Barack Obama

Republicans Should Drive a Hard Bargain on Gregg

It is very clear what President Obama is trying to do with Judd Gregg: get a filibuster proof majority not through an election but through the President's virtually uncontested power of appointment. And if not with a Democrat, get it de facto through a Lincoln Chafee-style Republican hand-picked by the Democratic Governor. This is not about bipartisanship, but an audacious, and I would say impressive, game of political hardball.

Republicans should be prepared to play hardball in return.

First, we must frame this as an astonishing partisan power grab. President Bush had the opportunity to nominate Louisiana Democrat John Breaux as Energy Secretary in 2001, thus flipping the seat, but didn't -- leaving the Senate at 50-50 and vulnerable to a Democratic takeover, which as we all know, actually happened.

Second, we need to insist not only that Gov. Lynch appoint a Republican, but that he appoint a Republican from a list of three candidates prepared by Republican leaders in the legislature and the New Hampshire Republican Party -- preferably a strong Republican who would run in 2010. Gregg was about as conservative as you get for New England, and any replacement selected by a Democrat is almost guaranteed to be worse.

This is not unprecedented. Wyoming law required the Democratic governor pick from a Republican-prepared list of Senate candidates in 2007. Given the extraordinary nature of this appointment, Democrats should have no problem agreeing to the simple request that Republicans have a voice in choosing New Hampshire's Republican Senator.

As I've implied in this YouTube question to the RNC candidates, the ideological composition of our conferences on the Hill should matter to party leaders. It's not that we shouldn't be running candidates well-suited to their states and districts, including moderates -- I would be happy with another Susan Collins from New Hampshire, as that's probably the best-case scenario. It's that we should recognize that Lincoln Chafees are not simply another vote for organizing the Senate the right way, but that they are 60-80% of a Democrat on key policy issues.

We are going down the Lincoln Chafee route in New Hampshire by agreeing to any appointment of a Republican by a Democrat, instead of insisting on Republican participation in the process. If so, this shows we have learned very little as a party these last 3 years.


George W. Bush 3; Radical Islam 0

Iraq's provincial elections go off without a hitch.  Money quote:

BAGHDAD —  Iraqis passed through security checkpoints and razor-wire cordons to vote Saturday in provincial elections that are considered a crucial test of the nation's stability as U.S. officials consider the pace of troop withdrawals. There were no reports of major violence.

Polls closed at 6 p.m. (9 a.m. CST) on Saturday — an hour later than planned — after millions of voters cast ballots for influential regional councils around most of Iraq.

Officials said counting would begin Sunday with preliminary results not expected before Tuesday.

Click here for photos.

Voting ended with no reports of major violence, though voters at some polling stations complained that their names did not appear on lists. Balloting was extended for one hour

This successful election moves us one step closer to George W. Bush's vision of a free and democratic Iraq, at peace with it's neighbors, that is an ally in the War on Terror.  For midwifeing this day, George W. Bush deserves tremendous credit for three monumental decisions:

1) The Initial Liberation -- Six years ago, Iraq was enslaved to one of the worst tyrants in human history.  In addition to his (documented) support for Al Qaeda, said tyrant was involved in all sorts of nefarious activity.  George W. Bush quite rightly realized that said situation was unacceptable on both security and moral grounds; where others offered talk, George W. Bush acted.  In removing Saddam Hussein from power, George W. Bush did more to advance American security interests in the Middle East than any President in American History.

2) Making Democracy Central -- Following the success of the initial liberation, George W. Bush could have taken the easy way out and installed a pro-American dictator.  Many on the right urged George W. Bush to do just that.  Unlike his father, George W. Bush understood that backing a new tyrant would be counterproductive in the long run.  George W. Bush realized  previous American support for tyrants was the only legitimate greivance the terrorists could claim.  Courageous decisions like making democracy central from courageous leaders like George W. Bush make days like January 31, 2009 possible.

