Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Category: Elections (page 1 of 10)

Tort Reform, Misdirection, and The Lesser of Two Evils

Before their 2008 meltdown, the hit on the Republican Party was simple: great at campaigning, bad at governing. Republicans were able to whip up populist fervor in ways that Democrats hadn’t in a generation, and had so successfully honed their message that in election years their strategy no longer revolved around winning independent voters, but activating a base that could win an election by itself. In spite of that, Republican candidates that reached office seemed to almost inevitably descend into scandal, like Governors Ernie Fletcher and Bob Taft in Kentucky and Ohio, or ineptitude, like Sarah Palin.
The question is, then, how did these same candidates win an election in the first place? Some ran in bright red states; some were confronted with Democrats who were slightly less talented campaigners than the yard signs that become so plentiful during even-numbered Octobers; almost universally, they sold issues that have no effect on the lives of most voters.
To be clear, the voting majority doesn’t always know an issue won’t affect their lives. Rather, they become so emotionally activated by it that they seize upon the issue, only to realize later that they’ve been duped. If you need proof, ask the 92% of Iowans who told the Des Moines Register this week that their lives had not changed since gay marriage became legal in their state.
Gay marriage, of course, is a civil rights issue, and while it has a profound effect upon the lives of some, it does inspire more of us to action because of the stakes. More than just ineffective ideas, however, we’ve seen a generation-long peddling of irrelevancies and frauds from the GOP: during the 2008 campaign, John McCain railed against earmarks. He did this without telling you, of course, that earmark spending is as readily transparent and fully disclosed as any spending in the federal government, spent in a more direct and efficient manner, and, despite all of the howling over it, comprises an infinitesimal amount of government spending. When cable news erupted over the $410 Billion Omnibus Spending Bill this spring and the multitude of earmarks included, their ire was captured by 2% of the total cost.
This trend continues even into the healthcare reform debate, as the President has thrown the GOP a bone, acknowledging their wish to explore tort reform on a national level. One would imagine that after the last eight years our federal government would have ceased looking to Texas for ideas, but I digress; tort reform just doesn’t matter. In 2003, Texas saw a campaign to pass Proposition 12 instituting tort reform, which was sold to the voter largely as a method of luring doctors to rural communities. Texas does indeed have more doctors today than it did in 2003. They’re also overwhelmingly choosing to live in the wealthiest areas; the number of neurosurgeons, obstetricians, and orthopedic surgeons (all identified as critical needs in the Proposition 12 campaign) grew by 45% in Collin County, which is the wealthiest in the state. Against this backdrop, Texas still has the highest rate of uninsured individuals in the country.
As our national debate on health care rages for what 24-hour news cycles make feel like an eternity, it’s important to maintain focus on the key issues at hand: lowering costs and expanding coverage to the uninsured. Hypothetically, lower damages would allow the provider to lower their rates; in practice, Texas has seen insurance premiums rise by 92% since 2000. After the gay marriage and earmark debates we know better than to trade away the last recourse for 98,000 families who lost a loved one to negligence for no appreciable gains. Right?

Yes We Can, Albania!

Taking a moment out of the congressional mishmash of healthcare, climate bills and political sexual intrigue, let us take a look at Albania. The G99 party is modeling Obama pioneered grass roots organizing with American consultants and volunteers, recently college grads fresh off of the campaign trail in their recent elections. These young people were at the forefront of the Obama campaign all over the country in critical capacities: Iowa, New Hampshire and most notably, Florida. Now, after their arduous and exemplary service to the democratic party, they have fanned out to take that explosive and progressive energy to various spheres. G99 is taking advantage of that energy and employing these young people as counsel and witness to their elections.
G99 is composed of citizens under the age of 29 who effectively catalyzed their protests at the conduct of their government and its officials into political organizing. The results are both interesting and compelling: where does civil society and civic engagement determine and support an election? The recent news out of the country seems to be pointing towards the usual problems associated with voting discrepancies, corruption and apathy. What will be critical is how we learn from this process. What methods can employ to better spread democratic processes abroad and inspire countries, communities and citizens to take control of their own political fates?
Meet Erin Mazursky, grass roots organizing consultant for the G99 Party. Through twitter, blogging and updates, Erin has kept abreast of all the developments and used her own experience from the Obama campaign to provide witness, counsel and analysis to G99 and Albania’s youth. With the elections there drawing to an eventful close, I urge you to peruse her blog for its critical analysis and for a passenger side view on the spread of democracy and grass roots organizing.

Sarah Palin’s poor self assessment skills

In academic surgery, we have these venues called mortality and morbidity conferences. In theory, these are supposed to be open and honest forum where you truly review and investigate all complications. I believe Governor Sarah Palin should attend one of these conferences. At the end of the day, Palin needs to have critically evaluated her performance in this election. What happened from the moment she was introduced and became a superstar to election night that changed the public’s perception of her?
If Governor Palin truly wants to run for national office again, she’s going to have to look in the mirror and ask, “How can I do better?” Without her having made an honest assessment, it is hard to understand how she can move forward. The problem was not the McCain campaign. The problem was not the media or bloggers. One problem was her superficial knowledge of national issues. Another problem was her inability to synthesize complex issues without sounding as if she was sewing 2 or 3 sound bites together. The media didn’t make her look bad during her interview with Charlie Gibson/Katie Couric. She was smug. She was superficial at a time when she needed to be thoughtful and deep. Of course, this is only my opinion. She may be perfect. I’m just a biased blogger sitting in my mom’s basement in my pajamas wearing an aluminum hat. So what do I know?

