South Dakota and the Native American Vote

By: Inoljt,

A while ago I was perusing the election results, when I happened upon South Dakota. South Dakota is one of those conservative Plains states which everybody writes off as inevitably Republican. Yet nobody has a really good explanation for why Democrats can't win it; it's kind of like Indiana that way. Few people know this, but Bill Clinton actually came within four percent of winning the state during both elections.

In any case, Barack Obama lost South Dakota by 8.41%, a substantial but not overwhelming margin (I bet he could win it, but that's not the point of this post). This New York Times map indicates how he did in each county:


There is an extremely strong correlation between Indian reservations and Obama's share of the vote in South Dakota.

Check it out:


More below.

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Communism in France

This is the second part of a series on Communism in Western Europe; this section focuses on France in particular. The third part (Italy) can be found here.

In France, the Communist Party was founded in 1920 by revolting members of its socialist party, then called the French Section of the Workers' International (Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, SFIO). Their new party initially did fairly poorly, only one of the numerous parties out there. In 1928, for instance, the Communists (PCF) won 11.26% of the vote.

Nevertheless, by 1936 - the depths of the Great Depression - the Communists (PCF) were making gains. Then came WWII - the best thing that ever happened to the PCF. Out of all the parties in occupied France, the Communists fought the Nazis hardest and suffered the most for it. They earned the nickname le parti des 75 000 fusillés - the party of the 75,000 executed people - and immense popularity.

Following the war, the PCF joined the new government led by Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately for it, however, the U.S. government demanded a Communist-free government as a precondition for accepting the Marshall Plan. The French Communist Party was summarily booted out.

This did not prevent the PCF from channeling its wartime record into electoral success; from November 1946 to 1956, the Communists won a greater share of the popular vote than any other party. Their base lay amongst France's working class, which remained a loyal and reliable constituency, and they constituted the dominant force on the French left.

Communist Party in France Performance

Continued below the flip.

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Analyzing Swing States: Ohio, Part 4

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Ohio. The previous parts can be found here.

Republican Ohio

What parts of Ohio vote Republican?

All of it, of course, except for the parts that vote Democratic.

That is a pretty facetious answer to a fairly serious question, but there is something to it. Blue Ohio has a set of defined, separate characteristics. Red Ohio does too, but not to the same degree. It is far easier to describe Democratic Ohio than Republican Ohio.

The following map is a good beginning in exploring Republican Ohio. It indicates strongly partisan counties in 2008.


These are the places which most heavily supported John McCain (for those who are curious, the most Democratic counties were Cleveland, Toledo, Ohio University, and Youngstown). They are located primarily in the southwestern portion of the state, away from the Democratic "7″. Interestingly, practically none are part of Appalachia - considered Obama's weakest region in the country.

Southwest Ohio historically - and to this day remains - the most conservative part of Ohio. Geographically, it is the Republican base; even in Democratic landslides, it often will vote for the red candidate.

There is another trait the highlighted counties have in common: most are semirural and somewhat less populated. Another map, below the fold, helpfully illustrates this.

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Communism in Western Europe

By: Inoljt,

A mentor once told me not to study communism, because it was a dead system, and studying something dead is worthless.

In defiance of this sensible advice, I will be presenting two dead communist movements: the communists in Italy and the communists in France.

Most Americans have never heard about these two parties. For good reason: France and Italy were staunch allies of the United States in the Cold War; it does not seem as if they were remotely communist.

But, for decades, the communists in Italy and France commanded millions of votes and a powerful political machine. Their strength remains a fascinating, little-noticed part of history.

Here are how the French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français: PCF) and the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI) performed:


There are several patterns here that apply to both parties, and several patterns unique to each country. (Note: The French line after 1956 indicates Communist performance in the first round of legislative elections, whereas the Italian line indicates Communist performance in elections to the Italian Chamber of Deputies. France has a two-round election system; Italy has two chambers in its Parliament. All statistics cited afterwards relate to these specific criteria.)

I will be exploring French patterns in the next post.

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Analyzing Swing States: Ohio, Part 3

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Ohio. The last part can be found here.

Like most states, Ohio contains several swing areas. Some lean Democratic; others lean Republican. A good politician will usually pick up most of these regions on his or her way to victory.

Swing Ohio

The following map provides a sense of swing Ohio.


Providing balance, the map encompasses two solid Democratic victories and two solid Republican victories. Bearing this in mind, one can readily make out the structural "7" of Ohio politics. Absent three counties, swing Ohio roughly encompasses the outer edges of Ohio's northern and eastern borders, creating a shape that resembles the number "7." Strong Democrats win these swing counties and fatten the "7." Strong Republicans do the inverse.

More below.

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We Are a Nation in Decline

By: Inoljt,

On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, a professor of mine made a comment that caused a lot of soul-searching for me. He remarked, quite casually, that the United States is in decline.

Those words angered me. Nobody likes to hear their country characterized in that manner. But ever since then I've been considering that casual statement.

I think it accurately describes the state of our nation.

We are a nation in decline.

We are in decline for a variety of reasons, some more controllable and some less so. Economic weakness has something to do with it, as does the popularity of anti-Americanism (thank you, George Bush). Misadventures in the Middle East and the rise of China also play a participating role.

But enough about why we are in decline. What can be done to stop it?

More below.

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A Fast News Week

By: Inoljt,

What an amazing week it has been.

What happened this week? Tuesday was election day, hunting season for political pundits. On Wednesday the Yankees won the World Series. The Fort Bend shootings occurred on Thursday. On Friday, the unemployment report came out: over 10%. Health care reform passed the House Saturday - a momentous moment.

