who are wrong, but should something happen to them, and if so, what?

6:19pm – CNN is showing that Maine will be electing Angus King as an independent Senator. Bob Corker wins in TN. Democrats in FL, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island.

6:13pm – Hmmm. CNN only just now called GA. For some reason I thought they had done so earlier. Oh, well.

6:08pm – Romney claims he’s written only one speech tonight, not two. Yeah…I doubt he really wrote either. I’m sure
his speechwriters wrote up two with his guidance. Anything else woudld be stupid.

6:60pm – So far Romney has more votes nationally, but let’s hope that changes. The last thing we need, regardless of who wins, is a repeat of 2000.

6:03pm – In other news, Bernie Sanders, the only openly socialist member of the Senate, has been reelected. Go, Bernie! Go, Vermont! I just wish he was actually affiliated wit the Socialist Party.

6:00pm – Per CNN, the following states have gone for Obama: Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts (one of Romney’s home states), Maine (3 out of 4 votes at least), and Rhode Island. Romney gets Oklahoma. Obama leads 64 to 40.

5:55pm – GA called for Romney. He’s now up 33 to 3, but don’t panic, my friends. This is nothing yet, since none of the more liberal states have checked in. Tons of states are closing at the top of the hour, and that’s going to give us a better picture.

5:44pm – CNN is calling South Carolina for Romney with 1% of the vote in and Obama up by 75%. Amusing, but likely accurate.

5:30pm – CNN is projecting Romney to win in West Virginia. No surprise there. That’s another 5 electoral votes for him. Polls have closed in North Carolina and Ohio, but we have no winner in either yet.

5:26pm – Here’s a poll.

5:23pm – CNN gives Indiana to Romney. No shock there. This gives Romney 19 electoral votes to Obama’s 3, but you’ll excuse me if I don’t panic just yet.

5:20pm – For fun, here’s the predictions from a conservative friend of mine. He says Romney will win by 285 electoral votes, taking the “swing” states of CO, FL, NC, OH, VA and WI. He thinks Obama will win IA, NH, NV, MI and PA. I think he’s right about Obama, but I think Obama will also take CO, VA and WI.

5:15pm – Now CNN is talking about some county in Indiana that has picked the right candidate in all but two elections. Big horking deal. If you have hundreds of counties, which we do, simple math indicates that over time at least a couple will end up seeming to be very accurate in what they pick.

5:00pm – CNN gives Vermont to Obama and Kentucky to Romney. Per the instructions of my mother, who lives in Kentucky, sorry about that.

4:55pm MST: Here begins the live-blogging. I guess we get to see where this goes. 538 is currently showing Obama standing a better than 90% chance of winning, with a slightly better than 50% chance of taking Florida, thus giving him about 313 electoral votes. I remain skeptical of that and stand by my earlier prediction.

Elections: Not Always a Smart Idea

I just got done watching an episode of Frontline from back in February. It talks about a crisis in this country centering around coroners who may or may not be qualified to do their jobs. According to what they were saying in hundreds of counties around this country, the office of coroner is an elected position. No qualifications are needed, and in fact in some areas you, at least until recently, didn’t even need to have a high school diploma. As long as you can get elected, you can serve and that’s all that matters.

It’s the same with a lot of other positions around the country. Here in Arizona, as in many other places, sheriffs are elected (thus sticking us repeatedly with Sheriff Joe). So is the State Mine Inspector. So is the Attorney General. So is the Secretary of State. In almost every state, judges are elected officials.

I must ask at this point, why? Why do we do this? This seems really stupid and counterproductive. I mean, how can a judge possibly campaign in any ethical fashion? Come to that, how can sheriff candidates campaign? All they can really do is say, “Yes, I’ll enforce the laws!” and beyond that it’s just a popularity contest. And State Mine Inspector? Why the hell is that an elected position?

Look, democracy is all well and good, and I wouldn’t have any other form of government. But really, people, this is taking it to a stupid extreme. All of these positions should be appointed positions, and with the possible exception of judges, they should expire at the end of the term of office of whomever appointed them. If the next person wants to reappoint them, great. But otherwise, no. There should also be confirmation hearings and a certain level of minimum qualification required for people who are appointed.

I realize this doesn’t entirely eliminate the possibility of getting unqualified people into office, but it does lessen the chances. And really, there’s not a single good reason why anyone in these positions, especially a judge, should have to run for election.

And So, Campaign 2010 Grinds to a Halt

The elections are tomorrow, and from everything I’ve been able to see, it looks like the Democrats are going to maintain control of the Senate but lose the House. Nate Silver suggests about 52/48 in the Senate and about 203/231 in the House.

These numbers are bad if you’re a Democrat like me (ie: one who is a Socialist by nature, but a Democrat by default), but they could be a hell of a lot worse.

What’s going to be interesting is to see how the Republicans/Tea Party people govern. They promised to repeal health care, which they can’t (Obama would veto, they can’t override that, and wouldn’t want to anyhow, given how popular the various elements of health care reform are). They likely won’t allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, but economically they won’t have a choice and will probably just howl like animals when they do it. I strongly doubt they’ll make any sort of compromises.

Basically I think we’re heading towards what we had in the late 1990’s when the government was shut down by Congress. That didn’t go well for them (or the President, given what he got up to during the down time), and I see much the same happening here. What does go through will likely be of some benefit to them and to the President, but the upshot of this is that I’m at least 80% sure Obama gets re-elected in 2012 and the Republicans likely lose Congress then, too.

Either way, congrats to them for winning, if indeed they do. I don’t even remotely approve of their message or their tactics, but they do tend to work (because the American public are very stupid). You guys are gonna win. Let’s see what you do next.

The UK Elections

So from what I’ve heard on BBC News America, it sounds like our pals in the UK are on their way to a hung parliament. That’s where you don’t have any party with a clear majority. It does sound as though the Conservatives (Tories), are going to wind up with the largest percentage, but still not a large enough majority to easily form a government. It’s entirely possible that we might end up with another election just six months or so down the line.

650 seats are apparently up for grabs over in the UK, with 326 needed for the majority. I do find myself wondering how 650 MPs fit into the House of Commons. It doesn’t look nearly that big from what I’ve seen during Prime Minister’s Questions. Anyone able to answer that?

Anyhow, congrats to the Brits for holding a good, solid election. I’m jealous you people have only about a three week campaign season. 🙂 I hope all of you that could vote, did vote!

Some Questions for Republicans

Ok, so you guys won last night. Good on you! I won’t be snipey or whatever on that. You guys won fare and square. Now you have the singular ability to kill health care reform (barring Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe). Grats and all that.

So my question for you is this: what are you going to do about health care reform? Assuming you’ve clued into Sanity FM you’re aware that the health care system in this country is in grave trouble. I see a few issues that need to be resolved, and since you don’t like the Democrats plan (presumably because it’s the Democrats plan), I want to see what your plan is.

Address the following points, please:

1. How will you cover the millions of uninsured?

2. What will you do to prevent companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions?

3. What will you do to prevent companies from dropping customers because the customers want to actually use their insurance?

4. Are lifetime and annual maximums fair? If so, what should they be set at?

5. How will you reform health care and not cut any Medicare benefits will at the same time lowering taxes and not increasing the deficit?

That should do for now. Again, congrats on the win. Over the last few months you’ve made quite a mess of health care reform. Let’s see what you want to do to clean it up.