Obama’s Chances

Nwextra060608who "But in the end, Obama wheezed across the finish line. He lost nine of the last 14 primaries, and although Democrats are uniting behind their nominee, there is a lot to make them nervous about Obama’s ability to beat rival Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the fall.

Leon Panetta, who served as White House chief of staff under former President Bill Clinton, says Obama still faces problems with swing voters in swing states.

"By virtue of having lost some of those big states and some of those very important constituencies that are important — Latino, white, rural, a lot of the blue-collar women’s vote — he can’t afford to not get those votes back in the Democratic Party. … Those fault lines have cost the Democrats, I think, seven of the last 10 presidential races," he says.

"If they open up and stay unhealed, then there’s no question that he ultimately loses," Panetta adds."  Mara Liasson


If you think that smoldering resentment towards the trashing of the United States by the Bush Administration will necessarily elect Barack Obama to be president, then I think you are wrong.  His appeal is more limited than his urban, liberal, coastal, and black admirers are willing to admit to themselves.  The country remains very nearly evenly divided in basic sentiment no matter how much the Bush Administration and things like the "K Street Project" have angered many citizens.

Control of Congress is a different matter.  "Throw the bastards out" is likely to be the thought of the day on 4 November.  An even more strongly Democratic Congress is probable.

The presidency is another matter.  Many Americans have been propagandized into seeing the president as a temporary king, the CEO of America, the father, the Commander in Chief.  This last in spite of the fact that the president is CinC of the armed forces, not the United States.

As a result, many people think they are electing a semi-divine being to rule them from the Olympian setting provided by the White House, Air Force One, the Secret Service, etc.  People going to meetings with POTUS (What an ugly term!) are told not to speak unless spoken to.  The John Adams view of the image of the presidency has at long last prevailed.  Will "court" uniforms come next?  The presidency is thought by many to be effectively all-powerful.  It is said the new president will change this, or that, or perhaps that.  The idea that the presidency is limited in its power has become an unfamiliar concept.

As a result, the fear of electing the "other" is stronger than ever.  This is a fear of consenting to rule by an alien being.  Obama is a bit exotic, a creature of the intelligentsia, someone who does not seem inclined towards plebeian ways.  He has a strange name.  He has strange associations.  His rhetoric is, if anything, too good, too skilled.  And then, there is the undeniable blackness of the man.

Thomas Jefferson was a man for the people, not a man of the people.  So was Franklin Roosevelt.  Perhaps Obama would be the same.

Unless he manages to communicate that as a probability, I would rate his prospects as no more than 50%.  He should choose a Vice-Presidential candidate carefully.  That person will have to "translate" Obama to the men and women in whose hands his fate will rest.  pl


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45 Responses to Obama’s Chances

  1. Bill Wade, NH says:

    Ron Paul, having been excluded from a speaking opportunity at the Republican convention, will hold his own “alternate” convention. One has to wonder where he’s going with that, could get interesting.
    If I were Obama I’d pick Caroline Kennedy for VP. The combination would be unbeatable.

  2. Michael says:

    Neither Obama nor McCain appear to offer much in the way of leadership, which is very disappointing. There is much work to be done (to get the US back to its former glory) and I don’t think either man is fit for the job.

  3. Curious says:

    NPR, now there is a radio that should confine itself to pottery and silly word game show. They don’t report, they make nice sounds to fill 30 seconds of air.
    This is the so called “wheezing” end. (the delegates, the various state win and margin)
    Hillary big wins? WV, KY, PR. (Hillary delegates gain after PA? 40 or so. That’s after 11-0 lost plus unable to get Texas.)
    The so called Hillary wins? Here is the chart. Her only high margin win is in one area: the Appalachia. (unfortunately nobody post this sort of chart in the press)
    This is the current statistical analysis
    Don’t get me wrong, Obama still need to fight hard. But no number says he is in impossible position. All number says, if he applies people on the ground and work proper campaign strategy, he will get a lot of swing states. Under optimum condition, McCain is not even close. Worst case scenario 10 delegates or so. (And we are still 5 months away)

  4. Excellent analysis. It seems that both parties have very very high stakes in this Presidential campaign. Loser likely to be out of power another 8-12 years because whoever succeeds Bush has one major thing going for them-they are not Bush. Accordingly expect real trench warfare where fighting occurs for every single vote and hoping for a narrow electoral college win. This could be another election where like that in 1876 gets thrown to the Congress which of course makes Congressional campaigns also of extreme importance. Also expect a long startup for the DEMS if they win. Certainly Ms. Clinton would have brought in many known faces, some of them the same that helped keep Arkansas #48 or 49 in most salient categories throughout the 12 years of the Clinton governorship. I must say they certainly did a nice job laying the groundwork for Bush. The sooner Obama acts like he is going to win and reassures the voters that he is a very serious person with the correct gravitas he makes it more likely he will win over independents, and win the squeaker. I really don’t think it is the usual campaign, both McCain and Obama must convince the voters who is the best politician in the deepest sense, who listens best to the voters and captures what they want for the future of the US! That man will win the election but only by inches or yards and not by miles in anycase. The fog of war and the spin of campaigns are close relatives in this instance. This is truly a turning point for the American Republic if it intends to maintain its status and traditions now virtually destroyed by 30 years of weak Presidential leadership and the rise of the corporate state with only the lack of ethnic genocide keeping it from being regarded as facist. Wow the thought that Richard Nixon was the MAJOR US President following the Eisenhower era. Vietnam killed Johnson and Kerry. A grip on the trees but not the forest killed Carter and Clinton. And a pardon delivered before rather than after the election killed Ford. Few Americans remember that Ford almost won. Carter came closer to Reagan that most remember. And of course thanks to Ross Perot running twice, we had a Clinton Presidency. Ifs don’t count of course. I will skip over 2000 and that outcome but it really would be nice if someone won going away but not going to happen. So let’s just see who is ready to govern, not just fly a plane or head the Harvard Law Review.

