2012 Election Post-Mortem

So, first, I’ll get the obligatory crowing out of the way.  Barack Obama won re-election last night, and if the margin in Florida holds, I’ll have correctly predicted the outcome of every single state.  I’ll take some credit for this because I made the call back in May with the polls in Florida going against me, and stuck with it on Monday even though the polls hadn’t quite caught up to my prediction.  However, I obviously can’t take too much credit; I owe most of my prescience to the outstanding work of Nate Silver, whose model had a roaring success last night.  He was effusively praised on both MSNBC and Fox News last night, which leads me to believe we’ll only see him rise to greater and greater prominence in the mainstream media over the next two election cycles.  We’ll almost certainly never see him endure the kind of dismissal he got in the media over the past couple weeks.  Obviously, this is a positive development.

With that out of the way, what does President Obama’s re-election, and the margin of his re-election, mean?  The obvious story that everyone is going for today is that this will lead to a reckoning in the Republican Party, which will face a huge battle over where they go from here.  Unlike normal media nonsense, I think this question is absolutely appropriate, and I see no way the Republicans could or would avoid such a national argument.

That the GOP failed so spectacularly in defeating this president should be a matter of truly grave concern for conservatives everywhere.  President Obama has won re-election despite an unemployment rate of 7.9% and persistent trillion-dollar deficits.  President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is truly despised by the right and regarded with only tepid enthusiasm by the left.  In the midterm elections of 2010, Obama’s party suffered one of the most stunning and crushing defeats in recent electoral memory.  If you had presented this election to me or most other political observers as a hypothetical, I would confidently reply that the incumbent was headed for a true wipeout defeat, something akin to the resounding rejections suffered by Jimmy Carter or Herbert Hoover.

This election shows that the GOP had two huge problems in this election.  The first is a long-term problem that Republicans must address if they wish to continue to be a viable national party: the changing demographics of the country.  Simply put, the Reagan Coalition is no longer a viable group for the purposes of winning nationwide elections.  Republicans can no longer afford to cater exclusively to suburban and rural white men, it just won’t work anymore.  Hispanics, African-Americans, and women are the biggest growth groups in the electorate, and they all lean hard Democratic.  Additionally, Republicans face the challenge of age: the incoming generation of voters is simply hostile to many of the GOP’s signature issues.  The American electorate is becoming more urban and more diverse in race, gender, and sexual orientation.  The changing demographics have been particularly important in turning formerly Republican Mountain West states – Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada – into a key part of Obama’s Electoral College “firewall.”  In my estimation, Arizona could well join those states in the blue column next time around, and there are even rumblings that Texas may become competitive in the near future.  This has to be extremely concerning to Republicans.

The second problem, of course, was Mitt Romney himself.  Rick Santorum famously said that Mitt Romney was the absolute worst person the Republicans could have chosen to prosecute the case against President Obama.  I think that’s a bit of hyperbole – for instance, Ron Paul or a similarly libertarian candidate would have been beaten even more soundly than Romney was – but it’s basically true.  Here’s what I said about Romney back in February,

I’ll start with why the cynic should like Mitt Romney: I just don’t see how he can win a general election under normal circumstances.   Romney’s “electability” argument has always been predicated on the idea that he can pull in independents the way no other Republican can.  That might be true (although recent polling has cast doubt on that assertion), but there must be a great deal of concern about Romney’s ability to drive conservative voters to the polls.  Romney’s team has consistently argued that antipathy toward President Obama will do their turnout work for them, but as Democrats who remember 2004 can attest, mere hatred of the President is not enough to unseat him.  You have to have a candidate who is generally inspiring, somebody that party loyalists are actually excited to go out there and work and organize for, not just an opposing candidate they want to vote against.  You would think that everyone would have learned this lesson in 2008, but apparently not.  As I’ve been noting since this blog began, GOP turnout in contests held in blue or battleground states has been significantly down this cycle, despite a competitive nomination race and professed loathing of President Obama.  Romney’s deficiencies in the eyes of conservatives must be considered a major part of this.

