Sep 29th 2009

Two Key Election Contests in 2009

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

The last time Democrats won the White House in 1992, they quickly lost ground in the 1993 and 1994 elections. The results were debilitating for President Clinton. With Republicans winning Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey (the only two states that hold elections in the year after a Presidential contest), and then gaining control of both Houses of Congress in 1994, the President's ability to promote his agenda was severely constricted.

Such swings are normal in U.S. politics. Incumbent presidents frequently lose their initial popularity, impacting their party. In fact, since 1900, the party of the incumbent president has lost an average of 28 Congressional seats in mid-term elections (one notable exception being George W. Bush, who, with the nation still reeling from the shock of 9/11, strengthened his position in the 2002 contests).

And so it is with some wariness and a watchful eye, attention is being paid to the outcome of this year's gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey, especially since, Despite Obama having won both states in 2008, and both having sitting Democratic governors, post-Labor Day polls show Democrats in trouble in both contests.

For many election cycles now, Virginians have proved ornery to incumbent Presidents. They elected three Democrats during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations, then proceeded to elect two Republicans during the Clinton years. And in 2001 and 2005, Democratic candidates won in Virginia.

Nevertheless, this is a southern state that traditionally votes Republican in Presidential elections. In fact, in winning Virginia in 2008, Obama became only the first Democrat to carry that state since Lyndon Johnson carried it in 1964.

One reason that Obama and other Democrats have done well in Virginia, of late, is the state's changing demographic composition. Northern Virginia, the most densely populated region, has been transformed both by suburban sprawl, bringing more liberal Washingtonians into its new neighborhoods, as well as an influx of tens of thousands of new immigrants of varied ethnic backgrounds-African, Asian, Latino and Arab. It was this latter group that reacted in disgust to an incumbent Republican Senator's racial slur, providing the margin of victory for his Democratic opponent in 2006.

This year's gubernatorial race features two long-time Virginian elected officials. The Republican candidate is current Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a traditional conservative. He is running against Creigh Deeds, a native-born rural Virginian who surprised many in the state by winning the Democratic primary against two well-known, better funded and more liberal candidates.

While Deeds has consistently been trailing in the polls, McDonnell has been hurt among more moderate Northern Virginian voters by the recent release of a thesis he wrote 20 years ago while pursuing an advanced degree at Pat Robertson's fundamentalist Christian university

A recent headline read that the GOP is counting on anti-Obama sentiment, over health care and other issues, to carry the day for their candidate. But this is overly ambitious, at best. Voters who are angry with Obama are already in the Republican camp, and, in reality, this election will be decided more by the capacity of the candidates and their parties to turn out their voters-than by pro- or anti-Obama sentiment.

The same holds true for New Jersey, although the nature of that state's contest is altogether different. In this, the "Garden State," as it is called, an incumbent governor, John Corzine, is running for reelection. He is facing Republican, Chris Christie, a former Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney who is running on an anti-corruption platform.

New Jersey is a traditionally Democratic state in presidential contests, although it, too, is known to elect governors of the opposite party from that holding the White House. A popular moderate Republican won during the Clinton years, while Democrats held the New Jersey governorship during Bush's two terms in office.

New Jersey's voters can be quite volatile and appear extremely frustrated both by the sagging economy, which has hit the state hard, and also by wide-spread political corruption. The recent arrest of dozens of local elected officials across the state (most of them Democrats) has given emphasis to this concern.

While Corzine is not to blame for the economic downturn, nor is he implicated in the corruption charges, his candidacy has been negatively impacted. He has been able to turn the tables, somewhat, on his GOP opponent with recent revelations of some questionable personal financial dealings which Christie has acknowledged were wrong. But while these have been much discussed and been embarrassing to Christie, they have not helped Corzine close the gap with his challenger.

The bottom line, here, is that with just six weeks left in both states, the Democratic candidates are lagging behind. Both contests will be hard fought to the finish, and the margins will close by Election Day. Whatever the outcome, it will not, in fact, be a verdict on the occupant of the White House. But should Democrats lose both, the perceptions will be hurtful to the President, which is why Democrats are working hard to maintain their 2008 momentum and Republicans are working to cast these contests as referenda on Obama.

