They laughed when kausfiles suggested that Howard Dean get to President Bush's right on the potentially volatile people-vs.-elites issue of immigration reform (and amnesty for "undocumented" immigrants). But see zonitics.com for what Dean told the Arizona Republic editorial board about "guest workers." ... Note to Dean: You might also point out that the striking supermarket workers in Southern California would have a whole lot more bargaining power if they didn't face the implicit threat of wage competition from illegals. ... 11:59 P.M.
Bombshell Bombs: Alas, that sensational top secret Iraqi memo purporting to document a) Mohammed Atta's secret Iraq training session, b) the disputed yellowcake shipment from Niger, and c) Webb Hubbell's presence on the grassy knoll seems to be too good to check, as expected. Newsweek's Isikoff and Hosenball say the FBI has records detailing Atta's presence in the U.S. for the period in question. ... But "a few days are unaccounted for," and Isikoff and Hosenball's expert hadn't actually seen the suspected forgery. Take it away, Edward Jay Epstein! ...Still, even Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress calls the bombshell memo "nonsense," and the U.K. Sunday Telegraph reporter who publicized it doesn't stand up too strongly for it either. ... Sorry, Glenn! (And Bill!) .... 11:31 P.M.
More Dean Third Party Fantasizing: TNR's Noam Scheiber argues that Dean may have "a better shot of winning the presidency" in a three-candidate "Dean vs. Gephardt vs. Bush race than in a Dean vs. Bush race." That seems ...er, a stretch to me. How does a leftish independent candidate beat Bush unless either he or the regular Democratic candidate somehow eat into Bush's half of the vote in the "red" states? I don't see either Dean or Gephardt doing that. I see them splitting the anti-Bush vote and losing. But maybe I'm missing something. You make the call! ...
P.S.: Scheiber also repeats a belief, which I think is false, that if three parties split up the states, so that no candidate's Electoral total on the day after the election adds up to a majority, then the election will automatically be thrown into the House. Isn't it more likely that there will be bargaining and some sort of deal struck before the Electoral College votes--so that, for example, enough Dean and Gephardt electors combine behind one candidate to achieve a majority in the College, before it ever gets to the House? [Aren't electors bound to vote for their party's candidate?--ed. Not really, according to Slate's resident Electoral College maven, Tim Noah. Sure, the parties can require them to pledge to be faithful, but that doesn't necessarily nullify their vote if they break that pledge. Even state laws binding electors might not be enforceable. And, as of 2000, 24 states don't even try to penalize "faithless electors," Noah reports . ... Constitutional scholars (and non-scholars!) who think I'm wrong on this please e-mail me and tell me why. ...
P.P.S.: Everett Ehrlich himself emails to note that while the Electoral College tends to reward big nationwide parties, "there's the countervailing point that a more divided field makes it easier to win states." Combine that point with the possibility of quasi-parliamentary Electoral College bargaining, as just discussed, and I wonder if I was too quick to concede that the Electoral College set-discourages third parties. After all, if you have a solid third party you can maybe grab a bunch of states and hold the balance of power, no? Certainly third parties would do better in this system than if the presidency were decided in a single national popular vote. The so-called Duverger's Law--"most votes wins all" elections create two party systems--would only applywithin each state's Electoral contest. In the entire Electoral College, it would not apply, since the Electoral College isn't a "most votes wins all" system. Under the Twelfth Amendment, you need an absolute majority to win. A 49 and a half % plurality won't do. Hence the room for third parties to make up the difference. Vote for a third party, in such a system, and you don't "waste" your vote, as long as that party has a chance to win the electors from your state. [Then why've regional third parties, historically, withered and dies?--ed. Possible answers:a)They don't inevitably wither. They have to be affirmatively courted and coopted by the major parties. But they have been affirmatively courted and coopted. b) Voters are fooled by the illusion that they are voting in a single national "most-votes-wins-it-all" election, so they don't vote for third parties even when that would be rational; c) I'm wrong on the possibility of Electoral College deal-making; d) parties do more than elect presidents--they elect Congressmen, mayors and dogcatchers by giving voters an easy way to tell friends from foes. Thanks to this ideological "branding," they're hard to displace. But less hard than before! ...
P.P.P.S.: UCLA corporate law prof Stephen Bainbridge attempts to take down Ehrlich--and Bainbridge may be right that Ehrlich misapplies Ronald Coase's theories to political parties. So? Forget Coase and consider Ehrlich's argument on its own. Bainbridge declares:
The internet does nothing -- nada, zilch -- to solve the transaction costs that are solved by political parties.
Huh? Bainbridge seems to be talking here about a specific way parties minimize costs--by eliminating the need to investigate the views of every Sewer Commissioner or State Assemblyman. (Instead, as noted, you can just rely on the party label.) But parties do a lot of other things that are made a lot easier by the Internet--like hooking like-minded people together in the first place and raising money from them and mobilizing them rapidly around the issues of the day. The Dean campaign does exist, after all. It can't be theorized away. And it could not have done what it has done without the Internet. Even Bainbridge says, at the end of his post:
Ehrlich may be right that the internet will make it easier for outsiders like Dean was a few months ago to capture a party's Presidential nomination.
'Only the presidency' seems a pretty big 'to-be-sure' concession. Ah, but remember the less glitzy offices, says Bainbridge "[A]s long as there are sewer commissioners to be elected there will be political parties."