3) The Surge -- This might have been the greatest act of Presidential Leadership in the past century.

 In January 2007, the odds against success in Iraq appeared overwhelming to everyone except George W. Bush and his core political supporters.  The fact that the consequences of defeat would have been catastrophic for the United States didn't register in the public consciousness.

Following his public repudiation in November 2006, George W. Bush could have spent the final two years of his Presidency cowering under the bed apologizing for liberating 25 million men and women; the drive-by media might have praised George W. Bush for "growing in office," his poll numbers might have even gone up.  Instead, George W. Bush told the Washington D.C. wizards of smart to go Blagojevich themselves and George W. Bush adopted a new strategy.   Like Lincoln in 1864, George W. Bush finally found his General Grant and General Sherman.  Like 1864, the turnaround was swift and dramatic.

Bush (43's) Iraq Policy (in it's final interation) was so successful it made Iraq irrelevant to the contest to pick his successor.

All in all, a job well done by our underappreciated 43rd President!

Obama to defense workers: Drop Dead

Evidently the President has identified the one federal program that was not underfunded by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The defense budget

I'll allow those more steeped in geopolitics to discuss the message this sends to Moscow, Beijing, Teheran and some cave on the Pakistan-Afghan border, but it certaintly doesn't convey the Reaganesque message of "peace through strength"  

The other problem, is much as I am a spending hawk, is we don't have a "peace dividend" to give away like we did in the 1990's. U.S. defense spending is only about 4% of GNP (relatively small compared to its 1980's level).  Moreover, what is spent is now largely devoted to the "boots on the ground" deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a result of needing to properly fight these wars, much of the planned technological upgrades to the U.S, military to apply the "revolution in military affairs".  haven't been rolled out quickly and are in dire need of being procured promply to avoid serious functional deterioration of American defense capabilities. (as part of the "peace dividend", a lot of 1990's era weapons like the Seawolf submarine weren;t purchased in bulk or cancelled in toto)

Case in point is the F-22.   This "shovel ready" aircraft already has had it's proposed deployment reduced, although the plane it is replacing, the F-15 has been beset with numerous crashes owing to age; the planes were originally developed in the 1970's.  So, the Air Force's idea to keep these planes in service beyond 2025 seems more based on political correctness than operational requirements. Not replacing the older F-15C's may make the numbers work. And that's it. 

And the Air Force was playing "nickel and dime" under the Bush budgets.   And this isn;t the only weapon system rolled out slowly to put off the cost.  The Virginia class submarines were procured at a rate of one boat a year.  Congressman Joe Courtney  has been vocal in pressing for a two sub a year procurement, which will keep both the EB yard in CT and Newport News in the sub business. This is likely to fall by the wayside, as will be the goal of building 30 new subs. Even at buildout, this fleet will be inadequate to replace the Los Angeles class fleet; maybe we can keep the 688i's running; but  even then we are talking about trying to secure millions of square miles of water with about 50 boats.

And let's not forget the aerial tanker debacle which the Obama team needs to address on their watch; or  the fact the Navy hasn't gotten a proper replacement for their surface warfare ships in the pipeline.. And if the budget gets cut, the U.S.S. Gerald Ford may be the last flattop we launch for a very long time.

So why do I think the hardware gets slashed. Because even if Obama cuts the cost of the Iraq deployment. he;s already proposed to recommit those troops and funds into an augmented effort in Afghanistan.. And cancelling weapons systems is what Democrat presidents like to do even when the world isn't at peace.

Now for the political ramifications. The defense industry is a major component of that long lamented sector known as American manufacturing. It's employees are well paid and highly skilled. And if you don't buy weapons, these workers are forced into lower paid service sector jobs.

Now perhaps the Obama team thinks that angering folks in Georgia, where the F-22 is built doesn't matter.  But the engines for new aircraft are made in Ohio   and Connecticut.. And naval vessels are built in Connecticut,  Maine ,  and Virginia . Hmm, didn;t Obama win these states---and by only a narrow edge in VA and OH?

