Hope Strikes Back

Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College and thereby the Presidency. There are no two ways about it. There are attempts currently underway by the third candidate to ask for a recount Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan [1] but that’s not going to change the result. However, on the popular vote front, votes are still being counted and 18 states are still pending to be certified including California, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, etc. On this measure, Hillary Clinton is leading right now by 2.7 million votes i.e. by 2 percentage points.

Some say that this is a useless exercise since the outcome may have been different due to changed strategies had popular vote been the measure [2] But I disagree.

I find solace in this measure not as a way to countermand the result but simply as a barometer of popular opinion. Days after the election, I was depressed primarily because I thought this country as a whole had decided that progressive policies of the past were no longer welcome including immigrants such as myself. This measure gives me hope that the majority of the country doesn’t think so. Even the margin in those three Rust Belt swing states has been steadily falling and at last count, is fewer than 80,000 votes out of more than 13 million votes. The margin in each of those states was fewer than 1 percentage point with the lowest in Michigan at 0.2 percentage point or just under 10,000 votes.

Just imagine, a marginal shift of those 80,000 votes and we would now be talking about how those racist bigoted working class whites were finally rebuked and cast into the darkness of history. Nearly 600,000 people in those states cast their votes for the third party so clearly they weren’t voting for Trump. So even in those woebegone Rust Belt states, most people did not vote for Trump and his racist bigoted policies. The ‘First Past the Post’ system simply helped him claim victory. That’s fine and we’ll have to live through the consequences of his victory this may be the extent of the GOP victory even while being blatant racist. If that’s the only way you can get those people to turn out and the margin was a measly 80K votes in states with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, there may still be hope. You just have to wait four more years and wish the world isn’t destroyed beyond repair by then.

As far as enthusiasm for Obama in 2012 vs. Clinton for 2016 goes:

  1. I hope this blatant ruse to grift from grief-stricken and panicked Democrats doesn’t go far. []
  2. Critics claim that we don’t know what the outcome may have been but given the voter trends and regions where people live and the current margin of victory, chances are that Democrats would still get more votes. In the last seven presidential elections, Republicans have won the popular vote only once but the Presidency three times.

    People often don’t vote because they’re disillusioned that their vote doesn’t matter. They may be Democrats in deeply red states or Republicans in deeply blue states. In large red states with growing populations (TX, GA, and AZ), Democrats gained votes; even to the extent of 7 percentage points in Texas.

    Also, if popular vote was a measure then the concept of protest vote diminishes and third-party vote share would fall. You would effectively voting against a candidate. []

Using Literacy as a Racist Code Word

In his speech Thursday to attendees [Tea Party Convention], former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo invoked the loaded pre-civil rights era buzzword, saying that President Barack Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

[Source: Raw Story] Wait! I thought a lack of “literacy test” was how Bush, a certified C-grade student got re-elected. But then Tancredo tells me “illiterate” people often vote for law professors. By the way, read the full story to understand how racists like Tancredo use code words like ‘literacy’ to mask their hate. And this is the guy who failed to get a single delegate…at the Republican Convention. He couldn’t even fill the room at a Tea Party Convention.

The Republican Purity Test

Jim Bopp, Jr., the dude who had the smart idea for relabeling the Democratic Party as the “Democratic Socialist Party” has one more brainwave. He has listed a purity test for Republicans with predictable slogans from the Tea Party Movement. The ten commandments are:

(1) Smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill

(2) Market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) Market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) Workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check

(5) Legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) Victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) Containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat

(8) Retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) Protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) The right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership

[Source: The Washington Monthly]. He even sneaks in Reagan there by calling it a Resolution on Reagan’s Unity Principle for Support of Candidates; something that even Reagan would fail at passing (raised taxes and provided amnesty to illegal aliens for starters). If you notice, you see a smattering of failed Bush policies and a whole lot of strawman arguments (no one has proposed any restrictions on guns). the Obama obsessions continues with first two tests aimed at strictly opposing Obama policies. The very first point is almost comical because no Republican administration (Reagan or Bush Jr.) has ever achieved that even when they controlled all forms of government (2000-2006) and we know they are no pushovers like Democrats when it comes to pushing their agenda.

