Watching the objection to the Ohio Count:

1:20 Whatever the Times said, Dick Cheney sure doesn’t look happy about this.

1:30 Rep. Tubbs Jones (D-OH): “If they are willing to stand for countless hours in the rain, as many did in Ohio, then I should be willing to stand for them in the halls of Congress.”

1:35 Rep. Pryce (R-OH): Just be nice and take it like John Kerry. The election is like so 2004.

1:38 Rep. Pryce (R-OH) and Sen. DeWine (R-OH) simultaneously: Lots of newspapers agree with us. Why don’t you?

1:42 Rep. Conyers (D-MI): “Not a single election official in Ohio has given us an explanation for the massive and widespread irregularities across the state.”

1:45 Rep. Sanders (I-VT): “What today is about is to demand that the federal government begin to move forward to ensure that every voter is country can be confident that every vote is counted accurately and every voter is treated fairly.”

1:46 Rep. Blunt (R-MO): People who were elected shouldn’t attack elections. And if you attack the election process, you don’t support the electoral troops.

1:49 Sen. Durbin (D-IL): “We can and should do better…I will take [Jackson’s amendment] seriously.”

1:51 Rep. Watt (D-NC): “The eyes of the world will be watching how we handle this – we’ll not treat it as frivolous when people are denied the right to vote…If we pretend that this is frivolous, then we are not moving forward.”

1:55 Sen. Stabenow (D-MI): “In Ohio, the provisional ballot was rendered virtually worthless when Ohio’s Secretary of State ruled that the ballot was legitimate only when the ballot was cast in the precinct.”

1:57 Rep. Ney (R-OH): Your standards are too high. Anyway, Republicans get disenfranchised sometimes too.

2:00 Sen. Wyden (D-OR): Ohio has a lot to learn from Oregon. Why is the GOP more concerned about allegations that one dog got to vote than that hundreds of thousands couldn’t?

2:03 Rep. Pelosi (D-CA): “This is their only opportunity to have this debate while the country is listening, and it is appropriate for them to do so…This is not just about what happens in counting votes, but in all three phases: before, during, and after the election…lines of up to ten hours in some areas. You can deny it all you want, but it is a matter of public record that it happened, and that it is wrong.”

2:10 Rep. Reynolds (R-NY): Come on, we already passed a law about this. You guys are like a Japanese soldier who can’t surrender.

2:13 Sen. Clinton (D-NY): Can’t we at least get a hearing? Why do we get better paper trails on lottery tickets?

2:16 Sen. Reid (D-NV): “While the literacy tests and poll taxes of the past are gone, more insidious practices continue to taint our electoral system.”

2:22 Sen. Harkin (D-IA): “Standing in line hours to vote is like throwing acid in the face of democracy…There was an average of 4.9 machines in Bush districts, while there was an average of 3.9 machines in Kerry districts…What we saw was a concerted effort to suppress the right of Americans to cast a vote.”

2:25 Rep. Hayworth (R-AZ): Doesn’t Kerry’s concession speech sound better when you read it with em-pha-sis on every sin-gle sy-lla-ble?

2:27 Rep. Kucinich (D-OH): “They encouraged the use of provisional ballots to make it more difficult for minority voters to vote.”

2:30 Sen. Obama (D-IL): “This is something that we can fix…What we’ve lacked is the political will.”

2:34 Sen. Dodd (D-CT): “The real test will come in the next few days when we have the chance to introduce legislation on this.”

2:36 Sen. Voinovich (R-OH): We know how to count in Ohio. “I am proud of how the election went in Ohio.”

2: 39 Rep. Cummings (D-MD): “What we are addressing is the fundamental right to vote.”

2:40 Rep. McKinney (D-GA): “It is not only our right but our responsibility to demand full democracy at home…This is not about a recount. This is about a blackout.”

2:43 Rep. Dreier (R-CA): Democratic criticism of the functioning of the democratic process in the United States encourages terrorists. Why would anyone want to become a democracy when they see that there can be disputes?

