Balkinization  

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Why Election Systems Matter

Sandy Levinson

The current situation in the Democratic and Republican parties is almost entirely a function of the fact that they operate under two strikingly different election systems. It is "natural experiment" that has much to teach us about institutional design. The Democrats are operating under a classic system of proportional representation. The only real surprise is that it so quickly was reduced to a two-person contest, probably a function of the enormous amounts of money needed to finance a modern campaign. The Republicans, on the other hand, have chosen to operate, in many states, under a classic first-past-the-post winner-take-all system. This means that John McCain was able to get all of Missouri's delegates by getting, I believe, 34% of the total vote in that state. I haven't done the numbers to know what would be happening in the Democratic race if states operated on a first-past-the-post winner take all system. At the very least, Clinton would have hundreds of additional delegates from New York, New Jersey, and California, for starters, not to mention similar possibilities in Texas and Ohio, should she win either by even one vote. If Republicans had adopted a p.r. system similar to the Democrats, then John McCain would by no means have the nomination locked up, and we could all look forward to a circus at the Republican convention in Minneapolis. My own view is that the Democrats' system is more democratic precisely because it doesn't allow for the possibility that the person rejected by a quite substantial majority will "win" simply by coming in first. But, obviously, reasonable people differ about this, and the current contests provide much fodder for argument.



Comments:

a factual question: in the general election, isn't it true that all of each state's electors go to the plurality winner? i.e., first past the post/winner take all? or, is it proportional representation for some states. I guess I'm wondering, are general, Nov. 08 presidental elections a amtter of state law, with 50 different systems, or do federal laws control?
 

Sandy:

The results of the proportional v. winner takes all nominating systems during the 2008 cycle recommends the electoral college style winner takes all system.

In their proportional system, the Dem candidates have largely ignored the smaller states and lived in the larger cities of the larger states because they are assured getting some delegates from the states they ignore and the larger cities of the larger states give more bang for the advertising buck.

In a winner take all system, you have to pay some attention to every state because you are only assured that state's delegates if you win. McCain spent a great deal of time in the winner take all states and far less in the proportional states so he could nail down a large delegate count.

The winner take all system in the staggered nominating process, as opposed to the single vote general election for electoral college delegates, also has the benefit of resolving the race earlier so the eventual nominee can get to work unifying support for the general election rather then engaging in the increasingly uncivil war we see between Obama and Clinton.
 

Sandy Levinson writes:
If Republicans had adopted a p.r. system similar to the Democrats, then John McCain would by no means have the nomination locked up, and we could all look forward to a circus at the Republican convention in Denver.


Isn't the GOP convention in Minneapolis? Or has something changed recently?
 

Our capital Denver is hosting the Dems this year.
 

in the general election, isn't it true that all of each state's electors go to the plurality winner?

Yes, except for NE and, possibly, ME (I can't recall for sure). It's a matter of state law in each case.
 

I will shortly change "Denver" to "Minneapolis."

Whatever else may be said about this primary season, it is bizarre to accuse Obama, in particular, of ignoring the small states. And Rhode Island received visits last week from both of the candidates.

I won't rehearse all of the arguments about what I regard as a perverse and indefensible electoral college. Suffice it to say that no sane constitutional designer would advise its adoption by any country writing a constitution in 2008 (including the United States).
 

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sandy:

And Rhode Island received visits last week from both of the candidates.

As compared to how many dozens of visits to Ohio and Texas?

I won't rehearse all of the arguments about what I regard as a perverse and indefensible electoral college. Suffice it to say that no sane constitutional designer would advise its adoption by any country writing a constitution in 2008 (including the United States).

I also do not wish to regurgitate the arguments over the EC, but I would observe that we are not alone in using such a winner take all system.

I believe that the British Parliament and others who follow its structure uses a winner take all system in each member's district with the party or coalition of parties taking a majority of these districts using its party leader as PM. Like many of our plurality popular vote Presidents like Bill Clinton, Maggie Thatcher won her first majority with a plurality of the vote.
 

actually, before you change it to Minneapolis - the Convention itself will be held at the Excel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.
 

I am shocked, SHOCKED!!, I tell you, to see that Baghdad Bart thinks the Republicans use a better system, even though their system dramatically increases the chances that most of them won't have a say in the eventual nominee.
 

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bb:

The GOP did not invent the winner take all system nor do they use it for all their state primaries. I personally prefer it for the reasons I stated.

You Dems are welcome to use any system you wish to choose your own candidates. Let me know how you like the proportional system so far this election cycle.
 

The GOP did not invent the winner take all system nor do they use it for all their state primaries.

I never said they did.

Let me know how you like the proportional system so far this election cycle.

It seems to have done a great job narrowing the field to the 2 best candidates.