  5. lina says:

    Obama has opened up an 7 point lead in the Gallup national tracking poll.
    He’s also opened up a bigger lead in women since Clinton dropped out:
    All he needs is a slightly larger youth turnout, and a slightly larger African American turnout, and he wins.
    Furthermore, Bob Barr is going to take some votes away from McCain.
    I can’t think of a single state won by Kerry in 2004 that will flip McCain’s way. There are a handful of Bush states that could flip to Obama.
    Obama’s campaign out-organized the Clinton people in most of the primary states. Clinton won the big states that had established Democratic Party machines. That machinery will now be working for Obama (see Pennsylvania). Obama had to build his state organizations from scratch. Because the primaries went on so long and all 50 states competed, he now has functioning campaign offices in all 50 states. Plus, he’s undertaking a massive voter registration drive:
    It is estimated that 20 million women eligible to vote did not vote in 2004. Biggest obstacle to getting those women to the polls – childcare. You think the Obama braintrust won’t find a way to provide childcare for voters in those swing states? Ha!
    There will have to be a massively damaging October surprise way more toxic than Rev. Wright to hand this election over to John McCain, a.k.a. Bush III. Also, Obama can calm the fear factor voters by putting some macho military type on the ticket as VP.
    Yes, there are racists in Appalachia who will stay home. There are right-leaning independents who will go for McCain. But, c’mon, Obama only needs two new states to go his way and he gets to 270 electoral votes.
    Col. Lang!! Get with the program !! This train is leaving the station!

  6. Farmer Don says:

    I’ll put a $100.00 US dollar bill down at 50/50 odds for Obama against McCain.
    Any takers?
    Love him or Hate him, Obama’s the man.

  7. Buzz Meeks says:

    A new Democratically controlled Congress will have to significantly more progressive to make their new majority worth anything to this country. The 2006 election results were acted upon as the will of the people by the craven leadership. Impeachment off the table, my rump.More of the Pelosi-Reid appeasement will not help correct the grievous wrongs and damage committed these last long seven and a half years.
    A strong Democratically controlled congress could have stopped a lot of the criminal and treasonous acts of the Bush-Likud cabal. A strong congress could also stop Wet-Start McCain. I am not counting on much if the Congressional elections don’t replace the Pelosi appeasers.
    Don’t underestimate the common folks, they have figured out who is buggering them. Hammer home McCain’s responsibility for the USS Forrestal fire with 134 dead seaman and his father’s cover up of the USS Liberty massacre by the Israeli AF and it will be a Democratic landslide. I am not a big fan of Obama but I would cut my right hand off before I ever voted Rethuglican.
    Speaking of court uniforms, Nixon’s zeppo costumes. Walt Kelley did a great job of putting the Agnew hyena into Nixon’s court uniform.
    Buzz Meeks

  8. Arun says:

    I hope Col Lang and other readers here will take a look at this
    and opine whether Obama’s remarks will connect with the voters or not.

  9. Buzz says:

    ” And then, there is the undeniable blackness of the man.”
    I’m not an Obama expert so please correct me if I am wrong but I believe it is the case that Obama’s mother was completely white, while his father was completely black.
    The reality is that he is undeniably a 50/50 mix of two races. Undeniably both black and white. It may be true that for many Americans his physical features make him “undeniably black ” despite the truth of his background.
    I’m sure that there are some Americans who will not vote for him based on this alone.
    Personally I could care less about this.
    He is at least an intelligent, compassionate person, who I don’t think will make war in order to prove his Macho Man credentials.
    I also don’t think he will pursue “the President as King” theory of the federalist society.
    That’s enough “change” for me.
    Buzz G.

