a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

A Contrarian Musing: Will Democrats lose big in tomorrow’s elections?

Posted on the November 1st, 2010

For an informed perspective on tomorrow’s USA midterm elections, I asked my political scientist friend back home, who occasionally writes posts for me under the nom de plume of A Contrarian Musing, to offer some of his thoughts about what may happen with the voters and why. For round-ups of pollsters’ predictions of tomorrow’s outcome, see here and here.

Tomorrow is the day of the 2010 midterm election in the U.S., and there is widespread opinion among pollsters and pundits that the Democratic Party will suffer substantial losses to the Republicans. If this proves to be true, much of the failure of the Democrats can be attributed to the poor performance of the economy and the general public’s impression that President Obama has delayed acting on policy changes that his supporters in the 2008 election expected from him.  When this is combined with the tendency of mid-term elections to go against the political party holding the Presidency, the result is an anti-Democrat popularity problem that demands extraordinary political competency to overcome.

It is understandable, and necessary, that the Democrats have fought back in their own defense with a long list of compelling reasons why they are not the cause of the economic problems, and why the President has delayed action on expected policy changes. Excuses, however, have only a limited power in countering public disapproval of a Party’s failure to overcome obstacles to its success.

The one thing the President and the Democrat leaders in the House and Senate could have done to counter the public’s disappointment in them (thereby giving their excuses more justification) would have been to persuade the American public that bringing down unemployment was, by far, their number one interest. Instead, the Democrats allowed health care reform and the rescue of the financial system to dominate the public’s perception of their agenda and policy priorities.

The Democrats have convincing excuses why this situation prevailed. One thing they can’t explain, however, is the President’s failure (unlike President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s) to emotionally connect in a more dramatic, visible, and vigorous way with the emotional angst the public reportedly is feeling. The causes for the anxiety are high unemployment and the hardships that attend it, the lack of financing available to small businesses, and the drag on all things in the economy that this creates.

In the end, the Democrats’ popularity problems could have been greatly reversed by the President. He could have done this, firstly, by demonizing the big financial interests who oppose him or who have contributed to the recession, and, secondly, he could have seemed fully engaged, with all of his emotional and policy advocacy energies focused on reduction of unemployment through jobs’ creation.

Instead, the President has presented himself as the patient, policy plodder, and as the defender of the wealthy as the great hope for the country’s economic recovery. He may well be correct in the reasonableness of his actions. The middle class and poor, however, feel that he has somewhat emotionally deserted them. This perception has opened the door for the rise of the weird, the radical, and the scapegoating opposition candidates.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on A Contrarian Musing: Will Democrats lose big in tomorrow’s elections?

Samantha Power teaches Democrats how to be tough on national security

Posted on the August 12th, 2008

Earlier this week on a major American news show on CBS, the host and veteran newsman Bob Schieffer interviewed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who’s been mentioned often in U.S. media as a top contender to be chosen as Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

Schieffer’s opening question to Kaine referred to the recent fighting between Russia and Georgia:

This morning’s headlines tell it all. American presidents, as we look at this situation going on in Russia, have to deal with problems that sometimes don’t come up at all in campaigns, so I guess my question this morning, Governor, is when we see what’s happening today, doesn’t that, won’t that bolster John McCain’s argument that the Presidency needs someone with experience dealing with issues like these?

What interested me most about Schieffer’s question was how much it reflected a perception — or rather misperception — that was analyzed recently in an article by Harvard University professor and foreign policy analyst Samantha Power (“The Democrats & National Security” by Samantha Power, The New York Review of Books, Aug 14, 2008).

In the essay, Power takes a close look at some of the factors that, according to her, have led American voters generally to regard the Republican Party to be much better on national security issues than the Democratic Party.

Power writes:

“This faith in Republican toughness has had profound electoral consequences. Since 1968, with the single exception of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Americans have chosen Republican presidents in times of perceived danger and Democrats in times of relative calm.”

Power, who formerly served on Obama’s campaign as his foreign policy advisor, examines some of the origins of this faith in GOP toughness, and also questions its justification. She lays out some specific suggestions for how Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can reverse this crucial trend in voter thinking. Read full article here.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Samantha Power teaches Democrats how to be tough on national security

Democratic Party Debate in Ohio: my pick for best news summary

Posted on the February 27th, 2008

Umpteen million stories on news sites online today about the, possibly, make-or-break debate last night in Ohio between Hillary and Obama. My favorite for concise but comprehensive summary of what happened, and what it means is online at The Guardian (“Clinton lays into Obama during TV debate” by Suzanne Goldenberg, Feb 27, 2008).

