November 03, 2004

A Different System Needed for Picking Presidents

In 1972, we reelected an incumbent. In 1976, we elected an unknown southern governor who had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record. In 1980, we elected an unknown governor--a southerner, if Orange County is "southern"--who had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record. In 1984 we reelected an incumbent president. In 1988 we elected an incumbent vice president. In 1992 we elected an unknown southern governor who had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record. In 1996 we reelected an incumbent. In 2000 we elected an unknown southern governor had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record.

The pattern is clear: when there isn't an unknown southern governor running, an incumbent president can win reelection or an incumbent vice president can win election; but the unknown southern governor without a national political record wins the presidency--always.

Why? Because he is a governor, he can raise money. Because he is unknown, he has no enemies in Washington who inform the press corps of weaknesses. Because he has no record, nobody has an incentive to try to block him. Because he is southern, the south tends to vote for him.

The problem is that being an unknown southern governor has next to nothing to do with being an effective president. Of the unknown southern governors who have run since 1972, we've been lucky once--Bill Clinton was a good president. We've been unlucky three times: Carter, Reagan, and George W. Bush were, none of them, up to the job.

You can go further back in the past. Nixon when he ran in 1968 had next to no national political reputation. He hadn't been in government for eight years. When he was vice president he was a cipher. His only national political experience actually doing anything had come in a few short years as representative and senator trying to exploit the communists-in-government issue. Johnson was an incumbent. Kennedy was another cipher: next to no record in the senate, and his principle qualification was a rich father who knew how to run a political machine. Eisenhower was another cipher without a national political record--although his management of alliance politics in World War II is most impressive. Truman was an incumbent. Roosevelt had only a very small national political record--two years as assistant secretary of the Navy and four years of being governor of New York.

You have to go back to Herbert Hoover to find someone who (a) is not an incumbent and who (b) has a national political and governmental reputation winning the presidency.

This is not a good way to do things, people.

Posted by DeLong at November 3, 2004 11:39 AM | TrackBack
Comments

Of course you are right. But there is zero incentive now for change in the system, since it benefits the ruling class so completely. There will have to much more easily observable consequences to the 51% of the electorate who voted for Bush of the impact of an unqualified president.

Posted by: P O'Neill at November 3, 2004 11:46 AM

"The fault, dear Brutus,
is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

Posted by: A. Zarkov at November 3, 2004 11:49 AM

I think we need a different Presidency; the office has turned into Leader. It might be sensible to have a popularly elected head of state and a chief executive chosen by the Congress.

Less obviously, our governmental forms are prone to a tyranny of majorities. I would like, in the next wave of liberal activism, decades ahead, to see that addressed.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz at November 3, 2004 11:51 AM

You overlook that most Americans are isolationists at heart who have little concept of foreign policy or national affairs. Personal concerns over guns, gays and God they understand. They vote for what they understand. It is amazing that Kerry even won the Democratic nomination given his interest in foreign affairs. Kerry would not have won were it not for Iraq.

Senators like Kerry, McCain and Lugar usually know too much about foreign policy. They think it is important and that voters should care about policy. They forget that most voters do not care and cannot lower themselves to a level where they can connect. Clinton did not run on foreign policy. Clinton ran on domestic issues. No matter what Kerry said about domestic issues, it always came back to foreign policy that most Americans do not understand.

Posted by: bakho at November 3, 2004 11:55 AM

Poor Brad. Approximately half right. As usual.

We DO need 'a new system'. No doubt about it...

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The Divine Right Of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy

http://www.divinerightofcapital.com/

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Posted by: Mike at November 3, 2004 11:59 AM

Uh, Brad, for the record, Orange County may be in Southern Californis but it is not part of the South.

Besides, as governor, Reagan served in Sacramento which is in Northern California. And his home was in LA County, and his ranch was in Ventura County.

Nixon on the other hand, now Nixon was indeed from Orange County. We do take the blame for that one - but please spare us the stigma of Reagan and being lumped in with the 'south'.

Posted by: ken at November 3, 2004 12:03 PM

Interesting pattern recognition. Let's face bald facts, however. Besides Pres. Clinton, who was without doubt one of the most gifted national politicians of the past century in addition to being fatally dissipated, the Democrats have failed serially since 1968 to field a candidate with whom the electorate resonates.

The question is not what is so wrong with the American people that they elected George W. Bush twice. The question is what is so wrong with the Democratic party that it failed to produce two candidates who could easily defeat Mr. Bush. Until Democrats answer this question and begin to field more credible national talent, they will continue to lose.

Absent the complete woodenness and tone-deafness of Al Gore, the dithering, noncomittal posturing of John Kerry, and the utter lack of either man to evince any sort of humanity and union of heart and mind on the stump, the Democrats would have held the White House since 1992.

Not that I believe that would necessarily have been desirable. As the ship of the federal Dems founders in open waters at this point, however, let the introspection and creative self-destruction begin. The sooner the better. America needs a credible alternative if we are to avoid ending up like Britain at the end of Thatcher's tenure: saddled with ossified, and ultimately corrupt, single-party rule.

Face it. The people aren't the problem. The party is. Convince us that you can govern more competently than the alternative. Blaming the electorate and the system is the the worst sort of denial and abdication of responsibility. Democrats can't afford such indulgence and embarrassing self-righteousness given their current state of disarray.

Posted by: Bill at November 3, 2004 12:17 PM

Brad,

Don't look for systemic or organizational explanations for voting patterns, especially when those patterns aren't nearly as strong as you suggest. By your logic, either Gore the incumbent or Bush the outsider could have won in 2000. There's more going on here than you allow.

Nonethesless, if you really think that we need to change the way we elect our president, what do you suggest?

Posted by: JR at November 3, 2004 12:20 PM

7-19-04: News at Home

How the Democrats Lost Kansas

By Thomas Frank

Mr. Frank was born and raised in the suburbs of Kansas City. He is editor of The Baffler magazine and the author of One Market Under God, a study of "New Economy" thinking, and The Conquest of Cool, an examination of the roots of corporate hipsterism. This piece is adapted from his new book, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

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That our politics have been shifting rightward for more than thirty years is a generally acknowledged fact of American life. That this rightward movement has largely been accomplished by working-class voters whose lives have been materially worsened by the conservative policies they have supported is a less comfortable fact, one we have trouble talking about in a straightforward manner.

And yet the backlash is there, whenever we care to look, from the "hardhats" of the 1960s to the "Reagan Democrats" of the 1980s to today's mad-as-hell "red states." You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly any Main Street in middle America -- "going out of business" signs side by side with placards supporting George W. Bush.

I chose to observe the phenomenon by going back to my home state of Kansas, a place that has been particularly ill-served by the conservative policies of privatization, deregulation, and de-unionization, and that has reacted to its worsening situation by becoming more conservative still. Indeed, Kansas is today the site of a ferocious struggle within the Republican Party, a fight pitting affluent moderate Republicans against conservatives from the working-class districts and the downmarket churches. And it's hard not to feel some affection for the conservative faction, even as you deplore their political views. After all, these are the people that liberalism is supposed to speak to: the hard-luck farmers, the bitter factory workers, the outsiders, the disenfranchised, the disreputable.

Class Warfare

Who is to blame for this landscape of distortion, of paranoia, and of good people led astray? Though Kansas voters have chosen self-destructive policies, it is just as clear to me that liberalism deserves a large part of the blame for the backlash phenomenon. Liberalism may not be the monstrous, all-powerful conspiracy that conservatives make it out to be, but its failings are clear nonetheless. Somewhere in the last four decades liberalism ceased to be relevant to huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we can say that liberalism lost places like Wichita and Shawnee, Kansas with as much accuracy as we can point out that conservatism won them over.

This is due partially, I think, to the Democratic Party's more-or-less official response to its waning fortunes. The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the organization that produced such figures as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, and Terry McAuliffe, has long been pushing the party to forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and -- more important -- the money of these coveted constituencies, "New Democrats" think, is to stand rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it. Such Democrats explicitly rule out what they deride as "class warfare" and take great pains to emphasize their friendliness to business interests. Like the conservatives, they take economic issues off the table. As for the working-class voters who were until recently the party's very backbone, the DLC figures they will have nowhere else to go; Democrats will always be marginally better on economic issues than Republicans. Besides, what politician in this success-worshiping country really wants to be the voice of poor people? Where's the soft money in that?

