Friday, April 24, 2015

The Obamacare Blind Alley

Well, Maybe Tyrannical Jobs . . .
This summer the Supreme Court is going to rule on whether the federal subsidies that keep Obamacare affordable will be granted to states which have not set up a state exchange. If SCOTUS rules in favor of the government, all proceeds as normal. If not? Well, it's a devastating wound that gives Republicans a near final chance to kill it.

Or does it?

Senate GOP leaders are endorsing a bill to extend the subsidies to 2017 regardless of what happens with the courts--because the specter of millions of people suddenly losing insurance for [ whatever reason ] seems kind of ugly in the face of an on-rushing national election. Now, we all agree that it would be foolish to think that voters would blame Republicans for the strike-down of the bill. After all, no Republican voted for it--or had a hand in drafting it.

The court-case that brought the issue to the Supreme Court? Well, it wasn't done by the RNC, was it? Republicans are just totally by-standers watching this unfold with nary a dog in the fight, right? Right? Is this thing on? Of course savvy observers have noticed that somehow things like the ~50 votes to appeal Obamacare by the GOP, promises to get rid of it, and other court-cases which were avidly promoted by Republicans seem to somehow have tarred the GOP with being a force behind the current attempt.

It's totally unfair to stick them with it--but some people think that's how it just might play out.

And if voters who like their healthcare saw Republicans as the people who took it away? They might--might possibly--vote against them. Now, even worse, these selfish people might also have loved ones (if a healthcare parasite can truly be said to have anyone who loves them)--and those people could possibly betray their nation and vote against Republicans too.

This is totally unfair.

But it could happen.

Now, admittedly, most right-thinking Republicans are flummoxed by this. After all, the disaster that is Obamacare has been well documented. For one thing, it's NOT lowering the number of uninsured people:
And Who Trusts Gallup, Anyway?
For another thing, coverage is NOT the same as healthcare: most people on Obamacare can't even get to see a doctor. Before Obamacare, a person who was sick might have a wait-time of mere minutes--well, a few hours at most--in an emergency room. But now? The lines are down the block--like for Jaws. People with Obamacare--seriously sick people--have to camp outside like yuppies trying to buy an Apple Watch. Check this out:
They'll Mostly Be Dead by Death Panels By The Time They Get In There Anyway
And for those of us who aren't on Obamacare? Our premiums have surged--just like we were warned they would. Look at this chart showing how healthcare costs have increased since Obamacare was passed:
In 1999 Obama Destroyed The Healthcare Industry
So it's hard to see how anything this unpopular could be a political liability. Ever since it passed it's just gotten less and less popular. The graph looks like this:
When Those Streams Cross, It's Gonna Be Like Ghostbusters ...
So it's really, really difficult to see what Senate Republicans are so scared of.

A Canary In The Coal Mine: James Web And The Hillary Reversal
James Web of the YouTube channel Hot Lead Retired about his love of shooting guns. He's a life-long Republican and self-described hillbilly. He's pushing 50 and took a job that gave him a retirement package at that time so, after serving his 35 years, he could enjoy life. It sounds like a good plan--kinda--but a few days ago he unleashed released a video a few days ago saying he might . . . might . . . vote for Hillary in 2016.


Well, it turns out: she probably won't repeal Obamacare and so he won't have to go back to work for 15 years to keep his healthcare. This selfish perspective brought down a torrent of outrage from former allies and some slaps on the back--and some sneering--from former enemies. He recanted--apparently he'll vote 'R' and stop being a leech on our great nation--but he's still getting hate mail which he reads on YouTube.

Now Webb is an isolated incident--probably a brutally small minority: after all, most people in Republican states aren't getting Obamacare subsidies . . . Well, wait--actually, the opposite is true. Most red states didn't create their own exchanges. That's kind of weird.

What Happens Next?
The GOP move for preemptive damage control is a rational one--but it could not be more poorly timed. For an electoral base which has been promised again and again (and again--oh, baby) that there will be a full repeal, making moves to "extend" the subsidies in the face of a potential SCOTUS victory seems like not just snatching defeat from the jaws of victory but actually moving to prop open those jaws so they can't close in the first place: it's throwing the game.

And remember how the government shutdown was "delayed" with the "wait until we win the Senate" excuse? Yeah: the GOP won the Senate and then . . . no shutdown: Amnesty continued (or would have, if not for that meddling activist judge). In short, the temporary fix isn't all that convincing.

This is all, of course, because the GOP has never met a blind-alley of partisan politics it didn't like. The need to fight--to fight Obama--is paramount--above any actual policy or outcome concerns. When your highest order is to battle, you are necessarily going to get into fights you can't win.

This is one of them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Horrible Secret of Walmart and Jade Helm

I was asked to write about Operation Jade Helm, a military training exercise conducted outside of Federal lands (i.e. out in civilian territory) involving inter-agency communication and operations. It simulates an invasion on American soil and involves special operations forces. It's also driving conspiracy theorists nuts. How come?

Well, the primary reason is that conspiracy theorists tend to feel they are on the "losing side" of life/politics and things like this provide the siren-song promise of validation--the See-I-Told-You-So-I-Was-Right-All-Along feeling that apparently compels crystal-meth users.

For people who feel like they lost America in 2008 and then doubly lost it 2012, the idea of a fire-and-brimstone washing-away of America would, in its way, be welcome: for the preppers, it would give them a chance to use their toys and play soldier. For the angry SoCons, it would visit the wrath they long for on everyone else (especially those who voted for Obama). Basically, a government take-over would be proof-positive that conspiracy theorists aren't losers, aren't crazy, and were, well, right about everything.

A second reason is that as an emotional protection a lot of people have adopted is a barrier of political cynicism that leads them to conclude that anything the government is saying must be a lie. If the government tells you it's Monday? Gotta be Tuesday. This protection, you tell yourself, prevents you from being a sucker.

