How Is Mitt Romney A Politician?

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Mitt Romney did it again.

In a recent remark to voters in Wisconsin, the Republican frontrunner made a joke about closing factories in Michigan. Here’s Mitt in his own words:

One of (the) most humorous stories, I think, relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors…

They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now, later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign…

Now, I recall at one parade where he was going down the streets, he was led by a band, and they had a high school band that was leading each of the candidates, and his band did not know how to play the Michigan fight song…

They only knew how to play the Wisconsin fight song, so every time they would start playing ‘On, Wisconsin,’ ‘On, Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin.

Is this guy for real?

This is the third time that one of Mitt Romney’s comments has actually made me cringe inside (something that has never occurred with other politicians). The first was when Romney said that he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, and then followed up with a detailed paragraph explaining why. The second was when Romney tried to woo Michigan by making the ridiculous remark that the trees were the right height there.

This is one of those things which makes you think that it must be a joke. That there’s no way an actual politician actually did something as insensitive as making a joke about closing factories.

But it’s not a joke, and Mitt Romney did actually laugh about his dad closing factories in Michigan.

 

 

An Interesting Way in Which Barack Obama’s Race Helps Him

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be an election highly focused on economics and class. It seems that one of the main themes of the election will be class, or the gap between the rich and the poor. At this point, it’s pretty likely that the main Democratic attack on Mitt Romney will be an attack based on class. Mitt Romney will be portrayed as rich and out-of-touch, a Wall Street banker.

Now what does this have to do with the title of this post?

Well, obviously this critique of Mitt Romney wouldn’t work if his opponent was also a billionaire businessman. The attack against Mitt Romney relies on the fact that Barack Obama is not rich, is not out-of-touch, and is not a Wall Street banker.

Except one of these things is false. Barack Obama is rich. His income level squarely puts him in the top one percent.

One can make a good argument, of course, that Obama’s wealth is a very different thing from Romney’s wealth. Obama is wealthy mainly due to the success of his books. He has never been and will never be rich in the way Mitt Romney is. Before gaining political success, Obama was pretty heavily indebted. Not to mention that he deliberately chose to be a community organizer after college, not the most high-income of jobs.

But more importantly than all these facts, there is the fact that Barack Obama just doesn’t look very rich. The typical American does not think of Obama as belonging to the top one percent when they look at him. Obama just doesn’t exude wealth in the way Mitt Romney’s very presence does.

Why is this? The answer is pretty simple: it’s because Obama’s black.

Despite the occasional successful black entertainer or athlete, the black community is still very strongly associated with poverty. Think about, for instance, the first image that usually comes to mind when people talk about poverty in America (and especially urban poverty).

The result is that Americans almost never associate Barack Obama with being rich, even though today he has become quite wealthy. This is one of those subconscious things which most people don’t even realize is happening in their minds. Nor even do many political experts realize this. Nor did I for the longest time.

But the fact that Obama is African-American, and the fact that very few people associate African-Americans with wealth, will end up making a huge difference in the 2012 presidential election.

 

 

How Rick Santorum Ended Up Getting 8% in Puerto Rico

In my previous post, I wrote that:

In Hawaii, white and Asian Mormons in Laie ended up giving 93% of their vote to Mitt Romney. Put any group under a particular set of (usually adversarial) circumstances, and it will end up giving 90+% support to a certain side in an election. Hawaii’s Republican caucus is a perfect example of this.

Another example of this maxim cropped up a few days ago, when Puerto Rico voted in the 2012 Republican Primary. The territory ended up giving 83% of the vote to Republican Mitt Romney. This is a higher figure than Romney’s percentage in any other state which has so far voted.

Most political observers will connect Puerto Rico’s strong pro-Romney vote to a recent Rick Santorum interview. In this interview Santorum argued that Puerto Rico needed to make English its official language before becoming a state.

Santorum’s statements were treated negatively in the mainland press. However, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that Puerto Ricans themselves were extremely upset about Santorum’s views – or that they even knew about Santorum’s comments in the first place. I’ve searched out four Puerto Rican newspaper articles (here, here, here, and here) about Santorum’s comments. Three are pretty short and perfunctory; one is longer and more negative. Does this mean that the average Puerto Rican was aware of and upset by Santorum’s comments?