  10. zanzibar says:

    IMO, this is going to be either a very close race in terms of the electoral college or its going to be a blow out since many states are pretty close and the voting could swing in either direction in those close contests.
    The fact that Obama even managed to squeeze across the finish line is rather amazing. Hillary had all the star power, the Clinton name recognition and the entire establishment support including all the big corporate donors. Note that even Murdoch did a fund raiser for her. Obama’s campaign team out organized her. Since the traditional big money donors were already taken by Hillary he had to focus on getting citizens to fund his campaign and was successful in getting around 2 million people to fund and provide the ground troops. That was itself an incredible feat. His campaign team planned for a long contest and competed for votes in every district. Despite all the disadvantages of lack of name recognition, the color of his skin, his “exotic” name and background as well as lack of institutional support his campaign got across the finish line as the winner. This was no ordinary win.
    One of the keys that Obama has going for him for the general election is his opponent. John McCain unfortunately for the Republicans is a weak candidate with too many contradictions and very gaffe prone. From issues with the Keating 5 corruption and getting the evangelicals to come around he is walking all over any clear message line. Yes, the Republicans will come around and rally for McCain but he will have to compete in every state. Obama due to the long and heavily fought primary has campaign organizations in every state and an incredibly motivated funding base that will not make it easy for McCain. This will not be a standard electoral map that we are so familiar with. States with large black populations, the Mountain West and even states like Virginia which have been trending Democratic are all in play. A small change in turnout will make the difference.
    This election no doubt will be vicious. Charlie Black and his smear campaign model will make the Obamas the issue. Their “foreigness”, their “black power” inclinations will be central to their characterizations. He will be made into the candidate for the Muslims and terrorists, Old Europe and others – the non-American candidate. Note Tom Friedman’s recent note in the NYT and Fox’s “terrorist fist jab”- this will get played out throughout the corporate media. Fear of a new wave of affirmative action and economic transfer to the blacks will drive the McCain campaign. Their hope will be to throw enough mud that a wedge will be created in the electorate and rural, low information and blue collar white voters will vote their fears and prejudices en masse.
    Obama on the other hand will be walking a tight rope. He’ll be fending off the identity and character attacks while trying to paint McCain as Bush III within the context of his unity and kumbaya message theme. He will have to do this with a campaign team that has not had the experience to compete at this level of intensity nationally and as a result could make mistakes in the heat of battle that could be costly. The next 4 months will determine how he is going to handle it. The state of the campaigns in October will provide a good indicator of the possible outcomes in November. I would say the odds right now are for a narrow McCain electoral college win but Obama should not be under-estimated. This race can turn easily.

  11. Yes, Pat, as you say: Obama may have limited appeal as divine leader. I suggest that many unconsciously may be very unsure about whether BO possesses any CinC qualities at all. Or better: that the qualities collectively projected on the ‘usual’ prospective CinC may not fit BO.
    I am afraid McCain may be similar to Mr.Bush in that he seems to also itch to be a ‘general of the generals’ rather than be the civilian upholder of the Constitution and CinC. He may also see himself as a ‘world historical’ adventurer. I don’t like that if it’s true!
    We’re caught as a country between: realizing Eisenhower’s nightmare of an unfettered military-industrial complex, and, effectively deploying our military to mitigate and defeat threats. And, to do the latter within the constraints of our Constitution and our laws.
    Whatever are our collective projections based in fantasy and cast upon a candidate, I hope we end up with leadership and a leadership team that is completely reality-based.
    In a way, it’s amazing when we end up with a reality-based leader after all the fantasies play out.

  12. Steve says:

    A provocative post.
    One problem with the US system of government is the fact that the head of government is combined with the head of state in one person–the President.
    I don’t say that a parliamentary system doesn’t have its own problems. For example, in that system, one can argue that the “head of state” operates independently of politics. To me, that is equally erroneous in the sense that it creates an aura of the state removed from politics. Imho, that’s not good either.
    Just my two cents.
    Beyond that, I live in Iowa in a small town of 27,000 and teach at a community college. My students are not elite by any means, and are not particularly “young” by university standards. Nonetheless, with rare exception those students translate their distaste for Bush into support for Obama. I would also add anecdotally that those students appear to represent the feelings of my blue collar town–old, young, student, non-student.

  13. Curious says:

    MSNBC has just released a new national survey (NBC/WSJ poll) showing Obama leading McCain 47% to 41%.
    Obama leads among women: 52-33%
    Obama leads among those who voted for Clinton: 61-19
    Obama leads among Hispanics: 62-28
    Obama leads among white women: 46-39

    Today’s tracking polls (four day Rasmussen and three-day Gallup) have Obama ahead by 7. The Pollster.com average is Obama leading 47.5% to 43%.
    Along with today’s Rasmussen poll on Michigan, these show a significant bump for Obama. By tomorrow, http://www.electoral-vote.com/ will show Obama leading in the electoral college by 304-214.

  14. jon says:

    Obama could win big and look good doing it. Sort of like Michael Jordan, without the traveling. What Obama has done so far is masterful – I’d say that he’s demonstrated much more maturity and political adeptness than McCain.
    More likely, this will be a long, hard, dirty ground war of a campaign, with a full display of race baiting usually not on public display. There is a deep and broad current of conservatism that is loyal and not easily discouraged. Much as McCain might not be every conservative’s cup of tea, they will still vote for him over Obama. And then there’s various monkeying around with voter registration and voting machines to attend to.
    The game is in the electoral votes and both teams can count. Democrats seem intent on running a 50 state strategy, which will help pick up as many congressional and senatorial seats as possible, and make the Republicans play a lot of defense in places they generally consider their secure base. Democrats should also be able to match, and maybe exceed Republicans in fundraising, which is rare.
    Obama will also have to leverage his grass roots organization and work hard to keep his staff and volunteers energized. The convention will have to balance keeping the party rank and file, while not turning off the new arrivals with stale DLC positions that try to have it both ways.
    BTW, I thought that Nixon outfitted his honor guard in something out of the Pirates of Penzance. Got a lot of guff for it, and helped introduce the term ‘the Imperial Presidency’. We’ve also a Supreme Court justice who’s added gold braid and stripes to his robe like some British admiral…

