Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 4, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

OUR POLARIZED ELECTORATE....So the final turnout for the Iowa Democratic caucuses turned out to be 239,000, fantastically higher than in any previous year. Obviously this is partly because Dems spent a ton of money, had three very attractive candidates, and were selling to an electorate that's really charged up and thinks it can win this year. But at the very least, it also seems to indicate that a polarized, partisan political environment doesn't turn people off of politics. Right? And why should it? By their very nature, most European countries have a political environment that's more polarized and partisan than ours and always has been, and yet they continue to vote in large numbers. Larger than ours, anyway.

So: clear choices, strong emotions, and partisan loyalties are good for voter participation and voter turnout. I hereby declare Broderish bipartisanship the loser in last night's caucuses. On to New Hampshire!

Kevin Drum 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

Why are people forgetting Wyoming? Certainly it's not a caucus, but there should still be some attention paid to the west.

Posted by: Ph47f3 on January 4, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Er, that's one interpretation, I suppose.

Another might be - after 18 years of hand-to-hand combat, both sides are sick of listening to the fringes scream at each other. Imagine an Obama v. Huckabee general election. The level of mudslinging would be noticeably diminished.
For a chance to move beyond the politics of El Rushbo v Michael Moore, Americans will turn out in droves.

Posted by: cazart on January 4, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Except that the winners were the two nice-guy candidates who were talking about bridging the cultural and social divides in this country.

Posted by: jps on January 4, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Except that the winners were the two nice-guy candidates who were talking about bridging the cultural and social divides in this country.

Bingo.

Posted by: DaveWoo on January 4, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You correctly refer to the top three Democrats as "very attractive candidates," but in some ways the most striking thing for me has been just how deep our bench is this year. I would feel pretty good putting Dodd, Richardson, or Biden up against any of the Republicans this year. Seriously, our also-rans (and now drop-outs) are better than their front-runners! And our front-runners are even better. This should be a very good year.

-- Joel

Posted by: Joel Bloom on January 4, 2008 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will rise above partisanship and have us all work together! Yay for his awesomness!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 4, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

So: clear choices, strong emotions, and partisan loyalties are good for voter participation and voter turnout. I hereby declare Broderish bipartisanship the loser in last night's caucuses.

Kevin, you're completely wrong, and the strong turnout in the caucuses prove it. You miss the fact that so many people voted in the Democratic caucus because they supported Obama's call for bipartisanship and message of hope. He wants to go to Washington to break the partisan gridlock. So people didn't vote in the caucuses due to partisanship, but because they're against partisanship and want a leader who rises above it.

Obama's policy position on many issues are also to the right which indicates he wishes to rise above the normal Democratic base to seek a bipartisan solution to problems. Obama recognizes there's a social security crisis which means he probably supports privatization of social security. He's against forcing people to have health insurance and instead supports a free market solution like Bush. He labels unions as special interests and wants to ban them from having undue influence in our political process. And he's attacked trial lawyers indicating he supports tort reform. These are all conservatives positions which indicates a Obama presidencey could work with a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats to pass conservative legislation being blocked by liberals.

Posted by: Al on January 4, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"
So: clear choices, strong emotions, and partisan loyalties are good for voter participation and voter turnout.
"

Maybe so, but I would rather have a country that functions well than a country with high voter turnout. It is the crazy fscked places like Congo and Iraq that have 90% of voters chomping at the bit to cast their ballots.

WTF is with the media (and this includes you, Kevin) going on and on about the sanctity of voter participation? Voter participation is not an end in itself, it's a putative MEANS to an end --- and all the evidence shows that it isn't actually very well correlated with the end we actually care about. This is the same sort of brainless "who cares about the facts, I think with my gut" viewpoint that would be rightly mocked in a candidate (eg abstinence-only sex education will reduce the pregnancy rate).

Posted by: Maynard Handley on January 4, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Al, I think I can speak for those on both the left and the right, Democrat and Republican alike, when I say that people like you who live in foreign countries like, say, the Philippines, have no fucking business telling us how to run our own political affairs.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 4, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

You dumba**es in the media just love to keep the "polarized partisan" myth alive because you just can't sell papers otherwise.