And just how important was the primary to the average Puerto Rican? Of course, America’s primaries have less to do with Puerto Ricans than people on the mainland. But just how much less so? To find the answer, we have to look for hints. The Puerto Rican primary results did make the reel of top news stories in Puerto Rican newspapers.

There is also turn-out. In the 2008 Democratic primary, turn-out was above that of Connecticut but below that of Oregon and Oklahoma. This matches the relative population of these respective states. In the 2012 Republican primary, however, the number of Puerto Ricans who voted was less than half the number of Oklahomans. So it seems that the 2012 Republican Primary was far less important to Puerto Rico than the 2012 Democratic Primary.

It’s a difficult question how Puerto Rico would have voted without Santorum’s statements. Puerto Rico is very different from the American mainland; therefore it’s not easy to predict its political behavior.

In general, Puerto Rico seems to go for the more well-known, establishment candidate. And upstart Santorum is a bad cultural fit for Puerto Rico. It’s pretty hard to see Santorum winning Puerto Rico even without his English comments.

Nevertheless, Santorum ended up getting 8% in Puerto Rico. That’s a very, very low number. In 2008, despite his weakness amongst Hispanics, Barack Obama still ended up getting 31.2% of the Puerto Rican vote. It’s not unreasonable to think that Santorum would have done similar if he’d not argued that Puerto Rico make English its official language to gain statehood. At least he probably would have broken into double-digits.

All in all, as stated before, place any group under the right adversarial circumstances, and it will vote very strongly for one side and against another. Rick Santorum, with his English comments, put Puerto Ricans in a very adversarial circumstance. A few days later Puerto Rico gave his opponent ten times the number of votes Santorum won.

--inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

The Secret Behind Mitt Romney’s Hawaii Landslide

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It was late in the night of Tuesday March 13th, 2012. For most people it was just another normal day.

For Americans in three states, however, it was election day. The good folk of Alabama, Hawaii, and Mississippi were voting for the Republican 2012 presidential nominee.

Alabama and Mississippi voted first. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney had a rough time in both primaries, coming third in both. Late at night, the returns from Hawaii started coming in. Romney did better there: he held a small but consistent lead as the precincts started trickling in. By 1:19 a.m. Pacific Time, Romney held 35% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 29%. Things looked good, but not great, for Romney.

Then this came in.

Romney won an astounding 92.5% of the regular ballots in this precinct. His lead jumped to 46%. The Republican ended the night winning Hawaii by a landslide, taking 44.4% of the vote to second place Rick Santorum’s 28.1%

What happened?

The picture above indicates the caucus results in Laie, Hawaii. These were held in Laie Elementary School. You can actually take a look at list of caucus locations at the Hawaii Republican Party’s website; Laie is near the bottom. Laie is located on Hawaii’s main island, Oahu. Specifically, it’s on the island’s north shore.

Laie is one of the most conservative places in Hawaii. In the 2008 presidential election Republican John McCain won three precincts in Hawaii. One of these was Laie.

It was pretty close, however. John McCain took 50.0% of the vote, barely edging the 48.1% of the vote Obama took.

Laie is not the most populated place; 6,138 people live in the CDP that the Census uses for the area. 1,360,301 people live in Hawaii. So it’s about 0.45% of the population.

In the 2012 Hawaii Caucus, however, Laie dramatically overperformed its share of the population. In fact, the word dramatic is somewhat of an understatement. As the picture above indicates, 1,110 people cast regular ballots in Laie. In total, 10,288 Hawaiians participated in the caucuses. So Laie composed 10.9% of the votes cast in the caucus.

Without the votes from this one place alone, Romney would only have won 38.6% of the vote. His margin over Santorum would literally have been cut in half.

So why are the good folk of Laie so passionate about Romney, perhaps one of the least inspiring presidential candidates in recent history?

Well, I think most of you guessed the answer long ago: Laie is home to a Mormon temple. Indeed, the Mormon Church has had a long presence in Laie. The church writes:

Defrauded by Gibson of its property in Lanai, the Church purchased 6,000 acres at Laie, on the island of Oahu, on 26 Jan. 1865. Soon thereafter, a colony, school and sugar factory were started.

