Kevin Drum

Religion Watch

| Sun Nov. 9, 2008 12:21 PM EST

RELIGION WATCH....In the LA Times today, Cathleen Decker repeats the claim that Barack Obama kicked ass among religious voters this year. Let's deconstruct her argument. The first problem is that she has her facts wrong:

Exit polls showed the dramatic effect: Obama won 43% of voters who said they attend church weekly, eight percentage points higher than 2004 Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.

That's not true. Kerry won 39% of weekly churchgoers in 2004. Obama did four percentage points better than Kerry, not eight.

The second problem is that it's irrelevant. Check this out:

"Obama did better than Kerry among pretty much every religious group," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life who analyzed the poll results.

Even among voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians or evangelicals, a group that tends to vote Republican, Obama improved on Kerry's standing....Yet there is no doubt that secular voters were more supportive of Obama than religious ones, according to the exit poll.

So Obama did better among every religious group and he did better among seculars. Hmmm. It's almost as if Obama did better among everyone!

Which he did. He beat Kerry's overall 2004 total by 4.3 percentage points, which means that doing four points better among weekly churchgoers doesn't mean a thing. What's more, the reason he did even that much better is pretty obvious: blacks and Latinos, who are heavy churchgoers, voted strongly for Obama this year — and needless to say, that had nothing to do with Obama's outreach to the religious community. (In fact, Obama underperformed with white evangelicals.) Decker mentions this, but then plows right through to provide nearly a thousand additional words of anecdotal explanation for Obama's nonexistent surge of support among churchgoers.

Please. Can we stop this? I know we all need stories, and liberals are hungry for evidence that we're making inroads among religious voters. But we aren't. In fact, Obama made up more ground among the nonreligious than he did among the religious. For some reason, though, no one seems interested in writing a story about that.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama's Priorities

| Sun Nov. 9, 2008 1:07 AM EST

OBAMA'S PRIORITIES....Peter Baker of the New York Times writes today about Barack Obama's plans once he's in office, which start with financial stimulus, an energy plan, healthcare reform, and several other items:

During the campaign, Mr. Obama identified many other priorities — withdrawing from Iraq and talks with Iran, tackling immigration and the issue of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and trade negotiations with the country's North American neighbors.

At the same time, his team is tamping down expectations of instant action by discouraging talk of a 100-day program.

That's music to my ears. Allowing the press to implicitly compare everything you do with FDR's first months in office is a guaranteed way to look like a failure. Besides, while it's true that honeymoons don't last forever, there's no reason they can't last longer than a hundred days, especially when you have substantial congressional majorities working with you. Luckily, Obama seems to understand this:

Mr. Obama's transition advisers studied how Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan and Clinton used their first months. The lesson many drew was that even if various agencies moved forward in many directions, a new president must husband his time, energy and political capital for three dominant priorities at most. Several Obama advisers cited Reagan, who concentrated his early efforts on pushing through major tax cuts and increased military spending.

....In an interview on CNN days before the election, he explicitly ranked his priorities, starting with an economic recovery package that would include middle-class tax relief. His second priority, he said, would be energy; third, health care; fourth, tax restructuring; and fifth, education.

Those priorities sound about right to me. Obviously dealing with the economy is Job 1, but energy and healthcare were the main domestic policy items Obama campaigned on and he has a pretty clear mandate to act on them. (Unlike, say, 2004, when Bush barely mentioned Social Security during the campaign and then pretended he had a mandate to privatize the system. Didn't work out so well for him.) Add Iraq to the mix on the foreign policy side and Obama has a pretty full plate of major policy initiatives for his first year. Add in the usual slew of more modest measures, and we could be in pretty good shape by the end of 2009.

Assuming, of course, that congressional Dems have learned their lesson from 1993 and can put their egos in check enough to actually take some guidance from the guy in the White House. Here's hoping.

Lock and Load

| Sat Nov. 8, 2008 1:40 PM EST

LOCK AND LOAD....Turns out that Barack Obama's victory on Tuesday has already stimulated the economy in North Carolina:

Starting in the days before the election, gun shops across the state have been mobbed by buyers who fear that Obama and a larger Democratic majority in Congress will restrict firearm sales.

...."It's been an absolute madhouse," said Trey Pugh, a manager at Jim's Pawn Shop in Fayetteville, which is selling 15 to 20 AR-15 assault rifles a day. "I'm getting guys come in and say I always wanted that gun, and give me that one too and that one and, oh, I need a gun safe, too." Distributors are running out of assault rifles, he said, and prices are rising.

On the stump, Obama didn't discuss sweeping changes to gun laws. But his stance that local authorities should be able to make "sensible" laws has worried some.

I hope the Colt people are grateful. You can't buy a marketing bonanza like this.

The Fairness Doctrine

| Sat Nov. 8, 2008 12:33 PM EST

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE....It's true, as Matt says, that the gang at The Corner has been kind of obsessed lately with the idea that Democrats plan to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine after Obama takes office. Bye bye Rush Limbaugh! I started noticing this chit chat a couple of weeks ago and did a bit of desultory googling to try to figure out what they were talking about, but I couldn't find much. It turns out that a few senators over the years have made occasional ritual calls to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but the bulk of the conservative hyperventilating always eventually linked back to a single sentence in The American Spectator:

According to two members of the House Democrat Caucus, Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have informed them that they will "aggressively pursue" reinstatement of the so-called Fairness Doctrine over the next six months.

