Browsing the archives for the obama tag.

Obama-related oopsies

Funny, Politics, US Politics

Worth a smile: A Republican Florida congresswoman was so determined not to become the next prank call victim that she hung up on the president-elect when Obama called – and then hung up again when he had his chief of staff try again. She apparently told Barack that hey, he sounded better than the guy on Saturday Night Live, but she wasn’t going to be “punked.”

Worth a groan: “Oh Yes You Can! Save 20% on EVERYTHING Storewide”. With the Obama-O and everything.

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From relief to suspicion and back: Eyeing up Team Obama

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

Again with the caveat that I haven’t really caught up yet with the transition news of the last week, the confirmations from before surely mean that there’s one man who must not be happy. On the day after Obama’s victory, Dissent‘s Mark Engler celebrated:

Obama rose to the top of a Democratic pool that, as a whole, positioned itself notably to the left of what we had come to expect in the Clinton-Gore years, when top officials scrambled to prove their pro-corporate bona fides and to declare their allegiance to the Democratic Leadership Council. Today’s contenders, while far from perfect from a progressive perspective, campaigned as opponents of an unjust war and of faulty trade agreements such as NAFTA, as advocates of pro-worker labor law reform and of serious national health care.

But he already warned:

To be sure, the .. more contemporary fight to thwart the rightward-pushing forces within the Democratic Party .. is not over. The likes of Robert Rubin and Larry Summers hover over Obama’s victory.

Larry Summers at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, 2007

Larry Summers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2007

I bet he didn’t realise just how much they’d “hover”. With the appointments of Geithner, Summers and Orszag, I’m guessing Engler must have gotten a lot more worried still. As Ezra Klein noted:

For critics of so-called Rubinomics, [..] watching Rubin’s proteges step into every major economic staffing position in the new administration has been concerning. Watching them do so as Goldman-Sachs, which Rubin once led, and Citigroup, which Rubin recently advised, get buffeted by the subprime collapse is almost perverse.

To be fair, however, the opposition within the Democratic Party between the neoliberal, Rubinite cheerleaders of deregulation and the progressive sceptics of free market solutions no longer has the bitter edge it had in the 90s. And the main reason for that is that experience has taught Summers et al. to be more sceptical themselves.

Consider what The American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, himself a progressive critic of Rubinomics, wrote about Geithner last September:

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“What a Progressive President Might Say”: How will Obama match up?

Politics, US Politics

I didn’t have any spare online time the last week or so, so I’m no longer current on the latest transition news. This was a good find just before, however. After it was confirmed that Melody Barnes would be the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Obama, TNR The Stump dug up a link to an op-ed she wrote in January 2007 for the WaPo — which was framed as the State of the Union address a progressive president might give.

She gives fashion advice too.

She gives fashion advice too. Not kidding - the Washingtonian profiled her as one of "Ten Well Dressed Women".

Most striking about the piece is just how on message she already was for what would become the framing of Obama’s candidacy and presidency. No wonder she was picked for a top post.

Most encouraging is how she placed escalating income inequality right at the top of domestic policy priorities. What’s hopeful in particular is the way she presented it as the container issue through which other domestic policy questions are framed. Tackling the rapidly increasing concentration of resources in the hands of the few is not just a question of upping the minimum wage. It’s the basic challenge of socio-economic policy that major social issues like education and health care all tie back into.

The acknowledgment of this in Barnes’ piece does warm the progressive heart – both the urgency with which she posits the issue and the ability (and political will) to contextualise pressing sectoral issues like health insurance as more than just individual issues that have come up. Implicit is the understanding of these issues as part of a broader failure of the market economy, or at least of the lurch toward an ever less regulated market economy since the eighties.

A somewhat disappointing part of the piece is the contrast between the paragraphs on Iraq and health care. In both cases, the general diagnosis is solid. For Iraq, however, there is an unambiguous plan of withdrawal. On health care, on the other hand, it’s mostly what’s not mentioned that’s interesting. What to do about the uninsured? Who should ensure them? A state program or private insurers? If a state program, one that’s open to all, or just those without coverage now? Funded how? And if private insurers, how would they be compelled to do it? What about mandates?

A State of the Union obviously doesn’t need to dig way into the details, and a brief op-ed posturing as one cannot possibly do so. But some idea of what path of action she was imagining would have been instructive, especially since her portfolio will include health care and education.

The same goes for energy. The op-ed raises all the right points, but it’s wildly vague on courses of action and priorities. While the paragraph on science underneath includes a pointed reference to embryonic cell research, there’s nothing in the way of even a general approach (say, cap and trade) here.