Mormons in Laie voted overwhelmingly for a person of their fellow faith. Their support for Romney was almost certainly also a reaction to the hostility Romney has encountered amongst other Christians. This recalls the 80% of the Catholic vote JFK pulled in 1960, when many Protestants opposed him on religious reasons. Since then no politician has ever come close to that level of loyalty amongst Catholics.

Conclusions

The Mormon vote in Laie is reminiscent of the margins that Democrats often pull in inner-cities. It’s pretty stunning.

This result, however, is not actually that unique in the wider context of worldwide voting patterns.  There is a long history of extremely polarized voting based on religious voting. For most of the 19th century in America, you could guess pretty accurately who somebody would vote for by their religion. In Nigeria Muslims in the north and Christians in the south consistently vote different ways. In Israel a similar divide occurs with Muslims and Jews.

In Hawaii, white and Asian Mormons in Laie ended up giving 93% of their vote to Mitt Romney. Put any group under a particular set of (usually adversarial) circumstances, and it end up giving 90+% support to a certain side in an election. Hawaii’s Republican caucus is a perfect example of this.

 

 

The Demographics of America’s Governors: Place of Birth

 

This post will look at the demographics of America’s governors by place of birth, as of March 2012. All in all, this series on the demographics of America’s governors examines:

  • Place of Birth

The following map indicates the birth place of each of America’s governors. I honestly had no idea what to expect when making this map. On the one hand, the result is quite interesting in several ways. On the other hand, it’s somewhat difficult to interpret what appears in the following map. Is this a result of randomness, or is there a pattern?

Let’s take a look:

There are actually a lot of states whose current governor was born in said state. 31 states fit this category.

This is an interesting result. America is commonly thought of a very mobile society; there are very few regional differences, with the exception of the South, between one part of America and another. You can’t tell a Pennsylvanian from a Californian, for instance. Yet the majority of American states are still governed by native-born members of those states.

Another element is missing here: foreigners. Not a single American state is governed by a person born outside of the United States. Arnold Schwarzeneggers are very rare.

There seems to be a degree of regional difference. Most obviously, a band of states stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest are governed by individuals born outside said state. It’s hard to draw conclusions about the other parts of the country, however.

The map above does bear some resemblance to the electoral college. States with governors born elsewhere in the United States tend to be states which Barack Obama could possibly win in 2012. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to this statement (such as Oklahoma and New York).

Finally, there a lot of Pennsylvanians governing states elsewhere. On the other hand, only one New Yorker (Neil Abercrombie) is governing a state outside of New York. Nor does anybody born in heavily populated Florida govern a state. You can make a lot of jokes about this result, although it’s most probably just randomness.

Are there any revealing partisan differences in this demographic? Let’s look at states governed by Democrats:

Now states governed by Republicans:

If such differences exist, they escape me.

Perhaps the most relevant conclusion to be drawn from this result is that America is still a pretty introverted place. Chances are pretty good that the your state is governed by somebody born there. And chances are very good that your state is governed by somebody born in the United States.

(Edit: Apparently about six in ten American live in the same state that they were born, which is a lot higher than I thought. Consider that 12.9% of Americans are foreign-born. Anyways, the number of governors born in the same state that they govern happens to match pretty well the number of Americans born in the same state that they live – although not-so-well the number of Americans born in a different country.)

--inoljt

 

Thinking About Romney’s Southern Problem

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It’s pretty clear that Mitt Romney has a Southern problem. The Republican candidate has consistently lost southern states. Indeed, it’s probable that if the South didn’t exist, then Mitt Romney would already have the nomination sown up today.

It’s also pretty probable that Romney will be the Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election. At this point, it would take an extraordinary event to deny him the nomination. It would need to be something on the lines of Romney saying that he doesn’t care about poor people.

It’s a very interesting exercise to think about how Romney’s weakness amongst southerners in the primary will affect his general election performance in the South.

The Republican Party in the South is composed of two constituencies: business Republicans and evangelical Republicans. Back when the South was solidly Democratic, wealthy white suburbanites (the business Republicans) were the first to start voting Republican. The white evangelicals came late to the party; indeed a dwindling number of them still vote Democratic. Romney is weak amongst the evangelical wing of the Republican Party in the South.