This is, in drastic miniature, the criminally stupid strategy that has dominated Democratic thinking off and on ever since the "New Politics" days of the early seventies...

http://hnn.us/articles/6313.html


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Posted by: Mike at November 3, 2004 12:21 PM

Funny that you mention Hoover, who did indeed have an illustrious public-service reputation. BUT WAIT -- are you saying that you want to have a system that will result in electing more people LIKE HOOVER??

To that, I SAY, 'NAY!'

Posted by: Brendan at November 3, 2004 12:22 PM

Um, not to be picky, but it seems to me that Hoover is not exactly the model of a president we'd like to have today.

Posted by: Jeff Cooper at November 3, 2004 12:28 PM

Um, not to be picky, but it seems to me that Hoover is not exactly the model of a president we'd like to have today.

Posted by: Jeff Cooper at November 3, 2004 12:30 PM

I blame the electoral college.

Posted by: praktike at November 3, 2004 12:30 PM

Um, not to be picky, but it seems to me that Hoover is not exactly the model of a president we'd like to have today.

Posted by: Jeff Cooper at November 3, 2004 12:31 PM

"You overlook that most Americans are isolationists at heart who have little concept of foreign policy or national affairs."

We are about to have our minds forcefully changed. I wonder how much Bush's wars are going to cost us, and what he is going to do to fund them?

Posted by: Randolph Fritz at November 3, 2004 12:36 PM

.... so I hear there is this idea called Parliament. Some of those Old Europe places seem to like it. Maybe we ought to give it a try.

Posted by: Desert Donkey at November 3, 2004 12:37 PM

"In 2000 we elected an unknown southern governor had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record". I think name recognition played a role here.

Posted by: A.M.B. at November 3, 2004 12:40 PM

"Um, not to be picky, but it seems to me that Hoover is not exactly the model of a president we'd like to have today."

Seems that is about what we have.

There will be no change unless in 4 years the uninsured reach 55 million and the labor participation rate is down to 58%. Then maybe these people will understand things are headed in the wrong direction.

Posted by: me at November 3, 2004 12:44 PM

"You overlook that most Americans are isolationists at heart who have little concept of foreign policy or national affairs."

We are about to have our minds forcefully changed. I wonder how much Bush's wars are going to cost us, and what he is going to do to fund them?

Posted by: Randolph Fritz at November 3, 2004 12:46 PM

Funny that you mention Hoover, who did indeed have an illustrious public-service reputation. BUT WAIT -- are you saying that you want to have a system that will result in electing more people LIKE HOOVER??

To that, I SAY, 'NAY!'

Posted by: Brendan at November 3, 2004 12:48 PM

"You overlook that most Americans are isolationists at heart who have little concept of foreign policy or national affairs. Personal concerns over guns, gays and God they understand. They vote for what they understand. It is amazing that Kerry even won the Democratic nomination given his interest in foreign affairs. Kerry would not have won were it not for Iraq.

Senators like Kerry, McCain and Lugar usually know too much about foreign policy. They think it is important and that voters should care about policy. They forget that most voters do not care and cannot lower themselves to a level where they can connect."

bakho,

You may be right. But the fact that this is still true after 9/11, the mother of all awakenings that foreign policy matters, is a testament to the strength of the myth of American exceptionalism.

The coming financial disaster will serve as the economic example of the tendency to believe that the laws of [nature, economics, or other - just take your pick] just don't apply to us.

Posted by: Lewis Carroll at November 3, 2004 12:50 PM

"You overlook that most Americans are isolationists at heart who have little concept of foreign policy or national affairs. Personal concerns over guns, gays and God they understand. They vote for what they understand. It is amazing that Kerry even won the Democratic nomination given his interest in foreign affairs. Kerry would not have won were it not for Iraq.

Senators like Kerry, McCain and Lugar usually know too much about foreign policy. They think it is important and that voters should care about policy. They forget that most voters do not care and cannot lower themselves to a level where they can connect."

bakho,

You may be right.

But the fact that even after 9/11, the mother of all reminders that foreign policy matters, this lack of interest in foreign policy persists is a testament to the myth of American exceptionalism.

Likewise, when the economic meltdown occurs, it's likely that the belief that we're immune to the laws of [nature, economics, or anything else - take your pick] will still endure.

Posted by: Lewis Carroll at November 3, 2004 01:00 PM

Following Brad's logic, Bush owes his victory to the Georgia flag.

In 2001, Roy Barnes the Democartic governor of Georgia changed the Georgia flag because it prominently displayed the Confederate stars-and-bars. Despite this, everyone expected him to win the governor's mansion again in 2002 against Sonny Perdue. Barnes had an impeccable moderate record as governor, with great strides in health care and education, and strong support in the business community. His loss was one of the biggest upsets of 2002. (The joke here in Georgia is that Barnes was the second-most surprised man in the state that day.)

If Barnes hadn't lost in 2002, he would have run for President. As the only sitting governor, he would have had a huge advantage in the primaries. Plus the inevitable comparisons to Clinton.

So there you have it -- a Democratic Southern Governor who almost won the White House in 2004.

C'est la vie.

Posted by: Oberon at November 3, 2004 01:01 PM

I'd like to make a few points:

1. I think we really need to reform the way congressional races are done - and I am not just saying that because my party got its clock cleaned last night. It's absurd that California has 55 congressional districts, without one of them being competitive. It's even more absurd that a little bastard like Tom DeLay can effectively gerrymander an entire state like that. (Yes, I know it goes on with both sides, and went on for years while the Democrats controlled the House, but that was a good, recent example.) I'm all for a completely non-partisan, computer generated (they have that, I believe) redistricting when the next census is reported. (I know that is next to impossible politically, but it's an issue feel passionately about.) I'm also all for exploring some form of partial public financing directed particularly at the congressional level.

Imagine how this could change the way races are run in this country.

2. Dan Drezner had a sharp comment earlier today when he said that Tom Franks' lecture fee just tripled. I didn't read the book, but his "What's the Matter with Kansas?" explores why the Democrats suffer because of cultural issues.

Now, I heard that 40% of people voted on cultural issues. Apparently, people felt the fact that two men may get married is more important than the fact that our economy could go right into the crapper because of Bush's actions. We probably can't overcome a lot of that. And you know, we may not need to, if Tuxeira and Judis are correct in saying that the political map is changing to the Democratic advantage. But still, if we give up most of the South, even with North Carolina and Virginia moving our way, it gives them an absurdly good advantage, unless the Midwest happens to swing heavily in our direction and stops being a swing area. At the very least, we need to understand ways to deal with these cultural issues.

3. A lot of part of it was cultural. Another big part was probably terrorism and national security. But no matter, the Republicans certainly didn't run to the center. I don't know if all of those millions of more votes Bush got were from those evangelicals that Karl Rove said he believed were out there, or if enough people were scared into voting for Bush, but they weren't afraid to motivate their base. In the next election, we can't be afraid to, either. We don't have to nominate Dennis Kucinich, but unless it becomes apparent this country is taking a sharp turn to the right (and I doubt that is the case), we should say what we believe in and be proud of it.

Posted by: Brian at November 3, 2004 01:02 PM

Howard... I respectfully disagree with you. I believe this is precisely the day to get into this.

I did not say that any of the Democratic candidates since Humphrey (who, by the way, was quite competent) couldn't have governed more competently than the Republicans. I said instead that none of the candidates, save Carter (barely, after bribing Californians with central valley federal water projects) in the wake of Watergate & Vitenam, have convinced us they could govern competently.

And that, to echo Frost, has made all the difference.

Does anyone really wish ex post that Carter or Mondale had defeated Reagan; that Dukakis had defeated Bush 41; that Gore had defeated W. Really? Does anyone really believe the US would be better off with any of these gentlemen at the helm?

Credibility on the hustings is the issue. Kerry chose early on not to pound Pres. Bush repeatedly on the failure to secure Iraq after the invasion (not the invasion itself, mind you; the incompetence in its aftermath.) This despite the fact that he could have rendered Bush a dangling pinata on the subject. He found religion in September but it was too late by then.

Kerry didn't lose yesterday because Americans refuse to look at facts. I have facts, analysis and nuance coming out of my ears, not to mention saturation with 18 months of erudite and compelling Financial Times editorials explaining why W. is all four horsemen of the apocalypse rolled into one, and Kerry failed to convince me.

Was it his embrace of unilateral disarmement in the '80s? His naive rapproachment with the Sandinistas? His reflexive aversion to using force? His opportunistic embrace of protectionism despite a long record of supporting free trade? The fact that he apparently hasn't committed to a position since 1971? His aloofness? His arrogant demeanor?

It was all of that and more. It's all relative. And that's why Democrats continue to lose, not only on the presidential level, but in the house, senate and statehouses. They're in crisis and American needs them to sort themselves out.

