Blogs

2012

2012....I'd like to be the first pundit to go on record predicting the result of the 2012 election. I project that Barack Obama will crush his Republican opponent and win the popular vote by 10 percentage points. You heard it...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 8:24 PM EST

2012....I'd like to be the first pundit to go on record predicting the result of the 2012 election. I project that Barack Obama will crush his Republican opponent and win the popular vote by 10 percentage points. You heard it here first.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Help Me, Virtual Will.I.Am, You're My Only Hope

While there was much to enjoy during television election coverage last night, from even Juan Williams on Fox News and Stephen Colbert getting weepy to Chris Matthews desperately trying to hold back from calling the thing at 8pm EST, there was nothing more ridiculous than CNN's new "holographic" technology. At a seemingly nail-biting moment, with results starting to trickle in, Wolf Blitzer stopped everything...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 5:45 PM EST

While there was much to enjoy during television election coverage last night, from even Juan Williams on Fox News and Stephen Colbert getting weepy to Chris Matthews desperately trying to hold back from calling the thing at 8pm EST, there was nothing more ridiculous than CNN's new "holographic" technology. At a seemingly nail-biting moment, with results starting to trickle in, Wolf Blitzer stopped everything to announce something "never before seen on television": a live shot of a reporter "beamed in" to the studio from a tent in Grant Park. Of course, Wolf couldn't really see her, so it wasn't really a hologram (that's why I'm using so many quotes), it was more like an highly-coordinated multi-camera green-screen, similar to the 1st and Ten system for football games. But that didn't stop them from talking about it for what seemed like 17 hours. Wolf and Anderson seemed most excited about using the hologram system to isolate reporters from the noisy crowds, apparently not understanding that they were still using the same old microphones and it was the tent that was keeping the crowds at bay.

So, CNN, you've spent untold billions of dollars on this technology, what are you going to do with it next? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Virtual Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, who wandered into the tent and got himself Tron-i-fied. "We're at an eve of a brand new day," he declared, flickeringly, but then immediately turned to more important matters: "All this technology, I'm being beamed to you, like in Star Wars and stuff?" Watch what Vulture called a "momentous" appearance after the jump.

Palin in 2012? Maybe Not So Much

When we visited a Palin rally in Virginia in October, we were greeted with Palin-mania. In a statement that seemed...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 5:26 PM EST

When we visited a Palin rally in Virginia in October, we were greeted with Palin-mania. In a statement that seemed to represent the feelings of many, one woman said, "I respect John McCain, but I loooove Sarah Palin."

That enthusiasm appears to be confined to pockets of the Republican base, because it sure as heck wasn't found among the electorate at large yesterday. From MSNBC:

NBC-WSJ GOP pollster Neil Newhouse did a post-election survey last night, and here's what he found: Just 12% of those surveyed believed Palin should be the GOP's new leader; instead 29% of voters said Romney, followed by 20% who say Huckabee. Among GOPers, it was Romney 33%, Huckabee 20% and Palin 18%.

Is Rahm Emanuel--Reportedly Obama's New Chief of Staff--an Agent of Change?

The Obama administration is already under way. And a new theme begins for the Obama tale: is he bringing real...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 4:24 PM EST

The Obama administration is already under way. And a new theme begins for the Obama tale: is he bringing real change to Washington?

The day after Barack Obama's historic and decisive victory, various media outlets are reporting that the president-elect has picked Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) to be his White House chief of staff. Emanuel is one of the more colorful characters in Washington: a sharp-tongued, quick-witted partisan. He was one of the original Clinton warriors--those political operatives who guided Bill Clinton to the White House and then went to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He put in five years on the front lines of the Clinton wars--longer than most of his comrades--and then left to make millions of dollars in the private sector. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2002 and soon became the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Leading the DCCC, Emanuel was a prolific fundraiser and engineered the 2006 election wins that allowed the Democrats to regain control of the House.

