Sunday, October 22, 2006

One Last Thing I Go --
My one prediction for the 2006 elections is that we will see a sizeable shift in the white Catholic vote as Democrats will once again take the majority of that demographic.
(6:56 AM) 0 comments

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vacation --
This blog goes dark for about a month. Maybe I'll post something, but don't count on it.
(3:46 PM) 0 comments

Saturday, October 14, 2006

No Execution for Perpetrators of Genocide --
Via BBC News:

The leaders of Rwanda's ruling party have endorsed a proposal to abolish the death penalty, which may encourage the transfer of genocide suspects in exile.

The political bureau of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) backed the decision at a meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame.

Many countries refuse to extradite criminal suspects to states which use torture and execution.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in Rwanda's genocide.

'We have conducted extensive debates within the party and come to a common position that capital punishment is of no use to Rwanda,' RPF spokesman Servilien Sebasoni told AFP news agency.

However, survivors of the 1994 genocide are strongly opposed to the decision.

I am no fan of capital punishment. I fall short of saying it is always wrong, but I would say that it is wrong when other alternatives exist. I find it interesting that this has been decided through pragmatism.
(6:00 AM) 2 comments

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Why Catholic Voters Matter in 2006 and Beyond --
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos, MyDD, and Street Prophets]

From a recent ABC poll (WARNING: PDF which I have had some problem opening in my browser, but can "save as" and open as a separate file):

More of a swing group is white Catholics. Their preference for Democrats has shifted from an 18-point margin in August to a mere two-point margin in September and back to a 22-point margin now. Where they end up is essential; along with independents, white Catholics historically have been a decisive group in election outcomes.

I've long been an advocate of the idea that Catholics are an important swing constituency whose erosion as part of the Democratic base is part of the party's problems. I'm sure Howard Dean agrees with me. After all, he did say, "The Democratic Party was built on four pillars-the Roosevelt intellectuals, the Catholic Church, labor unions and African Americans." Like me, he must be aware of how much this change has hurt the party.

The Catholic vote is important for several reasons.

1) Catholics are a natural fit for a left-of-center coalition. The Republican Party is a coalition of groups such as neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and Christian conservatives who come together primarily over conservative economic issues and, to a lesser extent, a forceful national security pose and a belief in American exceptionalism. Arrayed against them is a Democratic coalition which comes together primarily on progressive economic issues (the New Deal) and, to a less extent, on a more positive orientation toward peace. The Catholic worldview is very open to the idea of redistributive economic justice and is much in keeping with the core issues of the Democratic Party.

2) Catholics vote at a higher rate than the rest of the population (WARNING: PDF) . Appealing to Catholics is simply more efficient because you get more votes for the same effort expended toward other segments of society.

With a major party Catholic candidate on the ballot for the first time since 1960, voter turnout among Catholics in the 2004 presidential election was 63% – substantially higher than the 57% of Catholics that turned out to vote in the 2000 election. Turnout was higher than usual among the whole electorate as well in 2004 with an estimated 53% of the U.S. Voting Age Population (VAP) casting a ballot. In 2000, 50% of the overall U.S. VAP turned out to vote.

Catholics maintained the historical trends of having higher levels of participation than the overall electorate and having voted similarly to the overall popular vote in terms of candidate choice. Media-sponsored exit polls indicate that 52% of Catholics voted for President George W. Bush (approximately 16.6 million Catholic votes) and 47% voted for Senator John F. Kerry (approximately 15.0 million Catholic votes).

3) Catholics are a significant portion of the electorate who happen to be well-represented in certain swing states such as much of the Midwest. Not only are they a large group, but they are well-positioned to tip the balance in competitive presidential elections.

Over at TPMCafe, Tom Schaller wrote about his new book Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South. While I disagree with him if he says that we should completely ignore the south, I do agree with him when he says:

Instead, to fill their partisan baskets as quickly and efficiently as possible the Democrats’ best strategy is to begin with the windfallen fruits in the Northeast, where the party is strongest but have yet to consolidate and maximize its majorities, particularly in Congress.

The low-hanging fruits of the Midwest, consistently the most competitive region in American politics for 60 years, are next. Midway up the tree are the southwestern and interior western seats and electors ready for plucking. Finally, at the top of the tree—where the tipped ladder is least stable and farthest from the ground—hang the once plentiful but now soured fruits of the South, particularly those of the Deep South at the treetops.

Not surprisingly, the Northeast and the Midwest are the places with strong concentrations of Catholics. If you agree with Schaller's contention that these are the easiest places to make gains, the Catholic vote is crucial to this effort, I really don't see how those gains can be made without shifts in the Catholic vote.

4) Catholics have traditionally been the leading edge of shifts in public opinion. If there is going to be a swing, Catholics swing first. That's why the winner of the majority of the Catholic vote tends to be the winner of the majority vote period. The movement of Catholics was the key shift in public opinion on the Vietnam War. It wouldn't be surprising to see Catholics turn out to be the key shift in the turning tide against the Iraq war and Bush's mishandling of national security.

Some express distaste for Catholics as part of a working Democratic coalition because they applies the same sort of symbolic value to abortion and gay marriage as is done by conservative evangelical Christians or because they assign too much credit to a few grandstanding clerics who like making public pronouncements. Well, I have news for you. African-American Protestants are more socially conservative than Catholics, yet are embraced. Catholics used to vote solidly Democratic (not as solidly as blacks, but still worth caring about), yet have not been embraced so readily, and so that part of the party has slipped away. Been thrown away, even, some would argue.

