22 April 2008

Pennsylvania Aftermath

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What to make of tonight's results? Everyone we read and listened to in the days leading up to Pennsylvania said that Hillary needed to win by 10 points to stay in the race. Not only could she stay in the race with such a difference, it would help her make the case to superdelegates that she was the only candidate who had a chance against McCain in big swing states. With a good showing in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, she seems to be right.

And this raises an honest and legitimate question: is Barack just a regional--southern--candidate? If the Democrats had a Republican (read: American), winner-take-all style election, this thing would be over already and Hillary would have won it.

Is there an argument to be made that Hillary is a candidate who can win the general election, while Barack is not? Do any of you buy that argument? If not, how do you explain her performance in all these key states? Will you just overlook it?

In 2004, Howard Dean and his group of netroots, young supporters were pushed aside by establishment Democrats in favor of John Kerry, because he was more electable. Or, at least, they thought so. If they do the same with Hillary, we suspect that because of Barack's broad popularity--particularly among African-Americans--that it could very well tear the Democrats apart.

Poll numbers seem to indicate that neither group would support the other in a general election. We suspect this is more true of Barack supporters than it would be of Hillary, but we don't know. Based on purely anecdotal evidence from our friends who also happen to be Barack supporters, we could see larger numbers of Obamamaniacs voting for McCain in the general election if Hillary is the Democratic candidate.

Given that many of Hillary's supporters are moderate, blue collar, social conservative voters (Pennsylvania, Ohio) the same may be true of her backers.

And all of this leads us to strongly disagree with some of the comments after the last post. This election is infinitely interesting--made more so because of the Democratic primary.

With Hillary's impressive win in Pennsylvania, it looks like we'll continue to enjoy it for a few more weeks.

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buruboi said...

Why is a winner-takes-all electoral system American? I can see that its a less accurate method of measuring a candidates support among voters (not to mention less democratic). But American?? Not seeing it.

Winner-takes-all reduces elections to a knockout contest. It turns a closely fought race with a narrow margin of victory into a huge win for the victor and a devastating loss for the runner-up no matter how small the margin.

You guys were Mitt supporters, weren't you? Had the Republican party used proportional representation rather than winner-takes-all, Mitt would have gone on competing.

Consider Floria. McCain one the state by a margin of 4.9%, and yet he was awarded all of the states 57 delegates. So, McCain received all Florida's delegates even though 64% of Floridian voters supported someone else. In essence, if you were one of those 64% of voters who supported someone other than McCain, your vote didn't count!!?

The inaccuracy and undemocratic nature of winner-takes-all is perhaps more effectively demonstrated from the loser's vantage point. Romney garnered 31.1% of the states support (just 4.9% less than McCain), and yet Romney was awarded not one delegate?!?

Does a difference of 4.9% really constitute awarding McCain every delegate and Mitt absolutely none? If you're using winner-takes-all, unfortunately it does.

Were proportional representation used instead, the McCain-Romney split would have been a more accurate 30 to 27. That's quite a contrast from the 57-0 nonsensical outcome we saw back in late January.

Winner-takes-all may be a lot of things, but American (or reflecting American ideals) isn't one of them.

Ben Treasure said...

Based on Hillary's less than favorable view of the Iraq war (despite voting for it...), I would vote for her over McCain should she get the nod. This is coming from an Obama supporter. Given McCain's age and seeming unwillingness to even reevaluate the situation in Iraq, which I personally feel has more of an impact of national security (in a negative way) than anything else, Hillary would get my vote. That's my opinion, to which many would disagree. I generally don't support people for commander-in-chief who can't remember which side is which in a hot war, veteran or not.

But in general I think you're right about the Democratic party splitting, particularly among hardline Obama supporters (of which there are many, myself not one of them) and the moderate Clintonistas.

But if the best we can do is another Clinton and a senior citizen, I'm going to have to go ahead and agree with buruboi and say that perhaps our system is a bit decrepit.

Matt said...


While "American" to many of us means "democratic", the truth is that nearly ever federal-level election in the United States is and always has been (since the 17th Amendment, at least) winner-take-all with the winner only needing a plurality of votes. So in that sense, whether better or worse than the Democratic (capital D) system, the Republican system is more "American."

buruboi said...


I don't think the intent of the author was to point out that winner-takes-all has a longer history in America than any other electoral mechanism (although you're right to point that out since indeed it does). Rather, I think the intent was to suggest that winner-takes-all better embodies American democratic ideals than any other electoral mechanism. I'm voicing my disagreement with that notion.

Matt said...

If it doesn't embody American Democratic Ideals, why has that been the system since the nation's inception? American democratic ideals are what we made them.

RD said...

The US electoral system in general is archaic and inefficient. PR and MMP systems around the world have demonstrated superiority over the American way.

I do disagree with Ben's assessment of McCain vs. Hillary. Ben, you're correct to say that McCain has been unwilling to change positions on Iraq. However, so has Hillary. As things are now, the surge has produced a lot of benefits, making McCain more correct as time goes by - and making Hillary more wrong. I don't credit McCain's vast wisdom for this - but circumstance has made him more right.

buruboi said...

American ideals and American political history is two entirely different matters. Our ideals are what we define them as, but they are often not what we instituted.

Two hundred years ago, winner-takes-all was the best way the US had of living up to our ideals. It was a huge leap in political thought considering that people weren't even voting elsewhere.

Today, however, electoral systems have been refined. With that refining has come better ways of embodying our ideals.

There are many reasons why winner-takes-all is still used today. One such reasons is that there are many people, ironically enough, that believe that if a system is used since a nation's inception AND that system is not changed for 219 years, that that system is an embodiment of American democratic ideals.