2:47 Rep. Drake (R-VA): Either the President is an idiot, or he’s an evil genius. But not both.

2:50 Rep. Jackson (D-IL): “At present, voting in the United States is a state right, not a citizen’s right…All separate, all unequal…Our voting system is built on the sand of states’ rights…We need to build our democracy on the fundamental individual guarantee in the constitution of the right to vote.”

2:53 Rep. Lewis (D-GA): “Our electoral system is broken, and it must be fixed once for all…How can get over it when people died for the right to vote?”

2:54 Rep. Jindal (R-LA): I am really excited about getting elected, and you guys are ruining it. Next thing you know the Palestinians will sue when they lose elections.

2:57 Rep. Tiberi (R-OH): You’re hurting the feelings of election workers by criticizing things that happened during the election.

3:00 Rep. Woolsey (D-CA): “If we don’t [change], why would any American bother to vote?”

3:02 Rep. Owns (D-NY): “Our mission for democracy in Iraq would be totally shattered if we insisted that that country be split in thirty or fifty divisions, each with its own rules, each with its own standards.”

3:05 Rep. Kingston (R-GA): Dead people voting is a bigger problem than systematic disenfranchisement. If these Democrats loved America as much as my blind father, they wouldn’t mind waiting in lines.

3:07 Rep. Keller (R-FL): Michael Moore has used voodoo on Barbara Boxer.

3:13 Rep. Waters (D-CA): “There is no justification for denying the vote of someone voting in the right county but the wrong precinct. The voter’s intent is clear.”

3:16 Rep. Boehner (R-OH): You’ve disrupted my healing process. “If we really want to have a debate about how elections are run, that debate ought to happen in each of the fifty state legislatures.”

3:25 Rep. Portman (R-OH): If there was a conspiracy to disenfranchise people, I would have known about it.

3:31 Delegate Holmes Norton (D-DC): “If we are the democracy we say we are, we must show it today.”

3:41 Rep. DeLay (R-TX): The Democrats are blowing a great chance to declare support for all of Bush’s plans for the country. Me, I love the New Deal and Civil Rights. I would love to see more like that from them.

Speaking of Ehrenreich, Jay at HipHopMusic.Com is pondering the reaction among the center-left blogging establishment to this column, in which she skewers Nader’s 2004 candidacy and repents for voting for his last one. As Jay says:

Most of the A-List lefty bloggers are not really all that far to the left, at least compared to the wild-eyed hippies I hang out with at WBAI. And I don’t have any problem with that, we need a variety of voices out there.. but it’s disappointing to see how smugly contemptuous some of these guys can be towards folks who are a little further left than themselves. Ehrenreich’s crime, evidently, was to voice her support for Ralph Nader in 2000, which so offended these guys that four years later they still disparage her mental health and (quoting Lenin) diagnose her with an “infantile disorder.” And now that Ehrenreich is joining them in rejecting Nader’s 2004 campaign, they can’t let go of their grudge, and just keep on with the sniping and condescension even when she’s on their side…sometimes you can cling to a grudge so tightly it stops the flow of blood to your brain. And if you want those who supported Nader in the past to feel welcome joining you this time, you should probably stop treating them like you think they are idiots.

That last sentence can’t be repeatedly enough. It’s something many of us have said in many fora, but it seems strangely inscrutable to a crowd all too eager (as they should be) to welcome the conversions on the way to Damascus of those who literally, willfully voted for Bush the last time but seemingly congenitally unable to organize or organize with those who cast a vote in 2000 which they see as equivalent to a Bush vote. Had this crowd – or the larger Democratic establishment – channelled a fraction of its anger against those who cast Nader votes against those who systematically expunged Gore votes, things might be very different right now.