If one focuses international events, it gets even more interesting. Honduras reached a political breakthrough, only to see it fall apart. The Iranian opposition launched a powerful protest on Wednesday. On Sunday Iraq finally passed new elections law, vital for the country's continued well-being.

And November 9th was the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall.

Sometimes the heavy-hitting events just don't stop coming in. Last summer and fall, for example, constituted the most eventful months in some years. There was: the upcoming presidential election, the war in Georgia, the Olympics, and a once-a-century economic crisis.

This week has been one of those times, a fast-news week to be remembered.

During fast news days the irrelevant - things like the silliness over death panels, or Joe Wilson's incivility - quickly get eclipsed by more important events, such as new unemployment data.

Then again, sometimes slow and insignificant news is preferable to consequential news. Few will ever forget what happened last September, for instance. Fewer still would want to relive them.

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Analyzing Swing States: Ohio, Part 2

This is the second part on a series analyzing the swing state Ohio. Part three can be found here.


Unlike Florida and Pennsylvania, Ohio cannot be easily divided into geographically distinct regions (although they do exist). Instead, I will be examining it through the lens of both partys' strongholds in the state.


During the late eighteenth century Ohio was a consistently Republican state, the equivalent today of North Dakota or Arizona. Democrats often came close behind - four or five points - but never quite won the state until 1912. Their stronghold lay in a ring of rural counties populated by German immigrants (a pattern that has completely disappeared today). But this was never enough to overcome Republican strength everywhere else.

It was Franklin Roosevelt who changed this pattern forever. He laid the foundations of Ohio's structural politics, which exist to this very day. Roosevelt brought in previously hostile working-class counties along the northeast section of the state. He also shifted most of Ohio's northern cities to the Democratic side - which had previously leaned Republican.

To see the effect, look below the fold.

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Socialist Health Care

By: Inoljt,

Some of the Obama's more incoherent detractors have labeled his health care plan as "socialized medicine." It is assumed, naturally, that socialism is Bad (with a big B).

While socialism may be less effective in many industries and fields (just look at the Soviet Union's fate, after all), the insurance industry as a whole is rather different. Think for a moment - how is capitalism supposed to work? The company that makes the most profit wins. Companies make profit by selling goods and services to consumers; the better the product, the more consumers buy it, the more money said company makes, and the more effort said company puts into making an even better product. Society as a whole benefits from this invisible hand.

With insurance, on the other hand, companies don't make profit by selling consumers the best product. Instead, they make money by denying insurance claims from consumers. The incentive is perverted; the insurance company that does the best denies the most claims. And because one has to begin with a lot of preexisting money to start an insurance company, it is very difficult for competition to emerge. Meanwhile, the customer is trying to make insurance companies pay for something (a medical crisis, for instance) he or she could not afford on his or her own. It is as if both sides are continually trying to rob the other.

Obviously, this is Bad (with a big B) for society. Partly as a result of the above problem, the United States spends far more than its peers on health care and gets far less for its cash.

Does this mean that the United States ought to switch to a socialist health care system? Doing so would certainly constitute a wretching change. Terrible mistakes could be made with implementation; moreover, other failings of the U.S. system (e.g. malpractice lawsuit costs) are just as or even more responsible for its high costs.

Yet nations with socialist systems, such as Britain and France, tend to have far "healthier" health care by most measurements - especially cost per capita. As even the most persistent free-market advocates acknowledge, some fields  (e.g. the financial industry) are simply not suited to capitalism. Health insurance seems like one such domain.

To switch or not to switch? At the very least, it's worth considering.

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Analyzing Swing States: Ohio, Part 1

By: Inoljt,

This is the first part of an analysis of the swing state Ohio. The second part can be found here.

Is Ohio a liberal place? Or is it a conservative place?

I suspect far more people would say the latter rather than the former.

In many respects, Ohio is politically similar to Florida. Both are well-known swing states that hold a bountiful electoral prize. Both lean Republican. Both have large cites that function as pools of Democratic votes. Both also have considerable rural, Republican regions.

But in other ways they could not be more different. Sunny Florida is diverse, growing, and service-oriented. While Florida often votes Republican, it is not exactly conservative. Cold, northern Ohio is a rust-belt giant. It is not very diverse. It is definitely not growing. Florida is new. Ohio is old and conservative.

For the moment Ohio is a bit more conservative than the country at large. For the past eight out of nine presidential elections, it has been a bit redder than the nation. Not much redder, but enough to be noticeable.


I do not think that the future looks bright for the Democratic Party in Ohio. The two are moving in opposite directions. Demographically, Ohio is staying static while the country at large changes. And there are not many truly liberal spots in Ohio - places like Boulder, CO or Seattle. There never were.

Ohio has a lot of unionized, working-class folk who are still voting against Herbert Hoover; they are a core part of its Democratic base. I am not sure how long they will continue to support a party that is becoming, quite frankly, fairly upper-class in ethos. People in West Virginia certainly don't anymore.

Not that Ohio is doomed to become a Republican stronghold. Places like Columbus are rapidly turning blue, perhaps fast enough to offset losses in working-class counties. And it isn't inevitable that those counties will start voting Republican. If West Virginia is a prime example of working-class voters who deserted the Democratic Party, Michigan is a prime example of working-class voters that still support it. Barack Obama won a landslide in that state.

Nevertheless, my gut still tells me that Ohio and the Democratic Party are shifting farther and farther away from each other. These things can reveal themselves very quickly in politics. In 1988, California was a red state that had voted Republican for six elections in a row. Then one day it was won by Bill Clinton - and it has never gone back since then. In 1996 West Virginia had gone blue for five out of the past six elections. Then George Bush won the state - and now we consider it a rock-hard Republican state.

That may be the fate of Ohio.

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