That's what you tell yourself. Unfortunately:
It'll make sense if you click the link . . .

The fact is that if the government were really trying to take over America? The cost of trying to take-and-hold something of the size and population distribution of the continental US--not to mention as heavily armed as the US is? The numbers are astronomical. We couldn't afford it. Seriously: The cost of occupying Iraq was 4 Trillion dollars--with a 'T.' The population of Iraq is 33 Million. The US, over 300 Million.
That Red Blob is Iraq
Imagine trying to take-and-hold the US. How about number of guns per capita?
During 2008, the height of the population, we had 157,000 troops in Iraq. The entire TSA with its spooky tons-of-bullets? About 100k people all together. A lot of those people are desk-jockeys. Their bad-ass special forces? Dumpy airport screeners.

Suppose the evil US government wants to turn us into a North Korea-like police state? How many troops would it take? Well, Nork has a staggering (highest-by-a-mile) of 47.8 active duty troops per 1000 people. The United States of America? We're oh . . .  uhm . . . not  . . . well, we're 4.7. We'd need about 10x as many troops assuming our population density was similar and the so on.

In other words, if you think the US Government could take-and-hold the United States by force? The Omnivore is embarrassed for you.

But what about Walmart?

Okay--well, let's go . . .

The Walmart Conspiracy Tunnels
There's a video from "Professor Doom1" who has made an incredible discovery: he has found a person with a 'well researched' (yes, seriously) map of underground tunnels that connect Walmarts. The person's on-screen handle is RiseTogether and she provides what Prof Doom1 calls explosive information. She found this map--and here it is:
That's One Well-Researched, Convincing Map Right There . . . 
This map purports to link, uhm, Walmarts together through, uhm, underground tunnels. These tunnels? They are going to be used to transport troops from Canada (yes, watch the movie) into the United States by stealth (because they're underground). Walmarts in strategic locations have been closing for "plumbing issues"--but we know the truth: they're going to be used by FEMA to house dissidents.

Or, maybe to repair their plumbing. It's hard to be certain at this point--but look closely at the above: The Bundy Ranch is RIGHT AT A DOT. True: there are a bazillion dots--but THE BUNDY RANCH IS ON ONE OF THEM. IT'S A SIGN.

This, folks, this is seriously in the video, our spokes-guy (bravely standing INSIDE A WALMART) tells us that SIX stores have closed. Are they being prepared? Prepared for housing dissidents? You could get a lot of angry people into a Walmart as anyone who has shopped at one on Black Friday can attest. Could this be happening? HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?
Seriously, folks, if you live near a closed Walmart . . . or a dot on that well-researched tunnel map? The Omnivore would shop somewhere else. After all, there might be a reason the US Government has been printing all that money. No one has ever said why that is yet, have they?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Would-You-Could-You: Gotchas For Democrats

Much has been made recently of the latest gotcha-question being thrown at Republican nominees by the press: Would You Attend a Gay Wedding? The answers have varied based on both the candidate's own moral compass and their positioning within the GOP horse race. For example:
And so on--now, the fact of the matter here is that this just isn't an especially interesting question. Whether or not the President of the United States would personally attend a wedding is, to put it mildly, not a key concern. You can ask what position they support. You can ask what faith they belong to--but the question is an attempt to identify and expose hypocrisy. If the candidate would support a gay loved one--but not the gander in general, are they a total hypocrite who should be disqualified from running for office?

Has the reporter ever committed hypocrisy? Yes. Should that disqualify them from trying to pin that on others? Maybe. Does it? Clearly not. There's your answer.

But there's a deeper element at work here--and it's this: either (a) the press simply will not ask Democrats these gotcha questions showing proof of their left-wing bias or Democrats just aren't as susceptible to the charge of hypocrisy as Republicans. Is one of these more right than the other? Could it be both? Let's look.

The litmus test here is to look at uncomfortable questions for Democrats--they do exist--and determine if they are not being asked either because the media is leftist or because these questions are not fundamentally interesting. 

How Will We Tell?
It turns out that there is a good measure for determining whether or not a gotcha question is 'worth asking.' It's this: A Gotcha-Question is one whose answer serves to isolate the candidate's base-voters or expose hypocrisy. This is why, for example, Santorum has no problem with the question while Rubio has to choose a "Third Way" answer. This is because anyone voting for Santorum is voting for a culture warrior while Rubio wants everyone to vote for him.

In this case, asking Hillary if she eats meat will separate her from, for example, ultra-left-wing PETA people--but Hillary isn't trying to win them over anyway. It's an easy question for her. Try asking her about her gulf-war vote . . .

So if, for a question, the answer that satisfies the Democratic base will alienate moderates, then it's a good gotcha question and, if there are any substantial number of these, it seems that if the press isn't asking them, that press-bias. On the other hand, if there exists a decent anodyne answer that the candidate can easily give then it's a lousy question and we know why it isn't being asked: it doesn't have divisive power.

The Questions
Let's go get a list of questions! Our hypothetical target is Hillary Clinton. These questions are not about Benghazi or her specific tenures in office--but rather about her feelings on hypotheticals or larger policy issues where she may be exposing hypocrisy or might have to choose a divisive position. Here are some links with "gotcha questions for Democrats"--we'll use some of them.
Question: Should a woman have the right to choose a cosmetic or sex-selection abortion?
This question goes directly after the stance that "An abortion is a choice between a woman and her doctor" that Democrats have promoted. It does so by asking if there is any reason too petty to end a pregnancy. This is an interesting question in that it forces either an unpalatable answer ("Sure! Why not?") or tries to trap the candidate into drawing a line somewhere and then being forced to haggle over it.