Now.

Posted by: Bill at November 3, 2004 01:07 PM

Following Brad's logic, Bush owes his victory to the Georgia flag.

In 2001, Roy Barnes the Democartic governor of Georgia changed the Georgia flag because it prominently displayed the Confederate stars-and-bars. Despite this, everyone expected him to win the governor's mansion again in 2002 against Sonny Perdue. Barnes had an impeccable moderate record as governor, with great strides in health care and education, and strong support in the business community. His loss was one of the biggest upsets of 2002. (The joke here in Georgia is that Barnes was the second-most surprised man in the state that day.)

If Barnes hadn't lost in 2002, he would have run for President. As the only sitting governor, he would have had a huge advantage in the primaries. Plus the inevitable comparisons to Clinton.

So there you have it -- a Democratic Southern Governor who almost won the White House in 2004.

C'est la vie.

Posted by: Oberon at November 3, 2004 01:13 PM

Man, throwing Reagan into the unlucky column really undermines the whole post.

I agree the system sucks. A parliamentary system isn't the answer, as it leads to government instability. There's no need to toss out the checks and balances. What we need to get rid of are the Electoral College and the plurality voting system.

And I don't mean Instant Runoff Voting, which merely discards third party votes when it works, but Approval or Condorcet. That would be the way to pick a true competent moderate.

Posted by: fling93 at November 3, 2004 01:21 PM

The pattern you've identified exists and owes its existence in some degree to the primary system, which encourages people who only have part - time jobs to spend two years lining up primary delegates. Most southern governorships are part - time jobs. (Reagan was an ex-governor when he ran, so let's leave California out of this; besides, Schwarzenegger is proving every day just how part time the Cal. governorship can be).

And to one degree or another, they all retained a somewhat parochial view of the world in general and the US of A in particular. Each of them was guilty as seeing the country as just their state -- Texas, Ga., Ark. -- writ large.

As they each had to learn -- and as the current one will learn -- this isn't the case. America isn't just a larger version of Texas, it's something quite different.

This former part - time Governor and now part - time President is going to learn the truth of the old saying about being careful what you wish for.

Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to learn along with him, because he'll be passing that buck to all of us first, but that's something his 51% can mull over during the next four years.

Posted by: fbg46 at November 3, 2004 01:25 PM

Maybe it's not the system but the profound ignorance of humans?

"Against stupidity / The gods themselves / Contend in vain." (Schiller)

cf the inability of anyone to convince many (most?) Republican voters that Saddam didn't possess WMDs; that the number of Iraqi 9-11 hijackers was zero; ...

Posted by: liberal at November 3, 2004 01:27 PM

The pattern you've identified exists and owes its existence in some degree to the primary system, which encourages people who only have part - time jobs to spend two years lining up primary delegates. Most southern governorships are part - time jobs. (Reagan was an ex-governor when he ran, so let's leave California out of this; besides, Schwarzenegger is proving every day just how part time the Cal. governorship can be).

And to one degree or another, they all retained a somewhat parochial view of the world in general and the US of A in particular. Each of them was guilty as seeing the country as just their state -- Texas, Ga., Ark. -- writ large.

As they each had to learn -- and as the current one will learn -- this isn't the case. America isn't just a larger version of Texas, it's something quite different.

This former part - time Governor and now part - time President is going to learn the truth of the old saying about being careful what you wish for.

Unfortunately, the rest of us will have to learn along with him, because he'll be passing that buck to all of us first, but that's something his 51% can mull over during the next four years.

Posted by: fbg46 at November 3, 2004 01:29 PM

I note, again, that the urban areas and states where voters believe in the economic nonsense called "rent control" laws went strongly for Democrats; while areas without rent control went the other way.

The pattern is clear.

Also, the areas where young men voluteer for military service at a rate greater than 1-per-100
clearly broke Republican, while areas where military volunteerism is typically much less than 0.7-per-100 went otherwise. Clearly the "Starship Troopers" meme rules!

Or, it may be possible to see trends where there is no underlying meaning. Perhaps we're too quick to cherry pick the data.


Posted by: pouncer at November 3, 2004 01:31 PM

"The reason "liberal" dimocrats can't win presidential elections in this country is that they are out of contact with reality."

No, they are simply out of touch with the White House definition of reality that Rove et.al. shape as they see fit.

Evidence - how terribly misinformed Bush supporters are (i.e. they think Saddam was directly involved in 9/11, that WMDs have been found in Iraq, etc, etc)

The problem is that the "dimocrats" were not as good at shaping a reality based message in the face of GWB's disinformation campaign. Thus, while they did support a losing candidate they are not as "dim" as their Republican counterparts.

Damn it sucks to be right and lose.

Posted by: philip at November 3, 2004 01:34 PM

I think you (the original post) are ocmpletely off your rocker. I don't understand how you measure if a person is a good president. I will agree that Carter was abyssmal. But from then on:

Reagan won HUGE twice. He wanted to do two things, lower taxes and beat commies. He told us that he did that.

Bush (the elder) had the most impressive record of anyone ever to run for the presidentcy, even before he was VP. Decorated war veteran, congressman, chair of the republican party, ambassador to China, and Director of the CIA.

Clinton, although I never liked him one bit, was competent. If someone other than Blob Dole would have run in 1996 he could have been beat.

And Dubya might not be the most eloquent but 51% of the people in the face of the greatest onslaught of the left, ever, decided we needed to keep him.

Governors win presidential elections because they are an Executive running for an Executive position. You seem to take the position that only people with national public experience (read legislators?) are really qualified. But legislators are by their nature compromisers, not leaders. To put is bluntly, they don't know how to make a decision and stick with it.

Posted by: garrett at November 3, 2004 01:34 PM

Clinton would have lost to the incumbent vice president (Bush) if the imcumbent's party didn't split to Perot in 1992?
Bush lost to the imcumbent vice president even after the incumbent's (Gore) party split to Nader in 2000?
A lot of Perot's voters would have gone to Clinton, and a lot of Nader's voters would have gone to Bush.

Posted by: wkwillis at November 3, 2004 01:37 PM

Look, do you want a run-down of the last few British Prime Ministers, chosen in the world's oldest Parliamentary system (maybe not including Iceland)?
Tony Blair: barrister (= trial lawyer) without much of a reputation; enters Parliament in early thirties; spends whole time in Opposition; backed by powerful patronage of his law firm boss, Derry Irvine; fed slogans by his friend Gordon Brown; never runs anything bigger than an office with a couple of secretaries in it; becomes Labour Leader because he is, looks and sounds English upper middle class with Tory leanings, and beats John Major in an election that could have been won by a monkey.

John Major: hugely over-promoted Cabinet Minister; spends under a year as Chief Secretary to the Treasury (think OMB- job done by career civil servants), a few ludicrous months as Foreign Secretary in which he is publicly humiliated by Margaret Thatcher; promoted again to Chancellor following incumbent's shock resignation, and successfully advocates the subsequently disastrous entry of Sterling to the ERM; elected Tory Leader and PM because he is, looks and sounds lower-middle-class suburban English, and the Tories need those people to forget the Poll Tax and Major's own disastrous economic record.
(By the way, you're getting the impression that British people make a lot of political judgements based on what class people look like they belong to? You might just be right.)

Margaret Thatcher: Three and a half years as a Cabinet Minister in charge of Education, then a pretty small-budget department; gets one line in Anthony Sampson's 'Further Anatomy of Britain' as a hard-working woman liked by her civil servants; elected Tory Leader because Ted Heath was the least competent man ever to hold that post and the two obvious replacements were Keith Joseph (mad, also Jewish- not popular with '70s Tories) and Willie Whitelaw (too loyal to supplant his boss Heath).

Jim Callaghan: on paper the most qualified man ever to become Prime Minister, being the only PM to have previously held the three most important Cabinet posts: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary. Mediocre record, at best, in all three posts - retained by Harold Wilson to prevent an internal Labour Civil War. Runs up an utterly disastrous record as Prime Minister. Elected Labour Leader largely because of his links to the Unions; destroyed in office because of huge level of union militancy.

Ted Heath: Previous experience- Chief Whip of a failing Tory government, and chief negotiator in Macmillan's failed attempt to enter the EEC (as it then was). Elected largely because he looks, sounds and is a lower-middle-class suburban man at a time when the electorate is sick of Tory aristocrats. Loses an election; stays on, wins an election; is unquestionably one of the six worst Prime Ministers in British history. Loses two more elections, refuses to resign, defenestrated by Maggie Thatcher.

