Monday, January 14, 2008

Unexpected Quarter Exposes Obama

Of late in regard to the Democratic primaries race I've been pleasantly surprised by Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at Princeton and a top New York Times columnist. I've always admired his incisive logic, compelling reasoning and biting sarcasm that lays bare the bankruptcy of several Bush policies.

At the same time I thought Krugman would be too liberal to appreciate Hillary, and would instead favor more populist candidates like Obama and the "new farther left" John Edwards. Till some months back Krugman had been openly distrustful of Hillary, fearing for instance that she may be too beholden to drug companies and health insurers who have contributed to her campaign.

But he seems to have taken a lot of pains to understand each candidate's position and proposals on issues, and makes well-founded pronouncements. Hillary seems to have now won his respect, with the "turnaround" starting in September on healthcare issues. On the other hand, he has been increasingly troubled by Obama's stances on several hot button issues including approaches to the economy, healthcare, and social security. And I thought I was the only one who saw through Obama!

Seriously though, see Krugman's past five columns dating back to mid November that expose Obama's shallowness and policy shortcomings:

In case you're wondering, I haven't "cherry-picked" Krugman's columns here, by omitting any since September 2007 that praise Obama or criticise Hillary. So there you have it. Paul Krugman sees through Obama's rhetoric and appreciates those offering more substance, even if they're centrists like Hillary who are not his natural allies. The question is: will the voters in general?


kenrod said...

The Dems are being incredibly short sighted to critcize Obama for saying Ronald Reagan was an inspiration to him. Hillary immediately came back and chastised him for using a Republican example. Can't you get good example of people from all walks of life?

This is why Obama is still viewed as a unifying force and Hillary a divisive one. I think Obama will be a lot more difficult for the GOP to beat than Hillary. There will be a lot of cross over votes from the Republicans to vote for him. And there will be a huge turnout to vote against her if she's the nominee. Regardless, the Dems still hold the edge in the general election in November, though McCain won't be a pushover.

Sandip Madan said...

I think Republicans are pushing Obama because he'll be much easier to beat in a general election. I know I'd support McCain over Obama. Hillary has depth that Barack lacks, and also enormous mastery over issues that's likely to win support in subsequent debates.

Here's my prediction one day before Super Tuesday: If Obama is the Democratic nominee he'll lose to McCain by 5 or more percentage points. If it's Hillary, she'll narrowly eke out a victory. Anyone else wants to make guesses?

kenrod said...

ABC has a poll with McCain and Obama as the 2 candidates. Obama wins by 5 points. The same poll has McCain and Clinton, and McCain wins by 3 points.

The reason is simple. Hillary is divisive and provocative. Obama always tries to find common ground. Republicans will cross over to vote for him, but will unite to defeat her. Either way, the Dems are favored to win the November poll.

I find it ironic the Republicans hate Hillary so much. After all, Bill Clinton was one of the best right wing, free market presidents in modern history. He passed Nafta, talked favorably to Wall Street and was militarily quite aggressive. I think Hillary will also be bold just to show she's tough. Ahmadnijad, better dig a foxhole in Tehran and stay out of sight.

Sandip Madan said...

People (including Republicans) are not rational. :-) That's why they often end up with bad leaders.

Thanks for giving the poll numbers. I'm aware of these, but was giving my own assessment and predictions. Let's see how it turns out, and meanwhile you and others are welcome to give yours. Like those football bets at least it will be interesting to look back on this, even if things pan out differently.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sandip, looks like your candidate, Hillary is cooked. Obama is charging ahead. I think it's "Clinton fatigue", a new disease without a cure.

Obama is even ahead of McCain. Their "stock prices" are as follows: In the Obama-clinton battle, his is over $9 and hers is over $3. In the general election, Obama is over $4 and McCain is over $3.

My question to you Sandip is do you think the Electoral College is tilted toward the Republicans? I say that because small states get a larger say because they are more represented percentage wise. For example, Wisconsin get 3 votes even though their population is 360,000. California gets only 55 votes even though their pop is 24 million. And in the final analysis, small states usually vote Republican. I know it's close but so are most elections.

Sandip Madan said...

Jadra, your queries prompted me to write a new post today. Things look a little uphill for Hillary, but that's life. The best person often doesn't win. She still has a decent chance, though.

To my knowledge, Wisconsin has a population of 5.5 million to California's 37.5 million, and 10 electoral votes to California's 55. So Wisconsin is slightly over-represented compared to its population size, but not much. Personally I favor just going by the popular vote.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant the state of Wyoming instead of Wisconsin. The population of Wyoming is about 500,000 and they get an electoral college count of 3. The population of Calif is 34 million and they get only 55 votes.


Sandip Madan said...

Oh, I see, Jadra. I agree with your view that these smaller states should not be over-represented the way they are. Apparently others have also felt the same way. Wikipedia has a good write-up on all this (sorry, this Google Blogger doesn't automatically provide hyperlinks to URLs as they should):

kenrod said...

I disagree with both of you. The electoral college was meant to balance out the popular masses and the independence of the states. They called it the "tyrany of the majority."

In other words, a big state like New York, could force a decision on a small neighbor. But since all states get 2 senators and one govenor, it balances things out. This is what we call a republic.