The rest of your rightwingnut friends (Limbaugh and his ilk) don't seem to share your love for the the winner take all system, or at least they're not too happy with the candidate it forced them to vote for.
 

I wonder why someone doesn't try a blended system. A candidate winning a majority of votes gets all of the delegates but if no candidate gets a majority, the delegates are allotted proportionally. That would seem to be the best of both worlds.
 

As I understand it, the problem with the Republican system isn't that it's winner take all. If it were entirely winner take all, McCain would still be fighting for his political life. Likewise if it were entirely PR.

The problem is that it's neither fish nor fowl, some states are winner take all, some PR. Because McCain was pulling off his plurality victories in the former, while losing in the latter, he got all the delegates where he barely won, and a fair share of them where OTHER candidates barely won. And so accumulated a delegate count wildly out of proportion to his vote totals.

Republicans are going to have to make up their minds which system they're going to use, and use it nation-wide. Mixing the two systems is potentially explosive.
 

There is another problem with the nomination system which reared its head tonight - allowing independents and members of the other party to vote in primaries and caucuses.

At the urging to folks like Rush Limbaugh, it appears as if around 10% of the voters in the Dem primaries today were GOP and they went for Hillary to keep the Dem contest going until the convention. With McCain securing the nomination, now all the GOP voters are available for this kind of mischief in future Dem primaries which allow cross over voting.

It also appears as if Hillary found her issue - questioning Obama's competence to be CiC. After Hillary's "3 AM" ad and McCain hammering Obama about his ignorance of the existence of al Qaeda in Iraq, late deciding voters broke heavily for Hillary.

Because Obama could not capitalize on a winner take all system like McCain to put this away and the new developments I discussed above, Hillary appears as if she is going to be able to drag this into the summer convention.
 

I think a salient point to keep in mind is, as previously mentioned, that the party electoral systems are realm of state law. States have a right to determine who participates and how the electorate works.

At the urging to folks like Rush Limbaugh, it appears as if around 10% of the voters in the Dem primaries today were GOP and they went for Hillary to keep the Dem contest going until the convention.

I think this charge is probably dubious at best.

Even so, it does make sense for some states to allow voters to cross party lines. States that are historically moderate (I'm thinking western states like Montana and New Mexico) for example, may want to allow voters who are registered Republicans, but are moderately so to determine the candidate from Democratic party that they may want to vote for as well. This actually increases democratic participation and lets voters maintain their freedom when voting, without having to adhere to obscure and arbitrary party lines and regulations.
 

Don't you all enjoy BartCop's rants at:

http://www.bartcop.com/

as well as here?
 

"Al Qaeda in Iraq"
Dear Mr. DePalma,
Do you have an estimate of the
number of al Qaeda members in Iraq?
I have heard 2500. A formidable force
for the diminutive number of US soldiers.
FW
 

shag:

If you are interested in my "rants," my blog is linked at my profile. Bartcop ain't me.
 

jared said...

BD: At the urging to folks like Rush Limbaugh, it appears as if around 10% of the voters in the Dem primaries today were GOP and they went for Hillary to keep the Dem contest going until the convention.

I think this charge is probably dubious at best.


For sure, all the GOP voters who crossed over did not go for Clinton.

A couple weeks ago when McCain started to wrap up the nomination, the conservative blogosphere and talk radio started talking about voting for Obama to put a stake in Hillary's campaign. If you had not guessed, conservatives loathe the Clintons for the sleaze and lying that Obama supporters are beginning to pick up on now that it is directed against them.

However, last week, Limbaugh and Hannity started arguing that it would be a better idea to cross over for Hillary to keep the Dem blood letting going until the convention. The conservative blogosphere picked up on it and amplified it.

Well, the CNN polls have Hillary taking a majority of the roughly 10% GOP cross over vote, taking the late deciders and taking those who describe themselves as conservative.

The fact that conservatives who loathe Clinton went for her in these primaries indicates to me that a significant number of GOP voters went for Hillary to prolong the Dem nominating process.

Given that Obama was leading or tied in Texas prior to the primary and lost by 3% further indicates to me that this cross over can swing primaries.

Now that Mr. McCain is the nominee, all GOP voters who wish to cause mischief are free to vote in the Dem primaries which allow cross over voting.

After the NH primary, I blogged and complained about how people who were not registered with the parties were choosing the party nominees.

This morning, Obama supporters might better understand my complaint. They ought to be furious.
 

Anyone considering going to Baghdad Bart's blog to respond to his rants there should keep in mind that their comments will be censored.
 

I assembled and discussed the links concerning the GOP crossover vote here.
 

