Ahem. Sorry ’bout that. Now, where were we?
When polls from the past federal election are closely analyzed, what shows up is that Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were elected by a lot of old people — people over the age of 45 whose electoral participation rate is between 60 and 80 per cent, climbing higher as they climb to meet their Maker. People under the age of 45 were powerfully anti-Conservative but at best only about 40 per cent of them voted. Andif they had voted in the same proportion as the over-45s, there would not have been a Conservative majority; there probably wouldn’t have been a Conservative minority. What likely we might have got is an NDP-led coalition.
So then let’s suppose that half, at least half, of the electorate are powerfully opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism, which is what the polls suggest. Let’s suppose they’re more in tune with Canada’s historic Red Toryism, the political culture that led to, in the words of philosopher George Grant (Michael Ignatieff’s uncle, although Mr. Ignatieff didn’t like his thinking) “a country which had a strong sense of the common good … that was possible under the individualism of the capitalist dream.” We certainly know this is the case in Quebec. We certainly know that younger Canadians, and even a significant chunk of older Canadians, have a strong sense of the common good and don’t like the contemporary conservative ideology of the individual.
Without Mr. Layton — without Jack, le bon Jack — it does not mean Canadians opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism are simply going to go elsewhere or become less engaged with their democracy. It doesn’t mean Quebeckers are going to abandon their fling with the NDP.
First, there is a culture war in Canada; it’s not going to disappear with Mr. Layton’s death. Second, as some of the most astute commentators of Quebec politics have pointed out, Quebeckers don’t take frivolous bon-bon steps in their politics. Their engagement with the NDP is more than a celebrity fling with Jack; it’s a new, sophisticated engagement with Canada.
Thus Mr. Layton can accurately be seen as the catalyst, not the seducer, both of Quebec’s re-engagement with the country and of a debate within the whole country about its political values.
As they say, read the whole damn thing. Valpy goes on to tackle Blatch’s “talented gracelessness” — and the Canadian public’s instant, somewhat overwhelming mythologizing of Layton — with keen insight.
h/t Stephen Wicary
Elderly voters are considered to be the most reliable group of voters in the US, needing no encouragement to get down to the polling station.
So, it’s no surprise that senior citizens have become one of the most courted votes during this campaign. Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports.
Related: Older Voters Lag Electorate At Large In Support Of Obama: The Hartford Courant
As the countdown to the clinch continues, the Village Idiots are growing ever more idiotic at the prospect of talking gibberish when Senator Barack Obama becomes the first black nominee for president of the USA. David Gergen, charter member of The Best Political Team on Television™, just gave a preview of what’s to come by noting that Obama’s now-inevitable nomination comes “exactly” 200 years after the end of the slave trade.
Got that, folks? We can now officially start talking about racism in the past tense.
With that–and, as this “historic” campaign goes to the next level, the promise of even more hoary, overinflated rhetoric from a punditocracy addicted to soundbite significance–in mind, this refreshingly grounded LRB essay from David Runciman couldn’t be more timely.
Now that the primary season has nearly run its course, a different pattern can be seen. Followed day by day, the race for the Democratic nomination has been the most exciting election in living memory. But viewed in retrospect, it is clear that it has been quite predictable. All the twists and turns have been a function of the somewhat random sequencing of different state primaries, which taken individually have invariably conformed to type, with Obama winning where he was always likely to win (caucus states, among college-educated and black voters, in the cities), and Clinton winning where she was likely to win (big states with secret ballots, among less well-educated whites and Hispanics, in rural areas). Even the initial drama of that week in early January – when Obama’s victory in Iowa had seemed to give him a chance of finishing Clinton off, only to be confounded by her victory in New Hampshire, which defied the expectation of the pundits and had them all speculating about what had swung it (was it her welling up in a diner? was it hastily rekindled memories of Bill? was it hints of hubris from Obama?) – turns out to have been an illusion. Iowa was Obama country (younger, smaller, caucus meetings) and New Hampshire wasn’t (older, bigger, voting machines). The salient fact about this campaign is that demography trumps everything: people have been voting in fixed patterns set by age, race, gender, income and educational level, and the winner in the different contests has been determined by the way these different groups are divided up within and between state boundaries. Anyone who knows how to read the census data (and that includes some of the smart, tech-savvy types around Obama) has had a good idea of how this was going to play from the outset. All the rest is noise.
