Karl Rove, boy genius?

I was explaining about electoral college strategy in my campaigns and elections class today and I told the story of how Rove sent Bush into California the weekend before the 2000 election in a supposed show of confidence and strength.  Bush, of course, lost Florida handily– had the ultimate result turned out differently, Rove's “genius” surely would have been called into question over this maneuver.  How nice, then, to return from class, check in at Talking Points Memo and see that one of my blogging role models, Josh Marshall, has addressed this very point in a post today:

It was about a stunt Rove pulled that almost lost Bush the presidency in 2000.

Going into the big day the polls all showed a very, very close race,
with perhaps ever so slight an edge for Bush. Conventional logic would
have dictated sending Bush to swing states like Florida. But that's not
what Rove did. He chose instead to send Bush to California and New
Jersey — states Bush could only have any hope of winning in a
blow-out. The reasoning was simple. Rove figured that he could
accomplish more through convincing mainly the press, but also activists
and even highly-plugged voters, that Bush was going to win big than he
would by sending his guy into a state like Florida for some last minute
retail politicking.

It's the bandwagon effect. Psyche out the other side. Act like
you're winning and you'll charge up your activists/voters and
demoralize the folks on the other side. Mainly, get the press to
believe your hype and they'll do the charging up and demoralizing for
you. As it happened, it was a really dumb decision in 2000. If not for
faulty ballots and election stealing, Bush would have lost Florida and
the presidency. And given the margin, at least conceivable that Bush
could have won fair and square had he spent the last few days on the ground in Florida.

This is part of a larger post about how both Democrats and Republicans remain convinced that Rove has some trick up his sleeve to save this election for the Republicans.  I'm definitely with Marshall that Rove is basically just trying to bluff.  Karl Rove may be super-evil (just kidding), but he's not super-human. 

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Yellow Dog

Michael Kinsley had a column in Slate today espousing the virtues of yellow-dogism.  Historically, many Democrats, especially in the Solid South, were referred to as “Yellow Dog Democrats” because they would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican.  This is quite an unfashionable idea in modern American politics where you are supposed to vote for the best person, not the party, but Kinsley nicely explains why it makes sense to vote based purely on party– especially in political times as these:

There is nothing wrong with voting for the party and not the person.
There is even nothing wrong with blindly voting for the Democrat (or, I
suppose, the Republican) even if you know nothing else about him or
her. In other democracies, such as Britain, this person-not-the-party
piety is not just unknown but would be hard to comprehend. Whatever
Burke may have said, a member of Parliament is your representative. He
or she runs on a party platform promising various things, and if that
party wins a majority of seats it “forms a government.” You would be
silly to vote for the person and not the party. The party's views are
what counts. The person's own views are almost irrelevant.

Even
under the American arrangement, there is nothing ignoble about voting
the party line. It is an efficient way to minimize your information
costs. Voting is an irrational act: Despite what they drum into you
starting in kindergarten, your vote does not matter unless
it's a tie. And even 2000 was not a tie. The more effort you put into
learning about the candidates, the more irrational voting becomes, and
the more likely you are not to bother. A candidate's party affiliation
doesn't tell you everything you would like to know, but it tells you
something. In fact, it tells you a lot–?enough so that it even makes
sense to vote your party preference even when you know nothing else
about a candidate. Or even vote for a candidate that you actively
dislike.

Kinsley considers the example of Connecticut's Chris Shays– a solid person and quite moderate Republican by all accounts.  Yet, Shays is just 1 of 435 members of the House and he will vote for Republican House leadership.  If somebody is opposed to the agenda of the Republican leadership, they should vote against Shays, period.  I'm proud to be a yellow dog Democrat.  I'd rather have an incompetent boob pursuing policies I agree with than a skillful politician pursuing policies I think are bad for the country.  I've often said that my own yellow dog would be preferable to George Bush.

At least she wouldn't screw things up.  And she'd surely be much better at diplomacy. 

 
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