So, look for this effort to be a major issue in House and Senate races in many states. I could readily see this being unpopular for Democrats in the open Senate seats in Ohio and Missouri (the F-18 is manufactured in St. Louis), as well as a number of House seats which have recently flipped to the Democrats ( OH 1; VA 2 ; CT 2).

The bottom line is that not surprisingly the former community organizer wants to hire more community organizers with tax dollars.     while putting people who make weapons out on the street.  I have to admit this is not a choice I would have thought John McCain would have made.

Yep, elections have consequences. Perhaps the trade unions at the defense plants who endorsed Obama ought to chew on that idea a bit. 


Rules for Republicans -- The Purpose

The first full chapter begins with Alinsky discussing the fact that all social movements must respect and follow certain realities; this is true regardless of the movement's content.

  • The revolutionary nature of all Social Changes:

The significant changes in history have been made by revolutions.

Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich both understood this.  George W. Bush understood this in foreign policy, but never fully grasped it at home.

The great changes in the relationship between Americans and the Federal Government tend to take place in short bursts of frenzied activity: 1933-36, 1964-66, 1981-83, and 1995-1997.  Unfortunately, we missed one of those opportunities in 2005 and we currently must play defense to prevent the other side from getting one of those moments.  Ultimately, we're laying the foundation now so that we can have one of those moments from 2012 to 2015.

  • The difference between Ideology and Dogma:

I know that all revolutions must have ideologies to spur them on.  That in the heat of conflict these ideologies tend to be smelted into rigid dogmas claiming exclusive possession of the truth, and the keys to paradise, is tragic.  Dogma is the enemy of human freedom.

While I find reports Republicans are "too ideological" laughable, it's still worth keeping this in mind.  While I think there is a natural tendency for success to breed complacency, I still think we're doing just fine in this department.  I'm much more worried about our ability to communicate.

  • The need for resiliance and adaptability:

Radicals must be resilient, adaptable to shifting political circumstances, and sensitive enough to the process of action and reaction to aviod being trapped by their own tactics and forced to travel a road not of their choosing.  In short, radicals must have a degree of control over the flow of events.

I cannot overstate the importance of this one.  Times change.  While conservatism is naturally skeptical of radical change, there's a difference between healthy skepticism and rigid fuddy-duddery.

  • How to incorporate resiliance at the personal level:

The free-society organizer is loose, resilient, fluid, and on the move in a society which is itself in a state of constant change.

Forget political organizing, this is good advice for day to day life.

  • The Perils of Self-Deception:

The basic requirement for the understanding of the politics of change is to recognize the world as it is....[O]ne must break free of the illustions one spins about life.

Again, this advice goes far beyond politics (single guys click here).  From a political perspective, this means that assembling a majority coalition requires us to communicate wtih people who don't have the time or the inclination to listen to talk radio or follow public affairs on their own.  One of my great frustrations this past cycle was that people didn't blame Alan Greenspan, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd for the financial meltdown; they blamed President Bush.  I don't know where it is, but that proves something is majorly screwed up in our communications department.

(Sidenote: For those of you who will accuse me of being in denial about the financial meltdown, spare me your snotty comments.  There's been so much ink spilled on this that I shouldn't have to address it in a post on a seperate topic.)

  • Realistic Knowledge of the Arena in which we fight:

Political Realists see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is the rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest....It is a world not of angels but of angels, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles

I can't add much here.  It's still worth remembering that we're dealing with politicians.

  • What "Bi-Partisanship" Means when the Democrat Party is in Charge:

[A] world where "reconciliation" means that when one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation

I don't have a problem with Democrats doing this when they're in charge, but why did George W. Bush have to cave to Ted Kennedy on No Child Left Behind?

