Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Election Myths

note: Since there was no exit polling, much of what follows is inexact; without exit polling, I can only assume that voting in precincts that are 75% or more white or black accurately reflects black or white voting. For the sake of brevity, I'll just say black or white voters based on the Times Picayune's breakdown (pdf.) of the vote based on the racial composition of precincts.

I'll start with the most important myth, you might even call it the metamyth or protomyth. Without it, I don't believe that Jefferson could have been re-elected:
Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been
Indicted for or Convicted of a Felony


There are no federal statutes or Rules of the House of Representatives that
directly affect the status of a Member of Congress who has been indicted for a crime
that constitutes a felony. No rights or privileges are forfeited under the Constitution,
statutory law, or the Rules of the House merely upon an indictment for an offense,
prior to an establishment of guilt under the judicial system. Thus, under House
Rules, an indicted Member may continue to participate in congressional proceedings
and considerations; under the Constitution, a person under indictment is not
disqualified from being a Member of or a candidate for re-election to Congress.
Internal party rules in the House, however, now require an indicted chairman or
ranking Member of a House committee, or a member of the House party leadership,
to temporarily step aside from his or her leadership or chairmanship position.

Technically, a convicted felon can hold a seat, but not for all practical purposes (link, pdf) All the talk of indictment, gave the impression that a Jefferson victory would result in a mulligan. The talk was certainly widespread enough to make me question my knowledge of the constitution. Without the widespread belief that a Jefferson victory would be short-lived, I don't believe that Jefferson would have been re-elected. People expected a low turnout, but nobody expected the anti-Jefferson vote to be quite that low, at least not until the end of the week.

It's certainly a myth that overwhelming black support re-elected Jefferson. As far as I can tell, only about 10% of black voters bothered to vote for Jefferson -- 76% of a 13% turnout. Ordinarily, I hate that use of statistics; you can prove almost anything based on the low turnout in American elections. But if a previously popular incumbent only gets 10% of his base to turnout in the "fight of his political life," he should be toast. To be sure, Carter could have done better among black voters. I've already mentioned her clever, but lame attack ad. You don't take off the kid gloves so you can slap your opponent. Once she brought up bribery, she should have made it clear that the charges against Jefferson are closer to extortion than bribery and that one of his victims was an African-American businessman. But that would have only gone so far, (if you're a regular reader, brace yourself) Jarvis DeBerry had it right, she should have forced Jefferson to take a stand on the Gretna police blockade. It would have made it very difficult for Jefferson to get the support of both Harry Lee and Tom Watson. Still the low turnout among black voters would indicate that most didn't see it as "civil rights" election. I suspect that the ministers and other black leaders behind Jefferson saw it as a stop BOLD election and that relatively few voters cared.

For the second big myth, see yesterday's Picayune headline:
Suburbs, white vote tip the scales
'Harry Lee factor' looms large, expert says

I suppose that without Harry Lee, Carter would have received more Jefferson vote. She almost certainly would have, so in that respect Harry Lee may have been the deciding factor. But turnout was low in Jefferson Parish, Carter should have been able to overcome Jefferson's lead there. I wouldn't give Lee too much credit for Jefferson's win.

Although Jefferson's margin of victory in Jefferson Parish was greater than I expected, I expected both that and Jefferson's win in black precincts. What I didn't expect, until Wednesday or Thursday, was the dismal turnout in white areas. I wouldn't be crass enough to post about how I would have been right, if I hadn't been wrong, but there are at least two reasons (which I'll get to) why it's important to know the reasons for the low white turnout.

IMO, the three most important were, in order of importance, the desired mulligan, the belief that Carter was a flaming liberal, and the belief that Carter was as a crooked as Jefferson. Jefferson certainly didn't campaign on the false promise that he'd have to give up his seat once he was indicted. He certainly did try to paint Carter as an out-of-touch liberal with her own ethical issues, but he had a lot of help.

In comments on two blogs, I mentioned my dinner conversation with my Republican sister and brother-in-law Sunday night. They live in Mandeville so they couldn't have voted anyway, but I suspect that they're very similar to many white non-voters. They're both very conservative (by my standards) but not overly political and my brother-in-law sometimes listens to WWL, but not religiously. In the course of our conversation, it became apparent that they thought of Carter as a wild liberal and they were aware of the chance that there's be a new election if Jefferson was indicted. I suspect that was the impression WWL radio gave, but I know it was the gospel according to Rob Couhig. I told them about Carter's ethical problems. My suspicion is that, if they lived in the district, I would have known without asking that neither had voted. Jefferson's a very smart politician, but it took the widespread perception that it was a meaningless election between two losers to suppress turnout. Jefferson had a lot of help in that department.

So, why is it important? I don't think that there was an active conspiracy to re-elect Jefferson, just a lot of misguided wishful thinking. Still, we should remember who the people involved were. As Stephanie Grace said:
A variation on that theme, which also contributed to Bill Jefferson's big showing in Jefferson Parish is the yearning by some parish leaders to elect a congressman who they believe is on his way to jail. That would provide a second chance for the parish to replace him with one of its own.