Still, the fact that one of the top domestic policy advisors to President Obama actually authored an op-ed specifically imagining a progressive presidency is definitely encouraging. Barnes comes from the Center for American Progress, which might calm some nerves about the lack of progressive Obama appointments. The post she will fill is potentially a very powerful one. Now the only question is, what kind of influence will she be able to exert?

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Red meat for the day… or: is it time to worry yet?

Politics, US Politics

Red meat for the day comes courtesy of Jello Biafra, the doyen of US punk (“doyen” is the most un-punk word I could come up with).

In an interview the week before the elections, he warned of the prospect that the Obama administration will steer an all too centrist course, conjuring up the failures of the Clinton era. Somehow the latest spate of appointments and developments make his warnings seem a little too topical again:

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The 10 cities with the highest percentage of veterans: how did they vote?

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

On the occasion of Veterans Day, Facing South last week had a post up about veterans in the South and veteran care. Part of the post was a list of the “10 Cities with Highest Percentage of Veterans”. Nine turn out to be in the South. 

It made me curious: Southern cities with a high percentage of veterans, those can’t have been the most promising locales for the Obama surge, can they? The lone non-Southern city was the conservative redoubt of Colorado Springs, after all.

Looking up the results for the counties in question yielded an unexpected mish-mash of votes, however.

First, here is the list of the top 10 cities and the counties they are in – note that in Virginia, the cities are their own counties. (For a methodological note, see footnote 1).)

Table 1: Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000

Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000

Now for the election results from 2004 and this year in those top 10 cities that had the highest share of veterans in 2000 (respectively the counties they are in). As said, it’s a very mixed picture:

Table 2: Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000 (resp. the county they are in): how did they vote in 2004 and 2008?

Top 10 cities with highest percentage of veterans in 2000 (resp. the county they are in): how did they vote in 2004 and 2008?

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OK. I’m Starting To Believe It.

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Elections, US Politics

The other day I clicked to Comedy Central, just to see what was on. Barack Obama’s smiling face filled the screen. The camera panned to show fireworks behind him, then out to show that he was on a porcelain plate. The words “Change Has Come” in scrolly gold letters were lingered on lovingly. Everything was soft-focus and precious.

There were no captions and I squinted at the screen in confusion… was this some sort of Jon Stewart parody? What was going ON?

Eventually it became apparent that despite the insipid-looking white people gazing happily at the plate and the lo-budget schmaltz, this was the real thing. They’re actually selling porcelain plates commemorating Barack Obama’s victory.

This can be YOURS for the low, low price of $19.99!!

This can be YOURS for the low, low price of $19.99!!

There is a whole site set up for selling these plates (and coins!), where you can watch the video (slightly altered from the one I saw — fewer insipid people, more coins).

I remember when I ordered my “ObamaMama” t-shirt, more than a year ago. It’s a very nice t-shirt, as t-shirts go; black with red white and blue lettering and an Obama logo.

I never seemed to make the decision to wear it lightly. I’m relatively new in town and I had serious concerns about whether wearing that t-shirt would close some doors for me.

When I did wear it, the reactions tended to be strong (especially once the primaries got started). I wore it to the Ohio State Fair in July and a young black guy grinned at me and said “I like your t-shirt…!” while a middle-aged white woman glared at me with such heat that I prepared to physically defend myself — she eventually moved on, though.

Residents of Blandville, USA raise a toast to the new president (seen, tinily, on a plate in the background)

Residents of Blandville, USA raise a toast to the new president (seen, tinily, on a plate in the background)

This commercial somehow brought home for me that Barack Obama is not the risky candidate that I started supporting almost three years ago. He’s our President-Elect. Three quarters of Americans think he will be a good president. His face is on tacky porcelain plates, for chrissakes. This is real.

A toast to our President-Elect, Barack Obama.

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Barack Obama, pop idol…

Culture, International Politics, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections

… in Kenya, that is.

On election night, or rather the morning after as it was 7 AM in Kusumu by that time, reporter Shashank Bengali witnessed the local Luo erupt in celebration:

The young jobless men, the bike taxi drivers who may be Obama’s strongest constituency, the women who clean the place – all cheered and hugged each other. [..]

People are saying, “We won.” Talk show hosts are joking that the fish in Lake Victoria are getting stake because all the fishermen are watching TV. The radio is playing Obama songs in Luo [..]. “George Bush said only John McCain could lead America,” goes one particularly jaunty guitar-and-drum tune, “but the rest of the world said no.” [..] President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a national holiday.

