Analysis: The Voter Turnout Factor

One of the more interesting surprises this election was when I was invited to cover State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s visit to Davis. I walked down the street to the Democratic Headquarters and was surprised to find a room of about 16 phone bankers, and on the wall were the number of people they had contacted during the election.

The question I had for Bob Schelen, the Chair of the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee, was one of getting data for the success of those calls. This is a very important question because, for a second straight midterm, voter turnout went way down and the Republicans surged to a resounding victory.  He told me they were looking into it.

There are two key questions I have: is voter turnout the engine of campaign results that have very widely swung between 2008 and 2014, depending on whether we are talking about a presidential election or a midterm? And can those results be artificially altered through specific features or campaign work?

The first clue comes from the US News Report telling us what we already know: “Nonvoters are also more racially diverse than the voting population and are less educated. More than 40 percent of likely nonvoters in the 2014 elections identified as Hispanic, black or other racial/ethnic minorities, compared with 22 percent of likely voters. While most voters (72 percent) have completed some college, nonvoters are more likely to have never attended college. “

Therefore, “On average, the populations who are likely to avoid the polls are also the populations likely to vote for a Democrat, which presents a challenge for the Democratic Party.”

As most know, Barack Obama was able to win the presidency in 2008 and 2012 essentially by flipping participation rates and bringing out a more diverse electorate. But he has been either unwilling or unable to do that during the non-presidential years.

In fact, 2014 was actually worse in turnout than 2010 – where 36.6 percent voted in 2014, compared with 40.9 percent in 2010.

What we are seeing are essentially two different electorates – a presidential electorate that will make it very difficult for Republicans to win at the national level, and a congressional and off-year electorate that will make it very difficult for the Democrats to maintain Congress.

In fact, this is not exactly unprecedented. From 1968 until Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, Republicans would win mainly resounding electoral landslides for president every year but the post-Watergate 1976 election, and yet when it came to Congress, Democrats controlled both houses of the legislation except for the Senate from 1980 to 1986.

However, that seemed to a be a different phenomenon, as the Democrats held Congress because of the difference between local Democrats in areas that were emerging as Republican strongholds in the South and West. Some Democrats were able to survive as moderates and conservatives, while these same emerging Republican areas would vote against the more liberal national party.

Can we artificially change the fundamentals? That is a big question going forward. The Democrats seemed to achieve success in both 2008 and 2012 by doing exactly that – identifying their core voters, and getting them to the polls.

One way to get people to the polls is for there to be a hotly contested election. But the Pew Research Center, in a study done before the election, notes, “You might think there’d be some relationship between how competitive a given election is and turnout. A race where victory could go either way might spur more interest and rev up get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides; a race where one candidate is a prohibitive favorite could lead many people to conclude there’s no point in heading out to vote.”

However, they write, “our analysis shows little, if any, correlation between a House election’s competitiveness (measured by the winner’s victory margin) and turnout.”

They note: “In the Tea Party year of 2010, for example, overall turnout in House races was 40.7% of estimated eligible voters. That year, the nation’s highest turnout was in Wisconsin’s 5th District, where 62.4% of estimated eligible voters cast ballots and Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner cruised to a 42-percentage-point victory. The nation’s tightest race in 2010 was in Illinois’ 8th District, where Republican Joe Walsh edged Democrat Melissa Bean by just 290 votes; 41.7% of estimated eligible voters cast ballots in that contest.”

There is another hypothesis. Perhaps anger and hatred for Barack Obama not only caused Democratic Senate candidates in red states to run away from Obama (and lose), but also Republicans to turn out and Democrats to stay home.

The problem with that theory is that in both 2004 and 2012, presidential elections, the incumbent presidents, George Bush and Barack Obama respectively, were able to win despite a very heavily motivated opposition.

How did they do? They did it by re-writing the electoral maps and getting their voters to the polls in key states.

