Reading the Tea Leaves

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I have no freaking idea why the election turned out the way it did, and I'm generally suspicious of those who claim they do. That said, my favorite attempts at explanation have come from Paul Freedman, Sean Wilentz, Colby Cosh, and—most surprising, in terms of interpretation— Kevin Drum. Any other good explainers out there?

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  1. Yeah, Bush resonated with people more than Kerry did.

    Paul

  2. This election, like all previous presidential elections decided by less than 5%, came done to one and only one issue: Election fraud.
    Scoff now if you wish. In twenty years time, few will dispute it.

  3. The candidate with the best election riggers always wins.

  4. “This election, like all previous presidential elections decided by less than 5%, came done to one and only one issue: Election fraud.
    Scoff now if you wish. In twenty years time, few will dispute it.”-few of the bitter, Sore Loser Category any way….Grow up Warren a fuy you didn’t vote for won. Get over it…

  5. The jesus freaks outnumbered the dopey “vote or die” kiddies.

  6. Joe L.
    I always vote Libertarian, so I got over my guy loosing even before I voted. I’m not bitter, just pointing out what should be obvious but seldom mentioned. Election fraud is now, and has always been, wide spread.

  7. What the hell is the difference.They both march to the same drummer.Get over it.

    Wait a minute——THK as “first bitch”

    Nevermind.

  8. Let’s put it this way: given all the things that are hacked, wouldn’t it be odd if no one had tried to hack this year’s vote? Much of the spam people receive is done using machines that have been taken over and converted into spam sending machines. If spammers are willing to do that just to make a few bucks, is it inconceivable that someone or some group wouldn’t go for a much bigger payoff? If something like this happened, it could have been just one person who hacked into the central machines that count the votes. See blackboxvoting.org for examples. Or, it could have been independent groups with no knowledge of one another. See the odd goings on in Warren County Ohio. That might have been completely innocent, or they might have decided to independently make things go their way.

    In any case, I think we now know how Kerry could have won: supporting Prop. 200 in Arizona would have won that state (see the exit poll), and frequently discussing Bush’s guest worker plan – in effect a huge outsourcing plan where the foreign workers come here to take American jobs rather than the jobs going overseas – could have won him Ohio.

  9. Warren, the fact that you voted for a loser such as Badnarik really doesn’t excuse you from “Bitter Loser” Syndrome, this board is rife with it…
    Beyond that, please advance some evidence of your assertion, please.

  10. And, another thing. During one of the debates, the flu vaccine shortage came up. Bush answered with an excuse: “it was the English company’s fault.”

    What was Kerry’s response? He turned on the tape of his health care plan.

    Instead, he could have brought up that it appears the flu vaccine shortage was due to FDA incompetence. And, under his administration he’d make sure that everyone knew they had to do their job or they’d get fired. He could have discussed things like he would be open to all forms of input, even if was something that he didn’t want to hear. And, he could have said he wouldn’t try to blame-shift.

    Howard Dean, for all his far-left wackiness, would have done the latter rather than just being a talking points regurgitator.

  11. A majority of the electorate felt that we simply haven’t killed enough Arabs. And when it comes to Arab killing, Bush wins hands down. Now if we were killing Aisians Kerry might have won since Asian killing is a big part of his resume.

  12. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Kerry should have talked more about his economic platform. Now, I’m not saying that I agree with his platform, but as a tactical matter I think could have won if he had talked more about economic proposals.

    Sure, we got some standard rhetoric about how Bush has failed on economic issues and Kerry will do better, but we rarely heard any proposals beyond rescinding the tax cuts (or increasing taxes, whichever you prefer). I realize that if you go into too many specifics you can turn people off, but if you don’t actually promise anything you can’t really get people excited.

    I’m not sure what he should have proposed. Maybe the old-time religion of class warfare, redistribution, and protectionism. Maybe wonkish “New Democrat” schemes that have a market veneer painted on them (let me emphasize the word “veneer” before somebody accuses me of thinking that the Democrats are free marketeers). Whatever. Point is, he didn’t promise anything specific on the economic front.

    Instead, he let the election center around criticism of the incumbent (a worthy matter, but hardly sufficient), national security (an area where the GOP still holds an advantage in voter perceptions if nothing else), and cultural issues (which simply won’t win it for the Democrats, not when you look at the map).

