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Posts Tagged ‘elections’

I often write about politicians running for office but I am rarely really excited about any of them. (When I say really excited, I mean excited enough to donate serious money, and passionately hope, and perhaps volunteer, and do everything else I can to help them win.)

A little clarification here: I am talking of serious politicians here, not someone who is eloquent and thoughtful but with no political skills or chance of winning.

With that prologue, let me talk of Gary Johnson.

He is a serious politician. He was twice elected governor of New Mexico where he, by all accounts, did an excellent job and still enjoys remarkable popularity in that state. He is a republican in the Ron Paul libertarian mould, only much better, for unlike Paul, he is also pro-immigration and pro-choice. He is as libertarian as a mainstream American politician can get.

According to insiders, he is  running for President in 2012.

Now, I am a guy who knows both probabilities and American politics very well — I won about $500 over the last few months betting on various outcomes of the midterm elections on the futures market site Intrade — and Gary Johnson, plainly speaking, is very very unlikely to win. But yet his win, while very very unlikely, is not so unlikely as to not excite me. And besides, the thought of him winning even one primary, and possibly being on a nationally televised debate with the rest of the lot excites me. I mean really, really excites me.

Here’s a very nice profile of Gary Johnson at the New Republic.

An excerpt from the article linked above:

Ask about church, and he says he doesn’t go. “Do you believe in Jesus?” I ask. “I believe he lived,” he replies with a smile. Ask about shifts in position, and he owns up to one. “I changed my mind on the death penalty,” he tells me. “Naïvely, I really didn’t think the government made mistakes.” Ask about his voting history, and he volunteers (without regrets) that he cast his first presidential ballot for George McGovern (“because of the war”). Ask about his longstanding support for marijuana legalization, and he recalls the joy of his pot-smoking days. “I never exhaled,” he says. (An avid athlete, Johnson forswore marijuana and alcohol decades ago when he realized they were hurting his ski times and rock-climbing ability.)

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A pretty fair article by Ed Kilgore on the widening rift between progressives and libertarians.

One mini-saga of the past decade in American politics has been the flirtation—with talk of a deeper partnership—between progressives and libertarians. These two groups were driven together, in the main, by common hostility to huge chunks of the Bush administration’s agenda: endless, pointless wars; assaults on civil liberties; cynical vote-buying with federal dollars; and statist panders to the Christian right.

This cooperation reached its height during the 2006 election, in which, according to a new study by David Kirby and David Boaz, nearly half of libertarian voters supported Democratic congressional candidates—more than doubling the support levels from the previous midterm election in 2002.

Well, you can say goodbye to all that. The new Kirby/Boaz study reports that libertarian support for Democrats collapsed in 2008, despite many early favorable assessments of Barack Obama by libertarian commentators. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has raised the salience of issues on which libertarians and Dems most disagree. And there’s no question that during Obama’s first year—with the rise of the Tea Party movement and national debate over bailouts, deficits, and health care—libertarian hostility to the new administration has grown adamant and virtually universal.

[…]

So could “liberaltarianism” make a comeback in a not-too-distant future, when today’s passions have abated? You never know for sure, but the next major obstacle to cooperation may well be the Supreme Court’s decision on corporate political spending in Citizens United v. FEC, which libertarians celebrated as a victory for free speech, and most liberals denounced as a travesty if not a national disaster.

Cancel the Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers; this romance is dead.

I agree that “liberaltarianism” is kinda dead at the moment. Ed Kilgore thinks that progressives shouldn’t mind that too much. I disagree with his reasoning.

But 2008 showed that libertarian support is hardly crucial: Obama still won “libertarian” states such as Colorado and New Hampshire handily, even without their backing, and he generally performed better in the “libertarian West” than any Democratic nominee since LBJ.

