Loner's Observations

Thursday, November 09, 2006
"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.
"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."
"What brought it on?"
"Friends," said Mike.

—Ernest Hemmingway, The Sun Also Rises

Yesterday I did a count that I occasionally did back when I was paying attention to political demographics and statistics, reading political periodicals and, after 1980, spending hours with C-SPAN on in the background. I divided the lower 48 states into four groups of twelve states which I'll refer to as northeast, south, midwest and west. For equalizing purposes (and other demographic reasons) West Virginia is in the northeast, Kentucky is in the south, Oklahoma is in the midwest and Texas is in the west.

This is close to what the Senate and House will look like by region next year:

northeast - Senate: 19 (D) and 5 (R) House: 70 (D) and 25 (R)

south - Senate: 19 (R) and 5 (D) House: 64 (R) and 46 (D)

midwest - Senate: 15 (D) and 9 (R) House: 51 (R) and 49 (D)

west - Senate: 14 (R) and 10 (D) House: 67 (D) and 60 (R)

Hawaii and Alaska will send two of each to the Senate and two Democrats and one Republican to the House.

When I was born back in 1958 the "Solid South" was, as it had been for generations, Democratic. The gradual shift from solid Democratic to fairly solid Republican had begun, but it was very gradual. The all at once didn't finally arrive until 1994 and even then it wasn't until 2002, for instance, that Georgia went reliably Republican. That shift was noticable even if you weren't paying much attention. But look at my count. The northeast will mirror the south in the Senate next year and provide something like 27 more votes for the majority party in the House and there is little to indicate that, given the 2006 results, that disparity won't grow in 2008. Areas which haven't been represented by a Democrat in the House since the Civil War are going to be represented by one next year and there are other areas of the same type in the northeast (and midwest) where Republicans managed to hold on this time, but their margins of victory are shrinking.

For a long time Illinois in the midwest was a battleground state in Presidential elections. No more and next reapportionment will the state legislature think on Texas? Until 1992, no Democrat had ever been elected President who didn't win Texas. Does a Democrat have a snowball's chance in Texas now? In 1988, Michael Dukakis made one last attempt and went with Lloyd Bentsen rather than John Glenn. In 1992, it was the Ohio delegation which Bill Clinton chose to do the honors and provide the votes that nominated him. No Republican has ever been elected without winning Ohio. This year the Republican Party took a big hit in Ohio. Will it recover in only two years? The Republican Party took a big hit in California in the mid-'90s. Will it recover in another ten? Attorney General-elect and former governor Jerry Brown may end up, when all the votes are counted, with as big a vote total as Arnold. He has less than 50,000 less right now. And Pennsylvania? Want to know when Rick Santorum's fate (despite his fundraising version of election history) was sealed? It was sealed in 2002 when Pennsylvania's Democratic voters nominated Ed Rendell, rather than the favored Robert Casey, Jr., as their candidate for Governor. That one primary election resulted in a near-complete reversal in the fortunes of the two parties in that state.

Demographics matter. Political skills matter. Timing matters. Fundraising? Oh, does it matter. And sometimes a candidate is just lucky (or unlucky.)

Fresh Air was right when he wrote that open seats and turnout matter in off-year elections. It's something I've known for a very long time, but I also know, through decades of poring over results (forget listening to and making predictions and reading post-mortems) that, in the end, the voter is alone in the voting booth and, while many things aren't probable, all things are possible. In that light my only regrets regarding the decisions made by the voters in 2006 are that Michael Steele and Harold Ford didn't win Senate seats. My biggest surprise is that a House seat in California will be held not by the party for which the district was apportioned. The Talent loss in Missouri is the biggest warning to Republicans. The Democrats didn't lose any—so far, but Steele should be a warning to them.

My hope is that the people we've elected find a way to leave Iraq in better shape than we found it in and that they find it soon.



MeaninglessHotAir said...

This is an excellent post and I've been looking at some similar observations. The biggest problem for the Republican party going forward is that they have effectively lost California. With California and the Northeast completely gone, it is necessary for them to win Florida and Ohio completely every time. That simply isn't possible.