So the Spectator, not exactly known for its deep sources with the Democratic Party, reports that "two members" of the House Democratic caucus claim that Pelosi and Hoyer are going to aggressively pursue reimposition of the Fairness Doctrine. Unfortunately for the conspiracy theorists, this was reported in May of 2007, and unless I missed some big news, Pelosi and Hoyer failed to make their big push.

So why are conservatives in such a tizzy about this? It's a mystery. There do appear to be a few members of Congress who think it's a shame we got rid of the Fairness Doctrine, but as near as I can tell, "few" equals four or five in the Senate and maybe a dozen in the House. There are probably more Republicans who believe in a return to the gold standard than there are Democrats who seriously want to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine.

So I'm still in the dark about why this has taken on such currency in conservative circles. Maybe someone can enlighten me. In the meantime, in other radio-related blogging news (nice segue, eh?), Nick Carr compares the blogosphere to the radio industry here:

When "the wireless" was introduced to America around 1900, it set off a surge in amateur broadcasting, as hundreds of thousands of people took to the airwaves. "On every night after dinner," wrote Francis Collins in the 1912 book Wireless Man, "the entire country becomes a vast whispering gallery."

....But it didn't last. Radio soon came to be dominated by a relatively small number of media companies, with the most popular amateur operators being hired on as radio personalities....That's not to say that the amateur radio operators didn't change the mainstream media. They did. And so, too, have bloggers. Allowing readers to post comments on stories has now, thanks to blogging, become commonplace throughout online publishing. But the once popular idea that blogs would prove to be an alternative to, or even a devastating attack on, corporate media has proven naive.

A couple of weeks ago I was on a panel at UC Irvine and said much the same thing, though I compared the professionalization of the blogosphere to modern talk radio, not 1920s amateur radio. Either way, though, I think Carr is essentially right. To a large (though not complete) extent, the blogosphere doesn't really oppose the MSM anymore, it is the MSM — and vice versa. This was probably inevitable, but it's still kind of a shame. Surely this means that there's now a market for yet another new medium, this time dedicated to criticizing the blogosphere?

Friday Cat Blogging - 7 November 2008

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 2:46 PM EST

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....In today's edition of Friday Catblogging, Inkblot and Domino are part of history. As are we all. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Beating the Clock

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:46 PM EST

BEATING THE CLOCK....A few days ago I linked to a Washington Post story about all the new regulations and executive orders the Bush administration is rushing to put into effect before they leave office. Their deadline is November 20, because executive orders don't take legal effect for 60 days and they want them on the books before Obama takes over. Froude Reynolds explains how they're getting this done:

In an effort to amend the Endangered Species Act to say it doesn't really apply to big federal projects like power plants or dams, the Bush administration claimed it reviewed 200,000 comments in four days. Not all by themselves. They called in fifteen extra people from around the country to work on it all week! With that kind of manpower, each person only had to read seven comments every minute!

You know, I'd almost be disappointed if they weren't doing stuff like this up to the very end. The good news, Reynolds says, is that this behavior is practically guaranteed to be ruled "arbitrary and capricious" by an administrative law judge in the near future after some environmental group or another takes them to court. That being the case, let's hope the true believers in the Bush administration treat all their last-minute regs with the same care and respect for the law that they've shown for the past eight years.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Out, Damned Spot

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 1:22 PM EST

OUT, DAMNED SPOT....Andrew Tobias isn't quite ready to let go of his bitterness over the Bush years. Me neither! Today he adds yet another chapter to the chronicles of the Mayberry Machiavellis:

I know . . . it's probably not constructive and perhaps not even good sportsmanship to keep piling on....And yet I feel the need to share the story of Skip Orr, whom I met Tuesday night in Grant Park watching President-elect Obama take the stage. A long-time Obama supporter, Skip had flown in from Japan for this....As President of Boeing Japan, he found himself at a Democrats Abroad meeting pitching John Kerry — and then found himself outed as a Democrat in the New York Times. The next day Karl Rove called Boeing headquarters noting his displeasure — and referring to the great deal of business Boeing does with the government. Basically, he wanted Orr fired.

Sweet bunch of guys, aren't they? They can't leave town soon enough for my taste.

Northern Exposure

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 12:29 PM EST

NORTHERN EXPOSURE....The recount in Minnesota hasn't even started yet and Al Franken's deficit has already been cut to 238 votes. It makes Florida 2000 look like a landslide.

And in other post-election news, Jonathan Stein points to this Washington Post piece about the odd goings-on up in Alaska. The official turnout figures are oddly low and the final results are wildly off from the final polling numbers. There is apparently much scratching of heads up in Anchorage and Juneau.

Iraq Update

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 12:15 PM EST

IRAQ UPDATE....Two days ago I was reading stories about how the Iraqis were still flatly opposed to the U.S. version of the security agreement they were being asked to sign. But now everything is different:

Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month.

"Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011," said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. "If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama."

Translation: we don't trust George Bush to actually observe the terms of the agreement. But Obama will. Apparently Iraqis are pretty shrewd judges of character, aren't they?

Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 11:19 AM EST

NIGHTMARE ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE....The unemployment rate is at its worst in 14 years. October retail sales were the worst in 37 years. The ISM manufacturing index is at its lowest level in 26 years. And the service sector index is at its lowest level ever.

Welcome to Washington, president-elect Obama. I think you'd better get used to hearing the phrase "at its worst level since ______ "