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He’s Getting Too Many Votes!!

[ 4 ] May 8, 2008 |


…Speaking for me only.

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Phony Costs, Phony Benefits

[ 12 ] May 8, 2008 |

On the question of whether Clinton should drop out, my position continues to be one of indifference. It’s her decision, and I doubt that it matters much either way. I suppose I would prefer that she not attack Obama using GOP talking points now that the nomination has been effectively decided, but even there as Dilan says the effects of this kind of thing are greatly overstated. (Barring a major change in fundamentals, if the election is close enough something so minor could turn the election, I’ve seriously overestimated Obama as a candidate.) I also object to assumptions that Clinton is trying to tear the party apart or sabotage Obama or whatever. I have no doubt that she will strongly support Obama as soon as she concedes. And I think one has to have some empathy here; it can’t be easy to run a race you reasonably expected to win, assemble a very strong coalition of supporters, and fall just short. I can’t really blame her for not quite wanting to concede the inevitable just yet. If staying in is “selfish,” it is only in the sense that anyone running for that kind of office is going to be.

On the other hand, claims that she’s serving some kind of noble ideal by staying in are no more plausible. I’ve seen in some quarters claims that it would undermine democracy or some such to state that Clinton should leave. The thing is, candidates drop out of races they can no longer win all the time without anyone claiming that it undermines democracy. Democracy means that Clinton can stay in until the convention if she chooses, and it also means that anybody can suggest that her staying in is bad for the party, decide to stop giving money to a lost cause, come out for Obama as a superdelegate, etc. McGovern is no more doing anything undemocratic than Clinton is. (Obviously, the argument becomes farcical when anyone who suggests that advising Clinton to drop out violates democratic values also sees nothing objectionable about counting the results of “primaries” that wouldn’t meet Vladimir Putin’s standards of legitimacy.)

In another common move, Ambinder says that it “may well be that Clinton refuses to officially drop out until she is satisfied that the voices of Florida and Michigan are heard.” The thing is, though, that the voices of Florida in Michigan will not be heard in any meaningful way no matter what happens. A fair contest is not going to be held for their delegates. Michigan Democrats do not suddenly become enfranchised if you declare ex post facto that a one-major-candidate straw poll was an ordinary primary. If “hearing their voices” just means seating them at the convention after it’s clear that they won’t be used to try to reverse the outcome of the nomination, then Clinton staying in the race prevents the issue from being resolved.

In essence, this is a trivial issue. Clinton is neither doing significant damage to the party nor acting as some sort of crusader for democracy by staying in although she’s drawing dead.

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Some Things that are Trueish…

[ 0 ] May 8, 2008 |

Reading this thread and following the links has got me to thinking some not terribly original thoughts…