Reliance on buzzwords is almost comical; what do market-based healthcare reform and energy reform entail? Point #5 contains two contradictory statements; feasibility notwithstanding. But all said and done, I would really like to see the Republican National Committee strictly enforce this ‘purity’ commandments so that the Republican Party implodes and a seriously rational and coherent fiscally conservative national party emerges. Right now, it just seems like a ragtag motley crew of xenophobic and ignorant characters shouting above everyone else without making any sense. People are supporting the Democratic Party not because they believe in it (at least not all) but rather because they rather not be associated with the current Republican Party that is hell bent on driving out the moderates.

Why just outrage about Iran?

I haven’t been that enthusiastic about supporting the protesters in Iran simply because it isn’t exactly a choice between good and evil much less a true representation of democracy. But it is their country so whatever rocks their boat. However, I’ve been largely skeptical of the sudden interest among neocons in the U.S. to support the protesters and now even the Democrats follow meekly given this stupid resolution that passes in Congress today (strangely Ron Paul was the only sane voice in the vote). But how does that part of the world really view this feigned outrage? Just one reaction:

I don’t know whether the elections in Iran was stolen or not, and I would not be surprised if such a regime did that. But why do Western media express outrage over a stolen election in Iran but they don’t even feign outrage over lack of elections in Saudi Arabia? [via The Angry Arab News Service.]

I couldn’t have said it better. So American media, just do your job and cover the events and keep your opinions to yourself; for a change. Moussavi is no harbinger of democracy and is an old player in the Iranian system of governance dominated by theocracy. In his heyday, he was in fact more fundamentalist than your current hate-favorite, Ahmadinajad. So consider me as a silent spectator and don’t ask me to paint my Twitter avatar green.

John Cole is also not too enthusiastic about coloring everything green:

If someone can give me one legitimate piece of evidence that wearing green boxers is going to help bring democracy to Iran, so help me I’ll wear plaid from head to toe and shoot for world peace.

Jeff Goldberg at The Atlantic says:

The overarching goal is to see the birth of a democratic Iran, not to make ourselves feel good, or get in the way

But of course, feel free swathe yourself in green; I’m just telling you why I’m not.

Indian Election Results Reaction

The results of the Indian General Elections 2009 were declared couple of days back. It culminated a month-long polling exercise wherein more than 350 million cast a vote for their political overlords for the next five years. Amidst predictions of an upset victory by the NDA coalition led by the BJP and a severely fractured coalition resulting in a hung parliament, the outcomes surprised everyone. Just like 2004. The India voter overwhelmingly voted for the UPA coalition bringing them back to power. While I was not completely pleased with the results (attribute it to my Congress antipathy), I’m glad that the mandate was firmly in favor of one alliance reducing the role of spoilsports and partisans like the Left and BSP.

Although I stayed up most of the night watching the results stream in and following the chatter on Twitter and blogs, I’ll freely admit that I’m less aware of the political situation in India than of the United States (let the accusations of desh drohi begin). So feel free to take my thoughts and opinions with a grain of salt. If you notice the seat share in this results, the BJP-led NDA alliance lost more or less 10-12 seats but the Congress gained more than 50-60. Where did these gains come from? The Left, BSP, and RJD lost heavily and Congress seemed to luck out on the choices it made regarding its pre-poll alliances. Rahul Gandhi seemed to emerge like a potential leader especially in Uttar Pradesh where the fortunes of the party made a comeback after a hiatus of nearly 20 years. Naveen Patnaik leaving the NDA and Varun Gandhi’s tantrums popped BJP’s bubble so predictions of its rise to power were unrealistically optimistic.

Manmohan Singh does not actually come off as an inspirational leader but only after Indira Gandhi in 1971 has a Prime Minister been re-elected to another term. Although the victory cannot be completely attributed to him, his candidature as a Prime Minister did no harm to UPA just as Advani (or Modi) candidature did to the NDA. I continue to oppose the route Manmohan Singh will take to the Parliament (he did not contest a Lok Sabha election) but the laws allow him to be appointed to the post. The least we can expect of our politicians, ministers, and Prime Ministers however corrupt or criminal they may be, is that they be elected not selected or anointed to the Parliament. In fact, Sonia Gandhi has more of a right to be a Prime Minister given her influence and power within the Congress party than her appointee. Political skills and governing ability are two essential qualifications needed in any politician and only in this case, has one of them been optional. Given the immense trust shown by Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party in Manmohan Singh, I’m sure the Indian voters would have appreciated the same confidence in voting for their top leader.

