4 November 2008

The Results of the 2008 American Election

I first went to America in 1985, and the most haunting thing about my visit was queueing in the bar at Heathrow some time before the flight departure. For some reason there was a problem behind the bar, and the (black) barman had disappeared to sort it out. The man in front of me turned round, then looked at me and said, in an American accent: 'He's probably gone to climb up a tree.'

It wasn't just what he said that I found deeply offensive, but also the fact that this man should assume that I shared his views.

Fortunately the world has moved on a great deal since then, and last night is a major indication of that move.


Snatch51 said...

Not finding the results of the US election here, I wondered if my good friend Tony Shaw would mind if I put in my retaliation first.

An initial worry will be about the appalling night this is for American black people.

Some of the 'African Americans' whom I have known over the years have been ordinary working people, and it would be sad if we assumed they all voted one way this time.

If we look at role models such as Alan Keyes, Condoleeza Rice and Thomas Sowell, we could look beyond the stereotype, and so we should... but the mainstream media have conducted a sickening racist election. Once the polls closed, the pretence ended: everything was about 'race'.

When I was a young man, 'racism' meant a doctrine where people were judged on their race or the colour of their skin, and political issues were viewed in the light of those judgements.

We were the generation who came to realise that race and colour were unimportant.

Yet now racism has reared its ugly head. Every channel talked about the importance of the election of a black president.
This to my generation is not merely irrelevent, it is wildly offensive!

What we should have been discussing all through this election are ideas.

My good friend Tony is an anarchist, and therefore a little apart from me; but no decent anarchist would give the time of day to Government, and what The One wants is a massive increase in Government.

Without asking how he will pay for an American NHS,(which, America being America, will cost eight times what ours costs), a cheque for 95% of Americans, (tax rebate? Even if they never paid tax?), and a new war against Pakistan which no-one called him on in the election, we have to ask how he adds up his sums.

What we should, if we are intellectually honest, query, is how he then pays for the bank bailout?

These guys are just picking figures out of the air, and someone is going to get a headache in the morning...guess who?

As America wakes up over the next couple of years or so, I have a horrible fear that there will be a reaction which will set back the progress that good hardworking people have made, and particularly black people.

Dr Shaw speculated recently whether America was ready for a black president, but now it is clear that there is going to be one, with huge power in both houses of the Congress.

Is this power going to be exercised in the cause of liberty, or of Socialism?

As for taxing the rich, there is a huge body of academic study, (ironically centred on the Chicago School), which makes the case that the more you tax the more that the taxation base melts away. (Laffer Curve anybody?)

As the depression bites deeper and deeper, American people are not going to ask "What did Bush do?", but what, Obama, are you going to do?

And do you know what? There isn't going to be a damn thing he can do.

Remember you heard it here first.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Quote: 'We were the generation who came to realise that race and colour were unimportant.'

Yes, but we know that in the real world that's a pile of shit, if only because we also strongly suspect that at this very moment there are crazies (probably far younger than us) who are out there planning to assassinate Obama. I don't have to spell out the severe disadvantages the majority of black people undergo from birth, which belie this ‘unimportance‘.

Quote: 'Yet now racism has reared its ugly head. Every channel talked about the importance of the election of a black president.
This to my generation is not merely irrelevent, it is wildly offensive!'

But it is important, and I don't find it offensive. In a more enlightened world I would, certainly, but I have relatives I know are racist, and although I wouldn't wish to be friends with anyone I even remotely suspected had racist views, it’s a fact of life that racism still exists.

In his Grant Park speech, Obama mentioned a (possibly apocryphal) 106-year-old woman from Atlanta who’d come through tremendous changes in her time. Many people are amazed that a black person has been elected so relatively soon, one of them being the well-respected writer Dave Eggers (and if you don’t know of him, check out the great work he’s doing in the field of education).

Quote: 'but no decent anarchist would give the time of day to Government, and what The One wants is a massive increase in Government.'

Uh, there are anarchists and anarchists. Your great-uncle Lionel Britton was an anarchist, but still a card-carrying member of the Labour Party on his death in 1971. That’s not a contradiction: there’s such a thing as gradualist anarchism, and many anarchists see some politicians as more in line with their way of thinking than others. Of course anarchism won’t work, it’s a utopia, but what’s wrong with having dreams? Last night, many Americans saw what they believe is the beginning of the fulfilment of their dreams. We know it’s bollocks, but if you take away hope what the fuck has anyone got left? Many people in Detroit, for instance, don’t even have their homes left, and estate agents are now selling them for peanuts.