It is very easy for Democrats to dismiss these results, as Barack Obama was not popular and the Senate landscape was against them. After all, of the 38 states that held some form of Senate election, only 10 were in solid blue states, and it was going to always be tough sledding in a midterm election. However, that doesn’t explain how Democrats would lose governors in solid blue states like Massachusetts, Illinois, Maine and Maryland. Not to mention losing the governor in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, which vote for Democratic presidents, but tend to swing either way more locally.

The one piece of evidence that might indicate that we can alter the fundamentals is Oregon. Oregon has mail-in voting and out of the 2.2 million registered voters in Oregon, 69.5 percent, or 1,519,804, returned ballots. That is a pretty astounding number and Oregon, a solid blue state anyway, elected Democrats across the board.

But Yolo County has a pretty sizable mail-in contingency and, the last we checked, that participation seemed very low.

I’m all for making voting easier. I think the efforts aimed at voter identification requirements and worrying about voter fraud are moving us in the wrong direction, but I do not really see this altering the fundamentals.

As such, I think we will see, for the time being, this surge and decline continue and, unlike in the past, the surge and decline will have strong electoral consequences.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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50 thoughts on “Analysis: The Voter Turnout Factor”

  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > On average, the populations who are likely to avoid the polls

    > are also the populations likely to vote for a Democrat

    When I worked on elections in SF we had a “ground team” that had a list of every person that lived in subsidized housing and every person who got money from the city and we made sure all of them were registered to vote (since 90% of these people will never bother to register).  We then found out when the absentee ballots went out in the mail and sent the ground team to convince them to actually vote for the people we wanted them to vote for (in SF they did not have any Republicans to vote for but about 99% of them voted the straight Democrat ticket for the statewide and national races).  If the Democrats had a better national “ground game” and got everyone getting a check (and or housing or an EBT card) in the US to vote for them the Republicans would never have a majority in the house or senate again…

    > Joe Walsh edged Democrat Melissa Bean by just 290 votes; 41.7% of estimated eligible

    > voters cast ballots in that contest.

    It sounds like they are talking about “registered” voters since 41% of eligible (aka “voting age”) people sounds high.  I think someone posted it here before, but I’m wondering if anyone has estimated the percentage of voting age people in Yolo county that have taken the time to register.  In my 40 years in politics I have never seen so many  young (under 40) people less interested in politics (and met so many that even refuse to register to vote)…

    1. Barack Palin

       In my 40 years in politics I have never seen so many  young (under 40) people less interested in politics (and met so many that even refuse to register to vote)

       

      This is so true.   My son makes $300,000/yr. and complains about his taxes.  I tell him to go register and vote Republican because the Democrats will just keep taking more and more.  He says his one vote won’t matter so why bother.  He never reads the front page of a newspaper, just the sports page.

      1. hpierce

        May I offer a suggestion?  We have a house rule:  if someone wants to talk politics, particularly to complain, there is a litmus test… “did you vote in the election?”  If the answer is no, end of discussion.

        In 42 years of being eligible to vote, I missed one election, due to an injury that occurred too late to vote by mail.

        But I agree, the 20-30’s would benefit from hearing from those from other countries, particularly east european, to understand how precious a gift being able to vote is, and also, the grave responsibility of being informed and then voting.

        1. Davis Progressive

          here’s the problem with that rule: people like me have been screwed by the top two ballot.  i used to vote in generals for third parties, now there are no third parties on the general because the third party is never in the top two.  so why should i vote for the lesser of two evil people?

        2. hpierce

          DP… get more active, write your legislators, bug them, run for office yourself… or, see the Chaplain and get your TS card punched.  You could start a new party, the Whiner Party.  Potential for high membership, if they bother to go to the meetings and/or vote.

          Or push for legislation to add “None of the Above” to the ballot. I understand Nevada has that.

        3. South of Davis

          DP wrote:

          > why should i vote for the lesser of two evil people?

          Since it might help the state or country end up with the lesser (vs. greater) evil person…

      2. Frankly

        What was it that Churchill said: “If you are younger than 30 and vote conservative you don’t have a heart, but if you are older than 30 and vote liberal, you don’t have a brain.”