I am sceptical of the claim that Obama lacked the backing of libertarians. Yes the Kirby-Boaz paper does say that McCain won libertarians about 70-30, but I suspect that study  oversamples southern conservatives. It is unfortunate they do not have a state-by state cross-tabs, which would give some indication how the libertarians voted in Colorado and New Hampshire. Moreover, even Kirby-Boaz conclude that Obama won the younger libertarians, the ones who will really matter in future elections.

True, most libertarians disagreed with large parts of the Obama agenda, but they also typically thought that McCain was far, far worse. Reason magazine’s survey of its writers in 2008 showed almost no support for McCain, almost everyone supported Obama or Barr. A majority of libertarian intellectuals, despite their misgivings, certainly preferred Obama over McCain.

Many of these people are now turning away from the Democrats. Kilgore is probably right about the inevitability of this break-up. From the point of view of electoral politics, however, the Democrats will ignore the libertarian vote at their own peril.

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iran-full

I had to share this. Politicians are generally fools, and Mausavi is probably only marginally better than his opponent, but there is no reason to doubt his assertion that “these masses were not brought by bus or by threat, they were not brought for potatoes; they came themselves.”

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If you go to Las Vegas and gamble, you will probably lose money. If you keep betting, you will certainly lose money and a lot of it. That’s because everything from blackjack to roulette to slot machines have negative expectation, meaning you are guaranteed to lose in the long term.

Not so with real life events, like the outcome of a election. The thing is, unlike in casinos, we do have a lot of relevant information here — opinion polls, previous trends, demographics, events. You would think that most betters (and consequently the betting company setting the odds) will take these into account. The reason that does not happen is that most people are simultaneously passionate about their preferred candidate and politically ill-informed. Even those who take a look at the opinion polls rarely do it at sites like Five Thirty Eight, but instead rely on a few polls highlighted by the main-stream media. For instance, everyone knows today that Obama is almost surely winning the election and very likely also winning red states like Virginia and Florida. The thing is, these facts were obvious even three weeks ago, if you did the appropriate trend-line analyses. But when I bet some money (actually quite a bit) then, I got astoundingly good odds on Florida and pretty good ones even on the overall result!

So the purport of my message is this: If you are a political junkie like me, bet. You will make a lot of money at the expense of less-informed mortals.

And since I am bragging, let me remind the reader of two predictions I made a fair while ago, at a time when it must have appeared rather bold. Now though, I think even Rush Limbaugh would agree with it.

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The Democrats must learn some respect, says Clive Crook.

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With all pollsters out with their own versions of what is going to happen in Indiana and North Carolina today, here’s my prediction:

Obama will win North Carolina by 12, Clinton will win Indiana by 7.

We will know the actual results in about ten hours.

Update: With about 99% of the votes counted, Obama is winning in North Carolina by 14, and Clinton is clinging on to a 2 point victory in Indiana. Yeah, I was a bit off. But I am not complaining!

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This is good news.

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Quite literally.

Amnesty International cited a case on March 7, when three members of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were ordered by intelligence officers to take down election posters.

According to Amnesty, the officials forced the opposition supporters to chew the posters and swallow them.

For those living in democracies like the US or India, such repression of free speech is unimaginable. Indeed, it may be tempting, in the light of such news, to view the daily complaints we libertarians make about infringements of freedom in the United States as somewhat flimsy. To me, however, this serves as a reminder about how important and precious our freedoms are, and the need to fight constantly to prevent them from getting eroded. As I’ve noted previously, once a certain level of freedom becomes unacceptable, the bar is lowered and the next act of censorship is not only easier but also more extreme. News such as those coming from Zimbabwe or China should not make us complacent but instead remind us of the importance of our vigil.

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The most telling moment of Mike Huckabee’s campaign came a month ago, when he told a conservative gathering why he wasn’t giving up yet.

“I know people say that the math doesn’t work out,” the Baptist pastor politician said. “Folks, I didn’t major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in those too.”

In many ways it summed up Huckabee’s case. He rose from nowhere in late 2007, attaining national prominence and even topping the polls for a brief period. Simple folks were attracted to his innate likeability, his funny one-liners, his impression of a guy they can trust. Evangelicals were attracted by the fundamentalist message beneath the ruddy exterior, his denouncement of evolution, his extreme pro-life stance, his background as a pastor.