Furthermore, Romney is incredibly vulnerable to a host of populist arguments that President Obama has already begun making.  Romney is the consummate 1%er, the guy Mike Huckabee once famously said “looks like the guy who laid you off” and who, by his own admission, “likes firing people.”  He has consistently demonstrated a complete lack of any ability to relate to normal people.  And of course, there is the standard perception of Romney as the unprincipled, flip-flopping, twisting-in-the-wind career politician who stands for nothing besides his own election prospects.  The playbook against Romney is both obvious and obviously effective.

In retrospect, I hit this directly on the head.  Romney’s image as the guy who fired your dad, his “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” editorial, and especially his comments about the 47% doomed him in Ohio, the most important state in this election.  He was unable to hit Obama hard on Obamacare, one of the President’s most vulnerable areas.  And, perhaps most importantly, he failed to motivate conservative voters.

If I may engage in some more prognostication, I think Republicans are likely to spend more of their energy dissecting the problems of Mitt Romney rather than addressing the structural  demographic problems their party faces.  I think the voices that will say Mitt Romney’s problem was that he wasn’t conservative enough will win out, it’s simply a less painful path than acknowledging the reality that their party has drifted too far right and must turn left on a host of issues from immigration and health care to women’s rights, marriage equality, and the environment.  If I am right, the Republicans will have made a grave mistake, and the inevitable collapse of the Reagan coalition will be made all the worse.

Another point on the need of Republicans to come back to the political middle:  ever since the whipping the Democratic Party took in the 2010 midterms, political observers (including the authors have this blog) have been convinced that the Democratic party would likely lose control of the Senate, regardless of the outcome of the Presidential election.  Instead, with the re-election of Jon Tester in Montana and the election of Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Democrats have actually increased the size of their caucus from 53 to 55.  Additionally, with the election of Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Chris Murphy in Connecticut, and Angus King in Maine, the liberal wing of the US Senate will be as strong as it has been in quite some time.  In particular, trading Joe Lieberman for Chris Murphy in Connecticut is a huge upgrade for party unity.  By far, the most important factor in Democrats keeping their majority has been the inability of Tea Party-backed candidates to win state-wide Senate elections in any but the reddest of states.

There’s one more point I’d like to make about last night.  Four states – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington – delivered victories for marriage equality, the first time in history that gay marriage has been validated in statewide popular votes.  Elsewhere, Massachusetts joined the 17 states before them who had authorized medical marijuana, a similar measure failed in Arkansas by just 2%, and Washington and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.  Maryland voted to legalize gambling.  To me, these results indicate that the old “culture wars” are close to being over, and liberals have won.

Final Prediction Series: inuyesta

Just over five months ago, when Wiesman and I published our initial predictions for the outcome of this election, the only thing we differed on was whether the President would win Florida.  Today, we still differ only on whether the President would win Florida.  My official map:

332 Electoral Votes for Barack Obama

Five months ago, I gave the following rationale for giving Florida to Obama:

1. I predict Obama’s popularity will continue to improve as election season wears on.  The economy will continue to improve (barring some natural or man-made catastrophe), and it will become increasingly clear that there is only one adult in this race and he’s not from Massachusetts.  In particular, I think the debates are going to be particularly kind to President Obama.  Furthermore, if the Ron Paul devotees have anything to say about it, Mitt Romney won’t be enjoying the post-convention bump that Republicans typically experience.  Add all this together, and I think Obama can pencil in an extra 1-3% on top of his current poll numbers in all the swing states.

2. Florida is not Mitt Romney’s sort of state.  If you’ll remember, Romney won the incredibly important Florida primary by flooding the state with a torrent of negative attacks on Newt Gingrich.  Romney enjoyed a 5:1 spending advantage over Gingrich in that race and though he won by 15 points, turnout was down by over 300,000 voters, a 15% decrease in turnout in a state whose population has grown by nearly 3% in the same period. As the exit poll data showed that night, this is not a state in which the conservative base is particularly enamored of Mitt Romney and presidential elections are all about turning out your base.