This is different from European politics of representative democracy. I find it totally chaotic there where elections are called willy nilly when the ruling party can't seem to be popular all the time. Besides, the majority party has to be hostage to minor views.

Take Israel for example. The majority party almost always have to form a coalition with the religious party which only holds 5%. But the party is holding hostage the will of the majority in peace negotiations.

In a republic, the winner gets to rule for 4 years without too much interference. If you don't like the party then vote them out in 4 years. But the ruling party doesn't have to constantly have to do funny deals to placate all sides. Less politicking and more governing. The electoral college exaggerates the margin of victory and makes a decision seem acceptable to all.

Sandip Madan said...

You make a good point, Kenrod. The fear of tyranny by the majority has prompted the current electoral arrangement in Iraq, and in many other federations. In the US this is not as much of a problem, and the rights may be adequately protected simply through a good Constitution.

Besides, the history of the way the states were created is too random, and the present system gives disproportionate power to states that could / should be simply folded into other states. We should deviate from the equal system of one person one vote only for very strong countervailing reasons. You and I may not share the same view on whether the US situation meets that bar. I'd personally be just as happy to see mini-states like Wyoming, Rhode Island, Delaware merged into adjoining states.

Nothing stops the system of proportional allocation of electoral college delegates from also having "winner takes all" provisions. That's the US general election system, and it need not change in this aspect. It addresses the European problem (especially Italy's) with proportionate representation and unstable governments that you rightly point to.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the US is that everybody is homogenized, ie, everyone belongs to only 2 parties. The smaller voices cannot be heard. Let's say, there is no Mexican party, or Christian party. You are either Democrat or Republican.

Take a republic like India. Smaller voices can be heard. The Bengalis remain distinct from the Punjabis. Yet they are one nation for one purpose.

But I wonder if it is stable. May be, proportional democracy leads to a cacophony of voices. But it is inherently designed to accentuate differences.

America is boring but stable. There is no difference between a Oregonean and a Floridian. You cannot say that about an Indian or Englishman.

America is designed to accept. Europe is designed to differentiate. I think the Republicans are like the American system and the Dems are like the Europeans.

The Dems like the new; the Republicans like the tried and true. Someone like Obama would have never emerged in the Republican party because the front runners would have left him behind.

But the Dems with their proportional delegates kept Obama alive even though he had less delegates early on. But I can hear Sandip say, "Oh! Bummer".

Okay, Sandip. You break the tie. Stability vs. variety is the spice of life. Underdog has a chance vs. strongest one wins.

Sandip Madan said...

Thanks Jadra for the insightful comments. You're right about the national two party system being more stable, even if it restricts our choice of candidates.

To your last observation Obama looks very much the top dog now for the Democratic nomination. It'll take something spectacular for Hillary to carry Texas and stay in the primary race.

kenrod said...

Come on Sandip, you can't give such tepid answers. You have the right, as blogmaster, to speak your true mind. And we, as the audience, have the right to send a hitman to take you out if we disagree, haha.

Seriously, you Europhiles love diversity. But you can see what that's doing in Iraq. People are killing each other over such trivial differences. Shia and Sunni have barely an inch of daylight between them and they are bombing each other? Protestants and Catholics kill each other in Europe but not in America.

I'm not saying we should have monolithic societies. I think Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, lands that are for one religion, are failed states. The lack of critical thinking is a fatal flaw.

But there has to be a more uniform way of doing things. But it is true that Republicans tend to believe in standards. And Dems like to try new ideas.

Sandip Madan said...

Are my answers tepid? Maybe I've a tepid personality. That's why I like Hillary more than the flashier (but less substantive) Obama. :-)

Actually I've gone out on a limb and made pretty way out predictions, like McCain beating Obama by at least 5 percentage points. This is when all the pundits predict otherwise, talk of the Obama Movement, and pollsters like Bill Schneider of CNN look solemnly into the camera and pronounce Obama beats McCain by 8 points based on their poll readings. Again, you guys are invited to make your own predictions here.

I fully agree that there has to be a balance between diversity and shared values and culture. I'm all for compulsory teaching of English and its use as a common language, for example.

kenrod said...

Sandip, I didn't mean you were tepid in general. Just that you were carefully treading the line between Europhiles and Europhobes. There is a constant battle between those that want such a lot of diversity that things seem like a total confused mess. Then there are those that have no tolerance for anyone different from them.

I think it is a good idea to have, say, English as a common language. But there are ideas you can't express in English such as "schadenfreude." You can say it, and English is a very flexible language, but it never translates everything.

What is your reading of the Dems after Ohio and Texas? I think it's pretty bold of you to say McCain could beat Obama by 5 points. None of the polls say that right now.

Sandip Madan said...

Like you, Kenrod, I'm quite forthcoming with my views. It's just that they often happen to be moderate (as for example is your take on English.) :-)

I know my prediction on McCain vs Obama is at odds with these pundits - that's why I was drawing attention to it. At least that's not tepid. I'm predicting McCain will defeat Hillary too, given the fragmentation caused by the tussle with Obama, unless they're both on the ticket together.

If she gets the nomination (a big if) she must take him as running mate even though people like me are not overly impressed by him. It will serve his interests well to accept. It doesn't work the other way (her agreeing to a VP slot) if the situation is reversed, though.