TIME magazine's site (not sure if these articles will also appear or have appeared in the dead-tree version) has two articles that gave me a pause.
1) If the electorate has moved away from the Republicans, does that necessarily they have moved to the left? Or even if they would be more willing to call themselves "moderate" than "conservative" these days, will they see John McCain as the candidate who better reflects their own political journey? He's pretty conservative by most measures (including the American Conservative Union's), but given all the right-wing wailing at the prospect of a John McCain administration, he may just be seen as the centrist. Article: "The Price of Overconfidence."
2) The Bishop of Durham explains what he says is the true (at least biblical) Christian view of heaven. I've heard this before in discussion with or sermons from more than one clergyperson -- but they don't talk about it a lot, because they probably don't completely understand it, either (who does?), and it's not quite as appealing a promise as the common, if unfounded in Scripture, idea of the resurrection. Article: "Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop". (That should probably read "Many Christians" in the headline, because as I say, I've heard this expressed before.) One thing that doesn't get addressed here, however, is that if God stands outside of time, then perhaps that final victory is as real and accessible to souls who have entered the Church Triumphant as today's battles are for the Church Militant -- or the Creation was to God.
But perhaps TIME didn't want to tackle the issue of time.
I don't regularly read the Washington Post, but my impression of David Broder is that he can be somewhat behind the curve at times. Even still, a recent column offers these words of warning for Democrats:
[T]he recent Washington Post-ABC News poll ... showed McCain in a statistical tie with either Democrat, leading Clinton by 49 percent to 46 percent, and trailing Obama by a similar margin.
In either scenario, women break for the Democratic candidate. McCain leads Clinton by 13 points among men, but only runs even with Obama. Party lines are sharp, and the battle for independents would be close. Currently, independents give McCain a 12-point lead over Clinton but favor Obama by 6 points over the Republican.
A fascinating dynamic appears when voters are asked to judge the candidates' strength and experience versus their new ideas and potential for bringing change. McCain and Clinton match closely in both dimensions, while McCain leads Obama by 20 points on strength and experience, but Obama has a 31-point edge on representing a new direction.
It could be, between now and November, that the surfeit of microphones and cameras around these days could showcase John McCain's well-documented temper: a "macaca moment," his own variation on Howard Dean's famous (for famously insane) roar. Or, since most of the news from here on out about the Republicans will actually be about John McCain, perhaps he'll have the same effect on the country as he's had on so many of his fellow professional Republicans who already know him and who, despite the less-familiar voters' preference, can't stand the guy.
The funk soul, brother The Church of the Ascension's Lenten Devotions are again available on the parish Web site (thanks to yours truly), as well as, this year, available at Sunday services in hard copy for the days in the following week. Check it out now.
So I pulled the lever for Obama. (And, yes, in New York City, we still use voting machines from the 1960s that use levers to record our votes. That's supposed to change by next year, but we'll see.)
Like a lot of other people quoted in the news, it felt good to vote for a candidate I was actually excited about. I'll be very happy if, instead of Obama, Clinton gets elected in November. But she's so much of a known quantity, I don't expect there to be much excitement over the prospect of her as president, other than that it will mean there won't be a Republican administration finally and, of course, the first woman president of the United States is exciting in its own right, just as the first black president would be.
Several people I'm close to voted for Hillary, and we all had our reasons. For a lot of people, it probably comes down to a choice between competency and vision -- and only the most hyperbolic would say he's incompetent or she has no vision, so the distinctions are more shades of gray than (if you'll excuse the expression) black and white.
We're in an interesting period now: Obama is slightly ahead in the delegate count, but Clinton has more of the Democratic party "superdelegates" in her column. As John Aravosis of AMERICAblog has pointed out, this could lead to a very fractious (and damaging) national convention this summer if Obama wins more delegates through primary voters and caucus-goers but the superdelegates throw it to Hillary. Such a move could burn up a lot of goodwill, activism, and cross-over appeal moving into the general election, I think. Hopefully, the remaining contests will be decisive enough to avoid that, or a similarly damaging, situation.
And Hillary is herself in a tough position now, as Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen on Politico point out. Many of the upcoming races favor Barack (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and/or are caucus states where he tends to do better (Washington, Nebraska, Maine, Hawaii); he raised twice as much money as she did in January; and he generally has more independents and Republicans voting for him in open primaries, such as Texas on March 4. So it really is still up in the air.
Hearing last night about all the high turnout, especially in the Democratic primaries, I was wondering if any hopeful extrapolation could be made between the number of people engaged enough this year to vote in the primaries versus how the actual election went four years ago. So I crunched some numbers, based on Wikipedia or CNN sources of votes in the primary and votes in the general election four years ago. Bear with me here. And keep your eye on that fifth column. (Pun intended.)
Super-Duper Tuesday Turnout, 2008, vs. Votes Cast in General Election, 2004
I didn't include states that had caucuses, because those are each run so idiosyncratically and turnout can't be compared the way it is in primary states. Plus, there were some Republican caucuses yesterday that didn't even have a concurrent Democratic caucus. So just in looking at the 15 states that held primaries yesterday, Democratic turnout was 38% higher than Republicans.
That may not be such notable number in itself, since it included the first-, third- and fifth-ranked states according to population (California, New York, and Illinois), all of them already blue according to the 2004 presidential election. But look closer at the states I've highlighted in bold above.
George Bush took each of those states in 2004 against Kerry, but they had higher turnout among Democrats this past Super Tuesday than they had among Republicans. Arkansas went for Bush by 18 percent -- but 26 percent more Democrats turned out for the Arkansas primary. Georgia was even more solidly blue than Arkansas four years ago, yet more Democrats still turned out for this primary. Missouri, considered a bellweather state, had 29 percent more Democrats voting in this primary than Republicans, despite also being in the blue column four years ago.
Finally, the one that intrigues me (because I'm originally from there and it's the best evidence of the Reagan Revolution, which moved the state from being solidly Democratic to solidly Republican in national politics, even though Democrats outnumber Republicans by 11.6 percent) went for Bush over Kerry by a whopping 47 percent. But it still had 21 percent higher turnout among Democrats in the primary. And, based on the 302,169 votes cast in the 2004 Democratic primary in Oklahoma, 38 percent higher turnout this time around.
Trends like this could bode very well for the Democrats this November, leaving aside the he-said/she-said of the current race (and, for that matter, leaving aside race, as well). A lot of course could happen between now and November. John McCain could (will likely, in fact) win the nomination, and he's got the most cross-over appeal among the Republican candidates. Mayor Mike (Bloomberg) could enter the race, which would be a real shame, because he's a pretty good mayor but doesn't stand a chance to win as president (as he himself has pointed out, he's a short, Jewish, divorced New Yorker -- not exactly going to be swept to victory across the Sun Belt), nor should he. Ralph Nader, unsafe at any speed in any election, could enter from the left; Ron Paul could decide to run on his own on the right.
So how 15 states turned out yesterday for their primaries may hold nothing more than wisps of smoke to augur some fire down below. But barring a guaranteed win, which I'd take if I could, I'll take this for now as a hopeful sign that voters may finally be saying, in the words of George W. Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again."