Friday, January 04, 2008

Lapping it Up

As an Obama fan, today has been exhilarating. Fortunately it was a fairly calm Friday at work, so I had an opportunity to read the news online and check out a lot of the commentary, and I took full advantage of it. It's almost as if I needed to keep seeking confirmation that this all really happened.

Having suffered now under the agonizing, infuriating madness of the Bush administration for seven years, it is time, finally, as Andrew Sullivan puts it -- and I am not given to quoting him -- to "know hope." I haven't been this giddy since 2004; not since right before Howard Dean fatally released what became known as "the Dean Scream" and the media had a field day and decided to go with the story of him being unstable, leaving us with John Kerry. Kerry's candidacy was cause for optimism -- sometimes -- but not really hope. I hadn't supported his primary campaign because he, like Senator Clinton, was not the agent of change that this country so desperately needs. But Not Bush was better than the alternative. It just couldn't win.

This country took a profoundly wrong turn in the weeks and months following 9/11. It has been enraging to see this President, dubiously appointed by the Supreme Court for his first term, extol the virtues and necessities of freedom and democracy while systematically dismantling civil liberties and ignoring the rule of law. It has been deeply distressing, too, to watch the ascendancy of Senator Clinton who, among all people, should have known not to trust the neocons pulling Bush's strings when she cast the fatal vote in favor of allowing Bush to "disarm" Iraq. I believe she made that decision not for the security of the people of the United States, not for the welfare of the people of an oppressed Iraq, not for the hope of a better Middle East, but out of political calculation: she wanted to look tough. Since then, she has continued to defend her vote, to say that the disaster lay in the bungling of the plan, not in the idiocy of the plan itself. And she must pay.

The Evangelicals have awakened to realize that they are the GOP's useful idiots: Karl Rove dangled gay marriage in front of them so that they'd rush to the polls to re-elect (often gay) men who gave lip-service to scripture but handjobs to corporations (and sometimes to random men in airport bathrooms).

I am also delighted with the rise of Mike Huckabee. After nearly a decade of utterly transparent insincerity from our President, with a boiling hostility and arrogance just barely restrained, a Connecticut blueblood with degrees from Harvard and Yale trying to pass himself off as a "jes' folks" regular guy from Texas, I think it's actually kind of nice that a major portion of the Republican Party is rallying around a genuine "aw shucks" hick who once cooked a squirrel in a popcorn popper.

Here you have a political party that until quite recently has succeeded on message discipline: if we all say the same thing, and keep saying it, it becomes true, or at least, people will believe it's true, especially if we characterize challenges (climate change is real, bin Laden didn't like Saddam Hussein, cutting taxes does not increase federal revenues, Barack Obama was not educated in a madrassa, the U.S. has the worst healthcare of any industrialized nation, etc.) as the idiotic fantasies of pot-smoking, divorced, gay-marrying illegal immigrant members of Al Qaeda. And now...? You don't even have a party. You've got three distinct groups of wackos -- libertarians, hawks, and fundamentalists -- who have suddenly discovered after 30 years of mutually indulgent delusion that they have nothing in common. The Evangelicals have awakened to realize that they are the GOP's useful idiots: Karl Rove dangled gay marriage in front of them so that they'd rush to the polls to re-elect (often gay) men who gave lip-service to scripture but handjobs to corporations (and sometimes to random men in airport bathrooms).

Well, the Evangelicals are mad as heck, and they aren't gonna take it anymore. They will not be fooled by a pro-choice, pro-gay, thrice-married Catholic whose idea of foreign policy is that there is no crisis which can't be solved by a new war. They will not settle for the governor of the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. When you're dealing with an entire community of people whose lives center around the concept of moral absolutes, you're not going to find them making politically strategic compromises. You've never heard of religious martyrs? These people are prepared to lose an election; they'd rather throw away the vote that was given to them by the "Christian" founders of this "Christian" nation on a sure-fire loser than make a tactical calculation to vote for someone who doesn't really represent them, who will ignore them until the next time they are called to the polls by urgent warnings against lesbian terrorists having abortions paid for by socialized medicine.

If Huckabee is not the GOP nominee -- and right now, I don't think he will be -- I think the big surprise is that many Evangelicals will cross over to Obama. They may strongly disagree with him on a wide range of policies, but in him they will recognize a man of sincerity and integrity. I think they will take a chance and vote for someone who will be straight with them, rather than risk being betrayed and ignored again by an oily politician who came promising things he never intended to deliver.


Jeff said...

Until I read your last paragraph I thought I was going to have to remind you that only one state has voted so far.

I haven't made up my mind yet on whom to support, but Clinton's alleged political calculation doesn't bother me so much. I'd rather have someone who sticks her finger in the wind (Clinton) than someone who forgets that he's accountable to the people (Bush). There's a difference between voting for the Congressional resolution that allowed the war against Iraq and actually initiating the war in the first place.

Perhaps I'm just a cynic, but if Obama gets elected, I fear seeing him get chewed up and spit out by the Washington machine. Don't get me wrong - if he gets elected and manages to accomplish great things as president, I will be thrilled. I'm just wary of his idealism.