Congratulations Senator Begich

In celebration of Mark Begich’s victory over Sen. Ted Stevens, here’s a replay of the interview I did with him at Netroots Nation earlier this year.
Part 1
Part 2

Obama at the White House

The importance of today’s meeting between Barack Obama and George W. Bush cannot be understated. Let’s think back eight years to the White House meeting between President Bill Clinton and President-elect George W. Bush. According to James Moore’s book, Bush’s War for Reelection, Bill Clinton gave George W. Bush the five priorities for his administration. First was bin Laden; second was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; the third was North Korea; the fourth was Pakistan-India and finally Saddam Hussein. Remember, this was back in 2000. Bush said, “I think you’ve got your priorities wrong. I’m putting Saddam at the top of the list.” (I wonder where we would be if Bush actually paid attention and went after Osama Bin Laden from day one. )
I’m not saying that President Bush is as wise or insightful as President Bill Clinton was. On the other hand, President Bush is not stupid. He is driven by ideology but he is not stupid. Therefore, whatever insights he decides to give to Barack Obama should be taken into consideration. I hope that Barack Obama takes his advice into consideration. Who knows, in a fit of sanity, President Bush may actually give nonpartisan thoughtful advice.

If I May Say…

…my election predictions were pretty good.

The Substance Election

It’s not the style. It’s the substance that dictated the outcome of the election, which gave Sen. Barack Obama a larger share of the popular vote than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton ever received.

The backdrop of this election has long been the comprehensive failure of conservative policies
during the last eight years, and what “change” for those policies should mean.
Sen. Barack Obama responded not with an empty call for “change” but with a concrete vision for that change.
He spoke of “government” in a positive context more than any presidential candidate has in at least 20 years. He embraced a “FDR-style infrastructure building program.” He consistently placed energy independence as his top domestic priority, backing up the rhetoric with a plan of public investment to get it done. He said health care “should be a right for every American” during the town hall debate. He explicitly backed diplomatic engagement with Iran, support for democratic reform in Pakistan and beyond, along with a renewed military focus on Al Qaeda.
In doing so, Obama was taking positions supported by the liberal progressive base of the Democratic Party, but also held considerable support among self-described moderates.
Following the Democratic primary, Obama never needed to “pivot” significantly towards a mythical center. His core positions already represented the common ground shared by America’s progressive majority. In yesterday’s exit poll, voters expressed the desire for government to “do more” by an eight-point margin.
Much will be made of McCain’s “mistakes” in his campaign, as conservatives will surely seek to blame his (and Obama’s) performance for their shrinking minority status, to shift blame away from the failure of their own policies.
But almost every mistake McCain made was not a personal failing, but was part of a futile but necessary effort to bridge what had become a gulf between conservative base voters and moderate swing voters. After the utter failure of conservatism in every domestic and foreign policy area, there simply was no overlap left between the moderate and conservative camps, no overriding issue that could be the glue to hold together a center-right coalition.
McCain kept saying the “fundamentals of the economy are strong” to appeal to delusional conservatives, then awkwardly acknowledged we’re in “difficult times” to convince moderates he wasn’t delusional too.

McCain hastily picked a woefully unqualified and uninformed person
to be his running mate because he lacked options for people who resonated with both base and swing, and Gov. Sarah Palin seemed to offer hope of energizing the base while reaching out to undecided women.
McCain delighted conservatives by attacking Obama as a “socialist,” which undermined his attempt to attract moderates by backing away from his record as a deregulator and proposing huge government involvement in the mortgage industry.
McCain’s erratic style may have made these flops seem particularly spectacular, but the deep rift created during the last eight years between conservatism and the rest of America was probably too big for even a polished candidate to overcome.
Obama’s tremendous skills helped navigate the difficult waters of racial politics and fend off an avalanche of smears. But all that did was return the race to its substantive fundamentals, made all the starker as the financial crisis put an exclamation point on the damage already wrought on our economy.
Figuring out how to repair the breach between conservatives and moderates is a problem for the conservative movement, not for us.
Our challenge is to turn the progressive mandate the public has given President-elect Barack Obama and the new Congress into bold action. And that work starts … now.
Cross-posted at

Obama wins

Obama wins

I was just thinking – It was an amazing night. The fears of 2000/2004 returned. How were states really going to go? Was Georgia really in play? Where’s Florida? Were those machines fixed? It has been hours and Virginia seems to be using a crayon and stone tablet to add up their vote totals.
Pennsylvania was the first big swing state that clearly went for Obama. For weeks, the talking heads were trying to make this close (this state and really this whole race) but it wasn’t. It never was. This race hadn’t been close for over a month yet the talking heads were just talking and talking about John McCain’s surge. NOT! There wasn’t any significant surge. For reasons that were unclear to me, McCain threw time and money into Pennsylvania in the last 3 – 4 weeks. Why? None of the poll numbers hinted that Pennsylvania was close. Some polls had McCain down by 10 point yet he and Sarah Palin was out there (and don’t forget Joe the Plumber). The final vote total revealed that there were no surprises in Pa. Obama won by 11.
About an hour later, Ohio went for Obama. I found it interesting that there was so little talk about Ohio. The talking heads didn’t go on and on over Ohio, why? Ohio was really interesting with 2004 as a back drop. The conservative Cincinnati vs. the liberal Cleveland. There was so much to talk about that would have been interesting and informative but we got almost nothing. Then the real waiting had begun.