But at the end of the day, if the Congress and NDA continue on their reforms started in 1991, I wouldn’t complain too much. The reduced power of the Left is reason enough to feel optimistic. But if the Congress feels tempted to usher in their socialist policies that have failed India post-Independence then I hope Indian voters will not be as unforgiving.

Security, I’m told does not poll well and economic development is all that Indian voters care about which if true is a disturbing thought. I feel national security is one of the primary responsibilities of a government that no private entity can or should provide. So when we claim that security is not at the top of the voter’s list of criteria for voting then they may have simply lost trust and confidence in the government to provide them with basic security and it is each man for himself. If tomorrow, there are bomb blasts in another Mumbai train then all you can do is pray that none of your friends or family were in that train because you know the government could care less because voters don’t consider it an important issue. I just wonder at what point would we deem it important to demand security rights or do we have to wait on another attack on the Parliament for the government to take our internal security seriously? I hope Manmohan Singh has a plan for his next five years if not the coming hundred days, as he promised.

The Great Indian Election Tamasha

The great Indian political tamasha begins in a few hours as India begins to count its votes cast in the previous month over five stages. As expected, respecting the wishes of the electorate isn’t even part of the discussion or analysis but rather what perks will be offered by the single-largest party to the numerous wannabes in order to form the next government. And by single-largest party, I mean the entity that will barely make it pass the 100-seat mark when rules dictate that you need a 272-seat majority to form a government. With all the exit polls within the margin of error, it is anybody game right now and political alliances have already begun to shift without the first vote being counted.

Personally, I have come to accept the fact that UPA may in fact retain power in spite of a horrid record on national security. And I’m fine with it as long as the Left is left out in the cold with their insane and obsolete anti-India beliefs. There ought to be a law that the Prime Minister must be from the party with the largest seat share in an alliance so that way regional parties do not act presumptous and focus only on winning the state they are most likely to. The Prime Minister is a national position and should accordingly represent at least a broader region of the nation however loosely connected. But then as we stand currently, the Prime Minister is not even expected to contest a Lok Sabha election.

Finally, I’m sure although most who are interested in following the results as they stream in will be tempted to stay away due to the shrill 24-hour news channels. I would suggest staying updated using the new and official Indian Elections Results 2009 website. They even have a map feature that pleases the GIS-nerd in me. Ultimately, it is going to be a numbers game and all issues however barely mentioned will be soon forgotten and we’ll be beholdened to our mai-baap political masters for the next 5 years (unless some unreasonable fringe doesn’t get its share of the pie).

No Debate, We’re Indians

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said he did not wish to have a television debate with him (L.K. Advani)as he did not want to accord him the privilege of being “an alternative prime minister”.

Attacking Advani for repeatedly calling him a weak prime minister, Manmohan Singh retorted: “I am not used to abusive language. That is the culture inherited from parents, from teachers and the concept of what Indianness is.”

Alluding to Advani’s challenge to him for a American-style nationally televised debate, Manmohan Singh said that I can’t match “Advaniji in public speaking or asserting things.

“I am not a good speaker, but I take decisions [source].

I love this response by Manmohan Singh when asked about Advani’s challenge for a live television debate because it is emblematic of Congress’s attitude toward democracy and elections. Manmohan Singh doesn’t want to accord Advani the priviledge of being a Prime Minister because he clearly knows that according someone that right rests not with the people of India but with Sonia Gandhi. Heck, when the people of India had their way, they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him in the first place even when he stood for elections in the urban constituency of Delhi. He had to go through the backdoor i.e. the Rajya Sabha route to assume the primeministership of India.

Admittedly, he is a smart guy and was largely responsible for heralding in economic reforms that set India on the path to economic growth but we are a democracy unlike China. The will of the people is at the heart of our democracy and the least we can do is to expect our Prime Ministerial candidate to win one of the 543 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Even criminal and political children have no problems doing so.