But it’s a globalised world, as Bengali realised when watching Al Jazeera in the Kisumu fairgrounds and hearing the pundit say, “I can’t offhand recall how many electoral votes Indiana has.” And the consumer society works just the same the world around:

This is starting to get ridiculous.

Less than a week after the election, you can’t walk 10 feet in Nairobi without seeing Obama’s name. [Y]ou can buy Obama campaign buttons in the supermarkets, beaded Masai bracelets with “Obama” stitched into them [..], souvenir Obama hundred-dollar bills, mini U.S. flags bearing Obama’s face, [..] electronics at one store’s “Obama sale” (not sure what this means exactly) — and the list goes on.

I was at an opening Saturday in Nairobi’s Industrial Area for a talented young Luo artist named Kota Otieno. [..] Kota, 28, was exhibiting about a dozen original works. At least three featured Obama’s name. [..] The one at right is called “The Proffet.”

While I appreciated Kenya’s election-day euphoria as much as the next guy, with the inauguration still 10 weeks away Obama already risks becoming a cliche here — not unlike the endless Man U and Arsenal logos that plaster all the minibus taxis. This is what’s almost happened in South Africa to Nelson Mandela, whose family has tried unsuccessfully to keep his face off of every T-shirt and backpack going. Obama’s not there yet, but it’s coming.

Hey, it’s better than Che tees …

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The red and blue states of white America in 2008: Southern whites constitute the real McCain Belt

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usIf you’re an election geek like us, you’ll have seen this electoral map from the NYT. It shows which counties in the US actually shifted toward McCain, in comparison with how they voted in 2004. (The map showing which counties shifted by how much to Obama is interesting too.)

Since the country as a whole saw a 9% swing to the Democrat, it’s just a small part of the country that moved toward McCain, obviously. Just 22% of counties, as the Times helpfully notes. But their geographical concentration is noteworthy, as apart from obvious bits in Arizona and Alaska, the candidates’ home states, most of the counties in question form a perfect arc in the Highland South, from Oklahoma eastwards to Tennessee and then upwards through the Appalachians.

Striking as the pattern is, however, it’s become fodder for some misinterpretation as it did the rounds on the blogs. Some of it may just be a matter of emphasis. Some of it, however, has to do with the way the differing racial demographic balances in red states cloak the true concentration of McCain switch voters.

In terms of general emphasis, I’d be a bit wary about impressions when these counties become dubbed “the McCain belt” — you’d almost think that these were the best counties for McCain, rather than just the ones that moved toward him most. For example, McCain won Alabama and Louisiana by about 20 points, a more ample margin than he got in Tennessee, Kentucky or West-Virginia. So what’s the real McCain Belt?

The more interesting point is about race. The NYT map showing the electoral shifts to McCain obviously does not take into account the role of race, it just maps the overall results. One thing, however, that distinguishes the Appalachians is that they have a very small black population. In the Deep South, on the other hand, you have some of the largest black minorities around. Those black populations turned out en masse for Obama — and so their extra votes for Obama effectively canceled out the shift to McCain among whites there.

Do Southern whites constitute the real McCain Belt?

Compare the Electoral Shifts map above, with its “McCain belt” stretching from the Oklahoma to the Appalachians, with this one:

How does the map of the white vote changed between 2004 and 2008?

How has the white vote shifted between 2004 and 2008? In this map, McCain getting 25% more of the white vote in a state than Bush got in '04 would colour the state a fiery red; McCain getting 25% less would make it the coolest blue. The map shows that whites in much of the Deep South swung to McCain, while whites in the Mountain and Pacific West, the Midwest and the Atlantic South swung strongly to Obama.

This map shows, state by state, how much the white vote, taken separately, changed since 2004. It looks very different, doesn’t it?

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More exit poll comparisons, 2000-2004-2008

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Continuing on the previous post, which covered basic demographic categories of gender, race, age, income, education and party ID, here are several other side-by-side comparisons between the exit poll data on the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

Among which groups has Obama done better or worse, and by how much, than Kerry and Gore did? A look at first-time voters, religious groups, married versus unmarried voters, union households and gun-owning households, urban, suburban and rural voters, and voters from the different regions of the country.

When looking at these charts, keep the overall, national data in mind. Gore got 48.4% of the vote, Kerry 48.3% and Obama 52.6% – so that’s the standard. If Obama gained 5% or more in a demographic group compared to Kerry and Gore, it means he made bigger advances in this group than on average; if he gained 3% or less, it means he “underperformed” in comparison with other demographic groups.

FIRST TIME VOTERS

Share of voters: 9% in 2000; 11% in 2004; 11% in 2008.