  15. Cieran says:

    Good thoughts, Colonel. Thanks for yours… here’s mine:
    I’m a reluctant Obamaphile, and what caused me to come to support him was the fact that he graduated from Harvard Law and chose to work on behalf of poor people in Chicago instead of in the high-profile opportunities he could have pursued instead.
    That’s important to all Americans of any political stripe, because one of the most important truths about this country (and one that few of its citizens or its media mavens care to talk honestly about) is that we’re all rapidly becoming poor people courtesy of huge budget deficits and stupid federal accounting tricks — so Obama, of all the candidates, has the right skills to help us where we’re unfortunately headed.
    We’ve seen where Presidents who grew up dealing with nothing but wealth have taken us as a nation (not to mention Vice Presidents like Cheney who became addicted to big money later in life), namely “borrow, spend, waste, and then borrow some more”. And John McCain’s solution to financial security was to dump his first wife so he could marry a rich new one, so he’s part of the problem, not part of the solution.
    And frankly, if Obama would pick Jim Webb as VP, I’d follow his sage Windy City political mentor’s advice and “vote early, and vote often” for him!

  16. otiwa ogede says:

    The “undeniable blackness” of Obama?
    Eureka! Obama should pick someone even blacker as VP..maybe Danny Glover?
    Wesley Snipes perhaps? He’s got real blackism, or does the tax fraud disqualify him?

  17. DeLudendwarf says:

    Sorry I missed your birthday. Congrats!
    Keep saying it.
    Been hanging out at Larry Johnson’s shop.
    We’ve got a bunch of PUMAs loose and running over there.
    I’m with the Duke of Wellington on this:
    “I don’t know what they’ll do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me.”

  18. Nancy K says:

    I am 61 years old and a life long Democrat, living in California. my husband is Israeli ane we are both supporting Obama. We have a daughter who is half Hispanic, voting for Obama and a daughter living in North Carolina voting for Obama, and all of her family, who have lived in North Carolina for generations are voting for Obama.
    I think it very naive to believe that caucasian Americans will not be voting for Obama. To believe that Jews will not be voting for Obama. To believe that Israeli’s will not be voting for Obama. to believe that woman will not be voting for Obama. To believe that Southerner’s will not be voting for Obama.
    Obama in 2008

  19. Publius says:

    Sometime in 2007, after Nancy Pelosi had become speaker, I was discussing politics and other areas of mutual interest with an old friend, who is Republican, but whose faith has been shaken (and I work on him) in the past few years. He was upset that Pelosi had said something he viewed as disrespectful of Bush. When I asked him why Pelosi should be respectful of Bush, my friend, retired from corporate America, said, in referring to Bush, “He’s the boss.”
    We then launched into a lengthy discussion, wherein I had to remind this college graduate about how our country works, that Bush was not Pelosi’s boss, and that in fact, she was not what he was thinking of—a VP or something—but was Bush’s equal in our system. The problem my friend had, the problem to which you refer, Col Lang, is that we have a president as CEO (in the corporate sense) mindset in our nation.
    This tendency to view the president through a corporatist lens is a problem we all have and I’m not sure what we can do about it. Our Founders rejected the parliamentary system for good reason. Further, inasmuch as it was expected that Washington would be the first president, one can’t imagine that they envisioned a weak presidency. I think they wanted a strong presidency, but one with significant and, if needed, show-stopping, oversight from the legislative branch.
    The party system has pretty well strangled any hope for significant oversight of the president, who is, after all, the “leader” of his party. Legislators of the president’s party are all beholden to him for money and for actual continuation in office. Many legislators in the opposition bide their time until they get their own president and are thus loath to take chances.
    We need a strong presidency, but we also need the oversight provided for in our Constitution. The legislative branch has abrogated its resonsibilities and it’s hard to imagine a change in the future.

  20. PeterE says:

    McCain will probably win for reasons H.L. Mencken spelled out nearly a 100 years ago. The majority of American voters continues to vote as a mob, and as Mencken wrote, “it is the ultimate source of all political power. Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done discretely, warily… In the main that business consists in keeping alive its deep-seated fears — of strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities.” The Republicans are attending to business.

  21. rjj says:

    I don’t know what they’ll do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me.
    Me, too. But same can be said of the Obamanates. The consumer society has spawned and nurtured a nation of wankers.
    as the still small voice admonisheth me: “be mindful of motes and beams, gnats and camels.”