3. Demographics.  I suppose this could be folded into “Florida is not Mitt Romney’s sort of state,” but it’s important enough to get its own header.   Florida has the largest population (17.3%) of elderly citizens in the United States, which is significant both because older voters have higher turnout than other age cohorts and because Republicans in Congress have been lining up behind Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would slash Social Security and Medicare.  Obama has already been hammering this plan as “social Darwinism,” and we can expect his attacks on the Ryan budget to intensify as Election Day draws nearer.  I expect senior citizens to be highly mobilized in this election, which can only bode poorly for Romney in Florida.  It is also worth noting that Florida has large Hispanic, African-American, and Jewish populations that should also be in Obama’s camp, although Wiesman was correct to note that GOP voter suppression acts of late may be successful in limiting the effect of those groups.

4. I’m just a homer.  Goes without saying.

Certain of the predictions underlying my call of Florida have gone better than others.  As I expected, economy has continued to improve, Romney did not get very much of a post-convention bounce (although this may have had more to do with Clint Eastwood’s chair than disruption by the Paulites), and the President is generally more popular than he was back in May, to the tune of an extra 1.8% in the RealClearPolitics average of his approval rating.

What I did not count on, however, was the dominating performance Romney put on in the first debate, which really set back a lot of the progress I anticipated.  On October 3rd, the night of the first debate, Obama was riding high: 538 was giving him an 86.1% chance of winning and giving him an average of 319.3 electoral votes.  I don’t see a way to look at old projections for individual states, but I distinctly remember mocking Wiesman as Obama took the lead in the Florida polls (a 2 point lead, according to RCP) and even started to trend toward taking back North Carolina.  Nine days later, that lead had almost completely disappeared, Romney had his biggest polling average lead of the campaign in Florida, and Obama has been scrambling back ever since.

So, that’s where we are.  As Wiesman said in his post, 538 is putting Obama’s chances in Florida at 45%.  I am less confident now than I was in May, but I still believe that 45% shot will come through and Obama will prevail in Florida.  Here are my reasons:

1. Florida is trending Obama’s direction.  Obama’s peak in Florida came in the wake of the Democratic convention, with the president capturing a lead of 3.2 points in the RCP average.  Nine days after the first debate, he hit his nadir, with Romney ahead by 3.2 points in the same measurement.  Since then, Obama has closed the gap to 1.8 points, with increasingly favorable polls coming in all the time.  I think this reflects Florida’s fundamental identity as a 50/50 state that shifts with the political winds.  The winds are pushing in Obama’s direction, and I believe that bodes well for him there.

2. The demographics in Florida remain in Obama’s favor.  Just as I said back in May, Florida has large populations of elderly and minority voters that should be highly motivated to turn out for Obama.   In May, I reasoned that the Ryan budget would be a big factor in this motivation.  I think that still holds, but the leaked video of Romney’s comments about “the 47%” is even more powerful with those groups.  Obama has been running ads invoking those remarks incessantly, and it has proven a powerful political weapon.

3. I’m a homer.  As true as ever.

Despite the above, I’ll not be surprised if Florida does go the other way.  As Wiesman said, there’s no telling what effect all the voter suppression tactics pushed by the Republican leadership in Tallahassee will have, and it’s certainly possible that Romney could win “legitimately” too.

Where I disagree with Wiesman is in his assessment of the “worst-case scenario.”  If Wiesman’s read of the situation is to be believed, the worst Obama can do tomorrow night is winning with 281 electoral votes.  Though I applaud Wiesman’s optimism – and would invite him to extend that optimism to the president’s chances in Florida – the fact of the matter is that the worst-case scenario is much worse than that.  Here is the worst-case scenario, as I see it.

This is my nightmare

Here’s what this map represents: Romney wins Florida, wins the close races in Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio, rides a recent uptick in the polls in New Hampshire, and pulls out an almost unthinkable comeback in Pennsylvania.  In order for this map to come to fruition, two things would have to be true: the polls would have to be severely missing in their likely voter models, and the GOP’s voter suppression tactics would have to be more effective than most people are giving credit for.