My question for all of you is – When did John McCain know that this race was over? When did he know that he lost to Bush for the 3rd time? We all know that John McCain lost to Bush in 2000. I think that you can say that McCain wanted to run in 2004 but it wasn’t politically possible. So, he lost again in 2004. Now with Bush being so unpopular, President Bush drug McCain and other Republicans down in this election. Elizabeth Dole is a great example. She really didn’t do anything wrong. Incumbents usually lose for screwing up not for being worthless. If Bush could have gotten his approval numbers into the low 40’s he would have helped McCain. In the end, John McCain lost not only to Barack Obama but also to George W. Bush, again.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, just before 10 pm EST that Barack Obama had passed the magic number. He was sitting at just over 200 electoral votes and California, Oregon, Washington State and Hawaii were clearly his but not counted yet because those polls hadn’t closed. The writing was on the wall. The game was over. The fat lady was singing. Elvis had left the building. It didn’t matter how Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Montana went. Barack Obama didn’t need them for victory but he did need them for a mandate.
Tonight, Barack Obama received a mandate from the American people. There are still a few races which are too close to call (Al Franken) and a couple of states that remain too close to call (Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina). America with your young and old, rich and poor, black, white, and brown party tonight because we need to wake up and figure out how to change this country that we love.

Get Out The Vote, Run Up The Score, Build The Mandate, Get Back To Work

Today is not just about Obama, or McCain or Bush. Because this race has not been about a cult of personality (no matter how much the McCain campaign tried to make it one, and accuse the Obama campaign of trying to make it one.) After the financial crisis, voters kept the focus on issues, no matter what anyone else tried to do.
The result tonight will be a verdict on anti-government conservatism, and a question whether America wants active government again. It will be a verdict on unilateralist neocon foreign policy, and a question whether America wants to engage the world again.
A big victory for Obama will mean a big mandate for change. But a mandate is just a beginning, not a glide path. Obstructionist forces will remain, and delivering change will not be a spectator sport after today.
But electing a president powered by the largest grassroots base in history is a good way to begin.
Vote. Get Out The Vote. Protect Everyone’s Vote.
Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) if you have or see any problems.

Election Day Predictions…

…which will be meaningless unless you GET OUT THE VOTE.
Popular vote: Obama 53%, McCain 46%, other 1%
Obama is in the low 50s in nearly every national poll, while McCain’s number fluctuates more between high 30s and mid-40s. Obama has picked up a lot of swing voters already. The undecided ones remaining appear to be more right-leaning, off/on McCain voters.
I’m presuming Obama doesn’t get too much more from the remaining undecided pool. If his win is even bigger than my prediction, probably credit a combination of truly superior ground game, unenthusiastic Republican-leaning voters staying home and a “right-side-of-history” bandwagon effect.
Electoral College: Obama 353, McCain 185

This presumes Obama holds all 2004 blue states (including PA and NH, the last ones McCain is seriously contesting); fails to pick up IN, MO, MT, ND, GA, AZ and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district; and takes IA, NM, CO, VA, NC, FL, NV and OH.
I am least confident about NC and FL, but even without those Obama would win.
I’m not terribly confident about putting MO and IN in McCain’s column, but those seem to be states where Obama losing the undecideds would be the difference. (You could say the same about NC and FL, but those are states where I’m putting faith in Obama’s ground game based on nothing but anecdotes.)
UPDATE: After seeing OH polls this morning with Obama at 50% or above and with decent leads, I gave in to optimism and put OH in Obama’s column. It also fits in with my prior assessment, partly based on McCain’s early surrender in Michigan, that older voters with racial biases are confronting them and voting for Obama out of concern for the economy.
Senate: +8 pickup for Dems, for 59 seats total (inc. Sanders and Lieberman)

Not a daring prediction. Most assume Dems will pick up AK, NM, CO, NC, NH, VA and OR. MN is the closest Senate race out there, but I have to assume Al Franken can win a 3-way race with at least 45% in a state that Obama is going to win in a blowout.
GA, KY and MS seem a bridge too far to me. But as anyone will tell you, if Dems pick up any of these, you know the wave of change is big. (KY and GA polls close on the early side, but GA’s race is likely to go a Dec. runoff with no one getting 50%.)
Now go prove me wrong, get out the vote and make this an even bigger landslide and bigger mandate for change.
Corrected to include the egregious omissions of Alaska and Virginia.

Older posts