November 6, 2008

Post-Mortem for the First Post-Partisan Partisan Election

Hatched by Dafydd

I find myself curiously untheatrical about Barack H. Obama's victory last night, much as I'm appalled by his dishonesty, his radicalism, and his friends. I think I had seriously internalized that Obama was reasonably likely to be elected, so I got all the hand-wringing out my system early.

Besides, there's little to analyze there. I'm more interested in comparing the popular vote to the final polls released by the various pollsters. According to CNN, the current figures for the popular tally are 53% for Obama, 46% for John S. McCain. (We don't have complete figures, however, because the CNN site does not give actual tallies for those votes that went for neither major-party candidate; we'll have to take CNN's word for it.)

That gives Obama a 7% victory over McCain. So let's look at the final poll numbers.

Pollsters vs. voters

They range from a low of 3.5% from the averaged Battleground poll to a high of 11% from both Zogby and Gallup. The pollsters who came closest were CNN, Fox News, and Ipsos, who all appear to have called it exactly. Pew Research came close with 6%... but this was after having the spread as high as 15% (!) just a week before the election. This is an astonishing example of pollsters letting Obamania run away with their reason, then "walking the dog" back to rationality for the final polling release.

The following table ranks the polls from most Republican to most Democratic and includes both the raw difference and also the percentile difference; in that last column, for example, a pollster who predicted Obama by 11 points would have a raw differential of 4 (a predicted number of 11 minus the actual number 7), and a percentile difference of 57% -- 4 points differential divided by 7 points of actual victory:


Final polls, divergence from actual results
Pollster Final Obama poll lead Poll minus actual Percentile difference
Battleground 3.5% -3.5 points -50% off
Hotline 5% -2 points -29% off
Rasmussen 6% -1 -14% off
Pew 6% -1 -14% off
CNN 7% Direct hit On the money
Fox News 7% Direct hit On the money
Ipsos 7% Direct hit On the money
IBD 8% +1 points 14% off
NBC/WSJ 8% +1 points 14% off
ABC/WaPo 9% +2 points 29% off
CBS 9% +2 points 29% off
Marist 9% +2 points 29% off
Gallup 11% +4 points 57% off
Zogby 11% +4 points 57% off


First, it's very clear that, as expected, McCain significantly outperformed his final poll numbers -- and correspondingly, Obama significantly underperformed. Four polls underestimated Obama's lead, three got it right on the money -- and seven of the fourteen (half) overestimated Obama's lead. Clearly, the pollsters underestimated Republican strength in this election.

Just as in the primaries, McCain closed noticibly on Obama in the actual election... and just as in the primaries, when Hillary Clinton closed on Barack Obama, it wasn't quite enough: The big lead that Obama had built up proved insurmountable.

The Democratic victory -- convincing but not overwhelming

That out of the way, here is a comparison to bear in mind... Obama came into this election with:

  • A huge headwind against Republicans in general;
  • A Republican president with a job approval below 30%;
  • A "wrong track" number of 84.2% (!);
  • A fundraising and spending advantage that boggles the mind;
  • The weight of the massed elite media behind him 137.4%;
  • A complete collapse of the world financial markets -- wrongly blamed on Republicans -- just a couple of weeks before the election, with the market hitting a local nadir on October 27th, just eight days before the vote;
  • A massive boost from being the first black presidential nominee with a serious chance of winning (obvously);
  • A unified base that was ravenous for la Casablanca;
  • And a disunited GOP base, many of whom still harbored rage over McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, the Gang of Fourteen, and so forth; many of whom pointedly voted for Librarian nominee Babar instead of McCain. (In the end, though, I believe McCain retained more Republicans than Obama retained Democrats; but I just heard that, I haven't seen the figures.)

Yet even so, Barack Obama did not do as well in the election as did Bill Clinton in 1996, the previous Democratic victory.