Nevertheless, whatever the outcome of 2009, 2010 will not be a replay of 1994, when the GOP won sweeping victories taking majority control in the House and the Senate. The political landscape has changed since then. Republicans may chip away at the Democrat's majority, but there are not enough vulnerable Democratic Congressman and Senators for Republicans to win control of either House of Congress.

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Sep 11th 2021
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Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."
Aug 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, they have focused on their agenda, which is totally misguided—not by our own account but by the account of the majority of the American population, who view the Republican party as one that has lost its moral footing to the detriment of America’s future generations, who must now inherit the ugly consequences of a party that ran asunder."
Aug 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States. Afghanistan was always a sideshow."--- "....the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency,..." --- "Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined,..."
Aug 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Taliban’s virtually uncontested takeover over Afghanistan raises obvious questions about the wisdom of US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US and coalition forces from the country. Paradoxically, however, the rapidity and ease of the Taliban’s advance only reaffirms that Biden made the right decision – and that he should not reverse course. ...... The ineffectiveness and collapse of Afghanistan’s military and governing institutions largely substantiates Biden’s skepticism that US-led efforts to prop up the government in Kabul would ever enable it to stand on its own feet. The international community has spent nearly 20 years, many thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars to do good by Afghanistan – taking down al-Qaeda; beating back the Taliban; supporting, advising, training, and equipping the Afghan military; bolstering governing institutions; and investing in the country’s civil society. .... Significant progress was made, but not enough." ....... "That is because the mission was fatally flawed from the outset. It was a fool’s errand to try to turn Afghanistan into a centralized, unitary state. "
Aug 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "But even in the US, which is more lenient than most countries, the principle cannot be absolute. Inciting imminent violence is not permitted. Donald Trump’s speech on January 6, urging the mob to storm the US Capitol, certainly came close to overstepping this boundary. It was a clear demonstration that language can be dangerous. What the internet media has done is raise the stakes; “fighting words” are spread around much faster and more widely than ever before. This will require a great deal of vigilance, to protect our freedom to express ourselves, while observing the social and legal bounds that stop words from turning into actual fighting. "
Jul 27th 2021
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Jul 25th 2021
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Jul 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "The EU’s ambitious unilateral climate strategy will transform Europe into a trade fortress, encourage green protectionism worldwide, and give other regions the opportunity to develop using cheaper energy. And without China, India, and the United States on board, other countries will be careful not to follow the EU in its self-appointed role as the world’s green guinea pig. If Europe is not careful, it will risk finding itself in a climate club of one. "
Jul 9th 2021
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Jul 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " .... while China’s leaders never mention it, they are just as embittered over Russia’s theft of Chinese territory in the nineteenth century as they are over the West’s imperial predations. With Western imperialism having been largely rolled back, it is Russia’s continued occupation of historic Chinese territory that stands out the most to ordinary Chinese observers. For example, the city of Vladivostok, with its vast naval base, has been a part of Russia only since 1860, when the tsars built a military harbor there. Before that, the city was known by the Manchu name of Haishenwai." ---- "There is also a demographic argument for Putin to consider: the six million Russians spread along the Siberian border face 90 million Chinese on the other side. And many of these Chinese regularly cross the border into Russia to trade (and a good number to stay)."
Jul 7th 2021
EXTRACTS: "According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone." ----- "After clandestinely supporting the Taliban as a means to undermine the US war effort, Russia now fears broader destabilization in Central Asia and beyond." ---- "Similarly, after having made nice with the Taliban, China also now fears the greater regional instability that the US withdrawal may incite. In addition to disrupting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Eurasia-spanning Belt and Road Initiative, a revitalized Taliban could re-energize the Islamist extremist threat in China’s western Xinjiang province."
Jul 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "When former Fed Chair Paul Volcker hiked rates to tackle inflation in 1980-82, the result was a severe double-dip recession in the United States and a debt crisis and lost decade for Latin America. But now that global debt ratios are almost three times higher than in the early 1970s, any anti-inflationary policy would lead to a depression, rather than a severe recession. ---- Under these conditions, central banks will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and many governments will be semi-insolvent and thus unable to bail out banks, corporations, and households. The doom loop of sovereigns and banks in the eurozone after the global financial crisis will be repeated worldwide, sucking in households, corporations, and shadow banks as well. ---- As matters stand, this slow-motion train wreck looks unavoidable."
Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "