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Lynch Coaching


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Beltway And Beyond

10/25/2012--If The New York Times says it, it must be true.  Sort of.— The Times reported that "Reid's Machine Powers Obama in Nevada Test."  You can access the article here: 

It's an interesting story, both for what it says and for what it doesn't say.

What it says is that Senator Harry Reid, working with organized labor and through a variety of groups, and with the latest technology, has built a Democratic ground operation that is the envy of the political world--including Republicans, who make clear that Reid and the Democrats have done an excellent job at this.  And that this ground game may help Barack Obama overcome Mitt Romney in Nevada, and could help Shelley Berkley past Dean Heller.  It also points out that Reid acted in part out of "self-preservation":  his close-as-close-can-be victory over John Ensign in 1998 for reelection and the Republican dominance demonstrated in the elections afterward.

What it doesn't say is striking.  That is, the use of the word "machine."  Terminology changes in politics.  Consider that those now called "liberal" were really moderate not long ago, and those now called "conservative" really are well to the right of where you would have found most conservatives as recently as the 1980s.  A machine used to be a highly corrupt operation, usually run by one person who didn't hold office or held a local office, to keep the graft coming in.  That's hardly what 
The Times meant by "Reid's machine," or what that machine actually does or tries to do.

Comparisons might be in order.  During the first third of the 20th century, mining/banking/hotel magnate George Wingfield had what was called a "bipartisan machine" that supported candidates of either party, so long as those candidates toed the Wingfield line of federal help for Nevada and limited government otherwise.  The next machine belonged to Pat McCarran, who wanted to dominate Nevadans in Washington and Democrats back home, although he was willing to rule the world if given the chance.  Certainly, Reid benefits from the success of Nevada's Democratic party, and he and party leaders have involved themselves in some primaries to keep the peace.  But the word machine has a slightly different connotation in this case.

Further, it's funny to think of Reid dominating the Democratic party.  If he's in storytelling mode, it's a different matter.  Earlier this year, friends honored longtime Democratic activist Harriet Trudell, and Reid had everybody laughing at stories of how he always had big plans to run the state party, and Trudell would take care of that.  Or as another longtime friend of Reid's once put it, a lot of powerful people can get together and make decisions, but until the voter pulls the lever or pushes the button, it really doesn't matter.

States, Population, and the Shape of the Political Map

Aftermath: A Distorted View of America 

When the Wall Street Journal published a detailed red-and-blue map of the counties that voted for either party just three days after Election Day, it looked like a Republican cartographer’s wet dream. However, the map baffled many on the right: How could the rendering still be as red as a bloody meat wrapper when President Obama roundly defeated Governor Romney in the Electoral College 332 to 206?
The G.O.P. treated the map like a bandage for its recent election wounds and many on the right used it as a way of showing “how much more divided our country has become.” They cried that the Electoral College is antiquated and should be eradicated; Furthermore they simply couldn’t believe how all those tiny blue dots could end up calling the shots in that mass of red.

Below is the map from The Wall Street Journal that shows the county-by-county breakdown. The average viewer could be deceived into thinking that the Republicans were correct in saying that the country was more divided, and if you glanced at the newspaper in the check-out line and walked away you’d think Obama’s second term was already illegitimate. But that is far from the case: More Americans actually live in those smaller, densely populated blue specks, and those urban areas are overwhelmingly Democratic.
Mark Newman, from the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan, created the below cartogram, which has been re-scaled and distorted to show the country based on population.  (The various shades are for delineation purposes only.)
The top ten most populous states in descending order as of July 1, 2011, are:
  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. Illinois
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Ohio
  8. Michigan
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
Seven of those ten states went blue; the exceptions were Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Note how the red states of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota seem vice-griped into a tiny nugget in the northwestern part of the Continental U.S.
All five of the aforementioned states combined have a total  population of 4.6 million spread out over 476,245 square miles. Compare that just New York City alone, which has nearly double the population with 8.2 million people crammed into only 468 square miles. The total electoral votes from those red states is 16, whereas New York State has 29 votes.
Breakdown: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota have 16 votes for 4.6 million people, and New York State has 20 votes for 19.4 million people. It takes 287,500 people in the aforementioned red states to get one electoral vote, whereas in New York State it takes 668, 965 people to get one electoral vote — that’s more than double the amount of New Yorkers needed for a single vote in the Electoral College.
In 2000, Democrats clamored that the Electoral College should be dismantled when President George W. Bush won reelection with 271 electoral votes to Vice President Al Gore’s 266, though Gore received 543,895 more actual votes than Bush. And even though Obama won the popular vote for his reelection by 3,202, 936 (and an electoral trouncing of 126 more votes), the Republicans still think we should do way with the Electoral College.
The theory is that more people would vote if they knew their vote “counted,” but either way you look at it, those odds remain in the favor of the Democrats if the country switched to counting only the popular votes.