  22. rjj says:

    the Olympian setting provided by the White House, Air Force One, the Secret Service, etc.
    During the Reagan inaugural “The Most Trusted Man in America,” said: fie, fie, a pox on that populism we’ve had of late, this is what we need — more pomp and majesty. [paraphrase]

  23. lina says:

    Our friend George Will has done the math for us this morning (what a guy):
    “251: That was John Kerry’s electoral vote total. Barack Obama stands a better chance of holding Kerry’s 19 states and the District of Columbia, and finding 19 more votes, than John McCain does of holding all 31 of Bush’s states. Obama might capture the 2004 red states New Mexico (5 electoral votes), Nevada (5) and Colorado (9) — George W. Bush won them by a combined 127,011 votes — giving him 270. McCain, who in his 10-year campaign for the presidency has lingered in New Hampshire long enough to vote as a resident, might turn it red, gaining 4 votes. Obama, however, has reasonable hopes of winning Iowa (7), which Al Gore won by 4,144 votes out of 1,315,563 cast in 2000. Bush won it in 2004 by 10,059 out of 1,506,908 cast. And Obama’s estimated 90,000 caucus votes this year almost equaled the combined118,167 won by Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, McCain, Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani, who finished in that order. Furthermore, Obama might carry Virginia (13). Bush won it with 54 percent in 2004, but rapid demographic changes favor Democrats and Obama won this year’s primary with 623,141 votes while McCain was beating Mike Huckabee with 244,135. And should former senator Sam Nunn be his running mate, Obama might win Georgia. Obama’s 700,366 primary votes were more than Huckabee’s 326,069 and McCain’s 303,639, combined.”

  24. Buzz says:

    ” The legislative branch has abrogated its resonsibilities and it’s hard to imagine a change in the future.”
    Posted by: Publius
    The question is: Why would the Congress abrogate it’s responsibilities?
    I believe that the members of Congress are in fact engaged in fulfilling their responsibilities to represent the interests of the wealthy corporate and private donors that fund them.
    There’s nothing new about this but I believe that the problem we have is that the interests of the country as a whole are diverging from the interests of our now multi-national corporations and our wealthiest citizens.
    While it may have been true in the past that “What’s good for GM is good for America” I don’t think that this kind of statement is true anymore.
    It appears to me that many of the wealthy and powerful in America (along with their oil rich foreign friends) no longer share a common interest with the American middle class and are pusuing their own economic self interest with no regard for the effect on the country as a whole.
    Many now pledge their allegiance to “The Invisible Hand of the Free Market” instead of to The United States of America.
    This being the case it is not surprising that Congress chooses to fulfill it’s responsibilities to the funders instead of to the voters.
    Buzz G.

  25. TomB says:

    Publius wrote:
    “Our Founders rejected the parliamentary system for good reason.”
    Given the situation you complain about with the non-parliamentary U.S. system, I’m wondering why you think a parliamentary one would still be worse? Certainly from the Brit experience at least it seems to fragment things, including the party system, but then the (admittedly de facto only) two-party U.S. system is exactly what you mostly blamed for the current U.S. situation. So where do you see the rub with a parliamentary arrangement?

  26. Binh says:

    Colonel I think you are being too pessimistic. Sure Obama didn’t do well in key demographics – but he didn’t do well against another Democrat with almost identical political positions. The question is whether or not these demographics will swing for/against him in the race against McCain, and I agree with conservative George Will who predicts a blowout for Obama.
    The polls show Obama leading nationally by about 5 points. But as Will argues, the polls are no longer reliable because Obama is bringing record turnouts. A whopping 50 million have already voted in the Democratic primary! That’s 15 million more than in 2004. The Democratic turnouts have beat the Republican turnouts despite the fact that there a lot more Republican candidates which theoretically should’ve energized the base with excitement.
    McCain can’t even hold onto the base of his party, much less reach out to the middle.
    National polls don’t matter, who actually gets off their butt to vote on election day does. And that’s a race Obama is bound to win.
    For anyone who is interested, I’ve written a post on this topic on my own blog:

  27. JD says:

    My parents lived through the great depression and talked about it a good deal when I was a child. They would have canonized FDR. They were solid democrats for life. Following lightly in their footprints, I have a sentimental attachement to the Democrats. I think a lot of blue collar whites are that way. They are attached by sentiment more than ideology or issues. This a very weak bond and breaks quite easily. In fact, I would guess that blue collar whites are really a swing vote more than they are Democrats. I agree with you completely on your 50% estimate. This presidential election is far from a gimme for the Democrats– reminds me in some ways of 1960.

  28. as-if says:

    As soon as obama grovelled in front of aipac I lost heart in the system

  29. Tim Vincent says:

    Michael Barone said (I paraphase):
    Obama will win the state capitals, the media, the campuses and the blacks.
    That ain’t enough.

  30. Publius says:

    “Given the situation you complain about with the non-parliamentary U.S. system, I’m wondering why you think a parliamentary one would still be worse?”
    Actually, TomB, you’ll note I used the past tense. I actually have a Poli Sci undergraduate degree; back in the dark ages when I got it, we used to feel awfully superior in noting how we’d done better than those with the parliamentary system. There were good reasons for why our Founders did it this way, but that’s kind of gone by the boards.
    Now, going on 40 years later? Damned if I remember what we found so superior about our system. It’s all kind of lost in the haze of brighter memories. There have been many occasions in the past seven-plus years when I wished we did have a parliamentry system. That “no confidence” vote and a requirement for snap elections is pretty appealing.
    Nah, I won’t defend our system. Not any more.

