Tag Archives: David Sirota

Left Has Choice About Obama

Here’s a couple takeaways from this summer’s pre-convention maneuverings from the Obama Campaign.  Obama is no Ralph Nader on policy (context: I like Nader on policy; i think he has horrible political judgment). Nader is the real economic populist that Edwards trumpeted himself as being and that Clinton drifted towards during the waning weeks of her campaign. Obama never went there. 

Obama is closer to Bill Clinton’s 1992 middle way mahayana style democratic politics. He has been for years. He speaks a progressive game but, like Bill did, hires Goldman Sachs for economic advice. 

Naomi Klein and David Sirota are right to point out the fact that Obama has not turned his back on Bush’s “shock doctrine” neoliberal policies, at least not in terms of his hires and campaign infrastructure.  This begs the question, what’s the left to do?

Thing about Obama is that he never was an economoic populist. He may have used Saul Alinsky style organizing methods on the streets of Chicago. Hillary did too in her early organizing days. But Obama long aglo left these methods on the streets.

Sirota and others are grapplying with whether this is really an Obama moment for progressive or whether progressives need to step outside the moment and engage Obama not as a sycophant but as a movement. Problem is, Sirota is creating yet another black and white, either or dynamic, that the left must transcend right about now.

The key is that progressives need to do both. They need to use the campaign itself as a black and white “good versus evil” moment, because in a lot of ways it is. John McCain represents four or eight more years of Bushian evil. Strong words, but his most recent bellicosity towards Russia has me shuddering in my sandals. It is vitally important to see Obama get elected this fall. It is almost a matter of life and  death. I believe this.

At the same time, progressives must not abandon “movement politics.” Sirota is right to say this is the only way to push an Obama administration away from the media constructed lens of a “centrist” american polity.  MIchael Moore convinced me years ago, at one of his college circuit tours, that Americans follow progressives on the issues, they just don;t know it, and neither do the candidates.  Movement politics is needed to force Obama to grapple with and reject the realities of “shock doctrine politics,” in terms of policy and his staff selections. 

This is and isn’t a time for either/or decisions. The either/or isn’t “Obama Moment” politics or “movement politics.” That decision was made months ago. It is both.  “Movement politics” folks need to be focusing on voter registration and local races around the country– creating a progressive infrastructure that will then force a president obama to pursue more progressive policies. And, the Obama moment is real, even if he selects Evan Bayh, which would be sad, but hey, so what. Let’s get this thing moving.


FYI: Obama not Opposed to Strong Executive Powers

Yesterday Cass Sunstein, an advisor to Barack Obama and fellow U. Chicago constitutional law teacher, was interviewed (by Amy Goodman) about Obama’s and his view of Bush abuses of executive power, and a few important points surfaced.

First, democrats are not opposed to strong executive power. Think FDR, LBJ, and potentially Obama.  Seldom in american history has a president voluntarily relinquished powers of the office, however these powers might have been usurped or borrowed.   Lesson:  Abuses of executive power have to be revealed, investigated, publicized and then offenders must be held accountable. (message to netroots: Sirota is right! keep pushing impeachment and accountability. hold feet to fire!!!)

As a general rule in american political history, executive powers have been enhanced, usually unilaterally and with the acquiescence of congress, during wartime, tragedy and crisis. These powers have remained quivers in the president’s arsenal unless aggressively removed by the courts or congress (Lincoln during civil war, FDR during depression and WWII serve as grand examples).

It has always been my belief that Hillary Clinton voted for war in the fall of 2002, not so much because she wanted war, but because, having been Bill’s spouse, she knew the allure of power and wanted to reserve Bush’s warmaking authority potentially for herself. in other worders it would be wrong to have viewed clinton’s vote in terms of hawk/dove; or republican /democrat. rather her vote should have been viewed through the lens of institutional self interest. Power for power’s sake for the president. pure and simple.

whcih brings us to Obama. Obama is already thinking like a chief executive, not as a senator, which is understandable but worthy of close scrutiny.

According to Sunstein, Obama will not be inclined to support accountability for the abuses of power during the Bush Administration, unless such broaches of the criminal law were “egregious” This is the wrong standard, as Glenn Frennwald pointd out during the same Amy Goodman interview. Lesson: unless the people and the courts demand accountability, Obama will enter office with an awful lot of concealed executive powers; and he probably won’t give them back.

If nothing else, the American people deserve and the constitution requires accountability for Bush abuses of power, perhaps even a Truth and Reconciliation Commission brearing of the truth.

Problem is, Obama’s vote against telecom immunity and his and Sunstein’s suggestion that only egregious criminal violations will be investigated, leaves buried beneath the shit of the lasdt 8 years an awful lot of abuses as well as secret powers Bush usurped for hs office, and Obama will probably not voluntarily choose to give back.

The people must demand it. The courts must be allowed to run their course.

Democracy demands accountability. how bout it, senator?

’08 Results Foretold by Racial Demographics?