I’ve no idea what Obama is going to do, but he can’t make a bigger mess than Bush was making: during his stay in office, he considerably lowered the highest rate of income tax, tried to force through anti-abortion laws, and tried to push through the teaching of creationism as opposed to Darwinian evolution. Coupled with that, it probably goes without saying, he was an intellectual maggot. At least America will now have an intelligent president.

Unscientifically, I also have to add that I think he’s a nice guy – at the moment, but politics can change a man. Whether that man can change America a great deal we can only wait and see. Call me a romantic anarchist if you like, but let’s not take the hope away from all those people, many of whom waited all their lives for last night to happen: if in the end they’re disappointed, then so be it. But you never know: it certainly won’t get worse than it is.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

A sudden thought: the media used to make a big thing of Thatcher being the first British woman prime minister. According to your logic, wouldn't that be sexist?

Snatch51 said...

If the massed ranks of the media had been urging votes for Thatcher because of the importance of having a woman prime minister, yes, that would have been sexist.

I think we remember it as being rather different from that!

Snatch51 said...

Dr Shaw said:
"it certainly won’t get worse than it is."

This is one forecast which can be measured against whatever the future holds, and while he is welcome to his view, I will offer an opposing view:
It will get worse: much, much, worse.

Let us say that two years down the line would be a good time to assess this, but I would even give you four years. If anyone wants to make it eight years, I'll still go by my judgement.

Let's hope that I and Dr Shaw and anyone else following our speculations here are still alive and kicking in 2016!

A more prosperous, contented America in eight years time?
I'm going out on a limb and saying 'No'.

So remember you heard it here first.

Which brings me to the election of 1916: one hundred years before the date just mentioned.

All non-anoraks should now look away, if not run howling with their fingers in their ears and arms across their eyes in a mad rush to the booze cabinet and blissful oblivion.

That was the last election in which a Democrat won the presidency without carrying the state of West Virginia.

The Battle of Matewan was as iconic to the miners of West Virginia as the Tonypandy incident was to the South Wales miners.

Losing West Virginia for a Democrat candidate is a bit like the Labour Party losing say Blaenau Gwent to a Tory candidate, (and yes, I know a Plaid or independent sometimes comes through in these places, but not a Tory).

Some places have seen a demographic change, but WV is probably more notable for having seen very little of that.
Why then did WV go for McCain/Palin by almost the same 13% margin achieved by George W Bush in 2004?
I would genuinely like to hear from the Obamaniacs on this point. (I understand they have some money and a big staff...


here I am guys.)

Then we have Missouri, which has now forfeited its bellwether status.
At this moment, McCain/Palin are ahead by less than 4000 votes, and it does not look as if the networks have called the race, but the State of Missouri says 3533 out of 3533 precincts have reported, so why not?
Maybe it's me.
See for yourselves:


Even if something happens to make this an Obama state after all, (e.g. absentee ballots which the State site didn't tell us about), Missouri has gone quite substantially out of line from the median of the US.

Have a look at http://www.stlbeacon.org/issues_politics/election_analysis/missouri_s_bellwether_is_cracked

Where will the next bellwether be?
Surely not any of the states such as California, Vermont or Rhode Island, which have turned in nearly a two-thirds majority for Obama.

We could try Nebraska, but in Banner County McCain/Palin achieved 84%. Could anyone tell me a county in the US where that ticket had a more lopsided result?
(Don't bombard me with lopsided Democratic results, we know all about them).

I rather like Colorado. Obama made it here by about 7%, which was nearly the same as his national lead.
This state is so high it would give the pollsters a lot of nosebleeds, but they need to get up there next time.

You have the uber-liberals in Boulder, (and I haven't even had time to check how they voted this time, but if it was much off 85% for Obama I've lost the plot).
Then there are the Holy Joes in Colorado Springs. Did they get out the vote?

This raises another interesting question: turnout differential has been hugely important, not only in American elections, but in ours too.

Butler County Missouri was typical of somewhere with a dismal turnout this time, (52.68%), in an election where it's generally conceded that the turnout exceeded recent levels.
Butler doesn't seem to have been a county with a large minority population, yet it came in with the lowest turnout in the state. Can anyone tell me why this is?

In previous elections the assumption has been that minority voters, (especially black voters, or African-Americans if you prefer), were not well motivated to vote and turned in lesser numbers than voters overall.

In this election it has also been generally assumed that this demographic was better motivated, and I have even seen estimates that 97% voted in some instances.

Well, I certainly take that with a pinch of salt.

However, could it be that the turnout differential was stood on its head so dramatically that the folks who used to come to the polls and use their vote often couldn't be bothered this time, and that the ones who used not to bother were dramatically fired up?

This stuff needs looking into, but it doesn't explain why Missouri, the former bellwether seems to be a holdout for McCain.