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October 25, 2006

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Scott Raun

I'm still holding out hope for the Democrats to actually pick up enough Senate seats to get a majority.

What do you think it would take for a serious third-party to come into being in the US?

Jim Parish

One quibble with your prediction: there will probably be *two* independents, both of whom will caucus with the Democrats. The other one is Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who's a shoo-in.

Dennis Brennan

I'm from Pennsylvania, and I live in the 7th Congressional District (presently represented by Republican Curt Weldon). That's an interesting race, and the Santorum implosion is also an interesting race, but as you've mentioned, this is Not That Sort of Blog, so enough said about that.

What motivated me to comment was the subject of absentee ballots. My wife's family is from California and a couple of times they've traveled abroad around election time and have voted by absentee ballot. It gets sent to them before they leave, and they simply have to fill it out and return it by the due date.

The remarkable things about the California absentee ballot are:

1. California, perhaps more than any other U.S. state, loves them some ballot initiatives and questions. There are 13 of them on the November 2006 ballot ( http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_j.htm ).

Each ballot initiative basically consists of a proposition that the voter is asked to vote for or against. The proposition is accompanied by a statement prepared by the proposition's, er, proponents that explains why the voter should favor it; and by a statement prepared by its opponents that does the opposite.

The propositions that I've read are dense legalese, and the pro- and con- statements are florid and hysterical. I recall reading one from several years ago that purported to deal with whether California law would be amended to permit medical use of marijuana (notwithstanding that the conduct in question would still be a violation of federal law). The proposal was so oddly worded that it was very hard to tell whether a "yes" vote was a vote to permit, or to continue to prohibit, the conduct in question.

2. The whole shebang has to get translated into a whole mess of languages. (In Orange County, for instance, the whole ballot has to be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Other counties require different languages- I think LA county requires something like ten languages. The accuracy of these translations has been questioned: http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a69/press/p692006002.htm which is not that surprising considering the relatively small number of people who must be qualified to translate dense legalese from English into say, Vietnamese.

As a result, the absentee ballot materials that get delivered are remarkably voluminous.

David Weman

The GOP only have 55 seats in the senate.

Noel Maurer

Scott: There simply won't be a serious third party movement in the United States in our lifetime. When you actually parse the opinions of those who claim to be dissatisfied with the two choices on offer, they boil down to three positions: (1) fringe libertarianism; (2) a generic dissatisfaction with the nasty tone of American politics, or (3) a symbolic dislike of the Democratic Party with little basis in actual Party positions. In other words, bullshit. Even (3) is bullshit: its partisans will either never vote Democratic, or they will be satisfied by the Party's decision to abandon the idea of a national platform on hot-button (as opposed to serious) issues in social policy. There are, of course, people who are genuinely dissatisfied with the two-party system --- those libertarians again, real Greens, rabid America-First nationalists --- but they are not majority positions ... and could be accommodated by one of the two major parties were that to change.

Doug: my heart tells me that the Democrats will lose, for I am a dog that has been kicked too long. My head (or at least the available polling data) tells me that the Democrats will pick up at least five Senate seats (leaving the GOP with a working majority) and 27 representatives.

Carlos

I think a lot of the aversion comes from the 2004 election, where a number of previously good indicators -- the Zogby poll, exit polling -- markedly and systematically differed from the actual election results.

Assuming no active fraud, and setting aside Zogby's methodological problems (which still seem to be present), the likeliest explanation is that some large fraction of the swing voters being polled felt otherwise once in the voting booth. A dynamic of 'better the devil I know', based on a general climate of anxiety.

The current climate, though, is one of 'throw the bums out'. Montana is in play? Joe McCarthy's Appleton is in play?!

I think it's possible (but not probable) that the swing is even underreported, because people may be feeling cagey about reporting their contempt even to pollsters.

Doug, when you were last back in the States, you were in Creepy Yahoo Land [1], DC, and Vermont. Not representative.

[1] OK, so you weren't in Stafford. Maybe one of the outer circles, near the virtuous pagans.

Mike R.

I'm still going with my prediction back in May (http://groups.google.com/group/alt.history.future/browse_thread/thread/9e7666f31d614538/7bd93acb7436b4af?lnk=st&q=mike+ralls+2006&rnum=3&hl=en#7bd93acb7436b4af)

"I think that the situation in Iraq six months from now will be very
similar to what it is now, and the American people will be looking for
a way to make their displeasure of this known. Combined with
increasing anti or luke-warm-Bush feelings among many conservatives, I
think the Republican base just won't support it as much as in the past
and we'll probably end up with a slim Democratic control of one or
(less likely but still plausible) both houses. At which point we are
probably going to get some very interesting investigations and house
hearings underway."

Mike R.

I'm still going with my prediction back in May (http://groups.google.com/group/alt.history.future/browse_thread/thread/9e7666f31d614538/7bd93acb7436b4af?lnk=st&q=mike+ralls+2006&rnum=3&hl=en#7bd93acb7436b4af)

"I think that the situation in Iraq six months from now will be very
similar to what it is now, and the American people will be looking for
a way to make their displeasure of this known. Combined with
increasing anti or luke-warm-Bush feelings among many conservatives, I
think the Republican base just won't support it as much as in the past
and we'll probably end up with a slim Democratic control of one or
(less likely but still plausible) both houses. At which point we are
probably going to get some very interesting investigations and house
hearings underway."

Bernard Guerrero

House: Dems pick up 17 (this is subject to last-minute revision down)

Senate: I'll agree with Doug's projected pick-up of 4

Governors: Dems pick up 6

Doug M.

Mike, one problem -- it takes time to get investigations going. To make them work, you need experienced and competent staff, and these do not spring fully formed from the brow of Zeus.

A Democratic House would have to hire a lot of staffers and then organize them into effective teams. At a minimum, this will take months. Then the effectiveness of the work will depend very much on a handful of people in charge. Is the team leader a Rudy Giuliani (he was a very good prosecutor) or a Marcia Clarke? Are the Congressmen in charge patient enough to wait for good results, or will they try to force the curve, make political appointments, and grandstand? If it happens, it will be very gnarly and contingent.

All that said, obviously I would prefer a Congress that is at least trying to serve its Constitutional function.

Bernard: which six governors?

In other news, looks like I won't be voting after all. Don't ask. Absentee ballots, they're not so great.


Doug M.

Bernard Guerrero

Arkansas
Colorado
Massachusetts
New York (damnable, but I don't even know why the GOP ran a candidate; at least Spitzer made a "no new taxes" pledge)
Ohio
Maryland

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