BartCop is on my "speed-dial" which is full at this time. In order to make room for Bart's I'd have to drop someone. BartCop rants humorously (as well as liberally) so I am reluctant to drop him. Perhaps I could make room by dropping Rush Limburger but he ranks with the rankest, providing me with political balance. Sorry
 

Sorry,

But IIRC, Bart was in favor of proportional apportionment of electoral college votes....

At least in California.
 

An equally likely explanation of the crossover votes for Obama and Hillary were protesting the poor candidates being put forth on the GOP ticket.
 

mike:

The brilliant political analyst kos also thinks that the sudden surge of GOP voting is the harbinger of a Dem realignment. He also thinks that 7 or more weeks of Obama and Clinton trading negative attacks will somehow help the eventual Dem nominee by making them tougher.

Swiftboating sure made Kerry tougher to beat in the 2004 general election.

The Clintons are not ones to discard a political hatchet when it works. Challenging Obama's foreign policy competency with ads like the Clinton 3 AM ad this past week is working. Expect the Clintons to take that hatchet to Obama with abandon until the convention.

The GOP crossover voting for Hillary could potentially give her some narrow victories and continued political viability, but is unlikely to change the delegate math which heavily favors Obama because the Dems run a proportional election system.

In effect, these GOP voters are not trying to give Clinton the nomination, but rather use her to run free negative ads against Obama through the spring and into the summer. Once Clinton tags out of the ring, McCain enters with his own campaign against a weakened Obama.

I am hardly alone with this view. Go to my blog linked above for further links to the pressies and Dems picking up on what is going on, even if the clueless kos is not.

Limbaugh started encouraging crossover voting as a joke. Now that it appears that tens of thousands of GOP voters took him up on the suggestion, it will be interesting to see if Limbaugh turns what was a joke into a campaign.
 

The brilliant political analyst kos

Baghdad, aren't you the same clown who used to think Rudy was a lock?

Excuse me if I don't look to a rightwingnut imbecile for political analysis of the Dem campaign.
 

Again, since the majority of GOP crossover voters in Texas voted for Obama (at least according to CNN's coverage last night), I'm not really sure what exciting power the Limbaugh "joke/campaign" is supposed to have.

Also, I'd hazard to guess the NAFTA-related concerns had much more of a pro-Clinton effect (especially in Ohio) than the laughable regurgitation of Mondale's "red phone" ad.
 

Leaving aside how many GOP voters voted in the Dem primaries yesterday and for whom they voted, Bart does raise a significant point. I think there is a problem with letting people who are not members of a political party vote for who the nominee of that party will be. I don't think it should be allowed.
 

Bart,

I don't think it shows a Democratic realignment. I think it likely that a portion of the crossovers simply stay at home come the general. Republicans have a serious mobilization problem and it's evident that they are not particularly enthused about McCain.

The fact of the matter is that there will be little crossover when all the dust settles. If Hillary supporters are truly disenchanted with Obama (and vice versa) and Republicans are disenchanted with McCain, they'll stay home. In a hyper-partisan environment such as this, I don't see a hard core Democrat or Republican voting the other way.
 

pms:

Previously, Obama won the lower crossover voting heavily. As I noted above, this was unsurprising since GOP voters loathe the Clintons and many hoped to torpedo her campaign by voting Obama.

However, last week, Limbaugh made an argument echoed in the conservative blogosphere that GOP voters ought to crossover to vote for Hillary this time in order to keep the Dem "soap opera" going for another couple months.

Yesterday, the crossover voting was unusually heavy and the new voters went for Clinton, enabling her to almost tie Obama among crossover voters. Hillary was also pulling in voters who self identified as very conservative.

Now, very conservative GOP voters are hardly Hillary fans. This suggests to me that some thousands of conservative GOP voters decided to heed Limbaugh's suggestion.

Unfortunately, there are no cross tabs on the exit polling internals to get a better view of whether the surge in GOP voters, very conservative voters and last minute deciders are the same group. However, the evidence we do have is intriguing to say the least.
 

Mike:

If you take a look at the internals of head to head polling between Obama and McCain, there appears to be a substantial crossover of what used to be called Reagan Dems to McCain rather than in the other direction.

These Reagan Dems are voting for Hillary right now like they did for her husband or Perot in the 90s. However, when the choice is between Obama and McCain, these Reagan Dems think McCain does a better job on every issue except health care and are either undecided or support McCain.
 

Baghdad, how is your boy Rudy doing with the "Reagan Dems" these days?

Once the Dems start hammering McCain with Iraq, the "Reagan Dems" will be back with whoever the Dems nominate.
 

Yes, polls show Obama's support amongst Democrats at around 82% with Hillary at 88% or so. Of course, anything that Obama loses he promptly makes up with folks coming over from the GOP. Hillary doesn't have that appeal.