Harold Wilson: Previous experience: a couple of years as President of the Board of Trade, and before that a middle-ranking wartime civil servant and unpromising academic. Notable chiefly for his unswerving loyalty to Aneurin Bevan, and with Bevan is largely responsible for the civil war that wrecks the Attlee government and keeps Labour out of power for 13 years. Elected Labour leader because Hugh Gaitskell dies and George Brown is known by MPs to be an alcoholic. Narrowly beats the semi-moribund Douglas-Home to become PM; wins two and loses one further election; Prime Ministerial record best described as 'reactive' and 'mediocre'.

Alec Douglas Hume: 'the Thirteenth Earl Hume', as Wilson accurately describes him; Cabinet minister and aristocrat of some charm and no talent. Previous achievement, kept from public, was that he was one of the most fervent of the '30s appeasers. Renounces hereditary title and becomes Tory Leader because Rab Butler, ferociously gifted politician, is frankly not aristocratic enough and was also not as good at hiding his appeasement past. Hume is an utter disaster in his few months as PM, becomes a national laughing stock and loses to Wilson. Gets another aristocratic title off the Queen as consolation.

Ah, the Mother of Parliaments at work. How I look down on you dumb ignorant Merkans.

Posted by: Dan Hardie at November 3, 2004 01:39 PM

I did some research into Democratic southern governors. The best looking one I found (based on ngo.com photos) is from North Carolina. He looks very presidential. The party could do worse than to nominate this guy in 08.

Posted by: Half at November 3, 2004 01:40 PM

Bill -

"His aloofness? His arrogant demeanor?"

..arrogant demeanor compared to President Bush?
Clearly, that's it.

Posted by: bncthor at November 3, 2004 01:46 PM

Brian at November 3, 2004 01:02 PM

------------------------------

"...Democratic political strategy simply assumes that people know where their economic interest lies and that they will act on it by instinct. There is no need for any business-bumming class-war rhetoric on the part of candidates or party spokesmen, and there is certainly no need for a liberal to actually get his hands dirty fraternizing with the disgruntled. Let them look at the record and see for themselves: Democrats are slightly more generous with Social Security benefits, slightly stricter on environmental regulations, and do less union-busting than Republicans.

The gigantic error in all this is that people don't spontaneously understand their situation in the great sweep of things. Liberalism isn't a force of karmic nature that pushes back when the corporate world goes too far; it is a man-made contrivance as subject to setbacks and defeats as any other. Consider our social welfare apparatus, the system of taxes, regulations, and social insurance that is under sustained attack these days. Social Security, the FDA, and all the rest of it didn't just spring out of the ground fully formed in response to the obvious excesses of a laissez-faire system; they were the result of decades of movement-building, of bloody fights between strikers and state militias, of agitating, educating, and thankless organizing. More than forty years passed between the first glimmerings of a left-wing reform movement in the 1890s and the actual enactment of its reforms in the 1930s. In the meantime scores of the most rapacious species of robber baron went to their reward untaxed, unregulated, and unquestioned..."

--Thomas Frank

http://hnn.us/articles/6313.html

------------------------------

Posted by: Mike at November 3, 2004 01:50 PM

"This is not a good way to do things, people."

... except when it elects Democrats.

Posted by: Jason Ligon at November 3, 2004 01:55 PM

"Interesting pattern recognition. Let's face bald facts, however. Besides Pres. Clinton, who was without doubt one of the most gifted national politicians of the past century in addition to being fatally dissipated, the Democrats have failed serially since 1968 to field a candidate with whom the electorate resonates."

The Democrats have nominated people who were Senators or would have been good as Senators. Nuanced, compromising, in command of a vast array of details on their favorite policy issues. In many cases, they make fine professors. These are not good attributes for a Presidential candidate in today's America. Clinton had the charisma to overcome the handicap -- the others did not (I would assert that Carter was just lucky he got to run against Gerald Ford).

The Democratic Party needs some small set of new ideas. That's a small number of ideas, not small ideas. While the reality may be disasterous, consider the promises of "the Ownership Society." Control your own retirement. Control your health care and your relationship with your doctor. Own your house. Shrink the government. Easy concepts that resonate with the long-time American values of independence.

I might suggest that the Democrats use the idea of "Simple Government" as a foundation. The problem is not that government is too big, it's just too complicated. Tax policy should address real simplification. Cast health care in terms of simplification -- you, your doctor, and affordable prices instead of you, the HMO that changes every time you change jobs, gatekeepers, multiple complex government plans, etc. Reduce overlap -- for example, let the states have education while the feds take over Medicare/Medicaid. Try hard to reduce the number of things that the government does.

Posted by: Michael Cain at November 3, 2004 02:01 PM

This country is too big. Lets split it into at least two parts. We could use the reds and blues of the electoral map as a guide. I'd gladly leave Florida and move to a liberal part of the country that has the same values as I. We could still trade with each other. As a Blue I'd think we could relate more with the Canadians than the Reds. We'd have the west coast and the Great Lakes as well as the Upper East Coast for shipping. We could get our oil via pipeline from Mexico and our natural gas from Canada. In fairness though, I think we'd need to split the nuclear arsenal down the middle, for Homeland Security of course.

Posted by: vaughn at November 3, 2004 02:12 PM

Bill, since you insist: yes, lots of people believe, ex post, that al gore would have handled 9/11 and all that followed in a far superior fashion to george bush, and i'm inclined to believe that even more will come to think that as the disaster that is the bush administration continues to float along.

no, i don't think ex post that dukakis would have been better than bush the elder, largely because of the end of the cold war, which bush the elder was perhaps the most qualified man in the entire country to handle, but then again, i didn't cite dukakis, did i?

as for mondale and carter, well, as i noted, the issue with reagan isn't governance: his strengths were cultural and values-oriented, and to that extent, certainly he outperformed what carter and/or mondale would have done. but in terms of governance? no, lots of people will agree there too, ex post, that carter or mondale would have done better.

as for your rundown of kerry, well, you may think you have facts coming out of your ears, but i wouldn't put that paragraph forward as an example.

kerry lost for one reason: he fell short in ohio (conceivably due to the gay marriage ballot issue; conceivably due to what turns out in historic retrospect to be a waste of resources in florida rather than ohio; conceivably due to the swift boat liars; conceivably due to abortion; conceivably due to a superior gop gotv; conceivably due to the fact aversion of many bush voters; conceivably due to some other factor that hasn't surfaced; but not because of your notion of whether he has "stuck to" a position since 1971 or your other litany of charges).

and for that matter, gore lost not to an equal litany that i'm sure you could summon up, but due to poor ballot design in Palm Beach.

so while the Dems certainly have problems, i wouldn't say that it's in any way accurate that they should have produced candidates who could "easily" defeat george bush. i can't stand bush and what he stands for and whom he fronts for, but i certainly agree with what bill clinton said 4 years ago: he's one helluva politician.

Posted by: howard at November 3, 2004 02:15 PM

I've often wondered if neglecting the role of "monarch" was not in retrospect a blunder, amid so many other brilliant constructions of the US constitution. Worried as they were about the perils of a home grown aristocracy, any such concessions by the framers would have seemed foolish, and maybe have been so. But not mentioning it didn't make the role disappear, and it became de facto part of the Presidency. So now, 200 years on, in the face of that other great fear of the founders, rule by factions, the US is hobbled by a perverse tendency to identify the faction in power with the nation itself. Hence the cries of "anti-Americanism" drowning out even the most cautious and respectful criticism of the current President and his policies. The flip side is the ferocious attacks on President Clinton for dishonoring the position of President and by extension all citizens. (And, again conversely, the willful blindness of many Clinton supporters to his faults.)

This confusion seems less prevalent in places where the political leader is viewed as an employee, not the embodiment of the country. Attacking the Canadian PM, for example, is viewed variously as rude or funny, fair or dirty, or maybe even libelous, depending on partisan position (and gosh sometimes even on facts) but I've never heard it called treasonous, or even "anti-Canadian". Here we have as head of state the Queen, who is a foreigner with no political legitimacy, and is in practice represented by an domestic political appointee, a ribbon cutting society hostess (-ess currently), whose views on politics too have zero weight. I'd be happier if Elizabeth Regina were imaginary, but that seems impractical. (I have other, more republican ideas for reform once the current Queen departs.)

This arrangement lets us talk about our leaders without questioning anyone's loyalty. And yes, we can do so even during wars.