  • Yeah, there really is an echo chamber effect. The division of the progressive blogosphere into Clinton and Obama factions seems to have produced an internally reinforcing radicalization that makes preferences more intense than they would be in the general community. Having even weak arguments vetted by an ideologically sympathetic crowd of co-bloggers and commenters seems to detach these chambers from the larger community. Intragroup dynamics, in other words, seem to reward radicalism and limit perspective on empirical evidence. To the Clinton people, Obama and his allies are sexist because hey, everybody you know agrees that they’re sexist. To the Obama folks, the Clintons are racist under the same logic. The medium is central to this effect; in the blogosphere, more than in any other facet of our lives, we associate with those whom we choose to associate, and consequently disassociate with those whom we find unpleasant.
  • Yeah, there is a lot of purely team drive bitterness. This isn’t surprising at all from a social science perspective, in which we have robust findings that people will bitterly defend even arbitrary group distinctions, regardless of merit associated with the case. In this case, we see arguments that run, more or less “I will never vote for Candidate X, because his/her supporters are such assholes”. The drive for Team victory has a tendency to overwhelm what we might consider more rationalistic appeals; I think that since the blogosphere is such a participatory medium, there’s an even greater tendency towards team solidarity.
  • Yeah, the previous two tendencies mean that there’s a lot of unnecessary vitriol. While I’m sure that some folks on either side would have declared that Clinton or Obama were, respectively, the daughter and son of Satan six months ago, the intra and inter group dynamics have contributed to a situation in which these views are, within the blogosphere, more widely held than they otherwise would be. This is both group driven and medium driven; those who perfect particularly vicious and vitriolic attacks are rewarded within the group by kudos, links, and so forth.
  • Fortunately, there’s probably less reason for concern outside the blogosphere than within it. Just because Clinton bloggers hate Obama bloggers and vice versa doesn’t mean that Clinton voters hate Obama voters; identification with one team or another, participation in the activities of that time, and access to the echo chamber contribute strongly to the kind of radicalization that produces very stark division. This is to say that strong blogospheric Clinton partisans may follow through on their promises not to support Obama, but since the general voting public is altogether less invested in the battle itself, we probably shouldn’t worry about a large percentage of Clinton supporters sitting the general out.
  • Contributing to this last is the phenomenon of multiple group affiliation; while many of us are Clintonistas or Obamaniacs, this is not the only group affiliation which is meaningful, or the only one that activates the aforementioned intra and inter group dynamics. We are also, of course, leftists; while it’s possible that a McCain supporter visiting TalkLeft will win kudos three months from now for his attack on Obama, it seems more likely to me that the general election will mobilize a new group identity and consequently different group dynamics.
  • That said, all of what I’ve listed deserves a certain degree of skepticism; yes, psychology and group dynamics and media matter, but people all have good, real, rational reasons for supporting one candidate or another. For my part, I know that my own preferences are wholly rational, well considered, dependent on evidence, and completely free of animosity towards the other side, even hacks like Jerome Armstrong and Armando. To take tongue slightly out of cheek, I think that most of us are to some degree aware of the tendencies described above, and that we try to correct for all of them, either through weighing evidence with great care and fairness or through trying to avoid identification with one team or another for as long as possible. I know that I want to have fair and good reasons for the vote I expect to cast for Obama on the 20th, and I think that I do, but at the same time I’m aware that there are various forces not entirely within the purview of my own rationality that push me to have a stronger opinion that I otherwise would, or to view evidence differently that would a disinterested observer.
  • Finally, we have to accept that there are real limits to the blogosphere as space for political discussion. What’s going on here, either between Clinton and Obama supporters or between the right and the left, isn’t exactly a perfect free speech situation in which the participants carefully consider the arguments made, then weigh judgment. The blogosphere is a wonderful space, and the left blogosphere a particularly wonderful space, but like all media it has its drawbacks and limitations.

In any case, be excellent to one another; I say that having violated the prescription as often and as viciously as anyone.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

Dwight Eisenhower, in a letter to the French president Rene Coty, 7 May 1954:

The entire free world has been inspired by the heroism and stamina displayed by the gallant garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Their devotion and the quality of their resistance have been so great that that battle will forever stand as a symbol of the free world’s determination to resist dictatorial aggression and to sustain its right of self-determination and its dedication to the dignity of the human being. France has in the past suffered temporary defeats, but always she has triumphed in the end to continue as one of the world’s leaders in all things that tend to bring greater richness to the lives of men. Those who fought and died and suffered at Dien Bien Phu should know that no sacrifice of theirs has been in vain; that the free world will remain faithful to the causes for which they have so nobly fought.

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And Now For Something Completely Different

I realized with a bit of a grimace this morning that I have been neglecting my feminist blogger duties. Not the blogger part. The feminist part. What up with that? Now that I am starting to emerge from the hole that has been law school (t minus 20 pages to go), it’s time for me to bring some of my focus back to feminism.

And with that, to making sure that John McCain sure as hell does not win the White House, for oh so many reasons. Not the least of which is that it would potentially spell disaster for federal protection of abortion rights. Happily, the How Much Time campaign (organized in part by some of the big national reproductive rights organizations I think, though this is nowhere on the website) is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here’s an ad from their new campaign:

My initial reaction was that it’s about damn time that someone started framing the issue this way in the mainstream media (though bloggers have been doing this for some time). But part of me is nervous about this tactic. What do you all think?