        I would add to this that conservative principles on the economic side are more complicated (and more righteous and beneficial), and fail to resonate with those more simpleminded and ignorant with respect to micro and macro economics.

        Also young people are not adequately explained the history of general social welfare deriving from heavy socialism and large government versus a commitment to Republic principles of smaller government and democratic free market capitalism.  And we can thank the crappy education system for helping here… one that adds curriculum to imprint leftist social justice and PC sensitivities over true history of economic systems and impacts to the human condition and also training for life skills like accounting and money management.

        It is clear that higher voter turn-out has not been good for Republicans.  There are two demographic blocks doing the damage: minorities and youth.

        The key for Republicans is to invest in an ongoing message that helps these two groups connect their own welfare with the principles of democratic free market capitalism, small government and education reform.   But it will be difficult because of so many uneducated and illiterate immigrant voters, and so many disgusted and disenfranchised young people… and combined with a biased and conservative-hostile media and education system… the Republicans have a very difficult task ahead.   But they have some inertia from this election.  The first battle is immigration reform.  And it is going to be a battle like know other because the Democrats know how the flood of poor and uneducated people from south of the border is perfect fodder for their designs of retaining power.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Churchill’s view is of course his subjective opinion, but I can say that in terms of how that principle plays out in modern politics – it doesn’t. Research repeatedly and consistently shows that people’s voter identification and voting habits actually remain remarkably stable throughout their life times. It’s not 100%, but around 85% or so.

        2. Frankly

          Actually, I think Churchill was completely accurate here.   It has been proven by science that the human frontal lobe does not fully develop for most people until their 30s.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Empirically false. People’s voting behavior is relatively stable over time. You’re making the same mistake he is – you’re assuming intelligence and voting behavior is correlated.

        3. Tia Will

          Frankly

          and combined with a biased and conservative-hostile media “

          Like Fox news, The National Review, Rush Limbaugh……

          The key for Republicans is to invest in an ongoing message that helps these two groups connect their own welfare with the principles of democratic free market capitalism, small government and education reform”

          Perhaps the real key for the Republicans would be instead of just a “message” to adopt policies that would actually help these two groups to advance economically rather than making empty promises. Catchy phrases or “messages” such as “trickle down” economics and ” a rising tide raises all boats” just don’t seem to have done it.

           

        4. Davis Progressive

          A new study from the Pew ResearchCenter …

          According to the report, almost half of conservatives consider Fox News to be their primary news source. Liberals had a wider variety of news sources, including CNN, MSNBC, NPR and the New York Times.
          Left-leaning Americans are more likely to defriend someone on a social networking site because of politics, and generally trust more news sources.
          Conservatives are more likely to seek out political opinions agreeing with their own on social media, and are more likely to distrust news sources.
          The study was meant to highlight increasing political polarization and its effects.

          To read the full report, visit http://www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/

        5. Frankly

          I watch all of those news sources and can tell you that Fox generally includes both sides of the debate, while the the left-bent news sources are more consistently delivering one-sided content… more like propaganda.  The reason that conservatives like Fox is that they like the conflict.  Liberals like to be surround by people that think like them with conflict much more narrowly constrained.

        6. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > Research repeatedly and consistently shows that people’s voter

          >identification and voting habits actually remain remarkably stable

          >throughout their life times. It’s not 100%, but around 85% or so.

          That makes sense because most people born in a family in a high tax bracket die in a high tax bracket and most people born getting government subsidies die getting government subsidies…

           

        7. TrueBlueDevil

          Tia, you are either uninformed, or have other motives. The “mainstream” press coverage is laregely very very liberal. ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, the LA Times, the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, etc.  all slant very liberal. When I was younger I didn’t realize the importance of the NY Times – our “paper of record” – but as I matured I realized how the daily newspapers all across the nation ran their stories and opinion writers. (Last count, the NY Times has one weak conservative on staff.) Fox News, Rush, etc., were a response to that lack of balance.