Posted by: David at November 3, 2004 02:15 PM

Brad DeLong writes:

> The problem is that being an unknown southern governor has
> next to nothing to do with being an effective president. Of the
> unknown southern governors who have run since 1972, we've
> been lucky once--Bill Clinton was a good president. We've
> been unlucky three times: Carter, Reagan, and George W. Bush
> were, none of them, up to the job.

So I had to teach today, which left me unable to read this or reply previously.

I think Brad's point is stronger if you read "unknown southern governor" more as "southern governor with poorly known policy inclinations" rather than "non-famous southern governor". I think that does trap all of the usual suspects. Reagan was not himself a southerner, but he ran as a southern populist of sorts; he even kicked off his campaign in Mississippi to prove the point. Now, nobody *who was paying attention* should have been surprised by what any of the unknown southern governors did; they didn't radically change anything they'd done in the past. But they did have much shorter lists of enemies in DC, and all of them were quite charming in their way.

The exception that proves the rule is, of course, Bill Clinton. Saying that he never spent a day in DC completely blows off the fact that he was a prize protege of Senatore Fulbright and went to school at Georgetown and basically spent his entire life trying to figure out how to be a player in DC. Love him or hate him, Clinton was a Pro.

Now the problem is that between now and 2008, so many things can continue to go even further awry than they have in the last four years. The tax cuts *will* be made permanent; they may even be extended. We probably *will* blow a $2 trillion hole in Social Security for the sake of privitization. I suspect the AMT will be completely repealed. If we get unlucky, we could have a recession in the next 4 years that could generate a trillion dollar federal deficit, and then things start to get ugly.

And that's just the economic stuff that will go wrong. I can't wait to see more ham-handed diplomacy with the emerging nuclear states. Not to mention domestic policy...

Posted by: Jonathan King at November 3, 2004 02:38 PM

Chris B - exactly. I want nothing to do with those who call me an imbecile and denigrate the system when they lose - and neither does the majority of Americans.

Posted by: Sean at November 3, 2004 02:43 PM

I found this site a few months ago and have found it totally facinating. I see the same things being said about Bush from the left that was said about Clinton from the right - ie he is the worst President ever, I can't believe we elected him twice, what is the Dem/Rep party doing so wrong that someone like this could get elected...twice.

I was born and raised a Southern Democrat - through the early 80's in Texas there was no Rep party except for Natl elections. I remember asking "Well if you win the Dem primary then you have won the election - why do they have the election?" - had no concept of two party system. In twenty short years the Dem party has managed to leave the Southern Dem to the point that most minor races in Texas are now unopposed Republicans like it used to be for the Dems.

There seems to be a lot of soul searching on this thread and a tendancy to look down at the Southern Dem and Middle America - kind of a "Bubba doesn't get it" mentality. Well let me offer my insight for what its worth. Clinton got elected twice because he was closer to Bubba than anybody from Boston and Middle America bought it.

But unless the Dem party comes back to the middle sometime pretty soon the transformation to Rep will be complete. What do I mean by that - Nobody in my grandparents generation would have even considered voting Republican (and my Grandfather had to be talked into taking his Social Security check because he didn't want "anything from the government") my parents generation started out voting only Dem but probably voted for Reagan and my father who was union member for 30 years voted for Gore last time but this time voted for Bush. I haven't voted for a Dem since Carter my first election.

The Dem elites don't get it - middle America wants less government but they don't have a mouthpiece like Michael Moore and Tim Robbins - but all their votes count the same.

My apologies if I have intruded on this thread - but just thought something needed to be said to tell the other side.

Posted by: JDB at November 3, 2004 03:00 PM

The system is not the problem. The voters are the problem.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit at November 3, 2004 03:17 PM

Wow, who let the wingnuts out to beat up their little strawmen all over Brad's comment board. Well, it seems like you're all having fun, just don't get yourselves too sticky and clean up after your done. I do have one snarky comment:

"This is a good reminder of what Bill Buckley was talking about when he said he'd rather be governed by the first 100 people in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard."

Bill Buckley also said that black South Africans were happier under Apartheid. While quoting racist, shitheads with big egos and stupid accents might be funny, its not really informative. Although he was friends with Galbraith which is a point in the positive in my book.

Posted by: Gideon S at November 3, 2004 03:20 PM

Jonathan King says: between now and 2008 ... The tax cuts *will* be made permanent; they may even be extended. We probably *will* blow a $2 trillion hole in Social Security for the sake of privitization. I suspect the AMT will be completely repealed.

And we (people whose values are aligned with the majority of blue states) should SUPPORT all of it. Why? The U.S today is really two countries: the blue states and the red states. While the red states distain the value of the blue states, they happily take lots of money from blue states through federal programs. So let's work to ruin all the bigger subsidy programs to the red states: medicare, medicaid, social security. What will we do when these programs are ruined? People in the blue states can and will work to get the state government to pick up the pieces while people in the red states will be left in the dust, and deservingly so.

Basically, I see no point try to get the vote of the small-minded majority in the red states. It will be much more fruitful to try to be financially separated from them as much as possible before they realize what is going on. People who choose economic stagnation over civil liberty should not be allowed to share the economic fruits of more tolerant states.

Posted by: pat at November 3, 2004 03:31 PM

One problem with Hoover: the presidency was his first elective office. He didn't have much experience in the give and take involved in elective politics.

Posted by: BayMike at November 3, 2004 03:39 PM

JDB,

Did Southerners and Middle Americans "get" that under Bush II they got more government and not less?

Brad,
Reagan was not an unknown.

rvman, Clinton was an unknown and was a surprise winner of the nomination in 1988. Political insiders knew about his skills, but Americans in general did not know who he was. Good Point on Eisenhower, though.

David, This statement
By what standard is Clinton a succesful president? When he entered office the economy was in the midst of a sustained boom. As he left, the country was entering a recession.
is just absurd. Do you think Clinton first got elected in 1996? Why did Bush I lose the election if there was a sustained boom going on and he was basking in the success of Gulf War I? President Clinton was a successful president because we created huge numbers of jobs under his watch and paid down the deficit. When do you think we will next be able to do that? Do you think with Republicans controlling three houses of government we will return to a surplus? Would you care to bet on that? Also as for Clinton's record on security, I remember that in the 90's the Republicans encouraged domestic terrorism by talking about the Gestapo-like US governemnt and cared more about impeaching Clinton than foreign, Islamist terrorism like Al Qaeda.

Posted by: KevinNYC at November 3, 2004 03:41 PM

So to continue the pattern, the president in 2008 could be Jeb Bush? Might as well have a monarchy :-) I'm sure the reasons for the Dem loss are various and more in line with what some of the more reasoned posts on this thread. My sense is that this country has a provincial outlook (or should that be inlook) and strong religiousity. This seems to result in at least a portion of the population making apparently irrational decisions about the public welfare. Then again, it could have been that Kerry voters really were just ABB voters.

Posted by: Alex Tolley at November 3, 2004 03:57 PM

Above all, Brad DeLong, I and so many others are grateful for you, for your wonderful teaching, your wonderful conversation, you beloved decency.

Posted by: anne at November 3, 2004 03:59 PM

Fact is, being Governor is a lot like being President.

Fact is there are loads of people who didnt like Bush in Texas. Check the current election results for Austin County (state capital). That is where a lot of the anti-Bush kool-aid comes from.

As Governor, Bush had to deal with foreign relations (Mexico) just as Governor Roosevelt had to deal with Canada and trade issues in New York.

Has Kerry ever had a leadership position in the Senate? he was never even governor of his own state!

Posted by: Don Meaker at November 3, 2004 04:14 PM

Sounds like you favor a parliamentary system, Brad. I have no objection -- if (and it's a big "if") it's combined with the requirement for a Congressional supermajority to confirm the Attorney General and all other high Justide cepartment officials, and the requirement that they must be periodically reconfirmed.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 3, 2004 04:30 PM

Look, gay-baiting won this election for Bush, plain and simple. The reason the Republican party wins is because they have no shame at using the most divisive, hateful demaguogery to promote their candidate---none.

They get pigfucking "family values" types who don't know fuck from shit to vote for a slogan and for hate.

What is the answer? I think part of the answer is to drive a wedge between the different factions in the right. For example, take abortion. As long as Roe Vs. Wade is the law of the land, it's all grravy for the GOP right wing. I believe that if Roe Vs. Wade were overturned, they would fracture quite quickly because it's not at all clear what abortion restrictions and penalties the right could agree on. Not that I'm hoping Roe v Wade is overturned, but you have to admit what I say makes sense. Ditto with gay marriage. Just saying you don't want "marriage" of gays is just the beginning. What is the next step, now the the right wing has complete control, including of the courts? What laws do they want to pass.