As Jay says, one of the more perverse manifestations of this selective Nader-induced blindness has to be the refusal to understand the irony in the following Ehrenreich paragraph:

So, Ralph, sit down. Pour yourself a Diet Pepsi and rejoice in the fact that — post-Enron and post-Iraq war — millions have absorbed your message. You’re entitled to a little time out now, a few weeks on the beach catching up on back issues of The Congressional Record. Meanwhile, I’ve thrown my mighty weight behind Dennis Kucinich, who, unnoticed by the media, is still soldiering along on the campaign trail. In the event that he fails to get the Democratic nomination, I’ll have to consider my options.

Get it? In other words, I too harbor hopes for progressive national leadership of a kind we’re unlikely to see in a Kerry administration, and I continue pushing challenges to the conventional wisdom of the two-party system. But I also recognize political reality as it is now, and however reluctantly, I’m ready to make the sacrifices necessary to see Bush out of office.

Only when she says it, it’s a hell of a lot more clever. To read her paragraph and claim that it shows she hasn’t learned her lesson and isn’t ready to support Kerry is just absurd. For those who did, and who think that I’ve somehow misinterpreted it in the preceding paragraph, let me just say that I know what she means not only because the article makes it abundantly clear but also because she told me so personally six months ago when she came down to New Haven to participate in our women’s arrest. Quoth Ehrenreich: “I’m throwing whatever weight I have behind Kucinich for now, and when the time comes, I’ll throw it behind Dean or whoever the guy turns out to be.” And by the way, when she mentioned having weight to cast, in person as in writing, she clearly meant to be fecicious.

Perhaps the most interest feature of the Times’ write-up of today’s debate is the short shrift given to half the candidates, who in the earlier draft were mentioned only as “other candidates” until the last paragraph which noted that Kucinich “has no chance” and that Sharpton “complained” about being ignored. The longer version up now is slightly, although not significantly better on this count. Kucinich and Sharpton at least made it into the photo – given that Sharpton was sitting right between Kerry and Edwards, it would have been hard to find any other way to take it.

The Times’ write-up of tonight’s debate suggests that Kerry and Edwards, both of whom oppose both gay marriage and a constitutional ammendment to ban it, chose to stake out less than bold stances on the issue:

“What’s happening here is this president is talking about, first, amending the United States Constitution for a problem that does not exist,” Mr. Edwards said. “The law today does not require one state to recognize the marriage of another state.”

Mr. Kerry, of Massachusetts, attacked Mr. Bush for raising the issue in the first place.

“He’s trying to polarize the nation,” Mr. Kerry said. “He’s trying to divide America. You know, this is a president who always tries to create a cultural war and seek the lowest common denominator of American politics, because he can’t come to America and talk about jobs.”

Needless to say, being told that your rights needn’t be excised from the constitution because they don’t yet pose much of a threat of being realized anyway is, one suspects, less than comforting to millions of gay couples in this country. And while there is of course truth in the oft-repeated argument that the Republicans exploit social issues to distract people from their economic interests, you don’t win people over to your side by telling them that your stance on the issue isn’t something they should be concerned about. Kerry deserves credit for voting against the Defense of Marriage Act, and it was good to see Edwards try to position himself to Kerry’s left on the issue by offering greater certainty that he would vote against it today, but there remains a serious lack of moral leadership on this issue.

Kerry was right on target, on the other hand, on the death penalty, saying pretty much exactly (with the exception of his support for executing convicted terrorists) what every Democratic candidate should when asked why he wouldn’t want to see perpetrators of heinous murderers killed:

“My instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands,” he said. “I understand the instincts, I really do.” He added: “I prosecuted people. I know what the feeling of the families is and everybody else.

“But we have 111 people who have been now released from death row ? death row, let alone the rest of the prison system ? because of DNA evidence that showed they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted.”

Edwards, unfortunately, took this one as a chance to move to Kerry’s right.

Then there’s this troubling continuation of Kerry’s muddled record on trade:

On trade, Mr. Kerry was asked to square his support for inexpensive clothes and goods from overseas for consumers with his support for labor unions seeking better wages and job protections.

“Some jobs we can’t compete with,” he said. “I understand that. But most jobs we can.” Mr. Edwards seized the issue, as he sought to draw a sharp a contrast by noting different votes the two men have cast on trade pacts over the years.