    Remember that the Democrats did quite well back when income was the best predictor of voting behavior. Nowadays statisticians say that religion is the best predictor, and that works against the Democrats. I’m pretty sure that the only way for them to make inroads into the areas where they’ve been faring poorly is to come up with an economic plan. We on this forum might not like that plan, and we may be thanking our lucky stars that the Dems don’t have one, but I’m talking about strategy rather than policy right now. The Dems need to focus the debate on economics and starting promising something specific on that front, other than “I’ll create jobs” without explaining how. (And yes, I know, even if they do explain a plan, that doesn’t mean it will create jobs, but it will at least get more people interested in the places where Dems desperately
    need to win.)

    Depending on your perspective it may be wonderful or horrible that the Dems don’t know how to campaign on economic issues anymore. Either way, I’m guessing it’s why they’re losing. National security remains the GOP’s trump card, and the electoral map simply does not favor people who wear cultural liberalism on their sleeve. Economics is their only hope.

  13. Joe L,
    You are kidding right? You can start here. For past years you can look… Oh hell do your own damn googling.

  14. Although Matt Welch has no freaking idea re: an explanation of the election, he was correct on pouring water on the “GOP may take Hawaii” nonsense. His pre-election story was exactly correct about a “hidden” vote of elderly Democrats in the Aloha State.

  15. silly warren,

    voter fraud is for dems

    republicans don’t play machine politics even where they’ve dominated for a long time (hardly anywhere)

    didn’t you catch john stewart the other night when he lamented the absence of voter fraud?

    bush lost pa by fewer votes than he won oh and yet he’s never bitched about that or nm in 2000 or when sd & mo were stolen from gop senate candidates in 2000 & 2002

    the fact that dems took the last election to court and lost doesn’t suggest that they’re entitled to perennially make frivolous claims . . . in fact, quite the opposite

    dems turned out massive fraud and violence this campaign the only thing that history will record is that they will stop at nothing to thwart the will of the people

  16. I’m not bitter, just pointing out what should be obvious but seldom mentioned. Election fraud is now, and has always been, wide spread.

    It’s one thing to claim that election fraud is widespread. It’s quite another to make the ridiculous claim, as you did, that all elections decided by less than 5% were decided by vote fraud.

    Vote fraud only decides elections if one side is better than it than the other. It is silly to use “vote fraud” as your explanation for *both* sides’ victories.

  17. bush lost pa by fewer votes than he won oh and yet he’s never bitched about that or nm in 2000

    Uh, maybe he doesn’t ‘bitch’ because once FL and OH are stolen the other states don’t matter?

    Also, the same exit poll anomolies show up in PA as they do in OH. The only difference is Kerry won by too big a margin in PA for the GOP to get away with rigging it there.

  18. In my youth I might have thought there was election fraud at the heart of the Bush win but I’m older and wiser now, and no longer optimistic enough to think it was anything but the “will of the people”. Ironically I find this to be evidence that we are more hairless apes than created in the image of a god with vestigial fingers on his feet.

  19. OK Bitter Loser Boys, put up or shut up… Point out to me this Fraud…Is it a giant conspiracy of Secretaries of States? Come on… claiming it happened don’t mean it did. and Warren almost any time someone says, “Everytime X happens Y follows” is wrong. Your statement is that ALL elections decided by 5% or fewer are decided by fraud. Oh really? and why the 5% cut-off, I mean if I can scam a lot of votes whey just the 5%, why not any election decided by 7.5% or more or 10%???

    Your team lost, or rather your team doesn’t even get on the field, can’t hit, pitch, or defend, and now you’re just peeved. Get over it. Join a REAL party, at least.

  20. Matt,

    To answer your question:
    I do not necessarily agree with all of the parameters of the discussion between Tim Burke and Russel Arben Fox (the two links below — warning, they are somewhat long-winded), but I believe they are genuine attempts to grapple with what the authors feel is lacking in the current democratic party. Given the links you have given, you may feel that they are giving too much weight to the “moral values” issue — but I think they are touching upon some deeper issues.
    http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/tburke1/
    http://inmedias.blogspot.com/

    I also thought Andrei Cherny piece in the Times was quite nice.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/05/opinion/05cherny.html?oref=login

    I feel like you may have read some of these things already. If you haven’t given up on the thread yet, I’d be curious about your thoughts on them.