But the same qualities that zoomed Huckabee up the charts were going to be his unravelling once he became known to a wider audience. In the debates, he came across as a caricature of various unflattering images, a bizarre cross between a jovial simpleton and an anti-science crusador. All through Februrary, Huckabee continued to get a significant proportion of the votes — proof that his appeal to his most fervent supporters was undiminished. But in the end, Huckabee learnt the hard way what everyone knew all through — a core constituency that consists of born-agains and McCain haters is not enough. Despite the occasional media report to the contrary, Mike Huckabee was never a serious contender for the nomination. And we are all better off for that.

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The war of gaffes gets more ridiculous each day. After the frankly irrelevant controversy over Obama using borrowed words in a speech, it is now Cindy McCain’s turn to make a not so subtle point about her patriotism vis-a-vis Michelle Obama’s.

For those who missed it, here is the article.

My first reaction to such news is that there are issues, and then there are issues. Such jabs are common place in election season, and entertaining for the observer but usually of little content. This particular controversy is however of some independent interest for one reason – it reminds us of the visceral need that many people feel to be ‘proud’ of the institution they belong to. They may never know what exactly they are proud of but they pretty damn well know that to be not proud is treachery. Politicians -from Mumbai to Madison – are of course masters at manipulating this pride.

My view of patriotism and related matters is reflected by a reader’s comment on the above linked article.

Give me a break. This is non news. I am roughly the same age as Michelle Obama, and let me tell you, it’s been a while since I’ve been REALLY proud of this country; particularly in the past seven years.

People who think you have to constantly express pride in your country or you’re somehow unpatriotic drive me crazy. I happen to think the opposite is true. If you love this country, you speak up for the changes you believe in and try your best to help make those changes.

People who are trying to dissect this comment and somehow turn it into something it wasn’t just make me laugh. The last thing we need in the White House is another robot spouting blind patriotism as justification for his or her own personal agenda.

-Cami.

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http://www.libertariansforobama.org/

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that Obama is not a libertarian and I disagreee with many of his positions. Nonetheless, as a non-American with a keen interest in American politics I am rooting for him for his positions on matters such as the war in Iraq, civil liberties, foreign policy, free markets and (to a limited extent) healthcare; for his intelligence, enthusiasm, temperament and foresight; and for his ability to see both sides of a question.

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It took a long time coming but it is here at last. Hillary Clinton finally unveiled her healthcare plan this week.

The key feature of her plan is what she calls individual mandate. It requires that every American buy health insurance. A similar law already exists in the state of Massachusetts and is supported by the governors of several other states, including California.

However her clever choice of phrase does not obscure the fact that this is essentially a plan for individual coercion. Forcing an individual to pay money for a service which deals with the well-being of his own body -something that is no one’s concern except his- is wrong, in my opinion.

Most Americans agree that the health-care system needs an overhaul. Hillary Clinton, whose political career has been a mix of leftist righteousness and clever opportunism (displayed for instance by her history of voting on Iraq and her defence of it) realises that healthcare is the issue that will decide this election. Unfortunately she fails to realise – or worse, perhaps realises yet chooses to ignore for political expediency – that the American system is broken primarily because government interference and regulations over the last fifty years have driven insurance premiums through the roof. Plans such as Clinton’s or Edward’s are further steps in the wrong direction. They push health-care towards a heavy-handed bureaucratic system with more controls, apart from being an assault on personal liberty.

A much more reasonable and effective first step would be to distribute vouchers to families that they can use only for insurance, while simultaneously eliminating the regulations on private insurers and retaining one government-owned catastrophic health insurance program. The next step would be to formulate policy that would encourage – for the purpose of basic health needs – a paradigm shift away from insurance. On that note, read Milton Friedman’s excellent article on this subject.

Sadly, the most effective solutions are often not the ones with most political pizzazz.

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