September 13th, 2009

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March Done -- On To The Numbers Controversy

It's been a fine tradition since the 1960s to dispute the number counts. It's why the National Park Service stopped.

Estimates of the number of marchers is ranging from 30K or so to 2 million. There are the usual allegations of conspiracies to to inflate or diminish the total.

My personal feeling, given that it was shabbos and therefore I was only following the clean up after in real time, is that anything over 200K is extremely unlikely based on the performance of local mass transit system and the traffic. If we'd really had 2 million people show up in the city, it would have been much more disruptive to traffic and we would have seen a much higher spike in local business (which inevitably makes the local news). We also would have had noticable disruption in the overloaded cell network (as was discussed in preparation for the inauguration).

As is so often the case, the discernible facts on the ground leave room for a wide range of interpretations. Supporters view it as a great success, opponents as an epic fail. The real test, however, is what actual result is achieved. In this case, I do not think it added any new information for members of Congress or the Administration. Yes, getting even tens of thousands of people to one place to march is an impressive bit of work, even with corporate support and the support of Fox News. But these are the same people who showed up at town hall meetings during the summer. This doesn't do much to answer the "fringe v. mainstream" question -- especially as the marchers expressed only a general anger/opposition rather than a coherent mandate for anything.

There is a possibility that the march itself creates a separate movement that has legs in 2010. But that remains to be seen. Again, these are the folks who turned out in '08 to support Palin and oppose Obama even if they didn't care much for McCain or the GOP generally. As progressives hve discovered, opposition is easy, getting stuff done is hard.
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Good NYT Piece On Collapse of Clean Water Act Enfrocement

The same general dynamic can be seen in just about every aspect of federal enforcement. Indeed, during the Bush Administration, the Feds were active in preempting states that tried to move beyond federal rules or enforcement on a number of issues. But it is too simple to blame this on Bush. It is a natural outcome of a philosophy that maintains that government is incapable of playing a positive roll and that any unduly burdensome regulation (defined in terms of direct cost to industry incumbents) should be resisted.
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Bit of an Update on Numbers

Nate Silver has this piece on crowd estimation, and how an estimate of 60-70K was inflated to 2 million.

60-70K is more reasonable, but I'm more dubious of impact than Silver for the reasons I gave previously. That is to say, the protesters represent a known group of the 30% or so of the electorate who absolutely oppose Obama and the Democrats generally. In market terms, their opposition should be discounted because it was already factored in to the existing price. It is the same reasoning that prompted the Bush Administration to discard much larger protests before the Iraq War. They concluded that the protesters were entirely from that segment of the population unalterably opposed to their Administration, and therefore could be safely ignored (in the short term).

What is bad news for the Ds is the decline in fervor in their own ranks. The Ds won handily in '08 (and '06) not only because the Rs had lost tremendous support. They also were successful in mobilizing their own base.

This, as always, is the piece the Ds miss. In many of the districts that flipped in '06 and '08, I predict that very few voters will flip from R to D (a reversal of the 1994 dynamic, which saw significant "re-alignment" of voters who had voted D for historic reasons). OTOH, I predict serious mobilization problems for the Ds in these districts -- and generally. There is no energy in the rank and file at this point, and the "permanent structure" for the 50 state strategy developed by Dean is being allowed to wither. The DNC has mde no efforts, as far as I can tell, to maintain relations with its ground troops. It is not clear to me how they expect to mobilize them again in January.

This becomes especially urgent for Ds if, as expected, the Supreme Court overrules campaign finance limits on corporations. The '06 experience demonstrated that boots on the ground could overcome financing advantages. Without boots on the ground, the Ds can expect to get creamed on fundraising as financial interests would rather have Rs than Ds in charge (for all that Ds have courted them and shown willing to play nice).