A Washington player he is. Mother Jones profiled him and examined his tough-guy ways in 1993, a few months into his stint at the Clinton White House. When Emanuel left the Clinton White House in October 1998--during the Monica Madness--The Washington Post summed up his years there:

Reflections on California's Proposition 8

The United States took away rights yesterday. It's a stunning thing to acknowledge. On the same day we culminated a...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 4:19 PM EST

The United States took away rights yesterday.

It's a stunning thing to acknowledge. On the same day we culminated a civil rights struggle that spans our nation's entire history by electing the first African-American president of the United States, California voters revoked the right of some citizens in their state to marry the people they love, and nullified the bonds of some who already had.

California's Proposition 8 amends the California state constitution to eliminate the right to marry awarded to homosexuals by the California courts in May 2008. Further, it states that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized by the state, likely shredding the marriages that have occurred since the court decision. Prop 8 passed Tuesday by a vote of 52-48, part of a wave of successful anti-gay legislation nationwide.

If you look at the front page of any newspaper today, you'll find heart-warming plaudits for the country about racial healing and America's progress since the civil rights movement. Count me out. Barack Obama won because the Bush Administration hung a 30-pound anchor around the neck of every Republican in the country, because the economy cratered just before the election and his opponent showed no capacity to understand the problem, and because he ran the best campaign in recent memory. You cannot divorce his victory from those facts. Yes, his ascendance to the White House is a wonderful thing for everyone in this country — black, white, or otherwise — who have struggled for rights, and it a wonderful thing for children of all colors, who now know without a doubt that there are no limits on their potential. But Obama's victory is muddied by too many other factors, some small but some quite large, to be taken as a clear sign that we have made substantial progress on the question of tolerance.

The Great Persuader

THE GREAT PERSUADER....Will Barack Obama be a great president? He's got a big election victory behind him, solid congressional majorities in both houses, an electoral coalition eager to support him, and a country seemingly ready for serious change. But what...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 3:37 PM EST

THE GREAT PERSUADER....Will Barack Obama be a great president? He's got a big election victory behind him, solid congressional majorities in both houses, an electoral coalition eager to support him, and a country seemingly ready for serious change. But what kind of change? Technically, his platform is as progressive as we've seen from a Democrat in a generation. But did he really sell it to the voters? Did he even make the effort? The public face of his economic policy, after all, was almost entirely based on tax cuts, a distinctly conservative notion. His energy plan was largely based on the promise of "green jobs." He mostly avoided talking about social issues. He got people's votes, but did they really know what they were voting for?

I'm not sure. A couple of months ago I wrote a piece for Mother Jones about this, and after Obama's speech at Invesco Field I almost changed it a bit before publication. But in the end I didn't, and I think that turned out to be right. Because it's still not clear to me that Obama even tried to sell the public on specifically progressive change:

Majorities may come and go, but FDR built a liberal legacy that outlasted him because, by the time he left office, the public believed in the New Deal and everything that went with it.

Now fast-forward 70 years and ask yourself, What is it going to take to pass serious climate change legislation? A liberal majority in Congress? Check. Interest groups willing to rally? Check. But to paraphrase an old military saying, the opposition gets a vote too. And the opposition's message to a public already tired of high gasoline prices is going to be simple: Liberals want to raise energy prices. Your energy prices.

And make no mistake. Barack Obama's cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions may be technically one of the best we've ever seen, but it will raise energy prices. That's the whole point. So once the public understands that there's more to Obama's plan than green-collar jobs and serried ranks of windmills on the Great Plains, they're going to have second thoughts. And those congressional majorities, who face election in another couple of years, are going to have second thoughts too.

The right way to address this won't be found in any of Obama's white papers. There's a story there, if you dig deep enough, but it's long and complicated and relies on things like increased efficiency, consumer rebates, and R&D funding that pays off in another decade or so. In the short term someone is going to have to tell the public that, yes, there's some sacrifice required here, but it's worth it. Someone needs to come up with a garden-hose analogy to convince a financially stressed public that doing something for the common good is worth a small price.

