The Presidential Election Matters. A Lot.

Doug Mataconis is a smart political analyst, but I don’t think he makes a compelling case that it doesn’t much matter who wins the 2012 Presidential Election. He notes some areas of policy that he believes will be similar under Romney or Obama, and there is no doubt that in at least some cases he is correct. But I still find his basic conclusion unconvincing, for at least four reasons:

1. We. Are. At. War. Americans in uniform are fighting and dying overseas. I may be sensitive about this issue because I am from a military family and I have professional responsibilities to care for wounded veterans, but I have been continually amazed through the past decade how life in America goes blithely on while the 2% of families whose members are serving pay the costs of these wars (admittedly, the other 98% did accept tax cuts with patriotic stoicism).

Can you imagine going back through American history, to 1972 or 1944 or 1916 and saying “Yeah, we are at war, but it really isn’t important who we elect as commander in chief?”. Of course it matters. If you don’t believe me, talk to someone who is serving overseas right now or learning to walk again at a VA medical center.

2. After 219 straight years of Caucasian Presidents, this country finally elected an African-American. If voters throw him out of office only 4 years later to return to the white norm, it will have a scarring effect on many people of colour for years to come. In contrast, re-election of Obama would redound positively in the U.S. racial atmosphere.

3. As Harold Pollack has pointed out, if Barack Obama loses, the Affordable Care Act is toast. In contrast, if he is re-elected, the law will be fully phased in by the time he leaves office and will probably become an enduring feature of American life.

4. The above point brings to mind of course the question of whether the SCOTUS will strangle ACA before the election. It could, but that still wouldn’t make the election unimportant. Come election day, three of the nine SCOTUS justices will be in their late 70s. ‘Nuff said.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

83 thoughts on “The Presidential Election Matters. A Lot.”

  1. 1. A good case that it matters who gets elected President, utterly divorced from any reasons why it should be Obama.

    2. Again demonstrating that the real problem with affirmative action hires is the pressure to practice affirmative action retention afterwards, to avoid admitting you hired a screw up. Should have thought about this before you chose a Chicago machine politician with zero executive branch experience for your first black nominee.

    3. An excellent reason Obama must go down to defeat.

    4. Yup, a reelected Obama will have the chance to replace one of the Heller Five with a radical anti-gunner who will lie during his or her confirmation hearings, and then use the first available test case to razor blade the 2nd amendment out of the Bill of Rights. Possibly leading to a civil war.

    All in all, I agree with your magnitude, but you’ve got the vector backwards.

    1. Brett’s so cute when his racism is showing, in point #2.

      (BB: No, no, I’m not a racist! My wife is colorful!!! And Barack Obama really had no executive branch experience, unlike the Bushes! Ignore Bob Dole–and Dwight Eisenhower–and Herbert Hoover!!)

      1. It’s racist to say that incompentent Presidents should not be retained. It’s not racist to say that people should vote to retain a President they otherwise dislike because of how people of a particular race might react.

        Guys, 1984 should not be taken as a style manual.

        1. It’s not racist to say that you think Obama is incompetent. I don’t agree, but it’s not racist.

          It IS racist to suggest that Obama is an affirmative action President, because the insinuation is that he is an underqualified, deficiently competent, and/or insufficiently intelligent man who was only given the job because he was black. And yes, considering it is perfectly obvious, whether you agree with him or not, that he is qualified, reasonably competent, and smart, anyone who thinks that way is a flaming racist.

          1. Thank you, Dilan. Those were the words that stuck in my craw.

            Brett sometimes thinks for himself, but is a jackass when he parrots fever-swamp talking points.

          2. You will note on further examination that Brett did NOT say election of Obama was affirmative action. Rather, he commented on a general problem of affirmative action, which is the retroactive aspect of continuation. He implied it was a mistake to nominate a Chicago machine politician with zero Executive Dept. experience (no racial content to that), but that Keith’s point number two reinforces an affirmative action problem–the retroactive application to retain a minority person who should get the boot.

            I don’t agree with Brett about the mistake part of it, but I do agree that Keith’s point number two is “affirmative action” at its worst.

          3. Ken:

            No, sorry. Unless Brett is saying that Obama was chosen through some sort of affirmative action, it makes no sense to even bring up the subject when talking about him.

            Just say he’s a terrible President. He’s incompetent. He’s taking the country in the wrong direction. His policies will be harmful. Whatever.

            Why does he have to bring up affirmative action at all? Obama was selected on merit, after all.

            That’s the whole point. Lots of conservatives cannot accept that Obama was, in fact, selected on merit. That he was smart enough to run the Harvard Law Review, smart enough to be a successful politician, smart enough to run the country. By definition, this black man has to be some sort of product of affirmative action.

            There are all sorts of attacks on Obama available to conservatives. When they make a conscious choice of the racially-tinged ones, it’s because they are unable to fairly judge his performance without seeing his race. And that’s because of bigotry.

    2. Brett’s soft racism packaged up in his own special veneer of libertarian “reasonableness.”

      Many of us, possibly a majority of Americans, think that Obama is doing a fine job> And it has nothing to do with his race.

      And on point 4: a typically insane slippery-slope argument that has enabled a wingnut NRA to maintain a stranglehold on gun policy in America–the (il)logical conclusion of which is always civil war. Sure. That’s likely.

