Tags: elections

Ted Cruz picks Carly Fiorina: good move?

Did Ted Cruz just guarantee himself a trip to an open convention, in exchange for giving away the bargaining chip that might get him the nomination?

I listened to Ted Cruz's announcement today, that he has chosen a Vice Presidential running mate (something that isn't normally done for the primaries, but what the heck, it's a strange election this go-round).

Then I listened to Carly Fiorina's speech accepting the role. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. But I think they're positioning her improperly at this point. One thing that caught my ear was her comment about how wealthy Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are out of touch with the real people like you and me, because she included herself in that "non-wealthy" group. Sure, a net worth of $60 million is out of Trump's league (and probably Clinton's), but it is far and above the average American. It would have been much better, I think, if she'd positioned herself as a business executive with skills equal to Trump's, that would have changed his uniqueness (business acumen among a field of politicians) into just a feature that was shared with another ticket. Her presence on the ticket does remove Clinton's uniqueness as the only woman in the field.

I also listened to some of the post-announcement commentary. "Why did he make this announcement?" "Why did he pick her?" "Did they do a good job on stage?" It got very tedious, very quickly.

Why did he pick her? To remind people that he's still running, to draw media attention away from the front-runners, to try to cut into Hillary Clinton's seeming lock on the female vote due to the fact that she is female, to help him in the upcoming California primary. Actually, that last one is probably the biggest, because he knows there's a chance Trump can win the nomination before the convention, in which case he's done. But if Cruz can win California, the race may just continue all the way to the convention. And he needs to get to the convention if he wants any chance of winning the nomination. But this particular decision, at this point, if he gets his immediate goal (an open convention) may come back to bite him at the convention: he's just given away a major bargaining chip. He can't offer anybody the Vice Presidency in exchange for getting the nomination. Fiorina may be a good Vice Presidential running mate, but she can't give him anything to get the nomination except, maybe, her California roots.

We now return you to the horse-race journalism we've been suffering through during this year's primary season (of which, I admit, this commentary is a part).

Hurry up, election day is coming!

I'm a big political junkie, even though I rarely discuss my own political views. But there comes a point when even the biggest fans of something will say "enough!" And I think I'm there.

I just heard a CNN anchor ask a Bush campaign spokesperson if the campaign is worried because Jeb Bush has fallen to seventh in some poll, in regards to the upcoming Iowa caucuses. I heard the question, I heard the answer ("he's tenth from the bottom! It's a glass half-full or half-empty question."), and I said "enough is enough. Why am I bothering to listen to the pablum?"

But then I wondered about that poll. I wondered how it was phrased. Specifically, the question I would love to have included in that poll -- and every other political poll that is run in the next six months -- is: "Had we not asked your opinion, would you have been thinking about the Presidential election of 2016 at all? How much of an impact, beyond the non-stop political reporting, does the Presidential election of 2016 have on your life right now, in the summer of 2015? Do you think we ought to even bother talking about the campaign and the candidates at this point, when the Iowa caucus (on February 1, 2016) is more than five months in the future, and it's only 434 days until election day (November 8, 2016)?" Sure, those questions may not be scientifically fair, but the results would probably send every news organization in the country scurrying to find actual news for the next several months, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.


Term limits may suck, but the people want some respect

Dad pointed out this article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/nyregion/in-quinn-reversal-on-term-limits-complex-motives-and-lasting-effects.html?emc=eta1&_r=0, "Quinn Reversal, Meant to Help Her, Now Hurts" by Michael Barbaro and David M. Halbfinger), in which New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- one of the leading candidates for Mayor of New York City in this year's election -- realizes her machinations with the term limits law five years ago are coming back to bite her in the ass.

Quick recap: in 2008, during the financial crisis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided he needed to be mayor for a third term (which was to start on January 1, 2010), in order to save New York City from financial ruin. In 1993 and 1996, the voters of New York City voted to adopt a two-term limit for the mayor, members of the City Council, and others. When Bloomberg made that 2008 decision, Quinn was the front-runner to replace him. After he announced his intention to run again, she decided to support the change in term limits and seek another term as Speaker.

I've just reread my commentary from that time, in which I decried both the concept of term limits, and the concept of elected officials ignoring the will of the people and saying "well, if you don't like it, you can vote against me." (See these posts: http://uspresidents.livejournal.com/8692.html [October 2, 2008]; http://uspresidents.livejournal.com/11773.html [October 8, 2008]; http://uspresidents.livejournal.com/12100.html [October 13, 2008]; http://uspresidents.livejournal.com/16655.html [October 24, 2008]; and http://uspresidents.livejournal.com/34549.html [January 13, 2009])

This year, Quinn started out as the prohibitive favorite for both her party's nomination for Mayor and for the ultimate election itself. But of late, people have started to remember just how much she respects the expressed will of the people. She's struggling in the polls, and even the New York Times is calling her out for what she did in 2008 to guarantee Bloomberg's and her own election to third terms. What deals or threats she may have made, how successful they were, and what's going to happen to her now.