          I agree, I watch them all… and Fox News typically allows more airtime to the ‘opposition’, while CNN and others will unabashedly attack GOP candidates. I recall Wolf Blitzer asking Herman Cain, a rising GOP presidential hopeful, why it was almost “poison” for an African American to vote Republican. And then when he replied about the almost “brainwashing” of political thought, Blitzer had a mini fit.

          Tia, as far as “doing something” for people, that is exactly what the Free Market does. Just look at the unemployment  rates for young black youth under Ronald Reagan, vs Barack Obama.

      3. Davis Progressive

        and yet…

        People who watch no news at all can answer more questions about international current events than people who watch cable news, a survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds.

        NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative news outlets, while exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.

         

        People who watch MSNBC and CNN exclusively can answer more questions about domestic events than people who watch no news at all. People who only watch Fox did much worse. NPR listeners answered more questions correctly than people in any other category.

        1. Davis Progressive

          then you have pew:

          Fox News was very tough on the last Democratic candidate for president. (But MSNBC was even tougher on the Republican). During the late stages of the 2012 presidential campaign, a Pew Research analysis found that Barack Obama received far more negative coverage than positive on the Fox News Channel. Yet Fox found its ideological mirror image in MSNBC. In the final stretch of the campaign, nearly half (46%) of Obama’s coverage on Fox was negative, while just 6% was positive in tone. But MSNBC produced an even harsher narrative about the Republican in the race: 71% of Romney’s coverage was negative, versus 3% positive.

        2. South of Davis

          DP wrote:

          > People who watch no news at all can answer more questions

          > about international current events than people who watch cable news

          This makes sense since modern cable news is just another “reality show” for dumb people (on the left and right) that is scripted and edited even more than an episode of the Kardashians.

          People on the right get the “fair and balanced” they want when the smooth talking Yale PhD on “their side” debates the issue with a crazed yelling 6th grade drop out “community organizer” on the other side…

          People on the left get the same “balance” when NPR or MSNBC puts the 65 year old female attorney who has been in a committed same sex relationship for the past 40 years against an insane bible thumper telling her she is going to H E Double L…

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          DP, did you forget Candy Crowley incorrectly defending Obama when she interrupted Mitt Romney’s response in one of the Presidential debates? Partisan, incorrect, biased and wrong.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

    I tell him to go register and vote Republican because the Democrats will just keep taking more and more. “

    I think that your son may be making an accurate assessment if what he feels is that it will not make any difference to his taxes. If he votes Republican his taxes are likely to go to new foreign military adventures ( Iraq ), and subsequent need for “nation building and maintenance abroad,  while if he votes Democratic his taxes will likely go to more societal building and maintenance programs here. My son is registered and votes, but feels that the entire system is “rigged” as he says to maintain the current power structure. Either attitude is a measure of apathy and disgust with our current system.

    1. Frankly

      This is laughable.  Even at a time when Islamic militants are gaining territory and filling bank accounts that allow them to purchase sophisticated weapons and recruit extremists on our own soil ready and willing to strap on suicide vests and cut off heads… when China and Russia are expanding their military and invading other territories to expand their empires… and Europe does what it has always done… ignore the problems until another world war erupts… and we look at defense spending as a percentage of GDP even including the more recent war costs… there is nothing but inflated hyperbole in your statement above.

      Clinton cut defense spending and then 9-11.  Obama is cutting it more and what next?

      Since after WWII, non-defense spending as a percent of GDP has blown through the roof while defense spending has significantly declined.

      I think part of what is driving apathy is disgust with the recognition that global utopia is non-existent and the US is actually the shinning city on the hill and has to accept the responsibility for protecting and advancing freedom in the world.  It is the realization of the burden of global leadership.  What a bummer that we can’t just be all isolationist and use all that money to fund more feel good domestic programs without imperiling our very existence.