    3. Note that “Chicago machine politician” as applied to Obama is a flat-out lie, though I assume that in this instance Brett is a dupe of liars rather than being a liar himself. There is a Chicago Machine, but Hyde Park, where Obama lives, has always been a Reform bastion. And of course Obama backed Harold Washington in the Council Wars, pitting the Machine against a black, progressive Mayor.

      1. Your “not a Chicago machine politician” has, again disabled the default security checks on his online credit card donation system, so that donations made under fake names, without security codes, using fake addresses, will process. Sounds “Chicago machine” enough to me.

        1. Oh, sure, he’s definitely deliberately trying to get a few thousand dollars in fraudulent credit card donations that will later be reversed or won’t match databases and will so provide documentary evidence of illegal donations. Even though under Citizens United wealthy individuals and organizations that might consider laborious and risky money-laundering schemes of this sort could perfectly legally launder the money through Americans For Fluffier Kittens and give it to a SuperPAC. That must be what’s going on – otherwise we’d have to believe that technology sometimes fails.

          This isn’t Occam’s Razor territory. Heck, this isn’t even Occam’s Nerf Ball Territory. If you find yourself capable of remotely believing these wild insinuations you fling around, you might want to seek professional assistance.

          1. That he, and not his Republican opponents, has disabled default security protocols for credit card processing, is an objectively verifiable fact.

            That this permits donations to be made to him under false names is objectively true.

            That this permits donations to be made to him from false addresses is objectively true.

            That this permits donations to be made to him which are impossible to trace is objectively true.

            That this makes it impossible for him to comply with campaign finance laws is objectively true.

            Now, do I think he did this because he needs illegal donations? Nah. I think he did it because illegal donations spend just as well as legal ones, and he doesn’t particularly care if his actions are illegal so long as he knows the MSM won’t call him on it, and the Justice department is already under his control.

            That’s my explanation. You have an innocent one? One that doesn’t involve him not caring if he’s facilitating crimes? Because that he IS facilitating crimes is indisputable.

          2. Brett,
            you should try linking to unbiased reports of this:
            Eg. not theblaze, hotair, or hannity.

            As in, try it yourself.

          3. Why don’t you try it? In as much as you probably WANT to give Obama money… And that’s the only way to test it.

            Just did it, fake name, address, email, it went through. Your turn…

          4. Sorry, did Brett just confess to committing both credit card fraud and an illegal campaign donation?

            Note Brett still hasn’t proposed any reason that the deliberate encouragement of illegal donations would be useful, given that anyone with real money they wanted to donate has legal avenues to make unlimited and untraceable contributions …

        2. Could you expain the significance of this? Wouldn’t the people making these donations have to have actual credit cards in order to do this? Also, since it is possible made almost limitless anonymous political donations why should this be a matter of concern to you?

          1. Yes, they would have to have actual credit cards, which could easily be the sort of gift card you can buy anonymously at many stores. Or at least the number of a real credit card, which might be somebody else’s card.

            Gee, why should it be a matter of concern to me if the President is deliberately facilitating fraud? I guess that one would stump me, if I were a Democrat…

          2. The range of minor, mostly fictitious concerns that cause the veins on Brett’s head to pop out is truly staggering. He seems to find high treason in the smallest places, and threats of civil war in totally made up fantasies. It’s a wonder that he’s able to get through the day without a panic attack.

          3. I don’t know why you’d insist this is fictional. You can verify it yourself, (I did.) by doing something you probably want to do anyway: Donate to Obama.

            His site takes credit cards with fraudulent names and addresses, and no security code. That means he doesn’t know who is donating to him, has no way of knowing, and can not know when the aggregate donations from somebody tops the legal limit.

            This is verifiable, anybody who wants can confirm it, and the fact that the MSM doesn’t care to report it doesn’t make it untrue.

            Now, I do understand: This is in the service of a good cause, (Reelecting Obama) and the end justifies the means, so you don’t care if he is breaking the law.

            But could you at least pretend to care if your candidate is a criminal?

          4. Brett, form a citizens’ posse, then, and arrest him. Clearly, with your paranoia-glasses on, you want everything he does to be in some way illegal. You and Ted Nugent.

          5. I find accusations of paranoia rather tiresome. They’ve become SOP for people who simply don’t want to acknowledge something might be true: Call it “paranoid”, and you’re freed of any need to look at the evidence.

            Which you can procure yourself at the expense of donating a few bucks to a candidate you support.

            That Obama has done this is indisputable, the only reason you don’t personally know it is that you’re making sure not to confirm it. Only the explanation as to why is in question.

    4. Affirmative action hire? Machine politician? No executive branch experience?

      Talk about chutzpah!!

      We had eight years of a legacy hire, selected by GOP insiders, who had no executive branch experience, whose resume consisted of running a series of failed businesses rescued by his father’s pals and holding, as a legacy, one of the weakest governorships in the country.

      Whatever leg up Obama may have gotten is as nothing compared to the privileges dumped on GW Bush by virtue of his birth. Were you complaining then?

      And not only is Obama smarter than Bush by a lot, he actually got a majority in his first run for President.

      1. Byomtov:
        Brett’s “no executive branch experience” is a carefully-concocted Republican talking point. Bush the Lesser did have executive branch experience–as Governor of Texas. Similarly for Saint Ronnie. That’s why they phrase it that way, and why Brett carefully regurgitates it in haec verba.

