inform | empower | engage
Mini-Super Tuesday (March 4) has had its way with the Democratic Primary. Questions as to whether Sen. Clinton would take one for the team are now mute. She seems headed for Denver, and perhaps a national party convention this country has not seen the like of in years. Super delegates, credential challenges, and six weeks of mutual pummeling from now until the April 23 Pennsylvania primary will test each candidate’s character, endurance and judgment. For all the moaning and groaning, though, this may play well for the nation.
The Democrats have to choose between two candidates, each of whose candidacy has already broken precedents reaching back to the founding of the Republic. Which ever candidate wins, the nation will have seen her or him in a political fight and campaign of historic proportions and impact. Does he/she have the stamina and stomach for the fight? Can she/he control his/her campaign in the trenches? Will he/she have the maturity to avoid a blow in the primary that might cripple the Party’s campaign in November? If they both get to Denver, there need be no debate on either experience or ability. Just getting there should answer that question for each candidate.
As for Independents in Texas and Ohio, they were out in force. Exit poles put them at 22 percent in Ohio and 24 percent in Texas. Of these, Sen. Obama won 54% in the former and 52% in the latter, well below his 66% in Virginia, 62% in Maryland and 64% in Wisconsin, where Independents were estimated at 28% of those voting. Had Obama won 55% of the Independents in Texas, he would have won the primary.
Independents remain the margin, yet the least predictable, and the least polled. Stay tuned.
In a New York Times Op-Ed today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated unequivocally that he is not and “will not be” a candidate for President. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/opinion/28mike.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.
Noting that he is “hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership,” Bloomberg sees the most productive role he can play as “push(ing) them forward…by using the means at my disposal to promote a real and honest debate.” The mayor goes on to say that “if a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach – and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy – I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.”
This looks to be good news on several counts. First, the country’s most notable Independent is of the view that the process is working well; i.e., we are going to end up with candidates that offer some hope for a less politically partisan future. And, it should be noted, this comes from a man who made his fortune in the news business. He should be in a position to know.
Second, there is not now any meaningful possibility of a third party run – and the complexity and confusion that was certain to attend it. We are going to have a Republican and Democrat, each of whom will have been fully vetted as none before in our nation’s history, and each of whom appears likely offer clear choices on the major issues facing the nation. People are going to vote. A winner will be chosen. And that’s as much as you can ask of, or should expect from, a presidential election.
The Perfect Election continues.
With the lion’s share of the primary season now done, exit polls show Independents have heavily favored participation in the Democratic primaries over the Republican.
As of February 25, primaries or caucuses have been held in 37 states. However, in some of these states, only one party has had its caucus or primary, in others (Florida and Michigan), candidates did not campaign. For other states, complete exit polling is not readily available. Also, in trying to get a sense of numbers of Independents choosing one party over the other, a good case can be made for focusing only on primaries; i.e., caucuses vary widely according to local party rules that affect significantly the number of participants.
This leaves the following: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The total number of votes cast in these 13 states was approximately 24.5 million, 15.5 million in Democrat primaries and 9 million for Republican. This would seem to be a fair sample.
Exit poll estimates of Independents participating in these contests ranged from 12% (Democratic in New York and New Jersey) to 44% (Democratic in New Hampshire and Republican in Massachusetts). Most most fell between 17% and 23% of the polling sample. When exit poll estimates of Independents in each of the 13 states, for each of the parties, is multiplied by the number of votes cast in each of the state party primaries listed above, the results are telling. Sixty one percent of those self-indentifying as Independents chose to participate in the Democratic primary vs 39% in the Republican primary. Of the 24.5 million voting, exit polling indicates that 4.9 million were either Independents or registered Republican and Democrat voters who indentified themselves to the pollsters as Independent.
And what does this all mean? First off, with 20% of the total voters polled, Independents are heavily engaged in this election season. More importantly, they have played a strong role in determining the success of the front runner in each party. Of the 13 primaries noted above, exit polls show Sen. McCain winning among Independents in 11; all but Georgia and Virginia. On the Democratic side, Sen. Obama led with Independents in 12 of the state primaries; all but Massachusetts. Indeed, in 6 of the 13 primaries, exit polls show Obama winning Independents by 30 percentage points or more.
If senators McCain and Obama each do, in fact, win their party’s nomination, the general election will in large part be a contest between candidates each of whom has succeeded best with Independents. And if Independent participation continues apace, 20 percent of the voters in the general election will self-identify to pollsters as Independent. With over 100 million expected at the polls in November, that’s 20 million plus of us.
Independents may never have played so heavy a role in a national election, will have been so responsible for the outcome. It is certainly an opportunity no true American can pass up. Hinge elections come to us perhaps once in a generation. Don’t miss this one.
Sen. Barack Obama continued his strong showing among Independents in the Wisconsin Democratic primary. According to the Edison/Mikosfky exit poll as reported by the Washington Post, Independents chose the Illinois Senator by a factor of two to one – 64% to 33%. This was marginally higher than his share of Independents in the Virginia and Maryland primaries held on February 12.