  • The Ongoing Nature of Both Politics and Life:

In the world as it is, the solution of each problem inevitably creates a new one.  In the world as it is, there are no permanent happy or sad endings....We then recognize that for every positive, there is a negative.

Looking backwards, we were victims of our previous success.  Taxes are a lot lower, crime is low, and the Soviet Union (Putin notwithstanding) has been properly assigned to the ash heap of history; hell, even Iraq has become a reasonably stable democracy!  McCain did a terrible job translating our timeless principles to the next generation of national challenges.  Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk.

Looking forward, there's plenty of reason for optimism.  Our policy team is ready to go, we just need the right leader.

  • The Value of Planning Ahead before You Take Power:

Once we accept and learn to anticipate the inevitable counterrevolution, we may then alter the historical pattern of revolution and counterrevolution from the traditional slow advance of two steps forward and one step backward to minimizing the latter.

This is what Obama is trying to do by dining with David Brooks while attacking Rush.  I'm not surprised he tried to do this, I'm just shocked he did it in such a clumsy way.

This was one of the biggest differences between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.  As much as the permanent D.C. class (eg. David Rodham Gergen) sucks, the simple fact is that you'll get more done by stroking their egos (from a position of strength and principle) than by unnecessarily antagonizing them.  I think that accounts for a large chunk of the 20 point outgoing approval rating difference for Reagan and George W. Bush.

Moving forward, this minimally means cultivating Jay Leno.  He's one of the few people in the broader culture who gives our side a fair shake.  More generally, this means identify and cultivating those people in the broader culture who will give us a fair shake.


Post-Partisanship, Obama Style

"Obama Won't Compromise on Tax Cuts"

These would be the "tax cuts" that aren't really tax cuts, but transfer payments.  And why won't he compromise?  Because he's now suddenly worried about the deficit!  What a guy.

(h/t AoSHQ)

200 Economists Against Stimulus

While the media and the new administration would like to have us believe there is no dissagreement among economists that President Obama's massive stimulus plan is absolutely necessary, here are 200 leading economists, which include Nobel laureates and other very respectable scholars from across the country, who beg to differ.

The Cato Institute is running a full page ad in the Washington Post, New York Times and Roll Call this week with a letter showing that whoever says, "all economists agree on stimulus" is wrong.

The letter, which is signed by 200 economists, reads:


Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance.More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.  More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.


Full disclosure: Chris Moody is the Manager of New Media at the Cato Institute.



Rules for Republicans -- Prologue

I just began reading Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.  It has sooooooooooooooo many things we can learn from it.  This will probably be a chapter by chapter ongoing series.

  • First Sentence:

The Revolutionary Force today has two targets, moral as well as material.

For our purposes, that means that free-market capitalism is ultmately about human dignity while also being the best (and only) path to prosperity.

  • The Value of the American Flag:

the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America's hopes and aspirations.

This one's obvious, although it's always good to remind yourself of the value of shamlessly wrapping yourself in the flag.

  • The timeless value of humor in politics:

there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or time....[H]umor is essential, for through humor much is accepted that would have been rejected of presented seriously.

Two words: Banking Queen!  This is actually something we've done a respectable job of; although we always need to do more.  South Park is the first example to come to mind, though I'm sure there are several others.

  • Alinsky's Nixonian contempt for the anti-war movement:

If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psycholgical barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair....My thing, if I want to organize, is solid communication with the people in the community. 

Allinsky, like Nixon, understood how the degree to which the anti-war movement alienated decent people.  On our side, I think that entails creating a network that empowers (I know, I hate that word too) closet conservatives to feel comfortable speaking out in their own communities. 

The key is to relate to people in ways they can understand.  Too often, people are lead to believe that the charactures of us in the drive by's are true, and the drive by's get away with it far too often.  When the drive by's smeared Sarah Palin, people in the Philly Suburbs fell for it.  When you learn that your neighbor is pro-life, that makes it a lot harder to fall for the drive by slander.

  • The need to completely demoralize the population:

They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future.