        Of course, the recent Republican losers were different: McCain and Dole were creatures of the legislative branch. And there was one Republican fella, the ugly guy with the beard, whose only significant experience was as a (shudder!) trial lawyer.

        1. OTOH, it could be I genuinely think that the Presidency isn’t an entry level position, and that people running for that office should have some prior experience in an at least vaguely related job.

          And I purely loathed both McCain and Dole. That the GOP routinely pukes up party hacks of no particular qualification for the office of the Presidency does not make Democratic party hacks of no more qualification perfect fits for the job. You’ve got Democratic governors and mayors who’d at least have some idea how to do the job, even if I wouldn’t like what they’d set out to do.

          1. Brett, admit it. Your real gripe against Obama is that you don’t like what he does. It really has nothing to do with his management. His supposed lack of experience is merely a useful bludgeon for the right–but he’s done no worse, from a purely managerial perspective, than most other presidents. In fact, he got several significant pieces of legislation passed in his first two years in office.

          2. Yet your criticism is aimed solely at a Democratic President.

            If that’s unfair, point me to where you said similar things about GW Bush’s qualifications, and the privileges he enjoyed. And speaking of affirmative action, wasn’t McCain an affirmative action admission to Annapolis? Palin an affirmative action VP nominee?

          3. = = = Brett Bellmore @ 12:02 “OTOH, it could be I genuinely think that the Presidency isn’t an entry level position, and that people running for that office should have some prior experience in an at least vaguely related job. = = =

            Presumably then you will be voting for Mr. Obama this year, given his (Obama’s) immeasurably greater Federal executive experience over Mitt Romney?


          4. Oooh Cranky wins the thread! There are only 2 people in the world as qualified as Mr. Obama who can legally run. And since Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush aren’t running I guess Brett Bellmore will be voting Democratic this November.

          5. Brett,

            I don’t understand the relevance of concerns about what you say was Obama lack of experience to the decision we will make in November. He has been the president for about three years and he’s running for reelection. You are certainly free to evaluate his performance as president but I don’t see how you can deny that there is a large body of information to use in evaluating his actual performance. Again, because he is already the president and has been for about three years.Why then do you continue to focus on what is, at best, a rough predictor of what his performance would be like as president?

            It’s like ignoring Perry Mason’s dozens of criminal trials in which he never lost a case and focusing instead on whether he’s qualified to be a lawyer by evaluating his LSAT scores. What’s the point?

            I would also observe that if one considers relevant experience as a determining factor, then Obama is far more qualified since he alone has the experience of being president. What do you say to that?

    5. I love all the talk by conservatives about how Obama is going to take away their guns. Remember when these fools stocked up on ammo after the inauguration? These are the same fools that harped about hyperinflation and the US dollar being replaced by an Amero. These guys are wrong all the time and they don’t care, but I think it is funny.

  2. It has mattered in previously unimaginable ways who gets elected since the reign of Ronaldus Magnus. However, the reason the Current Occupant is in potential trouble is exemplified in the LA Times story this weekend about the woman and her daughter with cerebral palsy who were thrown out in the street after living in the house and paying the mortgage for 20 years. Aside from the occasional speech, this emblematic result of policies (or lack of same) of this Administration implies very strongly that the president really does care more about BoA than the women in this story. Maybe foreclosure and eviction was the “correct” thing to do here. But maybe it wasn’t, especially for a TBTF bank that exists as more than an historical entry in Wikipedia only because of the largess of the federal government (that would be us). Note that I am not making the argument these women would be better off with Mitt Romney in the White House. However, the question for them and who knows how many others caught up in forces beyond their control or comprehension is this: How could they be worse off, in the here and now where we all live?

  3. What a downer of a column offered up by Doug Mataconis! I just hope he can come down off his Throne of Cynicism to vote for Barack Obama and all the Democrats down ballot. After reading his column, I wonder, does he vote at all?

    Progressives would do well to embrace The Election Cycle of 2010 as a low point for the Audacity of Hope, and vow to never sit out an election again! Oh, hell, they need to repent for that Ralph Nader thing at the turn of the century while their at it!

    1. I’d be fairly surprised if Mataconis voted for Obama. He’s essentially a Doug Schoen Democrat, although he occasionally pretends otherwise. I can’t say the quality of his analysis over the years has been particularly high either.

  4. The problem for me has always been listening to the Brett Bellmores who think Obama might actually do something that might sound progressive or liberal. Kind of like when his right wing buddies tried to tell me Clinton was really a Commie back in 1992 (you remember, that trip to Czechoslovakia when he was at Oxford?), and it turned out he was just Bob Dole with an even smarter wife. Then, Brett’s friends told me Obama was a Marxist, the Second Coming of Saul Alinsky (too bad Saul has not been alive for 40 years to get all that publicity!), a Kenyan and a Muslim. My God was I hopeful! Then, it turned out…again he’s just Bob Dole with a smarter and now hotter wife.

    There is no way, Brett, that Obama will nominate let alone get on the USSC someone to overturn Heller. Heck, even I was fine with Heller. “Radical anti-gunner”? Your contrarianism at this website has gotten the better of you.

    Count me in as someone who says Obama brings us a mere holding pattern and a slower destruction of our nation, as opposed to a faster one if Romney is elected. But substantively, there will still be more tax cuts for rich people, more wars, and more destruction of the middle class either way. Obama gives bankers most of what they want, and Romney gives them all and more of what they want.

