St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Why NOT to vote a straight ticket

This election has been very polarizing. Both sides of the political spectrum are highly motivated, more by hatred of the opposing side’s lead candidates than dedication to one’s own preferred candidates. In such a situation, it is easy to get carried away in the moment and be tempted to put an exclamation point on your vote by voting a straight ticket of the party whose candidate you want (or the major party opposing the candidate you detest).

That could be a big mistake. Both the Democratic and Republican Party tickets include candidates for whom there are very good reasons not to support.

One big reason not to punch the straight ticket choice at the start of the ballot is contests where an undesirable candidate is running unopposed. Once you punch the straight ticket, the only way to negate a vote for that party’s candidate is to vote specifically for a competing candidate in that contest. If the objectionable candidate is running unopposed (or faces opposition solely from a write-in candidate), the system allows no way to negate your vote for that party’s candidate. Principled voters should resist voting for an objectionable candidate just because the candidate is
certain to win.

For example, in the City of St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket. Those opposed to the strong-arm roughshod politics of the Slay Administration should resist voting for Ms. Joyce, who is Mayor Slay’s closest political ally (not counting the mayor’s father, a ward committeeman). If you punch the Democratic straight ticket selection, there is no way to negate your vote for Ms. Joyce.

Ballwin area Republicans should eschew the straight-ticket punch to avoid voting for unopposed State Rep. Charles Portwood (District 92), currently facing multiple charges involving driving under the influence.

In other contests, it is important to review each contest to insure that every candidate you vote for really deserves your vote. On the Democratic ticket in the City of St. Louis, the poster boy against straight-ticket voting is Sheriff Jim Murphy, whose incompetent and racially insensitive mishandling of his office is an embarrassment to the whole region. His only opponent is Green Party nominee Don DeVivo, who has the endorsement of the Arch City Chronicle and the League of Pissed Off Voters.

In the contest for Lieutenant Governor, serious progressives and those favoring full electoral choice should avoid voting for Democrat Bekki Cook. As secretary of state in 2000, she abused the power of her office by making up a new eligibility rule on the spot to keep Mary Ann McGivern off the ballot as the Green Party nominee for attorney general. Cook’s own official web site had listed the qualifications for the office, and the ground Cook used to justify her action wasn’t even listed on her own site. Her partisan action effectively prevented the Green Party from winning statewide ballot access that year. While her Republican opponent, Senate Majority Leader Peter Kinder, may be equally undeserving of our votes, Libertarian Mike Ferguson is an excellent choice. Abstaining from that contest is also plausible, but that’s not possible if you punch any party’s straight ticket.

For state treasurer, much has been made of Republican Sarah Steelman’s role in getting the constitutional amendment restricting the definition of marriage on the ballot, as well as her position against abortion rights, but her Democratic opponent, Arnold Mayor Mark Powell, is also anti-choice and anti-gay, so those issues are a wash. Make a serious selection or consider abstaining.

No progressive should seriously consider re-electing Democrat Jay Nixon, best known for his opposition to school desegregation and support for the death penalty. Nixon is a lock to be the Democratic Party’s leading vote-getter this election, but that doesn’t mean we have to be part of it. This is an excellent contest in which to abstain, but that’s not possible if you punch a straight ticket.

Progressives should consider withholding their votes from anti-choice Democrats, who are plentiful in southern regions of the metropolitan area. They include State Sen. Harry Kennedy (1st District, where a pro-choice Green Party candidate, David Sladky, is available) and State Reps. Fred Kratky (District 65), Michael Vogt (District 66), Mike Daus, (District 67, where a pro-choice Libertarian candidate, Leonora Kham, is available), Pat Yaeger (District 96) and Sue Schoemehl (District 100).

While Republicans have done a better job weeding out true embarrassments than in past years, caution against straight-ticket voting also applies to them. Notably they should send a message to perennial 3rd District congressional candidate Bill Federer that his intolerant extremism is an embarrassment to the party. In case Democrat Russ “Dim Bulb” Carnahan and two third-party candidates are unappealing alternatives, Joe Badaracco, former Republican president of the board of aldermen, has filed as a write-in candidate. The contest is not realistically in play, thanks to the redistricting efforts of Joyce Aboussie in 2001, when Democrats still controlled the legislature.

Your vote is the one thing that is just as important as that of a millionaire or a political manipulator. Only grant it to candidates who actually deserve it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Kerry's young voters turned off by McCaskill

One of the factors that will make John Kerry president is his appeal to voters under 35. Okay, maybe it's more young voters' dislike for President Bush than Kerry's own appeal, but either way, the highest percentage turnout of young voters since 1972 will cast most of their votes for Kerry.

