Sunday, January 8, 2012

Episode 3: Electile Dysfunction

The guys welcome Ben A. to the podcast as a guest host to discuss the the transition into 2012, the Republican primaries/caucuses, and a trivia quiz about big events from 2011. Featuring the songs "Just Had To Let You Know" (Lorenzo's Music) / CC BY-SA 3.0 and "Roulette" (Lorenzo's Music) / CC BY-SA 3.0

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  1. As one of your two listeners, I thought I should give you some feedback.

    Please, please, please feel free to geek out and go into greater detail about the subjects you discuss. The type of person who stumbles onto a podcast named 'Stuff Smart People Like' and thinks "Ooh, that's for me!" probably appreciates complexity for its own sake. I would love to hear more about how each of your respective academic and professional backgrounds inform your perceptions of the topics covered on the show.

    You guys were half right about what is really cool about the caucus system. People do gather into groups; speak on behalf of candidates and try to convince each other to move their support from one candidate to another but it doesn't stop there. Candidates are essentially allowed to swap votes with each other! A candidate who has less than the required 15% of voters in a given precinct to gain delegates to the state convention has the option to work with another candidate to swap those voters into another precinct.

    The other thing that you guys missed is that voting uncommitted has a specific purpose. It all has to do with selecting delegates for the state convention. There have been gradual changes in both party's primary process since 1968, making state and national conventions much less important today than they were in years past, but it is unfair to characterize voting uncommitted in the way that you did. In 1992, uncommitted finished a distant second to Tom Harkin who was (and still is) Iowa's junior US senator. Harkin was the prohibitive favorite to win in Iowa but there was no clear favorite at that time to win the nomination -- Bill Clinton wouldn't move to the front of the pack until Super Tuesday -- so it made sense for Iowa voters who didn't think Harkin could win the nomination to hedge their bets in the event that brokered convention became necessary that summer. Granted, a brokered convention hasn't happened since 1952 but it very nearly happened to the Republicans in 1976 and to the Democrats in 1968, 1984, 1988 and 2008.

    Primary elections work in a general way to prevent brokered conventions and have also contributed to a national perception of the caucus system as anachronistic but that doesn't mean they aren't worth understanding. In 2008, Texas awarded 126 delegates through its primary and 67 through its caucus system. Clinton received 65 primary delegates to Obama's 61 but she only received 29 caucus delegates to Obama's 38. Ultimately, Obama walked away with 99 total delegates to Clinton's 94 after losing the state primary to her by more than one hundred thousand votes! Considering how close the race was between Clinton and Obama -- she actually won the aggregate popular vote 47.98% to 47.43% -- understanding how Obama was able to win the nomination requires delving into these specifics.

  2. Thanks Sam. Your comments are appreciated. We welcome any and all encouragement to "geek out."

    Unfortunately none of us are well-versed enough in politics to have caught all these points but we are glad you brought them to our attention. We'll likely mention something about this on the next podcast.

    In the meantime, please feel free to check out our other stuff on the main blog, we are working on redirecting this (podcast only) blog to the main site. But for now, this simple link will have to do