Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Karan English Malaise

Blog, rimes with fog, a component smog - pollution or obfuscation?

I think I would like to introduce a new phrase into our political lexicon – “Karan English Malaise” Political slang can be useful shorthand for describing phenomena. Most are familiar with ‘The Bradley Effect” (although most are ignorant of the fact a gun control measure on the California ballot has as much to do with a Deukmejian win as did latent racism). The “Karan English Malaise” (or KEM) would seem to be just as important in understanding political success or failure. KEM is caused when a politician doesn’t pay attention to his or her base – or takes said base for granted.

Some background. Democrats need to have a registration advantage of about 7 points to overcome the tendency of Republicans to get out and vote. Hence a district that is – say 52 Democratic and 38 percent Republican is actually a competitive district – the parties will fight over a district like that (in contrast a 50-50 district is generally solid Republican).

The congressional district that encompasses Flagstaff Arizona has always been competitive. In order for a Democrat to win all the stars need to be aligned correctly and the base of the party has to be motivated and work hard. Karan English, it is widely assumed by local observers, lost her bid for re-election in part because an important part of her base – environmentalists – did not get to work and get out the vote. This is KEM – not taking care of your base (specifically not taking care of the environmental vote in Northern Arizona Congressional elections – but if I put too fine a point on it KEM won’t catch on).

Ann Kirkpatrick voted against the House cap and trade bill. The Republicans are waiting for the chance to take back her district. KEM looks like it might be settling in.


  1. I have to argue this last paragraph. Ann Kirkpatrick's base, I would argue, is not in fact the environmental progressives that we may find in Flagstaff but rather the ranchers and more moderate voters that are in the wider parts of the district (a very oddly configured district you may note). So, in fact, it seems that she is absolutely taking care of her base by keeping her votes moderate but ignoring the environmental "boost" that perhaps got her in Congress in the first place.

    I am not actually disagreeing with your sentiment here but rather think that calling the environmental constituency part of the base is not quite accurate.

    Thanks Zach for your post. Have you shared this with Karan?

  2. It seems to me that Kirkpatrick is in a similar situation as Matheson from Utah. They both have strange districts with a large mix of liberals and conservatives, with moderates and conservatives having the edge.

    I think that her voting record has set her up with a fairly good scenario given her circumstances. If the Republicans put up a decent challenger, which I think they will since they see a good opportunity, Kirkpatrick will have a very difficult time with re-election despite her incumbent advantage.

    She knows that liberals will have little choice but to vote for her despite their objections to her voting record. Where could the liberals possibly turn to? If they vote for a 3rd party candidate, they essentiall guarantee a Republican win, if they chose not to vote at all, they guarantee a Republican win, and even if they vote for her, the possibility of a Republican win is strong. The liberals have few options but to vote for her regardless of her positions because it beats having a Republican who will have little incentive to listen to the concerns of the liberals of the district. I think Kirpatrick has no choice except to court the moderates and conservatives in her district. It seems like her only hope for a win in the next election.