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Some random thoughts on the US election

November 7th, 2012

As regards the outcomes, it’s all positive except for the failure to make significant gains in the House of Reps. Obama wins easily, the Dems gain ground in the Senate despite defending 23 states against the Reps 10, and some big referendum wins on marriage equality and drug law reform. The good thing about the House is that it’s up for re-election in two years time, without the distraction of a Presidential race.

The popular vote is a more complicated story. At this stage it looks as though Obama will win narrowly. But he would win easily among registered voters, more easily among US citizens, more easily again among US adults and overwhelmingly in the world as a whole. The Dems need to make voting rights a core issue from now on.

The Repubs only lost narrowly, but time and demography are against them. Unless they shift ground on some major issues, they look like being a permanent minority. But the attack machine they’ve built up will savage anyone who suggests such changes. Logic says they’ll find a way, but maybe it will take another, bigger, defeat. Let’s hope so.

Particularly in the Senate, the quality of the Democratic caucus is greatly improved – Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and others are gone, while the additions include Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. A House win in 2014 could see a genuine Democratic majority rather than one relying on Blue Dogs and Dixiecrats as in the past. That would provide a path to passage of genuine reforms.

It would be great if, now that he doesn’t need to go for re-election, Obama returned to the defence of civil liberties he advocated in his 2008 campaign and his inaugural address. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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  1. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:41 | #1

    @Jim Rose

    You seem to wish to turn questions of practicality into questions of morality or right.

    That’s boring.

    We all have the right to do stuff which is impractical or counterproductive. Sane people choose not to do that stuff.

    Is this proposition too difficult to understand?

  2. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:54 | #2

    @Ronald Brak As I recall from “The Contribution of Economists to Military Intelligence during World War II” by MARK GUGLIELMO, the largest contribution of allied bombing of Germany was forcing the withdrawal much of its air force and 88 artillery from the eastern front and d-day beaches to defend the homeland. This yielded air superiority on both fronts and reduced the defensive capacity of the German army.

    The bombings killed many war industry workers, fragmented the german war economy and rail transport and diverted millions of people and much war production into air defence.

  3. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 13:59 | #3

    Piracy is confined to crimes committed at sea. What’s piracy got to do with the WOT?

  4. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:10 | #4

    A declaration of war is made by one sovereign nation against another sovereign nation. For a sovereign nation to declare a war against an abstract noun ie “terror” is to invite ridicule.

    Speaking of which Repubs are now looking at contenders for 2016 and Jeb Bush has been mentioned favourably.

  5. JB Cairns
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:11 | #5

    Rog,

    The problem Jeb has is his surname. Can you imagine the ads?

  6. rog
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:30 | #6

    Jeb Bush, with his father, acted to release and pardon convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch. Not that sovereigns using terrorists is unusual, piracy has been sanctioned by one foreign power when used against another foreign power (eg British vs Spanish). Of course the use of mujahideen by the US against the Soviets is well documented. Repubs should do well with Jeb.

  7. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:31 | #7

    if time and demography are against the GOP, why is it they have done so much better in winning congress since 1994 and for most of the period back to 1932. LBJ was the last democratic president to win a landslide.

  8. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:32 | #8

    @Jim Rose

    Obama acquired legal authority for drone warfare from the Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted just after the Sept. 11 attacks and which was effectively a declaration of war against {AQ}

    .

    That has no standing in international law. Any state (and indeed, any individual) can purport super-sovereignty. The fact of the matter is that no Declaration of War capable of being recognised by the ICC or any other body of standing was made. The AQ matter was not an attack by a state or quasi-state on thwe US, but a serious criminal act, requiring a police response, aimed at identifying perpetrators and accessories before and after the fact, bringing them before competent courts for examination and sanction.

    Within the US there are criminal gangs that engage in, inter alia serious offences, including murder. While government officials occasionally engage in “war on crime” bombast, I’m yet to hear of a drone strike on some working class neighbourhood. Police attempt to apprehend suspects.

    For many on the Left, war, if it was fought at all, has to be fought without endangering civilians

    Ridiculous. Wars always prejudice the safety of non-combatants. Sometimes, regrettably, shooting wars are the least of all harms. Civilised states however make it their business to keep casualties amongst non-combatants to a minimum, and are strategic in their attacks rather than randomly violent.

    But this is all beside the point, since the conflict between the US and its allies on the one hand and the disparate, ostensibly Islamist criminal cells operating in South West & East Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa is not a war in the usual sense. It is as fart as can be told, an exercise in assuaging hurt pride, principally amongst Americans with domestic political ends in mind.

