Right idea!

How often do I agree with a Democrat's strategic thinking? Well, not any more!

This thoughtful posting about George Allen on MyDD by Scott Shields get two things right.

First it focuses on the next Republican presidential nominee, not the term-limited incumbent George W. Bush. Taking a look at who the Republican activists might want is an altogether better strategy than droning on about someone who is due to retire in a couple of years time. George Allen is not the pollsters favourite, but he is on of the bookies favourites. But pollsters tend to ask the public, and the public don't choose the candidate. Right call MyDD!

Second, Scott suggests taking some political pot-shots at Senator Allen right now, see if he can be defeated in his Virginia U.S. Senate election this November. I'd say they have it right. Virginia is not as rock solid as most Southern states for the GOP, and there's at least the chance of finding something in his voting record to split the Republican base.

My own view is that Allen is automatically a less than ideal candidate by virtue of being a sitting U.S. Senator.

Where's that tidal wave?

U.S. Democrats are cheering themselves up with scraps of evidence to support the dream of sweeping to victory in the House of Representatives (more than the Senate) in the coming November mid-term elections.

Let's be clear about it, a tidal wave where something like 30 seats change hands is possible. It happened in 1980, 1986 and 1994. Why the Democrats are clutching at straws for a landslide, is that the electoral map for them is so bad that anything less than a political earthquake in their direction will not be enough.

The result is inflated expectations at precisely the wrong moment. If the Democrats win ten seat in the House, it's a moral victory for the Republicans, but only because of months from the Democrat side telling us about the dozens of seats they're going to win in Texas and Pennsylvania and.. and sounds like the Howard Dean scream.

Here's what Business Week has to say about the Republicans' chances. Basically, if house prices stay buoyant, the feel-good factor will do the job for them.

Remembering how deeply unpopular Margaret Thatcher was in opinion polls during the 1980s, and remembering how at election time the unemployment figure always seemed to be dipping and house prices were booming, I can imagine a similar scenario in the U.S.A.. My advice to Democrats would be to keep the expectation levels down. That's what Republicans did brilliantly in 2002 [scroll down to table of before and after the elections]...


Local taxes and how people vote

This chart shows the breakdown by U.S. state of the local tax burden. Polipundit makes the point that there is a correlation between low taxes and areas where Geroge W. Bush did well in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004.

Perhaps the most surprising states are Colorado and Wyoming, both in the top 15.

[Hat tip: Polipundit]

Free markets, rule of law

Democracy without free markets is an economic disaster which leads to increasingly populist and secatarian government, with ever more bureaucrats hired to increase the government's "payroll vote", and ever more subsidies to crony businesses and non-productive voters, to boost the "client vote". Before long we have an unreformable mess, where the democratic process is an obstruction to change, instead of a mechanism for preventing the entrenchment of particular interest groups.

But this is nothing to the problems of a society without the rule of law. Because free markets are inherently bottom-up operations, they don't need to be part of a rotten democratic process: the traders and consumers can engage in vountary exchange, while the politicians claim credit for the fact that people have jobs. But a society without the rule of law combines all the disadvantages of anarchy, with all the disadvantages of the arbitrary state.

Hillary Johnson writes about this here.
It also means, dare I say it, that most of our foreign-policy activism that is aimed overtly at promoting "democratic" reform is wasted effort, in the absence of a foundation of judicial and economic reform. One need only look at the absurdist "democratic" rise of Hamas to see that democracy can't really function properly in a corrupt legal and economic system.

So the neoconservative project doesn't work in Iraq or anywhere else the U.S.A. is pushing it, because the intellectuals concerned have bought into the sixties liberal pap about "democracy" equals "niceness". An earlier generation of U.S. foreign policy experts thought that "Uncle Joe" Stalin was more of a humanitarian than Winston Churchill, and the U.S.A. had more in common with the U.S.S.R. than with the British Empire.

U.S. House of Representatives forecast for November 2006

My DD has the usual "we can win everywhere" forecast. One slight problem with these forecasts: they always miss the local races that one's party loses.

Still it's a valuable record to use as a benchmark. I shall issue my own forecast around April.

In other news from My DD, the opinion polls are starting to show a narrowing of the Democrat lead. The problem this year is that as a mid-term election, the party that organises best and mobilises its core vote usually outperforms the opinion polls. With very few truly competitive races, expect any claims of a landslide to be disappointed.

Between them the two stories read: "We're going to win!" and "Shut up! don't look at the polls. They're Bushitler lies!"

For the record, Election Vote Predictor 2004 (see sidebar) showed the following in May 2004: May 24 Bush win 281-257, and May 25 Kerry win 320-218. These are the earliest figures I could find. The result was George W. Bush 286, John Ferry 251. As these forecasts were made on the basis of aggregating U.S. opinion polls, I see no reason to assume that they're overstating the Republican vote on the day. Far from it.

Thailand to hold referendum on new constitution

Thailand's prime minister is facing major protests from middle-class opposition that blames him for corruption and opening up Thailand to foreign influences. Reuters has the low-down here.

Thaksin Shinawatra has responded by offering changes to the constitution, effectively a plebiscite into his remaining in power. He hopes to delay a vote until April 19, when Thailand holds senatorial elections.

Democrats forged Wikipedia entries

Guess what didn't make the front page of the Washington Post and the New York Times?

I guess the fact that the vandalisim was done to Republicans and most of the cover-ups were done by Democrats made the story too confusing for their readers.

Costa Rica, Libertarians' great hope fades

Ask me six years ago where in the world a Libertarian Party had a chance of victory and I would have unhestitatingly answered "Costa Rica". The Movimiento Libertario's leader Otto Guevara, was hitting the front of presidential election polls, coming in first or second. The ML had won a seat in the Costa Rican Senate and was to win six Deputies in the lower chamber.

Since then, the ML has behaved like a bad parody of the British Conservative Party in the 1990s, without the excuse of the corrupting effects of power. First the "radicals" have been expelled (even if this made any kind of strategic sense, it's a bit of a contradiction for a "libertarian" party). Then the party took government funding, and appears to have got lazy about fundraising and campaigning.
[Hat tip Reason's Hit and Run]

The result is a pathetic score in the recent round of elections, competing against an imploded ruling party.

Meanwhile, the parties actually competing the election are reported on the BBC and in Le Figaro [subscription may be required].

Referendum in Tokelau for independence

Three coral atholls in the Pacific Ocean are holding a referendum over whether to regain independence for the first time since 1889.

Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo have a combined population of only 1,500 and an electorate of 660. If granted independence they would form the Tokelau Islands, the third smallest independent state in the world, with the Vatican and Monaco the only smaller.

Voting ends on February 15, and is being monitored by four U.N. observers.