Yet if the voting patterns have been so predictable, why have the polls been so volatile? One of the amazing things about the business of American politics is that its polling industry is so primitive. Each primary has been preceded by a few wildly varying polls, some picking up big movement for Clinton, some for Obama, each able to feed the narrative of a contest that could swing decisively at any moment. All of these polls come with warnings about their margins of error (usually +/–4 per cent), but often they have been so far outside their own margins as to make the phrase ridiculous. A day before the California primary in February, the Zogby organisation had Obama ahead by 6 per cent – he ended up losing by 9 per cent. In Ohio, the same firm put Obama ahead by 2 per cent just before the actual vote – this time he lost by 10 per cent. The sampling of national opinion is even worse. Before the Indiana primary, two national polls released at the same time claimed to track the fallout from the appearance of Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright on the political stage. One, for the New York Times, had Obama up by 14 per cent, and enabled the Times to run a story saying that the candidate had been undamaged. The other, for USA Today, had Clinton up by 7 per cent, leading the paper to conclude that Obama was paying a heavy price.
The reason for the differences is not hard to find. American polling organisations tend to rely on relatively small samples (certainly judged by British standards) for their results, often somewhere between 500 and 700 likely voters, compared to the more usual 1000-2000-plus for British national polls. The recent New York Times poll that gave Obama a 12 per cent lead was based on interviews with just 283 people. For a country the size of the United States, this is the equivalent to stopping a few people at random in the street, or throwing darts at a board. Given that American political life is generally so cut-throat, you might think there was room for a polling organisation that sought a competitive advantage by using the sort of sample sizes that produce relatively accurate results. Why on earth does anyone pay for this rubbish?
The answer is that in an election like this one, the polls aren’t there to tell the real story; they are there to support the various different stories that the commentators want to tell. The market is not for the hard truth, because the hard truth this time round is that most people are voting with the predictability of prodded animals. What the news organisations and blogs and roving pundits want are polls that suggest the voters are thinking hard about this election, arguing about it, making up their minds, talking it through, because that’s what all the commentators like to think they are doing themselves. This endless raft of educated opinion needs to be kept afloat on some data indicating that it matters what informed people say about politics, because it helps the voters to decide which way to jump. If you keep the polling sample sizes small enough, you can create the impression of a public willing to be moved by what other people are saying. That’s why the comment industry pays for this rubbish.
Lord have mercy.
Originally uploaded by Barack Obama
The press release:
Senator Obama was awarded 13 delegates to Senator Clinton’s 12. As Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson said, “This is a race for delegates…It is not a battle for individual states. As David knows, we are well past the time when any state will have a disproportionate influence on the nominating process.” [Washington Post, 1/16/08]
While the process of delegate apportionment is extremely complicated, it boils down to this: in the places that Clinton won, there were an even number of delegates that were split between she and Obama. In the places Obama won, there were an odd number of delegates, meaning that he often took two delegates to one for Clinton.
Cillizza also just reported that AP and NBC have both changed their delegate count to reflect the Obama camp’s claim, so apparently this is official [edit: I spoke too soon--see update below...and again. Jesus.]
Of course, as John Nichols’ number crunching shows, Obama’s attempt at spinning the delegate count into a postive is the epitome of “Pyrrhic victory”. Other than African Americans (expect Obama to push that 80% hard going into AA-heavy South Carolina), Clinton dominated nearly every demographic, even left-leaning caucus-goers. But it was women and older caucus-goers–both of which turned out in droves–where junior Senator from New York drew the majority of her support:
According to entry polls, 59 percent of caucus participants were women. Clinton was winning them by a 52-35 margin over Obama.Clinton also benefitted from a generational divide that favored her candidacy. Among voters over 60, she beat Obama 61-28. Among voters under 30, Obama won 57-30. But older voters turned out in far higher numbers: 36 percent of voters were over 60, while just 13 percent were under 30.