    As both “sides” (more precisely — both political tribes) endorse this retributive justice neither can be seen to be the first to abandon it wothout being wedged as dishonouring the victims of 9/11 and the troops occupying Afghanistan and so in effect the hand of the dead and the sunk cost fallacy have conspired to ensure that the US must murder without end on a grand scale, merely to be true to itself.

    I wonder if I shall live to see the day when the pernicious cant that is the rationale for the “war on terror” is called out in public space and consigned to a category called “ugly curiosities of modernity”. I doubt it, but the thought is appealing.

  9. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:35 | #9

    Obama is only one of two Presidents since the war to win consecutive terms with more than 50% of the popular vote. I think FDR might have done it — not sure.

  10. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2012 at 14:47 | #10

    Don’t waste your time debating with fundamentalists. They are never open to reason, nor logic, nor facts nor any kind of sympathy or empathy for those outside their tribal-ideological group. The “others”, the “outsiders”, the “not us” are always demonised and slated for murder which is then rationalised and legitimised as just and righteous killing. The fundamentalists of both sides much more strongly resemble each other than they resemble the reasonable, humane and ordinary masses who are their unfortunate host populations.

  11. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:02 | #11

    FB,

    I presume the “war” you refer to is WWII.

    If so, then both Eisenhower and Reagan achieved the feat you mention.

  12. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:03 | #12

    @Fran Barlow The Congress granted the President the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    The NATO council declared the 9/11 attacks were an attack on all NATO nations which satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter. John Howard invoked Article IV of the ANZUS treaty.

    United Nations Security Council resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001 expressing its determination to combat threats to international peace and security caused by acts of terrorism and recognising the right of individual and collective self-defense.

    That resolution called on all countries to co-operate in bringing the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of the attacks to justice and that those responsible for supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors would be held accountable.

  13. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:30 | #13

    @Fran Barlow Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote, and the third (after Madison and Woodrow Wilson) to win a second term with a smaller percentage of the electoral vote.

    HT: George Will

  14. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:32 | #14

    @Katz

    Quite right. I’ve looked it up now, so for the record … in reverse order …

    Obama, Reagan, Eisenhower, FDR (four times all well over 50 with high turnouts) William McKinley (1896, 1900) Ulysses S Grant and Andrew Jackson.

    Of course blacks didn’t vote in elections until 1869 and even after that there was massive voter suppression …

    Women didn’t have the vote everywhere in the US until 1941, so maybe we ought not to count records before that.

  15. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 15:50 | #15

    @rog Pirates, like al Qaeda, are non-state actors too powerful, remote or dispersed to be countered by traditional law enforcement.

    Historically, wars against pirates was the task of navies sometimes augmented by marines when dealing with pirate colonies or crews fleeing ashore to escape capture.

    Afghanistan harboured a pirate colony as do one or two East African nations.

    The Pancho Villa Expedition by the US Army against the bandit forces of Pancho Villa was from 1916 to 1917. This punitive expedition was in retaliation for Villa’s attack on a town in New Mexico and had one objective: to capture Villa dead or alive and put a stop to any future forays into American soil.

    The U.S. Secretary of State sent a note to the de facto Mexican government informing it of the U.S. government’s intent to pursue Villa into Mexico. Notes were exchanged, and an agreement was reached permitting both sides to pursue bandits into the other’s territory.

    The Taliban declined a request to deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy bases of al Qaeda. This did this in the knowledge that those that haboured al Qaeda would share its fate.

  16. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:00 | #16

    @Jim Rose

    Aren’t you forgetting Grover Cleveland — (1884; 1892) …

    Nixon ran one of the dirtiest campaigns in US history (his re-electiion campaign was entitled “CREEP” — so strangely apt) against McGovern so perhaps his effort in 1972 should be discounted.

    Obama faced the combined power of the most powerful media empire in the world, a disastrous legacy left him by the Repugs (admittedly he gave them a free pass on that which was stupid) and a massively obstructionist response to his (ill-advised) efforts at “reaching across the aisle”. Reagan had a massively compliant media to help him out and a poor Democrat candidate in 1984. Clinton did increase his vote but both his votes were the wrong side of 50%. Bush Jnr just squeaked over the line in 2000 and could not have been re-elected had he not improved in 2004, and of course he too ran as a war President and ran one of the dirtier campaigns {the “Swiftboat” meme} against Kerry — and even then Obama probably will top his 2004 percentage this time around.

  17. BilB
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:08 | #17

    “Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote”

    So what, Jim Rose.