Somehow we need a strategy that forces the insane religious right wing to be explicit about what laws they want to enact, and we need to shine a light on it.
We MUST make them come up with real world proposals to discuss---get them out of the "moral values" mist and into grubby lawmaking.

I think abortion is a good place to start.
I have not ONCE seen a proposal in a mainstream news source about what the religious right will do to our laws if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Saying that abortion will be banned doesn't cut it.
What will the specific penalties and provisions be? Get down to brass tacks. The insane religious right wing will not be able to agree with the stupid religious right or the contented wealthier conservatives here, I'm convinced.

Wedge wedge wedge wedge wedge!!
They've done it to us for 20 years. Give it back at them!

Posted by: marky at November 3, 2004 05:07 PM

I think a basic problem with some of the analyses here is the expectation that ordinary voters vote based on their economic interests. I don't believe a long-term perusal of American history supports this. The era when they did, The New Deal (1932-1948 or perhaps even to 1968) is more than counterbalanced by eras in which they did not. And working and lower class white southern voters have repeatedly and emphatically voted against their economic interests - supporting slavery, post civil war plantocracy, and Jim Crow far more often than they have supported those interests as Populists and during the New Deal. AJ

Posted by: AJ at November 3, 2004 05:34 PM

It does a chucking one proud that the American farce rolls on, continuous voting for just a few-decades shy of its quarter-millenium! (!) (Will there be nuclear detonations by then?) --No matter who lost, there’d be complaints, right? I go with the “it’s not the system” philosophers above, and for several of their various reasons. Basically, any other system will end up with numbnuts equally daft.

Of course need more education of the voters and so on. (Personally I would love to vet the conservative-thinktanks’ SCIENTISMS about economics, beginning in the 1970’s, to look at the whole delicious fallacy of the “you’re on your own, in a complex system” department.) But more basically, the opposition needs to be positively FOR something, ...with which the Democrats have a generational problem.

(There’s also something in there about the fact that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, all made Christianity WORK POLITICALLY by defining mere belief in Christ, and merely following the rules of scripture, to be ADEQUATE in God’s eyes for your salvation--so you didn’t need to follow the ascetic mystic path and actually “become” God, as even dear Clement described that greater calling. But that stuff was all too Gnostic--and THAT hodgepodge bunch was JUST TOO ROWDY! Every full moon, it’s another goddamned orgy! Even the Neoplatonists knew they were full of shit! --Just go pitch your mind on Plotinus now, all you Cathoholics and Prostitutants!-- ...And “work politically” indeed--200 years after Origen, Christianity WAS the Empire. ...So welcome to the machinations!)

Scientisms, oh yeah, oh yeah! I asked Kerry supporters here ‘round Santa Monica before Tudesday whether, IF he WON, would they, or any other people they know, continue to work on Democratic policy initiatives... They suddenly looked at me blank, like I just started speaking in Spanish or something. (I want you to know, that I am so self-enfatuated as well as buckling under with work, that I have not found the time to learn Spanish, even though those extraordinary people are going to end up running this place.) The lesson is clear.

Slathered with foolishness, few know how to Think... that it’s okay to be wrong, that you find out better, that God’s gift--or the gift of evolution, take your stupid pick--in THIS world IS rationality, but: rationality is rather diffident upon the prediction of complex systems.

Next fights?: Social Security, global warming/ANWR...?

Posted by: Lee A. at November 3, 2004 05:38 PM

Ed Rendell for President in 08!

He's a southerner (South Eastern Pennsylvania, well actually he's from New York but...)

Posted by: Michael Carroll at November 3, 2004 05:41 PM

JDB,

Looks like we have different versions of what the center is and what a moderate Supreme Court would be. I don't think Bush came to the middle, I think went right. During the campaign, he ran to the middle again, with people around him saying he's not really born-again, just a regular Methodist and him supporting civil unions. That was just lip service. Bush is going to attempt to be unleashed and pass a flat tax among other things. Nixon wanted to the same thing in his second term, he just got caught out on the things he did his first term.

Posted by: KevinNYC at November 3, 2004 05:42 PM

And it would do a chuckling one prouder

Posted by: Lee A. at November 3, 2004 05:48 PM

Brad,

A key problem is that US citizens don't seem to understand what their govt does. Partly this is because your executive branch meddles strongly in the legislative and judiciary areas, which are arcane and impenetrably difficult to understand.

Partly they just don't pay attention, and think that obviously republicans must like less govt and obviously the US must be spreading democracy.

But if you thought the last 4 years were divisive, wait to see what comes. The press corp is no longer as gullible as they were, so Bush will find that when his statements are untrue they are reported as such. Nor will senate believe presidential budget predictions ever again having seen the deceit practiced in Bush's first term. He's going to have more power, less reason to play nice, and more strident and determined opponents.


meno
(now if you could just get big chariot races going with Red and Blue teams you Americans would really be fitting in with history better...)

Posted by: meno at November 3, 2004 05:51 PM

Two issues surfaced here. The first is the mechanics of choosing a CEO for the USA; the second is why the Democrats keep losing elections. They are not the same issue. Reagan and the current Bush were (are)not competent CEO's, but they both won majorities.

The problem as I see it is that since the Kennedy years (my generation) the democratic party has come to be run by the kind of highly educated and motivated persons who make up the cast of West Wing. It is a meritocracy, and we see ourselves as having earned that right by our achievements in the classier institutions of higher education. The kind of training we get and that the writings of Brad, and Paul Krugman among so many others exemplify, teaches us to examine facts, test them, and interpret them with logically constructed and in some measure empirically tested models of that reality. In short, it is a government by Ph.Ds.

Most of the world is not like that. They don't think the way we do because they never had the opportunty to do 8 to 10 years of post-secondary education. They resent our airs, and our comparative wealth, which unlike inherited wealth and the wealth gained by running a business, seems somewhat illegitimate. 'What's this guy got that I don't got besides a university education?'

A political party run by people like this is unlikely to understand or appreciate the depth of that resentment. We find it inconceivable that anyone would deny a bare fact or a simple syllogism. But it happens every day. It's not the mechanics of choosing a Presidential candidate that is the problem, it is the lack of insight into the mind-set of people who are unlike us in ways, that when we stop to think about it, are truly threatening. We are trained in logic and the study of fact. We believe it is important to know -- in the measure it can be known -- what we call the 'real world'. Fantasy is dangerous. But we have to admit its social existence.

I don't know what the answer is. I've gone back to reading Cassirer, who struggled with this problem in the 20s and 30s, and for good reasons, of which we are all too aware.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell at November 3, 2004 05:53 PM

Lee A.,

Remember Iraq?

The next fight will be about the war in Iraq. Clearly most Americans think of Iraq only in symbolic terms, but the consequences of the war will have more and more real impact and every other government or politicial initiative, a la the last years of LBJ, will grind to a halt.

Posted by: sm at November 3, 2004 06:17 PM

As a Blue, my loyalties are to my fellow Blues, not to the Un-United States government. My feelings are that the Christian Right (which supported Bush with their brainwashed flock's votes) are responsible for what their re-elected boy had started in Iraq. I feel that the Reds should have to finish it up without any further Blues participation. The Blues should be sent back home. If we were a seperate country of Blues and Reds, the Blues wouldn't be in Iraq, we have more sense than that.

Posted by: vaughn at November 3, 2004 06:21 PM

Jeeze the wing-nutters are indeed thick tonight.

Posted by: burritoboy at November 3, 2004 06:24 PM

The last few years have convinced me that the key issue of American civilization is whether all those red and black and brown people displaced, imported or disowned by the pale people who displaced, imported or disowned them will ever get a fair shake, or whether a significant, indeed super-significant portion of all American political energy will continue to be devoted to keeping them in their various places.

Posted by: sm at November 3, 2004 06:28 PM

pat writes:
>
> Basically, I see no point try to get the vote of the small-
> minded majority in the red states. It will be much more
> fruitful to try to be financially separated from them as
> much as possible before they realize what is going on.

I say: go all the way. Matthew Yglesias points to one striking idea here:

http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/11/a_modest_propos.html

There must be a down-side, but it escapes me at the moment.