As I said, it's a marginal impact and washes out once the dust settles.
 

David Weigel over at the Reason blog has broken down the how the "Rush Effect" changed the GOP crossover vote.

This anecdote may be some solace to you Obama supporters. After they had fun following Rush's advice and mucking up the Dem presidential primary, it appears that some Texas GOP voters were shocked to find that they were unable to vote in the rest of the GOP elections and are now calling into the talk radio shows to complain that they feel disenfranchised.

Imagine the world's smallest violin playing for their plight...
 

Let's just clear something up: the cross-over won't muck anything up for Democrats. I know, I know, everything is always good for Republicans, but the fact is the Democrats are putting forth two attractive candidates that are energizing people, while the GOP has a presumptive nominee who the base doesn't like, who isn't getting people to the polls, and whose delegate margin is completely skewed, thereby overstating his apparent GOP support.

The Democrats will still vote Democrat, by and large. The winner will emerge seasoned and ready for a fight, and with more money to spend than McCain ever thought of having. Rush/GOP can try to pat themselves on the back for "mucking things up" all they want, but in the long run, it won't make any difference.
 

jslater:

Leaving aside how many GOP voters voted in the Dem primaries yesterday and for whom they voted, Bart does raise a significant point. I think there is a problem with letting people who are not members of a political party vote for who the nominee of that party will be. I don't think it should be allowed.

Some states do have "closed" primaries. Others have finessed the problem by allowing voters to 'vote' for whoever they want, but which allow the parties (the real "party of interest" in any such primary) to exclude the ballots of those not registered as party members.

Why states should run "primaries" at all is something that is beyond me, though.

Cheers,
 

Bart writes:
In their proportional system, the Dem candidates have largely ignored the smaller states and lived in the larger cities of the larger states because they are assured getting some delegates from the states they ignore and the larger cities of the larger states give more bang for the advertising buck.

In a winner take all system, you have to pay some attention to every state because you are only assured that state's delegates if you win.


How is it, then, that Obama has maintained a delegate lead by paying attention to smaller states with clinton winning the larger states?
 

Mike:

Take another look at the internals of the polling to which I linked.

While McCain is not very popular among the very conservative talking heads, he has no real problem getting conservative votes. McCain did not win a quick nomination victory based on a liberal or moderate wings of the GOP because there are none. The GOP ranges from conservative to very conservative.

The polling internals to which I pointed indicate that McCain leads heavily in inter-party crossover and splits the independents with Obama.

McCain was not this conservative's top choice, but I and others will vote for him in the fall when the alternative is Obama. However, his ideological apostasies from conservatism purism to work with Dems make him a very popular candidate among independents and center-right Dems.

The question will be whether Obama can get a large enough turnout on the Dem left and among independents to make up for what appears to be the loss of Reagan Dems to McCain.
 

bitswapper said...

How is it, then, that Obama has maintained a delegate lead by paying attention to smaller states with clinton winning the larger states?

Obama's ground organization spent a great deal of time wooing caucus goers, while Hillary's organization did not. Obama has personally spent most of his time in larger states.
 

McCain won a quick nomination based on slim margins of victories in winner take all primaries. The guy is not energizing the base. He might be competitive because the media loves him, won't address the fact that he is not at all moderate, has flip flopped...er..."evolved" on a number of issues, shows incredibly poor political judgment (taking private jets looks better than riding commercial direct from PHX to DC? Are you kidding me?) and he's anything but a "straight talker"
 

Baghdad, it's interesting that when Dems cross over in a primary, it's because they don't like the Dem candidate, but when rightwingnuts cross over it's because they're shrewdly gaming the system.

Reading your posts one might think that there is nothing you righwingnuts can't do better than anyone else. Until one looks at the disaster in Iraq, and one quickly realizes that you're a lunatic.
 

Is taking a look at the internals of polling a tad like a political colonoscopy?
 

Bart writes
Obama has personally spent most of his time in larger states.


Where do you see that? I mean, by what objective criteria do you support that? Any source? I've looked, but haven't found anything listing who has spent how much time/money/etc in which states. Where did you find it? Or is it a gut feeling?

I went to the CBS Estimated Democratic Delegate Scorecard to find out who is swinging which states, and just by cutting and pasting ans sorting by delegate count, hillary is doing better in states with big delegate counts(above 90 anyway), the exception being Illinois.
 

BB:

Remember, everything is good for Republicans...McCain could be caught in the sack with a 25 year old and it would just show that he is desirable, virile, and just the type we want as a CinC...
 

Mike:

You are correct that McCain is not energizing the GOP base. He is going to have particular problems with religious conservatives. McCain is instead sitting smack in the middle.

