The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You Know You're Having A Great Day in DC, When...

Sometimes when you're working in DC, you have good days and you have bad days (like working anywhere else, of course). Sometimes you have great days.

You know you're having a great day when a member of the US Senate, testifying before a House committee, directly quotes stats you offered in previous testimony to the House - and not just stats, but uses the same verbiage.

I was sitting in a hearing a few hours ago when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) used some research that I'd done for my hearing in July on paperwork costs in his testimony. This was the same subcommittee - the House Government Reform Committee, Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, and the hearing was on a bill regarding the waiving of penalties for first-time paperwork violations, where the violation doesn't result in any "harm".

You might recall, when I testified in July, I offered some figures on the costs of paperwork overall, on an annual basis, for the economy as a whole. I then compared these costs to other things in the budget - like how that amount we spend as a nation on federal paperwork compares with what the Feds spend on cancer research, homeland security, defense, etc.

So I perked up when Senator Vitter started citing my figures, even using my verbiage (ie, when talking about the overall numbers, Vitter said "$410 billion dollars. That's 'billion' with a 'B'," just like I said. ).

I was quite pleased, to say the least.

Thanks, Senator Vitter (and thank you to the staffers who prepared his testimony!)!

- Andrew Langer

Monday, September 25, 2006

Horace Cooper: Democrats Will Miss In November

As I promised last week, here is GMU professor Horace Cooper's cogent piece on the possibility of the Democrats retaking either house of Congress in November (and for the uninitiated, the vaulter in the above picture is about to hit the bar - not clear it).

Democrats Will Fall Short
By Horace Cooper
September 25, 2006

The fall campaign is heating up in earnest and a pattern is repeating itself -- one that should look familiar. It's a pattern of Democrats preparing for their big win only to come up short on Election Day. Yet this reality has yet to dawn on Democrats. Today most Democrats still believe that they are likely to retake either the House or Senate. And perhaps they could afford this indulgence since so many in the media have repeated their boastful claims for much of the spring and summer. Tellingly, however, this reveals more about the media's political preferences than any political acumen.

On the surface it would seem the political environment is ripe for success by Democrats. But due to key strategic failures Democrats won't be able to take advantage of fallow electoral ground. And this shouldn't be too surprising. Even after losses in 2000, 2002, and 2004 Democrats refused to reconsider their political strategy.

Here are five reasons why the party of Jefferson and Jackson will come up short this November:

You can't go it alone: Unlike the privileged circumstances that Democrats have had for much of the 20th century, they're no longer the majority party in the 21st. During much of the last century party leaders had the luxury of knowing that if they simply got all of those who called themselves Democrats to the polls they could win elections handily. Today not even 40% of Americans self-identify as Democrats. But you wouldn't know it however based on the strictly partisan agenda they're campaigning on. As the last Presidential election demonstrated -- even with enthusiasm and elevated turnout -- Democrats can't win without help from independents and Republicans. Conversely, the GOP has proven again and again that it can win and even expand simply by appealing to Republicans and conservative independents. Even though their partisan message may very well mobilize Democrats this fall, once again that message will turn off Republicans and many independents. At best this strategy will only increase the margin of victory for Democrats in safe districts and at worse it could actually excite the opposition. Unless your party comprises at least half of the electorate or more, energizing your party's base while alienating independents and Republicans is a classic strategy for failure.

You can't get ahead while you're trying to get even: Going after Joe Lieberman because of his position on the war in Iraq is precisely the type of political mistake former House Leader Dick Armey warned against. Instead of using their resources against vulnerable House or Senate Republicans, leftist bloggers and other liberal activists in the party chose to settle scores. This is wasteful in terms of campaign resources and political energy. Instead of sweeping three GOP House seats in Connecticut, Democrats will be lucky to take one. And worse, instead of being available to campaign and fundraise for vulnerable incumbents or challengers in red states, Joe Lieberman is forced to stay home to fight for his own seat. And finally, despite the party's strategy of trying to minimize its anti-war faction in the public eye, this fight brings the anti-war activists front and center once again reminding the public of the party's remarkable ambivalence about promoting America's national security. This is especially destructive behavior in the wake of September 11. Settling scores that divert your party's resources and remind the public of your party's Achilles Heel is doubly harmful and thus is a strategy that limits the party's chances for success.

