Saturday, November 01, 2008

Deep Paranoia: Who Will Be the First to Call for a Coup?

Spokespeople on the right have achieved new levels of intensity in their expressions of contempt for Barack Obama. In a column today, Thomas Sowell characterizes Obama's only qualifications as being "ego and mouth."

But who will be the first to call for a coup to prevent Obama taking office?

My guess is that it will be one of the defense neo-cons like Frank Gaffney. But there are others like political philosopher Harvey Mansfield as well.

The Electoral Map: A Quadrant Analysis

This is Karl Rove's electoral map from Wednesday, Oct. 29. It has Obama with 311 electoral votes and leading in states with another 56 electoral votes. That would be 367 electoral votes if Wednesday's trends held. Rove views McCain as having 157 electoral votes and leading in Montana with another 3 for 160 if trends hold.

It's hard to tell what the trends are going to be. Obama is up by 5 today in Rasmussen and 10 in Gallup. Given that Obama's been gaining in Gallup, it may be that the map will look even better for Obama on Tuesday. In particular, Arizona and Georgia might be joining the ranks of the toss-ups by then.

And this brings me to my point. Even if Obama should lose, this map looks very promising for the Democratic Party and I think it looks promising for the future of the country as well. It looks like the Republican Party is going to have to leave the 19th century if it wants to be competitive in presidential elections. And that would be very good for the whole country.

For the purpose of this analysis, I'd like to divide the country into quadrants. The east/west line is easy because it would run from North Dakota's eastern boundary to the Texas/Louisiana line. The North north/south line is less regular but it would begin at Pennsylvania's southern border, bisect Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and continue through the northern borders of Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado through to the Pacific.

The Northeast and Midwest are blue. Obama's domination of the northeastern quadrant bounded by New Jersey, Maine, Minnesota, and Missouri is striking. Famously traditional Republican states like Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire are solidly blue. Obama's also ahead in Ohio while Indiana has become a complete toss-up. The only two states where McCain is clearly ahead are Kentucky and West Virginia.

A blue region is also coalescing in the Southeastern quadrant of former Confederate states. The inroads that the Obama campaign is making in the formerly Solid Republican South are almost as striking as Obama's northern domination. Maryland is a solid blue state because it's becoming more northeastern in character. But the key is that Obama has leads in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida while he's making inroads into Georgia (which most maps have as a "lean McCain" rather than a solid McCain). Virginia and North Carolina are more heavily influenced by Northeastern style population patterns in the DC suburbs and Research Triangle while Georgia and Florida have burgeoning metro areas that trend Democratic. The ultimate prospect is that the Old Confederacy could split into an "Atlantic South" that is Democratic and a Traditional Gulf/Mississippi/Appalachian South of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

If that happened, the Civil War would be almost over.

It's also useful to view the Southwest as a single quadrant although Texas has many Southern characteristics and California is more Pacific than Southwestern. But the Democrats are gaining steadily in the western part of the quadrant other than Utah and only leaving the Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas corridor to the GOP.

In this sense, Texas becomes the popular anchor point for the national Republican Party even though demographic trends are leading toward larger Democratic constituencies of hispanics and urban dwellers.

In other words, it's a relatively weak anchor.

The northwestern quadrant looks even weaker for the Republicans as Montana and North Dakota become swing states and the Republicans are left with isolated Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska as well as the Plains states of Nebraska and South Dakota.

In this view, the Republicans would just have to change if they wanted to remain competetive in national elections. They would have to make a real appeal to the metro areas and retreat on social conservativism, hostility to science, and military belligerence.

Otherwise, the Republicans would face a real prospect of being outstripped by some sort of moderate, technocratic third party . . . and dying.

And its' not that far off. Michael Bloomberg already wants to be the presidential candidate of that party.

The Brave Geese of Kentucky

Every morning for the last six weeks, we've seen a couple flocks of geese flying north through Morehead. I'm not sure what's going on but there's a certain way in which you have to admire the brave geese of Kentucky as they fly up into the colder weather.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sarah Palin's First Amendment

Sarah Palin was on a right-wing news outlet today complaining that she was losing her First Amendment Rights. The crux of her complaint is that the mainstream media is referring to all of her accusations concerning Barack Obama and William Ayres as negative campaigning and convincing people that Palin is campaigning inappropriately.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."
The poor dear.

