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December 16, 2008


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William Forsee cast the electoral vote for Omaha, Nebraska, splitting Nebraska's five electoral votes 4-1, and casting a Nebraska vote for a Democrat for the first time in 44 years. That was my favourite story from Electoral College day.

Noel Maurer

Doug, it is ridiculous to write something like this in 2008:

"She's not perfect (she shares several of the modern GOP's irrational hatreds, notably for environmentalists and teachers' unions) but she's the kind of Republican -- Jodi Rell of Connecticut is another -- that I could actually vote for."

Given the Republican Party's clear transformation into a parliamentary-style party over the past few decades, there is quite simply no Congressional Republican for whom you could vote independently of the party's preferences.

That ship sailed. It's sailed for Democrats as well, if somewhat less so.

You might not want it to have sailed. You might want to live in a world where the Maine senators, for example, actually vote independently of their party.

Conversely, you might want to live in the world where the median national GOP legislator holds a series of moderate beliefs with which you can agree.

And we might one day live in such a world. Or at least the second one.

But that doesn't change the fact that we currently live in neither. And so, I admit, I'm startled at the sheer, well, unintended naivete of your statement.

Unless I am misunderstanding you?

Spike Gomes


If that's the tone you take with your friends, then I pity your enemies!

Of course, I agree with you to a certain extent. Which is why I have chosen to withdraw from that said world.

So far as I can see, the death of civility and decorum on every level of society displays far more about the state of our civilization than any sort ideological sturm und drang.

Doug M.

Um. Where to start?

1) I think you're reacting a bit too strongly to "could" vote. =! "would" vote.

2) Governors v. different from Congressthings.

3) I'm sorry, but you're just wrong about the Maine Senators. Snowe votes with the majority of Senate Republicans 64.5% of the time. So, yes, I /do/ live in a world where the Maine ladies vote independently of their party -- more than a third of the time, thank you very much.

4) A GOP Senatorial caucus that included twenty moderate Republicans instead of four or five would be a very different animal from what we face today. Now, you can argue that (a) there's no way to get there from here, and/or (b) even if there was, it would involve unacceptable risks (Republican majority) or unacceptable side effects -- but that's not the argument you're making; you're just saying "R! Bad!!!"

(5) And just for the hell of it, an edge-case hypothetical: Rod Blagojevic (D) appoints himself to Obama's seat, the case against him collapses on a technicality, then in summer 2010 he survives a nine-way Democratic primary to become the party's candidate in the general. Illinois GOP picks a random moderate-ish Republican.

Who ya got? Go B-Rod?

Doug M.

Noel Maurer

Spike: pity my enemies!

But yes, you're right, my tone is too strong. That said, Doug is not only my friend, but he is one of the most stubborn friends that I got. It might have been deliberate. Or I could have been tired.

Anyhoo, Doug:

(1) Yes. Apologies. I think ... how would you vote?

(2) Confused. You were talking about electing a Republican to the Senate.

(3) I figured you'd say that. The problem with the Maine senators, like all GOP senators, is that in situations where their floor vote will not be decisive, they get leave to vote differently on the floor than in committee. The concept is called "backlash insurance" because it gives the party leadership a way to insure that the voters don't lash back against a representative who votes too conservatively for the district. The Maine senators have only been decisive on the SCHIP expansion bill, and even then the GOP leadership knew that the president would veto the bill and that the Democrats lacked the House votes to override. I can't think of a single major vote where our two Maine senators both bucked their party and were decisive.

The go-to book is Off Center. It was wrong about the strength of the GOP lock on Congress, but it does a great job of describing the nuts-and-bolts of Republican parliamentary strategy.

(4) The second clause of the sentence of this argument is completely unfair. In response, I metaphorically punch you in your face. Then, as you grab your metaphorical nose and yell, "Why'd you do that?" I will non-metaphorically nod in sage agreement with your first sentence and the first clause of the second one.

Sir, you must know by now that my arguments, while often wrong, are never easily dismissed.

Spike, please notice that Doug can dish it out as easily as I can. And also notice that he can take it like a hero.

(5) Yes, in that case I'd vote against Blagojevic. But ... uh ... what you just said is: "So, Maurer, you'd rather vote for a Republican than a felon! Well, that means that voting for a Republican isn't worse than voting for a non-felonious Democrat!"

I don't quite follow the logic.

Anyway, how's Armenia? Panama is great.

Spike Gomes


Doug can, but not everyone can. I've learned being thin-skinned isn't a moral or personal failing on my part. It's just who I am. I'm not sure what your beliefs on that matter of a person's character are, though.

As part of knowing myself, I try to keep a sense of scale to my reactions to things nowadays. Proportion is important in all things, don't you agree?

Noel Maurer

Spike: I absolutely agree. One thing that I have found is that written communication over the internet tends to come across as much stronger than the writer intends. I don't know why that is; perhaps it's true for written communication in general? Anyway, I've often found myself going overboard in the unctious direction ... and having it come across as simple courtesy.

Doug is thick-skinned in general; I am thicker-skinned than I used to be coming from Doug.

In other words, I agree: if it hadn't been a late night, I would have written a rather different opening sentence to my first comment. Proportion, proportion, wise words from my friend Spike.

Wait, it's another late night. (I'm old, I'm married, it's a school day, 11:30pm counts as late. Even in Panama City.)

Doug M.

No, it's not about Republican v. Democratic felon. It's more about clarifying our differences. We've now established that there are circumstances where you could, however reluctantly, pull the lever next to (R). So the difference between us becomes one of degree rather than kind!

More seriously, it's sometimes (not always, sometimes) useful to start with an extreme edge case and work inward.

As for the rest, this may deserve a post of its own.

Doug M.


Curious: why is a hatred of teachers unions irrational? Having been recently stuffed unwilling into a public employees union (for librarians) I am now inclined to find said distaste entirely rational.

Why do you disagree?

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