By asking for a televised debate, Advani wants to use a popular medium for political purposes and given that it is a level playing field, that’s not exactly nefarious. Manmohan Singh’s excuse that his lack of skills in “public speaking or asserting things” is weak and in fact proves Advani’s point. How can a Prime Minister who is afraid of standing up and speaking publicly or lacks skills in asserting his points even claim leadership of a large country? Does he offer that excuse when he has to address the UN or meet with G-20 leaders? The least we can expect from our Prime Minister is that he can speak publicly, right? Or is that also too much to expect? Merely taking decisions is not enough if you can’t implement them or convince people of their validity.

Note that I’m not advocating that L.K. Advani is a superior candidate for Prime Minister and we are aware of his shortcomings. But he is the leader of a prominent opposition party and was a Home Minister in the previous administration so Manmohan’s claim of not according him the privilege of being an alternative for becoming prime minister smacks of elitism. If you find Advani’s ideas so despicable to India, why not use the debates to make the Indian people aware of them?

Lastly, don’t cite the excuses of Indian culture in any political discourse. We are responsible for far egregious things that would hardly qualify as being in tune with Indian culture; microphone-throwing and hurling abuses as seen on TV. Calling you weak when you have presided over the spate of regular terrorist attacks is not insulting you but merely stating a fact.

Mumbai Votes – Election Campaign Resource

Satyen Bordoloi emailed me and other members of the DesiPundit team couple of days back pointing us toward a venture that greatly impressed me:

In a first for Mumbai, a portal www.MumbaiVotes.com, with the city’s most comprehensive resource for reliable, meticulously researched, and objective information to track promises and performance of the city’s MP’s, MLA’s and Corporators as well as candidates standing for elections this year, has gone live. MumbaiVotes is currently tracking 915 politicians and has over 3681 newspaper articles, video interviews, election manifestos and legislative records that can be accessed with a simple search.

As Satyen points out, the primary objectives of Mumbai Votes is to make information about their candidates readily accessible and hold our elected officials accountable. The advent of the Internet has made archiving, accessing, and dissemination of information quite easy and as the American elections showed us, this information can be pivotal in vetting our choices to lead us in these interesting times. I love it that it is a non-partisan effort and does not suggest any slant in favor or against any party.

The information is gleaned from “various sources like election manifestos, newspaper articles, video interviews and data sourced from reliable sites like PRSIndia.org, ADRIndia.org, eci.gov.in, loksabha.nic.in among others” and made visually appealing for a quick glance at a candidate’s record and promises [detailed methodology (PDF)]. You may be disappointed that this resource covers only Mumbai but it is just a start. Considering the overarching aims of this project and time spent (5 years) in collecting data for just these constituencies, it may take a while to document all 543 constituencies. I’ll be more than satisfied if we manage to document even half of that by next elections. Perhaps crowdsourcing information collection followed by validation can help speed up the process; something that the Indian diaspora like myself can also contribute to. I understand that this is just a start and we are quite a distance away from an Indian version of DailyKos provided Internet access and penetration is more ubiquitous. Only then can the Indian electorate flex its muscles and show that we don’t need any high promises but merely knowledge of opinions and policy solutions of our potential political overlords.

As the tagline at Mumbai Votes says, This Time Don’t Just Vote…Select. I couldn’t have said it better. Fulfill your democratic responsibilities by casting your informed vote in your constituency. After all, we get the leaders we deserve.

Exercise your Vote

In the spirit of retweeting, I’m reposting this from The Acorn:

General elections have been announced. If you are not on the voters list, or are not sure that you are, just go over to Jaago Re and register online as soon as possible. Spread the word. Bug your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Nag them until they sign up.

And on polling day, make sure you vote.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to vote. Again. I wish we had absentee ballots.

You can follow IndiCast’s election coverage here.

Cost of Democracy

I’m confused. So if you live in an autocratic country, you face no recessions? Except you do. It is hilarious when proponents of freedom live in a demo-crazy.

Out of the Bubble

One of the complaints against George Bush was that he lived in a bubble. He never knew what the ground realities were or which way the public opinion was because his advisors kept him sheltered. He even admitted to not reading any newspapers. So it is refreshing to see a President answer questions from people who clearly are not his supporters in a town that did not vote for him this past November. No loyalty oaths, no screened questions, no blacklisting; just the President and the citizens.

Citizens don’t matter

Written by Aditya (aditya [at] theindicast.com)

It’s been a little more than two week since the terror attacks happened and Indians have already forgotten about it and found solace in India’s test match victory. In the mean time political leadership in Maharashtra has changed. A new CM is in and an ex-deputy CM, Chaggan Bhujbal, who had to resign due to his alleged involvement in the Telgi scam, got his old job back. I had written a post regarding the candle lit protests being a waste of time and now there is proof.