I don’t think that this is at all a likely state of affairs, but I don’t think Wiesman has the right of it in saying that Obama cannot lose.  The polls and expectations of neutral observers are in Obama’s favor, but we don’t have to go far to find examples of the polls and expectations being wrong: Harry Reid keeping his Senate race in 2010, Obama’s victory in Indiana in the 2008 general election, Hillary Clinton’s shocking comeback in the 2008 New Hampshire primary…the list goes on.  As Nate Silver said in a post this weekend,

We’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.

The state polls may not be right. They could be biased. Based on the historical reliability of polls, we put the chance that they will be biased enough to elect Mr. Romney at 16 percent.

Now, 16 percent – or 13.7%, as the 538 model now pegs Romney’s chances – is not much.  To analogize to poker, it’s about the chance that a pair of Aces will be beaten by King-Queen offsuit if those hands go all-in before the flop.  But as a poker player himself, Wiesman should understand that King-Queen will sometimes crack those Aces, and sometimes it will happen at the worst possible time.

My final prediction for the 2012 Presidential Election

Well, here we are, one day to go. Way way back in May I posted my “official” prediction for the 2012 presidential election. I’d like to point out that this prediction was made before Nate Silver started posting his projections over at fivethirtyeight.com this year, and before I had even heard of the excellent work by Sam Wang. This prediction was made (with the help of 270towin.com) based on what state polling was saying at the time:

My prediction back in May, Obama wins with 303 EV.

LOL. Boy was I naive. I guess I was allowing my enthusiasm for the president cloud my thinking and affect my analysis of which states he could win.

So many things have happened since May. We had the pick of Paul Ryan, Todd Akin getting all sciencey about pregnancy and rape, the RNC with Clint Eastwood debating a chair, the DNC with the Big Dog being the Big Dog, the first debate debacle, the VP debate comedy show, the town hall debate smackdown, horses and bayonets in the third debate, Richard Mourdock getting all theological about pregnancy and rape, and finally, Hurricane Sandy.

Yep, things have really changed. So, with all that in mind, I’ve updated my map to reflect what I think the results will be tomorrow:

My prediction today, Obama wins with 303. Yeah, same picture.

As you can see, I’ve basically thrown everything on its head and come up with a completely different victory scenario for the president, except for the fact that everything is exactly the same.

I really struggled with Florida. Silver has it as a 55% chance for a Romney win in Florida, and I can’t really argue. Silver and Wang have the luxury of not doing predictions; they simply publish probabilities. As any gambler knows, a 55-45 chance of victory means you’re going to lose quite often (in fact, 45% of the time, ldo) and so it would be no surprise whatsoever if the president is able to win Florida tomorrow night.

Here’s what I wrote back in May on Florida:

I give Florida to Romney partly because the state government down there has been very aggressive in “purging” the voter rolls of potential Democratic voters, and because the DOJ doesn’t seem inclined to intervene. But there are other reasons to think this will be a Romney state as well. President Obama is not popular there.

I’d change that somewhat. I think President Obama just might be (barely) popular enough to win Florida, but Governor Rick Scott has restricted early voting from what it was in 2008. There simply aren’t enough polling locations and poll machines in Florida to handle the demand to vote there. I’m not sure why this isn’t a major national scandal. Some people are waiting over 8 hours in line to vote, and those lines are primarily in precincts with minority populations.

I have no idea, none, what the effect of that bad governance in Florida will have on the share of the vote for the candidates. I’d really like to see some empirical data. Obviously long lines have some effect on GOP voters as well as Democratic voters. I don’t know if these effects are “priced in” to the likely voter models. But with all that in mind, and because this is a prediction and not just a probability, I’m going to stick with my May prediction that Florida goes to Romney.

Nothing else really changes. North Carolina still seems like a close loss and Colorado and Virginia still seem like close wins. I’m more confident of Ohio now than I was in May, but it will still be close.

The above map(s) are my official prediction, but let me qualify them with best-case and worst case scenarios for the president. Here is what I think is the best-case map for Tuesday evening:

Best-case scenario, Obama landslide of 347 EV.