Thinking about the issue farther, my view of the concept of term limits hasn't changed: I think it's a stupid thing voters saddle themselves with when an incumbent they don't like seems unbeatable. Better that the voters should give some attention to the election and to their votes, and convince their fellow voters to vote for someone else, rather than institute terms limits which helps no one, and only forces their successors to abide by those limits.

Nevertheless, as a law in New York City, Michael Bloomberg and Christine Quinn's efforts five years ago to overturn it by Council vote (rather than public referendum) solely for their own political benefit was wrong, and should have been punished. But Bloomberg has more money than a god, and was able to buy himself and Quinn re-election. Now that he's stepping down, Quinn's screwed, and I'm laughing at her.

Two quick election-day links, and a recap of my radio appearance

"What It's Like to Lose" talks with Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bob Dole about what it's like to lose the election for President. Kind of interesting, though I'm surprised none of them commented on the fact that, even losing, millions of people voted FOR them.

"How long will Election Day last in Ohio?" explains the "whys" of reminding people that counting one hundred million votes really ought to take a while, and we'll just have to suffer through not knowing who won five minutes after the polls close.

And an update on my radio appearance (see previous entry): apparently I misunderstood. I was NOT on the show live or taped today; we taped this morning for a piece that should air tomorrow. But don't blink (well, it's radio, so whatever the audio version of blinking is): Mancow and I talked for just under three minutes. I was prepared, really prepared. I had four different files of notes and quotes open on my computer screen, as well as a copy of my book immediately at hand, so I could answer anything. Instead, he tripped me up on his first question: "Who was the worst president?" (focusing on the subtitle of the book -- "From Most to Least, Elected to Rejected, Worst to Cursed" -- which was added by the publisher) and I stumbled. So he asked who I thought the best president was. That I can answer: "Jefferson, Ford, Teddy Roosevelt..." he cut me off. "Ford? Seriously." So I explained my thinking on how he became president, and his pardon of Nixon being for the good of the country, though it doomed him politically. Mancow disagrees, thinking Ford shouldn't have pardoned Nixon. So then has asked me which president was the most evil.... and even as I'm typing this, I'm realizing my next book has to be the antithesis of my first: completely opinionated bloviating on such nonsense measures as the worst and best and most evil presidents. Hmmm.... Anyway, I didn't have a ready answer to "which was the most evil president," but he did: LBJ ("after all, he had Kennedy killed"). We ended on an amicable note, but then I started thinking: if LBJ had been behind the Kennedy assassination, as powerful and smart as he was, would he really have plotted it out the way it happened? A guy with a rifle from a long distance in a public place? There are far too many ways for that to go wrong (the bullet is off a few inches, and Kennedy is only injured; the shooter tells someone who put him on the job before he himself is killed; and so on). Also, that form of death made Kennedy a martyr, and kept LBJ under his shadow until the end of the term. And more: if it had been LBJ's plot, why did he wait so long to do it? Kennedy was on eleventy-dozen pain medications and more, he sailed on small boats, there were so many opportunities to kill him quickly, quietly, make it look like an accident or health failing or somesuch to give LBJ the presidency and the power, that it just doesn't make any sense to me he would have been behind what actually occurred.


Fortune magazine asks "Was the gas shortage preventable?". Short answer: no. But some fascinating facts and reasoning as to just why we're suffering from it, and what it'll take to alleviate it.

The Wall Street Journal, via Yahoo, notes that Health Law Spurs Shift in Hours. While downplaying its broad impact, the article does note that many companies with hourly employees will be cutting their hours below the "full-time" threshhold in order to avoid the required payments or fines of the new health care law.

Finally, and of most interest to me at the moment: Gov. Cuomo To Sign Order Allowing New Yorkers To Vote Anywhere. In short, the storm we're recovering from has made a mess of, among other things, polling places in New York. So Governor Cuomo has decided to invalidate all ballots cast in New York State. Well, that's not exactly what he's saying. He's saying voters will be able to go to any polling site to cast a ballot, but if the site is not in the voter's district, he won't be able to vote in the local elections. What is not covered by the statement (because I don't think it can be) is: what is there to prevent me from voting in every polling site? When I vote in my local site, there's a register of voters in which the poll worker finds my name, I sign to acknowledge that it's me casting my ballot, and I vote. That means I can't go back three hours later and vote again, because I've already voted. But if I go to another polling site and say "I couldn't get to mine, but I'll sign an affidavit here," how do they know this is my one and only attempt to vote? You can imagine the further shenanigans that can be perpetrated. The end point is: who, if anyone, would certify any results from New York State in this case?

