Rational World

A blog about a varitey of topics: politics, government, philosophy, news, etc.

Sanctions and the Election

The US added new sanctions against Iran a couple of weeks before Iranians chose a new president. The new round of sanctions targeted the rial, making it more likely to directly effect the ordinary person than the other sanctions.

I can’t help but wonder, were these new sanctions designed to sway public opinion? We’re they successful?

Will Iran’s Election Results Bring Change?

Hassan Rouhani.jpg

According to The New York Times, Cleric Hasan Rowhani won the Iranian presidential election. Rowhani was considered the most moderate candidate in the race. An interesting result and one and that should be looked upon with caution as well as optimism. Reportedly, Ayatollah Khamenei declared that “A vote for any of these candidates is a vote for the Islamic Republic and a vote of confidence in the system.” In other words, a vote for any candidate is a vote for the status quo. Khamenei could confidently state this because as the AP reports:

“The ruling clerics barred from the race reform candidates seen as too prominent, allowing a list of hopefuls who were mainly staunch loyalists of the supreme leader and the Islamic establishment. But the opposition settled on the 64-year-old Rowhani as the least objectionable of the bunch, making him a de facto reform candidate with backers inspired by his message of outreach rather than confrontation.”

Because the clerics groomed the field of candidates they assured themselves a candidate that we at least acceptable if not preferred. This is not to say that Rowhani was chosen, several days ago the Los Angeles Times reported that Saeed Jalili, Iran’s hardline nuclear negotiator was the presumed front runner.

While Rowhani was an ‘approved’ candidate, he has given many liberals hope that they will have more of a voice in the theocracy. Additionally, Reuters tells that some in the Arab world are slightly hopeful that Rowhani ‘s election will bring change.

Hassan Rohani, a Shi‘ite cleric known for a conciliatory approach and backed by reformists, will have only limited say in policy determined by Iran’s supreme leader; but with the Syrian carnage fuelling rage among Sunni Arabs across the region, any gestures from Tehran may help contain it.”

What the future will bring for Iran is difficult to say. Rowhani may try to seize on the energy that his election created among liberals and reform minded moderates and bring substantive change. As the article by The New York Times points out, Rowhani was popular because he has taken many moderate positions, has been outspoken against police violence, and supports women’s rights. However, it should be remembered that when President Ahmadinejad challenged the clerics and tried to consolidate more power into the presidency* he lost the Council’s approval and (after a power struggle) was marginalized and forbidden from running for a third term. Will Rowhani be successful in bringing change? Only time can tell but any optimism should be guarded by a healthy dose of caution.

*Ahmadinejad’s challenge to the clerics was more of a personal power play, however, since the presidency is an elected position it would have also made Iran somewhat more democratic by vesting more power in an elected official.


Image via Wikipedia.

Iran Moderate Wins Presidential Election,” Matt Cantor, Newser.

Iran Moderate Wins Presidency By Large Margin,” Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times.

Moderate cleric wins Iran’s presidential vote,” Ali Akbar Dareini and Brian Murphy, Associated Press.

Arabs put (slim) hopes in new Iranian president,” Alastair Macdonald and Angus McDowall, Reuters.

Obama Announces New Sanctions on Iran,” Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times.

Akin and the GOP

Earlier this week Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin (MO) made some ignorant and uninformed remarks about rape and pregnancies.

I have been waiting to blog about this. I wanted to wait until the dust settled some. I also wanted to see how my fellow Missourians would respond.

For the most part, not too many people have been talking about this. Most of my conservative friends haven’t strayed from the standard anti-Obama talking points. And my liberal friends haven’t been too ruffled because we live in Missouri and hear stupid shit like this all the time. Although, liberals seem to be very satisfied that Akin has made such a huge blunder that will hurt his campaign. Even Democrats here were worried about Senator Claire McCaskill’s re-election bid. Now, however, her chances of winning have increased somewhat.

Major players in the GOP have called for Akin to drop out. Those pressuring Akin to drop out include five former Republican Senators, Mitch McConnell, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, and Mitt Romney.

Nationally the reaction has been quite strong. It makes me wonder why. As Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo (article linked above), points out, Akin’s comments and beliefs are pretty much in line with the GOP platform. The outrage we are seeing from the right is fear based. Fear that Akin’s frank and public articulation of their beliefs will alienate moderates and women. If this happens it will cost Akin his senate bid and possibly his career. More importantly it could energize the liberal base and be fatal to Mitt Romney’s chances in November.

Josh Marshall analyzes this issue quite well, and discusses the fact that, despite the outrage, Todd Akin is not really out of step with the Republican Party. After all, he was the establishment candidate.

Is Obama Secretly a Republican?

"On every issue, Obama is effectively an old-style moderate Republican."

"Obama is in a right-of-center consensus as of a decade ago."

"As for temperament, the GOP is too consumed with cultural hatred to acknowledge the grace and calm of a man forced to grapple with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression with no help whatsoever from his opponents, a black man who has buried identity politics and remains a family man Republicans would fawn over if he were one of them."

- Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast.

Libya’s Defeated Islamists

What makes Libya different from the other nations of the Arab Spring?

While islamists won elections in Tunisia and Egypt, they were “soundly defeated” in Libya, which is by many measures is more conservative than Egypt or Tunisia.

In this article the author, Omar Ashour, examines several reasons why the Libyan elections were so different.

"Nevertheless, the question remains: what happened to the Islamists? They spearheaded the opposition to Qaddafi, were advised by their Tunisian and Egyptian brethren, and larded their rhetoric with religious symbolism in a conservative Muslim country. For many, however, this was not enough."

This election, however, does not mean that Libya will remain on a “liberal leaning” path. Several of the reasons, (disorganization and poor campaigns) will be addressed in the future and will lead to more Islamists getting elected. The future of political moderates will be determined now, and will be determined by their performance while they have power.  

"The result was yet another paradox of the Arab Spring: a country that seemed to meet all of the conditions for an Islamist victory produced the sort of election results that liberals in Egypt and Tunisia could only dream about." 

The Green Party nominates Jill Stein

The Green Party officially nominated Massachusetts doctor Jill Stein for president.

Is the Green Party quietly picking up steam?

Although, Stein (currently) only qualifies to be on the ballot in 20+ states, before November she will most likely make it onto about 40.

However, this year the Green Party will qualify for federal matching funds. This is a feat that even Ralph Nader was unable to accomplish in 2000.

In an election that may be very close 2-3% in a swing state could have a big impact.

I’ll definitely be following her campaign. This could get interesting.

What if…?

Newser: How the Presidential Election Could End in a Tie- http://bit.ly/MgenMI

It probably won’t happen, but it is interesting to think about.

What if…?

Newser: How the Presidential Election Could End in a Tie- http://bit.ly/MgenMI

It probably won’t happen, but it is interesting to think about.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This

The dichotomy between voters’ opinion of their own congress person and congress as a whole supports the notion that, perhaps, the system is rigged.

We have an electoral system that provides little incentive for politicians to do a good job as long as they are good at campaigning. As a result we have leaders who do not perform well but who are very good at convincing people that they do.

The political system is in many ways designed to help the incumbent get elected. Congress gives its members resources (money, free commercials and other media) that are used to promote the incumbents. Congress people, once in Washington, have access to institutional support from lobbyists, and special interest groups. Connections to these groups are used to raise huge sums of cash which are then used to advertise, and promote the incumbent candidate. In addition to financial aid these lobbyist groups also provide organizational support.

The effect of these insider connections has been magnified by Citizens United which allows super PACs to funnel massive amounts of money to their candidate of choice. As a result the incumbent (in congressional races) almost always out raises his/her challenger (by a wide margin).

The size of congressional districts have become enormous. (Congress controls the size of districts by the way). The huge size of districts requires candidates to raise large amounts of money to compete. This raises the barrier of entry for challengers. In addition to being over sized, congressional districts have been thoroughly gerrymandered to create a large number of seats that are uncompetitive and “safe.”

These are just some of the ways the electoral system favors the incumbent. Incumbents control large amounts of resources that are then used to advertise and try to convince voters that they are not the problem: it is everyone else. And it works.

Challengers cannot compete with this.

In many ways congress men and women use their offices as tools to get themselves re-elected. We have a system that produces leaders who are good at getting themselves re-elected, but really bad at governing.

We deserve better than this.

Should I Even Bother Voting?

According to Gallup, Congress’ approval rating is at 17% (as of June ‘12). This is not a new trend. In 2010, Congress’ approval rating was 13%. Yet, despite this consistent disapproval of Congress, its members continually get re-elected extremely high rates. In 2010 when Congress’ approval rating was a mere 13%, 85% of the members of Congress were re-elected. And this was considered low! The re-election rate is usually in the 90’s.

Why would 85% of a congress with an approval rating of 13% get re-elected?

Either, people really, really, like their own congress person, or the system is rigged.

GOP Governors Tell Romeny the Economy isn't that Bad

There have been numerous stories like this that have been published recently. The story goes like this: Romney visits a state with a Republican governor. Romney says that the economy is terrible and he is the guy to fix it. Then the Republican governor, who is also running for re-election, tells people that things are not bad, at least not in their state.

Governors have been telling Romney to cool it with the economy bashing, while Romney has told the governors to stop telling the voters in their state that things are getting better.

What makes the situation even more interesting is that many of these states are swing states, such as Iowa, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio.

The conventional wisdom is that if people feel the economy is improving it helps Obama, and if people are feeling negative about the economy it helps Romney.

So when Republican governors tell voters that the economy is improving does that help Obama too? Can the economic fortunes of a few key swing states decide the election (if I am not mistaken the unemployment rate in Iowa is 6% or less)?

It may be oversimplifying to say that the economy will decide the election, there are other factors to be sure, but the state of the economy is always the most influential. Romney and the RNC are finding themselves in an awkward position: the Republicans are having to make a nuanced point on the economy, and nuance is not the Rebuplican’s strong suit.