Kerry did get something else right though:

Mr. Kerry was then asked to name a quality of Mr. Edwards’s that he wished he had himself, but appeared not to entirely grasp the question. “I think he’s a great communicator,” Mr. Kerry said. “He’s a charming guy.”

Looking at the transcipt, Sharpton effectively called Edwards on his support for the PATRIOT ACT:

I don’t see how anyone that supports civil rights could support the Patriot Act. You talk about a difference of direction, Senator Edwards, the Patriot Act…The Patriot Act that you supported is J. Edgar Hoover’s dream. It’s John Ashcroft’s dream. We have police misconduct problems in California, Ohio, Georgia, New York, right now…And your legislation helps police get more power. So I think that we’ve got to really be honest if we’re talking about change. Change how, and for who? That’s why I am in this race.

And he provided the needed historical perspective on gay marriage:

I think is not an issue any more of just marriage. This is an issue of human rights. And I think it is dangerous to give states the right to deal with human rights questions.

And Kucinich (who, incidentally, captured 30% of the vote for second place in Hawaii) tried, with limited success, to focus the debate on the policy differences between the four candidates rather than the personal differences between two of them:

I think the American people tonight will be well- served if we can describe, for example, why we all aren’t for a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system. I think the American people will be well-served if we can describe why, for example, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are not for canceling NAFTA and the WTO, as I would do, because that is how you save the manufacturing jobs. And I think they’d be well-served if they would be able to see the connection, as I will just explain, between the cost of the war in Iraq and cuts in health care, education, job creation, veterans’ benefits, housing programs. See, this debate ought to be about substantive differences which we do have.

And I have the greatest respect for Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, but we have substantive differences along these lines that I think it would help to explicate here tonight.

He hit this one just right:

Well, I’m glad to point out something that all those people who don’t have health insurance and all those people who have seen their premiums go up 50 percent in the last three years already understand. And that is that Washington right now is controlled by the insurance interests and by the pharmaceutical companies. And our party, our Democratic Party four years ago, John and John, I went to our Democratic platform committee with a proposal for universal single-payer health care. And it was quickly shot down because it offended some of the contributors to our party.

I just want to state something: We must be ready to take up this challenge of bringing health care to all the American people. And that’s what I’m asking everyone here to make a commitment to. Single payer…

John Nichols, in a welcome contrast to the mainstream media, takes a moment to try to unpack the meaning of Kucinich and Sharpton’s better-than-expected showings – including, as I mentioned earlier, Kucinich beating Clark and Edwards in three states – and begins by actually talking to a few of their supporters:

Kucinich backers in Maine were not, for the most part, being romantic. In interviews with the local media on caucus day, they indicated that they knew the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair was unlikely to win the nomination. But they also indicated that they wanted to send a message by backing the candidate who had staked out the most clearly antiwar, anti-Patriot Act, and anti-free trade stances in this year’s race. “Hopefully, he can have some influence on the final platform. (A strong performance) can add some credential to his positions,” explained Dennis Rioux, who caucused for Kucinich in Biddeford, Maine. Rioux, who was enthusiastic about Kucinich’s anti-war position and the candidate’s support for single-payer health care, said he hoped Kucinich would have enough delegates to raise those issues at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Sharpton backers were sending a similar message in Michigan. Sharpton, who campaigned aggressively in Detroit, actually ran second in the city. Only Kerry did better than Sharpton, who won 30 percent of the vote in one Detroit-based Congressional district, and 35 percent in the other. “(Candidates need to) pay attention to the urban agenda,” Sharpton backer Dorothy Redmond, of Detroit, told the Michigan Daily. “Although Sharpton won’t make it, I want to show blacks do vote and have issues.” Those sentiments won Sharpton seven delegates from Michigan, more than any of the candidates except Kerry and Dean.