    Anon

  21. National security remains the GOP’s trump card

    Remember how Kerry went to Texas and did those photo-ops with Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), a congressman who’s been warning about border infiltration and terrorists forming alliances with a cross-border gang? Remember how that turned the tide on Bush’s homeland security advantage, and people realized that Bush has apparently decided that cheap labor is more important than homeland security? Remember how Kerry kept making the point that Bush’s DHS has released thousands of Middle Eastern illegal aliens into the U.S., and how the DHS doesn’t know how many of those could be terrorists? Remember how Kerry kept saying that he’d make sure to both take the fight to the terrorists and keep the homeland secure while preserving our civil liberties? You all do remember that, right?

  22. There’s no mystery why Kerry lost: he was a weak candidate with vague, inconsistent policies. He was hoping to coast into the White House on the Anybody But Bush momentum. Voters never had a clear idea what Kerry would do about terrorism and the Middle East. It also doesn’t help when his party is soul-kissing repulsive creatures like Michael Moore.

  23. “There’s no mystery why Kerry lost: he was a weak candidate with vague, inconsistent policies. He was hoping to coast into the White House on the Anybody But Bush momentum. Voters never had a clear idea what Kerry would do about terrorism and the Middle East.”

    Yes. You can’t be NotBush if your policies are almost indistinguishable from Bush’s. If you wouldn’t fight the war, say so.

  24. Whenever I hear stories of anyone in government stealthy getting away with anything I immediately think back to Watergate, Iran Contra, Clinton gate, the blue dress, etc…..

    When I made a mistake on the football field, my old coach would yell at me “You could screw up a wet dream!” I feel the same way about any government entity.

    If there was widespread fraud – it would be caught.

  25. “Ironically I find this to be evidence that we are more hairless apes than created in the image of a god with vestigial fingers on his feet.”

    Toes are anything but vestigal fingers. They are absolutely critical for balance and agility.

  26. Just to be clear, fingers are hyper-developed toes. Dogs have toes. They didn’t evolve from critters who could type.

  27. “You could screw up a wet dream!”

    This basically defined the Kerry campaign from start to finish. He just didn’t have support. And by support I mean people that wanted to vote for Kerry instead of against Bush.

    Despite the enormous army of people mobilized to vote for a toaster as long as it wasn’t Bush’s toaster, Kerry managed to screw it up.

    All he had to do was reach out to undecideds. Apparently his idea of that was explaining that he fought in Vietnam and having “a plan” that has something to do with the fact that Europeans like you more than Bush. It’s not too surprising that America didn’t listen.

  28. Supporters such as Night Owl (at 4:05) were part of the problem. People are tired of the “elected not selected” crowd’s non-stop antics. Us normal folks (yes, I include myself!) said, “enough already”, over three years ago. People not-so-subtly talking about how much “bush sucks” in public helped too. Normal people are put off by suggestions they would have to be an idiot to vote for Bush. Apparently the extreme left find it difficult to understand why people might be turned off to the candidate whos supporters are obnoxious assholes. Also, the Nazis are annoying – those who will defend every single aspect of a certain cadidates positions (or lack of) literally 100%. You can tell a Bush supporter that you don’t like his candidates stand on XYZ, and you may find he/she agrees with you, or at least sees where you’re coming from. Even if they disagree, they probably won’t call you a fascist. Try telling a democrat the abortion issue is an issue because it is more than just a woman’s choice. Ask them why they aren’t pro-choice on schools vouchers for kids and the nukes start detonating.

    This is all on top of the candidate being weak. When the party is calling legitimate criticisms of their candidate’s senate votes “mudslinging” or “personal attacks”, the problem is pretty obvious. What’s really amazing is that Kerry didn’t lose by even more votes. We will probably never relly know if Michael Moore brought out more Bush or anti-Bush supporters. I’m thinking Howard Stern was a big plus for Kerry – maybe because he isn’t percieved as the Amerika-hater that MM is.

    Did an endorsement from Ozzy help or hurt? (somewhat OT, but I find it amusing that ozzy supports the Democratic party given he came to this country to weasel out of paying high taxes in the UK)

  29. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I was in the grown-ups’ thread.

  30. Two economist are walking down the road, one says to the other “there is a $100 bill in the gutter”. The other responds, “no there isn’t because someone would have picked it up”

    I am sure a fucked up the joke, but the point is that there was no widespread fraud in this election because if there was it would have been caught.