In the longer run, the trend seems to be moving away from the Republican party. As people become richer they naturally become Democrats. The Republicans are the party of people who want to get rich. The Democrats are the party who already are rich, and want to pretend to help the poor by taxing those who are still trying to get rich.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

What seems to be the dividing line between the "Republican way of thinking" and the "Democratic way of thinking" these days is the answer one proffers to the question of why we are in Iraq. Democrats say it has nothing directly to do with 9/11 and that we should not be there. Republicans see it as one front in the War on Terror. That it is is not entirely clear and is a difficult case to argue, though I have been trying to argue it lo these many years. I make this distinction, not on the basis of actual party identification, but on the basis of thought process. Loner is not a Democrat but in thought process he has become one de facto. And so it goes with much of California. That alone is why the Republican party today is in deep doo-doo.

I personally am convinced that withdrawal from Iraq, which is what is being called for, is going to have massively negative repercussions for our future foreign relations. The Arabs and the Chinese will uniformly draw the conclusion that we do not have the will to fight. Well, we don't have the will to fight. Let's not kid ourselves. We want to sip our lattes instead. Look out your window right now and tell me what sort of sacrifices your neighbors and your town are making for the war. True, Bush didn't ask for such sacrifices: because he knew that a rich, selfish, self-indulgent nation would not have wished to contribute to the cause.

loner said...


The usual errors stand out: "pouring" rather than "poring", "regrets are" or "regret is", etc.

Look, on Iraq I made my peace with what is on election night in 2004 and I've pretty much held my fire on the issue since, but if this drags on for another two years much like the previous two then the new President, whoever he or she may be, is going to end it one way or another. Like I wrote at the end of this entry, I hope the people we've elected to govern us find a way to untangle this. In my opinion, the President didn't call for such sacrifice because the President honestly believed that such sacrifice wasn't going to be necessary.

Rick Ballard said...


Sacrifices weren't and aren't necessary in the WWII sense. Not to achieve stragegic military goals, at any rate.

Extension of "freedom" and "nation building" have been exercises in futility for the past century - unless order and property rights for individuals were firmly established.

The ME has been rotting for hundreds of years, the reason for the rot is as clear as crystal and there isn't any "fix" that can be applied from outside.

loner said...

Thanks, Rick.

The British applied a fix in 1920. The linked article is from 2004.

Also, from the wikipedia.org entry on Gertrude Bell:

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in late January 1919, Bell was assigned to conduct an analysis of the current situation in Mesopotamia and the options for future leadership in Iraq. She spent the next ten months writing what was later considered a masterful official report. When her conclusion was largely favorable to Arabic leadership, her superior, A. T. Wilson, turned against her. On October 11, 1920, Percy Cox returned to Baghdad and asked her to continue as Oriental Secretary, acting as liaison with the new forthcoming Arab government.

Her influence led to the creation of a nation inhabited by a Shi'ite majority in the southern part of the country and Sunni and Kurdish minorities in the center and the north. By denying the Kurds a separate state, the British tried to keep control of the oilfields in their territory. The British thought that Sunnis should lead the Iraqi nation, because the Shi'ite majority was regarded to be religiously fanatic. "I don't for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority; otherwise you will have a ... theocratic state, which is the very devil," Bell once said.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

In my opinion, the President didn't call for such sacrifice because the President honestly believed that such sacrifice wasn't going to be necessary.

I buy that.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


Reforming the ME may be a hopeless task. But what are the alternatives? We're an incredibly interconnected world these days and what happens in the ME does have an enormous impact on us.

We are currently experiencing an overwhelming urge to hid our heads under our arms and hope it all goes away. It won't.

I didn't favor the invasion, but now that we're there I think cowardly leaving is the worst thing we can do. Everybody in the world sees clearly what we are doing and will draw the appropriate conclusions concerning American power. What happened to Soviet power after the withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Barry Dauphin said...

Suitcase nuclear devices didn't exist in 1920, nor did they have bio-weapons. Chemical weapons were largely a battlefield issue. The internet didn't exist then either nor was there any where near as much trade happening. Aside from oil, the ME was simply "over there" to most people.