The problem for Obama is that McCain is making up for religious conservatives lost from the GOP base by poaching Reagan Dems and thus reducing the Dem base. McCain is winning this exchange because the religious conservatives are not going for Obama, but rather will stay home.

The lineup for Obama appears to be the Dem left and independents.

The lineup for McCain appears to be a reduced GOP base, Reagan dems and Independents.

McCain's lineup is larger. Obama's challenge is to motivate his smaller lineup to come out and vote in larger numbers.

The thing that shocked me about the polling internals between Obama and McCain were not the fact that they are essentially tied with a large number of undecided. That is expected this far out from the election.

This far out, Dem candidates usually lead among independent voters and on who can better handle major issues. Instead, McCain has tied Obama among independents and dominates nearly every issue preference. Indeed, large percentages of Dem voters think that McCain is a better and more experienced leader than Obama. If those internals hold up over the next few months, the undecided will break to McCain in a big way.

Obama has a great deal of work to do to convince voters that he is up for the job.
 

Remember, everything is good for Republicans...

Mike, after 5 years of watching Baghdad Bart in action you would think I'd know that by now.

And yet I still feel the urge to rub his face in the obvious stupidity of his never ending bullshit.
 

BTW, everything is hardly peaches and cream for the GOP.

The GOP will most likely lose 3-4 seats in the Senate to the Dems.

The GOP will not regain the House, but may regain some GOP districts which were lost in the lower turnout off year election.

I thought a slight edge for the Presidency would go to the Dems, but Obama is looking more and more beatable as time goes on.

Time will tell. There is an eternity until election day.
 

BTW, everything is hardly peaches and cream for the GOP

Understatement of the year.

The rightwingnut base despises McCain, and he is shackled to a rotting corpse that is the disaster in Iraq. Good luck with that!
 

thanks mark field, that's what I thought. now, if it's true that in the general it's first past the post for almost every state, wouldn't it be better for a party to have the same set up for primaries?
 

Anyone classified as a "Reagan Dem" cannot be considered part of the base...

Odds are not good that Republicans pick up many seats in the House.
 

The lineup for Obama appears to be the Dem left and independents.

This is mistaken. Vs. McCain, Obama will take all the Dem base -- they are precisely the kind of people who don't want 4 more years of Republican presidency.

Many of the independents who might tilt to McCain as a "maverick" (gag) are also going to be attracted to Obama. Stupid, I know, but stupid people's votes count just as much as smart people's do ... witness the 2004 election.
 

"shackled to a rotting corpse that is the disaster in Iraq."

I could sort of understand this kind of rhetoric a year ago, but lately it seems the better things go in Iraq, the more florid the left's rhetoric about how bad things are becomes.
 

Clinton is closing in total popular votes if not delegates. If this trend continues, Obama could go into the convention with a pledged delegate lead based on the vagaries of the caucus system while Clinton goes in with a lead in popular votes.

Who has the better argument for the super delegates in the opinion of the Dems here?
 

Arne:

Yeah, I'm in favor of closed primaries (and was well before whatever happened yesterday).

In the "good news for Dems" dept., a new Wash.Post/ABC poll has Hillary leading McCain by 6 points nationally, and Obama leading McCain by 9 points.

Per a new Washington Post/ABC poll, both Hillary and Obama are leading McCain.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/05/AR2008030502646.html

Way too early to mean a lot, but still encouraging.
 

jslater:

Your poll does not interview likely voters or even registered voters, but rather adults, over half of whom are self identified Dems or Dem leaners.

These kind of Dem media garbage polls are meant to provide their Dem readership with encouragement. I believe similar polls had Kerry leading by double digits over George Bush.

In the only two polls of likely voters over at Realclearpolitics, McCain is leading Obama between 1 to 5 points with the previously deadly accurate Rasmussen tracking poll which picked up the Clinton surge having McCain leading by 5 points. Because they have a reputation to maintain, Realclearpolitics does not pollute its averaged with garbage polling of adults.

However, as you correctly point out, the race has a long way to go.
 

now, if it's true that in the general it's first past the post for almost every state, wouldn't it be better for a party to have the same set up for primaries?

Not necessarily. The two elections serve different functions. Primaries benefit when the entire party is engaged (just look at the turnout numbers for the Dems this year). They also rally the troops for the general election later. It's important to make all groups within the party feel that they've been heard. At the end of the day, the party tends to agree on the nominee despite the primary battles (there are exceptions, of course).

In discussing the national election, I'll assume the EC. That's the only way the issue makes sense. What we really should do is eliminate the EC and then we wouldn't have to worry about the issue in the general election.

In the national election, each state maximizes its own influence in the EC by a "first past the post" rule. They figured this out very early on -- by 1800 most states had adopted it and by 1825 all but SC had. While states could do this in the primary as well, the stakes aren't as high within the family, as it were, as they are when strangers are involved.
 