And here is the worst-case scenario, as I see it:

Worst-case scenario, Obama wins with 281 EV.

As you can see, I think the president will definitely win tomorrow night. If Mitt Romney wins the presidency tomorrow night, it will be because all the state polling has been systemically biased towards the president. There is simply no way that the current polling could be accurate and produce a Romney victory. For example, in the last 10 polls listed on Pollster.com for Ohio, 9 of them show a lead for the president, and one (Rasmussen, naturally) shows a tie. Zero out of the last 10 show a lead for Romney. In the last 30 polls for Ohio, Obama is winning in 26, Romney is winning in two, and two are tied. That’s not a dead heat; it’s not a tie. Obama is ahead in Ohio and therefore is heavily favored to win re-election.

I’m not suggesting that a Romney victory is impossible, but if that is what happens, it will mean that there is something definitely wrong with the polling. It will be a huge deal. It will either mean that polling has a major systemic flaw that has been introduced this year, or it will mean that something is wrong with our voting system, in that it has failed to reflect the electorate this year.

November jobs report, last in our series and a good one

Well, we’ve reached the end of this series that I started back in March. This was all inspired by a blog post by Nate Silver who suggested that the employment situation would be one of, if not the, most important factors in determining President Obama’s chances of victory. Silver proposed a “magic number” of 150,000 jobs per month, by which we could determine whether the president is a favorite or an underdog for re-election. Later, he also proposed a more optimistic number of 75,000 jobs per month, while Ezra Klein proposed 200,000 jobs per month as the break-even point.

Today’s report was a very good one, as the economy added a more-than-expected 171,000 jobs in October. Also, the previous two months were revised up to 192,000 and 148,000 from 142,000 and 114,000, respectively. Here is how our final graph looks:

 

As you can see, according to the graph and Silver’s prediction, Obama is a slight favorite to win re-election, which also happens to be essentially what all the pollsters show. If you agree with Silver’s “super optimistic” line, then Obama is more heavily favored.

I’ve said this with almost each one of these reports but I need to repeat it here: the argument here isn’t that voters will be checking these jobs numbers and then deciding how they feel about the president. No, the argument is that the job numbers are information on the health of the economy, and the health of the economy will determine how voters feel about the president. People seem to forget that each month, which leads to embarrassing tweets from guys like Jack Welch about Chicago cooking the numbers.

At any rate, the prediction made by Silver about how the jobs reports would reflect the president’s chances seems to have been borne out by all the latest polling, which indicates that the president is a clear favorite to win re-election by a small margin.

With each of these posts about the BLS reports, I have received messages or emails from conservative friends with objections to one thing or another. Early in the year, some conservatives insisted that Gallup’s numbers were more reliable because they were not seasonally adjusted. That talking point has died since Gallup shows a lower unemployment rate than the BLS. In fact, yesterday’s Gallup unemployment report pegs unemployment at 7.0% without seasonal adjustments. Where are my conservative friends who favor Gallup now?

Last month, my skeptical friends understandably asked how the unemployment rate could drop by 0.3% while only adding 114,000 jobs. This month they will (also understandably) be confused how adding 171,000 jobs results in an unemployment rate increase of 0.1%. The answer is that there are two different surveys producing the two different numbers. The jobs numbers are a result of polling businesses, while the unemployment numbers are a result of polling actual households. Last month’s drop of 0.3% was probably a bit of an outlier, and this month’s number is a small correction. (Also, the actual amount of the increase was 0.08%. Rounding! How does it work?)

The other oft-repeated (and valid) criticism of the jobs record is that the rate is dropping because of decreased participation in the workforce. That has been true in some previous months, but it is absolutely not true this month. Workforce participation increased by 578,000, which is a good sign. Previously discouraged workers have re-entered the workforce. This is real recovery; slower than we’d like, but real.

Mitt Romney released a statement that tried to accentuate the negative aspect of the report:

“Today’s increase in the unemployment rate is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill,” Mr. Romney said. “The jobless rate is higher than it was when President Obama took office, and there are still 23 million Americans struggling for work. On Tuesday, America will make a choice between stagnation and prosperity.”