      1. hpierce

        Etymological question:  Is “shinning” a conflation of ‘shining’ and ‘sinning’, or a tactic to take out an opponent with a hit to a poorly protected, but potentially painful, area?

        1. Matt Williams

          I thought it was “climbing a vertical structure (frequently a pole or a tree) by grasping the pole with one’s shins and moving upward much like an inch-worm does.

          1. Matt Williams

            Same thing … http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/shinning

            verb (used with object), verb (used without object), shinned, shinning.
            5. to climb by holding fast with the hands or arms and legs and drawing oneself up.

            http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/shinnying?s=t

            shinny
            [shin-ee]

            Word Origin

            noun, plural shinnies.

            1. a simple variety of hockey, played with a ball, block of wood, or the like, and clubs curved at one end.
            2. the club used.

            verb (used without object), shinnied, shinnying.

            3. to play shinny.
            4. to drive the ball at shinny.

            Origin
            1665-1675
            1665-75; variant of shin ye, cry used in the game

            shinny
            [shin-ee]
            verb (used without object), shinnied, shinnying.

            1. to shin:
            He shinnied up the tree.

            Origin
            1850-55, Americanism; apparently derivative of shin1; source of -y is unclear

    2. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > I think that your son may be making an accurate assessment if what he

      > feels is that it will not make any difference to his taxes. If he votes

      > Republican his taxes are likely to go to new foreign military adventures 

      Like Tia I don’t think we should be blowing billions a month in “new foreign military adventures”.

      Little did I know the (Nobel Peace Prize winner) I voted for (mainly since I thought Romney would blow a lot of money in “new foreign military adventures”) would bomb more countries than any president (from either party) in my lifetime (and 6 years later he still have prisoners in a prison he swore to close as soon as he was elected)…

  3. Gunrocik

    While it is always important to survey more than those within your immediate family,  I have to agree with what everyone has been saying.  The under 40 generation never lived in a time when the media sanitized politics enough to make you feel like your vote really counts.

    Anyone who pays attention to politics in either Sacramento or Washington has to be pretty discouraged by the way special interests pretty much run the show.  Whether it is Sacramento or Washington — it is pretty obvious that corporate and labor control every decision — and unlike Frankly — I am willing to make it a bipartisan problem.  Neither side is out for anyone but themselves — and our politicians are blatantly for sale.  I really don’t believe there are many real statesman left — I don’t think they could survive in the cesspool we’ve allowed to fester.  I vote because I feel like it is an obligation we have to society — but I don’t have many offices where I ever feel like I am doing anything other than choosing between the lesser of two evils.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I don’t agree with this. While voter attitudes do not change over time, it’s been pretty consistent over the last half century at least that voter turn out increases with age. This generation is no different really from any other, other than perhaps demographic factors such as racial diversity that may reduce voter turnout out statistically speaking.

    2. Frankly

      Reading a pretty good book on Lyndon Johnson.  We really should thank him and not Kennedy for civil rights legislation passing.  The Senate was a mess leading up to his speakership.  He was the guy that got it done why Kennedy satisfied his libido.

      In fact, this point about national politics being corrupt and a “cesspool”, etc… it has been a recurring theme since the formation of the Republic.  It has generally been outstanding and exceptional men that have taken charge and broken that lock on crap and reformed the executive and legislative bodies to a level of well-functioning.

      What I see different today is the level and pervasiveness of left political imprinting from media and the education system.  This is preventing the people with the right stuff from running for office and from winning elections.   So our is simple a crisis in leadership… the lack of it.

      1. Don Shor

        What I see different today is the level and pervasiveness of left political imprinting from media and the education system.

        Interesting, considering that the news media then was far more monolithic than it is today.
        Where people get their news: http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/personal-news-cycle/
        Key conclusion:

        a new survey finds that the nature of the news itself — the topic and speed of the story — largely determines where people go to learn about events and the path they take to get there.

