April 18, 2005

TRADE YOU A CHAFFEE FOR TWO NELSON'S:

Once Moderates Built Bridges; Now They Must Burn Them (Ronald Brownstein, April 18, 2005, LA Times)

There was something poignant and powerfully revealing about the public agonizing last week of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) over John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee as ambassador to the United Nations.

Chafee, an iconoclastic moderate, is a swing vote as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers Bolton's nomination this week. Every committee Democrat is likely to oppose Bolton; if Chafee — or conceivably another Republican, such as Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — joins them, the nomination would die without ever reaching the full Senate.

Chafee isn't likely to bury Bolton. The senator believes presidents deserve to pick their advisors, absent some overwhelming reason to the contrary. Chafee was appointed to the Senate in 1999 after the death of his father, John Chafee, and elected in 2000. In that brief Senate career, the younger Chafee has voted to confirm every executive branch nominee he's considered for both Presidents Clinton and Bush.

During the contentious Foreign Relations hearings last week, Chafee gave every indication he intended to back Bolton. Chafee says he's waiting to hear all the evidence. But his press secretary, Stephen Hourahan, says the senator "is inclined" to give Bush his choice at the U.N. Yet Chafee also made it abundantly clear last week that Bolton would not be his choice. "I wish this wasn't the nominee to the United Nations," Chafee said plaintively.

Chafee's lament captured a dynamic much larger than the struggle over Bolton. This is a miserable moment for centrist senators. They are caught between a president pursuing an aggressive, even crusading, conservative agenda and a Democratic Party fighting ferociously to block it. That frequently leaves the centrists, like Chafee with Bolton, wishing for an alternative that isn't available.


it's a problem for individuals, but not much of one for the GOP in general, because in a 60-40 country they won't need bridges much. Meanwhile, the idea that even Rhode Islanders will be upset that Mr. Chaffee is insufficiently pro-U.N. seems implausible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2005 12:08 PM
Comments

"a 60-40 country"

Is that in reference to the people who think the country's on the wrong track vs. those who think it's on the right track? Sounds about right.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 12:36 PM

Even Chafee has commented that all the buzz he is getting about Bolton is from outside the state

Creeper:

If your statement were correct, Barbara Boxer would be Secy. of State. She's not.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 18, 2005 12:39 PM

creeper:

No. To the fact that the GOP can carry thirty states with nearly any candidate.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 1:11 PM

The first year after a presidential election is when the vast majority of Americans take a break from politics, unless something along the lines of 9/11 comes up. That's why controversal issues always are handled by D.C. politicians in odd-numbered years, unless you're really arrogant or stupid (Hillarycare in 1994) and why none of the debating over Bolton or what today's poll numbers say will matter one bit come the 2006 midterms. Too many other things will happen between today and 18 months from now that will be what voters ultamately cast their ballots over, except for those running for mayor of New York or governor of Virginia or New Jersey this November.

Posted by: John at April 18, 2005 1:11 PM

Ah, yes, we've entered the traditional period of Democratic hegemony that starts after the winners of the previous election have been sworn in and extends until about three or four months before the next election.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 18, 2005 1:12 PM

The first year after a presidential election is when the vast majority of Americans take a break from politics, unless something along the lines of 9/11 comes up. That's why controversal issues always are handled by D.C. politicians in odd-numbered years, unless you're really arrogant or stupid (Hillarycare in 1994) and why none of the debating over Bolton or what today's poll numbers say will matter one bit come the 2006 midterms. Too many other things will happen between today and 18 months from now that will be what voters ultamately cast their ballots over, except for those running for mayor of New York or governor of Virginia or New Jersey this November.

Posted by: John at April 18, 2005 1:15 PM

"moderate", "centrist"? Maybe in Rhode Island. Out here in Ohio I think we call people who hold Chafee's views "liberal" if you're charitable or "leftwinger" if you're not.

Posted by: Bob at April 18, 2005 1:59 PM

"If your statement were correct, Barbara Boxer would be Secy. of State. She's not."

Gallup Poll. April 4-7, 2005. N=1,010 adults nationwide. MoE 3.

"In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?"

Satisfied 38%
Dissatisfied 59%
Unsure 3%

Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. April 4-6, 2005. N=1,001 adults nationwide. MoE 3.1.

"Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?"

Right Direction 38%
WrongTrack 56%
Unsure 6%

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). March 31-April 3, 2005. N=1,002 adults nationwide. MoE 3.1.

"All in all, do you think things in the nation are generally headed in the right direction, or do you feel that things are off on the wrong track?"

Right Direction 34%
Wrong Track 51%
Mixed (vol.) 12%
Unsure 3%

Looks about right to me.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 2:54 PM

Orrin,

"No. To the fact that the GOP can carry thirty states with nearly any candidate."

Fair enough, that's the way the districts and the Electoral College break down at this point, so you may well be right that the Senate will eventually reflect this.

As for the electorate itself, it's closer to 52-48, as seen in the recent election.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 2:57 PM

it was the same when Bush buried Kerry 31-19.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 2:57 PM

"As for the electorate itself, it's closer to 52-48, as seen in the recent election."

Make that 51-48.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 3:00 PM

Orrin,

"it was the same when Bush buried Kerry 31-19."

Last time I checked, Oklahoma didn't carry the same weight as California in electing a president, nor Vermont the same as Texas.

I thought Bush beat Kerry 286-251. That comes out to roughly 53.2% to 46.7% in the Electoral College.

Typical, Orrin. Always overreaching. Hardly a Christian virtue, is it?

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 3:12 PM

jeez, that's a great poll:

"Oh no! the 'things' are off on the wrong track!"

who cares? polls are only useful in the last few weeks before an election and the elections in '06 will tend to prove OJ's point --

you can quote me.

Posted by: jonofAtlanta at April 18, 2005 3:12 PM

creeper:

It's not a democracy. Each state does have the same weight in the Senate and you can win without the popular vote.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 3:16 PM

Again, it doesn't matter all that much what the polls report right now -- they have about as much relevance to the 2006 elections as today's major league baseball standings have to the final win-loss records of all 30 teams come early October, because the voters are mostly on political sebbatical.

The debates over Bolton or DeLay, or even to some extent Social Security are mainly for the political junkies, but the numbers are good for filling the news holes in the big city papers and on the 24-hour news channels. The gas pump price numbers and light sweet crude futures numbers have more of a bearing on the GOP's fate than whatever today's polls say, and even the current oil and gas prices will be forgotten if the prices are back below $45 a barrel and $2 a gallon by the fall of 2006.

Posted by: John at April 18, 2005 3:18 PM

I love thise "right track/wrong track" questions. Note that they aren't asking who is on the "right track", but it's assumed by the creepers reading these results that everyone dissatisfied with the status quo is automatically a Dem supporter.

It's playing to the whims expressed in biased polls (and nitpicking over semantics) while never actually addressing the concerns expressed that's gotten the Dems to where they are today, so it's good to see that they they still haven't learned.

If the attitudes of the Creepers are any indication, in a decade or so, the Dems'll look at the 40 side of "60-40" as a level to which they can only aspire.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 18, 2005 3:24 PM

"I love thise "right track/wrong track" questions. Note that they aren't asking who is on the "right track", but it's assumed by the creepers reading these results that everyone dissatisfied with the status quo is automatically a Dem supporter."

No, I didn't assume that at all - it is what it is and obviously a bunch of people who felt the country was on the wrong track voted for the incumbent anyway. So no, I did not assume them all to be Dem supporters.

I did think Orrin was going a little over the top by making the opposite assumption, leading him to believe that Republicans had a 60-40 advantage, based on the number of states Bush carried, regardless of their population or electoral vote count.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 3:34 PM

creeper:

Yet they do.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 3:38 PM

Yet they do what?

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 4:08 PM

have a 60-40 advantage

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 4:13 PM

How do you figure that? By pretending a state with 5 electoral votes is equivalent to a state with 50+ electoral votes?

House 232 Rep, 202 Dem = 53.5% Rep, 46.5% Dem
Senate 55% Rep, 44% Dem
Electoral College 286 Rep, 251 Dem = 53.2% Rep to 46.7% Dem
Popular vote roughly 51% Rep to 48% Dem

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 4:59 PM

"It's not a democracy."

If it's not a democracy, why do we have elections every couple of years? (And on a sidenote, what exactly are we proudly exporting to Afghanistan and Iraq?)

"Each state does have the same weight in the Senate and you can win without the popular vote."

Both of those are true, but it doesn't mean it's not a democracy; these are merely consequences of it being a representative democracy and a republic - which are not incompatible.

Incidentally, to make this argument you have to leave out the inconvenient facts that each state does not have the same weight in the House of Representatives, and that you do need the popular vote on a local/state level.

Posted by: creeper at April 18, 2005 5:06 PM

Republics have elections too.

Posted by: oj at April 18, 2005 5:32 PM

creeper:

Only one poll ever counts - and the GOP won. They won the "poll" before that, too. When the "poll" results change, then we can talk.

And regarding the percentages, would you like to quote those from 1992 and/or 1996 as well? Would they support your point?

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 18, 2005 7:32 PM

Right track/wrong track polls are notoriously unreliable because all happy voters are the same, but each unhappy voter is unique.

This is a perfect demonstration of why. These are basically Terry Schiavo polls. Now, wrong trackers may be unhappy because radical secular humanists starved this poor woman to death, or they might be unhappy because right-wing zealots tried to interfere with her private choice to refuse medical treatment. Unless and until we know what people are unhappy about, we don't know nothin'.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 18, 2005 8:57 PM

Forget the left - "true" conservatives have been unhappy with the direction of the US since probably 1803, so there will always be grumpiness from the right.

Posted by: ratbert at April 18, 2005 10:18 PM

"Republics have elections too."

Whatever that's supposed to mean.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 2:16 AM

"Only one poll ever counts - and the GOP won. They won the "poll" before that, too. When the "poll" results change, then we can talk."

Perhaps you have me confused with someone who argued that the GOP didn't win. That's clearly not what I said.

"And regarding the percentages, would you like to quote those from 1992 and/or 1996 as well? Would they support your point?"

My point was that it's not a 60/40 nation, more like a 52-48 nation. I don't know what percentages from '92 and '96 you think are relevant to this - at that time, the Senate was 57-43 Democratic and the House was 267-167 Democratic, then 230-204 Republican. And there was no Republican that had slid into the White House on a 60-40 majority.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 2:31 AM
"Republics have elections too."

Whatever that's supposed to mean.

My apologies, Orrin: I had misread this as 'Republicans' instead of 'Republics'.

Republics can have elections too, of course. In that case they are also representative democracies.

I don't know why some people act as if democracy's a dirty word.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 2:37 AM

Creeper, what Orrin means is that the United States are not a democracy in the sense of ancient Athens, where every citizen (a category that didn't include women or slaves) could directly participate in the deliberative body of the city-state. The executive power in Athens was notoriously weak. The US are a republic along the lines of ancient Rome, with a number of counterbalancing political institutions, many of which were not directly exposed to the popular will of the citizenry at large. On top of that, the US are a federal republic, unlike Rome.

Posted by: Peter at April 19, 2005 3:56 AM

Peter, thank you for your reply.

"what Orrin means is that the United States are not a democracy in the sense of ancient Athens, where every citizen (a category that didn't include women or slaves) could directly participate in the deliberative body of the city-state."

I know that that is generally the direction this goes in, but it is silly of Orrin (and others) to attempt to confine the meaning of the word democracy to exclude representative democracies, which is what the term means in everyday use. When we talk about exporting democracy to Iraq, it wouldn't occur to anyone that we mean that each and every Iraqi will participate directly in their government. Of course we are talking about setting up a system in which Iraqis will elect their leaders - a representative democracy.

While some parts or institutions of the US government are not, as you point out, directly exposed to the popular will, I can't think of any that are not indirectly exposed to the popular will, in the sense that, say, judge's appointments need to be approved by elected representatives etc.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 4:27 AM

creeper:

Because it is.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 7:52 AM

Democracy's a dirty word, Orrin, did I hear that right?

Democracy 1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives. 2. A political or social unit that has such a government. 3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power. 4. Majority rule. 5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

A dirty word? Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 9:21 AM

creeper:

Yes, the Founders despised it, so gave us a far superior system.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 9:59 AM

creeper:

The relevance of 1992 was that a loud-mouthed, protest candidate could get 19% of the vote. The winner got about 42.9%, almost 3% less than the loser in 1988.

By your reasoning, after 1992, the nation should have been split into three parts, but it really wasn't. The decisive change was in 1994. A strong GOP candidate in 1996 (one who could have muzzled or finessed the government shutdown) probably would have won 53% of the vote. Dole was a loser from day 1, but Clinton could do not better than 49.2% of the vote.

Likewise, do you think the nation was 60-40 after the 1972 election? Things sure changed in the next 20 months.

Bush won 73% of the counties in 2000, and 77% (I believe) in 2004. Those numbers are far more revealing than just about any other as far as the 'division' within the country.

An absolute democracy (today) would be a chaotic mess. That is why such a thing would be 'dirty', subject to all sorts of bribery, coercion, and fecklessness. Surely that is why OJ wrote that the Framers despised it. Even if the nation were 60-40 (in absolute terms) for the GOP, I would never endorse such a 'democracy'.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2005 11:35 AM

Which gave conservatives 60% in '92. Even Dole would have won in '96 had Perot followed through and endorsed him.

Bush knocked off a popular incumbent VP in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity and was the first re-elected war president since FDR.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 11:39 AM

I don't think Dole would have won if all the "Friends" had endorsed him, much less Ross Perot. Even Perot's 8.4% would not have put him past Clinton.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2005 1:09 PM

"Yes, the Founders despised it, so gave us a far superior system."

Which eventually became the representative democracy we have today, thanks to the desire of the people to have such a system of government.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 3:39 PM

"Bush won 73% of the counties in 2000, and 77% (I believe) in 2004. Those numbers are far more revealing than just about any other as far as the 'division' within the country."

All they reveal is that counties with lower population density tend to vote conservative.

"An absolute democracy (today) would be a chaotic mess. That is why such a thing would be 'dirty', subject to all sorts of bribery, coercion, and fecklessness. Surely that is why OJ wrote that the Framers despised it. Even if the nation were 60-40 (in absolute terms) for the GOP, I would never endorse such a 'democracy'. "

I'm not aware of anybody advocating an absolute or pure democracy. It's a strawman argument. Democracy includes representative democracy, and that is how it is understood today.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 3:45 PM

"Which gave conservatives 60% in '92."

The numbers don't back that up, Orrin.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 3:50 PM

"mis"understood

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 4:24 PM

Tell it to President Gore.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 4:29 PM

Gore didn't run for president in '92, and it doesn't take a 60/40 majority to win the presidency.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 4:41 PM

Doesn't even take a plurality. It's not a democracy.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 4:44 PM

Did you vote in the last election?

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 4:51 PM

The better description is a constitutional republic.

In 1992, 37.9% + 19% = 56.9%. That's closer to 60% than any Democratic nominee has earned since 1964. Three GOP candidates have exceeded or approached that level during the interim. And, in 2008 it is far more likely that the GOP will reach 55% than the Democrats will reach 50%.

But, all the speculation is just that, for now.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2005 4:53 PM

"mis"understood

Not misunderstood - defined and practiced.

Democracy 1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives. 2. A political or social unit that has such a government. 3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power. 4. Majority rule. 5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

You wanna keep making up your own meanings for words, knock yourself out.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 4:54 PM

creeper:

As an ex-felon I can't vote.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 5:11 PM

Shouldn't that read "Because I don't live in a democracy, I can't vote"?

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 5:16 PM

Speculation indeed, Jim. There are many more political viewpoints than just two, and 1992 was one of the rare years where a third party was able to have an impact. Incidentally, a vote for Ross Perot can not be automatically counted as being a vote for Republicans or Democrats. Obviously they had issues with both of those alternatives.

"And, in 2008 it is far more likely that the GOP will reach 55% than the Democrats will reach 50%."

Three years is a very long time in politics, as other posters have pointed out upthread. Anything can happen.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 5:18 PM

No, it can't. the GOP starts with 30 states and the presidency.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 5:39 PM

I agree - probably no small percentage of Perot voters would not have voted for either alternative in 1992. The overall increase in the popular vote from '88 to '92 (16.6%) would seem to show that many people voted in '92 who did not in '88 (and they did not vote again in '96).

I think items 3 and 5 in your definition are just plain wrong.

While three years is a long time, the lines are being drawn now. Unless something happens that forces itself on the Washington consciousness (i.e., a war over Taiwan), the battle will be over Hillary!, SS, global tests, and Republican poaching of traditional Democratic groups. Immigration may rear its head, too. It will be just as ugly as 2004, with probably the same results (GOP wins ~32/34 states).

Unless the economy tanks, MN, NH, PA, and WI will probably vote GOP. That makes the electoral race about 340 - 198.

For what it's worth.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 19, 2005 5:51 PM

Jim,

thank you for your lucid response. FWIW, the definition isn't mine, but a dictionary one. You have a point in that 3 and 5 don't appear to be straight synonyms of democracy, though they are related concepts.

As for 2008, who knows? Things that look like a winner for the GOP now may turn out not so down the line. I think you're right that it will be (at least) as ugly as 2004, and a similar nailbiter. The number of states is mostly irrelevant (except for the Senate) - the weight of the states in the Electoral College has been carefully considered, and will be fought along similar lines. That's also a response to Orrin's:

"No, it can't. the GOP starts with 30 states and the presidency."

The number of states is fairly irrelevant; it's whether they add up to the required 270 electoral votes that matters. In the last election it came down to one single state. That one state ended up deciding the presidency. And within that state, it was a matter of 160,000 votes.

So no, the GOP doesn't 'start with the presidency', unless Orrin meant that as a mere synonym for 'the incumbent'.

There is no entitlement to power. The people can choose.

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 6:30 PM

creeper;

No they can't. It's over by the time they go to the polls.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 7:15 PM

Did you vote in the last election?

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 7:42 PM

No, I'm not a citizen.

Posted by: oj at April 19, 2005 7:54 PM

A citizen of what?

Posted by: creeper at April 19, 2005 8:14 PM
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