This helpless pessimism has been the central theme of Obama's campaign, transition, and Presidency. When President Obama's politicies fail, which they will, we won't have to engage in the sort of pessimism the Dems did under Bush.

  • The need to talk to everyone:

If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right.

Substitute left for right, and that's the core of our dilemma today.  For too long, we've written too many voters off as unattainable and failed to ask for their votes (eg. blacks); we need no more of Grover's gypsies.

  • The need to organize from the Precinct level up:

To build a powerful organization takes time.  It is tedious, but that's the way the game is played -- if you want to play and not just yell, "Kill the umpire!"

While the internet can aid this process tremendously, we still need to get e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and get people to show up to meetings.  It's not glamorous, but it's essential.

  • The inherent superiority of the, admittedly flawed, American system:

Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot box but would reconsider after they got the guns....Let us, in the name of radical pragmatism not forget that in our system with all it's repressions we can still speak out and denounce the administration, attack it's policies, work to build an opposition political base....I can attack my government, try to organize to change it.  That's more than I could do in Moscow, Peking [sic], or Havana.

Just remember, we live in the greatest country on Earth, even if we did just elect an idiot.  We'll get through this.

  • The need to work on the hearts and minds of the broader population:

It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceeded by reformation.  To assume that a politcal revolution can survive without the supporting base of popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics....A reformation means that the masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values.  They don't know what will work but they do know that the prevailing system is self-defeating, frustrating, and hopeless.

Essentially, you have to lead people to think the status quo is intolerable and anything will be better.  Give Obama time, we'll have plenty of opportunities.

  • The Importance of Organizing around almost Anything:

Remember: Once you organize people around something as commonly agreed upon as pollution, then an organized people is on the move.  From there it's a short and natural step to political pollution, to Pentagon pollution.

Every local community has reasons for local citizens to organize around issues of public affairs.  Only you know what will work in your own community.  Still, when something your local government does outrages you, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

Remember to get e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers.

  • Keeping the Pressure On Politicians:

No Politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it hot enough.

Why do I have a funny feeling we're on the verge of another populist uprising a la immigration and drill, baby, drill?

Thoughts/Suggestions ?!?

Obama Stimulus Package Doomed to Fail, I Guaran-DAMN-tee It.

More and more of the details about the proposed $825 billion stimulus from President Barack Obama and the Democrat Congressional majorities are surfacing and it appears more and more that the proposition’s goals are not to stimulate the economy, but rather to reshape it in to socialism on steroids. By the spending proposed in the bill, the United States is going to start looking more and more like Sweden and France and less like the United States that we knew just two or three years ago.

First, let’s start with the tax cuts proposed in the bill. Business is struggling to borrow money from banks, like other private citizens are, and the value of their stock is in decline. All of this is thanks to economic conditions that have made business go from expanding and hiring more employees to consolidations and layoffs. Just today, 75,000 job cuts were expected from Caterpillar, Sprint, and Home Depot just to name a few.

For all of these pains where the highest taxes on sole proprietors, partnerships, and Chapter S corporations are going to remain at 35 percent. As for Chapter C corporations, they will still pay a 31 percent rate and their dividends will still be taxed again at the same income tax rate as paid by the shareholder. In other words, someone who has pre-tax earnings per share of $2.00 would end up seeing only anywhere from less than $0.90 to $1.17 (using the lowest tax rate of ten percent) per share that could be taken home after corporate and income taxes! That is an end tax rate for a shareholder ranging from 41.5 percent to over 55 percent! No wonder some people are hesitant to buy stock.

Instead, tax cuts are going to be given via Social Security payroll deductions at $1,000 for families and $500 for individuals. Let’s go back to last year when Americans received tax rebate checks for $600 (individuals) and $1,200 (families). Economists have concluded that less than 25 percent of the money from the tax rebate checks of 2008 was spent on goods and services (mostly Chinese made) while the remainder was used to pay down debt. We all know how well that worked out with the current recession.