    The rich and powerful have already won the election. We just choose over scraps.

  5. The previous two times the pundit class has told us that it didn’t really matter whether we elected a democrat or a republican because their positions were so close (1980, 2000) it has mattered a huge heck of a lot. I think it’s an inordinately privileged position to think that slow decline versus fast decline is no big deal.

  6. He doesn’t think it mattered that Pelosi was replaced by Boehner. Which makes him the opposite of a smart political analyst.

  7. “There is no way, Brett, that Obama will nominate let alone get on the USSC someone to overturn Heller.”

    Strange, in as much as he’s already put Sotomayor on the court who signed onto a dissent in McDonald calling for Heller to be overturned.

    I’m not saying he’d openly do this. Whoever he nominates will undoubtedly lie about it, just like Sotomayor did during her confirmation hearings.

    1. forget heller, it’s already precedent unless the roberts 5 decide to overturn it with their casual attitude toward precedent.

      my position is that liberals and progressives should avail ourselves of today’s opportunities to buy, own, and carry firearms. we should also begin to take over the nra. there are a lot of conservative nutjobs out there with guns and we liberals need to be just as well armed to protect ourselves from them in case they go completely stupid like the guy in norway who killed dozens to prevent a takeover by the forces of liberalism and islam.

      1. Again, I direct your attention to the Breyer dissent in McDonald v Chicago. For your convenience, it starts on page 180.

        Does this sound like justices planning on upholding Heller if they get the votes to rule the way they want?

        1. to me, this reads as one among a continuing series of dissents written over the past 50 years staking out which rights in the bill of rights are incorporated by the 14th amendment. and reading through the thread of his argument i do see a reluctance to overturn the heller precedent whimsically. a reluctance i do not see in the opinions of roberts, scalia, alito, et al.

          on the other hand, you can’t point to any opinion expressed by me in which i insist that all precedents have to live forever. although i would not hesitate to point out the hypocrisy inherent in railing against judicial activism on the progressive hand and encouraging it on the conservative hand.

          really, brett, our differences on this aspect of the discussion at hand are, for once, trivial compared to our agreements. don’t argue just for the sake of arguing.

          1. I scarcely think our differences are trivial, if you actually believe the Heller decision more likely to be overturned by the Justices who voted for it, than the Justice who continue to vehemently oppose it. However, I doubt you actually believe anything so silly, you’re just making a (historically inaccurate) point about which faction on the Court is more prone to overturning precedents.

          2. Is this really Brett Bellmore I see attempting to deny someone else the chance to believe something silly?

          3. “our differences on this aspect of the discussion at hand are, for once, trivial compared to our agreements.”
            i regard our differences here as being how we think heller is going to be treated by the court given another obama appointment.

            i envision our agreement overall being that any precedent’s survival is at the discretion of a highly politicized court.

            i give you my word i had not intended to be so vapid.

  8. Your list looks like a bunch of reasons to vote against Romney, not for Obama. In a two party system they mean the same thing when the votes are being counted but I think I’ll vote a candidate I can support rather than one I can mostly not stand over one I totally can’t stand.

  9. Finn, a direct line can be drawn from people acting on that way of thinking to the result in Citizens United. Did that case move the fall downfield in the direction you want to go, or in the opposite direction?

    I cannot imagine that Heller would be on the radar, in the least, for the President’s consideration of nominees (or, more importantly, for the consideration by senators of nominees to send over to the WH for other judicial appointments).

    1. Politics in the country wont move to the left until there is a political price to be paid for failing to legislate progressively. Continuing to think like you are saying I should would mean a lifetime of being more and more marginalized. A less appealing process than the one that involves some Citizens United rulings.

      1. Finn, why would politics in the U.S. move to the left after the Republicans take control of all three branches of the federal government? To wit:

        Republican victory, followed by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the gutting of Medicaid and the privatization of Medicare


        Single Payer!

      2. While I agree that faux-Democrats should be punished at election time, I submit that it’s a lot more effective to apply that rubric first to candidates for state and local offices, and Congress. Even this center-right President might find within himself some bits of progressive conviction if his own party were not completely dominated by worthless corporatist Blue Dogs like Steve Israel and Steny Hoyer.

        1. It might be a bit more impressive if all the good progressives/true liberals or whatever the current preferred nomenclature is had a plan that went beyond denying Obama/Democrats their votes and standing with folded arms as the GOP took this as an endorsement to go really crazy. I’ll take the progressive outrage mongers a bit more seriously when they can tell me what their plan is for organizing at a local level – and show real signs of being able to do so. Until then, talk is cheap and moralizing inactive outrage is the subsidized sugar of American politics.

  10. If it somehow were true (say in an alternate universe) that there was “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Obama and Romney, there would still be a stong reason to reelect Obama — which is the chaos of the Presidential transition. First you get an effective interregnum between November 6 and January 21. This is especially important this year, with the requirement that there be a deficit reduction agreement (and debt limit increase) enacted into law to avoid sequester and tax increases (and financial ruin if the debt ceiling is not increased). But even after the inauguration, new Presidencies have a year when they are not fully staffed and they’re hashing out policy transitions, often involving beating down the ideologues… thus in 2001 the Bush national security people were focused on extirpating arms control and trying to devise a policy that would focus on the military rise of China, completely dropping the ball on counter-terrorism and Bin Laden.