Give it up. People went to the booths because they want change.

Posted by: Peter Kay on January 4, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Donald, to be fair, Al always thinks of the Philippines as a U.S. territory.

Posted by: shortstop on January 4, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think McCain is the best possible opponent for any of the Democrats. He is the easiest to beat. Even Hillary could take him. Sadly Barack Obama's attraction for independents might just doom his boomlet. McCain has been counting on independents in his New Hampshire campaign. After last night they might all go to Obama. Romney's campaign might be revived for a week or two.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 4, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

lessee, in a caucus that had almost double the previous historical turnout 62% of the Democratic caucusers went with candidates that are more partisan and divisive in their approach and 38% went with the candidate who wants to make nice with the other side. And this disproves Kevin's point how?

I won't even bother to mention that Kucinich supposedly had his people give support to Obama when he was knocked out of contention. Kucinich who is the most polarizing candidate in the Democratic lineup.

Posted by: majun on January 4, 2008 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

If bipartisanship meant politics solved problems in the best interests of the nation, I would encourage it. Bipartisanship does not solve problems in the best interests of the nation, but provides prominent seats at the table of public policy for corporations and other institutional players, like religious and special interest groups, who are motivated to increase their power and privileges at the expense of the national interest.

Bipartisanship is America's way of declaring itself corporatist. This may explain why we do not have a political economy that provides as many public goods as many European countries do. Healthcare cannot become universal in America because insurance companies have to be included, through bipartisanship, in the solution.

Posted by: Brojo on January 4, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

corpus juris wrote: "I think McCain is the best possible opponent for any of the Democrats. He is the easiest to beat."

That's what people said about Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 4, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP loves low voter turnout, so at least they succeeded in keeping their own turnout down!

corpus juris - I don't agree; McCain would be the strongest candidate in the general election because of his appeal to independents and moderates, his foreign policy background, and the media loves him.

Posted by: Speed on January 4, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

That's what people said about Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Mr. SecularAnimist, the costume shop called and they want their Eeyore suit back!

Jesus may or may not want you for a sunbeam, sir, but you are seriously "harshing my buzz" with this incessant negativity. Where is the enjoyment in slapping you silly with the velvet glove of my oratory when you lie down on the tracks of your own volition?

Get a grip, my man, and do something to cheer yourself up. Watch one of those trekkie thingies you love (in the Spock ears if you must). Open a window to let the smell of smoke and Doritos out. Go out for a nice hamburger.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 4, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Where is the enjoyment in slapping you silly with the velvet glove of my oratory when you lie down on the tracks of your own volition?

Why start now, freakshow?

Do you ever get sick of inflicting yourself on people who aren't the least bit interested in your ritualistic bullshit? Do you ever find yourself feeling the least bit ashamed for bringing your towering ego into public view so that people have to endure the train wreck that is your personality?

Do you ever shut the f!ck up, old man?

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 4, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

That's what people said about Ronald Reagan in 1980.

That's what people are saying about Huckabee now. People were wrong about Reagan and they are wrong about Huckabee for the same reason. The central message of both transcends politics as usual. McCain, on the other hand, is politcs as usual personified.

Fortunately the Democrats aren't running chumps this time. Obama is much better at the transcendant message than Huckabee.

For one time I have to agree with Norman. You need to get a grip. McCain isn't 10 feet tall. He is an old man whose vicious hypocrisy has been exposed for the world to see.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 4, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

For one time I have to agree with Norman. You need to get a grip.

Oh, how delicious! Someone agrees with me and I merely have to roll my eyes and say that it is about time!

Sadly, poor Secular Animist cannot get a grip. He can't get a clue. He is too despondent. Someone needs to sit with him and take his belt and shoelaces away from him. But then again, what's the point? We're all going to be burned alive in this overheated nightmare called spaceship Earth anyway, right?