Anodyne Answer: Personally, no--of course not. However I think there are many legitimate reasons a woman might make a choice to have an abortion and I want to see that we do not unduly restrict a woman's right to make that choice under legitimate circumstances.

The Problem: While the question hits on a good weak-spot--that abortion isn't popular across a wide spectrum of people--the problem with this is that no Democrat is championing sex-selection abortions while some high-profile Republicans are suggesting there be no exception for rape/incest--or that rape must be "legitimate" (reported, forcible, etc.). In other words, this only looks symmetric. It isn't. Now, there are undoubtedly some Democrats who would happily allow abortions in any/all circumstances--and that could be toxic--but none of them have to say that. There's no sex-selection abortion base.

Grade [ C ]: It's a decent question on a logical basis--but it fails to rile up the Democratic base when presented with a bland answer.

Question: Would you vote in favor of polygamous or incestuous marriage? If not, aren't you discriminating?
The Democratic stance that marriage can be between a man-and-a-man does seem to open the door to: What if they're, uh, brothers? Or, how about, "Seen that show Sister Wives?" The key differentiatior that liberals like when confronted with the pedophilia or bestiality comparison--that of consent, which neither children nor animals can give--doesn't apply to grown-up combinations that still leave people queasy.

Anodyne Answer: No, I don't. I do believe in the right of two people who love each other to get married regardless of their genders.

The Problem: While the key distinction of consent does indicate a possible strain of hypocrisy, the fact is that there's no (or very little) incest/polygamy lobby. Certainly the Democratic base isn't interested in it and the reporter will still be unable to compel an answer. Worse: the question is going to be kind  of offensive to a lot of people--especially young people who support SSM--so it may wind up doing more harm than good.

Grade [ D ]: This gets a bad grade because it fails to recognize that ideological devotion to principal is not what most people care about in terms of social policy. This is why robots and AI's freak out when confronted with a logical paradox and people don't. The truth of the matter is that the Overton Window has accepted same-sex-marriage and trying to rules-lawyer your way around that isn't going to work.

Question: Should a Christian baker be forced to bake a satanist wedding cake? How about a Jewish baker a Nazi cake? Should a Muslim baker be forced to bake a gay wedding cake?  
The three part question is interesting because it divides things up nicely. In the first one, a Christian is forced (?) to bake a cake for someone we all pretty much agree is unsavory. In the second, if you're a consistent liberal you wind up defending Nazis. For the third it's a privilege show-down: Who wins?

Anodyne Answer: I believe that the question here is around whether or not we accept Same-Sex Unions or allow discrimination at the bakery, the altar, or the lunch counter. I support Same-Sex Unions.

The Problem: The problem here is that (a) there is no satanist nor Nazi lobby and (b) the concept of "protected classes of people" exists already and while it doesn't include everyone it may soon include gay people--but not satanists. In that last case, it's an easy "Yes, the Muslim guy? In America? He oughta be forced to." The candidate isn't going to lose votes over that.

The problem here is that the candidate isn't going to lose votes over any of these. You can even say that being a satanist shouldn't be protected (so "Nope--no cake for you") and detractors have to get into the homosexuality-is-a-choice thing . . . which is a trap.

Grade [ C ]: The reason this gets a marginal grade is because people are--or should be--sympathetic to Christian bakers who are sincere about their religious issues with this. Things have changed pretty quickly and there's very little love for someone caught in the cultural rip-tides. Still, as a 'gotcha' this isn't going to "getcha" much.

Question: If Women-Only gyms are okay, how about Men-Only golfing clubs? Is it okay to be 'racist' or 'sexist' in promoting places for women or minorities--but not white males?
Ahh, 'privilege'--a concept that is self-damaging by its very name. Are you, dear reader, privileged? Why yes--you were practically born with a silver spoon in your mouth, sociologically speaking (The Omnivore knows his reader's demographics). What's that? You don't feel like Mitt Romney? Bad ally! Bad! No biscuit!!

Forcing a candidate to split the hairs of privilege is actually pretty good: that's a battle from which no one comes away unscathed.

Anodyne Answer: No good one. You can dissemble but there is no answer to this that will satisfy everyone.

The Problem: The problem here is for the left. The reason it is 'okay' (if it is okay) to have women-only places is because 'everywhere else is a man's place'--and because 'deals are made in the private rooms of men's power' and because 'men rule the world.' However true that is or is not (and check the stats: pretty much true) the articulation of this is not going to be easy, simple, or clean.

Maybe someone can say "Look, what the heck do you care if women have their own gym--do guys really want to go to a pink colored gym?" But the fact of the matter is that (a) the gym won't actually be pink--probably--it'll be a normal gym--and (b) guys might actually want to go to a guy's-only-club. A candidate won't be able to take a good stand on it.

Worse, there's two competing demographics: women--which Democrats do well with and want to keep . . . and blue-collar white men who feel under attack from the forces of political progressiveness. An answer that's firmly on either side of the line will make someone feel slighted.

Grade [ B ]: Unfortunately, while a good question--because it can force an error--it isn't actually much of an issue. There just isn't a lot going on here and if the candidate dodges it they aren't going to get beat up for NOT giving the right answer. Women voters are turning out to protect their 'Curves' gyms in 2016.

Question: Would you outlaw guns if given the option? Do you feel the 2nd Amendment is outdated? How do you feel about an Assault Weapon Ban?
Liberals, generally speaking, favor gun control and, even 'better,' most liberal voters don't own guns so they have no real skin in the game. Legal? Illegal? Doesn't matter to them. It's also a politically losing issue: gun control is a third-rail so if you can get someone to touch it? BZZZZTTT. Like a bug-zapper for Democrats!