Again, I haven't made up my mind yet. On the one hand, I think it's really incredibly cool that Obama won the Iowa causes and brought it tons of young people to the process -- how can one not feel exhilarated by seeing that? On the other hand, (1) it's only one state and (2) I don't know who the best candidate is yet.

I do share your schadenfreude about Huckabee vs. the Republican establishment, though. I strangely find myself not hating Huckabee.

Quinn said...

I'm optimistic for the first time in a LONG time about politics. I'm moderately pleased with both Obama and Edwards, and I think the Huckabee campaign will reap big rewards for the Dems. Rather than vote for Obama, I would argue they'll just stay home. Either way, I'm happy.

Gino said...

obama will never get support from the evangelical christians. NEVER.
his support of partial birth abortion is just too strong.

a peculiarity: GOP turnout was low. DEM turnout was high.
and i know why. the dems allow open voting in the caucus. with blood in the water, obama pulling close to billary, and no real rock-ribbed conservative to support, many crossed over to support obama just to knock out hillary.

you know my views.
if i were in iowa, i would have gone for obama.

Andy said...

Keep telling yourself that.

RB said...

Iowa is a state peopled with mainstream Protestant denominations: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian. It is not a hotbed of evangelicism.

By best estimate, there are approximately 30,000 evangelicals in Iowa, or roughly one per cent of the state's population.

By best estimate, Huckabeee captured only 46% of Iowa's evangelical vote.

Is there even an evangelical story here? Sorry, but there is not.

The state of Iowa is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Its populace is one of the two or three most highly-educated in the nation, always competing with Minnesota and Wisconsin for first place. Its voting population is not the body politic you imagine.

Andy said...

Okay: so what's your explanation for Huckabee's success in Iowa?

Huckabee got 40,841 votes in Iowa. Entrance polls suggest as many as 80% of his supporters were Evangelicals, according to entrance polls. If Evangelicals are, as you suggest, 1% of the Iowa population, then, my goodness they wield disproportionate political power, don't they?

Andy said...

Entrance polls...according to entrance polls.

Yeah. Helps to proofread before you hit "submit," doesn't it?

RB said...

I will attempt to answer your question, but you may not like my answer.

Iowa is NOT a primary state, and the caucus system is not particularly meaningful and should be abandoned. The only reason it has not been abandoned is because it brings literally millions upon millions of dollars into the state one-quarter of the time. Oh, if only I were to own a local television station in Iowa! I would make out like a bandit!

Roughly one in seven Iowa voters participates in the caucuses. The participants come, in large part, from the most committed members of their respective parties. Six out of seven eligible voters ignore the caucuses entirely.

Iowa is the CLASSIC case of retail politics. Candidates actually meet, face to face, voters in tiny little towns with populations of 600 or 700 people.

Why did Clinton not do as well as expected in Iowa? Because she met everyone in Iowa, and most Iowans disliked her. That is the current joke going around Washington, and there is a lot of truth in it.

Why did Huckabee come out on top on the GOP side? Because he and Romney were the only GOP candidates who spent zillions of hours in Iowa, meeting Iowans one-on-one across the state. Iowans did not like Romney. Romney came across as a phoney, and he lost.

McCain, Giuliani and Thompson were not willing to devote that amount of time to Iowa's retail politics, and they received less caucus support than Huckabee and Romney. It's that simple.

If there had been an Iowa PRIMARY, as opposed to a series of caucuses, I suspect that the result on the GOP side might have been different.

The data released this morning showed that Huckabee only received 46% of the Iowa evangelical vote. The rest was divided among other candidates, Republican and Democrat.

It is unmistakeable that a lot of non-evangelicals met him and liked him. Huckabee could not have won the caucuses without lots of support from non-evangelicals. There simply are not enough evangelicals in Iowa.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that Iowans who participate in caucuses are prone to reward persons who have been in their local areas numerous times. However, when it comes time to vote in an actual presidential election, a different set of criteria are in play.

Simply put, Huckabee and Romney put in the necessary time and attention to Iowa's retail politics, and the people preferred Huckabee to Romney. He came across as a likeable, sincere guy.

God help us all, however, if he is the GOP nominee (which, like you, I do not think will happen).

RB said...

Andy, there are roughly 2.8 times as many black adults in Iowa as there are evangelicals.

Is the news media feeding us ridiculous stories about Obama winning in Iowa because he captured that gigantic (2.8%) black vote? No, of course not.

So why are readers being subjected to ridiculous stories about evangelicals providing Huckabee with a win in Iowa?

I know the answer to that question.

Do you?

Andy said...

I agree with you that the caucus is silly and undemocratic and CERTAINLY shouldn't come first in the nation; actually, I don't think any state should consistently get to be first. And I want to do away with the electoral system entirely -- you know, you have 8 million people in New York City, but no presidential candidate EVER campaigns there because it's a "blue" lock.