We stand upon the cusp of an opportunity to restore Catholics from a swing constituency to one that at least leans Democratic. And the way to do that is to frame the party's core issues--health care, the poor, labor, education, Social Security, etc.--using moral language. Not all the time, and not by every candidate, but often enough that Catholic voters get the message.
(11:05 AM) 0 comments

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Democrats in the Bible Belt --

Rep. Mike Ross, a former state legislator from Texarkana, beat a four-term Republican in 2000 to win his seat, and this year is advising House candidates who are running in the upper South. He believes that the area's lower-income, high-school-educated, mostly white voters are more in sync than they realize with Democratic goals, such as raising the minimum wage and expanding health coverage.

The problem is on the social front. 'In conservative to moderate districts, swing voters first want to know where you are on their values,' Ross said. 'Once they get past that, they will listen to you on everything else.'

As a supporter of abortion rights, McCaskill fits into her party's mainstream on the biggest of all lightning rods for cultural conservatives. She responds by mostly not talking about it, and is attempting to define her values more broadly.

At Emily's List, an abortion-rights group that is supporting McCaskill, the candidate's silence is viewed not as a retreat but as shrewd politics. Chris Esposito, an Emily's List political operative who helped Rep. Dennis Moore get elected eight years ago in a GOP-leaning House district in Kansas, said McCaskill should talk about the issues that Missouri voters say they care about -- such as health coverage and national security.

The point, he said, is winning. 'It's not exclusive to wedge issues,' Esposito said. 'It's fundamental to every campaign.'

Another approach is the Heath Shuler model. The former Redskins quarterback and local real estate developer is challenging GOP Rep. Charles H. Taylor in Western North Carolina.

Shuler touts his antiabortion stand on the 'faith and family values' page of his Web site, where he announces, 'I am a pro-life Democrat.' But he puts a Democratic spin on his stance: 'I also believe that a commitment to life extends beyond the womb and means ensuring that all people have adequate health care, receive a strong education, and be given proper care in their later years.'

I've been a fairly emphatic about the Democratic Party as a coalition of social liberals and social conservatives who coalesce on progressive economic issues. Wedge issues are wedge issues only if you let them come to the forefront.
(11:51 AM) 0 comments

The Dalai Lama as Defender of Islam --
Via Yahoo! News:

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has warned against portraying Islam as a religion of violence, saying Muslims have been wrongly demonized in the West since the September 11 attacks.

Promoting religious tolerance, the world's most influential Buddhist leader said Sunday that talk of 'a clash of civilisations between the West and Muslim world is wrong and dangerous.'

Muslim terrorist attacks have distorted people's views of Islam, making them believe it is an extremist faith rather than one based on compassion, the Dalai Lama told a press conference in the Indian capital.

Muslims are being unfairly stigmatized as a result of violence by 'some mischievous people,' said the Dalai Lama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work to bring democracy and freedom to his people.

All religions have extremists and 'it is wrong to generalize (about Muslims),' the 71-year-old spiritual leader said.

'They (terrorists) cannot represent the whole system,' he said.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala since fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, said he had cast himself in the role of defender of Islam because he wanted to reshape people's views of the religion.

Asked about the uproar last month when Pope Benedict XVI quoted a 14th-century Christian emperor to portray Islam as a religion tainted by violence, the Dalai Lama said 'if you return to past history there are a lot of complications.'

'It is better to forget ... and to deal with today's reality,' he said.

'Past history is (full of) uncivilised events,' he said."

One wonders who "some mischievous people" are.
(11:35 AM) 0 comments

Is Anyone Paying Attention? --
Hotline On Call: "The swingiest constituency may be white Catholics: 'More of a swing group is white Catholics. Their preference for Democrats from an 18-point margin in August to a mere two-point margin in September, to a 22-point margin now. Where they end up is essential; along with independents, Catholics historically have been a decisive group in election outcomes.'"

Notice that the generic ballot question had the margin between people supporting Democrats and those preferring Republicans swinging from 13 points to eight points and back to 13.

I've been harping on the notion that the Democrats' chances are strongly tied to how they do with Catholic voters.
(7:45 AM) 0 comments

NASCAR Is a Religion of Peace --
Via Yahoo! Sports: "Lowe's Motor Speedway is beefing up security for driver Brian Vickers after angry race fans called the track to complain that Vickers wrecked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson on the last lap at Talladega."
(3:36 AM) 0 comments

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Prove Him Wrong --
Via Infothought::

"But [Google chief executive Eric Schmidt ] won his biggest reaction from the audience when he made a joke about blogging: 'Most blogs have precisely one reader - the blogger themself.'"
(5:44 AM) 0 comments

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can Democrats Win Without the South? --
At TPMCafe, special guest Tom Schaller is plugging his book Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

As I say in the comments, I don't think he can put forward a convincing argument without addressing the erosion of the white Catholic vote if he really thinks Democrats can win without the South.
(9:46 PM) 0 comments

Can Democrats Win Without the South? --
At TPMCafe, special guest Tom Schaller is plugging his book Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

As I say in the comments, I don't think he can put forward a convincing argument without addressing the erosion of the white Catholic vote if he really thinks Democrats can win without the South.
(9:45 PM) 0 comments