        Patterns of news consumption also vary little by political affiliation. Partisans act more like each other in terms of attentiveness to the news relative to independents. But, partisans do differ from each other when it comes to the types of news reporting sources they say they trust. Democrats are more trusting of news from the three broadcast networks and the newswires, while Republicans are more trusting of news from cable.

        The generational breakdowns do indicate the path of future change. Younger adults are more likely to find news through web-based media. Younger people are three times more likely to discover news through social media than adults age 60 and older. Similarly, people under 40 are more likely than those 40 and over to discover news through internet searches and online news aggregators.

        But people across all generations are most likely to discover news by going directly to a news organization, rather than letting the news come to them.

      2. Tia Will

        What I see different today is the level and pervasiveness of left political imprinting from media and the education system.  This is preventing the people with the right stuff from running for office and from winning elections.   So our is simple a crisis in leadership… the lack of it.”

        What is interesting to me is your ability to see this as it applies to those on the left, and your complete inability to see exactly the same phenomena when it involves those on the right.

        America is not the “shining city on a hill” of right wing mythology. We have developed a system that has allowed those at the top of the economic heap to accumulate tremendous wealth. Unfortunately in order to maintain their own supremacy they have chosen to essentially abandon the well being of those who have not shared in their good fortune. I do not see this as worthy of attempting not to encourage others to follow our model because of its demonstrated superiority, but rather to enforce it through the use of our undoubtedly superior military. This completely ignores the fact that while much of the world does desire our wealth and lifestyle, this is not universally true of our political and economic system which has resulted in us militarily forcing the latter down people’s throats militarily rather than pursing enabling them to improve their economic circumstances while maintaining their preferred social and political systems.

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > has resulted in us militarily forcing the latter down people’s throats

          > militarily rather than pursing enabling them to improve their economic

          > circumstances while maintaining their preferred social and political systems

          I don’t know how Tia feels about making woman cover their faces, killing Christians, kidnapping young girls to give to the troops or sacrificing virgins, but those are the “preferred social and political systems” in many parts of the world.  I think we should leave the people alone and let them figure it out, but more often than not the “military industrial complex” (that is always ready to help/make money) will get the votes they need from even the anti-war people on the left to start bombing (making millions on the bombs) to “help” someone…

      3. hpierce

        Frankly, Reagan got divorced, married twice.  Kennedy had one wife.  What does “libido” have to do with your weak argument?  You are correct, though, that LBJ sealed the Civil Rights bills at the time.  The heavy lifting had been done during the Kennedy administration, and Johnson had the “grief factor” going for him in ’64.  If you want to cite history, at least get your facts in order.

        “It’s a good thing I’m not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I can’t say no,” President Warren G. Harding speaking to a group of reporters at a private party at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.”

        Warren G Harding (funny, no?) was Republican. An inconvenient truth?

        1. Frankly

          hpierce – Kennedy had streams of women inside and outside of the White House.  This is well know history assuming your are not getting it from CNN, MSNBC and NPR.

        2. Frankly

          And the facts are that the civil rights legislation failed and failed and failed from the south continuing to poke their fingers in the eyes of the north.  It was the southerner Lyndon Johnson that got it done.  My history is just fine thank you very much.

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      I think if our Parlimentary President hands Amnesty to 5, 10, 20 Million illegal immigrants, those numbers may change. Progressives may run the table for 50 years, and we may no longer be a two-party system. Even if Texas goes Democrat, it may be game over for the GOP, we will then have the real Utopia the Left dreams of … and our debts will continue to skyrocket.

  4. Tia Will

    I don’t know how Tia feels about making woman cover their faces, killing Christians, kidnapping young girls to give to the troops or sacrificing virgins, but those are the “preferred social and political systems” in many parts of the world. “

    I don’t feel any better about those practices than I do about our previous practices of forcibly converting people to Christianity or burning women at the stake or drowning them as witches or raping women as spoils of war no matter the religious affiliation of those doing the raping. I do not hold with the idea that Americans misbehaving are any better than those of other nationalities misbehaving, nor do I believe that Christian lives are worth more than Muslim lives, or that innocent American lives are worth more than innocent Iraqui or Syrian lives.

