Appeasement

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

Inigio Montoya, the Princess Bride

Speaking in Israel earlier this week, Bush likened Obama to Neville Chamberlin:

“Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the
words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world
must not repeat in the 21st century. Some seem to believe that we
should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious
argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have
heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland
in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have
talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an
obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement,
which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)”

Bush (as you already know if you are reading this, is an idiot).  Appeasement is not talking to your enemies.  Appeasement is giving into their demands.  I know Bush is not good with nuance, but please!  Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler was giving him everything he wanted in the Munich agreement, not the fact that we talked with him.  How dumb do Bush (and McCain) think we are?  Obama hit back quite forcefully with his response

I'm not generally a big fan of Chris Matthews or Hardball, but this video I originally found over at TPM is brilliant.  It's a right-wing radio host going on and on about appeasement while clearly having no idea what he's talking about and Matthews calls him on it.  Great stuff, enjoy…

Immigrant assimilation

I do get tired of all the anti-immigrant folks complaining about immigrants ruining American culture by not assimilating.  Xenophobes had the same complaints about Italians, Polish, etc., not speaking our language or adapting to our culture back when they immigrated to this country in large numbers.  And now, we've got a study that shows just how wrong these views are:

Immigrants of the past quarter-century have been assimilating in the
United States at a notably faster rate than did previous generations,
according to a study released today…

The study, sponsored by the Manhattan Institute,
a New York think tank, used census and other data to devise an
assimilation index to measure the degree of similarity between the
United States' foreign-born and native-born populations. These included
civic factors, such as rates of U.S. citizenship and service in the
military; economic factors, such as earnings and rates of
homeownership; and cultural factors, such as English ability and degree
of intermarriage with U.S. citizens. The higher the number on a
100-point index, the more an immigrant resembled a U.S. citizen.

In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the
more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on,
said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University
and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as
from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the
1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of
the foreign-born population as a whole.

The report found, however, that the speed with which new arrivals
take on native-born traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result,
even though the foreign population doubled during that period, the
newcomers did not drive down the overall assimilation index of the
foreign-born population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990
to 2006.

“This is something unprecedented in U.S. history,” Vigdor said. “It
shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is
strong.”

So, next time you hear these complaints, remember that they don't actually have any validity.

Hillary and sexism

I
love it when readers actually request that I blog on a particular topic (in part, because it means people actually read this), so here's my thoughts on this absurd op-ed by Marie Cocco in today's Post.  First, a sampling:

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan
“Bros before Hos.” The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary
Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary
Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her
legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't
miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty
item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called
Clinton a “big [expletive] whore” and said the same about former vice
presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an
event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of
appreciative Obama supporters — one of whom had promoted the evening
on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one,
told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: “Obama did great in
February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now
Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?”
Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette…

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing
doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out
precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared
Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude
references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest,
some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the
groundswell for “change.” But for all Clinton's political blemishes,
the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is
accepted as a part of our culture.

You know what, I'm no big fan of misogyny, and Hillary has certainly been a victim of such, but I did not find this column in the least bit persuasive.  T-shirts “widely sold on the internet” which I've never seen in real life, Republican nuts forming a obviously non-serious political group for the purposes of its acronym, and a magician making sexist comments and getting rebuked for it are not exactly the hallmarks of a pervasive culture of misogyny in my book.  The truth is, when people have negative things to say about a woman, the term b*tch is quite commonly used (probably even by many a feminist).  That does not inherently imply misogyny.  It seems to me, the terms for a disliked male, are often far cruder and generally, one just does not use those terms with women.  The fact that we use different negative words to describe men and women does not mean its sexist. 

Anyway, Cocoo probably has some very fair points.  Many of the things that fly under the radar as gender-based offenses would not if they were race-based.  And certainly, a fair share of animosity towards Hillary Clinton is based on her gender (and in fairness, a fair share of her support is likewise based on her gender).  But to come up with these generally weak examples to suggest we are a hopelessly misogynistic society does not impress me. 

Bush > Nixon

Insofar as disapproval goes.  A couple days behind on this, but nonetheless worth a brief blog post:

A new poll suggests that President Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday indicates
that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush is
handling his job as president.