The article’s sub-head and teaser:

Clinton goes on the debate offensive

In an Ohio debate considered crucial to her chances of staying in the race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton attacked Barack Obama’s healthcare policy and campaign tactics

Posted with the story is a 3 1/2 minute video of some of the tense action of the debate.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Democratic Party Debate in Ohio: my pick for best news summary

Super Tuesday: Who really won?

Posted on the February 6th, 2008

Was the winner Obama or Hillary?

From what I’ve read in my morning’s online swim through the flood of news reports, the consensus is that it’s a split decision.

The facts

Hillary won the big states of New York and California, plus six others. Obama won 13 states, possibly 14 (New Mexico is still counting votes — Obama’s ahead slightly). Latest detailed update here on Bloomberg.com. State by state statistics in The Los Angeles Times here (click on name of state for dropdown table).

Some perspective

From some who are watching closely, Obama had the bigger night. (full disclosure: I voted for Obama) In fact, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of DailyKos, titled one of his posts “Huge Night For Obama.”

“She [Hillary] didn’t exceed expectations anywhere. She lost states she led big in just a few weeks ago. She’s hurting for money. The calendar up ahead is tailor made for Obama. The momentum is there,” Moulitas wrote.

An example of Obama’s big mo, as it’s called, can be seen in the California results, even though he lost the state. Only two to three weeks ago, some polls reportedly had Hillary up by more than twenty points there. But by Super Tuesday, after only a brief time of campaigning in the state, Obama cut that lead to nine points (with 92% of the vote counted), see The Los Angeles Times page here.

Up next

Over the next few months, 26 more primaries and caucuses are scheduled. Puerto Rico, scheduled for Saturday, June 7, is the last. See The New York Times page here for complete schedule.

Coming soon: within the next three weeks (Washington, Louisiana, Nebraska, Virginia, Maryland,the District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Hawaii); then in early March, there are four more (Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont); and on April 11, another big state with lots of delegates (Pennsylvania). For more details, see a Boston Globe article here.

Predictions are that Obama will do well in these upcoming weeks. Bloomberg.com has a statement from the Clinton camp:

“Clinton’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, acknowledged that his candidate may be at a disadvantage in the next contests. ‘We’re coming on to some states that are more favorable to Obama,’ he said, adding that Clinton would likely fare better in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4.”

The final decision

Most political experts I read are predicting that the Obama and Hillary battle won’t end until the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado at the end of August. The decision will then come through what is called a brokered convention — and there hasn’t been one of those for the Democrats, according to the Wikipedia article, since 1952.

As Obama keeps saying, he’s the candidate of change. Seems like he’s started already.

UPDATE: It seems Barack Obama won a clear delegate victory over rival Hillary Clinton after all in yesterday’s Super Tuesday contest. According to a new post “Obama Claims Delegate Lead” on the Politico.com website, “The Obama camp now projects topping Clinton by 13 delegates, 847 to 834.”

Tagged with: ,
Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Super Tuesday: Who really won?

Obama’s Great Speech in South Carolina

Posted on the January 27th, 2008

That it may be one of his best yet is an opinion shared by a lot of people, from what I’m reading. The video isn’t hard to find online. Just in case, here’s the whole thing, by way of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Obama’s Great Speech in South Carolina

Want to see an Iowan in its natural habitat? Here’s one

Posted on the January 3rd, 2008

He’s columnist David Yepsen of Iowa’s Des Moines Register. And for those who aren’t political junkies (USA), this interview with TV talk show host Charlie Rose may be largely gobbledygook. But for those who do take an interest in the internal workings of the U.S. presidential primary season, the drilling down into detail done here may be of interest. The interview also is timely (for the next eight hours or so, at least) given that the Iowa caucuses are being held today.

Rose and Yepsen talk about Democratic candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and who’s saying what, who’s listening and how Iowans may be responding. There is also some discussion about the leading Republican candidates, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and the Iowa surprise, Mike Huckabee. (I found this video on HuffingtonPost.com)

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on Want to see an Iowan in its natural habitat? Here’s one

The blogosphere: voters or villains?

Posted on the December 1st, 2007

Which position U.S. political candidates take on this question may correlate largely with which political party they represent, according to an article in The Times (“Are Republicans internet Luddites?” blog by Tom Baldwin, Washington correspondent, The Times, Nov 28, 2007). Republican politicians are considered “inept” in their use of the Internet, according to the article, in contrast to their Democratic counterparts who are utilizing it more.

In illustration of the difference, the article cites the number of Facebook and MySpace friends of various candidates — leading Democratic candidate Obama, for example, has 360,000 buddies on these two sites, whereas Republican candidate Giuliani has only 20,000.

A possible reason for the partisan divide? Though acknowledging that it is a” generalization,” Baldwin says that Republican “activists are more likely to regard the web as a purveyor of porn and terror or, at best, a business tool.”

Reader Comments (0) Comments Off on The blogosphere: voters or villains?