  11. In the words of Raymond Aron, the choice is never between good and evil, but the preferable and the detestable. I’m not disappointed in Obama’s performance as President and I am disgusted with the GOP’s continued bad behavior, so I know what I prefer. I’ll be voting for Obama in November.

  12. As a general rule, I vote primarily based on party membership, secondarily based on the person involved. Not just in presidential elections, but in general. No single person sets policy on their own. Even presidents are not only members of a given party, but surround themselves with experts and advisers that are usually from their own party (or at least sympathetic to its values).

    That can play out in a number of ways. For example, had I lived in Massachusetts during the Scott Brown election, I would have held my nose and voted for Martha Coakley, much as I detest her as a classical example of a Democratic party machine candidate. But getting a clean healthcare reform bill through Congress would have been far more important for me, which would have required a filibuster-proof majority.

    Had I been living in Chicago instead of Michigan a decade ago, I probably would have voted for the Republicans a lot in local and possibly state elections. Not because I endorse any Republican policies, but because Republicans are the only realistic option to clean out the Augean stables that have been built in and around Chicago City Hall. (They may end up helping themselves to a big piece of the pie still, but it should at least provide some sort of cleansing effect and hopefully some cause for introspection among Chicago Democrats.)

    Right now, with the upcoming federal elections, things are pretty easy for me. We have one party (Democrats) whose policies are mostly reasonable and another party (Republican) currently being taken over by radicals. I have my disagreements with Democratic policy-making (well, does anybody really fully agree with ANY party platform?), but I’m not going to help vote extremists into office [1]. Yeah, it would be nice to have more options (how about instant run-off voting for the presidency, say?), but in the very real world we live in there are only two alternatives (plus the option to abstain or throw your vote away by voting for a third-party candidate).

    [1] I don’t care how much of a moderate Mitt Romney may be personally; in the end, I don’t expect him to veto Republican legislation.

    1. This is a crucial point.

      A vote for Romney is effectively a vote for the most radical elements of the House GOP.

      Has Mataconis taken a look at Paul Ryan’s budgetary plans?

    2. Actually, Coakley wasn’t quite enough of a machine candidate. She belonged to the Western Mass machine (and was a woman) which meant that the Eastern Mass mafia and dear old Mumbles Menino did as little as possible for her. Sure, she was a wretched candidate – but I can tell you that she got exactly zero support in some “liberal” areas. I live in Boston – and I watched in amazement as the days went by with no flyers, no phone calls, no canvassers, no sign that Mike Capuano (the local, useless Congress Critter) was going to rise from his porcelain throne and put in a strong fifteen minutes of helping out a fellow Democrat. There’s a story to be told about how Coakley with all her faults lost a winnable election – and it’s not one that a good number of MA Democrats would like told even in outline.

      1. Fair enough, but I live in MA too – Cambridge – and was amazed at how inept Coakley was. According to what I read she made fifteen public appearances to Brown’s sixty-six, and she definitely complained about people exepcting her to stand around Fenway Park and shake hands. Say what you want about Menino, Capuano, or anyone else. I’m not saying it’s false. But the blunt fact is that Coakley’s performance in the general election was abysmal. She could have won without those other guys, but not the way she ran, or rather didn’t run.

      2. This perfectly illustrates why I’m not impressed with Obama super-cool, super-detached style. If I had had as much riding on the outcome as that election as Obama did, I would’ve moved heaven and earth to get Coakley elected. I would’ve sent my top political operatives to Coakley’s campaign to help her and shook the money tree for her just as hard as I could. And if any heard that any—by which I mean any—Democrat anywhere in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts wasn’t doing likewise, well, that Democrat would’ve heard from me early and often. I would certainly have remind Menino of all the good a solidly Democratic Congress could do for Boston and for him. And the harm that a really, really pissed off president could do to him personally. I’d have told him that I expected him to do his utmost for Coakley and that I would personally rip his throat out if his dicking around cost me my signature legislation in Congress and then I’d have made sure that every single one of Menino’s major contributors and/or beneficiaries of Federal spending heard from me and then he heard from them.

        By the way Brett, that’s the Chicago way!

    3. I believe that former President Truman said it best. When asked whether one should vote for the party or the better candidate for office in a particular election, Truman declared, “I vote for the better man. He is the Democratic nominee.”

      We can perhaps update that to say that the better man or woman is the Democratic nominee.

  13. I would take issue with the second point that Obama should be returned to office because he is a black man. I disagree. He should be returned because he is the better man. If the Republicans had nominated someone I thought would do a better job and govern more in line with my politics, I would happily vote for that person regardless of whether it might cause black people to suffer from low self-esteem.

    I did not support Obama in my party’s primary election because (as regular visitors to the comments on this blog know) his politics are not my politics. I perceived him to be the least liberal among the major contenders for the nomination and still do. Nevertheless, most Democrats (and I count myself among them) agreed that Obama was as well qualified as any of the major contenders. He was not the “affirmative action” winner of the primary. He competed fairly and on an equal footing with others and ended up winning the Democratic nomination fair-and-square.