Rick Ballard said...


I don't think we should or will completely withdraw. The Kurds are happy to have us and they'll be more than happy to aid in destabilizing Iran (that was the specialty of the new SecDef at the CIA).

You can't reform a septic tank. You do have to pump it every once and a while but it's still a septic tank. The President has finally dropped the RoP rhetoric (maybe the Pope spoke to him - or maybe he read Montesquieu again) so he may be getting down to picking which petty tyrant gets to be the big man. There aren't any "right" choices among the contenders, as far as I can see. The only really wrong choice would be Maliki and the Sadrists.

loner said...

I think I should explain something regarding my observations on the election.

While Karl Rove was busy working to turn himself into a legend in his field he was trying to do so by creating a sustainable Republican majority similar to the one that Republicans had a century ago.

That might still be possible, but Tuesday almost undoubtedly means that Rove won't get the credit if it happens. The northeast has been trending Democrat gradually for years, but suddenly may have arrived on Tuesday. The south, especially if inroads can't be made with racial minorities, won't offset the northeast even as its representation grows. Those changes occur only once every ten years and if Florida becomes reliable, Virginia and North Carolina may become unreliable. I think it pretty clear now that no big northeastern state is going to become unreliable anytime soon. Democrats, for instance, can apparently do nothing which will cause them to lose in New Jersey. There is little reason to think that what happened in the northeast won't also happen in the industrial part of the midwest and that is why I think the Talent loss is the biggest warning to Republicans. It appeared to me that faced with some weakening in the west (though I do think Republicans will eventually get things straightened out in California and that will be a big help) the strategy to create a sustainable majority was to do as much as possible to win in all the midwestern states (aside from Illinois) in the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys. The firewall talk, then, was no surprise (except that someone in the campaign gave it to the New York Times) and Missouri was crucial and, unlike Virginia, in Missouri it was about issues rather than personalities, neither campaign made serious unforced errors and, in the end, the Democrat challenger beat the better-financed Republican incumbent. That really hurts if the sustainable majority strategy was what I think it was.

One other thing. One of the reasons I thought prior to Tuesday that the Democrats were probably going to do well is that not one of the people who were doing serious polling seemed to be worried that they were contradicting what Karl Rove was saying. Everyone has their biases and some legitimate pollsters no doubt do try to influence outcomes, but people also like to be right. It just isn't possible that all would be willing to risk being wrong to that degree. Michael Barone and Jay Cost weren't polling. They were looking at the polling and the predictions to see how they stacked up against previous and similar elections. Robert Novak was applying his skills (why people talk to him is beyond me) and would have been fine had he stuck with his forecast of a week ago, which was his plan. He revised on Monday because he believed that the reported tightening was great enough to significantly improve Republican prospects. Perhaps it was, but, in the end, Jay Cost was still apologizing to Charlie Cook.


terrye said...

I think we have a tendency to put too much importance on one election or even two. I have heard a lot of people say the Democratic party was dead these last few years but I never bought it. If the survived the Civil War they can survive anything.

Having said that the sight of Michael Moore sitting next to Jimmy Carter was enough to drive me from the party, probably forever.

Indiana is not so much partisan as it is conservative and pragmatic. I think a great deal of the midwest is like that.

As for Iraq, I think the war was inevitable. In all the arguments people have about this war they always leave out Saddam. I don't mean that they do not talk about him or how bad he is, but they do tend to think of him as just a villain. He was also a dictator and he had no intention of backing off, we were either going to have back down or take him out. And we are still in that position.

There is a headline at yahoo or somewhere: AlQaida gloats over Rumsfeld leaving. The old man could have prostate cancer and just want to go home, but when dealing with this kind of mindset anything that can be seen as a weakness will be.

Rick Ballard said...

Why shouldn't al Queada gloat, their allies now control congress. They really don't have much to worry about.

The Iraqis did get to vote once though. I hope that the memory lasts a lifetime. I'm positive that it will for many of them.