That liberal media, at it again:

Representative Dennis Kucinich has every right to keep campaigning despite his minuscule vote tallies, but he should not be allowed to take up time in future candidate debates. Neither should the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is running to continue running, not to win

Kucinich and Sharpton were, of course, perhaps the two most interesting candidates in those debates. And their presence raises the burning issues muffled by the consensus of the Democratic establishment. Lieberman’s presence, for that matter, should force the four NYT-approved candidates to argue for a vision of the Democratic party as meaningfully to the left of the Republicans – practice that could only help them.

Dean did an effective job making the case against the PATRIOT Act but framed in terms of stopping future assaults on civil liberties rather than calling to undo the recent ones. Why isn’t anyone calling Edwards on his role in drafting it?

Glad to see the way the rhetoric within the Democratic party has shifted over the past few years. Part of that, no doubt, is being out of power; part of that is the success of the “anti-globalization” movement in putting the issue, so to speak, on the map. For Dean to say that we’ve given global rights to corporations but not to workers is right on; to describe that as having done half the job but forgotten the other half smacks of a disingenuous attempt to reconcile his stance with his record.

Kucinich laid out the case for single-payer health insurance clearly and sharply (and effectively dismissed the idea that the Clintons had pursued such a plan), and Sharpton made the compelling moral argument for such a system. What’s most interesting to me about the other candidates’ alternatives is that none of them mounted an argument (true, they’re generally not very good ones) against such a system any stronger than Clark’s “Let’s fix the one we have.”

My predictions for tomorrow:

Kerry comes in first, simply because Dean hasn’t had enough time to catch up after recovering from whatever combination of his combative stance in Iowa/ his overly-apologetic response to his combative stance in Iowa/ his insufficiently apologetic response to his combative stance in Iowa/ media harping on an imagined combative stance in Iowa/ some combination of the above one may choose to blame for the beating he took in the polls in the past week. Dean comes in second and he and Kerry both pitch themselves as comeback kids; Kerry as usual finds the media more credulous than Dean. Dean comes in closer to Kerry than to the Edwards, who comes in third behind him, lacking the committed and organized constituencies Kerry and Dean have mobilized. Clark does not much, if any, better than he’s been expected to the past few days, and likely even worse – in any case drastically worse than he was expected to a few weeks ago before Kerry stole his part as the anointed “Anti-Dean” and his campaign fumbled and failed to advance a coherent vision or take advantage of what could have been a real head start to build a machine in New Hampshire. If Clark does particularly badly, he strikes me as more likely than any of the other candidates to drop out shortly after, thus ending further embarassment and leaving his Presidential run as a whimsical coda on what many see as an accomplished career as a military public servant. Lieberman does worse than Clark, claims that he exceeded expectations, and argues that Kerry and Dean are both soft on defense and that only he represents a real choice between extremists. Kucinich does much better than Sharpton.

One of the more interesting moments I caught in the Iowa Debate was the Kucinich-Dean exchange on single-payer universal healthcare. Dean, to his credit, was up front in stating that voters whose primary issue was single-payer should vote for Kucinich, and then touted the virtues of his plan which, Kucinich rightly argued, would maintain the strangehold of the insurance industry on the practice and policy of healthcare. What perhaps was most surprising about Dean’s defense of his plan, however, was its central argument that it was simply the best the Democrats could get away with – that his plan “was written to pass Congress.” Dean cited the failures of the Carter and Clinton healthcare plans to buttress his claim.

I think Michael Tomasky, in Left for Dead, offers a more convincing reading of the Clinton healthcare failure:

…the A.M.A. and the insurance lobbies fought the Clinton proposal with the same intensity they’d have have brought to a fight against single-payer. A political calculation to trim the sails is useful and defensible if, without sacrificing too much in the way of principle, it gets you more votes. The Clinton calculation did not do that. And in this instance, given the number of co-sponsors single-payeralready had in the House of Representatives and the appeal of the plan’s salient features, it may actually have been the case that a single-payer system could have been sold to the public. The seller, though, had to be willing to confront one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies – something the Clintons weren’t up to; but this, too, is something people clearly say they want their leaders to do more of.

