Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Final Word On SuperDelegates

Okay, so SuperDelgates continue to bubble up in news articles as soon as there is a lull between primary races, but I want to take a stand, once and for all, on how I feel about them.

I think they're fine.

That's right, I think they're just fine, and there is nothing wrong with having them. It's been said that they chip away at the purity of the democratic process, and that these people could be responsible for inducing apathy party-wide. It's been said that they are in cahoots with party bosses and sit in smoke-filled rooms to hand-pick the candidate who will continue the status quo. These people are in place to produce the candidate that the party wants, not that the people want.

If we have that little faith in the democratic process, then why are we partaking in the primary process, nevertheless covering it so fervently? A vast majority of these people are elected officials, and the rest are respected members of the party or people chosen at the caucus. Moreover, they're all very politically savvy, more than savvy enough to realize when their vote would lead to the destruction of their own party. Elected official or not, the person wants to see the democratic candidate win, and they're not going to be so thoughtless to just throw the hopes of the voters in the garbage in order to vote "with the party."

Here's the problem I've tried to address over and over. The SuperDelegates don't actually vote until the convention. The reason the numbers are different from station to station is because these are "promises" that are given to each media outlet, and apparently are not stable or else everyone would have the same number. If we don't want to give them power, we should stop talking about them. If we never included SuperDelegates in our counts, Hillary and Barack would have been tied after Super Tuesday. Barack would have pulled a significant lead shortly after the massive day, and Hillary would have lost any fragment of momentum. I'm not saying one candidate is superior over another, what I'm saying is that Hillary's continued momentum is mainly due to SuperDelegates who haven't actually voted yet. The media mentions this caveat, and yet continues to act as if Hillary has got these votes in her pocket.

If we're going to blame anyone for the skewing of results, it should be the media. If just one respected outlet (I'm looking at you, Associated Press) would have just stood up and demanded that we only count what's actually there, then we wouldn't worry about how much the SuperDelegates were going to effect the outcome. In the end, if the populous was still honestly tied by a couple dozen delegates, then it would make sense to ask our elected officials and longtime party members to weigh in, and few of us would complain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clinton and the Caucus

Barack Obama seems to have a knack for caucuses. His first win was in the Iowa caucuses, and he’s only seen success in them since then. On SDTT (Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday), he went six for six on the caucuses held that day, and today’s results echo that momentum. Hillary has been known to downplay the caucus system, saying they reflect the activists, not the general public.

Caucuses are public gatherings where people wear their political affiliation on their sleeve. They’re also often a long process, held during the day, which is why Hillary claims they inaccurately reflect the desires of the democratic populous. The demographic that is claimed to be behind her, blue-collar workers, are supposedly too busy at work to stop by and announce their vote. What Hillary is neglecting to mention is that the caucuses often go on all day and that a voter doesn’t need to stick around the whole time. What she also leaves out is that another one of her supposedly supportive demographics are older voters, particularly women, who one would think would have plenty of time to hang around a caucus and show their support.

Even if Hillary was correct in chalking up caucuses to just the activists, isn’t that a big part of what the primaries are about? It seems like everyone is talking about how McCain can’t rally the conservative base and how that’s going to cause issues in November. Enough can’t be said about how important the 20-30% of reported ‘hardcores’ who are showing their distaste for McCain by either voting for Huckabee or not voting at all. So wouldn’t it seem that the primaries is mainly about getting the activists excited and motivated. Isn’t the desire to find a frontrunner early on simply to allow time for the non-activists and non-hardcores to coalesce around the nominee before he or she has to face the onslaught they are about to receive from the opposing party?

To sum it up: Just because public nature of the caucus system tends to bring out the activists doesn’t invalidate them, nor does it mean we’re not getting a proper pulse of the state. They may be a bit more confusing and takes more time than simple primaries, but there are only 17 caucuses out of the 53 races (including DC and the territories), and after next Tuesday, the rest are primaries. Hillary, if anything, should be concerned as to why she’s not able to bring out activists and wonder just who is going to fight for her if she does manage to get the nomination. At least Barack has droves of passionate people ready to get out there and do what it takes to win votes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If the Economy Got a Vote

Right now the concern on everyone’s opinion poll receipt is the economy, and the choices being offered up in candidates is troubling for two out of three. Hillary’s recently dismissed campaign manager, Patty Doyle, has graced quite a few headlines, but the focus has been on how this signals a loss of steam in Hillary’s engine. That may be the case, but the tipping point that helped lead to the parting of ways was simply the medium-sized log that broke the camels back.

SDTT (Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday) may not have gone the way Hillary wanted it to, and a repeat of losses in the next round probably only licked the back of the stamp for the already written letter, however there was trouble a-brewing in the Clinton house before then. It was exposed that Hillary lent her own campaign a generous $5,000,000 sometime in January (explaining her hesitancy to release her donation numbers until the last minute), but she must have forgotten to mention that to Patty. Patty, however, one-upped the oops by forgetting to mention to Hillary that the Clinton ’08 campaign was practically broke coming into the Feb 5 vote-stravaganza.