  31. wcw says:

    Less than 50%? Ray Fair has a model for you. See http://fairmodel.econ.yale.edu/vote2008/computev.htm where putting reasonable numbers for GDP, inflation and simply counting the high-growth quarters in the incumbent’s administration currently give you something like a 48% share of the two-party vote for the incumbent. Somewhat pessimistic inputs give you 47%, quite optimistic ones 49%.
    Now, Fair’s curvefitting is hardly the be-all and end-all. Still, it’s something, and right now the conditions are ripe for an incumbent-party loss.

  32. Cujo359 says:

    There’s no believer like a true believer, that’s for sure:
    This is the so called “wheezing” end. (the delegates, the various state win and margin)
    What you need to look at is this:
    That table hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since then. Obama won the caucuses, Clinton won the primaries. Primaries are more like the general election, in that many more people vote, not just the really, umm, motivated ones.
    I’ll take NPR’s analysis over yours.
    Furthermore, Bob Barr is going to take some votes away from McCain.
    Among McCain, Obama, and Barr, Barr is the only one who has declared categorically that he’d be pulling out of Iraq as fast as he could. He’s also the only one who’s made any serious noises about protecting the Constitution. He was the guy, you may remember, who introduced Al Gore at that President’s Day speech a couple of years ago.
    He’ll capture as many potential Democratic voters as Republican this time, because, quite frankly, he’s the only one who seems serious about fixing the stuff that most needs to be fixed. If he weren’t such a right-winger in every other way, I’d be considering voting for him.
    Obama has serious challenges ahead. For a lot of us out here, Kumbaya ain’t gonna cut it.

  33. Steve says:

    My problem with the US system is simply the integration of the head of government with the head of state. That gives an unwelcome–imho–gloss of undiluted patriotism to political leaders.

  34. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. Anent the “cult of the Presidency”:
    “Gene Healy, a scholar at the Cato Institute, tracks the growth in executive power in his new book, The Cult of the Presidency. The story he tells is extraordinary, and is extraordinarily important. Consider the role of the presidency intended by the nation’s founders, compared to what it is today.”
    In Roman Imperial terms, it was the result of process of the cumulation of powers under the principate as initiated by Julius Caesar and then implemented by Octavian/Augustus….”Caesarism”.
    Foreign policy under Obama or McCain, IMO, will to some extent follow the recommendations of the “Princeton Project” a so-called bi-partisan consensus of the foreign policy elite concocted under George Shultz and Tony Lake with Neocon participation. This policy line is warmed over British Liberal Imperialism from the late 19th and early 20th century.
    Perhaps by 2012 or 2016 our situation will be so bad that a fundamental rethink along non-imperial/multipolar lines may be possible. Until then, geopolitical narcissism and the blood and treasure meter running in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    2. Obama, as a Kenyan-American, might do a better job than McCain at implementing a warmed over British Liberal Imperial policy.
    “Blackness”…???? Which blackness? Do “whites” have different ideas about “whiteness” and their ethnicity-identity: Irish-American, German-American, Italian-American, Polish-American, etc.? And Asian-Americans? And Arab-Americns? So what, if anything? Is there a policy impact, a political impact?
    The traditional African-American community of several centuries standing is descended from slaves from WEST and CENTRAL Africa, not East Africa/Kenya. Does this make any difference in Obama’s self-conception? Is he more inclined partly to a Kenyan-British colonial/post-colonial era sort of identity on his dad’s side?
    Obama went to an elite “white” (but diverse) prep school in Hawaii, The Punahou School.
    Then on to Columbia and Harvard Law…impressive educational background.

  35. TomB says:

    Publius wrote:
    “Actually, TomB, you’ll note I used the past tense.”
    Ah I did notice but just consciously risked inferring your present thinking from the rest of your comment, obviously erroneously.
    Otherwise I have to laugh at your background and evolution of your thinking; same as mine almost to a T, though I still have a bit of perhaps hangover-like suspicion from those old days about parliamentary systems. The fractiousness did sometimes make ’em seem a bit unstable, didn’t it? (And no matter how bad it got here at least we have been stable.) On second thought though Britain has endured so now, like you, I just don’t know.
    And I wonder too about the U.S. two-party system. Firstly by all accounts it’s not nearly so strong as it used to be, vile as it still seems, and secondly you gotta wonder if George Bush isn’t going to turn out to have wrecked it ultimately. Or at least wrecked the Republican party for a good while, which it richly deserves. Assuming nothing big happens in the interim I suspect the Repub’s are gonna experience a bloodbath in November at least in Congress, even if McCain wins which I at least also just can’t imagine. So maybe such bloodbaths are the Drano of the system, keeping it at least marginally open to reality and free of total corruption.
    But, again, I dunno. Like the physicists say they’re always looking for a Grand Unified Theory, you always find yourself looking for the one Grand Cause of the idiocy issuing from Washington and the two-party system can seem as good a candidate as any other sometimes.
    In any event the parliamentary idea is an interesting one so thanks for bringing up an old question that apparently afflicted you too.