Anecdotal evidence of Republican turnoff:

Two individuals I know who are registered Republicans, talked to me shortly after Super Tuesday and talked about how the felt about the likely nominee, McCain.

The first said that he had been a Thompson supporter, then switched to Romney when Thompson dropped out. After Romney fell, he just didn't care anymore.

The second supported Huckabee, and was disappointed that he didn't do better, and she would sit out this one. She then asked me, in an excited voice, how cool it would be if Huckabee was chosen as veep. I indicated that I would run for the hills. She then sounded crestfallen and felt that it wasn't worth it to vote, because the choices left were so poor.
 

I could sort of understand this kind of rhetoric a year ago, but lately it seems the better things go in Iraq, the more florid the left's rhetoric about how bad things are becomes.

# posted by Brett : 6:02 PM


Unless I missed the news that we found the huge WMD stockpiles and we really haven't been pissing away lives and money for the last 5 years, then McCain is still shackled to a rotting corpse.
 

Speaking of being shackled to a corpse, did you rightwingnuts see the nice warm welcome that Iran's president got during his recent visit to Iraq?

The Dems should run tape of that visit in their commercials for the next 8 months.
 

"Unless I missed the news that we found the huge WMD stockpiles and we really haven't been pissing away lives and money for the last 5 years, then McCain is still shackled to a rotting corpse."

I'm kind of at a loss for the connection between finding WMD stockpiles, and things going relatively well in Iraq. It's that one track mind, I guess.
 

I'm kind of at a loss for the connection between finding WMD stockpiles, and things going relatively well in Iraq. It's that one track mind, I guess.

# posted by Brett : 11:07 PM


OK, I'll clue you in. We didn't invade Iraq to build schools, provide Iran with a friendly ally, and officiate a religious civil war for the next 5 years while pissing away lives and money. We invaded because of the "threat" of Iraq's WMD stockpiles. When it turned out that the WMD was completely imaginary, it meant that the entire enterprise was a colossal waste of lives and money.

The people with the one track minds are the clowns who is still trying to find ways to justify this disaster.
 

Brett:

Just ignore bb when he gets going about Iraq. No matter what the facts are on the ground, bb will contend that the United States lost the war.

When confronted with the facts on the ground, bb will claim that we lost the war because we didn't find any WMD (ignoring the 500+ canisters of sarin and mustard gas we found) as if we lost WWII because Eisenhower did not find the Nazi super weapons he feared were in Bavaria at the end of the war.

Patent silliness which does not deserve a response.
 

Since Bart has the patent on silliness, is he claiming that bb is infringing?
 

Patent silliness which does not deserve a response.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 9:47 AM


And yet, here you are responding...

In any case, my "silly" views appear to be held by the majority of Americans. Despite the current "success" in Iraq, the poll numbers for your disaster are still in the toilet.

as if we lost WWII because Eisenhower did not find the Nazi super weapons he feared were in Bavaria at the end of the war.

Eisenhower didn't fear super weapons in Bavaria, you imbecile, he was afraid of a Nazi attempt to conduct a long-term insurgent war based in Bavaria. Imagine that. Too bad the rightwingnut idiots who got us into this mess didn't have the same sort of insight. Of course, if they did they wouldn't have started this war in the first place.
 

ignoring the 500+ canisters of sarin and mustard gas we found

Oddly enough, the idiots who got us into this mess are doing the same thing. That should tell you what kind of "weapons" we really found.
 

bart writes:
Just ignore bb when he gets going about Iraq. No matter what the facts are on the ground, bb will contend that the United States lost the war.


We so often judge others by what we secretly dislike about ourselves. The number of time you blatantly fabricate facts, distort them, or make entirely unfounded and specious statements and then when confronted with facts pretend those facts don't exist happen too often to count, but it happens in nearly every thread you get into.

ignoring the 500+ canisters of sarin and mustard gas we found

Bush made clear assertions that Saddam was currently working on WMDs at the time of the invasion. Do those munitions date to that time?

"Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
 

bit:

I am not going to get way off topic here on Iraq like bb. If you would like to discuss Iraq, I will set up an open thread on Iraq over at my blog here. Please post any comments you wish concerning Iraq and I will be glad discuss them.

I have the post review function on at my blog to keep spammers like bb from cursing, name calling and posting off topic simply to ruin the site, so your post may be delayed until I approve it. I have no doubt, though, that you and most of the crew here will keep it civil and on topic.
 

Baghdad, you are a lying sack of shit. I have made plenty of posts on your blog that are on topic and contain no cursing or name-calling (although it is quite comical for you to whine about name-calling...), and for some reason they never get posted.
 