Yes, that’s one huge blue victory in 2008 – the contrast with previous cycles, in which the Democratic candidate already had the advantage, is enormous. It’s an advance that dwarfs all others in this overview.

PROTESTANTS

Share of voters: 54% in 2000; 54% in 2004; 54% in 2008.

Note that the increased turnout that Obama inspired among African-Americans (and, presumably, a corresponding decreased turnout among the white evangelical vote Bush mobilised so successfully in 2004) should have helped amplify Obama’s gains among Protestants.

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Selected exit poll comparisons, 2000-2004-2008

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

MALE VOTERS

Share of voters: 48% in 2000; 46% in 2004; 47% in 2008.

—–

FEMALE VOTERS

Share of voters: 52% in 2000; 54% in 2004; 53% in 2008.

Compared to John Kerry’s vote, Barack Obama gained about equal ground among both men and women. But compared to Al Gore’s performance, Obama gained much extra ground among men, but little among women.

—–

WHITE MEN

Share of voters: 39% in 2000; 36% in 2004; 36% in 2008.

—–

WHITE WOMEN

Share of voters: 42% in 2000; 41% in 2004; 39% in 2008.

The same distinction noted above is even more apparent among white men and women. Obama won 4-5 points among white men compared to both Gore and Kerry, but won only 2 among white women compared to Kerry, and actually did less well than Gore did. Turnout among white women was also weaker in proportion to turnout among white men than it was in 2004 (i.e, it was still higher, but less so.)

—–

BLACKS/AFRICAN-AMERICANS

Share of voters: 10% in 2000; 11% in 2004; 13% in 2008.

Speaks for itself. Note also the effect of the high turnout on the share of black voters in the electorate.

—–

LATINOS/HISPANICS

Share of voters: 7% in 2000; 8% in 2004; 9% in 2008.

Obama’s surge among Latinos this year (who said Hispanics would never vote for a black man?) has pushed the Republicans back to pre-2000 levels of support. On a side note, Latinos were among the very rare groups where the Nader candidacy still registered in 2004, possibly thanks to his VP candidate Peter Camejo.

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How did North Carolina end up the ultimate toss-up state? Reviewing county data

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

AP and NBC yesterday belatedly called North Carolina for Obama, making the state’s result the second last to come in. Only Missouri hadn’t been called yet. So how did it become so close? Facing South has a good summary up of the main strategical and political reasons. But I would like to look more specifically at the geography and demographics of the race.

For Obama to win the state required a 12.4% swing (that being the margin by which Bush was elected in 2004). He got a 12.6% swing. Which parts of the state pushed Obama over the line? Where did his efforts of persuasion fall short? What demographics were at play? An in-depth look.

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Obama’s polling compared to Kerry’s, Gore’s and Clinton’s – final day update

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

My comparison from a week and a half ago of how Obama’s polling numbers match up with Kerry’s polling in 2004, Gore’s in 2000 and Clinton’s in 1996 has surprisingly become the most visited page on this blog since. Considering the interest, I thought it would be good to provide a last-day update on how the comparison is shaping up at the end of the campaign.

There are four daily tracking polls this year that also conducted daily tracking polls in either 2000 or 2004 or both. The comparison between the races shapes up differently depending on which pollster’s numbers you look at. The best known is Gallup, and this graph compares Obama’s performance versus McCain in the Gallup poll with Kerry’s, Gore’s and Clinton’s performance against their Republican opponents:

Gallup polling: Obama vs McCain in 08 compared with Kerrys, Gores and Clintons polling

Looking good indeed; the 11-point lead Gallup showed for Obama in its final presidential estimate last night is on par with its election-day polling lead for Bill Clinton in ’96. While Clinton’s ample lead gradually eroded over the course of the last two weeks of campaigning, Obama’s held steady. Quite the difference with the nailbiters the last Gallup polls out predicted for the 2000 and 2004 races.

TIPP is a polling firm you may not have heard of; it has conducted a daily tracking poll for the Investors Business Daily this year, and for IBD and the Christian Science Monitor in earlier years. Of the seven tracking polls that were conducted on a daily basis in the last two weeks, this poll has tended to show the smallest Obama leads of all. When McCain’s chief strategist Steve Schmidt asserted, two weeks ago, that “the McCain campaign is roughly in the position where Vice President Gore was running against President Bush,” the TIPP poll was the only poll that confirmed his assertion.

Today, however, brings good news for Obama supporters: after oscillating between a 1-point and 5-point lead for Obama for two weeks, TIPP published a final estimate last night that had Obama leading by 7.2%. And that makes the comparison over the years look like this:

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