James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for November, 2012

Texas lullabye-bye: Sadly, secession just a dream

Posted by James McPherson on November 13, 2012

So a bunch of Texas nimrods, apparently unhappy with the outcome of the presidential election in which about half of them probably didn’t bother to vote (something that might get you killed in Arizona), think they want to split from the Union. Of course, a Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins is enough excuse for many Texans to favor secession. And many others need no excuse at all.

But of course Texas won’t secede, even if 80,000 Texans and probably at least that many non-Texans would like to see it happen. Hey, I’d buy a bumper sticker myself, if I thought it would help. Adios, amigos. But it won’t, as even Gov. Rick Perry has acknowledged. Too bad–without the 38 Texas electoral votes virtually guaranteed to the GOP, Republicans might never win another presidential election.

After all, 80,000 might seem like a lot (assuming it were actually 80,000 different people), but that’s fewer people than turn out for a Texas Longhorns football game. It’s far fewer, in fact, than half the number who have signed a petition to stop Target from starting “Black Friday” Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day. And it’s not like most folks–outside of some numerically-challenged GOP partisans–should have been surprised by the predictable outcome. Nate Silver and others told us all what was coming.

Besides, even if half the people in Texas wanted their state to leave the Union, perhaps letting Puerto Rico take its place, they’d need to convince their own state legislature to secede. They’re petitioning the wrong government, in other words. Shall we feign surprise?

Along with the Texas petition, also doomed to fail are similar efforts from Alabama, Alaska, ArkansasArizonaCalifornia, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, IdahoIllinois, Indiana, KansasLouisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, NevadaNew Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South DakotaUtah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The spate of copy-and-paste secession petitions–many with the types of spelling errors one would expect from folks more accustomed to sharing their temper tantrums on conservative blogs–demonstrate far less creativity than a few other petitions now gathering signatures on the same White House website. One of those calls for the government to “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.” Another asks that President Obama “please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported.” A third wants the city of Austin to be allowed “to withdraw from the state of Texas & remain part of the United States.”

In fact, about the only thing the secession movement has done is to make far more people (including comedian Duncan Trussell) aware of the White House website for petitions–an ingenious device that lets people feel like they’re “particpating” in government just by logging in and supporting or opposing something. And all they need is a first name and last initial to “sign” a petition, so they do so as many times as they want and can remain as anonymous as most of the clueless responders on blogs–at least until the government uses their login info to track them down and toss them in the black helicopters to be hauled off to the Denver airport.

Other than that, of course, the petitions are harmless–and meaningless. If the “signers” really are concerned about the state of America, they’re free to leave. But they won’t. Or they could work to change the system, rather than pouting about it. Chances are, they won’t do that, either, so they can get worked up all over again when the next presidential election goes against them, too.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Sandy, Bloomberg & Christie should help Obama win re-election

Posted by James McPherson on November 1, 2012

Barack Obama made this election a lot closer than it should have been by sleepwalking through his first debate with Mitt Romney and, in my view, by failing to run enough of an optimistic campaign that emphasized his many noteworthy accomplishments. Those include an improving economy, the expansion of gay rights, the auto bailout, increased access to medical care for young adults and people with pre-existing conditions, and improved student loan policies.

For many individuals, he has been a very good president, and who knows what might have been accomplished without the worst, craziest, and most obstructionist Congress in history, a Congress dedicated from the outset to try to make Obama fail even if it meant reversing their own positions?

Since most American voters seem to have the attention spans of gnats, flip-flopping on one’s supposed values too rarely hurts politicians–even in the case of pathological Etch a Sketch liar Mitt Romney, who has actually improved his standing with voters by avoiding answering any questions from the news (including even GOP house organ Fox News) for the past three weeks. His latest campaign strategy has included a phony “hurricane relief” rally and repeatedly lying about the auto industry–to the degree that even company executives declared that Romney (who once joked about his father closing American auto plants) is lying to scare voters. One can only wonder what highers-up in the Mormon church think about such dishonesty.

So now the election is relatively close, as predicted and desired by media folks and talking heads that I’ve previously ridiculed. Some polls have Romney leading, and some people (including Michael Graham of the Boston Herald and conservatives Michael Novak, Karl Rove, Frank Donatelli, Steven Hayward and Boris Epshteyn) predict a GOP win. Former Bill Clinton aide Dick Morris, who has managed the nearly impossible trick of looking even sleazier than Clinton and a few others (see here, here, here and here, ) have gone so far as to predict a Romney landslide.

I hate the reliance of the news media on polls over substance, so I actually appreciate the fact that this year’s polls seem to be contradictory and confusing. Still, barring some GOP to steal the election through rigged voting machines or even more voter suppression than expected, however, I have strong doubts about the chances of a Romney victory. In fact, as I’ve been doing consistently since last spring, I predict an Obama win with at least 290 electoral votes (270 are needed to win). I also expect Democrats to hold the Senate while Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives.

The facts that Obama has been endorsed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, largely endorsed by GOP favorite Chris Christie, and that Hurricane Sandy has allowed Obama to look presidential while Romney avoided and then struggled with questions about whether he would fund FEMA, makes me more confident in my prediction. Based on information released today about a jump in consumer confidence and a jobs report by the ADP Research Institute, I suspect that tomorrow’s Labor Department jobs report will fail to give Romney a boost and may help the president.

Whether Obama deserves to win (or whether either either of these two guys should be elected) is another question, but most of the people who use a statistical approach expect the same electoral result. In that camp are Nate Silver (who has drawn considerable attention both positive and negative for his influence), Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium, Drew Linzer’s Votomatic, polltrack.com, the New Republic‘s Nate Cohn, Andrew Tanenbaum’s electoral-vote.com, Josh Putnam’s Frontloading HQ, Thomas Holbrook’s Politics by the Numbers, Scott Elliott’s ElectionProjection.com, (Several of those I’ve mentioned previously, but some I learned about just today from Asawin Suebsaeng of Mother Jones.)

The conservative Rasmussen Reports, Real Clear Politics, the Washington Times, CNN, PBS, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Intrade, the Huffington Post, 270towin.com, all have Obama leading the electoral vote, though all their maps have “toss-ups” that include Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and/or Florida.

Right or wrong, obviously I have plenty of company. Either way, a lot of people who make considerable money off of their predictions (I make none from mine) are going to be wrong. And those folks probably all will be back, making equally bad predictions, four years from now.

So with that in mind, I’ll go ahead and offer my first prediction for 2016: Seeing how well bizarre flip-flops worked for Romney, and trying to up his credibility with both Hispanic voters and conservative Christians in a 2016 bid for the White House, Christie will legally change his first name to “Jesus” and drop the last two letters of his last name from campaign literature distributed in solidly conservative states. And at least 23 percent of voters in Texas will fall for it.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 55 Comments »