But these young voters' impact on the rest of the Democratic ticket may be "Blunted." It won't be so much the appeal of fellow thirty-something Matt Blunt in the governor's race; it will be more resentment at the campaign of Blunt's Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill.

McCaskill's primary campaign theme has been to stress her experience while belittling the experience of Republican Blunt. Television ads by McCaskill and the Missouri Democratic Party have made a point of emphasizing Blunt's age, 33, and making light of his six years in elective office. (We can almost hear Democratic Secretary of State nominee Robin Carnahan, who has never served in elective office, shouting for McCaskill to shut up already!) The highlight is the "silver bullet" attack ad hypothesizing a Matt Blunt job interview for governor with a judgmental, condescending interviewer.

McCaskill's strategy is playing well with her own age group. The latest Missouri Survey USA poll released October 19 shows that McCaskill has taken a 48%-45% lead over Blunt in McCaskill's 50-64 age group. Just two weeks earlier, those voters had favored Blunt by a 49%-44% margin.

But the strategy strikes a sour chord with the 18-34 age group that the presidential race will draw to the polls in record numbers. The same Survey USA polls now show Blunt surging to a 50%-44% lead among young voters. The job interview ad was getting lots of air time when the poll was taken. McCaskill had held a 49%-41% lead in the 18-34 age group just two weeks earlier.

Why? Many twenty- and thirty-somethings find themselves in a workplace with similarly condescending older superiors who don't fully appreciate these younger workers' talents or accomplishments. Many believe they are smarter and more effective than the "dead wood" supervisors who put them down. McCaskill's campaign reminds them of these thorns in their sides, and leads them to identify with Blunt.

Meanwhile, polls show Republican Senator Kit Bond doing very well in his race for re-election, and that could add an ironic twist to McCaskill's youth-bashing. Republicans would be smart to point out that the popular Bond was elected governor when he was even younger than Blunt is today. This could chip away at the 20% of Bond's voters that Survey USA says is currently splitting over to McCaskill.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Kerry recovers after debate gaffe

Who'd've thunk it? The major gaffe that everyone expected in the debates finally came in the final debate. But while the overmatched president teetered but never fell, it was the confident (OK, cocky) challenger that ended up saying something that sent the polls heading in the opposite direction.

While John Kerry pummelled President Bush in substance in the three debates, he squandered that advantage with his now famous gratuitous reference to Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice-President Dick Cheney. It couldn't have come at a worse time. With the undecided vote waiting until the conclusion of all three debates to decide whether to fire their president, Kerry's remark diverted their attention and blunted his campaign's momentum. Most early post-debate polls moved several points in favor of President Bush.

From all appearances, this gaffe was a team effort, not merely a slip of the tongue. After the debate but before the polls surfaced, both Democratic veep nominee John Edwards and the Kerry campaign manager were making similar public references to Ms. Cheney. The campaign manager called her "fair game," a chilling choice of words. The public recognized the callous insensitivity immediately.

While clearly a negative for Kerry, the remark should not be what determines voters' choice for their highest office. Nearly a week later, Americans seem to have reached the same conclusion, and the Zogby tracking poll has returned to a dead heat.

The Oracle still sees Kerry ultimately winning decisively, both nationally and in Missouri. He just needs to keep his Machiavellian side in check.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

November election returns in the crystal ball

Let’s gaze into the Oracle’s crystal ball and take a look at the November elections.

President Bush loses re-election decisively. He loses Missouri by over 10 points. Most other statewide Democrats ride the coattails to victory. The Democratic candidate for governor overcomes a tough primary to defeat a younger Republican statewide officeholder. A Democrat woman succeeds Republican Blunt as secretary of state. A promising young statewide Republican named Steelman loses to a Democrat from Jefferson County. Jay Nixon wins the attorney general’s race. The only statewide Republican survivor is incumbent U.S. Senator Kit Bond, who wins a closer than expected contest against a liberal St. Louis woman. Democrats unseat the Republican congressman in Missouri’s 6th District, helping them win the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly. They also win both houses of the Missouri legislature.

But wait. The crystal ball was set for the wrong November. That was 1992.

Yet, everything sounded so much like this year. Will it be?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Why John Kerry will win this year's election

Equitably speaking, neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry should be elected president this year. Both are ill equipped to serve for the next four years, and the Oracle is seeking someone else to vote for.