“No president has ever had a
higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup Poll; in fact, this is
the first time that any president's disapproval rating has cracked the
70 percent mark,” said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

It’s the demographics, stupid = it’s Appalachia, stupid

The talk of the lefty blogosphere today is this map of Clinton's voting by County (counties in purple are those in which she won 65% or more of the vote). 

Basically, Obama does not have so much a white rural problem as an Appalachia problem.  Josh Marshall puts his History PhD to work with some smart commentary:

There's been a lot of talk in this campaign about Barack Obama's
problem with working class white voters or rural voters. But these
claims are both inaccurate because they are incomplete. You can look at
states like Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states and see the
different numbers and they are all explained by one basic fact. Obama's
problem isn't with white working class voters or rural voters. It's
Appalachia. That explains why Obama had a difficult time in Ohio and
Pennsylvania and why he's getting crushed in West Virginia and Kentucky.

If it were just a matter of rural voters or the white working class,
the pattern would show up in other regions. But by and large it does
not.

In so many words, Pennsylvania and Ohio have big chunks of
Appalachia within their borders. But those regions are heavily offset
by non-Appalachian sections that are cultural and demographically
distinct. West Virginia is 100% Appalachian. If you look at
southeastern Ohio or the middle chunk of Pennsylvania, Obama did about
the same as he's doing tonight in West Virginia…

Let me offer a series of overlapping explanations. First, some basic
demographics. It's widely accepted that Hillary Clinton does better
with older voters, less educated voters and white voters. These
demographics perfectly match West Virginia — and, more loosely, the
entire Appalachian region. A few key points from tonight's exit polls
demonstrate the point: 4 out of 10 voters were over 60 years of age. 7
out of 10 lacked a college degree — the highest proportion of any
electorate in the country. And 95% of the electorate was white…

As I alluded to earlier, this was the origin of West Virginia, which
was originally the westernmost part of Virginia. The anti-slavery,
anti-slaveholding upcountry seceded from Virginia to remain in the
Union after Virginia seceded from the Union. Each of these regions was
fiercely anti-Slavery. And most ended up raising regiments that fought
in the Union Army. But they were as anti-slave as they were
anti-slavery, both of which they viewed as the linchpins of the
aristocratic and inegalitarian society they loathed. It was a society
that was both more violent and more self-reliant.

This is history. But it shapes the region. It's overwhelmingly
white, economically underdeveloped (another legacy of the pre-civil war
pattern) and arguably because of that underdevelopment has very low
education rates and disproportionately old populations.

For all these reasons, if you're familiar with the history, it's
really no surprise that Barack Obama would have a very hard time
running in this region.

Racism and the Obama campaign

Very interesting (and very disturbing) story in the Post today about just how much overt racism exists towards the Obama campaign.  Lots of interesting comments from Pennsylvania that appear to give credence to the “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between” expression I've heard.  Some high(low) lights:

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some
of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are
encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely
unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been
slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names
(including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants
and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator
from Illinois could become the first African American president…

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank
duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was
all she could take: “It wasn't pretty.” She made 60 calls to
prospective voters in Susquehanna County,
her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were
dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly
vote for Obama and concluded: “Hang that darky from a tree!”

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy,
said she, too, came across “a lot of racism” when campaigning for Obama
in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not
vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said,
offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: “White people look out
for white people, and black people look out for black people.” …

Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County,
Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to
explain her backing of Obama. “I trust him,” Seifert replied. According
to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and
said: “He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?”

On a very related note, John Judis had a really good article in TNR today about social science research on the psychology of racism.  The take-away:

In the end, the lesson of political psychology for Democrats is not to
avoid nominating black candidates. It is simply to understand that
America's racial history continues to influence the calculations of
voters–sometimes near the forefronts of their minds, sometimes in the
deep recesses of their unconscious. For liberals, acknowledging these
obstacles is the first step to blunting them. If Obama can focus the
election on the economy and Iraq, he could very well win in spite of
the angry words of Reverend Wright and 200 years of both old- fashioned
racism and newfangled racial resentment. If he can't, he is likely to
suffer the same fate as Michael Dukakis–and this time it won't take a Willie Horton commercial.

What might derail Obama’s campaign

John Cole with some hilarious speculation on the sort of event that might undo Obama's campaign:

I just saw the talking heads on Hardball state that one reason Hillary is staying in until the end is ?in case something big happens to derail Obama.?