Obama has won at least 349 electoral votes, possibly as many as 375 (if he ends up taking both Missouri, where McCain leads by 6,000 votes, and North Carolina, where Obama leads by 14,000); and he had a 7% victory over John McCain. But in 1996, Bill Clinton won 379 electoral votes with a margin of 8.5% -- and that was after numerous substantiated allegations of corruption and wrongdoing by the president. (If McCain ends up winning either Missouri or North Carolina, then Obama will have done worse than both of Bill Clinton's elections.)

Obama's was not a landslide victory; it was more substantial than either of George W. Bush's victories, but it was still less than the average presidential margin of victory of the past few decades. There have been 27 presidential elections from 1900 to 2004; at least 17 of them (63%) have been more substantial than this year's, and possibly as many as 19 (70%).

The Democrats have definitely picked up at least five net Senate seats; but the Republican leads in three of the four outstanding races -- Georgia, Minnesota, and Alaska; the Democrat leads by about 8,000 votes in Oregon. If these results hold up, Republicans will retain 43 seats... probably enough to maintain a filibuster against the worse excesses of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid troika. (If, as some aver, Joe Lieberman switches to Republican after he is stripped of all his committee assignments from vengeful Democrats, that would bring the total up to a more comfortable 44 Republicans.)

Finally, Democrats gained at least 18 House seats, with 8 still undecided; if the parties split the undecideds, that would mean a gain of 22 for the Democrats -- nine fewer than they gained in 2006. (By contrast, Democrats picked up 52 net seats in 1930, and an additional 101 seats in 1932; Republicans recaptured 81 seats in 1938 and 54 seats in 1994. There have been many, many other elections -- possibly a majority -- where more than 22 seats changed parties.)

By all measures then, Democrats won a substantial victory Tuesday, but not an overwhelming one.

Ballot propositions

I had three priorities in this election; two succeeded, one failed:

  • The election of John McCain (failed);
  • Holding onto enough Senate seats to allow the GOP to filibuster the most egregious of insane Democratic proposals (appears to have succeeded);
  • And the passage of California Proposition 8, the restoration of the traditional definition of marriage, after our rogue state Supreme Court decided to cram same-sex marriage down our throats (definitely succeeded).

That last is on the list because I believe traditional man-woman marriage is a cornerstone of Western civilization; I will be happy to debate Patterico -- or anyone else with a similar standard of rationality, honesty, and decency as he -- on its importance, but for now, I'm just very happy that it won, even in a down year for Republicans and conservative causes in general.

But in fact, conservatives fared quite well on our ballot initiatives here, except for Proposition 4, which would have required parental notification before minors could get abortions. For such a liberal state, California is still pretty conservative. The release-a-thug initiative failed big time, as did the global-warming "renewable energy" initiative; another victims' bill of rights initiative passed; and the bond initiative to pay people to buy "alternative fuel" vehicles was crushed.

There were no conservative issues with which I took issue this time, so I could stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with movement conservatives this time.

The only stupid-goofy initiative was the PETA-inspired, if not actually PETA-backed (I have no idea) free-range chickens initiative, which passed almost 2-1. Proposition 2 mandates that "calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely," with a few trivial exceptions. It sounds great -- but is it necessary? Is there really a problem? Is this even a current issue?

I voted against it for two reasons: First, we have no idea if this is necessary, because none of us has the relevant knowledge of current practices. Those who do -- farming communities -- seemed mostly opposed.

Second, this initiative was sold entirely on the basis of raw, seething emotion, complete with a "smoking gun" videotape propagated virally, showing chickens being abused.

The YouTube was produced by Mercy for Animals, founded by a "super PETA volunteer; MFA's statement of purpose is:

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal advocacy organization that believes non-human animals are irreplaceable individuals who have morally significant interests and hence [sic] rights, including the right to live free of unnecessary suffering. MFA is dedicated to promoting nonviolence towards all sentient beings through public education campaigns and demonstrations, undercover investigations, and open rescues.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also produces videotapes that it propagates virally; and many have been revealed as either very old (decades out of date on treatment), creatively and tendentiously edited, or even containing completely fabricated sequences. This doesn't prove that Mercy for Animals' YouTube is similarly propagandistic... but I think it's a pretty good bet.