A good way to think about what this weakness means for the general election is to take a look at the 2008 Democratic primary, where Barack Obama was weak amongst several groups as well. Most famously, the president did poorly amongst white working-class voters in the Appalachians. This is a bad example to use, however, because Appalachian working-class whites have been moving against the president’s party for a while now. Southern white evangelicals, if anything, are becoming more loyal to Romney’s party.

There’s another group which Obama did very poorly with in the 2008 primary, and which is better suited to this analysis (see if you can guess what I’m talking about before finishing the next paragraph).

This group opposed Obama from the beginning to the end of the Democratic primary, despite his best efforts. People today forget this fact because group (unlike working-class Appalachians) is a strong Democratic constituency. Nevertheless, Obama’s weakness amongst this group made him lose states ranging California to Texas.

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s performance in the counties bordering Mexico in Texas, you’ll find him doing just as badly amongst Hispanics in Texas as he did amongst working-class whites in West Virginia and Kentucky.

The Hispanic vote in the 2008 Democratic Primary and the southern white evangelical vote in the 2012 Republican Primary have a lot in common. Both constituencies voted strongly against the party’s nominee during the primary, but both constituencies are still very loyal to the party during the general election.

So how did Obama’s poor performance amongst Hispanics in the 2008 primary end up affecting the general election? Well, there wasn’t much effect. Obama didn’t do great amongst Hispanics, but he didn’t do poorly. He did about average. Obama won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote that a generic Democrat winning a comfortable victory would win. He did underperform somewhat in several rural Hispanic areas.

By the same logic, Romney’s poor performance amongst southern white evangelicals in the 2012 primary won’t have much effect. Romney won’t do great amongst southern white evangelicals, but he won’t do poorly. He’ll do about average. Romney will win the same percentage of the southern white evangelical vote that a generic Republican will win. He will underperform somewhat in several rural southern areas.

There is one caveat to this analysis. Hispanic opposition to Obama was generally based on Hillary Clinton’s popularity and economic reasons. On the other hand, southern white evangelical opposition to Romney is based on personal dislike for Romney and religion. One could make a pretty strong argument that the latter two are more powerful forces than the former two.

But, all in all, Democrats shouldn’t get too excited about Romney’s Southern problem.

 

 

It’s Not Five Minutes to Midnight

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a magazine dedicated towards ending nuclear weapons. It’s most famous for the “Doomsday Clock.” The magazine describes the Doomsday Clock as so:

The Doomsday Clock conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction–the figurative midnight–and monitors the means humankind could use to obliterate itself. First and foremost, these include nuclear weapons…

In some ways the magazine is a lingering remnant of another time. The Doomsday Clock used to be much more well-known than it is now. Today most young people have never heard of it.

Currently the clock stands at 5 Minutes to Midnight. That is, the world is figuratively five minutes away from nuclear warfare and the end of the comfortable, mostly peaceful world we live in.

There’s just one problem: the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is wrong. It’s not five minutes to midnight.

Of course five minutes to midnight is a figurative term; the world will not literally end in five minutes as of this writing. It’s impossible to say just what “five minutes to midnight” actually means in real terms. How can I argue, then, that the scientists are wrong?

Because the world today is much safer than it ever was during the Cold War.

The Cold War was shaped by the threat that one misunderstanding, or the actions of one crazy general, would cause the world’s two superpowers to unleash their weapons. There was a constant threat that the Cold War would turn into a Hot War – a world war far worse than the last one.

There is no such threat today. People rarely use the term nuclear winter anymore, or at least they use it much less today. The nuclear threats today are merely local ones. Even if Iran or North Korea (or both) launch nuclear weapons, the devastation will merely be local rather than global. A Pakistani-Indian nuclear war would likewise be a local war, not a global one.

In 1963 and in 1972 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated that the world was 12 Minutes to Midnight. The world is much farther away from nuclear catastrophe today than it was in 1963 or 1972.

So, at the very least, the world is 13 minutes away from midnight.

 

 

A Very Interesting Story About Cheap Chinese Goods

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

China has long enjoyed a reputation of producing cheap goods. This has generally been a negative reputation; cheap Chinese goods are accused of stealing the jobs of many otherwise happily employed workers.

