Tag: andy beshear
The Political Press Should Stop Playing Fortune Teller -- And Just Report

The Political Press Should Stop Playing Fortune Teller -- And Just Report

Here is my big prediction for November, 2024: the Arkansas Razorbacks will not lose to Alabama in football.

The two teams don’t play each other.

Otherwise, I’ll leave the prognostication to the football-obsessed guys on SportsTalk radio. In Little Rock, where I live, they talk of nothing else for weeks and months at a time. As a card-carrying Yankee living in SEC country, I’ve long wondered what is wrong with these people? It’s pretty much all college football, all the time. Many act as if their lives depend upon it.

Even as a guy who begins every day with the sports page, married to a (baseball) coach’s daughter who thinks it’s normal to watch a ballgame pretty much every day, and who often watches with me, these people wear me out. It’s one reason I’ve made relatively few friends among Southern men.

Hey, y’all, lighten up. It’s supposed to be fun. You know, a game.

When it comes to guessing the future, however, even the most perfervid SEC football fan has nothing on the national political press. Day after day, we’re told who’s trending up or down, and which candidate is most apt to win the 2024 presidential election. Pollsters are treated like oracles, seers who can envision future political events and tell us what’s going to happen.

The cable TV news networks are, if anything, even worse. With hours to fill every day, they bring us oddsmakers and necromancers of every kind and description, pronouncing upon who’s trending up, down and sideways. Has Nikki Haley edged ahead of Ron DeSantis? How is Joe Biden trending today as compared to yesterday? Literally. Political websites such as 538.com and Real Clear Politics consist of little else.

And yet the most remarkable thing about the lot, as my old friend James Fallows has pointed out on his “Breaking the News” Substack, is how relentlessly wrong most of them are most of the time. Never mind the widely predicted congressional “Red Wave” of 2022 which simply failed to materialize. Consider this month's election results in Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.

In the supposedly “red” state of Ohio, voters passed an amendment by a strong margin putting reproductive rights into the state’s constitution. In equally red Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear was re-elected easily over a Trump-endorsed opponent, while Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan to push for a 15-week abortion ban in Virginia was stymied when voters there turned over both houses of the state legislature to Democrats.

None of these results was widely forecast to happen.

The Ohio abortion-rights referendum, Fallows writes “was one of many ‘surprisingly’ large victories for Democrats and progressives in post-2016 elections, and of similarly ‘unexpected’ setbacks for GOP culture-warriors once exposed to voters outside the MAGA base. What should the press learn from these repeated surprises?”

Basically, to quit playing fortune teller and do some real reporting about what’s going on in the country. “The political press” Fallows notes “is very bad at forecasting how elections will turn out. Its track record is worse than for other professional groups whose supposed expertise is predicting future outcomes. Weather forecasters, let’s say. Or bookies. Or economic analysts or military strategists. And the gap appears to be widening. Weather forecasts are stunningly more precise than a generation ago. Political prognostications seem if anything worse.”

Consider, for example, the big play given by the New York Times to a poll published one year before the 2024 election showing Joe Biden losing to Donald Trump in a half-dozen “swing” states. (Going back to the Clinton administration, you can pretty much depend on the allegedly liberal newspaper to rain on any Democratic parade.)

Fallows brings history to bear on the topic. In 1983, for example, Ronald Reagan trailed Democrat John Glenn by eight points according to Gallup. In 1984, he won a thunderous majority.

In 1995, polls gave Bill Clinton little chance of being re-elected. He won by nine points in 1996.

According to Gallup, Barrack Obama trailed a “generic Republican” rival by eight points one year before the 2012 election. He defeated Mitt Romney comfortably.

None of which means Joe Biden has re-election in the bag. What it does show is that telephone polls have never meant much this far out from an election, and that given peoples’ widespread reluctance to answer unknown callers, they’re now probably less useful than ever. You’d do about as well using wooly bear caterpillars or persimmon seeds to predict the winter weather. Huckleberry Finn’s magic hairball also comes to mind.

Given the number of imponderables out there in the world—the U.S. economy, the Hamas-Israeli war, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and so on —expending time and energy on political opinion polls would be sheer folly. Better some real reporting about what’s going on in people’s lives and how they’re coping than the latest horse race tips from Fox News or CNN.

Gene Lyons is a former columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a winner of the National Magazine Award, and co-author of The Hunting of the President.

Andy Beshear

Despite Great Election For Democrats, Media Obsess Over 'Doom Narratives'

Democrats and progressive issues had a great night on Tuesday: Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s strong reelection, Democrats gaining control of both chambers of the Virginia state legislature, Dan McCaffery’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court win, Ohio voters putting abortion rights in their state constitution, and a bad night for Moms for Liberty-endorsed school board candidates. It’s an impressive list! If you think that’s going to dissuade the media from continuing to run with everything-is-bad-for-Biden narratives, though, you will need to think again.

To be sure, some in the media got it—even some surprises, like Politico. (Seriously!) The New York Times, on the other hand, cannot accept that its big weekend poll showing Donald Trump leading President Joe Biden in key battleground states might not be the top story of the day after voters went to the polls and handed Biden’s party some wins.

Outside of the straight news pieces about results of specific elections, the Times coverage of Tuesday’s elections was overwhelmingly focused on how even though Democrats won, That Poll is still right a year out. That no matter how much Democrats keep winning elections, Biden is in deep trouble. Here's Peter Baker: “Poll? What poll? The Democratic victories in Tuesday’s off-year elections gave President Biden’s White House some breathing space that it desperately needed just when it needed it.” Got that? The poll is the story. The elections are the distraction.