Do you ever get sick of inflicting yourself on people who aren't the least bit interested in your ritualistic bullshit?

No, do you?

The great Snail Rider woofs and the dog has no bite. Woof woof, little pup. I'm going to call the pound to come and pick you up.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 4, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

We may not need to worry about bipartisanship.Thanks to GWB it is starting to be real clear that the Dems will most likely have Super Majority next year.Of course the right is wanting to claim bipartanship without it they will have no power what's so ever.Again Thank You GWB.

Posted by: john john on January 4, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Aw, Norman! Yer hilarious.

Is it true that you're up in New Hampshire, working the bad part of town on behalf of Rudy G? Are you going into the homes of the downtrodden and the working class peoples--you know, the folks who wear "the dirty shirts" to the store? Or are you trying to coax blood money out of people who are too goddamned smart to back a loser?

I hope they're paying you for that gig, because you damned sure ain't making it in the real world by posting here on behalf of whatever right wing think tank is shoving wingnut welfare down your gullet.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 4, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure which European countries you're referring to, but you'd have to dig awfully far to find any major differences between the three major parties in Britain. I frankly find their politics incredibly boring and focussed on mind-numbing trivialities.

Which is why I'm really missing being in the US right now.

Posted by: KathyF on January 4, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I hope they're paying you for that gig, because you damned sure ain't making it in the real world by posting here on behalf of whatever right wing think tank is shoving wingnut welfare down your gullet.

You are a despicable liar! I am not 'paid' to comment. I am compensated for my time. We have discussed this!

Goddamn you, sir, you are a fraud. You bring up things that were settled in discussion long ago and you rehash it like an ex-wife with an axe to grind. If you think I will sit by and let you disclose what I am paid and who pays me you are miskaken sir, you are mistaken!

We're in attorney at law, territory, here, so I expect you to BACK OFF and quit while you're ahead, Snail Rider.

What you have said is OUT OF BOUNDS and I am going to contact you-know-who, you bastard.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 4, 2008 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck off, Normie.

Woof woof.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 4, 2008 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK
Seriously, our also-rans (and now drop-outs) are better than their front-runners! And our front-runners are even better. This should be a very good year.

You sound like a Southeastern Conference football fan. (Just felt compelled to say something truly divisive.)

Posted by: little ole jim on January 4, 2008 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Moderator! Moderator!

You MUST ban Pale Rider! You MUST ban him, his Internets Protocol number, and you MUST strike everything that he has said from the record.

I DEMAND Moderation this very instant! I am not happy.

How do you think it makes me feel to see such horrible, horrible lies told about me? I am furious with this situation and I am not going to tolerate it anymore.

It's one thing to be called whatever and whathaveyou, but it's a whole other situation entirely when someone reveals the details about what a poster does for a living. I am outraged. I demand Moderation, moderator! I demand it!

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 4, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

So normy got a Blowjob in his office,spilled it on a red dress,threatened to jail her mother,Then you try to parse the word it,Oh and that car deal you did 20 years ago, smells bad and let's see oh yea you killed Vince Foster you made a ton of money on pork bellies and tried to have sex with a hillbilly.Did I miss anything.

Posted by: john john on January 4, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The one thing I just loved about Bill Clinton,Is when he gave the Angry White Guys all Cigars at the end of his term.That was one of Bill Clintons greatest moments.Americas Greatest President Hands Down.

Posted by: john john on January 4, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes it's great to be a Democrat. It's time to show off our cooperation genes. Everyone has been competing for far to long.

Posted by: slanted tom on January 4, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Looking up the population of Iowa (2006) as 2,982,085 ... then the Demo turnout of 239,000 would be approx. 8% of the population. Add in the roughly 115,000 repub turnout and you have about 12% of the Iowa population interested enough to vote (didn't find an estimate of actual eligible voters in Iowa, which would increase the numbers).

Do these percentages support Kevin's comment that:
"But at the very least, it also seems to indicate that a polarized, partisan political environment doesn't turn people off of politics. Right?"

