Why is August Always a Bad Month For Barack Obama?

Remember this August, and what a terrible month it was for President Barack Obama? Remember the town hall meetings, progress stymied on health care, and falling approval ratings?

It seems that every August is a tough month for President Barack Obama. Last August Republican nominee John McCain was slowly cutting into Mr. Obama’s lead, mocking him as a celebrity and “the one.” By the middle of September, Senator McCain would take a lead in polls – albeit not for long.

The August before that, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was ahead by double-digits in national polls. Barack Obama’s campaign was on its heels everywhere – journalists were buying her campaign’s theme of inevitability, while Mrs. Clinton outperformed the Illinois senator in debate after debate.

In August 2000, Obama was deciding to challenge Congressman Bobby Rush for Illinois’s first congressional district. The next month he announced his candidacy, in a race he would go on to lose 2-1.

And in August 2004, conservative Republican Alan Keyes announced his…Actually, let’s not go there.

It appears that, barring the Alan Keyes example, August is just a bad month for our president. One wonders what terrors next August will bring. And the one after that.

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

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 4

This is the fourth part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. It focuses on the industrial southwest, a once deep-blue region rapidly trending Republican. Part five can be found here.

Pittsburgh and the Southwest

Pennsylvania’s southwest has much in common with West Virginia and Southeast Ohio, the northern end of Appalachia. Electoral change in the region is best understood by grouping these three areas together as a whole.

Socially conservative (the region is famously supportive of the NRA) but economically liberal, the industrial southwest voters typify white working-class Democrats. These voters can be found in unexpected places: Catholics in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, loggers along the Washington coast, rust-belt workers in Duluth, Minnesota and Buffalo, New York.

It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal that brought the working-class to the Democratic Party.

More below.

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Blacks Need Not Apply: Modern-day Segregation, Greek Organizations, and the University of Alabama

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

On Modern-Day Segregation

College is often described as a wonderful institution, a place in which many people have the best experiences of their lives. Students like me forge lasting friendships, take a leap into independence, and even sometimes learn.

College is also a place to make lifelong connections. If you’re destined to be a future Wall Street businessman and your roommate an important politician – good things can happen.

Greek fraternities and sororities are particularly good at this. Take the University of Alabama. Its Greek organizations run The Machine, a secretive organization which effectively controls campus politics.

Since student government was initiated in 1915, the Machine’s choice for the SGA Presidency has lost a grand total of seven times – the last of which occurred in 1986. That’s a century of unchallenged Greek dominance.

Machine candidates often go on to have shining political careers. In 2000, The New Republic reported that:

When the Machine’s members leave Tuscaloosa, they typically go on to Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery, and join Machine alums in Alabama’s political and business elite. Machine members work in Alabama’s most prestigious law firms and businesses; they have been state legislators, state party chairmen, congressmen, presidents of the state bar, members of the Public Service Commission, and federal judges. For most of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, Lister Hill and John Sparkman, were Machine alums. Alabama’s current governor, Don Siegelman, was the Machine-backed SGA president in 1968; Senator Richard Shelby is also said to have been a member of the Machine (although his office has denied this). As one former member of a Machine-affiliated sorority explained to the student newspaper The Crimson White, “The goal is to run campus politics, but the real reason they want to run campus politics is so they themselves can run politics in Alabama.

The meat of The New Republic article, however, does not dwell upon University of Alabama politics – but instead on a rather different theme. It tells the story of one Melody Twilley, a sophomore student at the University of Alabama attempting to join a Greek sorority. Like many of her fellow students, Ms. Twilley “blended right in to the roiling mix of social ambition and social privilege.” Compared to her peers, however, Ms. Twilley was unique in two interesting ways:

For one thing, unlike the vast majority of rushees, who are admitted into sororities as freshmen, this wasn’t Twilley’s first time through. She had tried–and failed–to join a sorority the year before. Which may have had something to do with the other thing that set Melody Twilley apart: She is black.

...Indeed, when Melody Twilley stood in front of the Delta Zeta house last September, it was believed that no white fraternity or sorority at the University of Alabama had ever offered membership to a black student.


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Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 3

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. Part four can be found here.

Philadelphia's Suburbs

There used to be a time when Republicans could count on Philadelphia's suburbs to counter Democratic margins from the city. Philadelphia, 1988:

Not anymore. Philadelphia, 2008:

NYT: Philadelphia, 2008 presidential election (Note: Because the Times stopped updating before all absentee/provisional ballots were counted, this map does not fully reflect the actual results. I have corrected the discrepancy.)

Indeed, in 2008 President Barack Obama's suburban margins were so great that Democrats did not even need Philadelphia to win Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia's suburbs stretch across four counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery. Bucks contains more working-class, Catholic communities. Chester, on the other hand, is more exurban and conservative (in this century, Democratic presidential candidates have only incontrovertibly won the county twice - in 1964 and 2008).