    Obama is the first Black Senator to win the Presidency from the most unpopular President in America’s History. You can go on a very long time finding specific firsts about these situations.

    Obama won the electoral vote, the popular vote and the number of highest number of states states. He also won the support of a very gracious in defeat opponent

    That’s called winning.

  18. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:19 | #18

    @Jim Rose

    The NATO council declared the 9/11 attacks were an attack on all NATO nations which satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter.

    Not germane. Article 5 of the Charter — strictly the “Washington Treaty” — provides that:

    if a NATO Ally is the victim of an armed attack, each and every other member of the Alliance will consider this act of violence as an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.

    So collective defence is affirmed. NATO agreed that if it was determined that this attack was directed from abroad, it would be regarded as covered by Article 5.

    but it continues:

    no determination has yet been made whether the attack against the United States was directed from abroad. If such a determination is made, each Ally will then consider what assistance it should provide. In practice, there will be consultations among the Allies. Any collective action by NATO will be decided by the North Atlantic Council. The United States can also carry out independent actions, consistent with its rights and obligations under the UN Charter. {my emphasis}

    This says nothing at all about drone attacks on civilians. The Washington Treaty provides that:

    Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security. {my emphasis}

    Similarly, 1368 speaks of bringing “perpetrators to justice” but it is clear that this referred to those in the Sept 11 attacks rather than people with only notional connection to this event. They clearly had in mind arrest, and indeed, the Taliban regime offered up OBL to the ICC for examination, but the US — whcih does not recognise the ICC — passed this up. Bush wanted his pound of flesh and the ICC also wanted Oliver North over his terror|st activities in Managua.

    ANZUS only speaks of consultation rather than acts.

    In short, you’re reaching.

  19. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:23 | #19

    JR:

    The Taliban declined a request to deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy bases of al Qaeda.

    Point of information. The Taliban offered to deliver OBL to the ICC. Most of the nations in the so-called COW, including Australia, are signatories to the ICC.

  20. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:23 | #20

    @BilB

    He also won the support of a very gracious in defeat opponent

    Given the fellow has no discernible ethics and is a brazen and compulsive liar who speaks to the occasion rather than truth, grace is not germane.

    That his lips were moving profanes intellect and honour.

  21. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:31 | #21

    It appears that the Mormons believe that Native Americans are direct descendants of a couple of the Tribes of Israel, who by various means, found their way to America.

    Does Romney believe this?

    Should Native Americans be sad or relieved that Romney never got to give orders to the Bureau of Indian Affairs?

    For example could he have insisted that Native Americans be given citizenship of Israel under the Law of Return?

  22. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 16:35 | #22

    @Fran Barlow Obama’s reelection should at least put an end to his blaming Bush for the state of the economy

  23. November 8th, 2012 at 16:53 | #23

    Jim, do you believe that if British bombing hadn’t bombed German housing and had instead concentrated on industrial and military targets that Germany wouldn’t have put resources into air defence? That they just would have let the allies bomb their oil refineries, coal to liquid fuel plants, Haber process plants, factories, railways, submarine pens, etc. unopposed? Since that’s such a weird thing to believe I think you must have gotten confused. I suggest you read what I wrote again and then reread your reply to it. I think you’ll see then how weird your response seems.

  24. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 17:21 | #24

    @Ronald Brak The night bombing campaign helped force Germany to devote huge resources to the defence of the homeland, and the German air force suffered significant losses at the hands of Allied fighters.

  25. Julie Thomas
    November 8th, 2012 at 17:56 | #25

    Check out Mitt explain so calmly and rationally, his faith, to an interviewer who is agreeing with him

  26. November 8th, 2012 at 18:07 | #26

    So Jim, are you saying that Germany would not have devoted resources to air defence if allied bombing had concentrated on industrial and military targets?

  27. Jim Rose
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:12 | #27

    @Ronald Brak I said helped force. the day bombing of cities and industrial and transport targets were important too.

  28. November 8th, 2012 at 18:21 | #28

    Jim, so you are saying it would have made no difference if allied bombing had concentrated on industrial and millitary targets?

  29. Katz
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:31 | #29

    So Jesus will return to Missouri?

    Better than Adelaide, I guess.

  30. Fran Barlow
    November 8th, 2012 at 18:54 | #30

    @Jim Rose

    Don’t some economic problems last more than four years? Didn’t the Repugs obstruct recovery so they could win the election?

  31. Fran Barlow
    November 10th, 2012 at 08:39 | #31

    In the wake of the latest drone attack, the first returns of the successful Obama-Biden2012 campaign are in:

    War on Terror

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