There may be a lot more people voting than in 2004. but for most of the population of Iowa, they may indeed be "turned off".

Posted by: pencarrow on January 4, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is correct. "I just hate partisan politics" is the whine of disinterested and disconnected zombies.

America has always had political conflict. If you can't take the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.

If you can't deal with real world democracy, go live in Saudi Arabia.

And Norm Rogers is as laugh-my-ass-off funny as he ever was.

"You MUST ban Pale Rider! You MUST ban him,"

I bet Norm just *hates* trial lawyers too. And activist judges. And heavy-handed government.


Posted by: Joey Giraud on January 4, 2008 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm skeptical that the attractiveness of the Democratic candidates spurred such a large turnout. I think that the daily awfulness of the current administration for the last several years has inspired people to get participate. As someone said on the radio today, this is a continuation of the wave that started before the last election two years ago. People desperately want a return to normal life and they finally are realizing that won't happen unless they get out there and participate.

Posted by: JohnK on January 4, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

We're in attorney at law, territory, here,

Are, we, really? Oh, dear, me!

Maybe you can get yourself compensated for getting an Elements of Style book, too.

Posted by: tomeck on January 4, 2008 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I suppose it's all over except for the "meaningless joke" (the Vote), eh?:

Kucinich Files Lawsuit After Party Denies Him Place on Ballot

--AND --

Kucinich, Hunter, Gravel Cut From Debates
[same link]
.

Posted by: Poilu on January 5, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

... I am not 'paid' to comment. I am compensated for my time. ...
-Norman Rogers

Talk about "distinctions without a difference"!

Pathetic, Normie. Truly pathetic.

By all means, DON'T give up your day job, shill.
.

Posted by: Poilu on January 5, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Kevin but as an Iowa caucus-goer I think you've got it backwards. The Obama and Huckabee wins - and their speeches afterwards, if you watched them - show that people want this red+blue stuff cleaned up. They're tired of the old school and ready for something new that accomplishes things. I've read you and Yglesias and Digby on this topic, and I agreed, until I went to the caucus. Perhaps admitting the Broder stumbled onto something from his washington perch that happened to be right is painful, but right it is.

The other angle here is that the shocking part of the caucus was the number of Republicans who switched their affiliations to caucus as Democrats. It was amazing. I didnt meet any that were going for Hillary, and maybe a few for Edwards, but the sheer number that went for Obama (who specifically emphasizes the bipartisan angle) cuts this partisanship argument pretty well. In fact, the friends I had at other caucuses in Iowa that were Republicans were the most rabid supporters, texting pictures and messages back and forth like crazy about Obama's performance.

And as for the fellow that pointed out that 12% of the population caucused ... ya, that would be 12% of everyone in the state, including children (so, perhaps 20% of eligible voters?) giving up 2-4 hours on a weeknight of 5 degree weather to stand around a cramped, hot, gymnasium of people yelling at each other. At my caucus location it went from 271 people in 2004 - and we were fired up then - to 585. There were so many people they didnt have enough chairs in the school. Say what you will about Iowa but this state was fired up like nothing I've ever seen.

You say "they continue to vote in higher numbers" in Europe. Caucusing is nothing like walking in to vote in 3 minutes. No, this is a commitment of an entire evening, and I think the turn out we got, young people bringing their kids, seniors hobbling in with their walkers on ice, was amazing. This is not comparable to voting percentages, it's entirely different.

Though I'll admit we're ready for it to go on to NH and elsewhere now. 5 calls a day from John and Hillary were getting old quickly.

Posted by: Smurfyhoser on January 5, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Umm...not to pick a fight, but the Democrats DID win in 2000 and 2004. The final results were just stolen. And they'll likely win in 2008. The question is when will their leadership throw down the gauntlet and demand fair vote-recounts where necessary and fight the vote-suppression tactics that are the only means of Rep. 'victories'. When that day comes, the Democrats will win AND be seated.

Posted by: BubbaGoober on January 5, 2008 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Troubled times inspire large turnouts. Not a good sign.

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