    I did vote for Obama in the general election. I did so not as an act of charity towards black people or to expiate the guilt of the white race but rather because he was the nominee of my party and because his politics were much closer to mine than were the political positions of his Republican opponent. Most importantly, I thought Obama much better qualified and vastly more capable of being president than McCain and Palin who I believe were the least qualified people in our nation’s history ever to have been the nominees of a major political party.

    I will be voting in November to keep Barack Obama as president because, despite my unhappiness with many aspects of his presidency, he is again head-and-shoulders above the nominee of the Republican Party. I will vote to reelect Obama because I believe he is by far the better man and because the consequences of having the lunatic fringe of the American society that is today’s Republican Party control all three branches of government would portend a disaster of biblical proportions.

    So, Prof. Humphreys, my questions to you are these:

    1. If aspects of the situation in 2008 had been reversed and McCain and Palin had been black and Obama a white man, would you have voted the Republicans that year to boost the self-esteem of black Americans?

    2. If perchance Allen West had been the first black president, would you support his reelection anyway because to reject him would have “a scarring effect on many people of colour for years to come”?

    1. There is a distinction – some significant of the animus toward our president is racially based. There is a reason to affirmatively rebuke that.

      If Allen West had been the first black president, I think we would find a majority of black people voting against him. No scarring would hypothetically occur.

      1. “…some significant of the animus toward our president is racially based.”

        As is some signficant fraction of his support.

        1. Some folks vote for Obama, some hang him in effigy, and show him eating watermelon and fried chicken.

          It’s a completely the same, to a blind pig.

    2. Keith isn’t listing reasons for voting for Obama, as I understand him.

      He’s pointing out four reasons why it matters who ends up in the White House in January, contrary to some popular wisdom that the result of the presidential election is irrelevant.

      In this case, it’s about the perception created by a removal of a black president after his first term. Had the president been Allen West, the perception might be a similar one and it would still matter, even though we’d still want to kick Allen West out of the White House, all things considered.

      1. Katja said: Keith isn’t listing reasons for voting for Obama, as I understand him. He’s pointing out four reasons why it matters who ends up in the White House in January, contrary to some popular wisdom that the result of the presidential election is irrelevant.

        BINGO! I have spent time elsewhere saying why I think Obama has been a good president, but here I was only saying that the election matters, the candidates would do different things on very important policy areas (Perhaps Brett mislead everyone with his first comment because he failed to see he was agreeing with my point).

      2. We will face a binary choice in November so I can’t say that I understand the difference between saying that something is a reason to reelect Obama and saying why it’s important that Obama should win. The two things would seem to be functionally identical. I don’t think how black people or other Americans perceive the defeat of a black president should be very high up on the list of what’s at stake in the election. If I thought that Mitt Romney was the better man, I absolutely would vote for him, the potentially damaging effect on the self-esteem of black people not withstanding. Since I see Obama as unquestionably the better man, I’m going to vote for him.

        My personal preference would be a president who would fight hard to save and even expand the social welfare state; would get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan; would rein in the national security state, end the War on Terror, restore civil liberties to their pre-911 state and generally do a bunch of other liberal stuff. That person is regrettably not going to be on the ballot in November. But Barack Obama will be on the ballot and he is infinitely to be preferred to the high-functioning sociopath and that is the basis of my decision to support Obama for reelection.

        Anyway, because I never thought that improving the self-esteem of black people was an important or even a valid reason to vote for Obama to begin with, I’m sure you can appreciate my disagreeing with you that such considerations should play any role in deciding whether he should be reelected.

        1. It’s not about it being “important” that Obama wins. It’s that it makes a difference. Things can make a difference regardless of the political gain they provide.

          Let’s remove names from the equation. Assume we have two presidential candidates and make the year, oh, 2020. Candidate A wishes to focus during the coming term on fixing education in America, while candidate B wants to focus primarily on issues of peace and the dangers of nuclear proliferation (if you are not interested in those, pick two different goals that are of roughly equal importance to you).

          Clearly, the result of this election will matter, while it’s neither more important that candidate A nor candidate B wins.

          Now, back in 2012 we have an election where the result matters and where voters also have strong preferences for one or the other of the candidates. But “which candidate do you prefer and why” and “will the result of the election make a difference” are still separate questions that can be asked independently.

          1. I’m not sure that I understand the point you are making but it certainly does not apply to Keith’s second point which seems to be that if Obama loses it will create ill-will and/or lower self-esteem among African-Americans. Since Obama is the only black man in the race, by definition Keith is saying that it would be important to vote for Obama specifically because it is important to reelect the first black man to be president.

            This is the proposition with which I took issue. With the many important problems confronting the country at this moment, we need to elect the better of the two men running. That really should be the only criteria. I don’t believe it is appropriate to vote for a man because he’s black any more than it would be to vote against him for that reason. It is precisely because this is an important election that we must choose the better man.

          2. The point I am making is that an observation is not an exhortation and that Keith’s post was the former.

            Assume that the original post had been constructed by a Star Trek Computer in response to the question: “Computer, list some of the likely consequences of either Obama or Romney winning the election.” Would you then assume that this hypothetically completely neutral computer wants you to elect Obama because some of those consequences appeal to the majority of the readership of this blog?

  14. This list – ugh. I certainly don’t want Romney. I certainly think it matters who wins. But this list? It almost wants me want to side with Doug.

    And Doug isn’t really much of a political analyst. His analysis is 99% “both sides do it” followed by glibertarian stuff.