Where tax cuts work is what Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush did. Reagan dropped the lower rate from 70 percent when he took office to 28 when he left and the economy grew dramatically. Bill Clinton cut the capital gains rate from 28 percent to 20 percent which led to the late-1990’s stock market boom. George W. Bush cut taxes on income, capital gains, and in other places and it led to an economic boom from 2003 to 2006. In every instance, tax revenues and America’s standard of living grew because of the increased economic activity by reducing the barriers of taxes.

What makes matters worse on the tax relief front is that the tax code changes won’t take hold until next year. If we are in such an urgent crisis, let’s do something from a tax standpoint that works and reduce rates going forward and make the tax cuts from the George W. Bush years permanent. However, as you read later, that will not be the motivation.

Next comes the infrastructure spending programs that sound good, but more will lead you to believe that this is not the right way to go forward. We have a nostalgic view about Franklin D. Roosevelt not because of the manner in which he ran the economy, but how he managed the war, mostly thanks to the great generalship of Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and others.

The New Deal that Roosevelt implemented twice government spending programs on infrastructure and blue-collar jobs. It’s “twice” because the first program failed and only government is insane enough to try a sequel (unless you voted Democrat for governor in Michigan and Illinois in 2006). As it turned out, economists at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) determined that the New Deal actually delayed a full economic recovery by seven years.

The result was World War II and around-the-clock mass production for the war effort that ended the Great Depression in 1943. Think about that. The Great Depression, had the New Deal not been pursued, could have ended in 1936, on the eve of FDR’s reelection.

In total, there will be $90 billion in the $825 billion package spent on infrastructure alongside the $275 billion in tax cuts that won’t be realized until 2010. That’s a grand total of $365 billion, or just more than 44 percent of the package being spent to “stimulate” the economy.

The reality is that infrastructure spending programs don’t do the job and the tax cuts are insufficient. In total, the government is putting together a program designed to give window dressing with this package to make us feel as if President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are actually doing something. The reality is that if that something doesn’t do what we have the expectations are (reviving a stagnant economy), they’re toast.

So what happens with the remaining money? The remaining money will go to other projects that won’t be realized until long after Obama is out of office. Education spending, health care spending, and cover state shortfalls on Medicaid are nice, but the purpose of the bill is lost. The purpose is to jump-start the economy and to jump-start it now.

In the end, the American people will be more than $800 billion deeper in debt with no chance of either reviving the economy, creating jobs, or ending the current recession. Instead, the plan is to have enough debt on the books to where Obama and the Democrats can actually terminate all, if not most, of the Bush tax cuts.

In a previous post, I had mentioned that the four stages of the Great Depression were a credit crunch, a stock market crash, price destabilization, and tax increases. As it will turn out, the economic plan of Obama’s will generate more inflation either by increasing debt or the need to print more money (both of which are inflationary) and repealing the Bush tax cuts to result in the largest tax increase in American history.

I am not alone on a looming depression. There are a number of other economists, including Harry Dent, who accurately predicted the 1990’s economic boom. I guarantee that the Obama program will fail. I wish it weren’t true for the sake of this country because we need help. However, this isn’t the help we need but rather a shell game disguised as a push towards socialism that has been proven to fail in every instance it has been tried.

The Limbaugh/Obama Bi-Partisan Economic Recovery Package

America's Doctor of Democracy made a bipartisan overture to the President today.  Money graf:

Mine is a genuine compromise.  So let's look at how the vote came out, shall we?  Fifty-three percent of voters in this country -- we'll say, for the sake of this proposal, 53% of Americans -- voted for Obama.  Forty-six percent voted for Senator McCain, and 1% voted for wackos.  Let's give the remaining 1% to President Obama, so let's say that 54% voted for President Obama and 46% voted for Senator McCain.  As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009, $540 billion of the one trillion will be spent on infrastructure as defined by President Obama and the Democrats.  The remaining $460 billion, or 46% that voted for Senator McCain, will be directed towards tax cuts, as determined by me.