(via feministing)

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The F-22: Can’t Even Shoot Down Iron Man

[ 9 ] May 7, 2008 |

Redbeard writes in an e-mail:

The F-22 is all over Iron Man. Probably gets as much screen time as the Audi driven by Tony Stark. Wonder if that will get Congress to buy a bunch of them.

I don’t know; the F-22 also got tooled pretty badly by a dude in a homemade metal suit. If I were Congress I’d just buy the suit….

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Worth Repeating

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

Mike Lux:

  • That the Clinton people need to get used to the fact that Obama is the nominee. All the hyperbolic “he can never win the general” and the “it’s not fair” stuff needs to stop right now unless you want a 100-years-in-Iraq, pro-life, pro-Roberts/Alito Supreme Court, 22% lifetime LCV rating, economic right-winger as President. To spend any time or energy at all nursing your resentments is the most fundamentally selfish thing you can do right now. I hate losing elections, I know how badly you feel, and how hard it is, but there is too much at stake to be selfish right now.
  • That all the avid Obama people who have been so obsessed with beating Hillary pat yourself on the back, and then get the hell over it. You’ve won the first round, get ready for round 2 because just winning the primary doesn’t count for anything in the end. Gloating feels great, but it doesn’t help Obama in any way, so put off gloating until he’s actually won the real election. Keep giving to Obama, but help the DNC and VoteVets and other groups that are working on beating McCain, too. And be a big person, and reach a hand of friendship to all the Hillary people who you have been saying mean things to for a year now. We need them.

I know all of this is obvious, so apologies for that and for the preachy tone, too. But I just had to say it. We have a candidate. Now let’s figure out how he wins.

Obvious, yes, but a reminder never hurts.

Also, proposition; if Barack Obama had continued to refer to himself as “Barry”, he never would have won the nomination, because Americans don’t cotton to damn dirty nerds.

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Worst Graduation Ever

[ 20 ] May 7, 2008 |

I thought I’d seen seen some awful graduation ceremonies in my day, but Jeebus! At Wash U. in St. Louis, Chris Matthews will give the commencement address, and Phyllis “Rape Cannot Exist in the Confines of Marriage” Schlafly will receive an honorary doctorate.

The good news, of course, is that graduation robes are good for smuggling pies.

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Good News on the Gas Tax Follies

[ 34 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Hilzoy notes, the gas tax pander seems to have failed utterly, perhaps even costing Clinton a substantial number of votes. I take some comfort in the notion that voters aren’t as stupid as Jerome Armstrong would assume…

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Still Over

[ 17 ] May 7, 2008 |

As Sam said, tonight conveyed no new information. Clinton had pretty much no chance before tonight, and she still doesn’t. They have the same coalitions they’ve had for most of the race, and Obama’s is somewhat but decisively bigger. Clinton was never going to be able to use the vote totals from North Korea Michigan to go over the top unless you think the superdelegates are mostly complete idiots; after tonight, it’s just that Clinton can’t win even under her campaign’s own silly ad hoc metrics.

What it does seem to change is that the media may give up any pretense that Clinton could win the nomination. And given Clinton’s cancellation of appearances, you have to wonder if she’s finally going to concede the inevitable.

this seems to confirm my speculation about the media.

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Just A Break From Primary Coverage…

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

I’m guessing Moises Alou isn’t the oldest player ever to steal home (Carew? Cobb?), but I suspect he may have the oldest back and knees…

I continue to regret the fact that my Moises-signed softball glove was lost forever on the swampy University of Washington softball fields.

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Lake County

[ 24 ] May 7, 2008 |

Normally I leave this sort of thing to my betters at sites like Openleft. I don’t really know much of anything about this stuff. But:

Playing around with the current Indiana vote totals by county….

The vast majority of outstanding votes are in Lake county.

IF all other counties with outstanding precincts continue to vote as they’ve voted so far,

and Lake County turns out in the same volume relative to population and votes for Obama at the same rate as Marion county (Indianapolis), which is a 2:1 margin, Obama will gain in the ballpark of 41,000 votes. Clinton’s current margin is….41,000 votes. The two counties have virtually identical racial democraphics (25% AA), and of course Lake County is part of the Chicago media market.

Here’s hoping…oalqfb

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