But this isn’t about what should happen, or what the Oracle wants to happen. This is about what will really happen, and as a practical matter, one of them is going to win. While pollsters still claim the contest is too close to call, the Oracle sees Kerry winning decisively in November.

Incumbency is usually a big advantage for a U.S. President. The American people are ordinarily loyal to their president, and willing to forgive many things. They forgave President Ronald Reagan for Iran-Contra, and they forgave Bill Clinton for Whitewater and a series of sex scandals. In the off-year election of 1998, they even punished the Republicans who impeached Clinton for the perjury and obstruction of justice that even Ralph Nader admitted were justifiable grounds for removal from office.

But these same American people have also unseated three of the past five incumbent presidents seeking second terms. All three losing presidents (Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republicans Gerald Ford and George Bush) had something in common with each other, the one trait about which the American people are unforgiving. Each was perceived by the public as being inept.

As the campaign winds its way through the so-called debates, the public is beginning to conclude that there is some substance to the comedic caricatures of George W. Bush that have appeared regularly on late-night television and elsewhere for the past four years. (The parallel comedic caricatures of Kerry as a stiff, flip-flopping, money-marrying gigolo will not harm him, because those perceptions only matter to voters who already favor Bush.) The Kerry campaign and its well funded “527" allies will drive home the “inept president” point as best they can without risking voter backlash. As voters make their final decisions, a majority will end up perceiving that Bush too is inept. Having come to the same conclusion about his father just 12 years earlier will help seal the deal.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Nobel peace prize goes to Green Party leader

Kenyan Deputy Environment Minister and peace activist Wangari Maathai has been named to receive the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Maathai is founder of the Mazingira Green Party and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. In 2002, before her current appointment, she was elected to the Kenyan parliament on the Green Party ticket in the first free elections held in the country in decades.

"Wangari Maathai has been a good friend to Greens in the U.S. for many years," said Tony Affigne, co-chair of the International Committee of the Green Party of the United States. "Her recognition as this year's Nobel winner is no surprise to those of us in the Green movement who've seen her decades-long commitment to peace and ecological wisdom." The first environmentalist and first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Maathai was jailed in 1991 for working to stop deforestation in Kenya.

U.S. Greens, sending their congratulations to Dr. Maathai, noted her long career of activism on behalf of human rights, especially equality for women, democracy, peaceful resolution to Kenya's internal strife, and the environment. "Wangari Maathai showed how planting a tree can be a gesture of peace and liberation," said Jody Grage Haug, national co-chair of the Green Party. "Dr. Maathai, who has defied dictatorships, corruption, and corporate greed on behalf of the Kenyan people and the land they live on, is an example for all of us in the Green Party."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Badaracco jumps into 3rd District fray

Voters who can't stomach either 23% Democratic Primary winner Russ Carnahan or Religious Right Republican Bill Federer now have another choice. Former aldermanic president Joseph L. Badaracco has filed as a write-in candidate for the open 3rd District congressional seat.

Badaracco, now 84, is the last Republican to win citywide office in St. Louis, having defeated Sorkis Webbe, Sr. in a special election for president of the Board of Aldermen in 1969 and winning re-election in 1971. He enjoyed broad bipartisan support. His later electoral ventures were less successful, losing the 1972 Republican primary for lieutenant governor to State Rep. Bill "Full Time" Phelps, the 1973 mayoral contest to Comptroller John Poelker, and the 1976 contest for this 3rd District seat the last time the seat was open, to a 35-year-old alderman named Richard Gephardt.

Prior to moving to Glendale in 1992, Badaracco was a prominent member of St. Gabriel's parish in St. Louis Hills, the same parish where Federer grew up and where his parents still live. (Federer now calls Oakville home.) It is intriguing that a challenge to Federer would come from within his party and from his old home base.

Write-ins at best offer a symbolic challenge, because not having one's name printed on the ballot is a huge disadvantage. It's especially daunting when the name that voters must remember to write in is spelled "Badaracco." Nevertheless, for voters frustrated with having to choose between unappealing alternatives (and either comforted by or resigned to the fact that the 3rd District is a lock to be won by whoever the Democratic candidate happens to be), Badaracco provides a welcome alternative.

Voters seeking a different choice but who prefer the convenience of just punching a number next to a name on the ballot have two other alternatives, both conservative. Kevin Babcock is the Libertarian candidate, and the Constitution Party petition drive placed William Renaud of Oakville on the ballot.