I LOVE this idea.  The beauty is that it takes President Obama's words and throws them back at him.  Given all his talk of national unity and bi-partisanship, Obama was stupid to insult the EIB Audience.  The EIB audience has fueled populist revolts over Immigration and Drill, Baby, Drill over the past two years.  It's time for another one.

Let's put together a package that puts our views and their views on display side-by-side.  We'll see who wins!

A Tale of Two Metropolitan Areas: Part One

The Philadelphia Metro Area

For over a century, the Philadelphia area was one of the strongholds of the Republican Party.  In the time period between the Civil War and the New Deal, Southeastern Pennsylvania produced margins that made Pennsylvania an overwhelmingly Republican state.  After the New Deal, Philadelphia's Republican machine switched to a Democratic machine, but the collar counties surrounding Philadelphia remained Republican all the way through the Reagan era.

Over the last twenty years, suburban Philadelphia has shifted from being predominately Republican to increasingly Democratic.  While I have my explanations for what accounts for this change, for now I am focusing on the data, not policy recommendations.  What I aim to do is to perform a detailed electoral analysis of each of the four counties outside Philadelphia.

Delaware County: Population (2000): 550,864, Bush 1988 Percentage: 59.9%, McCain 2008 Percentage: 38.8%

Delaware County is one of the smallest counties in Pennsylvania, adjoining to South and West Philadelphia.  The core components of the county are a) small, first-tier boroughs near the City line, b) depressed Chester and surrounding municipalities, c) upper-middle class suburban townships, and d) wealthy Main Line communities like Radnor and Haverford Townships.

John McCain only won lighter populated townships in the western part of the county, and by small margins.  McCain's best municipality in the county only gave him 56.3 percent of the vote.  He defeated Barack Obama in only 9 of the county's 49 municipalities.  What is worse is McCain's performance in the Delaware County portion of the Main Line.  Radnor and Haverford are two of the four largest municipalities in the county and were the definition of the Republican Party for over one hundred years.  No more.  McCain could earn no more than 40 percent of the vote in these communities.  McCain also lost slightly less prosperous suburban townships like Ridley and Nether Providence.

Not all Republicans fared as bad as McCain did.  Tom Corbett, the Attorney General, ran about 10 points ahead of McCain in the Philadelphia area.  I am using Corbett's performance as a comparison to show what a minimum winning Republican coalition looks like in the collar counties.  Corbett was able to win the Main Line and the rest of the suburbs outside of Chester and the boroughs immediately outside Philadelphia.  Corbett was able to win 30 of the 49 municipalities, including every major township except for first-tier Upper Darby Township.

Montgomery County: Population (2000): 750,097, Bush 1988 Percentage: 60.2%, McCain 2008 Percentage: 39.2%

Montgomery County is the largest of the suburban Philadelphia counties.  Montgomery County features long established inner suburbs like Abington and Cheltenham Townships.  The south and west axis of the county is the Schuylkill River, which runs through county seat Norristown before forming the border between Montgomery County and Chester County.  A portion of the Main Line exists in Lower Merion and Narbeth.  The northeastern corner of the county is exurban, developing within the past two decades.

Republicans have been pushed to the periphery in recent years: only Upper Montgomery away from the Schuylkill River is reliably Republican anymore.  McCain won only 11 of 62 municipalities in Montgomery County.  He lost the 23 most populated municipalities in the county, failing to win a municipality with more than 13,000 people.  This was a disaster for the McCain campaign.

As with Delaware County, McCain had an abysmal performance on the Main Line.  Lower Merion Township is the richest and largest municipality in the county, and McCain won a measly 29 percent of the vote there.  Even Corbett could only get 39 percent of the vote, showing how far away they have drifted from the Republican Party.  This produces a vote deficit so large that almost no Republican can overcome it.  Even upper-middle class suburbia found in such entities as the North Penn School District are now lost to Republicans.  Corbett was able to roughly split this crucial grouping of communities; McCain averaged only about 40 percent.