    To think that the “most incompetent” President of all time could could get away with widespread voter fraud is laughable

  31. Matt, what’s up here? Didn’t I tell you that I’m deer-hunting right now AND WILL GET BACK TO YOU LATER?

    I sometimes regret the day I asked God for a little brother.

  32. You can tell a Bush supporter that you don’t like his candidates stand on XYZ, and you may find he/she agrees with you, or at least sees where you’re coming from. Even if they disagree, they probably won’t call you a fascist.

    Apparently you need to go look through some of the comments on “conservative” blogs. I have a strange feeling that some of those people were just there for the election, perhaps including people from other countries. In any case, the “conservative” blogs got as bad as Hatrios and DailyDross.

  33. Kerry lost because, 9 times out of 10, people will buy the genuine article over the copy. The Democrats now have only two bad choices.

  34. I don’t know about anywhere else in the country, but the crusty old election ladies who run the democracy in my county are far too serious about their jobs to put up with any nonsense. I’m quite confident that election fraud is widespread – but nowhere near 5%. That’s, like, over 5 million votes! That’s enough votes to decide the outcome in any recent election that I can think of. That means that our democracy is irellevant, a sham. No thanks, I’m out of tin foil.

  35. Apparently you need to go look through some of the comments on “conservative” blogs.

    Yeah, conservative blogs have anti-leftie comments and leftie blogs have anti-conservative comments.

    That doesn’t change the fact that the former Vice President of the United States called me a Nazi.

  36. eponymous, show me a story about Democratic violence at the polls. One story from a reliable source. Go ahead.

    As for your silly assertion that the sainted Republicans don’t have machines or engage in voter fraud, we all watched Kathryn Harris and Jeb Bush last time, and we’ve all seen the fliers in black neighborhoods telling people they’ll go to jail if they try to vote with any unpaid parking tickets. You do know that William Renquist used to administer literacy tests to black voters in his GOP activist days, right?

    Don’t be such a dupe.

  37. My explanation falls in three parts.

    First, familiarity. While Bush is not going to be remembered as one of the great American statesmen, the American electorate knows him. Kerry was unknown until the primaries. After Kerry “broke wide,” something about him gave at least some voters an uneasy feeling. The Swift Boat Veterans, disappearing first wife, bland senate record, flip-flops all had a cumulative effect. Through the debates, Kerry established himself as well-spoken and intelligent… and unfamiliar. Maybe was as simple as his not knowing how many SUVs his family had (at the different estates). Whatever the cause, the American public never bonded with him.

    Second, backlash. Some people hate Bush. Siome really, really hate him. And then there’s Michael Moore. All of the energy directed against Bush created blowback. The world is changing very fast and people are getting pushed to places (like gay marriage) where they really aren’t ready to go. The presidential election became more than a contest between two mediocre politicians; it became a referendum on change versus status quo.

    Third, the American stiff back. The rest of the world wanted Kerry, particularly Europe. Americans have a deep-seated resentment to any pressure from abroad, whether it is from terrorists or French diplomats. In the so-called “Red States,” people remember exactly how America’s allies refused to participate in the Iraq War. The big heads in places like Hit and Run can talk all day about how stupid this is, but Main Street USA doesn’t give a tinker’s damn.

    The logic is simple. America has always bailed out its allies. America decided to invade Iraq. America asked for help from its allies and got kicked in the face by France, Germany, etc. France and Germany love Kerry… so, the logic goes, let France and Germany have him.

    Of these three issues, I think the first is probably the most significant. The talk of issues is window dressing. People elect a president they like and trust. Whatever his faults, people liked Bill Clinton. People liked Ronald Reagan. People didn’t like Bush the elder or Carter… and they only lasted a term.

    The Democrats could win the White House easily enough in 2008. They just need to find a candidate people like and trust.

  38. Yeah, conservative blogs have anti-leftie comments and leftie blogs have anti-conservative comments.

    I was referring to something a bit more than that. For example, on a right-wing blog I provided a quote about the flu shot shortage: “…could cause hundreds or thousands of excess deaths.”

    That was morphed by a “conservative” commentor into me having written “…could cause hundreds of thousands of excess deaths.”

    I don’t think that was just an honest mistake because that kind of Emily Latella at Five Years tactic was on display throughout the campaign: misunderstanding the global test, on and on.

    When “our” side becomes as bad as Hatrios, you know there’s a problem.

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