Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Confederacy, Bible Belt, and Wilderness Party

I'm going to try to get through my post-election analysis without being too much of a jerk.  But it will be hard.  I'm used to being sort of right but not THIS right.

I caught major grief from friends and foes when I stated as a fact--not a prediction--in September and repeated for emphasis yesterday that the presidential election was over and that Obama had won.  Not only was I correct, but it was actually over for the reasons I stated.  More on why the rest of the news media seemed oblivious to that fact later.

The most relevant statistic that you will not hear anywhere else is that this is the second straight election during which a decent and intelligent Republican candidate did not come close to winning a single state outside the Confederacy, Bible Belt, or Wilderness. 

And for the second straight election that was largely due to the fact that the Republican party has been taken over by people who are so crazy and evil that the candidate had to say so many bizarre things and support such toxic policies to get the nomination that he essentially became unelectable in a national race.

The smart Republicans candidates like Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Michael Bloomberg, and Jeb Bush wanted no part of that game and chose to stay as far away from this election as possible--waiting for saner times in the future.  So it was Mitt Romney who outlasted a field of wing nuts to get the nomination but, despite his last minute efforts to disavow his previous statements to appear more in touch with most Americans, he never had a chance.

All the conversation continues to be about divisiveness and partisanship but the real issue is that the Republicans can't win a national election unless they make some major changes.  The simple fact is that if over the next four years Republican leaders (and many of my friends) would commit the same amount of time, energy, and money to solving our country's problems as they have over the last four years to destroying and demonizing our president and his family, most of our problems will be solved.

After all, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and his co-religionists already have what they have wanted since 2008. The assurance that Barack Obama will not be re-elected four years from now. With that in hand, they might as well try a new approach and focus on helping the country.

As an independent voter who longs for a viable choice again I hope and pray that happens. If it doesn't, it will be sad but not shocking.

What IS shocking is the fact that none of the so-called news media--mainstream or otherwise--pointed any of this out at any point during the campaign.  Even as Intrade was showing us that real people betting real money had determined that Romney had no chance to win (Intrade accurately predicted the outcome in each of the 49 states that have been decided), we were constantly being told right up until the last minute that this was the closest race in history--neck and neck--and it would go right down to the wire.

It was as though a football game between the Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin was being discussed by "experts" as a toss-up with none of them pointing out the fact that real people betting real money had made the Packers six touchdown favorites.

It calls into question if we still have real journalists or real news organizations.  They seem to have been replaced by celebrities who appear on TV shows and write blogs and columns but make their real money doing guest speaking appearances before adoring fans around the country.

Journalistic standards and commitment to the truth have gone so far by the wayside that we now have a handful of people (none of whom are well-known, high paid or famous) who have been delegated as "fact checkers" for various shows and publications.  I must be getting old but back when I was a newspaper and TV reporter, we were ALL supposed to be fact checkers.  That was the job.  Reporting the truth and calling out lies when we found them.

But an article in today's New York Times points out how dramatically that has changed during this election:

...most news organizations (with notable exceptions) abandoned their roles as political referees. Many resorted to an atrophied style that resembled stenography more than journalism, presenting all claims as equally valid. Fact checking, once a foundation for all reporting, was now deemed the province of a specialized few. 
But as this campaign has made clear, not even the dedicated fact-checkers have made much difference. 
PolitiFact has chronicled 19 “pants on fire” lies by Mr. Romney and 7 by Mr. Obama since 2007, but Mr. Romney’s whoppers have been qualitatively far worse: the “apology tour,” the “government takeover of health care,” the “$4,000 tax hike on middle class families,” the gutting of welfare-to-work rules, the shipment by Chrysler of jobs from Ohio to China. Said one of his pollsters, Neil Newhouse, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

So, as Tevye famously said during Fiddler on the Roof,  "Send us the cure.  The sickness we've already got."  Will anything change?  Is there a cure out there?

As far as the Republican Party is concerned it is up to them.  Watching Karl Rove on Fox News last night was like seeing Matthew Harrison Brady at the end of Inherit the Wind as he continued to argue his case even after the jury had rendered its verdict.  He was Don Quixote in a business suit tilting at windmills and flailing at imaginary demons.  I'm curious to hear what Rove tells the billionaires who gave him hundreds of millions to smear Obama regarding what they got for their money.  I wonder if Sheldon Adelson feels his $100 million was well spent.