Anodyne Answer: I support expanded background checks for gun purchases! Close the gun-show loophole! Crazy people should not be allowed to purchase guns over the Internet! Who wants crazy people--or those with criminal backgrounds to own guns?? Also: you don't need an automatic rifle with a 100-round clip for hunting, do you?

[ The Omnivore can catalog all the problems with that statement--but most people can't ]

The Problem: The problem is that no one has to say the 2nd Amendment is outdated--no matter how the question is posed. They can stick to expanded background checks which remain popular in theory and throw in some misconceptions about gun shows and assault rifles and most people will think the answer makes sense even if it's avoiding the question.

Basically? There's an easy out here and all you have to do is signal to liberals that you think too many people have giant guns while proposing no real policy changes that will really alarm moderate gun owners.

Grade [ C ]: This has potential to do damage if handled well but it's easy for politicians to avoid. It also, again, today, isn't much of an issue.

Question: How many illegal immigrants should we let into our country? If there are already 11 million here, how many more would you let in, considering that you wouldn't build a wall or improve border security to keep them out? An infinite number . . . or just, like, all of Mexico?
Liberals want to talk about 'undocumented immigrants' who are already here--but what if you could force them to talk about the future? If they're not willing to spend a heck of a lot of money securing the border--and they're not--no one is, actually, the cost to build a secure southern border borders on astronomical (see what The Omnivore did there?)--then are they just willing to open the doors?

Anodyne Answer: I support immigration reform and strong borders. We need a plan for the people already here and we need to take steps to reduce illegal immigration. I support the immigration plan the Senate put together.

The Problem: The problem is that there was a bi-lateral plan that was floated--but then fell apart. This gives, as conservatives feared it would, air-cover for amnesty. On the other hand, if you can drive towards making the person admit that nothing short of war-footing at the Rio Grande will staunch the flow of immigrants then you can probably score points with a big portion of the populace.

Grade [ B ]: The answer for illegal immigrants really is to make the job market so hard to get into that they just don't try. E-verification of workers, stiff fines for companies hiring illegals, hotlines to call and turn your illegal-hiring boss in, and so on? Those will work: if you make it too risky to hire illegals you will cut down on immigration without having to station an infantry man every 30 yards.

This, however, is pretty unpalatable to liberals and to Latino voters so if you can steer the conversation in that direction, it's a potential win.

Question: You say you believe in evolution and global warming . . . can you explain [ X ] (where [ X ] is some complicated question that is hard for a lay-person to answer).
Ahh, Science-Denial-ism--the petard of the SoCon. The unsavory truth of the matter is that a lot of people believe in Science without really understanding it. Most of us can't explain why climate change makes winters colder if the atmosphere is heating up--and politicians trying are going to stumble around like Sarah Palin trying to recap Paul Revere's ride.

That'll be awesome TV.

Anodyne Answer: I'm not a scientist--but the VAST majority of the scientists who study this believe in natural forces at work and/or man-caused climate change.

The Problem: The VAST majority of the scientists who study this stuff agree on the scientific explanations.

Grade [ F ]: So long as the politician doesn't try to explain it, siding with a VAST majority of scientists is pretty safe. It's like if you got a diagnosis from a respected and trusted doctor--and then went to fifty other top medical authorities and they all said the same thing ("Yep, it's gout") . . . you'd have to be pretty thick to trust the one dude who swears your 'humors' are out of alignment and wants to 'rotate your chakras' or something.

Question: How much SHOULD CEOs make? The ones who donated to your campaigns? How about movie/sports stars? Same amount? Should, uhm, speaking fees fall into that category? How high should the Federal minimum wage be if it winds up closing stores?
This tries to tie a few things together--firstly there's "name a specific number" question which is always good for a stumble. Secondly, it goes after donors and ties the candidate to fat-cats. A side-swipe at celebrities and sports heroes doesn't hurt. Trying to throw in the minimum-wage-puts-you-out-of-a-job thing . . . not a bad try.

Anodyne Answer: "Income Inequality is a major driver of wage stagnation in this country and we should take responsible action to reduce it. Do you think it's right that a CEO makes 700-times what a factory floor worker makes? I don't--I think a more reasonable division is the right answer. We're already seeing responsible employers like Target and even Wallmart raising their minimum wages . . . My opponent doesn't believe in raising the minimum wage because he wants to keep corporate profits high without benefiting middle class workers."

The Problem: The problem with trying to pin someone to a number is that when they dodge it and talk about the blunt facts of income inequality they're still kinda answering the question. Also: raising the minimum wage a little polls well. Raising it to 15.00 might not--but no one has to sign on to that number.

And here's the real problem: if the other side is against raising the minimum wage that's not going to stack up well.

Grade [ D ]: Income inequality is real enough--and hot enough--that even guys like Mitt Romney have had to adopt some of the rhetoric. The minimum wage may not be the best--or even the right--battlefield to fight it on but it is the most visible and easily understood. It also sits in people's minds as "trickle up" economics: if you raise the minimum wage by two bucks, won't everyone get a $2.00 raise?

Probably not--but if that's what it sounds like that's a winner: who doesn't want a a two-dollar raise?

The frustrating thing for the gotcha-haters is that for the most part the liberal constituencies are not looking for a cultural battle fought in the political arena. They're fine with teaching about the extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years before man showed up, with blindly parroting the scientific consensus on global warming, with protecting gay people as a class--but not Nazis or polygamists--and with expanding handgun checks without needing a constitutional convention to get rid of the 2nd.

In other words, they're comparatively moderate. Part of that is because in a lot of these realms they're winning right now (the turn of the tide on SSM is pretty shocking). Part of it is because their need-to-fight happened a while back with Roe-vs-Wade and Women-Getting-The-Vote and so on. The angry radicalism of the 60's has undergone nuclear decay to a kind of background radiation of social messaging in Hollywood and society that makes it okay to be gay, alright to be pro-soldier-but-anti-war, and fine to be upset about the rich while not actually wanting to "eat them."