Bucks County: Population (2000): 597,635, Bush 1988 Percentage: 60.0%, McCain 2008 Percentage: 45.2%

Bucks County was the least traditionally Republican of these counties, possessing a strong Democratic Party post-WWII due to the presence of a Levittown in Lower Bucks.  But now, Bucks County is the most Republican of the collar counties.  In the past three elections, the Republican presidential candidate earned between 45-46 percent of the vote.

Lower Bucks is predominately Democratic, though not overwhelmingly so.  Places like Bensalem, Bristol, and Falls Townships, which are essentially North Northeast Philadelphia, are the most Democratic areas.  Middle Bucks is centered on Doylestown and the surrounding suburban townships.  This is the swing area of the county and Obama's victory was earned here.  Corbett was able to earn about 58 percent in the area made up of the sprawling Central Bucks School District.  Upper Bucks is now the most reliably Republican area in Metro Philadelphia.  McCain was able to win nearly all of the townships there, but the margins aren't enough to offset gains in the middle of the county.

There is more hope for Republicans in Bucks County than in any other of the counties mentioned here.  The drop-off in the Bush years was insignificant, even as other collar counties turned away from Republican candidates in droves.  One advantage with Bucks is that there is nowhere in the county that is really poor.  The major town, Doylestown, is mostly middle-class, making it much more affluent than, say, Chester or Norristown.  Also, not much of the county is dead set against Republicans.  Only Lower Bucks (and only certain parts) provide Democrats with big margins.  First-tier suburbs here are more amenable than in other counties.  Middle Bucks requires a swing of a few percentage points and Upper Bucks, even in a miserable 2008, voted Republican, though the margins need to be improved.

Chester County: Population (2000): 433,501, Bush 1988 Percentage: 67.0%, McCain 2008 Percentage: 45.0%

Chester County is the most exurban part of the metro area.  There are a few mid-sized towns such as West Chester, Coatesville, Downingtown, and Phoenixville.  But most of the county is composed of residential suburbs.  This is among the fastest growing areas in Pennsylvania and is the richest county in the state.

It was once one of the most Republican counties in the state.  It gave Nixon 64, 57, and 68 percent of the vote in 1960, 1968, and 1972 respectively; 61 and 70 percent to Reagan; and 67 percent to the elder Bush.  Those large margins are gone, though it was the only one of these counties to vote for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.  2008 was a historic reversal, as McCain ran 7 points behind Bush's 2004 performance, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to lose in Chester County since 1964.

In the case of Chester County, it appears there are more genuine temporary Republican defections than in other parts of the metro area, where more permanent ideological changes have occured.  If any part of suburban Philadelphia was affected by the housing market crash, it was a fast growing county like Chester.  Corbett was able to win the county by a near reverse of the presidential margin.  McCain won only 25 of the 73 municipalities in the county.  However, in another 24 municipalities McCain earned between 45 to 49.3 percent of the vote.  Surely all of these municipalities were Republican in the past, and should not be too difficult to have them return to the fold.

McCain only won western townships in school districts like Octorara and Twin Valley.  These are still mostly rural areas which are closer to Lancaster than Philadelphia.  The most populated suburban areas were won by Obama.  The Chester County component of the Main Line (Tredyffrin Twp., Easttown Twp., Willistown Twp., and Malvern) was won by Obama, though by slight margins.  Obama ran up strong margins in the towns and was able to win over most of the important townships outside of West Chester, Downingtown, and Phoenixville.

The poor showing of John McCain and the national Republican Party in the Philadelphia suburbs is the top reason why Pennsylvania has increasingly become a Democratic state.  In the next part however, we can see there is a different story to tell in the Pittsburgh area.


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