Anyway...I am curious if you can cite something to support your claim that evangelicals are only 1% of the Iowa population. Entrance/exit polls have been wrong before, but the available evidence says 80% of Huckabee's supporters identify as evangelicals. That only leaves 20% of Huckabee supporters as...something else. I wonder what? Conservative Catholics and other mainline protestants who don't identify as "evangelical"? Because Huckabee has nothing going for him other than his social conservatism. I'm not sure his populist economics carry him as far as the gay marriage and abortion issues. I'm curious to know who you think is supporting this guy. I get that Romney's a phony. But why not McCain or Giuliani? Or Thompson?

And as far as Obama and the black population, I think the story is really all in the exit polls. 80% of Huckabee voters called themselves Evangelical. Obama wasn't supported by 80% black people. His biggest slices of the pie were the under-30s (57%, I believe) and women under 60.

I think the point you're making is not really substantiated by what's there. It doesn't matter whether Evangelicals make up a smaller percentage of Iowans than black folk (and, I'd really like to see some support for that?). What matters is what the polls tell us, and that's that Huckabee's support is wildly, disproportionately skewed toward Evangelical voters. Maybe Obama got 100% of the black Iowa caucus support, who knows? (I can't find the breakdown.) Regardless, they didn't make up 80% of his voters.

Andy said...

By best estimate, Huckabeee captured only 46% of Iowa's evangelical vote.

Citation, please?

Andy said...

And also, I think you're still misunderstanding how statistics work. It is entirely possible for Huckabee to have only gotten 46% of the evangelical vote and still have 80% of his supporters be evangelicals.

RB said...

Number One: The pooled network polling showed that 46% of evangelicals in Iowa favored Huckabee.

You may confirm this on the CBS news website or any other general news website.

RB said...

Number two, the networks are using an inaccurate--that is, a far too broad--definition of "evangelical".

The use of the term "evangelical" with reference to the Iowa caucuses obviously includes even mainstream Protestant denominations.

Gino said...

the media is prone to cultural bias. as they sit up in the beltway they really do not know what an iowan is, or even what an evangelical is.
for them, anybody who goes to church regular is evangelical.
they really do not know about theological differences. and, they appears to be unaware that evangelicalchristian is not one word.

"fly over country" is a term made up by the media for the region of the nation they never visit except for every four years.

and you offer a great explanation of the caucus system and how it pertains to iowa.

much media ado about nothing, really. odds are, he who wins iowa doesnt become president.

Gino said...

i tried to visit your page (if you got one), but your profile is blocked.

RB said...

Number three, "it is entirely possible for Huckabee only to have gotten 46% of the evangelical vote and still have 80% of his supporters be evangelical".

Yes, Andy, this is entirely possible, in which case it merely confirms the uselessness of the "evangelical" terminology as being far too broad.

Among other things, it would demonstrate that a majority of ALL votes in the Iowa caucus came from evangelicals, wouldn't it?

And that is statistically impossible in a state such as Iowa, given its demographic breakdown.

Among other things, it proves, most forcefully, that "evangelicals" are not correctly defined.

RB said...

Number four, if the media "evangelical" analysis is to be believed, 59% of the participants in the Iowa GOP caucus were "evangelicals".

If there were 100,000 GOP participants, Huckabee received 34,000 votes.

If he received 46% of the "evangelical" total, and yet "evangelicals" accounted for 80% of his vote, then that must signify that 59% of Iowa participants in the GOP caucuses were "evangelical", and that Huckabee received 27,000 of these "evangelical" votes and other candidates received 32,000 of these "evangelical" votes.

This is an impossibility for a state such as Iowa.

Have Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, members of the United Church Of Christ, and Episcopalians all been wiped out?

Of course not.

The use of "evangelical" is being defined far too broadly.

RB said...

Yes, Gino, you hit it precisely on the nose: "evangelicals" are defined as anyone who goes to church regularly.

I would hate to be the part-time employee polling Iowans, outside the caucus locations, and asking them whether they classified themselves as "evangelicals". I would be punched in the nose.

The question obviously directed to the persons entering the caucuses was something like "Do you attend church regularly"?

Anyone who answered "yes" was marked down as an "evangelical".

And that, Andy, is why this entire press discussion of "evangelical" is such nonsense, as everyone in the field already knows.

Which, by the way, was my very first point to you.

RB said...

Number five, Andy, I understand how statistics work. I am a professor of political science at an elite university, and I work with statistics all day, every day, in the field of presidential politics.

I enjoyed your review of the movie "Sweeney Todd".

Tim said...

Hmm personally I never trust candidates of either party to be anything less than calculating political machines.
I have only a few issues to choose from in the next election, I want a media savvy person, strong on national defense, evil enough to twist arms in back room deals, and probably most importantly able to face down and destroy bureaucratic enemies. I did not like the way the CIA and the state department tried to act as independent entities over the last 10 years or so and think that it needs to be corrected for the sake of the republic itself.
I'd like to say that gay issues were a hopeful subject over the next four years and I would like to be proven wrong but I have seen little chance that congress would stomach dismantling DADT or DOMA. Those two issue show little room for budging though.

Andy said...

I am a professor of political science at an elite university, and I work with statistics all day, every day, in the field of presidential politics.

And you think that qualifies you to debate politics with someone who has a master's degree in classical voice? Pretty flimsy assertion, there.