Swing? Undecided? Really?

Rebecca Berg's "Few Voters Are Truly Up for Grabs, Research Suggests" talks about the probably mythical "swing voter", the US voter who may indeed vote for different parties' candidates in different elections, and probably hasn't yet decided who to vote for this year. She quotes studies saying that only 3-5% of us are as yet undecided and therefore persuadable in this year's election, even though up to one-third of voters claim to be independent voters.

The line that grabbed me, which she tossed off and never returned to, was "...many true swing voters live in states, like California or Texas, where no analyst doubts the outcome in November." I think that's my biggest problem with the election: the fact that pollsters have determined which way the vast majority of us are going to vote, and therefore, the candidates have absolutely no reason to speak to us. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Ohio, and I was stunned to see Presidential campaign commercials on television. As a New Yorker, I can't remember the last time a Presidential candidate was in this state seeking votes: they only come for money.

I'm not saying the campaigns are wrong to use the data: why not use every tool available? It just seems somehow wrong. Reminds me of Isaac Asimov's story "Franchise". And yet, I do feel put out. My mother recently asked me who I was going to vote for, because she hasn't yet made up her mind. I was disappointed when I told her that I truly hadn't decided, but it didn't really matter: no matter who I vote for, the electoral votes of the state of New York are going to go to Barack Obama. I figure the popular vote will be about 60% for the Democratic incumbent. And that's not a comment on who I think the best choice is, it's a comment on what Berg says in her article: the vast majority of voters have already made up their minds, most on party labels, rather than individual candidates, as is their right.

What do you think?

Time to pay for some club's internal elections

Yet another instance of bringing up a big topic, and then spending all your time picking at a tiny piece of it so that the reader forgets he had a much bigger question when he started considering the issue. To wit: this CNN piece about a journalism professor from Iowa questioning why Iowa gets the power of the first primary election in presidential politics. After raising the question, the article quickly descends to the "are not - are too" debate we come to expect of such things. Regardless of the quality of Professor Bloom's article, the validity of his opinions on the state, or the fierce pride of Iowans, the real question remains: why is Iowa first? Why do the opinions of Iowans matter so much more than those of anyone else? Why is New Hampshire second?

It's not just a case of using a smaller battleground so that candidates don't have to spend as much money. It's a case of being able to choose from among all the candidates. Iowan Republicans will vote next week for their choice among eight candidates. By the time New Hampshire votes, it may be down to seven or six. When the Republicans in the last states in the process get to vote, it'll probably be a choice of only two or three. And when the general election rolls around in November, only on Republican will be on the ballot.

I'm not begrudging any club its right to support only one of its members (thus concentrating the club's efforts and funds behind one, rather than splitting its own vote). But the club (in this case, the Republican party) is asking for all of us taxpayers to pay for its decision-making mechanism, to choose that one member. I'm not a Republican; I don't vote in the Republican primary, but my tax dollars go to pay for the election in the Republican party so they can choose one of the eight to support. (Same case with the Democrats, but since they have an incumbent president this time around, their primaries are nearly meaningless.) But if I were a member of the party (either party), living in a late-primary state, I'd be pretty upset that my fellows living in Iowa have a much bigger, and more important, choice.

If they want me to keep paying for it, I say forget the primaries, and let them all run in the general election, so I can choose from amongst them all (or forget the rigmarole of primaries, and just let the party elders make their choices at the convention, as they'd done throughout the 1800s and well into the 1900s). But if you insist on primaries, regardless of who pays for them, do you people in Utah (the last primary this year, on 26 June) or California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota (on 5 June) really feel you have as big or important a choice as the people in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina?

Why amend the Constitution when you can sneak it in? And what's the deal with elections, anyway?

The question of scrapping the electoral college and going to a direct popular-vote winner-take-all election for President and Vice President is one that has been discussed for a long time. It's an issue on which I still haven't made up my mind: I can see pros and cons on both sides of the issue. But the discussion is on-going, under most people's threshold of notice, but there nonetheless. This MSNBC article, "McConnell warns of popular vote 'catastrophic outcome'" by Tom Curry, reminds readers that legislatures in several states are attempting to circumvent the amendment process, and decide for themselves. It makes me wonder why those signing on to the movement aren't attempting to amend the Constitution. [Strike that: I know why they're doing it this way. They think they're more likely to get what they want through this method, and they fear an amendment would fail.]