    I am a pacifist.  I believe that the department of defense should be for defense, not to impose our will or socio economic system on others. I am unapologetic for this point of view. Perhaps if we truly took care of our own problems by feeding our children and our poor and disabled, provided educational opportunities and medical care for all, housed our homeless, and re habilitated instead of incarcerating those amongst us suffering from addiction, we would truly be the “shining model” for the rest of the world that we like to claim that we are. Then and only then in my opinion will we have established a society truly worth emulating.

    1. hpierce

      A true “pacifist” would eschew a “defense department” entirely.  I think you are much like me, in that I would not provoke a lethal fight, but I would be capable of lethal force to stop someone who was a serious threat the my spouse, our children, anyone in my vicinity, or myself.  But then again, one of my favorite songs was “Coward of the County”, sung by Kenny Rogers.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        A true pacifist is an Anarchist as well and takes a vow of poverty. Let’s assume that she was meaning that she’s against violence rather than literally a pacifist.

    2. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      >  I believe that the department of defense should be for defense,

      > not to impose our will or socio economic system on others. 

      So do most (but not all) right wing Republicans (and almost all) Tea Party members.

      The problem is that we have never had a chance to vote for a President (from a major party) that believes this.

      For over 100 years the primary goal of the department of “defense” has been to ‘defend” the profits of US multinational companies around the world while “defending” the profits (and increasing the shareholder wealth) of the UE military industrial complex.

      P.S. If you have not read it already you can read the great (yet short) book War is a Racket (published in 1935 when things were not nearly as bad as they are today) for free on line at :

      http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      Tia, I don’t think everyone really wants this. There are NGOs that want their $$$  and share of the pie.

      Take the case study of delivering emergency supplies to disaster victims, it has been proven that we can fly in military cargo planes and immediately drop in food and water from 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 feet. No muss, no fuss, no one killed, and immediate aid rendered. We did this to save those who were starving in Afghanistan. But no, gov’t agencies and NGOs want to run things, bill the gov’t, and fill their coffers. In the meantime, disaster victims die.

      I believe the Christians and moral equivalency scenario’s you’re trying to draw happened a long, long time ago.

      Today, I believe in most cases it is Islamists extremists who are killing and raping Christians in Africa, the Middle East, the Philippines and elsewhere. It is Islamist extremists who are killing and beheading Americans in America, and the Middle East. It is Iran and others trying to “wipe Israel off the map”.

      I agree we shouldn’t be nation building in the Middle East. If we find a terrorist training camp with plans to attack us, we wipe them out from the air. Don’t forget that Bill Clinton could have killed OBL, he didn’t, and so 9/11 prompted the wars / nation building urges. If they want to live in the 8th or 12th century, so be it. I say cut off the opium supply, and let them be. But we then do run into scenarios like when ISIS decides to massacre an ancient Christian tribe, do we stand by and let it happen? Protect the Kurds and Israel, and prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

      1. Don Shor

        Far greater numbers of heinous crimes of very much the same nature have been committed over many years in Mexico by narco-terrorists. The actions being perpetrated by ISIS are the same types of atrocities that people — men — carry out wherever and whenever they want to terrorize a local population and build a reputation for ferocity. Drug cartels in Mexico murdered more than 16,000 people in 2013 alone. 60,000 between 2006 – 2012. They have committed hundreds of beheadings, mutilated people, dumped bodies on roadways, used rape and torture, targeted children, and proudly displayed their actions. Most of these terrorists are nominally Catholic, and have developed a sort of mutant religion around their actions and subculture.
        There is nothing unique about what ISIS is doing, nor is it unique to Islam.
        For more on terrorism by groups that claim to be Christian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_terrorism#Contemporary

  5. Tia Will

    So do most (but not all) right wing Republicans (and almost all) Tea Party members.

    I believe that this is probably true. One major difference that I believe lies between the views of these groups and me is that I would as readily offer assistance to any individual who needed it regardless of their documentation or lack thereof. I simply do not believe that being an American makes one any better or more worthy as a human being.