Posted by: Jonathan King at November 3, 2004 07:22 PM

One of the critical comments heard a lot lately relative to the quality of presidents, and ultimately candidates, describes the virtual hell that people of substance would have to put themselves through to reach an elective office of consequence in this country. I believe it was Oprah Winfrey who replied, when asked about running for elective office, that she would never subject her family, her friends, and her associates to the scrutiny that today's media would subject them to. She went on to intimate that in the future it could be that no person of substance chooses to undergo this hell just to be able to sit in the Senate or the Oval Office. I believe this to be a primary reason why not only the Dems but even the Republicans are incapable of bringing someone to the fore who can galvanize the electorate regardless of partisan positions. Only when we can encourage those sorts of contributors to make the sacrifice, will we be able to have the quality of leadership we believe we deserve as a country. AND, only when we vote with our pocketbooks and purchasing habits, will we alert the media to our dissatisfaction with their treatment of people and their lack of professionalism and respect for people who make the sacrifice of service.

Posted by: John at November 3, 2004 08:52 PM

While it galls me to agree with Pat Sullivan, he's quite correct that Reagan was hardly an "unknown governor" when he was nominated, and that at the time Ike picked Nixon as his running mate he did so precisely because Nixon had already acquired a major reputation in Congress as one of the most important figures in the GOP's mostly-sham battle against the Gigantic Network of Democratic Commie Agents. (As for Bush, his friends say he's told them that he didn't even intend to run for president -- until the GOP's party bosses started pleading with him to do so because he was the strongest candidate in the 1997 polls, which in turn later turned out to be because about half the GOP voters polled DID have him mixed up with his father back then and thought Bush Sr. was trying to get back into the White House.)

Delong has falsely mixed up together three entirely separate phenomena:

(1) It's easier for governors to get nominated and elected for president than it is for Congressional figures. But -- while I don't really understand the reason for it -- that's ALWAYS been the case throughout US history; in fact, it's been easier for senators to get nominated for president in the last 44 years than it was before.

(2) No Northern Dem has been elected president since 1960, because it's at that point that the GOP adopted its winning alliance with racist white Southerners. (However, that factor may be changing; there have now been two elections in a row in which the Democrats came within a hair of winning without carrying a single Southern state -- something which no presidential candidate has done since Calvin Coolidge. Northern Dems are more likely to win the White House from now on than they've been for a while, because most Dems now ARE Northern Democrats but the country as a whole is still split about evenly between the two parties. It's the same reason why the Bushes are the first two Southern Republican presidents.)

(3) Since 1972, candidates have won their parties' nominations entirely through the rank-and-file voters, rather than party bosses having the power to hand them the nomination on a plate. This means that it's easier for someone to get nominated who is unimpressive to the major figures in his own party - but let's keep in mind why this new system was set up: it was at the demand of the Democratic Left after LBJ and the bosses rammed Hubert Humphrey down the party's throat without his even contesting a single primary. If you want to return to a system in which the Party Wise Men pick presidential nominees, you may get more experienced nominees, but you are also always going to run the risk of a repeat of 1968.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at November 4, 2004 12:23 AM

This might be lemons for USA but it could be lemonade for Australia. We know which type of people will be the most comfortable under W. We also know that the "new" industries are almost in all in the blue states.

Posted by: eunoia23 at November 4, 2004 12:36 AM

Back in the '30s there was a German politician who also pointed out the poor correlation between the skills needed to get elected and the skills need to run a country. He put his ideas into effect, too. Now who was that...

Anyhow, both he and Brad DeLong are missing the point that there is more to democracy than running things, there's keeping things in order so things work out right. It's not about imposing a scheme on things as they are.

BTW, someone with a name like Hardie shouldn't make the mistake of supposing that someone with a name like Blair is English; they are both Scottish surnames, for all that the Scottish and English upper classes have fused (Blair went to Fettes, an upper class school in Scotland).

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence at November 4, 2004 04:04 AM

Someone with a surname like Hardie is aware that Blair went to school at Fettes and grew up in the house of a wealthy Edinburgh lawyer, but the fact remains that Blair has spent his entire life since the age of 18 in England, represents an English seat, married an English wife, has never claimed to be Scottish, supports the England football team and looks, sounds like and is an English upper-middle-class lawyer. That Englishness was one of the main reasons he, and not the unmistakeably Scottish Gordon Brown, became leader after Smith's death.

Someone with a surname like Hardie is, actually, unmistakeably English, despite having an Irish mother, just as people with surnames like Patel can also be unmistakeably English. Someone with a surname like Lawrence may well be a pseudonymous Arabic-speaking soldier-spy with a sado-masochistic guilt complex, or perhaps a rather dull novelist from the Nottingham coalfields with bad lungs and wild eyes. But mabye that's enough surnames.

Posted by: Dan Hardie at November 4, 2004 04:17 AM

“This is not a good way to do things, people” - It’s the best that is available Brad.

marky (November 3, 2004 05:07 PM). Has the right idea. In our ‘winner take all system’ dividing your opponent is just as important as mobilizing your base. The science of abortion has left the cultural discussion in the dust. Reversing Roe v Wade will have little practical impact on access. Force the Republican’s to stop paying lip service to the issue and do something. Divide their house.

That said,…

Positives that have emerged despite the outcome
1- The media have been exposed for the whores they are. No additional amounts of pancake and lipstick will ever hide that fact again.
2- The Internet has shown fantastic promise as a vehicle for democratizing politics (organizing, fundraising and education).

Posted by: JackNYC at November 4, 2004 05:16 AM

Well, I thought after the "Drubbing" DUBYA gave you guys, after you pulled out all of the stops, used every media outlet (even Fox) to demean, and distroy him including forged documents, "Michael Moore" fiction, scaring the "
Hell" out of Senior Citizens, the left and the Media might just look at the results and say: "Hmmmm, maybe we just might be wrong, maybe the people of the United States do have a brain and can think for themselves" But alas, I can see I was wrong!!! Rush Limbaugh is right!! there is no reasoning with a Liberal!!! The only thing you can do is "Defeat them" and guess what you Liberal folks!! "YA JUST GOT YOUR BUTTS WHUPPED BIG TIME!!!!" and now, just like Rush says: "It's time to stand back and watch them make REALLY BIG FOOLS OF THEMSELVES!!! (:-))

Posted by: HAL at November 4, 2004 06:46 AM


In 1980, we elected an unknown governor--a southerner, if Orange County is "southern"--who had not spent a day in Washington D.C. and had no national political record.

...

Of the unknown southern governors who have run since 1972, we've been lucky once--Bill Clinton was a good president. We've been unlucky three times: Carter, Reagan, and George W. Bush were, none of them, up to the job."

A) Orange County is not southern. Fresno isn't even southern. California as a whole is not a southern state, it is as diverse as you could possibly want--far more so than New York and certainly more so than any of the small northern states. If you want to argue against all governors, fine. But trying to shoehorn California into the Southern model is just silly.

Frankly if being the governor of one of the largest and most diverse and economically productive states doesn't count, no state counts.

B) Counting Reagan as a failure, is well, interesting. Counting Reagan as a failure while you count Clinton as a success is shocking. I suspect it reflects a nearly 100% discount in the importance of foreign policy.

And with such a bad foundation, your argument goes from there.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at November 4, 2004 09:16 AM

Sebastian, Brad's an economist. You've been here long enough not to be stupid about something like that -- from an economist's perspective, Reagan was indeed a failure, and Clinton a success.

I think the clear answer for the Dems is to go back to their biggest pre-Clinton success, Kennedy, and nominate Barack Obama before he has a chance to be tainted by too many years in the Senate.

Posted by: Erik at November 4, 2004 09:45 AM

Hal, the address of the site you're looking for is hannity.com.

Posted by: Steve at November 4, 2004 10:40 AM

"Sebastian, Brad's an economist. You've been here long enough not to be stupid about something like that -- from an economist's perspective, Reagan was indeed a failure, and Clinton a success."

First of all, it isn't clear that even an economist ought to discount foreign policy when electing a president. Second, Brad knows that the presidential economic policy (especially of Reagan who had to deal with Democratic controlled Congresses, and Clinton who had to deal with Republicans at the end) don't control the economy. So calling Reagan a failure and Clinton a success seems like a bad analysis.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at November 4, 2004 11:20 AM

The pattern is clear: when there isn’t an unknown southern governor running, an incumbent president can win reelection or an incumbent vice president can win election....

An incumbent Vice President can win election? Since when?!? Only four have done it in the history of the Republic: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (who ousted his superior Adams - who had, BTW, beaten him four years before, giving him the VP slot - back when they were elected separately), Martin van Buren and, 148 years later, Bush 41. Of the four, only Jefferson got a second term.

Some pattern.

But one should expect such ahistorical nonsense from someone who defines Reagan (who was born in Illinois and was Governor of California) as a) Southern and b) a failure. Sheesh.