Aside from appearing to be rooting against recovery, Mr. Romney’s statement is just not factually true. The economy is recovering, whether that is inconvenient for him or not. I guess you can’t really blame him for looking so hard for the empty part of the glass; he’s running for office, for Pete’s sake.

So will this latest report have any effect on the election? Probably not. It’s not really out of the range of expectations, and it more or less cements the existing perception as to the direction of the economy. President Obama remains a favorite to win on Tuesday, by a small margin.

I’ll take it.

Previous report here. First in the series here. “Super Optimistic” line explained here.

For first time in my life, I won’t be voting on principle…

…alone.

This occurred to me the other day when my wife and I were having one of those “kitchen table talks” about finances. I have always taken a kind of foolish pride in telling myself that I was casting my ballot for what I felt was best for the whole country, and not just what was best for myself personally, at least in the short term.

I never really talked about it much because even I am not so oblivious that I didn’t understand that not much could be more annoying than someone sanctimoniously explaining that his vote is based on principle, not some selfish need like lesser citizens.

And the truth is that at least in 1992 and 1996 my vote was definitely in my self-interest, both in the short term and the long term. It’s just that I was young enough then that I didn’t really consider my vote to be that consequential to my immediate well-being, and it wasn’t the criteria I used. Like many Americans I looked at the candidates, looked at their plans, and voted for what I thought was best for the country, and figured that would benefit me indirectly as well.

In the elections of 2000, 2004, and 2008 I could legitimately make a case that I was voting against my immediate self-interest. Of course long-term self-interest is a different story, and being a Democrat I believe that it is in all Americans’ long-term interest to vote for a more progressive candidate, so it’s not like my votes were some sort of sacrifice or anything. But in my thirties retirement seemed far enough away that my votes for Democratic candidates were based on principle, principally.

This year is different. Suddenly retirement doesn’t seem that far off. My wife’s and my retirement planning consists of basically four things: we’ve been maxing out on 401k contributions for a number of years and will continue to do so; our home will be paid off when I retire, allowing us to live here with only property taxes to pay; Social Security; Medicare.

If Mitt Romney wins, I fully expect that Medicare will eventually be turned into a voucher program; that’s what Paul Ryan repeatedly proposed in Congress and I believe that’s what the majority of the Republican caucus wants to do. Instead of guaranteed benefits and coverage, we’ll be forced to try to find insurance on the private market, while suffering from the pre-existing condition of being old.

If Mitt Romney wins, I fully expect that Social Security will eventually be privatized (or “personalized”); that’s what Paul Ryan repeatedly proposed in Congress. Instead of a guaranteed monthly lifetime benefit, we’ll be spending our retirement trying to manage another shrinking personal account in addition to our 401k.

I’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare for 27 years. I would really like them to exist when I retire. Republicans and conservatives will counter that their drastic actions are necessary to “save” the programs. I’m sorry, but you cannot “save” Medicare by turning it into Vouchercare. You save Medicare by saving Medicare. You cannot “save” Social Security by turning it into another 401k program. That’s not what Social Security is. There’s nothing wrong with a 401k; but it’s not a guarantee.

The biggest lie that conservatives have been able to successfully push into our national consciousness is that we cannot afford these programs. Even a lot of Democrats will talk about “tough choices” and “sacrifices” that must be made in regards to what they call “entitlements,” rather than the “earned benefits” that they actually are. We spend more on Defense than the next ten countries combined. We are the richest nation on the planet. We can afford these programs; they can be paid for. It requires political will, not rocket surgery.

It doesn’t end there. Recently we had a scare in our family when my younger son’s pediatrician ordered some tests for what would have been a very serious illness. Everything is fine, but if they hadn’t been, we would have been in a situation where we would have very easily maxed out the lifetime caps on coverage that insurance companies used to impose before the president signed Obamacare. If Mitt Romney wins and fulfills his promise to repeal Obamacare on day one, those lifetime caps will be back. Some families like mine, who have had insurance and have paid all their premiums, will be hit with tragic illnesses and will go bankrupt trying to pay for treatment after their insurance companies are allowed to stop paying for treatment. That will happen.