  15. If Brett keeps posting, he might convince me to vote for Obama yet.

    But, my favorite part of the post was point 1: “We. Are. At. War.” Dripping with condescension, with absolutely no awareness that if you have to spell it out, before people figure it out, and “it” is something as unmistakeable as war — W – A – R — that might be a clue that, in fact, in reality for reality-based folks, the United States is not at war at all, and all the security theatre at home and fear-mongering about Iran and North Korea and the rest is just so much cynical political propagandizing in favor of a severely wasteful and bloated budget for the military-industrial complex, combined with an excuse for a series of measures curtailing civil liberties, building an apparatus for a fascist state. Aren’t you glad that the President can murder teenagers in Yemen? (That’s one of the “battlefields” of this “war”: the wastes of Yemen! Aren’t you thrilled that you can be arrested at the behest of a collection agency and given a body cavity search? Aren’t you glad that an executive of a bank, which steals from the bankrupt, cannot be arrested? “Who are we at war with?”, you naively ask. Not a state, which might inconveniently surrender at any moment, ending the good times, but Terror, an abstraction as immortal as one of the Gods or Titans of ancient Greece. “What about Afganistan?” One of the poorest countries in the world, and the U.S. military is still there after a decade — twice the time it took to beat Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, combined. And, to keep that war going, we are having to finance and supply both sides, funneling billions to the Taliban thru our great, good ally, Pakistan, who, not incidentally, supplied North Korea with the bomb, so we can pretend that a country — again among the poorest in the world — surrounded by some of the richest and most powerful states in the world, and on the edge of famine, is a some huge, existential threat to civilization.

    The pretense that we are “at War” cannot even be challenged in this campaign, let alone the choices to carry on building up a fascist state at home or to carry out lawless violence abroad. No one will be held accountable for invading and occupying a country, for no good reason at all. No one will be held accountable for torture — except, possibly, the whistleblowers, who confronted us with the reality of it. No one will be held accountable for crashing the world economy in the global financial crisis.

    And, no one will be held accountable in this election campaign. It might make a difference — who is elected might make a difference. I can’t master the manipulation of counterfactuals well enough to feel confident in my projections, but I can master actual facts well enough to know that it won’t make enough of a difference, because it will not lead accountability for our vicious, irresponsible, incompetent elites.

    1. “Aren’t you glad that the President can murder teenagers in Yemen?”

      Any chance of some evidence for specific teenagers being murdered by Barack Obama? I seem to have missed the President’s Scimitar Slashing Rampage In The Desert.

      1. “I can master actual facts well enough to know that it won’t make enough of a difference, because it will not lead accountability for our vicious, irresponsible, incompetent elites.”

        So you don’t feel that, to take one example, a party holding all three branches of government that has shown an appetite for forcing trans-vaginal ultra-sound tests on women would make a significant difference as far as say.. women… are concerned? Again, what about the fate of Planned Parenthood in a Romney administration? The signs are not good, to put it mildly. Then we have the issue of .. oh, I don’t know.. Pell grants and education funding. Want to put a bet that Romney wouldn’t gut them entirely? Someone has to pay the price for tax cuts for the wealthy, after all. Not that I feel that we should worry about the impact of those tax cuts on the deficit, on our GINI co-efficient or any other such nugatory matters.

        1. In fairness you also have to ask, “how did we get to that point?”. And a large point of how we got to that point was when the late-middle-age men who run the Democratic Party decided that it would be best for all concerned if the Democrats, and Democratic lawmakers, just surrendered to the hard right on the icky icky issues of abortion and women’s right to control their own bodies. The hard right really truly believes it is an issue of morals, not freedom, we were told; and if all good Democrats just surrendered on this one – just one time – the hard right would be satisfied and would stop pressing on other issues affecting women.

          How’d that turn out for us?


        2. Have you ever heard the admonition to not make the Perfect, the Enemy of the Good? I think Obama would be a better President than Romney, but I fear that it is an instance in which the Better is the Enemy of the Good. I think the country is in a rapid decline, morally, politically and economically, and its slide will not be arrested or reversed by further moves in the same, downward direction, moves Obama will surely continue to make. Obama legitimated and preserved pretty much everything George W. Bush did, and reversed very little. Obama would be “better” only in the tragically qualified sense of slowing the degeneration relative to a projected Romney, or Romney plus a Republican Congress; Obama would still be in there engineering the decline and apologizing for doing so. Obama will not propose actually taxing the extremely rich; he will advocate for the Buffet Rule, which will be largely symbolic, even if it is enacted. The “JOBS bill” Obama signed recently opens the door to widespread securities fraud — is that a formula for strengthening the economy? I don’t expect Obama to do much to head off a Republican-controlled Congress; you see the Democratic establishment challenging Paul Ryan in a district Obama won?

          I think the smart money among the plutocracy likes Obama, likes the way he neutralizes liberal Democratic criticism of pro-plutocratic, pro-authoritarian policy. I don’t know how much of the money among the plutocracy is smart money — probably less and less. And, even they will spend big through PACs, which they, and not the Parties or politicians control, to make clear that they can take out any politician, who strays from the reality-show script outline. In the end, I fear that Obama’s fate is to be the fall guy, a Herbert Hoover for our time, who will serve to put a “liberal” and “Democratic” label on a period of rapid economic decline for the middle classes and the poor. Obama won’t be held accountable, but he — or his brand, at least — will be blamed.

          This may well be the least important, least consequential Presidential election of our lifetimes, and if the plutocrats have their way, it will be one of a long series of such inconsequential elections, each fought out over symbolic, hot-button issues, between right-wing nutcases and corrupt centrists. There will be reality-show dramas, staged for cable-news and the internets, the better to herd the Democratic sheep into one pen, and the Republican sheep into the other pen, both to be sheared or roasted at convenience, later.

          I find the situation extremely depressing and discouraging. I don’t know what can be done, except to try to tell the truth.

          1. Bruce, I think you’re confusing the actions O’Bama has done while hamstrung by the Republican estpopel in Congress with what he might do if the Dems run an effective campaign (for a change) and elect a robust majority.

            Not that I expect that, but I can hope.

      2. The teenager was killed by drone at President Obama’s specific order was in Afghanistan with his father, not Yemen. He was a Colorado native and 16 years old. FYI the State Department does not consider native-born citizens competent to renounce their own citizenship until they are 18. Do you think President Obama had a lawyer from the State of Colorado’s DCFS in his office to represent the boy when he made the decision to approve the drone strike?


        1. Please see the Washington Post report, linked below. The boy, and his father, were in Yemen at the time of their respective deaths (in different strikes), as were a number of others, who were killed, without being identified in advance (or even, possibly, after the fact). This is a critical fact. The President, as far as I know, does not busy himself authorizing drone strikes in Afganistan, where, at least you could say there is a civil war or insurgency underway, even if Al Qaeda is no longer present; his authorization was necessary for Yemen, precisely because there is no actual war, but “the war” is nevertheless the justification for the expediency.


        As you might expect, Glenn Greenwald has parsed this story three ways from someday, for whatever that’s worth, including the dubious legal claims as well as the general insanity of a policy of fighting a “war” by remote control. (Wondering why they hate us? Then, you haven’t been paying attention.)

        “War” (quotes used advisedly) has become an all-purpose excuse for expediency and the absence of accountability for anyone in power.

  16. @Brett Bellmore: This is in response to your comments regarding the potential for fraud in the way Barack Obama’s website accepts credit card donations.

    (1) I tried donating using two different gift cards with balances of $71 and $188. Both times, the $2.00 donations were declined and I was taken to a page displaying this:

    “Error Processing Contribution
    “Your credit card contribution could not be authorized.

    “This could be because:
    “1. You accidentally entered your credit card number or expiration date incorrectly.
    “2. The address you provided does not match the billing address of your credit card.”

    I entered the information properly and used my billing address and the addresses of the givers. The billing address of gift cards is apparently not the same as the address of recipient of the card or as the purchaser’s. However, there is clearly some sort of address verification being done.

    (2) A disclaimer appears on the donation page, which also appears on all candidates donation sites:

    “Federal law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation, and employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 in an election cycle.”

    None of the candidates are required by law to verify the identity of donors whose total donations are less than $200. I’m fairly certain that the name associated with the donation is the card-holder’s name, at least in Barack Obama’s donation system. When you have submitted a valid donation, the site gives you the option to create an account. The name listed on the account is the name entered when making the donation. The site allows you to change the name on this account. However, the account has a “Saved Payment Information” section. Here, the name of the card-holder is displayed and cannot be changed unless the payment information is deleted. So, you may be able to enter a false name in the donation page, but the system still logs the card-holder’s name. The donation limits are likely applied to the card-holder, regardless of the name entered in the donation page. Mitt Romney’s donation page allows false names and more, as I show below.

    (3) I went to Mitt Romney’s donation site and was able to make a $2.00 donation using a false name (Barack Obama), false address, and false phone number:

    The donation was accepted, leading to a page displaying this:

    And, a few seconds later I received an email confirming the donation:

    To paraphrase the words of a wise man I once read: Romney’s site takes credit cards with fraudulent names and addresses. That means he doesn’t know who is donating to him, has no way of knowing, and can not know when the aggregate donations from somebody tops the legal limit. This is verifiable, anybody who wants can confirm it, and the fact that the MSM doesn’t care to report it doesn’t make it untrue. Now, I do understand: This is in the service of a good cause, (Electing Mitt Romney) and the end justifies the means, so you don’t care if he is breaking the law. But could you at least pretend to care if your candidate is a criminal?

    I presume this wise man will demand that the criminality of the Romney campaign be addressed by the MSM. I presume this display of criminality will influence that wise man’s decision of whether or not to vote for Mitt Romney. I could be wrong, though. I’ve never been very good at predicting human behavior.

    1. Wow Brett Bellmore just got his ass handed to him! Check mate!

      I just have to add that I loved how nobody had an excuse for not doing this silly exercise because it was money we were going to give him anyways. Speak for yourself Brett, I wasn’t planning on donating.

      1. i so very much wish there was some way of returning this post with its comments to the first page of the blog. i’d really enjoy reading the brett bellmore response to this thorough and well documented takedown of his bogus complaints. i’m still waiting for his response to my takedown of certain of his tendencies in the comments to this post–

  17. Benny Lava says:

    “Wow Brett Bellmore just got his ass handed to him! Check mate!”

    Unfortunately, no. Brett is impervious to facts.

    Considering that he’s claimed to be an engineer, I would really like to know what products he’s working on, so that I could avoid them.

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