Nate Cohn arrived to explain: “There’s no contradiction between the polling and Tuesday’s election results. There’s not even a contradiction between the polling and the last year of special elections.”

Cohn wasn’t alone in making that case, but:

It’s possible that 2024 will be the exception, but the pundits—even the data pundits like Cohn—arguing for that likelihood need to take the track record a little more seriously. Actually, this is no time for sarcastic understatement: Make that a lot more seriously.

Not to be outdone by the Times touting its own polls, CNN ran with a poll analysis that appears to have been written before the elections with the assumption that they would signal trouble for Democrats. It seems like it was then hastily tweaked. It opens: “A big night for Democrats Tuesday in state races only highlighted the struggles Joe Biden faces in 2024 following polls suggesting he’s far less popular than his party.” A few paragraphs later, the article’s author, Stephen Collinson, details some of Tuesday’s big wins and offers up this skeptical admission: “This could mean polls are underplaying Democrats’ resilience under Biden, as they did in last year’s midterms when a Republican red wave was averted.” But you know there’s a “but” coming. It is of course a classic traditional media piece, swinging from but to but and always landing most decisively where it started, which is with the bad news for Democrats the morning after a set of big wins.

This is all of a piece with recent media coverage of the economy: Even the best economic news is reported as a political issue in tones of doom for Biden. As the Center for Economic Policy and Research put it, those stories “take advantage of the obvious fact that tens of millions of families are struggling in this economy, as is always true in the United States. The point here is that we have a terribly weak welfare state.” When Democrats are in power, those struggles suddenly become much more interesting to reporters.

It’s true that Biden does not look like a historically strong candidate, but the election is almost a year away. Right now, the media has to decide what matters more, analytically speaking: the results of elections that have already happened, which show Democrats on a historic roll, or polls of a distant election in which almost anything could change. It’s telling that they’re going with the less reliable source.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Andy Beshear

Kentucky's Democratic Governor Wins Big Re-Election Victory

Democrat Andy Beshear won re-election as Kentucky's Democratic governor, defeating former Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron Monday, NBC News reports.

Per The Hill, Beshear "has seen strong approval despite being the Democratic governor of a red state," and has also "been noted as one of the most popular governors in the country."

Still, NBC reports, Republican Russell Coleman defeated Democrat Pamela Stevenson in Kentucky's race for attorney general," while "Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams won re-election."

NBC also notes, "In his bid for a second term, Beshear leveraged the popularity he built over the last four years, touting the state's economic progress and his response to natural disasters, including devastating floods."

The news outlet calls Beshear's win "a welcome sign for Democrats ahead of" the 2024 presidential election.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Kentucky Republicans Now Demand Disaster Aid They Denied To Other States

Kentucky Republicans Now Demand Disaster Aid They Denied To Other States

Republicans in Kentucky's congressional delegation pressed President Joe Biden on Saturday for a disaster declaration after deadly storms devastated parts of the state. But the same lawmakers previously voted against emergency relief funds for victims of disasters in other states.

In a joint letter, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), Sen. Rand Paul (R), Rep. Andy Barr (R), Rep. James Comer (R), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R), Rep. Thomas Massie (R), Rep. Hal Rogers (R), and Rep. John Yarmuth (D) wrote that while Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear had declared a state emergency on Saturday, "additional assistance is necessary at this time." They cited "significant destruction of property, dangerous road conditions, significant vegetative debris, power outages for thousands of Kentuckians, and severe impacts to transportation and infrastructure" from severe storms that began the night of Dec. 10.

The storms, which impacted Kentucky and neighboring states, included massive tornadoes that left dozens dead and destroyed about 75 percent of the town of Dawson Springs. Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett told CNN, "The devastation is quite frankly something that you would see in a war zone. This is an event where we had commercial and residence properties literally stripped clean from the earth."

The lawmakers backed Beshear's official request for a speedy federal disaster declaration. Biden approved the request on Sunday, making more federal emergency resources available to help the state.

But while these lawmakers were quick to request federal emergency help in this crisis, they have previously voted against funding similar relief for other states.

Newsweek noted Saturday that Paul had voted against relief funds after Superstorm Sandy caused major damage in New York and New Jersey in 2013, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, and after various other disasters strained relief agencies in 2019.

Spokesperson Kelsey Cooper on Sunday scolded Newsweek, "Kentuckians across the commonwealth are suffering and grieving today. This tragedy is uniting everyone around the common goal of helping and healing. Politicizing that suffering would be low for even the deepest partisan, yet here the corporate media is trying to do exactly that. Newsweek should be ashamed of themselves."

Cooper responded to the American Independent Foundation's request for comment with an almost identically worded statement.

Minority Leader McConnell voted against both a 2011 bill to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a 2013 Sandy relief package.

The GOP representatives in the delegation also have voted against relief funds for others in the past.

Barr, Comer, Guthrie, and Massie voted against a September bill to extend government funding and provide emergency assistance funds.

Last year, Barr, Comer, Guthrie, Massie, and Rogers voted no on a bill to fund disaster relief and emergency aid to Puerto Rico.

In 2019, Barr, Comer, and Massie voted against the supplemental funding bill to provide $17.2 billion for disaster relief nationally.

And in 2013, Barr and Massie were no votes on providing additional FEMA funding for Sandy relief.

Their offices did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

Yarmuth, the lone Democratic member of the Kentucky delegation, has consistently voted for relief funding.

All seven Republicans have also opposed legislation like Biden's Build Back Better agenda, which would invest billions in climate change infrastructure to help curb devastation from future extreme weather.

Updated to include response from Sen. Rand Paul's office.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.