That someone, of course, is Barack Obama, but it's not clear yet if he gets this. His speeches soar, but they rarely seem designed to move the nation in a specific direction. Is he pushing the public to support cap and trade even though it might cost them a few dollars? Or merely to vote for "change"? It's sometimes hard to tell.

I'm not arguing for hair shirt politics. Presidential candidates win office by promising to solve all the problems of the world, not by hectoring the electorate. And as I mentioned in the article, FDR ran a notably mushy campaign in 1932 and look how he turned out.

But even if that was a good excuse for holding back during the campaign season, now's the time to start using the bully pulpit. Obama has a notable streak of temperamental caution that serves him well, but it could also betray him. Maybe he could have turned the tide against Proposition 8 in California if he'd been willing to take a risk on its behalf. Maybe he can overcome conservative opposition to a progressive energy plan if he's willing to take some risks selling it to the public. But if he doesn't, all the congressional majorities in the world won't help him in the long run. I sure hope he understands this.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Whither Joe?

WHITHER JOE?....So what happens to Joe Lieberman now? If Dems had gotten to 59 or 60 seats in the Senate, it would be really tough to kick him out of the caucus. But at 56 or 57, Lieberman is a...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 2:20 PM EST

WHITHER JOE?....So what happens to Joe Lieberman now? If Dems had gotten to 59 or 60 seats in the Senate, it would be really tough to kick him out of the caucus. But at 56 or 57, Lieberman is a lot less important. Sure, every vote counts, but needing four or five GOP votes to break a filibuster instead of three or four — well, that's just not such a big deal.

On the other hand, politics makes for strange bedfellows, and political leaders swallow hard and make compromises for the greater good all the time.

On the third hand, dumping Lieberman, especially if Obama were behind it, would be a very dramatic way of encouraging party loyalty from the rest of the Democratic caucus in the future, wouldn't it?

So....I dunno. What do you all think happens to Holy Joe? Stay in the caucus on condition of good behavior? Stay in the caucus but lose his committee chair. Get kicked out completely? Something else?

How We Voted

HOW WE VOTED....We're going to be seeing a ton of electoral slicing and dicing over the next few day, but Andrew Gelman leads off today which a chart showing the tremendous difference in the youth vote this year compared to...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 2:02 PM EST

HOW WE VOTED....We're going to be seeing a ton of electoral slicing and dicing over the next few day, but Andrew Gelman leads off today which a chart showing the tremendous difference in the youth vote this year compared to 2000 and 2004. In the previous two elections George Bush got nearly half of the 20-something vote. This year, John McCain barely broke 30% of the youth vote.

Gelman also notes that the election came out about the way political scientists expected. "Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy." He calls that "close," but I'm not sure that's right. It's true that historically it's no blowout, but presidential elections have trended pretty close in recent years, and by the standards of the last decade this is a pretty solid win — especially given the big Democratic majorities now in place in Congress. Given the state of the country, it's hard to see how it could have been much bigger.

Landslide? The Popular Vote Total, in Historical Context

Was it a landslide? Judge for yourself. Here are 60 years worth of popular vote totals, from most lopsided to...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:36 PM EST

Was it a landslide? Judge for yourself. Here are 60 years worth of popular vote totals, from most lopsided to least.