This is one reason that "Judicial Activism" has switched from a left-wing thing to a right-wing thing: right now the right is looking for judicial solutions to stand against public opinion the way the left did decades ago. The net result of this is that the left will have an easier time with gotchas than the right--and so they're not as interesting.

That's why we aren't seeing more of them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

2016: Proxy For The Culture Wars?

#HillaryFunCamp - From the Indispensable People's Cube
Charles Krauthammer makes an interesting observation:
Clinton’s unchangeability, however, is the source of her uniqueness as a candidate: She’s a fixed point. She is who she is. And no one expects — nor would anyone really believe — any claimed character change.
Accordingly, voters’ views about her are equally immutable. The only variable, therefore, in the 2016 election lies on the other side, where the freedom of action is almost total. It all depends on who the Republicans pick and how the candidate performs.
Hillary is a stationary target. You know what you’re getting. She has her weaknesses: She’s not a great campaigner, she has that unshakable inauthenticity problem and, regarding the quality most important to getting elected, she is barely, in the merciless phrase of candidate Obama in 2008, “likable enough.”

But she has her strengths: discipline, determination, high intelligence, great energy. With an immense organization deploying an obscene amount of money. And behind that, a Democratic Party united if not overly enthusiastic.
Boiled down, what he's saying is that with her name-recognition at the (his words) "papal" stage, she's basically already run for president. Everyone knows her. Everyone has an opinion. While, yeah, there may be a scandal that takes her down or some new piece of evidence, it appears she is already vetted--and scandals? Well, the one that takes her out needs to involve handcuffs because everything else has been tried.

Compare this to Scott Walker. Walker is, in The Omnivore's opinion, potentially the strongest candidate in the GOP field. He is capable of uniting the party--a for-real conservative who isn't crazy. Normal people--ordinary moderates--the big-foot-level-elusive Swing Voters--those guys? They could punch the ticket for Walker. He's no kind of embarrassment like, say, Donald Trump.

In his home state of Wisconsin, Walker trails Hillary Clinton by a 12-pt margin:
In a head-to-head matchup, Walker trailed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton 52% to 40%. Clinton also led all the other likely Republican candidates.
This begs* the question: What, exactly, is going to change here?

The Theory: The Debates!
What's going to change is Walker's name-recognition. Hillary's positives are likely immutable for Democrats--and probably largely immutable for non-Republicans. If Obama's numbers have been stationary for six years, it is hard to see what could cause a precipitous decline in a matter of months for Clinton. More banging on Benghazi?

Probably the most Red State Omnivore-Reader doesn't believe that'll help.

No, what will change is that Walker will become better known to more people. He'll get to show himself off to people who've never met him and make his case. It worked in Wisconsin--a pretty darn blue state--it can work elsewhere too.

That's Krauthammer's point: the GOP needs to introduce someone who at least balances the scales in the right way. Maybe Walker is that guy?

Maybe. Maybe not: he's now underwater in his home state where he is, one would think, pretty darn well known:
MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette Law School Poll finds Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval rating has fallen to 41 percent, with 56 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin saying they disapprove of how he is handling his job as governor. In the previous poll, in October 2014, Walker’s approval among registered voters was 49 percent, with 47 percent disapproving.
Now, those are over specific Wisconsin issues--after all, Walker has won election there twice--and handily. And he beat a recall attempt--but what if the trajectory of his national roll-out was less elastic than one might think? Why would that be?

Begun, These Culture Wars Have
Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, examines the latest Pew Poll and finds cause for concern:
Pollsters have long found that many who call themselves independents are, in reality, partisans; they vote consistently for one side almost as much as those who initially say they identify with a party. When Pew combined the initial number of party-identifiers with independents' leanings, the gap in favor of Democrats stayed much the same. It peaked in 2008, with Democrats and Democratic-leaners at 51 percent to Republicans' 35 percent, but by 2010, the gap had narrowed to 47 percent for Democrats and 40 percent for Republicans. The numbers have stabilized since, with Democrats at either 48 or 49 percent in each of the last four years and Republicans at 39 or 40 percent.
The gap looks like this:

Now this is all Americans--not likely voters--but it still represents a problem (the one Cook calls out: that Democrats have stabilized while Republican identification and leaning has fallen behind). This is important because the context of the two party system--especially at the national-election/presidential level--is now embedded in the culture wars:
More than ever, presidential politics is about something other than politics. It's about culture, identity, signaling, and symbolism. In a country of 318 million people, in which there is no shared religious conviction, no shared ethnicity, and increasingly no common culture or moral consensus about marriage and sex, and in which the burden of what is typically a nation's greatest act of collective endeavor and sacrifice (war) has been offloaded to a tiny segment of the population that voluntarily bears the burden largely out of public sight and mind — in such a centerless country, with a media culture that fixates on image, style, and symbolism, a single nationwide quadrennial election in which every adult citizen can participate has taken on existential overtones.

More than affirming his or her ideology or policy proposals, we want to be able to look at a presidential candidate and say: "That's me. That's who I am. That's how I see America."
The article is by Damon Linker and The Omnivore, with his emphasis on branding as the key element of party identification, believes this is true: if Walker adopts the GOP Brand--which he more or less must--it is entirely likely that rather than the GOP Brand becoming Scott Walker, he'll just be the GOP candidate. If he's losing right now to Hillary, it may be that since he can't change his party affiliation, he can't actually move the dial.

In other words: if Blue beats Red today, the way to fix that may not be with a good candidate, as Krauthammer says--but with a massive, national re-branding exercise--which is not what the 2016 elections will be.

It's a sobering thought.