Massive fiscal irresponsibility this early on in one’s presidency (that is to say, before it has even began) can’t be a good sign. McCain, however, doesn’t even pretend to know what he’s doing in the monetary department. Well, he is now, but for a long time claimed he needed to brush up on the subject, although never quite following up on that promise.

To sum it up: Barack seems to be winning this one by default. Even his healthcare proposal understands that the economy is ready for either of the extremes proposed by his competitors; government healthcare for all or give it to the free market. If the vote this year really does come down to concerns about the economy, Obama’s feel-good tactics and adorably moderate proposals may be just what the doctor ordered.

Barack Obama Against the War in 2002

Nearly everyone knows about Hillary's vote for the war. Many have heard that Obama was against the war all along, but wasn't in the Senate at the time to vote for or against it. Well, here he is, Illinois state senator at the time, at the Chicago Federal Plaza in October 2002. (source)

"I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil.

I Don't Oppose All Wars

I don't oppose all wars. My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army.
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He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil.

I don't oppose all wars. After September 11, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again.

Opposed to Dumb, Rash Wars

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

On Saddam Hussein

Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president.

You Want a Fight, President Bush?

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that...we vigorously enforce a nonproliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Superdelegates give Hillary the lead on Super Tuesday.

As the delegate count from SDTT (Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday) continues to settle, the democrats are realizing that they could face a particularly touchy subject come the Democratic National Convention. Ever since Al Gore took the popular vote but lost due to a technicality back in 2000, the Democratic Party has been acutely aware of how painful it is to be told that, when put to the test, each vote actually doesn’t matter.

What the party could face on August 28 in Denver, Colorado is an internal version of that struggle that could potentially disillusion massive numbers of voters. Right now, Barack is only down by .5% (7,347,971 v 7,294,851) according to the vote count, however he’s down 5% (1045 v 960) according to the delegate count. This goes back to the superdelegates. Although the states split their democratic delegates proportionate to the voters demands, the superdelegates can do what they see fit. Since Hillary has been wooing them for quite some time, they’ve found it appropriate to support her.

Many consider unfair and ridiculous that the democratic party even has superdelegates, but it's certainly not without rationale. The Republican primaries often send all of a states’ delegates to the candidate who can achieve a simple majority. This often creates a large enough disparity to anoint a clear winner of the party nomination, even if the momentum that high delegate counts can create isn’t always fair.

The democrats, to avoid this issue, reflect voter patterns when they distribute delegates, but they also don’t want a completely split party when the convention arrives. Part of the primaries is to find the best candidate, the other part is to galvanize support around them. The superdelegates are supposed to heighten that momentum, and in the end shouldn’t end up making that much a difference. If, however, the popular vote says that Obama should be their candidate, but the superdelegates swing the nomination over to Hillary solely based on their desires, then I could see some serious tension arising.

To sum it up: I’ve said before that if it comes to a 50/50 split on the nomination, I’d rather have people well connected to politics, such as the superdelegates, strike the final blow on the nomination. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem if the superdelegates are the one to tip the balance, better them than a bunch of people who are making up their minds a day or two before the election based on a handful of commercials. The problem is that we would make people apathetic at the party level. It’s one thing to be apathetic about politics and have that belief confirmed at the national level. It’s wholly another to be excited enough about politics to vote in the primaries, only to have your own party deny the wishes of their constituents and nominate who they want.

Here's my favorite part about these delegate counts, however. "The AP tracks the delegate races by projecting the number of national convention delegates won by candidates in each presidential primary or caucus, based on state and national party rules, and by interviewing unpledged delegates to obtain their preferences." That means that Hillary's 85 delegate lead is mainly imagined. Their not-so-super delegate count is almost equal. To avoid pandemonium, the superdelegates are likely to simply vote for the candidate in the lead at the convention. The current lead is almost entirely speculation.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Actual Differences Between Barack and Hillary

This is a list of every single bill for which there was a difference, including those where only one of the two did not vote. These were taken from merged list of all votes by each candidate as listed by Project Vote Smart.

The first letter represents Hillary's vote, the second represents Obama's, and an X represents 'no vote.'
Y-N - Nov-05 - Tax Reconciliation Bill: Vote to Extend Tax Cuts
Y-N - Aug-06 - Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006: Vote to Expand Oil Drilling in the Gulf

N-Y - Jun-05 - Appoint Thomas B. Griffith, US Circuit Judge
N-Y - Jul-05 - Energy Policy Act of 2005: Vote for Clean/Alternative Energy Policy
N-Y - Jul-06 - USEMA Amendment: Vote to abolish FEMA, replace with USEMA
N-Y - Jul-06 - Firearm Confiscation Prohibition Amendment: Vote to protect right to bear arms in an emergency/disastor
N-Y - Sep-06 - Cluster Munitions Amendment: Vote to prohibit any funding from going to cluster bombs