So, while I haven't yet decided for myself, those who are trying to circumvent the law are pushing me toward the other side of the debate, toward maintaining the electoral college. I'll keep thinking about it.

But the article raises another point for me. While the popular-vote folk claim doing away with the electoral college will make it more important for candidates to visit every state, rather than just "battleground states" (I disagree), it reminds me of another reason I have so much trouble with the current "primary" system: it gives incredible power to Iowa and New Hampshire, two very small states, simply because the candidates who win the early primary contests carry that momentum on, while those who might be popular in the larger states may be forced to drop out before their supporters have their say. [And once again, I don't like forcing people who aren't members of either party to pay for the primaries, which do nothing but tell those parties (clubs) which of their own members they're going to put their support behind. Let the parties pay for the primaries, and let the elections be open to any candidate who qualifies.]

But as to why popular vote wouldn't force the candidates to go everywhere: it would simply change the ten or fifteen states the candidates focus on to the ten or fifteen population centers where the most votes can be influences with the fewest ads and appearances. Why travel to any state with a small population? The population of New York City is larger than that of 40 states: candidates will be able to focus their attention on New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, maybe a dozen other cities, and be done with it.

So what do you think?

Once again, when you're running for office, you have to stand FOR something

Nice opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times by Frank Rich: "How to Lose an Election Without Really Trying". It continues my ongoing diatribe against the Democratic Party, which seems hell-bent on losing as many electoral contests as it can. Sure, they took the Presidency and most of Congress two years ago (did John McCain really throw that election?), but it seems that in almost every election since 2004, the Democrats have been running as "Vote for us; we're not the Republicans (or Bush, or whatever demon they're running against)" rather than "Vote for us; we stand for ____" and then filling in the blank. This time around, it's Frank Rich warning the Democrats not to expect a victory simply by tying their Republican opponents to George W. Bush, who has after all been out of office for nearly two years.

The gang who couldn't shoot straight, aka the Democratic Party

Once again, the US Democratic Party is proving it is the gang that can't shoot straight. Specifically, this time, it's the election in Massachusetts to fill Edward Kennedy's Senate seat (see, for example, this Boston.com article).

The Dems' mistakes this time around didn't start with Senator Kennedy's death; they started in 2004, when Massachusetts Democrats changed the state law, providing for a popular election to fill a Senate vacancy, rather than allow the governor to appoint a replacement, because the governor at that time was a Republican.

Following Senator Kennedy's death, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the seat would remain in Democratic hands. Whether it was to be Kennedy's widow, his nephew (former Representative Joe Kennedy), his son, or some other non-relative. But as all the sure-bet candidates dropped out, it became an almost open election. And Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley ran a brilliant primary campaign to get the nomination to become quite probably the first female Senator to represent the state. And then… then she went on vacation.

And while she was on vacation, the almost unknown Republican candidate, Scott Brown, started campaigning for the job.

And he kept campaigning.

And nobody in the Democratic Party bothered to take Coakley aside, make her see straight, and force her to run a winning campaign. They had virtually unlimited resources: there were no other election campaigns running, and the party knew it was a supremely important race, one that they needed to win to maintain their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (although I'm still asking what they've done with it). But they didn't. They didn't straighten out their candidate, didn't force her to take assistance from the best possible campaigners, didn't do anything to actually win the race.

Martha Coakly went into this short election with absolutely everything going for her: name recognition (she's the state Attorney General; he's a little-known state legislator), party recognition (the Democrats swept to victory in 2008; the Republican seem to be an aging, dying party), the mantle of the deceased Senator she was running to replace, the ability to call on any and all of the resources of the national Democratic Party, her residence in a state that hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, her public support for "health care reform" that seems a majority plus in the country… heck, no new candidate has seemed so much like an incumbent in a long time.

But she blew it. Scott Brown won, Martha Coakley lost, and people are once again scratching their heads, wondering what the hell is wrong with the Democratic Party. Whether it was the fact that Coakley's campaign made more annoying robocalls than Brown's; or the fact that she was late out of the blocks; or the fact that she looked on the election as a coronation, rather than a race… well, it doesn't really matter what it was. Coakley lost; Brown won. The Democrat lost; the Republican won.

And more and more, I'm wondering if my idle musings—that John McCain purposely threw the election of 2008—might actually be true. Something is quite clearly rotten in the Democratic Party.