Of course things aren't that simple. The right candidate--a very charismatic one--can, in fact, re-brand a party: we saw that with Reagan. We saw that with Obama (Obama's candidacy was not the evolution of Dukakis and Kerry, after all). Could it happen with Walker? Maybe? Rubio? More likely (he seems more organically charismatic--we'll see).

But this--and not the platform, the ideas, or, to a degree, even the normal differentiators the candidates adopt will be what determines the election (that, and, well, scandals and other Black Swan events, of course--if Hillary is arrested for some reason, that will change the game). On the other hand, if Walker just runs as the GOP candidate--if he plays to the base--if he trudges towards the middle?

That isn't going to change how people feel about Clinton. It might not move the dial at all.

* Yes, yes, you philosophy-twit: it ought to be poses. Feel better?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Who WOULD Vote For Hillary??

Cokie Roberts estimates the number '3' as the count of people who won't vote for Hillary Clinton because of the email-scandal. Neo-Neocon is too jaded and cynical to be shocked and/or appalled by this: She chocks it up to the Democrat's identity politics:
That’s the way it is these days. Clinton’s support (and Obama’s support before her) is untethered from the usual things like performance, ethics, corruption, secrecy, mendacity. That’s one of the beautiful things about identity politics and identity candidates. If a candidate’s support rests not on what he/she accomplishes in office or qualities of character, but instead depends on inherent and fixed qualities such as race or gender, then things like this don’t matter and won’t drive away many voters.
. . .
Hillary Clinton is a woman, an identity candidate. She also happens to be the only candidate the Democrats have got. So I offer a caveat: if the Democrats had another viable candidate, I think the emails would matter (as well as Hillary’ age and general unlikeability) and she would not be a shoo-in for the nomination. In 2008, one of the many things that happened was that Obama’s identity politics—as well as his youth, newness, and general “likeability” (although I’ve never really perceived that latter trait, it apparently exists)—trumped Hillary’s.
The Omnivore is, honestly, a big fan of Neo-Neocon and, honestly, was a bit surprised to see her trot out the Democrats-Are line of discourse. While it is possible to speak in fact-based generalities (Republican base voters are statistically older than Democrats) the pop-psychology approach is lacking in rigor, subject to a myriad of internal biases, and is, really, a projection of what the speaker thinks The Other is like rather than analysis.

The question is why isn't this analysis--is it projection? Is it something else?

Let's Look!
In her post, Neo-Neocon lays out a few "Democrats-Are" precepts:
  1. They vote for the candidate based on who/what he is--rather than what he represents. This is done for ideological reasons (such as because the candidate is black).
  2. The candidate MUST be a Democrat and support the platform--or be further left!
  3. Their unfailing support for Hillary is based on the sense she is the only candidate available. If there were others, perhaps some would be concerned with her unlikablility and age.
The Omnivore asserts there are three possibilities for this cluster (a) she's right! If Neo-Neocon is correct then Democrats, unlike Republicans are clearly and always going for the far-left ideological candidate no matter their failings. (b) It's projection. Does she see in others what she doesn't like in herself? How about (c) It's a confirmation bias error blind spot: there are other rationales for what she's seeing--but she can't see them.

Ideological Leanings
Do Democrats vote for people solely based on the color of their skin--or maybe their gender? Is that the sole reason Hillary is dominating Joe Biden?

It's True: Neo-Neocon can let that one right out: Elizabeth Warren is both a woman and further left than Hillary Clinton. If the Democrats were voting their Communism we'd have 'Fauxahontas' leading the pack.

It's Projection: There is, thankfully, no evidence that Neo-Neocon would include or exclude a candidate based on their intrinsics. She's pretty thoughtful and, while she didn't like Herman Cain much, she did defend him against the allegations when they were pretty baseless (the early days of the Bimbo-Meltdown).

It's A Blind Spot: For this to work there has to be another reason for the Democrat's behavior other than raw She's-A-Woman. The obvious one is that they want to win. Hillary out-polls all the Republicans by a decent amount and all the other Democrats by a land-slide. It's also fair to note that Hillary hasn't slid left--she didn't advocate breaking up the big banks. She hasn't taken an Any-Abortion-Any-Time stance. She doesn't seem to feel the urge to cater to Code Pink.

Any Democrat In A Storm
Neo-Neocon thinks that Republicans, in the position of Democrats, would . . . find another candidate (hopefully?) if their front-runner was as morally damaged as Hillary is. She also thinks that Democrats will just fall in line behind whoever bears the 'D' label because they're brainwashed or something. How's that fare?

It's True: The Omnivore supposes the basis for this is the re-election of Obama in 2012--by a decent margin. How can you square that with his horrible record in office? The answer is that Bush started a war to get the WMD's and came home without WMD's--but a botched Nation-Building attempt and Americans torturing people in the same prison where Saddam Hussein tortured people--just doing it on camera (unlike Saddam who was a savvy enough torturer not to take pictures) and still won reelection over a mushy (but rich) Massachusetts Moderate (John Kerry). Neo-Neocon won't admit it-but she felt a chill up her spine reading that.

It's Projection: The Omnivore doesn't know if Neo-Neocon voted for W. in 2004 but it seems likely. Perhaps she is projecting that event (after all, the economy did melt down on his watch and he launched TARP) onto Democrats? Possible. Consider that she also fell in behind Romney. Now, that's acceptable--but for someone who likes the way, way, way more conservative Scott Walker this time around (Neo-Neocon is also no fool: Walker's a good choice) her warmth towards Romney might be a little . . . suspect. After all, he wasn't really a severe conservative, was he?

It's A Blind Spot: Will the Democratic base pick any 'D' over any 'R'? Probably--jersyism, right? If I'm a hard-blue guy, it's My-Team all the way. But, erm . . . what about . . . Asian voters? Who maybe felt turned off by the GOP's Real-American rhetoric? How about . . . erm, young voters, who maybe see the--dunno--confederate flag at some conservative rallies as kinda racist? Or see the gay-marriage thing through the lens of interracial marriage (or maybe read the Pew polling and recognize that a lot of GOP constituency voters still don't like interracial marriage either?). Maybe those generic young voters are voting 'D' for some actually extant reasons?

What if the GOP really did have branding problems that were turning people off? Would Neo-Neocon see it? Would she understand that the few-bad-apples theory does not end with "the bunch" being just fine? Hmm ...

Concerns About Hillary's Likability
Neo-Neocon conjectures that in addition to being dirty, were there another reasonable candidate, might Democrats get turned off at her not being likable? Hmm . . . maybe?

It's True: Hillary is not especially likable. She's been (or thinks she has been) under assault for decades from the right. That's made her bitter. She's also apparently never been the most likable person in the world anyway. Is that a problem for President? Maybe--but Nixon doesn't seem very likable and he won. G. Bush Sr. wasn't a fountain of charisma either. Maybe voters are keying on other things?

It's Projection: Let's go to the tape--Neo-Neocon's blog:
Newt is not likable, but Romney isn’t especially likable either, for completely different reasons. They both have flipflopped on issues, but (as Krauthammer points out) Gingrich is seen as having advanced a true conservative agenda years ago, whereas Romney is seen as “ideologically unreliable.”
She had concerns--but there was no one else (alas)--so she backed the Romster.

It's A Blind Spot: The Omnivore has it on authority that Hillary may not be super-duper likable but she is likable enough.  . . . no . . . can't keep a straight face either.

What's Going On?
What's going on is a combination of confirmation bias and projection--much of it driven by fear. Losing elections hurts and while Hillary may not be a favorite to win the election, she's a good bet for an even-odds-at-worst candidate . . . and if she manages her roll out? Runs a good campaign? If the GOP makes any of their 'signature' mistakes--if Rush Limbaugh shoots his mouth off about women--or any nonsense like that? Hillary could be a nightmare candidate.

The Omnivore tracked numerous rumors or bits of punditry saying Hillary wouldn't run anyway--that she was very sick--or about to be arrested. The fact is that however bad Hillary is, she's a total winner compared to the other potential Democrats and the Republicans know it. A bunch of voters even see her as the candidate in the race most representing the future. She's 67. Can you believe it?

Fear of another "Obama-ing" is part of the problem. The other problem is that Neo-Neocon has ingested a toxic narrative--that narrative is that Obama is an unmitigated disaster and anyone with their eyes open can clearly see that. To be sure, his intervention in Libya has gone far south. Now it was backed by the international community, yes, much like Iraq--and unlike the WMD, they actually got Kadaffy--but never mind that--his economy has been stagnant (except for the stock market) and gas prices have . . . well . . .

The point here isn't that Obama is great--it's that the big picture is tough to get an objective handle on. Confirmation bias is tricky. Narratives are powerful. To the Republicans, 2012 was supposed to be the I-Told-You-So election where black people, the young, and unmarried women slunk back into their bedrooms, never to vote again, so disappointed were they with Obama's tenure.

That was why the presumed demographics for the GOP looked more like 2010 or 2006 than 2008. This was the "thinking person's" explanation for why they got the polling wrong (of course the actual polling agencies didn't get it wrong--at least not in aggregate--which makes you wonder why they weren't snowed). Still, this narrative blinded a lot of bright people the blatant fact that Obama's favorable ratings were between 45-and-50%.

Clearly a lot of people liked him.

When the mind sees something it can't make sense of, it does what it can. This leads, in the political realm, to extrapolative assumptions that the general electorate is just "checked out," that half the country is just bought off. That black people are "voting their race" or voting for Obamaphones--and so on. These 'explanations' stand in for a real look at the evidence and confound the ability to see another perspective (as someone who knows from the Big Banks, The Omnivore can tell you he's glad Obama's not left like Elizabeth Warren is--and thus, The Omnivore knows at least one line where the Communism stops . . .).

We all have blind-spots--but if you catch yourself making gross generalizations about half of the populace? You're really just saying more about yourself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who's Gonna Win 2016?

Somewhere Howard Dean Is Going "Oh, C'mon . . ."
Jonathan Chait goes all-in declaring that Hillary is set to win the presidential election next year. His reasoning?
  1. The Emerging Democratic Majority is real! He cites the new Pew survey which shows, yeah, more people identify as Dem/Lean Dem . . . by like 9pts (that's a lot).
  2. Youngsters are NOT going Republican. He cites Pew again.
  3. Clinton isn't THAT unpopular. He shows the polling.
  4. Obama is trending UP! He shows more polling.
  5. Is it REALLY time for a change? He takes on the no-three-in-a-row theory with the idea that today, with massive polarization, things are 'different.'
  6. There's no alternative! Republicans are crazy.
FiveThirtyEight throws cold water on this theory (and Nate Silver throws an additional elbow, adding that when a pundit declares a minor-misstep a 'game changer' it's time to find someone else to follow on Twitter) and finds 2016, right now, an even-odds toss-up.
  1. Obama's approval rating has been more or less fixed his whole term. It ain't going anywhere and it stands at roughly 50-50 (a little less).
  2. The economy isn't ALL that matters--but it matters--and there's no saying where it'll be in 2016.
  3. That Democratic "Blue Wall" is more a function of Obama winning than the mechanism of Obama winning. It's not as hard-and-fast as people make it sound.
  4. The Graph. FiveThirtyEight always includes a graph--which Vox then promptly steals. In this case? THIS IS THEIR GRAPH!!
Pretty Sure Ezra Klein Made This. Let Me Link It . . .
Their argument is that Hillary is well known--but no one is especially well liked (maybe Carson?). So, hey, no advantage to anyone.