X-N - Mar-05 - Bankruptcy Reform Bill: Vote to increase the difficulty of claiming bankruptcy
Y-X - Apr-05 - Future Military Funding for Iraq Amendment: Vote for non-binding agreement about how military funds are categorized
Y-X - Jun-05 - Appoint Richard A Griffin, US Circuit Judge
Y-X - May-07 - FDA Drug Import Certification Amendment: Vote for a certification of imported prescription drugs
Y-X - Jun-07 - Attorney General No Confidence Vote: Vote so that a fillibuster can't be used for the vote of no-confidence for Attorney General Gonzales
Y-X - Jul-07 - Sense of the Senate on Guantanamo Bay Detainees: Vote that the Guantanamo detainees not be released on American soil or transferred to American facilities
Y-X - Jul-07 - Student Loan Lender Subsidy Cuts and Student Grants: Vote for various improvements to the student loan regulations (and makes it unlawful to carry out a death sentence on a pregnant woman?)
Y-X - Jul-07 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: Vote to confirm budget for Dep't of Homeland Security
Y-X - Jul-07 - REAL ID Funding: Vote to fund the REAL ID project where a national identification card is required for every citizen
N-X - Sep-07 - Expressing Support for General Petraeus and All Members of the Armed Forces: Vote to show support for the armed forces
Y-X - Sep-07 - Expressing the Sense of Congress Regarding Federalism in Iraq: Vote to support the opinion that Iraq work toward a loose federalist state and that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard be considered a terrorist organization
Y-X - Sep-07 - Expressing the Sense of Congress Regarding Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: Vote to support the opinion that the United States should use its military, diplomatic, economic, and intelligence instruments to combat Iranian activities inside Iraq that are designed to destabilize Iraq
Y-X - Oct-07 - Border Fence and Customs Appropriations: Vote to appropriate 3 billion dollars to secure the Mexican border by means of a fence and electronic detection equipment

Bills that Clinton voted on before Obama became a Senator, but has since either expressed or implied disagreement with, or that do not typically represent the actions of a democrat:

Sep-01 - Military Force Authorization Resolution: Vote to allow the President to use force against nations that harbor or aid terrorists
Oct-01 - USA Patriot Act of 2001: "Vote to pass a bill that grants law enforcement more authority to search homes, tap phone lines, and track internet use of those suspected of terrorism for four years."
April-02 - Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) Act: Enhance energy conservation and raise auto mileage standards.
Oct-02 - Use of Military Force Against Iraq: The big one.
Jul-03 - Energy Omnibus Bill: Vote to enhance energy conservation and R&D and allow tax breaks for energy production and conservation
Oct-03 - Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003: Vote to authorize $760 million per year to prevent forest fires and limit judicial reviews of established protection rules.

To sum it up: Don't let the media tell you that there is no difference between the candidates. Many of these bills are quite substantial and the votes in one way or the other, (and sometimes the lack of a vote at all), are extremely telling.

Guiliani Backs McCain, Edwards Pays No Favors

Giuliani backs McCain hoping for a VP slot, Edwards Backs Neither Hoping Not to Burn Bridges

Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards have taken leave of their respective primary races, and each made a smart political decision in their endorsement or the lack thereof. Rudy wholeheartedly handed his voters to McCain, revising his earlier belief wherein the best man in the race was himself.

"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States," Giuliani said.

McCain and Giuliani are longtime friends, and the tip of the hat signaled no hard feelings, and maybe a hopeful ‘see ya later.’ Giuliani, although he made no real indication, may be lining himself up to be the Vice to McCain’s President. It’s not uncommon for primary race winners to choose earlier contenders to run with them, and Giuliani was once considered the inevitable frontrunner for quite some time.

This is pure speculation on the author’s part, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this dignified stepping down with copious blessings to the current leader is little more than a reminder that all of McCain’s other competitors are all sending attack ads and cutting remarks toward the venerable senator. If the grey haired maverick wins the nomination, he’s unlikely to choose his most formidable opponent, (Romney), or someone whose ideology is severely different from his own, (Huckabee). The potential VP field for a not-yet-nominated president is still wide open and full of senators and military veterans cum politicians, but Giuliani and McCain could corner the market on perceived national security. Of course, should Romney take the nomination, Giuliani just screwed that pooch.

Edwards, on the other hand, does not want to show his cards just yet, even if he has folded. He refrained from donating his votes to a specific cause, but wanted to make clear that he didn’t want to play the role of spoiler. Like the nice kid whose asked not to join in kickball because he doesn’t play mean enough, he left with the comment:

"It is time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path."

Well, he’s not going to get to play kingmaker, but he’s at least not burning any bridges, either. He may not be VP material again (although I think he would be helpful to either of them), but Attorney General would be a nice spot for him. Since he didn’t give his voters a preferred direction, the two remaining candidates will be contending that they deserve his followers, however there doesn’t seem to be a single direction that they will go.

My feeling is that he would prefer that Barack takes the nomination, but in the fairly likely case that he doesn’t, he sure doesn’t want to anger Hill-zilla. This way, he doesn’t make both candidates cater to him for his votes while secretly wishing he would just get out of the pool because kiddy hour is over.

To sum it up: It’s possible that two people simply dropped out of the race, but it’s much more fun to speculate why.