I’m not sure if having a personal stake in the outcome of this election makes my vote less principled or not; I don’t really care, frankly. Either way, for reasons of principle and for reasons of practical and tangible benefits, I am enthusiastically supporting the re-election of President Barack Obama.

Conservative outrage viciously attacks satire

As I type this, satire is on the floor, curled up in the fetal position, begging reality to ease up just a little. I enjoy making fun of Republicans and conservatives; I really do. But recently some have gone so far past the bend that describing their thought process as cognitive dissonance would be an upgrade. Some of this stuff is just blind stupidity.

Yesterday the Obama campaign released this new ad, from Lena Dunham, who is the star of HBO’s Girls, I think. I’m not exactly sure and I don’t feel like checking, honestly. Anyway watch:

Are you outraged? Of course you are. I showed this to my wife and she said, “Why isn’t this girl in the kitchen?” Then she added, “I can’t be sure but I bet she has shoes on too. Shameful.” Now you may have read those last two sentences and thought, “By Jove! Wiesman’s wife has a sharp wit! Her snarky response to that harmless video wonderfully over-exaggerate’s a conservative reaction!”

Oh, but wait. Was it really an exaggeration? I present to you an actual tweet from RedState.com founder and CNN analyst Erick “Son of Erick” Erickson, the Ericksonner:

(That should read “Obama ad” not “Obama as”. Son of Erick has fat thumbs.)

Hilarious, right? But, wait! He’s serious! You see now why satire is sobbing on the floor. (By the way, I will be using the phrase “fallen, depraved world destined for the fire” every chance I get from now on. Yes, it’s unhinged ranting from a certified loon, but it’s still art, of a sort, and I will use it for good, somehow.)

Erickson followed it up with this:

So that’s it America. God has turned us loose, obviously, for surely this Obama ad is definitive proof of our embracing the sexual lust of the flesh. Well, we had a good run.

As if the Twitter assaults weren’t bad enough, satire is also being savagely attacked on everybody’s favorite Thanksgiving-dinner-with-crazy-relatives simulation, Facebook. It seems that after giving an interview with Rolling Stone, while talking with the reporter, President Obama referred to Mitt Romney as (prepare to clutch your pearls because I’ve made the editorial decision to just go ahead and type out the word) a “bullshitter.”

Now, as the awesome Kay at Balloon-Juice points out, the word “bullshitter” is probably the best possible word to describe Mitt Romney. Honestly, “liar” isn’t nearly evocative enough. Romney’s latest lie is that Jeep might be moving manufacturing jobs to China, and that his election victory will stop that somehow. No part of that is true at all. Jeep is not moving manufacturing to China, and if they were, Mitt Romney wouldn’t do a thing to stop it.

But anyway Obama using the word “bullshitter” is of course the end of the Republic. Again, we had a good run. Here is how one of my friends on Facebook described this, um, thing that happened. (I can’t really call it a story; I just can’t.)

How very Presidential of him. An interview with Rolling Stone? And then to say this? “I see your true colors Mr. President.”

Satirize that! I dare you! You can’t do it, can you? Neither can I. Satire is begging, but I just can’t do it. The absurdity of conservative outrage has overcome satire. We all knew this was a possibility, but did we take action? No, we allowed this to happen. We have satirical blood on our hands, people.

How can satire survive in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire?

Romney inadvertently endorses affirmative action, sidesteps question of equal pay for women

Thanks to Wiesman, who kindly contributed today’s talking points, I’m going to talk about the whole “binders full of women” comment and what exactly is so infuriating about Governor Romney’s entire response. Now plenty of people have been critical of the whole “binders full of women” meme, saying that it’s taking one little comment and blowing it out of proportion, but if you go back and listen to the entire preceding and following comments, there is still plenty to be outraged over.

First off, let’s actually review the infamous “binders full of women” comment that’s been taking on a whole internet life of its own:

MS. CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women.