Patterico totally bought into this video, embedding it on his site; but the video consists of a series of images (many of them repeated) of some chickens being killed and some chickens with injuries, while an MFA narrator tells us about all sorts of chicken atrocities observed by an "undercover" MFA "investigator." But such investigators (or even the narrator, for that matter) are about as impartial and believable as a charter member of Klanwatch "investigating" racism and incipient Naziism at a local NRA chapter.

Patterico sees that movie as dispositive. He may be correct, he may be wrong -- I don't know, and neither does he, because there is no way to check out MFA's claims unless we, ourselves, go "undercover" in an egg factory... or rather, many egg factories, so we can compare them; else we have only Mercy for Animals' word that this is really a problem, that these images are current, that they are widespread, that they spread disease, and so forth. I doubt that Patterico (and about 2/3rds of California voters) did so before jumping wholeheartedly aboard this bandwagon.

For that matter, much is made in the video of killing chickens by holding them by their feet and shaking them vigorously, to break their necks. They show images of such chickens still thrashing about after being allegedly killed. But in the first place, we all know that chickens can thrash and even run around even after being decapitated; and if Patterico doesn't like chickens killed in that manner, how would he prefer them killed? I know he's not a vegetarian.

But let's leave the realm of animal-"rights" hysteria and return to the very real issue of the survival of traditional marriage. With 100% of precincts reporting, the quasi-final tally on Proposition 8 is 52.5% yes, 47.5 no; no recount is going to change a five-point result, so I'm quite confident that the California constitution now formally recognizes only the traditional definition of marriage.

(To quote Larry Elderberry, "and now, the big butt...")

But, it will doubtless take several months before this result becomes final. Several things will happen in the interim:

  1. A state-court case will be filed to declare the constitutional amendment unconstitutional; this will be thrown out of court.
  2. A federal case will be filed in district court to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional according to the United States constitution; the plaintiffs will judge-shop, and the judge will find in their favor, nullifying the initiative constitutional amendment just passed.
  3. On appeal, I cannot say what the three-judge panel of the 9th Circus Court of Appeals will do; it depends upon the makeup of the panel.
  4. But regardless the decision, it will be appealed to the entire 9th Circuit sitting en banc, and they will overturn the district-court judge's decision, restoring the just passed initiative.
  5. This decision will be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which will deny certiorari. At that point -- and not until then -- it will become official.

I'm very glad that Arnold Schwarzenegger is our governor; he is a socially liberal Republican who personally supports same-sex marriage... but he has a history of upholding the rule of law on this very issue.

If we had a Democratic governor such as Cruz Bustamante, I have no doubt that he would simply ignore the initiative as if it had been merely a bad dream. We would have to find someone with standing to sue to force California to follow its own constitution.

Still, I feel sad and angry: A bunch of very nice and totally sincere same-sex couples who "got married" after the California Supreme Court decision will find their supposed marriages abruptly nullified, causing them to feel very understandable pain. But it's their own fault: They foolishly trusted radical "progressives" who told them, to hell with what voters want; the people will think what we, the anointed, tell them to think!

I feel sorry for those same-sex couples who just wanted to get married. They knew (or should reasonably have known) that the proper way to change the secular institution of marriage would be to qualify a clean initiative onto the ballot to overturn the year 2000's Proposition 22 -- which had the exact same wording as Proposition 8, but created only a law, not an amendment to the constitution. If such a clean initiative passed, we would have enacted same-sex marriage through the ballot box (and would be the first state to do so). This is the only valid way to change such an important principle of American culture... by the vote.

