It's Still The Economy, Stupid

Wednesday, November 03, 2004  

Green voting patterns

In Maryland, my current residence, David Cobb got just 3,229 votes out of two million plus. He was outpolled seven to one by Maria Allwine, the Green candidate for Senate (vs Barbara Mikulski). In six of the eight Maryland house races, there was a Green candidate, who all performed far better than Cobb; most performed better than Allwine. Theresa Dudley got 5% of the vote in Maryland's 4th District. Patsy Allen got 3% in Maryland's 3rd district. Keith Salkowski got 3% in Maryland's 2nd. Greg Hemmingway pulled 3% in Maryland's 7th.

In Oregon, my soon to be residence, Cobb got 4,524 of one and a half million votes. Teresa Keane, the effective Green Party candidate (it does not appear Oregon recognizes the Party on the general ballot), outpolled Cobb 9-1 and got 2% of the popular vote. Greens had a harder time in state legislature races, with all three candidates pulling 1% or less of the vote.

It appears that Greens had far more success in their traditional strongholds than in 2000 in local elections, though their support in the Presidential election completely evaporated. Nationwide, their best success was in Washington DC, not only a heavy Democratic stronghold but one where the wedge issue of statehood is embraced by Greens but much less so by Democrats. Greens won 6 of 12 Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats, pulled 7% in the House delegate race, and almost 10% in the City Council races.

Lesson #1: find good candidates and run them in as many races as possible. Greens had 432 candidates in 2004. They should set a goal of 1,000 for 2008. The ultimate goal should be every race in every election. From personal experience, it feels really good to have several "G" lines on the ballot.

Lesson #2: continue to grab issues neglected by both parties. These include pulling our troops out of Iraq immediately, a single-payer health care system, balanced budget, and local issues. This does not mean only grabbing issues important to the liberal side of the spectrum. Greens have an opportunity to run for such "non-partisan" seats as Secretary of State or Board of Elections where they can paint themselves as the referee between the two major parties.

Lesson #3: go full bore or not at all. Cobb ran an invisible campaign, first saying he was for a "safe states" strategy and then saying he was for campaigning hard in all states. I did not see a single Cobb poster, commercial in any media, or press release of an appearance in Maryland by him or Pat LaMarche. The next Green candidate for President should run like Nader in 2000 or not at all.

Lesson #4: act more like a political party than a tea party. Dissenters in the Democratic Party and the GOP are brought into the fold or removed. They are not allowed to act as a poison toward their party's electoral chances. That Kerry was partly a compromise candidate is probably the biggest reason for his failure to win. There were enough dissatisfied Democrats: the Deaniacs, anti-war Democrats largely with Kucinich, and Nader 2000 voters. They might have been voting for Kerry, but they were not the kind of enthusiastic supporters that drag their roommates to the polls to vote for Kerry. Kerry couldn't embrace the center, and he couldn't embrace the left. Similarly, Nader 2000 voters abandoned Cobb entirely.

Greens need a unified party as soon as possible, certainly before their primaries in 2008. If that means leaving people behind, so be it. In an election like 2004, and 2008 will be more so, your positions have to be clear and dissent is not allowed. Otherwise what is the point of voting for a compromise? They need to treat the party as a serious party, not one that allows a focus on candidates getting thrown in jail protesting voting machines or the war. They need to find their own Karl Rove or Terry McAuliffe and run all races behind this centralized leadership rather than a loose association of state parties. The local leadership can then concentrate on finding candidates and getting on ballots, rather than worrying about information control or running campaigns.

My next post will be on my Green Party blog, launch date TBA. Thanks all who have visited and made comments. Like Poland, you will not be forgotten.

posted by Teddy | 8:30 AM |

November 3, 2004

As you can see, a promise from me is about as good as a pledge from the Democrats to "fight for Ohio".

A few thoughts...

1) Bush won fair and square. He won despite an increase in turnout of 12 million voters. The Kerry campaign seems to think that provisional voters will break their way, but it certainly won't be enough in Ohio. They're more likely to pick up a state like New Mexico. There are provisional voters in almost every state. This may make the final vote total closer, but won't change the Electoral College in a meaningful way. Kerry could ask for a recount, but in the age of voting machines with no audit trail, he might as well ask for a highway to Mars.

2) Third-parties bit the big one. Nader got less than 1/2 of 1%. Cobb was outclassed by both Badnarik and Peroutka. In fact, Badnarik almost outpolled Nader, indicating that Democrats accomplished their task of returning nearly all third-party voters to the fold. And they still lost. Cobb ran a horrible campaign and fully deserves to be banished to the nether-regions of the Green Party organization. When you can't get one-third of registered Greens, you just suck. The big four third parties managed 900,000 votes in total, only about a third of what Nader got in 2000.