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Democrats Should Stop Calling White Southerners Racists

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

It's a fairly popular amongst Democrats to label white Southerners prejudiced and narrow-minded nowadays. Several days after President Barack Obama was elected, for example, the New York Times penned a thinly camouflaged article implying that white Southerners are racists. The Times article stated that:

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows...Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

It may feel good for liberals to label white Southerners as lacking "diversity, educational achievement, and economic progress," but insulting potential voters is probably not the best idea for getting votes. Democrats should want votes from the poor, the less educated, and the white. In fact, a lot of poor people, less educated people, and white people voted for President Barack Obama. That's how he won the election.

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Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania Part 2.5

This is part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. Part three can be found here.

(A note: There will be a lot of maps in this post.)

My first post on the swing state Pennsylvania focused on the city Philadelphia, an incredibly Democratic city. At the time, I looked for detailed ward and precinct results but was unable to find any. Recently, however, I have come across a website which maps Philadelphia precinct results across a whole range of elections; it is a literal gold mine. This offers the opportunity to substantially deepen the previous analysis.

Below is a map of the 2008 presidential election in Philadelphia (by precinct!)

An analysis of this result below.

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Why Did Hillary Clinton Win Massachusetts?

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

I think we all remember the 2008 Democratic primaries, that exciting and epic battle. In many ways the campaign caused more excitement than the general election, whose result was never really in doubt (especially after the financial crisis).

Both candidates drew upon distinctly different coalitions. In an influential article, Ronald Brownstein analyzes the difference this way:

Since the 1960s, Democratic nominating contests regularly have come down to a struggle between a candidate who draws support primarily from upscale, economically comfortable voters liberal on social and foreign policy issues, and a rival who relies mostly on downscale, financially strained voters drawn to populist economics and somewhat more conservative views on cultural and national security issues.

President Barack Obama assembled a coalition from the former, these "wine-track" Democrats. When most Americans think of liberals, they think of wine-track Democrats. Mr. Obama, then, was the liberal candidate; Mrs. Clinton the "beer-track," working-class representative.

So candidate won the most liberal place in America?

In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the state of Massachusetts (you may have realized this by reading the title of this post). The result wasn't even close; Mrs. Clinton's margin was 15.37%.

More below.

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The Forgotten Reason Behind Bush's Unpopularity

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

Memory fades quickly in politics; less than a year ago George W. Bush was president, and already the man is halfway forgotten (something due in no small part to Bush's self-enforced media silence).

Many, of course, remember that former President George W. Bush became distinctly unpopular during his second term. Liberals will explain this as a product of Mr. Bush's stance on Iraq, civil liberties, the environment everything. Conservatives will point to his "betrayal of the cause" - the deficits and his moderate stance on immigration.

The average person might, if asked, talk about Bush's poor handling of the Iraq War and the economy's weak performance during his term.

These explanations all ring true enough. But there is a giant element which they do not account for. Nobody talks about this thing - this event. It is only when one reads George W. Bush's wikipedia article, that one goes - "Ah! I remember that. He really failed on that."
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Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 2

This is the second part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. The next part can be found here.

Like Florida, and unlike Ohio, Pennsylvania's political geography can be divided into three. The industrial southwest is reddening, the populous southeast is bluing, and Pennsyltucky remains, as James Carville memorably described it, "Alabama without the blacks." (Actually, Pennsyltucky is a fair bit less conservative.)

The following section will concentrate on Philadelphia, the region upon which Democrats draw the most votes.

Philadelphia the City

Although cities always vote Democratic, different cities contain different political characteristics. Not all big cities are liberal (see Houston, Phoenix), nor are all liberal cities are big (see San Francisco, Boulder).

Fortunately for Democrats, Philadelphia is both America's sixth largest city and one in which four out of five inhabitants regularly choose the Democrat. It is, moreover, a city which has become bluer for eight straight elections.

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What Party Would George Washington Support?

Imagining what the Founding Fathers would think about our nation today always constitutes an interesting exercise. America's strength and enduring democracy probably would have delighted many of them. On the other hand, its political parties and many foreign alliances might have raised an eyebrow or two.

In fact, if one reads George Washington's farewell address, its quite amazing how much of his advice was not followed. "Avoid...overgrown military establishments" (nope); "steer clear of permanent alliances" (nope); "preserving the Union" (the Civil War ruined that one); "avoiding...the accumulation of debt" (funny, that); "party dissension...is itself a frightful despotism" (stopped following that advice even before his death).

Because this is a politics blog, however, the question here is what political party Washington would have belonged to.

On the surface, things look muddled. Washington's personal beliefs don't fit one particular mold. His commitment to isolationism, for example, wouldn't have made either the Democrats or the Republicans look appealing. He supported democracy and liberty - but doing that isn't exactly a Democratic or Republican-only thing.

We know that Washington held Federalist sympathies; thus his support of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton strikes one as a modern-day big-business supporter; perhaps Washington might therefore have leaned Republican.

The truth, however, is actually fairly obvious. Demographics provide the answer. If we look not at policy but at identity, we can tell what party George Washington would have belonged to.

Think about it for a moment. George Washington was a married rich rural Southern slave-owning Protestant straight white male who in all probability would not have voted for a black man. Sounds like a Republican to me.

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

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