Baghdad, why would someone go to your blog to kick your ass in front of no one when they can have others watch them kick your ass here?
 

[Bartbuster]: The people with the one track minds are the clowns who is still trying to find ways to justify this disaster [Iraq].

It's a war in search of a reason. Been just as successful (and as funny, whihc is to say, "not very") as Dubya looking for the WoMD under the table.....

["Bart"]: Just ignore bb when he gets going about Iraq. No matter what the facts are on the ground, bb will contend that the United States lost the war.

The U.S. can't win the war. Part of the problem is the issue above; the continued ignoring of the Powell Doctrine. Regardless how you slice it, whatever comes out can't be worth five plus years (or a hundred, if you listen to McCain), trillions of dollars, and the lives of four thousand U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

FWIW, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show summed things up quite nicely with video of Ahmadinejad's visit, outside the Green Zone, convoyed down the Highway of Death, no hovering Apaches or Marines in armoured vests, being greeted by children with flowers.... Nothing so starkly illustrates the eedjitcy of the Dubya policy than this TDS segment. Iran says thanks, "Bart". Really.

For other U.S. [read: "Condi and Dubya"] eedjitcy, see here.

Cheers,
 

arne:

Take it elsewhere to your blog or mine (link above). I thought we agreed with the Profs to keep on topic.
 

["Bart" DePalma]: I thought we agreed with the Profs to keep on topic.

"Bart" lecturing other on manners.... ROLFMAO.

"Bart", I'm just responding (in part) to what you said.

Cheers,
 

Bart:
I have the post review function on at my blog to keep spammers like bb from cursing,


That's just not encouraging. I mean, given just here examples like an offhand comment about the 500+ canisters found in Iraq which was dismissed even by the WH spindocters (who spin more than the worst drug addicts). I know by previous posts you had to know that was bogus but you put it out as serious anyway. How is that not mischief?

Or, just asserting with such factual appearance where Obama spends his person and direct campaign time with respect to states in an obviously unfounded way appears to be discussion shenanigans. It looks like that because you appear to be a political aficionado and I feel compelled to believe that you know where to cite a source for that assertion but then you do not, and this leads me to the conclusion that such a statement is made solely for the purpose of discussion tomfoolery. This is how with every good argument you make you doubly hamstring yourself when you slide down the pole.

While Arne, for example, may employ a high degree of color in his expression, the substance of his argument is felt more so in citation and logic. One cannot rely on abstinence from flare and expletives as a means to reach substance of meaning; one must use actual meaning for that. This is by no means the harbor of any camp philosophical, political, or social since integrity, logic, and honesty have no home but like water are found by the perceptive observer everywhere.
 

Well, I would just dispute Professor Levinson's claim that the Republican race would go to the convention if not for their winner-take-all system. It would take a little longer, but neither Huckabee nor Romney would have had nearly enough delegates to drag the race out that long.
 

Tray: "...neither Huckabee nor Romney would have had nearly enough delegates..."

Y'know, I pray you're right. Nothing scares me so much as the thought that my "fellow" Americans could elect the likes of either of them to much of anything, much less the White House. And yet after these years of rule-by-terror (and make no mistake of it, the GOP has opportunistically capitalized on terrorism far more than AQ ever could) I just don't really have any faith left in the average American voter. Half the time I find myself wondering if I can learn enough Spanish to emigrate south in time.
 

@Bart: Nice pic of you with the backpack; much more natural than the one at your site. Sorry to talk of you in the 3rd person as I'm about to.

@Arne, looks like the fur's really flying here and on Brian's post. Let me say to Bart's credit that he seems to have learned from his experiences at Greenwald's. At his worst in the couple of years I've wrassled with him here Bart has often skirted the edge of good manners and respect due his hosts, and has pretty uniformly argued in the most illegitimate manner, but he has not, so far as I've seen, really reached the level of overt slander which he apparently reached at Greenwald's. Maybe this is a good thing, something we should encourage? Say, by only talking to him a) when we agree with him (it does happen) or b) when we think he's dealing straight (which, again, does happen.) Truth be told, on more than one occasion of late Bart's response to our hosts has been on target and neither terribly provocative nor controversial. It's a shame in such situations to have what increasingly feels like a personal obsession with Bart's past offenses (real or merely perceived) derail what might otherwise have been the kind of interaction I suspect you would prefer to have had in the first place.

I'm as guilty as any. I'm working on the plank in my own eye here. That's why I've taken to pro forma critiques when I think he's cheating; a quick nod to acknowledged methods of cheating and I can move on. And I've been happy to share a couple of pleasant exchanges. With Bart, as with you and me and pretty much everything else, I'm just trying to put my energy where it will feed that which I like rather than that which I don't. I like this blog, I'm thrilled that our hosts, a savvy lot, put their thoughts out here for the public to see _and_ let us chime in with our $.02. I'd like to feed that.