I still don't regret my decision to vote Green, and I still think third parties have a future. Their work begins today. There's probably only room for one third party to make an impact, and it will depend on establishing their own identity, getting candidates in on every ballot, and grabbing hold of simple issues to contrast themselves with both major parties, particularly the anti-war, anti-interventionist platform. Currently, sad to say, Nader and Badnarik represented this idea better than Cobb. If the Greens can heal the division within the party, get Peter Camejo back into the fold and get Nader's support (it's highly unlikely Ralph will be physically able to run in 2008), they have a chance to regain some relevance. Otherwise, there's very little hope for the Greens in 2008.

3) In this election, everything simply got overwhelmed by the "end times" rhetoric that both the GOP and Democrats used to good effect. Both sides were predicting the end of the world if the other candidate was elected. The reality is that doomsday prophets are never right (if they are, what would it matter). We will survive the next four years of Bush the same as we survived Pierce, Grant, Harding and all the other corrupt, incompetent Presidents we've had. With the focus on "the most important election of our lifetime", both party bases turned out, but third-party voters were even more likely not to want to show up (why, when Kerry and Bush get 12 million more votes?)

4) Maybe in their own mind they have a mandate, but despite picking up four House seats and two Senate seats, the GOP is handicapped from enacting the most radical facets of their plan. Iraq is a mess, and there is simply no way a Pyrrhic victory in Falluja or even capturing Bin Laden is going to provide any relief for the constraints of the budget, the constraint of our overstretched armed forces, the constraint of world opinion, and the constraint of the economy.

There is simply no way to go into Iran without a draft, and we'd pretty much need to have Israel take on Syria. Reducing our current forces in Iraq will allow the resistance to destabilize the situation further. North Korea has nuclear weapons, so we're reduced to negotiations whether we like it or not. Bush could try to pre-emptively take out Iran's nuclear facilities, and might even be able to get away with it. The reason is that both Iran and al-Sistani know the U.S. is overstretched and they are secure as long as they do not take an aggressive role that would invite a U.S. military response. Why provoke it, even if the U.S. cancels the January elections or invades Iranian airspace to conduct an armed attack. The current popular resistance is giving U.S. fits, and further aggression only intensifies it. Better to let the U.S. dig it's own hole, rather than to meet the fate of Al-Sadr's followers.

As far as the budget goes, appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan and whatever else start from a position of -$500 billion. The U.S. is by far the world's greatest debtor and is currently existing on the kindness of foreign central banks, who maintain demand for U.S. debt and the dollar because the alternative is worse.

The economy is running on the fumes of the housing bubble and overconsumption. For the next four years, the threat to the dollar and interest rates will only grow. Trying to inflate only hastens the dollar's demise, as foreign central banks will offset the inflationary impact with a stronger currency. That's the EU's current policy. Japan is offsetting purchases of U.S. dollars with the retirement of bad debts in its banking system. China is offsetting their purchases by enticing inflows of foreign capital and purchasing companies that produce natural resources. All of these are stopgap solutions that do not correct the longstanding imbalances within and without the U.S. economy.

Bush is going into his second term with the economy threatening to unravel at any time, with the Fed raising interest rates, with huge trade and Federal deficits, and with 54 million Americans detesting him and all he stands for. If Democrats were to offer true resistance, the GOP will be doomed in 2008. What does that mean? This means picking a successor to Daschle in the Senate who will impede every single initiative by the GOP, and fight as dirty and effectively as possible for four years. It means forcing closet Republicans like Zell Miller out of the party.

More importantly, it means using economic muscle instead of political muscle. If 54 million Democrats were to cut their spending by $4000 per year, GDP would contract by 2% immediately. If 54 million Democrats were to double the gas mileage on their vehicles, it would reduce our oil consumption by 15 billion gallons a year. They could also participate by reinsulating their houses, putting in energy efficient windows, adding solar cells, reducing their air-conditioning and heating use. We won't need to fight for oil resources if we stop using them.

The only way for Democrats to have a voice the next four years is to use this power, because they failed at the voting booth. They will need to prove that it is still the economy, stupid. They need to put their money where their mouth is. Otherwise, they simply need to accept they are losers and their campaign for swing voters failed. The swing voters went to Bush. I truly believe that we can remake this country into one the world can be proud of, that we have the power right now to do it. The only question is whether "we" have the motivation.

Update: The General explains it well with fewer words.

posted by Teddy | 6:21 AM |