Posted by: Dodd at November 4, 2004 04:03 PM

DeLong’s piece must be a joke.

This election is different than any of the preceding seventy years because history will find no redeeming attribute of the person elected. There has been some substantial attribute to those previously elected in the past seventy years that distinguished them from their opponents. It would be tendentious to make the claim that Bush is a leader in the “war on terror”; a reviatlizer of the American economy, et al. Instead, he has preyed upon the less bright sectors of the electorate with an appeal to “values”; increased the wealth of the privileged; and manipulated antagonisms felt toward the opposing party. That is why one must go back to the 1920s.

With the increased pace of world; overtly malicious intent of Bush, Cheney and Delay; and failure of media and other elites to live up to responsibilities, one can only hope that Republican greed will lead to lesser rather than greater harm. This is the time for them to convince your neighbor that the oncoming train is a long overdue light.

Posted by: deletethisah at November 4, 2004 06:00 PM

Sigh.

What Blair is, is British. That's the point about the fusion of the upper classes. Dan Hardie's remarks would have been 100% accurate if he had put British for English throughout - but none of the evidence points at "English" rather than "British". It's the confusion of the two that I was trying to point out, and Dan Hardie's surname told me (accurately) that he had some backround knowledge in the area. You can't pick English from accent - why, I myself have a British public school accent for similar reasons, but it would be just as wrong to call me English. (And the Patels of this world rarely identify themselves as English either.)

Yes, Blair is not obviously Scottish, but if you must an ethnicity for him rather than the melting pot of British, don't make him out to be English.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence at November 4, 2004 09:34 PM

The mainstream news media have been spoon fed a new word by Bush/Rove. That word is "evangelical," and they are babbling it excitedly like babes at a day care to the exclusion of some very real issues impacting the Bush Presidency.

The second Bush/Rove pabulum is the Bush "mandate," also being belched along with the evangelical pill. Meanwhile, no one seems to entertain the possibility that the Bush "mandate" may mostly be an Electoral WMD.

That is not to imply that Republican grassroots efforts, moral values, the evangelical vote were important especially in Ohio. No question. Kerry was up against it in a nation voting with its Bible and belly instead of its brain. But, those issues are instantly eclipsed by the following:

1. Electronic (BBV) voting, or any voting method that does not leave a permanent paper trail which can be audited is a felony to democracy.

The legitimacy of democratic elections is predicated upon the electorate's ability to verify election results. To deny the people or any candidate the option of a recount is directly contrary to the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded. Therefore any voting method not leaving a permanent verifiable record should be eradicated forever from the American political landscape.

2. Re: Exit polling, please no more excuses or distortions. Exit polling always correlates within 2% with voting tallies. We need answers, or in the absence thereof, a serious investigation of the following facts:

a. In Election 2004 the only exit polls that did not correlate closely with voting tallies were in states using BBV or a combination of methods including electronic machines. http://www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=388" WHY?

b. In Election 2004, in every instance where there was significant statistical discrepancy between the exit polls and the voting tallies, George W. Bush was the recipient of additional votes and never John Kerry. WHY?

WI +4B MN +7B NC +9B FL +7B OH +6B CO +4B PA +5B NH +15B
NM +3B


http://www.washingtondispatch.com/spectrum/archives/000715.html
http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm

http://www.michigancityin.com/articles/2004/11/04/news/news02.txt

***The statistical probability of a & b resulting from something other than random chance will be published shortly.

c. "The last wave of national exit polls we received, along with many other subscribers, showed Kerry winning the popular vote by 51 percent to 48 percent." http://nytimes.com/2004/11/05/politics/campaign/05poll.html

If you think that I am screaming fraud, you are missing the point. I submit that these issues should be thoroughly investigated, not in any attempt necessarily to overturn the election, but to pursue the truth which is the mainstay of any democracy and which used to be the heart and soul of news journalism.


Posted by: Patriot at November 6, 2004 03:55 PM

The mainstream news media have been spoon fed a new word by Bush/Rove. That word is "evangelical," and they are babbling it excitedly like babes at a day care to the exclusion of some very real issues impacting the Bush Presidency.

The second Bush/Rove pabulum is the Bush "mandate," also being belched along with the evangelical pill. Meanwhile, no one seems to entertain the possibility that the Bush "mandate" may mostly be an Electoral WMD.

That is not to imply that Republican grassroots efforts, moral values, the evangelical vote were important especially in Ohio. No question. Kerry was up against it in a nation voting with its Bible and belly instead of its brain. But, those issues are instantly eclipsed by the following:

1. Electronic (BBV) voting, or any voting method that does not leave a permanent paper trail which can be audited is a felony to democracy.

The legitimacy of democratic elections is predicated upon the electorate's ability to verify election results. To deny the people or any candidate the option of a recount is directly contrary to the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded. Therefore any voting method not leaving a permanent verifiable record should be eradicated forever from the American political landscape.

2. Re: Exit polling, please no more excuses or distortions. Exit polling always correlates within 2% with voting tallies. We need answers, or in the absence thereof, a serious investigation of the following facts:

a. In Election 2004 the only exit polls that did not correlate closely with voting tallies were in states using BBV or a combination of methods including electronic machines. http://www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=388" WHY?

b. In Election 2004, in every instance where there was significant statistical discrepancy between the exit polls and the voting tallies, George W. Bush was the recipient of additional votes and never John Kerry. WHY?

WI +4B MN +7B NC +9B FL +7B OH +6B CO +4B PA +5B NH +15B
NM +3B


http://www.washingtondispatch.com/spectrum/archives/000715.html
http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm

http://www.michigancityin.com/articles/2004/11/04/news/news02.txt

***The statistical probability of a & b resulting from something other than random chance will be published shortly.

c. "The last wave of national exit polls we received, along with many other subscribers, showed Kerry winning the popular vote by 51 percent to 48 percent." http://nytimes.com/2004/11/05/politics/campaign/05poll.html

If you think that I am screaming fraud, you are missing the point. I submit that these issues should be thoroughly investigated, not in any attempt necessarily to overturn the election, but to pursue the truth which is the mainstay of any democracy and which used to be the heart and soul of news journalism.


Posted by: Patriot at November 6, 2004 03:56 PM

The mainstream news media have been spoon fed a new word by Bush/Rove. That word is "evangelical," and they are babbling it excitedly like babes at a day care to the exclusion of some very real issues impacting the Bush Presidency.

The second Bush/Rove pabulum is the Bush "mandate," also being belched along with the evangelical pill. Meanwhile, no one seems to entertain the possibility that the Bush "mandate" may mostly be an Electoral WMD.

That is not to imply that Republican grassroots efforts, moral values, the evangelical vote were important especially in Ohio. No question. Kerry was up against it in a nation voting with its Bible and belly instead of its brain. But, those issues are instantly eclipsed by the following:

1. Electronic (BBV) voting, or any voting method that does not leave a permanent paper trail which can be audited is a felony to democracy.

The legitimacy of democratic elections is predicated upon the electorate's ability to verify election results. To deny the people or any candidate the option of a recount is directly contrary to the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded. Therefore any voting method not leaving a permanent verifiable record should be eradicated forever from the American political landscape.

2. Re: Exit polling, please no more excuses or distortions. Exit polling always correlates within 2% with voting tallies. We need answers, or in the absence thereof, a serious investigation of the following facts:

a. In Election 2004 the only exit polls that did not correlate closely with voting tallies were in states using BBV or a combination of methods including electronic machines. http://www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=388" WHY?

b. In Election 2004, in every instance where there was significant statistical discrepancy between the exit polls and the voting tallies, George W. Bush was the recipient of additional votes and never John Kerry. WHY?

WI +4B MN +7B NC +9B FL +7B OH +6B CO +4B PA +5B NH +15B
NM +3B


http://www.washingtondispatch.com/spectrum/archives/000715.html
http://ustogether.org/Florida_Election.htm

http://www.michigancityin.com/articles/2004/11/04/news/news02.txt

***The statistical probability of a & b resulting from something other than random chance will be published shortly.

c. "The last wave of national exit polls we received, along with many other subscribers, showed Kerry winning the popular vote by 51 percent to 48 percent." http://nytimes.com/2004/11/05/politics/campaign/05poll.html

If you think that I am screaming fraud, you are missing the point. I submit that these issues should be thoroughly investigated, not in any attempt necessarily to overturn the election, but to pursue the truth which is the mainstay of any democracy and which used to be the heart and soul of news journalism.


Posted by: Patriot at November 6, 2004 03:58 PM