MR. ROMNEY: Thank you. And — important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the — the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are — are all men?

They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women. In the — in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 3 1/2 million women more now in poverty than four years ago.

What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a — a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that — that they would otherwise not be able to — to afford.

(http://www.npr.org/2012/10/16/163050988/transcript-obama-romney-2nd-presidential-debate)

All issues of binders aside, Romney’s not really answering the question (big surprise) about what he’s going to do to address pay equity for women. Like most questions of real importance, say like the details of his tax plan, he does a slippery dance, throws in some heartwarming personal story, and never actually answers the question.

But from his personal story about filling his cabinet with women, clearly his answer is affirmative action. Oh yes, you heard me, affirmative action.

“Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin”[1] into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group “in areas of employment, education, and business”,[2] usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination.”

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action)

On Tuesday night, Romney stated that women were underrepresented in the pool of qualified applicants for his cabinet (or according to him, were missing altogether). So what does he do? He goes out and makes gender one of the determining factors for assembling qualified candidates, the infamous “binders full of women.” How is this any different from universities weighing race as a factor when determining what qualified college applicants to consider?

The answer is, it’s not.

To quote Wiesman on this, “Romney basically endorsed the concept of affirmative action [Tuesday] night, and conservatives are too dumb to even know.”

Also, to get a little fact checking in, Romney’s story about the binders full of women isn’t exactly how the whole thing went down.

“To be perfectly clear, Mitt Romney did not request those resumes,” Jesse Mermell, a former executive director of Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, told reporters during a conference call arranged by the Democratic Party…

… Mermell, a Democrat and town official in Brookline, Mass., said Romney did not request any names after his 2002 election. Instead, she said MassGAP approached Romney’s team as part of its effort, begun before the election, to make sure that more women were appointed to senior positions in the new administration.

MassGAP describes itself as a nonpartisan coalition of women’s groups interested in boosting the number of women in top state government jobs. The coalition said it approached the nominees of both major parties after the primaries, Romney and Democrat Shannon O’Brien, and secured commitments from both that, if elected, they would work with the organization to identify potential female candidates for senior-level positions.

(http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57534890/binders-full-of-women-effort-predated-romney/)

So to finish this post off, all joking aside on binders and all, I want to explain why I think Romney’s statement was a little bit insulting and not a little patronizing.

I think it is at best naïve, and at worst insulting, that Romney would need help finding competent, qualified women. Maybe the real question he should be asking is, why are there no women applying for a cabinet position? (Though frankly, I wouldn’t want to work for Romney either. Blech.)

Then his following comment digs him an even deeper hole.

“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. ”

What. The. Fuck.

This is exactly the kind of patronizing, patriarchal thinking that holds women back from a position of equality in American society.

Have you guys seen the 1943 “Guide to Hiring Women”? I feel like Romney’s statement is a modernized summary of this: women need a little extra care, women need to be treated differently, we have to “understand” what women need if you are to hire female employees.

Look, I am all for a flexible workplace. In fact, I feel like truly modern workplaces should emphasize things like setting your own hours, working from home, digital conferencing, and the like. We live in the goddamn digital age! Surely the corporate workplace we inherited from our parents could use a little upgrading. But at what point is flexibility something only women  need? Isn’t it something everyone needs more of, to have a healthy work-life balance?

What, can a father not pick up kids and make dinner? Shouldn’t a dad be at PTA meetings and drive the kid to soccer games? C’mon guys, wouldn’t you benefit from having the flexibility to be there for your kids and handle household issues alongside your domestic partner?

The path to gender equality is not to treat women differently. The path to gender equality is to create a system in which women don’t have to be treated differently. Policies like affirmative action are meant to bridge that immediate gap, but as the Mismatch study shows, forcibly equalizing the numbers is not the most effective solution. Certainly, singling women out as needing more “flexibility” than men, is not going to cut it either. It just perpetuates misogynistic stereotypes of the limitations of women.

And from Romney’s statement, it’s clear that he doesn’t even begin to understand this very problem. Getting binders full of women is not going to solve the problem of why these women needed to be in a binder in the first place.