Races tighten in the fall: One of the strongest advantages that election analysts have had in making the case for a major win by Democrats this fall has been polls showing a generic preference for Democrats over Republicans. But this indicator is quite fleeting. Since 1998 Republicans have headed into the fall campaigns facing a deficit in the generic polls with a number ranging between 6-10 pts. In 2002 a year Republicans gained seats in the House and Senate, both Gallup and Time initially had Republicans behind as much as 9 points before the race tightened. Then as now the generic numbers tightened. Additionally contrary to conventional wisdom, the voters who decide late increasingly are increasingly just as willing to vote for incumbents as they are for challengers. Absent a gap greater than 5 pts on election day, Democrats will not be able to overcome redistricting gains made in 2002 or overcome red state Republican preferences in states like Virginia and Tennessee. Moreover since Republicans will remind voters that elections require that a choice be made between two parties, anti-Republican sentiment alone won't lead to victory. Additionally significant declines in gas prices and a dazzling upsurge in the stock market will dramatically attenuate the anti-GOP mood as November draws near. A strategy predicated on a double digit voter preference on Election Day for Democrats will yield disappointing results.

There isn't an anti-war majority in America: Democrats have misread surveys of Americans' opposition to the war in Iraq. As a result they've allowed the party to become closely identified more with its John Murtha -- Michael Moore "surrender first" wing. Notwithstanding the constant media barrage reporting every negative news story involving our troops and Iraq, the truth is that the growing anti-Iraq sentiment reflected in surveys is actually a convergence of two groups: traditional anti-war liberals who oppose all wars and pro-war hawks who believe that the war has been bungled because our troops are hampered by politically correct rules of engagement. A far better measure of American sentiment is a recent Fox News Channel poll showing that half of the public (51 percent) thinks the country's response to the 9/11 attacks was at the right level and a third saying the response was not strong enough. Only 13 percent think the United States overreacted to the attacks. While disturbingly high, anti-war Americans are only between 1/5 and 1/3 of the overall electorate. And although self-described Democrats make up a disproportionate number of this group, even all Democrats don't share the anti-war impulse of the party's base. For this reason even when Democrats alone are asked, they fail to identify the war in Iraq as the primary issue in the fall elections. A strategy which assumes that most Americans share the anti-war sentiments of party activists will alienate the voting electorate and won't even keep all Democrats on board.

You can't win while you're losing: Without a doubt perhaps the greatest reason that Democrats will fall short this November is that success requires wins across the board. In order to take over the House and the Senate they need the political equivalent of an inside straight. To succeed Democrats must defeat 6 Republican senators and at least 15 House Republicans. And if any of their own incumbents lose, then they would be forced to defeat even more GOP incumbents. In 2002 and 2004, elections in which Republicans made notable gains, GOP challengers swept nearly all of the competitive House and Senate races while the party as whole kept losses to a minimum. Today, Democrats face serious Senate challenges of their own in New Jersey, Minnesota, Maryland and Washington State. And in Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Illinois Republican challengers are giving House Democrats a serious run for their money. A GOP win in any of these races will all but eviscerate any hopes of a Democrat takeover. And when combined with the GOP's phenomenal $30M GOTV (Get out the Vote) program Democrats run a serious risk of actually losing ground on Election Day. A strategy which fails to ensure that incumbents are secure before reaching out for gains is shortsighted and could leave the party worse off than it started.

In conclusion, Democrats aren't likely to takeover the House or Senate this fall and could even see losses. Without addressing their fundamental shortcomings, America's oldest political party competes in this election cycle burdened by strategic handicaps. In the 2004 Presidential election -- one in which the party's nominee received more votes than any Democrat in history -- Democrats had press, enthusiasm, and financial resources on their side and still failed to win. This year talk radio, right-leaning bloggers, state of the art GOTV efforts, flush campaign coffers and a changing political landscape will more than offset any advantages that Democrats have today. Indeed, the strategic failings that saddle the Democrats have turned what could have been a bumper crop election into what will very likely end up being a drought.


Horace Cooper is an assistant professor of constitutional law at George Mason University

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Start of Prediction Season Is In Full Swing...

Well, I guess it's been in full swing for a while.

A note on my absence - life's been a bit insane. Lots of speechifying, a couple of trips up to the Tri-State Area, all sorts of stuff.

In any case, we've talked about the '06 races already here on the Liberty Blog, and I'll offer more of the perspective from Professor Horace Cooper later this week (I offer the Carnac photo in his honor). Today, however, I want to offer the learned opinion of my old friend, Dr. Patrick Brandt, who teaches political science at UT Dallas. Pat and I went to William and Mary together, and he remains one of the best "go-to" guys that I know.

Anyhow, I've been consistently saying that when it comes to the mid-terms, my predictions are that the GOP is going to hold onto both the House and the Senate, with a net loss of 9 seats in the House and 2 in the Senate. I haven't gotten into specifics, but as the weeks go by I will. Admittedly, there have been times that I've been less certain of those numbers, but a few factors are making me more certain:

- The Presidents numbers are up. Yes, this could change, but for right now, they are where they are;
- Gas prices are down. I'm someone who follows gas prices religiously - not for any political purpose, but because that's the kind of thing I think about. And I know that other people do, too. Gas prices are going to continue to drop;
- The numbers for the GOP base are up, substantially. This is the important number. Though the core GOP numbers were down as low as 70%, they're now back up in the mid-80s.

Now, fast-forward to what Dr. Brandt's been up to. The American Political Science Association does a contest for political science professors wherein they predict the House outcome. Pat and his partner on this, Dr. Thomas Brunell, have their's up on a website. They're predicting a net GOP loss of 12, but hedge their bets with the President's approval numbers - Bush's number go up, and they theorize that the GOP net-loss will go down.

What's more, their data are current thru June 2006, so we've got several more months to noodle through.

The paper can be found here:

And their summary is as follows:

We estimate a set of forecasts for the House seats won by the president's party. Using monthly data from January 1948 to June 2006, a Bayesian state-space model is employed to generate the out-of-sample forecasts. Our point forecast shows that the Republicans should win about 220 seats in the November 2006 election -- a net loss of 12 seats from their November 2004 total. We also quantify the probability of this outcome and the associated uncertainty of this estimate. Further, we demonstrate that inter-election increases in presidential popularity have a sizable effect on the number of House seats won by the Administration party. For November 2006, we predict that a 10 point swing in the president's popularity between now and Election Day could result in 4 fewer seats lost by the GOP.
---end quoted material---

So, I feel confident that I'm right in Drs Brandt and Brunell's ballpark.

- Andrew Langer

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Ballots Are IN!!!!

OK, so no, I'm not equating yesterday's MD primary with the Iraqi election - but I wanted something nice and fun and inspiring to put up there to represent the democratic process.

Yes, my election was yesterday. I lost, but I'm not disappointed (not in the slightest). I'd expected it, in fact.

What's amazing to me is that I got 310 votes! That means that 309 people other than me voted for me.

That boggles my mind.

I want to thank each and every one of you who voted for me for doing so. And I want to thank everyone else who came out and voted for doing so. Primary elections generally have low voter turnout, and I appreciate the fact that you took the time out of your schedules to come to the polls.