Chuck Todd from MSNBC made the most telling remark last evening about the 2008 primary season. Todd, really a numbers guru, made the comment that all the histrionics aside, all you really need to do to assess which states have been going to Clinton and Which to Obama is to look at a census report and apply freshman level statistics.

Basically the claim, as David Sirota has written, is that Obama wins states with under 6% African-Americans and states with over about 18% African-Americans. Clinton wins states that have an African American population of between 6-18%.

My question for this post is: Is it likely that this model will apply this NOvember?

This thesis explains Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and pretty much all the states Obama lost. I say Obama lost, rather than states that Clinton won because Obama is going to be the nominee.

Question: Are there sufficinet states fitting the Sirota thesis to give Obama an electoral college lock?

If they do, then Obama is likely to  win the election in November. If they don’t, then something pretty substantial will need to change for Obama to win in NOvember.

I recognize that there is little to no correlation between states that a candidate wins in a primary and the subsequent voting in the general election. But, there might well be some legitimate connection between voters that won’t vote for Obama because he is black in the primary and those same voters voting in the general election.

The thesis behind Todd’s comments, and Sirota’s model is that states that have between 6-18% african american populations, have had the collective experience of racial tension since the 1960s.  As racial tensions harden over the decades since the 60s and 70s,and are hardnede still by economically troubled times like we are in now, they can approximate voting patterns regarding the racial makeup of the candidate.  very sad, but apparently true.

Todd and Sirota suggest that neither Obama nor Clinton needs to have raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars this primary seasons. In a sense, the conclusion was foretold by this one demographic statistic. 

some serious analsyis is needs posulating how this thesis applies to the general election this fall.


Obama Likely to Win Big by Losing WV

The Obama campaign is serious about redrawing the electoral math this November in its quest to win perhaps 350 electoral votes against McCain. Their strategy for today fits perfectly within their new math. They know they are going to lose, and going with the “No More Drama Vote Obama” slogan, they have little desire to pretend otherwise.  They also know the data suggests they will lose WVA to McCain in November.

Big deal.

David Sirota has talked about the phenomenon of race and the white working class voter, and the Obama campaign seems quite aware of this phenomena and unbotherd by it.  The analysis xplained Obama’s losses in Ohio, PA, Indiana, and now West Virginia.

The Poblano Model, see FiveThirtyEight.com provides a sophisticated regression model that shows the positive impact that Obama’s national voter registration drive Vote For Change is likely to have this fall.  Specifically, the Poblano Model shows how increases in registration– if they successfully result on increasing voter turnout– among young, African American and Latino voters would shift the map in Obama’s favor. 

Obama gets: Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, PA.

Sufficient turnout would also put in play: Georgia, Fla. (I doubt), and South Carolina, (and I think potentially Texas).

The point here is to support the argument that today’s results do not count not only b/c Obama has already won the nomination, but because he doesn’t need the campaign organization/ infrastructure in the state b/c he is not likely to win here this fall.  Look where he is going to be this evening– Missouri, and you can see his campaign is already several steps ahead.


How Immigrants Might Play Into Sirota’s “Race Chasm” Argument

David Sirota made news with his recent In These Times piece about the “race chasm” in America. It’s an important article to read.

Sirota argues that Obama wins in states where race politics is not an issue, and that Clinton wins in states where it is an issue.  Race politics exist in states in which the African American population is between 7-17% of the population. In states with less than 7%, like Iowa, Obama wins ostensibly between he is perceived as voters as the most qualified candidate rather than as the “black” candidate. Similarly he wins states like Mississippi because the black population is large enough so as to offset the racial based voting among some disquieted whites.

The Hillary camp exploits the race chasm in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana by reminding voters, not too subtly that Obama is black. Her campaign does this most explicitly by exploiting the Wright affair.

For a moment, let me discuss the implication in Sirota’s piece that states with low black and high black populations have somehow transcended ugly race politics. Specifically, I wish to focus on low black population states. Consider Iowa for example. that a 2007 University of Iowa poll among likely 2008 primary voters found that 49% considered undocumented immigration to be a very important issue. Consider Iowa’s white population is about 94% and its foreign born population stands at about 4%, although it has doubled since 2000.

Without having examined the matter as extensively as Sirota, I suggest the following preliminary argument and invite reader responses to it: 1) Race politics is deep seated and deeply embedded in American culture; 2) it exists on both sides of Sirota’s chasm–low and high black population states– 3) it plays itself out differently in low and high black density states; 4) immigration is a race politics issue; 5) it becomes a scapegoat for racial politics in states that have lower density black populations.

In sum, immigration is a proxy issue for race in states with low black populations. The thing the Clinton campaign forgets, however, is that although the race anxiety being fomented in chasm states may shake loose some Hillary votes in the upcoming primary states, these voters likely would vote Republican in the fall. Hillary’s sympathetic positions on immigration, I believe, would be sufficient to prevent Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana’s “Reagan Dems” from ever voting for her in the general election. 

See http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/04/02/obama_the_dynamic_whose_name_m/