For Palin, the First Amendment means that she should be free to speak but that it should be unconstitutional for others to try to convince people that she's wrong or acting inappropriately. She should be able to speak but others should not be free to disagree with her in any kind of effective manner.

There's a substantive truth underlying Palin's argument. McCain, Palin, and the GOP media are de-emphasizing their own policy positions and proposals as they rely more very heavily on their accusations concerning Obama and Jeremiah Wright, William Ayres, Rashid Khalidi, socialism, and terrorism. If the Republicans are going to get hammered for negative campaigning every time they make these accusations, there's a sense in which they might as well not have a right to speak at all.

Why speak if what you say is not going to have an audience?

There's another problem as well. There's a certain way in which a person can not have free speech in the fullest sense of the word unless there is an audience to consider their views. In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill worried considerably about the kind of "social censorship" in which the harsh moral judgments of mass audiences either discourage people from speaking. Mill viewed the social censorship of the 19th century United States as doing more to suppress speech than the kind of government censorship that was associated with absolute monarchy. The main punishment of social censorship was the moral ostracism of speakers from social circles or a generalized "respectability." Ostracism is a punishment in two distinct ways. It punishes through the pain and humiliation of being excluded and also punished through the separation of the speaker from any audience willing to consider her speech.

From Sarah Palin's point of view, media characterizations of her references to William Ayres as negative campaigning serve as a social censorship that deprives her of her First Amendment Rights. Indeed, there is a sense in which she is being censored in that she is being ostracized out of the political community and therefore kept morally apart from the audience which she is trying to convince. Obviously, Palin's references to the First Amendment are misplaced because the First Amendment addresses government censorship rather than the social censorship she is experiencing as a vice-presidential candidate.

But the effect is powerful all the same.

Ultimately however, Sarah Palin has no complaint. What she is attempting to do to Obama is the same thing she accuses the media of doing to her. In repeating the insinuations about William Ayres, referring to Obama as a socialist, etc., Palin is calling Obama's status as a member in good standing in the American moral community with the implication that no one should take Obama's policy proposals seriously because Obama is not "really one of us."

In this sense, the McCain and Obama campaigns have been engaged in a game in which each side appeals to the larger American community to decide which campaign is outside the moral consensus and should therefore be socially censored. The McCain/Palin campaign is losing the moral war in the mainstream media and is suffering some social censorship effects as a result. But Palin has no basis for complaining about a condition that she would have been glad to impose on the Obama campaign.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Student Debate

Tonight I watched a student debate between the campus Republicans and Democrats. I could tell that the student debaters did a significant amount of research. But they also struggled to connect their facts to the main themes of the Obama and McCain campaigns. The students were smart but the fact that they struggled is an excellent reminder of just how talented people Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden are.

Testing: The IM Advantage

We learned today that Miss Teen RSI got a lot higher scores on last year's round of standardized testing. I guess those hundreds of hours she spent doing instant messaging with her friends paid off.

Socialism in America: The Republicans Move the Ball Forward Again

As the presidential campaign stumbles to a close, the Republicans have made "socialism" into the bright shiny new word that symbolizes their fears about Barack Obama and the Democrats.

But all of this talk about socialism can have the secondary effect of encouraging discussion of formerly taboo proposals like nationalizing health care. All the scare talk about socialism might make socialism less scary and start encouraging practical talk about socialist ideas.
Is that what the Republicans really want?

After all, the government could even nationalize the leading banks.

Wait a minute!

The Bush administration has already nationalized the banks. They've also nationalized the biggest insurance company (AIG) and are now providing guarantees for 80-85% of housing loans through government control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In other words, the Republicans are not just talking about socialism, they're doing socialism.

One of the most important writings in American socialism is Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. If the U. S. becomes a socialist country one day, people may be amused to "look backward" at the irony of the Republicans doing so much to move the cause of socialism forward in 2008.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big Audit Day Today

I've been doing major work on the government faculty's response to the audit this weekend.

9:00am--Meeting with other GGH faculty

4:00pm--Meeting with Provost

In the meantime, I'm going to be looking at materials concerning the Business College and MPA programs.

In Political News

An ABC/Wash Post poll has Obama up by 8 in Virginia.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Thought on Conservatism

The standard line:
If Obama wins big and the Democrats sweep in Congress, this election will be a repudiation of the Republican Party.

What I'm beginning to think:
If Obama wins big and the Democrats sweep in Congress, this election will be a repudiation of the Republican Party, conservative ideology, and conservatives as people.