Of the 787,000 votes cast in the Wisconsin primary, the exit poll indicated that 28%, or approximately 220,000, were cast by Independents. At 64% of this amount, Independents would have made up 7.7% of his 15% advantage over Sen. Clinton. Also, the 7.7% explains approximately the difference between the 5% lead Obama had in pre-primary polls with the final result. If Obama continues to hold his advantage with Independents, it would seem safe to add 3-5 percentage points in his favor to any pre-primary polls of Democrats expected to vote in the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4.
Also worthy of note is that Sen. Obama won across the political spectrum in Wisconsin. Exit polls put Liberals at 46% of those voting, 56% of whom went with Obama and 42% with Clinton. Of those who self-identified as Moderate/Conservative, Obama’s advantage was 59% to 41%.
Should Obama continue to draw heavily from Independents and win his party’s nomination, Independents will have played a key role in determining each party’s national candidate. How Independents break in the national election appears likely to determine who wins in November, and where this country is headed for the next four years. And remember, Ohio and Texas are open primaries.
Get out there and vote!
The latest polls have Sen. Obama ahead of Sen. Clinton in the Badger State, the four most recent giving him a combined 47.5 to 43.5 advantage. http://www.pollster.com/08-WI-Dem-Pres-Primary.php However, these polls only reflect Democrats who expect to vote in the primary. The polls do not include Independents. Moreover, Wisconsin, where estimates put Independents at 40% of the electorate, has an open primary that permits registration on the day of the primary. If Obama continues to draw the lion’s share of Independents, they could play a key role in giving him a strong finish.
Also, as with Wisconsin, the polls for Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania do not include Independents; i.e., only Democrats and Republicans who expect to vote in each state’s respective primary. It will be very interesting to see whether Independents continue to favor Obama in Wisconsin and how that might affect voting patterns on March 4 (Ohio and Texas.) It will also be of interest to see what play the media gives the Independent vote.
With registration open on the day of the primary, there can be no excuses for the Independent, or anyone else, not to get out and vote. Election 08 is shaping up to be a once in a generation event and you’ve got two chances to affect who will win it – now and in November. So vote.
In his book Revolutionary Characters (Penguin), Pulitzer Prize winning historian Gordon Wood takes on the issue of what made seven founders (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison and Paine) great. In his treatment of John Adams, Woods discusses how the concept of sovereignty in the United States emerged during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. In effect, sovereignty is not surrendered by the people to the government, but delegated to the branches of the government for specific purposes and periods of time, with those elected to serve subject to recall as the people see fit.
The idea of sovereignty remaining in the people was a departure from European models. In Europe, there were estates or orders of people (royals, aristocrats, clergy, commoners) each of which had claim to a part of the government; e.g. the House of Lords and the House of Commons. By our Constitution, the sovereignty of the people was delegated to elements of government, each of which acted as a check on the others, all in the interest of the people, each person of whom was born equal. This was radical.
But it also raised the issue of how the people were to delegate the authority of their sovereignty to their government. At the federal level, an elective process was established in the Constitution. But who was to organize the process of candidate selection among the 3 million people in a country stretching along 1,000 miles of coastline in the late 1700s?
With an emerging complexity of views on the issues of the day, the electorate soon found itself organizing political groupings, the most notable being the Federalists, who favored a stronger central government, and the Republicans, who favored a weaker one. Today’s Democrat Party tracks it origin to the latter, with today’s Republican Party reflecting the economic perspectives of the former. The parties, in short order, were to become the venue between the people and the government.
While political parties’ purposes are both noble and necessary, the parties themselves remain fallible. Sometimes they reflect more the goals and interests of their leaders than their members or the nation. Also, they can sometimes so link themselves to the structure and operation of government as to drain sovereignty away from the people into the bureaucracy, to the certain detriment of both the people and government. It is in this way that democracies can decline, can slip into tyranny.
The two party system, however, creates an environment wherein groups can combine their resources and meld their interests with a real hope of impact, even control. And since we delegate sovereignty to the separate branches of government, we can have an Executive branch of one party and a Legislative branch of the other. (Recently we had the Senate under one party, and the House under the other.) The risks of a tyranny of the majority, or even the minority, are thus greatly contained.
Today’s Independent is significantly advantaged by the two-party system. The Constitutional requirement of an absolute majority of electoral votes to win the presidency compels those seeking it to develop voter groupings on a range of issues and orientations under one party in order to win. And as one party gains the advantage, the other party seeks to grow its base and strengthen its impact. Absent the requirement of an absolute majority, the political process would likely fracture into multiple parties and factions leaving the Independent to sort among the splinters and all but assuring that his or her vote would go unnoticed and unregarded.
With only two candidates for whom to vote, Independents will generally have a clear choice, with exit polling giving them an identity and presence in the election. Independents, then, have an interest in the well being and proper functioning of each party. This primary season seems likely to give us a broader based Republican Party which can be expected to lessen partisanship in the legislative process. (See For the GOP, A Tonic Named McCain http://nationaljournal.com/rauch.htm by Jonathan Rauch, National Journal ) The Democrats, however, appear at great risk of a primary season closure that could wound it gravely. This is in the long term interests of no one.
Of the 20 primaries remaining, nine are open to Independents: Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin on February 19; Ohio, Texas, Vermont on March 4; Mississippi on March 11; Indiana on May 6; Montana on June 3. Get out there and vote, if for no other reason than to strength the system on which so much depends.