  36. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Nah, I won’t defend our system. Not any more.
    Why not? It seems to be working as designed. But it was designed to work slowly. And that gives people like Bush a few years to run roughshod over everyone while the opposition builds. It allows all sorts of wrongs to be committed in the short term.
    The pendulum is swinging back towards moderation.
    What has made it exceptionally difficult since WWII is that so much damage can be wrought in the short term while opposition builds. There is just way too much power in the Executive today. I’m not even sure that Alexander Hamilton would agree with the current balance of power.
    The root of Executive power is in its law enforcement and military apparatus. When we are forced to concentrate on domestic issues after our empire implodes, we can start dismantling that Cold War apparatus and, hopefully, solve this problem for awhile.
    To get back on topic, I think Obama is going to win by a blow out. McCain had 2-3 months to concentrate on the general election while Hillary and Obama were fighting. Now Obama can pivot to the GE campaign. He has nowhere to go but up.

  37. charlottemom says:

    I think there is so much dissatisfaction in the US that will translate into an Obama victory. Col., I agree that the VP will need to “translate” Obama to those predisposed to not voting Obama. In fact this election is a referendum on Obama more than a contest between McCain/Obama. It will be a landslide for the dems across the board. Also think that Obama will pick a Virginian (Webb, Kaine or Warner) that will enable to win in VA and NC.

  38. TomB says:

    Steve wrote:
    “My problem with the US system is simply the integration of the head of government with the head of state. That gives an unwelcome–imho–gloss of undiluted patriotism to political leaders.”
    Brilliant. I was always drawn to parliamentary systems because of those question and answer sessions, but I like your point too very very much.
    Between you and Publius you probably have lots of us here thinking about this now. Gotta be good book out there on the merits and demerits…?

  39. Taters says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    I am making an assumption here but I’ll proceed with an opinion regardless.
    There must be something lacking in both senators if they haven’t sought your expertise regarding the ME. No one has been more right than you regarding Iraq – so unless I am mistaken, it is disheartening that politics can not be put aside for the good of the country by either senator seeking the highest public office of the land and our potential Commander in Chief. Advisers???

  40. Ian says:

    Publius, I think the chief lesson of the Bush years is that good laws are necessary but not sufficient for good government. Checks and balances in the hands of cowards and sycophants do not constrain the shamelessly arrogant.
    One of the finest features of a parliamentary system is question period, a bit of theatre wherein the opposition asks pointed questions of the government, and where any attempt to duck questions attracts media attention. It’s an effective guarantee of accountability.

  41. I do not believe, as you have written Pat, that most people regard the Presidency as semi-divine — although they will respect its hierarchical status — but otherwise I agree with your analysis, including the fact that the party majority for Congress rarely determines who gets the White House.
    The truth is rather that there are never any standard criteria for choosing President, because there’s no real training possible for the job. All Presidents start as amateurs.
    Consequently, people go with their gut reaction to the personal character of the candidates (whether it is real or perceived.) Would I want him as a next door neighbor; would he be a good guy to ask over for dinner?
    And THAT is where the fear of the Other comes in.
    Still, it’s a very hard election to figure out, with both Presidential candidates possessing unusually striking pros and cons, as everybody knows.
    On the whole, the U.S. wants “change,” and people respond to youth and charisma: these things favor Obama.
    On the other hand, McCain is proposing a large number of personal debates (10) — and if he gets them, including some that allow an informal structure and direct exchange between the two, he will seem more experienced and many voters will warm up to him personally.
    I tend to disagree with some of the other commenters here that Obama will be attacked upon his race. It is already visually evident, and anybody who goes near the issue will be excommunicated from being an American.
    Also, Obama is likely to announce ahead of time a strong, hawkish, experienced foreign policy team, (much as Dubya did to allay concerns about his inexperience,) perhaps with some Republicans on board, Hagel for example for Secretary of Defense, to remove one of McCain’s selling points.
    In fact, I think one of Obama’s biggest problems is that many or most of his supporters don’t realize yet that he is a solid part of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and they may become disillusioned.
    I think it is far more likely that the Democrats will go negative on McCain: the age and self-contradiction issues, and the fact that (having been in Washington longer, perhaps) he has been far more bound up with the crooks. We are already seeing the beginnings of this tactic.
    In response, McCain may have depend upon his Vietnam story more than he may wish, or to feign or signal that that he is not really a Republican, not really Bush III.
    So Pat I agree with you, this is going to be another very close election. A 5- or 7-point lead in the nationwide polls does not win the electoral college.

  42. arthurdecco says:

    Tom B, you asked Publius, “So where do you see the rub with a parliamentary arrangement?”
    I can’t speak for the English parliamentary system, Tom B, but our Canadian parliamentary system, (which closely resembles the British version), has over the past 40 years been taken over by our Prime Minister, (elected ONLY by the voters in his own riding, [district]) and his inner cadre of paid, unelected advisors.
    We call them the “PMO” – the “Prime Minister’s Office”). Even Cabinet Ministers, (your Secretary of State, for example), no longer exert the influence they used to. Pathetically, back bench Members of Parliament, (the elected members of all our 5 political parties) could sleep in a pup tent somewhere in a remote National Park for the rest of their terms in office without remotely affecting our political process just now.
    In other words, the IDEA of a Parliamentary system is all well and good, while the REALITY of ours in action is more troubling. We’ve got a George Bush aficionado as Prime Minister, surrounded by more of the same deluded “Business is King” and “Israel Can Do No Wrong” types, all of them blatantly partisan and not-very-bright in EXACTLY the same ways as your present administration, ineptly governing our country after receiving approximately 34% of the popular vote!
    The American System, stripped of its ridiculous Electoral College, electronic voting and its blatant financial corruption could still a viable political system, don’t you think? There’s nothing wrong with Democracy that you can’t fix by educating your citizenry.
    Can’t you fix it?