Now, the hard work of helping to bring the disparate elements of the GOP in Queen Anne's County back together again. The two factions who have been bloodying one another. The hard-workers who lost but whose help is absolutely essential. Those who labored within both camps for total victory, only to see half-measures gained.

All of us will need to come together in the next six weeks to ensure the victory of our candidates.

Thank you all again.

- Andrew Langer

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Baldwin and Churchill: Dissent, Appeasement, and Victorious Resolve

I was over reading Andrew Kessler's "Southpawspot" blog -, and he's got a post up regarding a Keith Olberman editorial that was televised the other night in response to SecDef Rumsfeld's American Legion speech. In his editorial, Olberman tries to compare this government to the government of Neville Chamberlain in Great Britain in the years preceding World War II, and, by extension, make the War on Terror and the War in Iraq into some sort of bizarro "appeasement" situation - and, by further extension, turn the anti-war activists into bizarro Winston Churchills.

Anyhow, Kessler reposted the editorial, and I responded to it there. But I thought it was worthy of its own post, right here on the Liberty Blog. What's interesting to me is that it was over a year ago that Kessler and I had our first online altercation over a year ago, and it centered on my use of a Churchill quote here on the Liberty Blog about solidarity in the face of terror (actually, more directly, it had to do with my linking that post to the online bulletin board for the public school that Kessler and I were classmates in).

But on to the issue of Olberman:

To me, what's amazing is that Olberman could use that analogy and come to a completely opposite conclusion than Churchill's.

I rewatched "The Gathering Storm" last weekend while I was flying home from Texas with the fam. For the uninitiated, that was HBO's amazing Winston Churchill biopic - taking place in the years of Churchill's pre-war decline.

The most basic that Olberman gets wrong is proclaiming that it was Chamberlain who tried marginalizing Churchill by isolating him and keeping a monopoly on the facts. It wasn't - it was Stanley Baldwin, Chamberlain's predecessor.

This isn't just nitpicking, as Baldwin's actions are almost more damning than Chamberlain's appeasement, and far more apropos to the situation we find ourselves in today. Baldwin was a pacifist, raised to the highest elected office in England because of his deep committment to peace and his antiwar views - views shared by a great many in England at the time.

In fact, if there is any lesson to be learned from the Baldwin versus Churchill incident, it's that it is profoundly dangerous for a government (and a people) to be so enamored of pacifism that they ignore very clear and very real threats to their existence.

Churchill's very point - his driving passion that brought him out of decline, that allowed him to confront Baldwin directly, that convinced others to risk everything to provide him with the facts that ultimately won the argument, that put him back in as Lord of the Admiralty and eventually as Prime Minister, was that there are some people who simply cannot be negotiated with. That the only response to such people is fierce determination and the force of arms.

It is, in fact, a cautionary tale that ought to be weighing heavily in the minds of the people this election season. Does America have real enemies? Are those enemies moving against us? What will happen to America if we do nothing? Worse, what will happen is we move backwards or retreat? Can these enemies be negotiated with, and for what? At what cost, ultimately, to our nation? What has history taught us about the honor and trustworthiness of our adversaries? What has history taught us about what our adversaries do after negotiations are completed?

Yes, America faces a choice - a choice other nations have faced in the past. We can appease, or worse, retreat from the battlefield. Or we can stay resolved - resolved that freedom is better than slavery, that prosperity is better than poverty, and that hope is better than despair.

There is no doubt in the end - dissent and disagreement with government _is_ the life's blood of human freedom. And one can criticize the prosecution of the war and still be supportive of that war's ultimate goals. But Olberman was wrong to use Churchill's courageous stand to support his arguments, when, in fact, it teaches us just how wrong Olberman is.

And, allow me to add, how wrong appeasement is. There are no half measures to be had here. We must be victorious - for, as Churchill said, "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs - Victory in spite of all terrors - Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival." (Blood, Sweat and Tears Speech, May 13, 1940)

- Andrew Langer