Princeton Electoral Consortium takes The Graph, turns it ON ITS SIDE and ... uh ...
Okay, A Little More Modification Than On. It's. Side
Note that I have not done the cute 45-degree rotation that was the signature of the original FiveThirtyEight graphic. That was clever…maybe too clever, because it obscured important features in the actual data. When the analysis is the story, that can be a danger sign.Here are three major features I see in the data set.
  1. Hillary Clinton has massive name recognition. She is as well-known as a sitting President.
  1. As of today, Hillary Clinton’s favorability is 13 to 22 points higher than every Republican in the race.
  1. The best-known Republican, Jeb Bush, matches Hillary Clinton’s unfavorability, but lags her in favorability by 15 points. To match her net favorable-minus-unfavorable number, he would have to win over people who don’t have an opinion by a ratio of 1.7 to 1. That is a huge challenge.

The Omnivore positively swoons.

Dr. Sam Wang then charts the extrapolated 'trajectory'  of Republicans gaining name-recognition and it's this:
That directional line? Not exactly a winner.

What Does The Omnivore Think?
The Omnivore isn't nearly the math nerd that these guys are--but he thinks Vox kind of unintentionally nails something with this article: TV has been readying Americans for a Hillary Clinton presidency for a decade:
When Hillary Clinton announced (for the second time) her candidacy for the presidency, she joined a lengthy line of predecessors, other women who had heard her call and stepped into public service, sometimes attaining the highest office in the land.
Of course, that's not what happened in our reality. But it was what happened in pop culture, where the US often workshops and tries out ideas that will eventually become reality. The growing rise of gay rights in the country, for instance, neatly tracks with the growing depiction of gay people as fellow American citizens on television, and fiction has a long history of black presidents preceding Barack Obama's election.
Vox also notes that the list of TV female presidents are far more calibrated towards Hillary than the TV and movie black presidents were specifically about Barack Obama. The Omnivore thinks this is huge--and important--and that Republicans generally do understand this and recognize how dangerous it is.

This article from the so-far-right-it's-almost-something-else Takai's Magazine, is from a person who was a member of the Hollywood Conservative Cabal The Friends of Abe (named, of course, after Lincoln). He details the difficulty and drama of a bunch of politically 'aware' (in scare-quotes because he found that a lot of Hollywood conservatives might have been, yes, conservative--but were not exactly 'aware' in an intellectual sense) of trying to make good conservative media. It was more or less a disaster.

When it worked, where it worked, was when the message was organic to the story, rather than driving it. The Friends of Abe were never able to put that together--partially due to being, most of the time, heavily drunk (it sounds like a fun group regardless of their success record). His takeaway is that trying to make conservative media is putting the cart before the horse and is more or less doomed. If you can manage to make entertaining, gripping, meaningful art--and it has conservative values? You get stuff like American Sniper.

When you try? You get garbage.

The female presidents list that Vox hits hasn't all been top-drawer shows--and (and very importantly) they are not always friendly to Hillary Clinton--but the fact that Vox's play list exists at all serves to Inception-like plant the idea that it's reasonable to put a woman--in general--and Hillary, in specific--in the White House.

In other words, we've all been told someday we'll have a female president. We've also been kind of subliminally told that Hillary is, at least, a reasonable fit.

Now, you may or may not believe this is true: a lot of conservatives on The Omnivore's Twitter are fine (or say they are) with a woman president--just not Hillary. Whatever the merits or not of the charges against her or it is pretty clear to The Omnivore that despite scandals, allegations, and innuendo, Hillary is still seen by most people as a reasonable pick for POTUS.

Were The Omnivore a conservative messaging consultant, that would be . . . cause for alarm. Considering the amount of effort--not to mention money (forget the PACs, what about millions in Congressional inquests)--put into showing the world that Hillary should be completely disqualified from seeking the highest office, the results have been, well, kind of the opposite. It appears a small minority might think she's the best pick.

The Omnivore thinks there's got to be some serious cognitive dissonance going on around the failure to re-evaluate the strategy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Logo War: Hillary's 'H'

What you see above is the Hillary campaign's logo. It has received a fairly (but not entirely) negative response. How come? Well, let's see:
However, some people like it:

Vox has graphic designers sprinkle their pixie dust of genius over Hillary's logo to revamp it! Maybe before going after Hillary, Vox should stop stealing 538's charts? Wild thought there--just spitballing . . .

In any event, here is the Hillary Alphabet:
Courtesy of Rick Wolf
Here's a list of all current presidential logos! Here's all past--with commentary!

So Does It Suck Or Not?
Before we go to the metal, here's the logo in its "natural habitat:"

This shows that it can be used with text and is a little more impactful than just the giant red-and-blue H . . .  They also did a decent job of keeping the arrow-theme on their website.

So, okay--it's functional.

Here's the deal: As has been noted, a logo does a lot of different things and logos tend to look alike. Today it's hard to have a logo that looks like no one else's. Hillary's is perfectly competent. The Omnivore concludes that every roll-out has to have its share of people jumping on the mistakes made and trying to read them like tea-leaves to determine if the staff is competent.

Rolling out a presidential campaign is like the hardest project launch you could imagine: it has ad-campaigns, public speaking, travel, tons of campaign material, audio, video, and press-release components. Messaging is all-important--but so is branding.

In other words? There are going to be mistakes--and no choice would satisfy everyone. There's no message that doesn't have an implicated counter-message (if Hillary had chosen a gothic font: she's old! Oh, and she's snooty! If she went with a serrif'd font: she's optimized for print! Old. If she chose colors other than Red and Blue (and white): Doesn't Love America. No arrow? Static!).

So the answer is: the logo is about average.