  43. TomB says:

    arthurdecco wrote:
    “I can’t speak for the English parliamentary system, Tom B, but our Canadian parliamentary system, (which closely resembles the British version), has over the past 40 years been taken over by our Prime Minister, (elected ONLY by the voters in his own riding, [district])….”
    First of all thank you for your very interesting Canadian report. (And as a fisherman thanks for all your wonderful trout and salmon too, although as a catch and release guy I always give ’em back.) But while I guess I don’t see it as being a huge problem that whoever is Prime Minister is indeed Prime, the one thing especially about parliamentary systems that bothers me is your point about how the PM’s are elected just by their own small ridings or constituencies.
    As to the primacy issue, I just don’t know how or even if any system should try to get around this. The U.S. has it too: While we have Secty’s of State and etc. and they are constitutionally mandated officers, the fact is that Presidents can render them as important or as impotent as they like and take advice from whomever they want. And maybe it should be that way too; after all, we don’t vote for our Secty’s of State or etc., it’s the Prez. and the PMs who supposed to be ultimately responsible anyway, right?
    But the possible diminished legitimacy that a PM has compared to a Prez. due to the former only being elected in one small part of his or her country does bother me. Especially in such a huge, non-homogenous country such as the U.S. has become. Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem; I don’t know. From what I know of same just like citizens in this country accept some limitations on pure democracy due to practical considerations and etc., maybe they would accept this too, as you Canadians and the Brits seem to with the your PMs only getting elected by their small ridings or constituencies. But I’d still worry at least a bit about this in the U.S.
    As to us “fixing” our system, just as you note yours has problems I suspect that much of what will always plague any human system isn’t in any of its organizational details or etc. but instead what lies in the human heart and human nature. But beyond that of course before anyone can fix anything they have to know where exactly it’s broken and about the U.S. system there’s as many theories as there are grains of sand.
    In my meaningless opinion, I wonder if term limits on our legislators wouldn’t be worth a stiff try. Right now someone gets elected to Congress and starting the very next day their bottom-line attention has to be absolutely devoted to getting re-elected, with all the evils that entails. As someone once observed every great idea eventually turns first into a business and then a racket and that’s at least how I see things in the U.S. now. But of course term limits are a limitation on pure democracy, although I’d argue that they would be among the least disagreeable of many if not all of the other big, systemic proposals out there. (Such as campaign finance “reform” laws which seem to me to often infringe on freedom of speech and etc.)
    On the other hand as usual Cold War Zoomie makes a good point that maybe things are working they way they should, it’s just that our individual time-frames are wrong. Of course in a huge system course corrections are slow and etc., etc. And, like Mencken said, democracy is the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard, so there’s a learning curve there too and all….
    I don’t know; alls I suspect is in the end if our system is truly and seriously broken where things will come a cropper is financially. Again as Cold War Zoomie notes, otherwise it seems that course corrections can be made and perhaps are and so forth. But it seems to me things are different financially; we just can’t seem to say no to those politicians who want to rob our future generations in order to give us more now. And just like what happens all the time with companies, such as Enron or Bear Stearns or etc., when people or institutions overextend themselves oddly enough the denoument comes all of a sudden, and with a helluva big bang.
    Just my take though, and thanks again for your interesting comments about your Canadian situation and experience.

  44. Curious says:

    More numbers:
    RASMUSSEN: McCain Plummets Nationally To 39%, Arkansas Within Single Digits
    Sunday’s Rasmussen national three day tracking poll shows Obama with 46% and McCain with only 39%, the first time that McCain has fallen below 40% in a head to head matchup with Obama. When leaners are included, Obama leads 49% to 43%.
    But while the McCain campaign apparently believes that women are easy marks for its latent feminist cross-dressing, a reality check suggests that most women can instantly identify any man who’s hitting on them for selfish ends. New polls show Mr. Obama opening up a huge lead among female voters — beating Mr. McCain by 13 percentage points in the Gallup and Rasmussen polls and by 19 points in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey.
    How huge is a 13- to 19-percentage-point lead? John Kerry won women by only 3 points, Al Gore by 11.

  45. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “WASHINGTON — Barack Obama met Wednesday with a new national-security advisory group that includes many of former President Clinton’s top advisers, saying that if he’s elected president he’ll return the nation “to a pragmatic tradition of American foreign policy, which has been so ably advanced by the people in this room.”
    With former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher and former Defense Secretary William Perry signing on to a panel already heavy with former Clinton administration officials….” http://www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/41485.html
    Same old, same old….back then it was illegal “no-fly zones,” bombing Iraq, bombing Sudan, war (“humanitarian intervention”) in the Balkans…change in foreign policy? Dream on…these are the liberal imperialists.

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