Here is one city devastated by cheap Chinese imports:

…the city can ill afford to lose more commerce. For centuries it enjoyed high levels of literacy and a degree of architectural sophistication. But its main industries, cotton and leather, have collapsed, unable to compete with low-cost imports.

“The Chinese are choking small-scale businesses,” laments Sani Yusuf…

The story is by the Economist and can be found here.

There’s an interesting twist to this otherwise typical tale, however: it takes place in Kano, Nigeria.

In other words, cheap Chinese imports are outcompeting Nigeria goods. But Nigeria is a poorer country than China. The typical Nigerian makes less money than the typical Chinese person. Wages are almost certainly lower in Nigeria. It should be Nigerian goods that are cheaper than Chinese goods, not the other way around.

Of course, there are good reasons why Nigerian goods aren’t cheaper than Chinese goods. Productivity is lower in Nigeria. Nigeria doesn’t have a reliable electrical grid, for instance; China does. It’s hard to produce goods cheaply in a factory when the electricity goes out half the time.

Still, this is a fascinating story. We don’t normally think about Chinese goods being cheaper than those from a country poorer than China. And yet it happens.

A final note. Like many African countries, Nigeria is currently entering the second decade of an economic boom (fueled by Chinese demand for commodities). Nigerians live longer and are richer than they ever have before in history. So don’t feel too sorry for Nigeria; it’s doing better than it has for a long, long time.

 

 

A Revealing Story About Russia’s Mind-Set

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Sometimes the least noticed things show something quite revealing.

Such is the case with a recent Times story. This story, titled “Russian Official Suggests Weapon Caused Exploration Spacecraft’s Failure,” was one of those stories which people read and then forget in a few days. It didn’t deal with an important event, it wasn’t followed up by any other stories, and it didn’t involve an issue that tugs at people’s emotions.

But the story is very interesting nonetheless, because it suggests something very insightful about the mindset of Russia’s elite. The story is basically what the title says. Russia launched a spacecraft to explore Mars, which unfortunately failed. Then Russian officials did something very curious: they blamed the failure on an American weapon. America, in this view, purposely used a weapon to destroy Russia’s probe.

The Times does note that the accusation might be more for domestic politics than anything else. Russia’s officials might not be too serious in their accusation.

Yet even if so, it reveals a lot that this accusation is perfectly acceptable within Russian domestic politics. Firstly, Russian officials have absolutely no understanding of America if they actually think this. Destroying a Russian scientific spacecraft just for the kicks is something that not even the most rabid anti-Russian neoconservative would suggest. The concept is so far out of there that it’s absurd.

Secondly, Russia is really paranoid. Putin, if reports are believed, actually thinks that the protests against him are a foreign plot. Which is ridiculous; the United States has no such power.

This is very dangerous, however. Fundamental misunderstandings like this do not lend well to international harmony.

 

 

Mitt Romney’s Fake Love For Michigan

 

Say somebody is complimenting you. How do you know whether they’re being honest, or whether they’re just saying the same thing that they say to everybody?

Well, one good way is to see how unique the compliment is. Are you the only person who fits the description? Or does everybody else?

Mitt Romney has recently been making the rounds praising Japan to the sky. Here’s why Romney loves Japan:

I love this country. It seems right here. The trees are the right height. I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes. There’s something very special here.  The great lakes, but also all the inland lakes that dot the parts of Japan. I love cars. I dunno, I mean I grew up totally in love with cars. It used to be in the fifties and sixties if you showed me one square foot of almost any part of a car I could tell you what brand it was, the model and so forth. Now with all the other cars I’m not quite so good at it. But I still know the Japanese cars pretty well. And, uh, drive a Lexus. I love cars. I love Japanese cars. And long may they rule the world.

Mitt Romney, it seems, loves Japan because the trees there are just the right height. I’ve never seen a Japanese tree in person before, but I guess that there’s just something special about them. Here’s the video.

Oops. Looks like Romney wasn’t talking about Japan after all – he was talking about Michigan.

Yet if you change just five words in his speech (state, Michigan, Japanese, Mustang, American), Romney could be talking about any place in the world.

It doesn’t seem like Mitt Romney’s love for Michigan is very sincere.

 

 

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