And the trend is not their friend.  Former Wilderness states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada have already joined the civilized world due to changing demographics and places like my home in Arizona and  North Carolina will be close behind.  There are fewer and fewer places where science and facts and American values and freedoms--not as defined by Evangelicals but as defined by history and common sense--just don't matter any more.  We'll see if the Republicans can figure it out or if they will just keep dooming themselves to failure on the national stage.

Regarding the news media, I'm not optimistic.  As with professional sports, it has become a business that seems more focused on individual fame and entertainment than on teamwork, traditional values and a commitment to the public good.  That part is sad.

I guess I will just have to keep writing to try to offset the decline.


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election Will Resolve an Important Issue

I have received a number of calls from my many fans in recent days who want to know if I still stand by my bold (and apparently annoying) statement of six weeks ago in which I declared the presidential election to be over and declared Obama the clear winner.

I have never wavered in my conviction, despite President Obama's apparent determination to prove me a liar during the first debate, and  I certainly am not concerned now.  At the end of the day, the combination of Romney's weakness as a candidate and the Republican party's toxic platform are every bit as damaging to his candidacy today as they were months ago.

It was over then and it is over now. 

But that is not the reason for this article.

An interesting question that has emerged during the last two months of the campaign has been whether traditional polls (Gallup, Pew, Rasmussen, and such) have gone the way of credit rating agencies and become completely useless as a predictive tool or if they are able to measure public sentiment accurately.

Politcal polls have a spotty track record but in the new world where no one under the age of 50 has a land line telephone any more it really calls into question how a pollster can sample opinion at all today.  During the last few months, I have received more than a dozen calls from pollsters on my home phone but no calls on the cell phone which I use for most of my communication.

How do pollsters sample public opinion if they are using telephone polling but they aren't calling anyone who only has a cell phone?  A good question, but also not the reason for this article.

The burning question is how and why there is such a huge disconnect between the predictions being made by traditional pollsters and the odds being quoted on the betting sites where real people are betting tens of millions of dollars on the upcoming elections?

Full disclosure.  As an investment adviser and as an observer of the human and political condition I have always paid far more attention to how people behave than to what they say.  It is an approach that tends to serve us all well.

That is why I confess to being an addict of Intrade, Ladbrokes, and other betting sites where gamblers (investors) can wager on the outcome of upcoming events.

From the outset, Obama has been a solid favorite to win re-election on all the betting sites and at this very moment with the election just hours away, the president is a 70-30 favorite to win on Intrade and a 2-9 favorite at Ladbrokes (U.S. casinos are not allowed to take bets on our elections) in Great Britain.  Meanwhile, Gallup--the most prestigious of the traditional pollsters--now says that Romney is slightly AHEAD overall.

The odds have always favored Obama although his lead dropped into the 55-45 range during the week after his disastrous performance and Romney's clear win in the first debate in September.  But real bettors betting real money have never--not ever for a second--considered Romney likely to win.

Even more dramatic is the widely divergent message we are getting on the likely outcome in the so-called swing states.  We are told at this very moment by the mainstream media and the traditional polls that the election is neck and neck and could go either way. That states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are essentially deadlocked and too close to call.

Meanwhile, the betting sites are stating clearly that there are only two real toss up states remaining--
Virginia and Colorado (Obama is ahead slightly in each).  Real people betting real money have made Romney a huge favorite in Florida and North Carolina and Obama is a prohibitive favorite--25 points or more--in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Iowa, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin.

If investors are to be believed, it will be a very early night tomorrow.

The issue that should get a lot of attention but probably won't is why, armed with prestigious but probably very misleading polling data, have our mainstream media been tricking us into believing that this race has been a cliff-hanger all along?  Could it be that they are less interested in keeping us informed than they are in insulating themselves from charges of liberal bias from the Right?  And that most of all they are desperate to keep us sitting on the edges of our seats until the game is over even though real people betting real money have been telling us for months that this election will be a blowout?

This is the only real question regarding the presidential election--whether polls are worth the paper they are printed on and the way the media use them--that remains to be resolved tomorrow.  The rest of it was over weeks ago.