+23.2%, Nixon defeats McGovern, 1972
+22.6%, Johnson defeats Goldwater, 1964
+18.2%, Reagan defeats Mondale, 1984
+15.4%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1956
+10.9%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1952
+9.7%, Reagan defeats Carter, 1980
+8.5%, Clinton defeats Dole, 1996 (less than 50% to the winner)
+7.8%, Bush I defeats Dukakis, 1988
[+6%, Obama defeats McCain, 2008]
+5.3%, Clinton defeats Bush I, 1992 (less than 50% to the winner)
+4.5%, Truman defeats Dewey, 1948 (less than 50% to the winner)
+2.4%, Bush II defeats Kerry, 2004
+2.1%, Carter defeats Ford, 1976
+0.7%, Nixon defeats Humphrey, 1968 (less than 50% to the winner)
-0.5%, Bush II defeats Gore, 2000 (less than 50% to the "winner")
+0.1%, Kennedy defeats Nixon, 1960 (less than 50% to the winner)

Return to Reagan

RETURN TO REAGAN....Conservatives are now going to spend the next few years talking about the future of their movement, the same way we liberals have been talking about ours since 2002. I suppose I'll pop in and kibbitz once in...

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:01 PM EST

RETURN TO REAGAN....Conservatives are now going to spend the next few years talking about the future of their movement, the same way we liberals have been talking about ours since 2002. I suppose I'll pop in and kibbitz once in a while, but for now I just want to throw out one thought: the Republican Party needs to return to Reaganism.

Obviously I won't get any argument on that score from conservatives, but here's the thing: they need to return to actual Reaganism, not the Reagan myth they've created over the past 20 years. The problem with George Bush was never that he was too conservative (he had a distinctly mixed record on that score), nor that he "abandoned" conservatism (like it or not, it's just not true that he lost popularity because he overspent in his first term). The fact is that throughout his presidency he remained a fairly popular figure among rank-and-file Republicans, if not the conservative intelligentsia, but eventually cratered among center-right independents. And that happened, I think, because he lacked any sense of pragmatism. He was surrounded, as Ron Suskind told us eight years ago, by Mayberry Machiavellis who disdained policy and ground-level reality, and instead evaluated everything that crossed their desks based solely on its partisan appeal and ideological purity. He was surrounded by single-minded zealots like Dick Cheney and David Addington who reinforced his worst tendencies, shredding the constitution and institutionalizing torture in the service of endless foreign war. He appointed cronies to jobs that required actual expertise and ignored to the end the fiscal disaster of policies dedicated solely to protecting friendly corporations and the rich. He himself maintained his intellectual incuriosity throughout, never doubting that a modern country of 300 million people could be governed by gut feeling. No presidency, either liberal or conservative, can survive that. It produces incompetence, disaster, rot, and eventual popular rebellion.

Reagan, conversely, had a mile-wide pragmatic streak. Maybe it was his Midwest roots. Maybe it was because he was originally a New Deal Democrat. Maybe it was because he had spent years dealing with California politics. Maybe it was just because Tip O'Neill was speaker of the house and he had no choice.

But whatever the reason, he had it. He slashed taxes in his first year, but when that produced gigantic deficits he raised them the next — and then raised them again every single year of his presidency. (He kidded himself that he was just "closing loopholes," but he did it nonetheless.) He favored partial privatization of Social Security, but when it became clear that he couldn't get that he called Alan Greenspan and had him put together a mainstream, bipartisan rescue plan. He won office on the back of social conservatism, but he was the president who originated the Republican tradition of delivering speeches to the annual pro-life rally in Washington DC by phone because he didn't want to be too closely associated with them. He drove up defense spending and called the Soviet Union an evil empire, but when the Kremlin finally produced Mikhail Gorbachev he did business with him. To the consternation of conservatives everywhere, he eagerly embraced arms control talks with Gorbachev and eventually signed the INF treaty.

This isn't some kind of ode to Reagan. Reagan was a dedicated, sometimes primitive conservative with plenty of failures to his credit, and I opposed nearly everything he did. But I'm talking about what conservatives need, not what I want or approve of. And unlike George Bush, Reagan seemed to instinctively understand the limits of what was possible and what the country would accept. If the Republican Party continues to embrace Bushism and the messianic, know-nothing Texification he brought with him (current incarnation: Sarah Palin), it will continue its intellectual and popular decline. But if it regains its pragmatic Reagan streak, who knows? They could be back and giving Dems a run for their money sooner than anyone thinks.