Peace.
 

abu hamza: Maine and Nebraska allot all but two of their electors by district, and the other two according to the at-large plurality winner. The other states all have a winner-take-all system, by state law as Mark Field says. Federal law and the Constitution don't specify the details of how electors are assigned by the states.

Usually, there's no split between the electors in Maine and Nebraska, so it doesn't matter much that they allot electors proportionally. Interestingly, though, SurveyUSA just did a state-by-state "if the election were held today" poll that showed an elector split in Nebraska between McCain and Obama, if Obama were the nominee.
 

Come to think of it, I shouldn't have used the word "proportionally" to describe the Maine/Nebraska system; it's not proportional, it's by district.
 

Let's get back on topic, shall we?

If you look at the structure of the Dem primary system vs. the Republican primary system, it seems to me to reflect a difference in each party's view of what the primaries are supposed to accomplish. It's pretty clear the Republicans take an instrumental and somewhat narrow view of what the process is supposed to do. They think the purpose is to choose a candidate and do so with some finality. Hence the large number of "winner take all" states: the system magnifies the scope of a victory, which means a winner becomes a real winner even if the victory was narrow.

Dems seem to view the process as a vehicle for expression by its various constituencies, which will ultimately (hopefully) result in choosing a good candidate. So everyone has to be heard and every piece of the party has to have a seat at the convention, even if it means cacophony.

Neither approach necessarily is right or wrong. It totally depends on what you're trying to accomplish. What I will point out, though, is that in countries with more or less pure PR systems (e.g. Italy or Israel), the governments tend to be unstable and the political horse-trading needed to create a coalition creates all sorts of temptations to corruption.

In the US, with the first past the post, at least we know who is in charge and we have someone definite to blame.
 

Boldface,

Your assertion: "What I will point out, though, is that in countries with more or less pure PR systems (e.g. Italy or Israel), the governments tend to be unstable and the political horse-trading needed to create a coalition creates all sorts of temptations to corruption."

-- could really use a bit of evidence. What about England? What about Iceland? For corruption, it's hard to beat the governments which, like the current administration in the USA, spend a lot of effort preventing the Public from having any Relation to their actions.

You say: "In the US, with the first past the post, at least we know who is in charge and we have someone definite to blame."

And yet, oddly, the persons in charge have never been held to account for the litany of misdeeds, nor is it likely, at this point, that they ever will. How does that fit in with your theory?
 

c2h50h, England doesn't have a PR system. It has district representation and a parliamentary system. I'm not familiar with Iceland. "PR" means you vote for the party and the parliamentary seats are allocated based on percentage of vote. In principle, in a PR system you'll never have a mismatch of the national popular vote and the representation in parliament because the representation is calculated based on the popular vote. In district systems you can have a mismatch.

Italy has a PR system. It has had how many governments in the last 10 years? I know Israel has either never or almost never had a government serve its entire term since it became a state in 1948, and I also can tell you that the small parties shake down the big parties for all sorts of goodies as the price of joining the coalition - it's the sort of thing that makes US congressional earmarks look like clean government.

In terms of accountability in the US, there is plenty of it - you toss the rascals out in the next election. That's how our system enforces accountability.
 

I'm afraid I have to agree with c2h50h on that one, boldface.

When you say that the correctness of the approach is dependent upon "what you're trying to accomplish." That statement certainly resonates well with me; the context of any behavior is important for evaluating its success.

The metrics you end up choosing, however, are stability and corruption. The problem I have with this is that there are simply too many factors to single out the primary's design as the prime mover. For instance: if the members of a party were all honest and moral to a fault, would the proportional system automatically corrupt them?
 

PMS, you're confusing correlation with causation.

Beyond that, though, I think we have to return to the point of the post here. The structure of each party's primary process does reflect each party's priorities and values to some extent. They have made different tradeoffs. To my eyes it looks like the Reps valued definiteness and stability, and assumed that people will accept defeat and stay in the party so long as the rules are clear and the process fair. The Dems valued keeping everyone in the room even if they lost, and didn't assume people will stay put if they lose, so they are willing to live with more internal conflict.

I'm not sure why people think this is controversial.
 

@boldface: for every Israel there's a Netherlands; for every Italy there's more than one Sweden -- countries with proportional representation and effective government. Research studies that compare all PR systems to all winner-take-all systems instead of cherry-picking examples from each list (Arend Lijphart, Bingham Powell) make it pretty clear that PR works better than winner-take-call.

I would like to think Prof. Levinson for his original post. This natural experiment, as he calls it, is getting talked about a lot in the election reform circles I travel in. It's good to see such a clear exposition here as well.
 

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