I simply do not understand this logic at all. If Hillary drops out of the race, and something major is unearthed about Obama that would derail his candidacy (a videotape surfaces of him doing cocaine off the nipple of a teenage boy while Imams chant the Koran and organize a gun running organization for Hamas and Al Qaeda), who the hell does she think the delegates are going to turn to- Edwards?

It is a simple no-brainer that ?if something happened,? Hillary would be the party candidate. She doesn?t need to be in the race to get the nod in that situation.

Not saying she should get out, just saying that is a particularly silly argument.

It’s the demographics stupid

In my various political commentating this week (including in Russian), I've been pretty much sticking with the theme that what decided the race in NC is pretty much what decided the race in all the states– voter demographics.  Obama and Hillary didn't really do all that differently in NC (14 point Obama win) than PA (9 point Hillary win) with the groups that support them.  The big difference was simply the proportion of these groups in the electorate.  Thus, I was really pleased to see this article from former Mystery Pollster, Mark Blumenthal:

Over the course of the primary season,
especially since early February, the preferences of Democratic primary
voters have been mostly stable. As my colleague Ronald Brownstein put it
last week, Clinton has consistently prevailed among a “beer track”
coalition of blue-collar whites, Latinos and seniors. Obama
consistently dominates Clinton among blacks and younger white voters,
and he draws additional strength from a “wine track” coalition of
independents and well-educated white voters. What varies from primary
to primary is less about the shifting allegiances of voters within
these groups and more about differences in the demographic composition
of each state.

Consider some specific examples. The outcome of the North Carolina
primary was wildly different than Ohio or Pennsylvania, yet non-college
white voters favored Clinton by virtually identical margins in each
state (+44 in Ohio, +41 in Pennsylvania, and +45 in North Carolina,
according to the Edison/Mitofsky National Election Pool exit polls
provided by NBC and ABC News). Clinton's margin was far narrower among
college-educated whites in each state (+7 in Ohio, +10 in Pennsylvania
and +7 in North Carolina). And Obama won near monolithic support from
blacks in all three states (87 percent in Ohio, 90 percent in
Pennsylvania, 91 percent in North Carolina).

The different overall outcomes owed mostly to the varying
demographic composition of each state. Blacks and college-educated
whites made up roughly two-thirds of the North Carolina electorate, but
only about half of the voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania…

All of which brings us to the underlying
story of the Democratic presidential primaries. Since Super Tuesday, it
has mostly been the story of what hasn't happened. Over the
last three months or so, for better or worse, the underlying coalitions
of support for Obama and Clinton have remained largely constant.

That said, there has been one clear trend that has worked to Obama's advantage.  Obama's support among African-Americans has gone from very strong to overwhelming.  Over at Real Clear Politics, Jay Cost has a great article analyzing demographics from the Indiana and North Carolina exit polls.  His final analysis shows the trend among Black voters in Southern and non-Southern states and there's a clear pattern (below).

So, as the media continues to obsess over every little campaign detail and how that has affected the outcome, just remember, it's the demographics stupid.




Indiana and NC

More on my home-state primary later, but for now, I wanted to share one of the more insightful blog posts I've read tonight (courtesty of Noam Scheiber):

Josh makes a good point
about how pundits tend to see sharp changes in momentum even though, at
this point, demographic realities explain most of the primary results.

Still, I do think there was a bona fide momentum shift
tonight–precisely because, as Josh says, “North Carolina was an Obama
state in terms of demography and political culture … [and] Indiana
was a tossup.” Given the Wright meltdown, the possibility of Obama's
coalition collapsing–and North Carolina and Indiana not playing out
according to form–seemed very real. That they proved resistant to
Wright is a pretty important development.

Yep.


Maggie and Me

Not only did I make it onto CBS Early show this morning (alas, 7:18, unlike the 7:30 I told everybody), I can even embed the video in my blog.  How cool!

Steve goes national!

I just finished an interview with my new best friend, Maggie Rodriguez, of the CBS Early Show.  They are airing a story on Tuesday morning on the NC primary, probably between 7:30-8:00 (barring the death of a world leader or Britney Spears going back into rehab), and yours truly should hopefully get a few seconds on air.  If you are not up, DVR it–or, of course, just use a VCR if you are still living in a cave :-). 

Getting away with torture

Great article in Slate last week (that I realized I will never actually have time to blog about) on the policy and moral failure of the Bush administration torture policies.  Very much worth a read.

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