  6. Anon

    Let’s face it.  Sometimes in elections, there are not very many good choices to vote for.  I left half my ballot blank this time around, because I could not bring myself to vote for so many of the awful choices.

    One of the major problems I see is that moderates and/or good candidates are not running for office.  Why?  They will be vilified in the press, every skeleton brought out of the closet, and if there aren’t any, skeletons will be created.  Every word that a candidate says will by hyper-scrutinized, taken out of context, and twisted to say something that was never meant.  Moderates in the U.S. Congress freely admitted they were leaving because the atmosphere in the national legislature had become so toxic the moderates could not stand to be around it.  The news gravitates toward the extremists, and gives them all kinds of air time.  We virtually never hear from moderates.  Yet IMO most of the country is more in the moderate camp, which is the ultimate irony.  Because of all the attention paid to the extremist elements in both parties, we are getting extremist legislation on both ends of the spectrum, e.g. legalization of drugs, voter registration laws.

    1. Frankly

      Absolutely agree with this.   I don’t know if it is significantly different since politics has always been a blood sport.  I think there is a difference in the intensity because the opposition has the modern media to repeat, amplify and imprint the negativity at a level orders of magnitude above what was done historically.

      The other difference is the rise of the hypersensitive.  How would have Romney’s “47 percent would never vote for me.” comment have made any different decades ago?

      It is like we have two separate speech code environments.  When there are no hypersensitive around, and hopefully no spies of the those that exploit the private talk of the non-hypersensitive around, the speech is much less constrained and more real communication takes place.  The other is the BS PC correctness environment that nobody really likes, and where nobody really communicates.  The goal is to get in and get out as quick as possible so as to not make any mistakes upsetting any thin-skinned people or giving your opponents and enemies anything to exploit toward your damage and defeat.  But the fear of making a mistake combined with the general distaste for having to play the stupid PC speech code games, turns off a good number of great people.  I laugh with Democrats get caught in their own PC speech code snare.  But usually the media gives them a pass.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Correct. Decades ago Independent Ross Perot was running for President, and had a huge following, biggest 3rd party effort since the Bull Moose Party. Perot was really a two issue candidate, the deficit and the economy.

        Perot was not a politician. So he is invited, and goes to the NAACP to talk. During his address, when he was laying out his solutions for the black community, he once said “you people need to do x, y, and z”, and boy was he vilified for saying “you people”. Of coarse, the liberal press loved it, they love playing the card.

  7. Tia Will

    “you people need to do x, y, and z”

    The interesting part about your comment to me is not that he was vilified for making this comment, but rather that you see it as a reasonable comment to make. The idea that the solution to any complex problem is to tell someone else how they should manage their lives and their communities before going back to one’s own ( much more pleasant and livable situation) is in itself not a winning proposition. But your comment is quite typical of how America operates in the world. We have made it a habit to decide which dictator or regional military power is acceptable to us regardless of their record on human rights and prop them up. We then come up with a rationale for the barricade, undermining of, or in some cases invasion of those not acceptable to us frequently on some trumped up excuse ( “domino effect”, ” weapons of mass destruction “). This to me is the height of hubris in the game of going in and telling others that they “need to do x, y, and z”.

    No one likes, or is particularly responsive, to being told what to do by someone considered an outsider.

    TBD, think of the outraged posts and “vilifying” of “ignorant, hypocritical left wing activists” that occur here when there is a mandate for even something as small as a bag ban or a wood burning ordinance. The outcry of “you can’t tell me what to do” is amazing. And yet some see it as entirely reasonable for a rich guy  like Perot ( estimated worth of 3.5 billion in 2012 ) to expound about what others ( living for generations in circumstances that I doubt he can begin to understand ) should do. Not worth vilifying in my opinion, but also not demonstrative of the kind of understanding of the circumstances of others that would warrant consideration for the presidency of the United States.

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