By re-appointing a leader like Bhujbal, the political leaders have once again shown the middle finger to all those who were asking for political reforms. The headlines in the newspapers read, Bhujbal appointed Dy CM of Maharashtra but what it actually meant was, Screw You Mumbaiites, we will still do what we want. People say I should vote, I ask why? The CM of Maharashtra is decided by “High Command” sitting in Delhi and not by who I vote for. And it’s not only about Maharashtra. I had mugged up this fact in a civics lesson in 8th standard – An MP or MLA candidate should be of good moral standing in the society. But the reality is Shibu Soren who was convicted for murder in 2006 was sworn in as the CM of Jharkhand in 2008.

I don’t want to be a cynical person but the facts are in front of you. We don’t matter!

A Center-Right Country?

“America remains a center-right country. Democrats should not make the mistake of viewing Tuesday’s results as a repudiation of conservatism or a validation of big government” – House Minority Leader John Boehner [source].

So let me get this straight – the Democrats win the White House with 350 electoral votes and 52-46 popular vote margin, have 253 seats in the House; a net gain of 19 seats (9 undecided yet), have 56 seats in the Senate; a net gain of 5 (3 undecided), and have 29 Democratic governors in a 50-state country and YET this is a center-right country? Pray tell me what would a center-left country look like?

My friends (apologies to that Senator from AZ whose name I can’t remember today), the pendulum swings back and forth between center-left and center-right. It was center-right since Reagan but it was swung back the other way now. The quicker you admit it, the easier it will be for the GOP to swing it the other way again. Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly is equally frustrated about this unwillingness to see what is in front of them. Mind you, the last few weeks of the campaign were all about how Obama is a socialist and wants to redistribute your wealth (utter lies). So now that he has 52% of the popular vote, do the Republicans want to admit that Americans might not mind a little bit of socialism?

Obama Rally in Missouri

Obama draws 100,000 in St.Louis, Missouri. Mind you, this was a red state in 2004 but Obama leads 52-46 in Missouri according to a Rassumussen poll released on Friday. Why Missouri is so important? Because the state has always (with one exception) voted for a winning nominee in Presidential elections.

The McCain Fatigue

Ronald Reagan used to say that the most frightening nine words in the English language were “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” That is no longer true. This year, the most frightening eight words are “I’m John McCain and I approved this message” [source].

Television pundits have never been so out of touch with the ground realities as in this election. Even yesterday when the final debate concluded, the pundits seemed to weigh in and hand victory (whatever that means) to John McCain.

The results of the insta-polls and focus groups comprising of seemingly undecided voters soon began trickling in and the conclusions couldn’t be any more different. It was as if the pundits and the voters were watching two different debates. Even the Fox News focus group organized by Frank Luntz gave it to Obama and revealed that Joe the plumber and Bill Ayers lines did not work. In fact, the dials were the highest when Obama talked about health care. It is as if America is begging for socialized medicine. This morning Joe Scarborough tried to envision a scenario if the current toss-up states like Missouri, North Carolina, and Florida went to McCain in spite of the fact that he trails by 3-4 points right now. Chuck Todd the numbers guy couldn’t resist shaking his head at such blatant naiveté. The election may be far from over and it may be too soon to declare an Obama victory but to reasonably contemplate a reversal on current realities is simply illogical. It is in the media’s interest to keep this race close otherwise who would bother tuning in every evening to see irrational thoughts being spewed in contrast to actual voters opinion.

Occasionally some pundit will stumble on the reality that this election is probably the worst time to be a Republican and no matter how much McCain tries to run away from Bush, he is tied to his economic policies. As Joe Klein astutely puts it in the above quoted paragraph, regardless of what the message is as long as it is said by McCain, the voters aren’t buying it this time. To understand the voter frustration with the current administration and Republicans, this report by Ben Smith makes for interesting reading. The conclusion – voters may believe McCain’s negative attacks and even hate Obama but they will still vote for him instead of McCain. Sadly, the only thing a grumpy old man can do is roll his eyes and appear angry [YouTube link]. To paraphrase the Joker, why so angry? Never mind, we know why.

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