White voters, who made up two-thirds of the caucus turnout, favored Clinton 52-31. Obama swept the African-American vote 79-16. But what was really striking was the level of Latino support for Clinton. With New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson out of the race, the Latino vote was very much up for grabs, and the New York senator scored a 64-24 sweep.
Clinton, who lost the Culinary Workers but retained support among unions representing teachers and public employees, narrowly prevailed among union households, by a 43-42 margin.
Clinton also did well among self-described “liberals,” a success that could surprise casual observers of the contest.
Caucus participants who said they were “very liberal” made up 18 percent of the electorate and they favored Clinton 51-35. Participants who said they were “somewhat liberal” made up 29 percent of the electorate and favored Clinton 46-35.
It was much closer among the 10 percent of caucus goers who said they were “somewhat conservative.” This group gave Clinton 46 percent, while Obama took 41 percent.
Ouch. Maybe the independent/Republican-courting “fluff Reagan/demonize Clinton” strategy wasn’t the best one for Obama to employ during a Democratic Party caucus.
Oh, and despite barely managing to get 4% of the vote, Edwards says he’s in it for the duration:
“Congratulations to Senator Clinton for her win in Nevada. Our campaign is very grateful to all those who demonstrated the loyalty and dedication to stand up for John Edwards in the face of very difficult circumstances and long odds, including our brothers and sisters in Nevada from the Carpenters, Steelworkers, Transport Workers, and Communications Workers of America.
“John Edwards is the underdog in this campaign, facing two $100 million candidates. But that is nothing compared to the real underdogs in our country – working men and women, middle class families, and all those who have no voice in Washington.
“John Edwards is in this race to fight for the real underdogs and to make sure the voices of the American people are heard in Washington, not the special interests. That’s why he’s the only candidate in this race who has never taken a dime from PACs or Washington lobbyists; the only candidate who will ban corporate lobbyists from his White House; and the only candidate who is honest enough to say we are in a fight for our country and we need to take on the special interests if we are going to have a country that works for hard-working families and the middle class.
“The race to the nomination is a marathon and not a sprint, and we’re committed to making sure the voices of all the voters in the remaining 47 states are heard. The nomination won’t be decided by win-loss records, but by delegates, and we’re ready to fight for every delegate. Saving the middle class is going to be an epic battle, and that’s a fight John Edwards is ready for.”
Epic? More like quixotic. And this is coming from a Gravel supporter–trust me, we know from chasing windmills.
Update: Via DDay, don’t believe the Obamabot hype:
OK, I just spoke with Jill Derby, the head of the Nevada State Democratic Party. Regarding the Obama claim that he’ll actually get more delegates out of this, essentially that’s spin. Derby said that the caucuses are an “expression of the support of Nevadans today.” Around 11,000 delegates were elected today. That will be winnowed down at county conventions and eventually at the state convention in May to the 25 that will go to Denver for the DNC. In 2004, Kerry didn’t win every delegate on Election Day, but most of the delegates that eventually went to the DNC were his. Once there’s a presumptive nominee, the delegate numbers are subject to change. It’s non-binding.
Digby updates with the official Nevada Democratic Party statement:
Statement by Nevada Democratic Party Chair Jill Derby Regarding the Nevada Caucus
(Las Vegas, NV) Today, two out of three Nevadans who caucused chose a Democrat instead of a Republican for president. That is an overwhelming majority vote for a new direction. Just like in Iowa what was awarded today were delegates to the County Convention. No national convention delegates were awarded. The calculations of national convention delegates being circulated are based upon an assumption that delegate preferences will remain the same between now and April 2008. We look forward to our county and state conventions where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support.
Jesus. We really are in bat country. Pass the motherfucking ether.
“No national convention delegates were awarded. That said, if the delegate preferences remain unchanged between now and April 2008, the calculations of national convention delegates being circulated by the Associated Press are correct. We look forward to our county and state conventions where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support.”
Got that? The weasels are closing in.