But many same-sex marriage supporters allowed themselves to be suckered into a dirty short-cut. Probably, they were convinced by the Left that there were so many bigots and homophobes in California (that bastion of conservatism) that the only way they could win was to force the decision through the courts. In any event, now it's a part of the California constitution... and all because professional political proponents of same-sex marriage (and in many cases, polygamy, polyandry, incestuous marriage, and eventually, the abolition of legal marriage altogether) decided to force it on the state, "whether you like it or not," as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom triumphantly crowed during an earlier attempt.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the California electorate, which rejected the vile, slimy no-on-8 campaign... culminating in that despicable video assault that depicted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- by name! -- invading the house of some poor lesbian couple, trashing the place, and tearing their marriage certificate in half, while laughing at the pain they're causing.

What religious bigots. What bastards. I revel in the pain felt by the anti-religion, anti-democracy, and anti-marriage activists, even as I feel the pain of ordinary same-sex couples, a pain I ascribe almost entirely to the moral depravity of everyone who applauds judicial imperialism "for our own good."

But that wasn't the only state proposition that went in a direction away from Liberalism; here are a few other initiatives that appear victorious, from the CNN elections website:

  • A ban on same-sex marriage in Arizona and Florida, as well as California;
  • A ban (or at least limitations) on "unmarried 'sexual partner[s]'... adopting children or... serving as foster parents" in Arkansas;
  • A bill to end affirmative action in Nebraska. A similar bill in Colorado is trailing by 14,000 votes with 92% of precincts reporting; but for some unfathomable reason, the Colorado Secretary of State Election Center website does not report any election results, or if they do, they hide the fact. Evidently, it never occurred to the secretary or his web designer that viewers might, you know, want to know how things turned out.

In conclusion

So take heart, mateys; it was a bad election, but it probably won't be catastrophic. Don't throw yourselves into the Komodo dragon pit -- at least not just yet.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 6, 2008, at the time of 1:14 PM

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Tracked on November 19, 2008 5:58 PM


The following hissed in response by: Greg Marquez

I think my disappointment with the California results was prop. 4 a very reasonable measure failed by a pretty good amount. I had expected that if 8 passed 4 would definitely pass. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it seemed to me that the effort on behalf of Prop. 8 was much greater than on behalf of Prop. 4, maybe abortion is as big a deal for LDSers who did put a great deal of energy into passsing Prop. 8. Anyway it's very disappointing that Californianos care way more about Chickens than they do unborn children.

Not sure what the California results mean about the electorate in general. I, like many conservatives, keep thinking that if we could have an articulate conservative run for state wide office he/she could win but prop. 4 makes me doubt that. Prop 8 seems to cut the other way though.

Greg Marquez

The above hissed in response by: Greg Marquez [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2008 2:07 PM

The following hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr

Totally agree, both with the conclusions and the CA propositions you mention. I'd also like to add that I lament the passing of Prop 1A, an incredible boondoggle that I don't expect to see results from for more than 20 years, if ever; and we're borrowing 10 billion dollars at current rates (or rather, future rates, which will be higher) to pay for it. All while our governor is out begging for federal bailout money. This is probably actually stupider than last election's Stem Cell Research bond, during which people didn't know there was an economic crisis oncoming. (Plus, the Stem Cell research bill lets people have the comfort of killing babies, which CA polls indicate is extremely important.)

Oddly enough, I'm not as cynical as I sound; I'm looking forward to the interesting events we're going to face. The Republican party is going to have to do some re-engineering, work both with and against the majority Democrats, and somehow rebuild some level of trust with the American people.

The above hissed in response by: wtanksleyjr [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2008 2:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Movie Badger

Clinton hadn't been impeached for the 1996 election. You're thinking of the 1998 midterm elections.

The above hissed in response by: Movie Badger [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2008 3:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Movie Badger:

Whoops, you're absolutely right; I'll rewrite.



The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 6, 2008 4:06 PM

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