Daily Archives: August 31, 2014

Freeploid headline writer places thumb discreetly, yet firmly, on the scale

Same story, different headlines. Associated Press workhorse Dave Gram filed a post-primary story on the outlook for the November elections. His unsurprising thesis: the incumbents have a hefty advantage. Hard to argue, that; but the story’s a useful space-filler for holiday weekend editions of Vermont newspapers. 

And so the Mitchell Family Organ (North) and the Freeploid both published Gram’s story on Sunday. The MFO(N)’s headline: 

Incumbents favored in Vermont midterm elections

And at the Freeploid? 

Milne promises a fight as incumbents are favored

The Burlington Free Press: Official Turd-Polisher to the VTGOP. 


Emily Peyton Stands the Gap Between Polity and Chaos

Perennial candidate Emily Peyton, fresh off losing the Republican gubernatorial primary, has some thoughts on How To Have A Fair Election, published in the August 29 Mitchell Family Organ. Unsurprisingly, her prescription involves a hell of a lot more attention devoted to the genius of Emily Peyton and her colleagues in the Fringe Brigade. 

She blames the media, of course. Not just the media, but the alleged “GOP/press piracy of the election process.” Yeh, me and “Super Dave” Sunderland, we’re thick as thieves. 

But that’s not the most outrageous thing she said.  

…revolution is becoming an increasingly dangerous inevitability. We are in danger of losing all peace if party/press piracy of elections continues. 


Had the press been fair and impartial, Dan Feliciano might have won… I might have won in a miracle, but I’m not sleek or slick. I’m too ahead of my time and I know it, so I realistically doubt it. …I’ll keep at it through November — to avert the coming revolution.

Ooof. Emily Peyton is too ahead of her time to win, but will continue her campaign for the sake of staving off chaos. Narcissistic, much?

With all due respect, Ms. Peyton, if you and your messianic worldview were better-known, you probably would have gotten fewer votes, not more. You’re better off being little-known and hoping people vote for you at random. 

But let’s move on to the Peyton Prescription, guaranteed to ward off the coming apocalypse. She calls on the party/press cartel to adopt the following program: 

Through their nonprofit, they organize and fund debates in each county during the election season with every balloted candidate of any party welcomed. Party favorite candidates that no-show are publicly busted as the corrupt 1 percent elite. 

Each debate is shared through cable access, online in video, transcripted and audio formats. Each debate centers on a different topic (energy, health, education, agriculture, corrections, transportation, environment, federal policy, monetary policy, taxation, military affairs and policing, and government). Questions for candidates will be generated by the public only, and each debate will last as long as questions continue. 

No idea what she means by “their nonprofit,” but never mind. There’s one big huge problem with Peyton’s plan, and it’s not party/press piracy. It’s that nobody would watch these endless debates. The vast majority of voters are simply not that interested. 

Which is also why the media has a lot less impact than Peyton or the media themselves believe. Most people don’t follow politics. Most voters start each campaign with their minds made up, firmly committed to one party or the other. They aren’t interested in learning about a whole bunch of candidates. Even true independents aren’t interested in spending much more than a token amount of time researching issues and candidates. 

So let’s say the party/press pirates bow to Peyton’s demands. Would she require people to watch? Would they have to prove that they watched all the relevant debates in order to receive a ballot? If not, then the debates would be meaningless. 

Fact is, it’s not that hard to gain a spot on the Vermont ballot — as the Liberty Union Party proves every other year. Getting on the ballot does not, by itself, earn you the right to demand reams of print coverage and hours of free media time and voter attention. A candidate must show some measure of public support to earn our attention. And it does happen: witness the Tea Party, and the national popularity of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

Sure, there are problems with our political system. And sure, the two major parties occupy too much of the available space. But a series of twelve debates including every single candidate on the ballot? For, presumably, every office on the ballot? And each debate goes on and on “as long as questions continue”? 

Nobody… and I mean nobody… would sit through that.

Republican-Leaning Poll Shows Republican Gaining Ground

The fine folks at Rasmussen Reports have dipped their toes into the political waters of Vermont. Rasmussen, as politics watchers already know, is a polling firm with a longstanding reputation for favoring Republican candidates. 

And surprise: Rasmussen says the race for Governor is closer than you thought. It gives Governor Shumlin 48% and Republican Scott MIlne 36%. The survey, which combined robo-calls and an Internet component designed to capture voters who don’t have landline telephones. And it processes the results through a “weighting program” designed to, says Rasmussen, “insure that the sample reflects the overall population.” 

Or, given Rasmussen’s track record, perhaps it’s really designed to “insure that things look good for Republicans.” 

Anyway, the Milne campaign pounced on this bit of good news like a starving hyena on some rancid roadkill. The Milne news release compares the Rasmussen survey to a July poll from CBS News/New York Times that gave Shumlin a 25-percent lead, and concludes that the race is getting closer. Of course, comparing a real live news organization to Rasmussen is like comparing apples to wax fruit. To Milne, though, Rasmussen is a sign that “Vermonters are ready for fresh ideas” etc., etc. 

But according to Nate Silver’s notoriously accurate Five Thirty Eight, Rasmussen is reliably unreliable. In its review of 2014 Presidential polls, it said this about Rasmussen: 

For the second consecutive election — the same was true in 2010 — Rasmussen Reports polls had a statistical bias toward Republicans, overestimating Mr. Romney’s performance by about four percentage points, on average. 

Okay, so here’s what we’ve got: a single poll with a self-described +/-4% margin of error, from a polling firm known to favor Republicans by four percentage points, that shows Milne trailing Shumlin by “only” 12 points.  

I can see why Milne is excited, but this is hardly evidence of a tightening race. Let’s wait until another non-Rasmussen poll comes out.