Among the people calling on their leaders to do more of that? Howard Dean. Kucinich was right to ask him who, if not the President of the United States, would be in a position to stand up to the insurance industry. Dean, unfortunately for those of us drawn by the strength of his organizing and the clarity of his alternative vision, was left looking not for the first time like what he’s referred to rightly as “the Republican wing of the Democratic party.”

This NY Times piece – “Mr. Inside Embraces Mr. Outside, and What a Surprise” is one of many analyses that will no doubt proliferate over the next few days trying to explain Gore’s endorsement.

I think Purdum is on the right track in noting Gore’s drastic shift to the left since the 2000 election, as well as his series of strident condemnations of Bush policy over the past months. These have been, by turns, gratifying and maddening, I think it’s safe to say, to those of us who were exasperated with Gore for leaving so little ideological distinction between himself and Bush during the actual campaign. Gore’s piece in the Times after the Enron scandal tying corporate malfeseance to Bush’s corporate politics made the right case – but it’s a case that, contrary to what that piece also said – Gore never made on the campaign trail. Those conservatives who think (occasionally rightly) that they can convince American voters that the main fault line in their politics is between civil and uncivil politicians have tried to use Gore’s move to the left as evidence that he’s bitter and angry at his personal loss. I think it’s much more that Gore, like Clinton and other New Democrats, recognize the appeal of Old Democrat values and so fall back on them once out of office both to bring nobility to their legacy and to convince themselves that they at least lost because they stood for something and not because they didn’t. Dean’s aggressive condemnations of the failings of this administration fit the message that Gore has claimed for himself since 2000. So it’s shouldn’t be surprising to see him endorsing someone who’s ready to carry that message forward – and to see him endorsing the candidate who’s running the kind of campaign now that many wanted him to run four years ago.

What Purdum’s analysis for the Times fails to mention, however, is what may really be the most compelling reason for Gore to endorse Dean now: he’s winning. Gore, in the same way as, say SEIU, gains power from picking late enough to choose the one who’ll win and early enough to be as formative in that victory as possible. Gore specifically, however, has the chance by endorsing Dean to merge their narratives – one populist fighter has the election narrowly stolen but four years later another arises to take it back – and drown out the alternative – the New Democrat establishment fouls up an election and it’s left to a populist outsider to ride in four years later to fix it.

Purdum asks whether this will hurt Gore’s credibility, and I think the answer is no more than Gore’s already hurt his credibility by governing and campaigning from the center and then moving to the left since. More importantly, he asks whether this will hurt Dean’s candidacy, and I don’t think it will measurably. Dean has successfully enough framed himself as an outside-the-beltway candidate, and campaigned that way long enough, that I think this will come off more as the beltway coming around to the Governor of Vermont than the other way around. More fundamentally, I think candidates can be effectively criticized, in extreme cases, for not repudiating deeply objectionable folks who endorse them, but that otherwise criticizing them for who endorses them is difficult to pull off. I think that Al Gore’s endorsement will give Dean’s critics on the left about as much ammunition as Jesse Jackson Jr.’s, Ted Rall’s, Molly Ivins’, William Greider’s, et al gave his critics on the right: not a whole lot, in the long term. Speaking as one of those critics on the left, that Dean got Gore’s endorsement says to me just that he’s an effective organizer. Gore endorsing Dean may give some added momentum and visibility to Sharpton and Kucinich’s campaigns, which could only be good for the Democratic party, but I don’t see any of the other candidates positioned at this point to use it to frame themselves as the independent choice.

What this endorsement does, as I see it, is move a slew of voters to consider Dean – or to consider him seriously – who hadn’t before, and deflate much of the criticism from DLCers and others of Dean as unelectable or out of the mainstream. Much as Jackson’s hashkachah (certification, roughly translated) marks Dean kosher for some to his left, Gore’s will mark him kosher for some to his right. And it may mean that the Democratic establishment is learning not only the lesson of 2002 – what happens when you offer no viable alternative – but also the lesson of 1972 – what happens when the party leadership abandons the party’s candidate.