But if the various players who enabled Jefferson's victory don't have common interests, they all have to live with the result: a congressman hobbled by scandal, stripped -- perhaps permanently -- of his key committee assignment; a politician, should he be indicted, who will be only more adamant about clinging impotently to his office. Why? Because he'll be able to point to Saturday night's substantial margin of victory and declare himself the people's choice.

And if they don't like it, they'll only have themselves, and one another, to blame.

She's wrong to single out Jefferson Parish leaders, a number of New Orleanians wanted a mulligan. I've already mentioned Couhig, but let's review his recent history. He helped elect Nagin, helped make the 100 day smokescreen credible for Nagin to get his budget and contracts, and talked up indictment and abortion during the election. An operator himself, or just clever enough to be a perfect dupe? Take your pick, either way, now he's on NORA.

To the extent that people didn't vote because of Carter's ethical shortcomings, I have to ask, "why bother?" I recently asked a question on another blog. Adrastos provided an answer:
James Carter supported Princess BOLD but not actively. He owes his election to Oliver the actor.

Carter's been distinguishing himself since he took office. I wondered if he was somebody's proxy once. I'm not calling Thomas a shameless crook and I understand that he walks a bit of a political tightrope, but he hasn't been a knight in shining armor.

Quick Weds. a.m. addition:Just to clarify that last point, being in BOLD doesn't make a politician a crook. But if Carter's BOLD connections gave people second thoughts, it could happen to Thomas. Personally, I think that Thomas needs to feel some pressue to take a stand against Nagin's lack of acountability. That's why I'd like to see a new recall effort. Something needs to make fence sitters like Thomas realize that if they don't take a leadership position, they could find themselves challenged by somebody who does. Of course, nobody seems very eager so far.

Thursday update: My point exactly about Republican hopes for a do over being the most overlooked in the election: a letter to today's Picayune begins:
Lest Mr. Jefferson see this "victory" as vindication and support, I'd like to set him straight. I voted for Mr. Jefferson precisely because I believe he is guilty of ethical and legal lapses, with the hope that he will be removed in disgrace on a national stage before he has the chance to do any more damage.

The letter writer also goes on to say that Carter is far more liberal than jefferson. Yeah Jefferson said that, but most conservatives wouldn't have listened if he hadn't had help spreading that message. In an unintended bit of bit of irony, the writer ends with:
What a shame that our political options have come to this.

You can read the letter right here.
Over at oyster's, I commented on the irony that the legal problems that made Jefferson vulnerable enough to face a runoff may well be the reason why he won the runoff, I guess this thing's full of irony. Oyster also gave the example of a freeper who engaged in similar voting.

The year in review: http://www.jibjab.com/_player/p.swf?eid=331620
I can't say I agree with this or any other over analysis of the election.

The fact is nobody cared for the choice between two unattractive candidates. KC could have made an issue of Jefferson but I doubt many black Jefferson Parish voters have fond feelings for Harry Lee.

The over analysis is leading to spurious conclusions about a minority of one segment of voters.
I can't say I agree with this or any other over analysis of the election.

The fact is nobody cared for the choice between two unattractive candidates. KC could have made an issue of Jefferson but I doubt many black Jefferson Parish voters have fond feelings for Harry Lee.

The over analysis is leading to spurious conclusions about a minority of one segment of voters.
What spurious conclusions about what segment of what minority? I realize that I didn't phrase my conclusion very well. Basically it's that all this analysis about Jefferson winning because he was able to attract black voter and white Jefferson Parish is voters is overstated. Neither group turned out in sufficent numbers to keep Jefferson in office. Or, those wouldn't have been sufficient numberss, if the anti-Jefferson vote had been what it should have been. I happen to think that the impression that Jefferson would soon be indicted and there'd be a new election was the main reason for that. To the extent that it was Carter's connections to crooked politicians, people might want to be careful about who they pin their future hopes on. To the extent that it was Carter's ineptitude, there's no broad lesson to be learned. To the extent that it was Carter's "liberal" positions on social issues, I can say that the conservative talk show host that I listened to sure emphasized those issues.
It is hard to reach potential voters if you are not in their community. If you don't go to their church and sit down at a meeting in their neighborhood and discuss issues with them they wont know or care about you from what they see on local media bytes. People don't trust the media.

To change things, more peopel need to be more involved and they need to all back the best candidate.

Jefferson had the Teachers union, the mayor , al green and all the local pastors that he smooth talked on his side. Carter had the white elites and the outsiders on here side. Look at the Bloog entry at third battle where People were calling peoples homes from texas to get support for carter. But the people on the phone could not even pronounce local names. Carter is a good candidate but to bring that home to people here you need to shed some light and transparency on what is going on. Take a look at Dambala's Blog and help get that story out.

Shed light on the real issues, then shed light on wheather and which candidates are on the right side of the issue or not.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • BayouBias.com
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts