Blogs > HNN > What Kerry Must Do

Jul 27, 2004 11:11 pm

What Kerry Must Do

This piece is co-authored with Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a world-renowned authority on prediction methodology, and a Professor in Residence at UCLA.

Politics as usual will not suffice for John Kerry in his speech to the Democratic Convention. Kerry can hope to shorten the long odds he faces against President Bush only with a bold, imaginative approach to winning the election.

This challenging conclusion for Kerry comes from the Keys to the White House, a prediction system we developed in 1981 by applying the mathematics of pattern recognition to the outcomes of every presidential election since 1860. We subsequently used the Keys to predict correctly, well ahead of time, the popular vote results of presidential elections from 1984 to 2000.

The theory behind the keys is that presidential elections are primarily referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House, as voters respond not to daily spin control but to the consequential events of a presidential term.

The keys are thirteen diagnostic questions, phrased as propositions that favor reelection of the incumbent party. When five or fewer are false, the party in power wins. When six or more are false, the challenging party wins.

President Bush now has four keys turned against him, two short of the fatal six negative keys. The following nine keys currently favor Bush.

*By gaining seats in the U.S. House elections of 2002, Republicans locked in the party
mandate key.

*The lack a nomination contest gives Bush the incumbent party contest key.

*Bush’s nomination locks up the incumbent president key.

*The absence of a third-party challenger with prospects of winning 5 percent of the vote secures the third-party key.

*The recovering economy gains the short-term economy key.

*The absence of sustained, violent upheavals avoids loss of the social unrest key.

*The president’s response to the September 11 attack including the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan and the capture of Saddam Hussein secures the foreign/military success key.

*The lack of a major scandal implicating the president averts loss of the scandal key.

*Kerry is no John F. Kennedy, keeping Republicans from losing the challenger charisma key.

The following four keys fall against Bush.

*The weak economy during the full Bush term forfeits the long-term economy key.

*The administration’s relatively modest domestic accomplishments topple the policy-change key.

*The most devastating foreign attack on the United States in history costs Bush the foreign/military failure key.

*Bush lacks the charisma of a Ronald Reagan, losing the incumbent charisma key.

Keys could change before November. The economy could tumble into a double-dip recession, one of several potential scandals could afflict the president, and events in Iraq and Afghanistan could negate his successes abroad. Kerry could lose the popular vote and win the Electoral College tally, which Bush accomplished in 2000 for the first time since 1888.

Although Kerry cannot depend on such unlikely turns of fortune, he can help himself by trying to scramble the historical odds.

Nothing changes from one election to the next in America, because the media, the candidates, the pollsters, and the consultants are codependent in the false idea that elections are exercises in manipulating voters, and in giving us negative campaigns, bland and scripted lines. Kerry has a chance to break this cycle by firing the hucksters, tearing up their scripts, and speaking forthrightly and concretely about what Americans should be accomplishing during the next four years.

Kerry, who loves policy challenges, should lead a debate on critical neglected issues. He could, for example, respond to the worldwide scientific consensus on the perils of global warming by exploring how we can shift away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy. He could even explain how fossil fuel dependence warps our foreign policies and our war against terrorism. Imagine such a discussion in a presidential campaign.

Why not break precedent and set up a shadow government, with a suggested CIA Director and Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and Interior. Tell us how this shadow administration would government differently from the Bush administration. Submit an alternative budget and drafts of international agreements and major legislation; let the shadow officials campaign for the Kerry and his policies.

Kerry has a choice between following the usual meaningless routine in the hope that setbacks to the administration and the country will elect him in November or take a chance on running a new kind of daring, innovative, and programmatic campaign. With the right choice, Kerry can achieve an historical breakthrough that would establish the basis for a principled choice of our national leader and a grassroots mobilization on issues that matter to America’s future.

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More Comments:

David a. Cousins - 8/24/2004

It would seem that Bush secured the Policy Change Key with Homeland security. The entire federal government was overhauled effetcing state and local ones too. Airport security, terror threat levels, color codes, the patriot act, etc. Reminescent of Linclon (civil war), Wilson (WW I) FDR (WW II) gaining the key in response to an external threat. On the eve of the 2000 election no one would know what Homeland security was. On the eve of 2004, every American does. That could be a "Sweeping" policy change.

David a. Cousins - 8/18/2004

Well I do want anothe rfour years of Bush. Maybe Bush should have a debate with Nader and an empty chair representing the empty-suited Kerry.

travis h snyder - 8/17/2004

I meant read not reread, I haven't read them yet. :)

travis h snyder - 8/17/2004

Dr. Lichtman,

I appreciate your response. You must understand my frustration. I have been studying this for some time and the rhetoric from both sides is so strong that it is simply impossible to get to the bottom of things and this is just another example of this.
I was unable to find your email adress, but I was able to contact Dr. Lott via email and he wrote a response similar to yours with the exact opposite conclusions. So what am I to believe?
I will reread the articles you are suggesting in the legal review and then repost here my thoughts on it. Thanks again for your time, Travis

Keith Halderman - 7/29/2004

The reason the third party key goes against Kerry is because no one knows who Michael Badnarik the Libertarian is. There are many disgruntled conservatives who would love to vote for someone besides Bush but they will not vote for a liberal from Massachusetts. Kerry should have the debate you suggest but with Badnarik and an empty chair. Badnarik is conservative and he is on the ballot in all fifty states. Kerry's only chance is to make Badnarik famous, which he can do if he chooses to. Deep in your heart Dr. Lichtman you know I am right about this. I do not want another four years of Bush.

Allan Lichtman - 7/29/2004

This is, of course, entirely untrue. If you looked carefully at the dissenting report you will find a stastistical analysis they sponsored by John Lott (a.k.a. Mary Rosh) which used far more data than I had available at the time. All data I used was from published sources listed in the report the great bulk of my data was actually published with the report and accesible to everyone. This matter is a smokescreen created by the dissenters to disguise the fact that they
cannot refute my finding that African-Americans in Florida had their ballots rejected as invalid at vastly higher rates than whites. If the rejection rate had been
equal more than 50,000 additional African-Americans would have voted in the election. For additional documentation you can consult my article in the Jan. 2003 Journal of Legal Studies. These findings are now the overwhelming consensus among scholars and journalists who have examined the issue.

Here is what Professor Philip A. Klinker of Hamilton College concluded after studying all the evidence:

"The facts of what happened regarding racial disparities in spoiled ballots in the Florida 2002 presidential election were first established by Allan Lichtman for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in the spring of 2001. Since then, additional analyses, including that done by myself, including those with more detailed, precinct-level data have only reinforced Lichtman's earlier findings. The only exception to these results are the analyses conducted by John Lott, first for the dissenting commissioners for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and then in the Journal of Legal Studies. Nonetheless, Lott;s findings beggar belief and have been throughly refuted by Lichtman in his accompanying Journal of Legal Studies article. Thus,on the matter of rejected ballots in Florida in 200, the case is closed and no amount of statistical legerdemain can reopen it."


travis h snyder - 7/29/2004

hello professor Lichtman,

I was doing a bit of research on the Florida election and I noticed that the dissenting commission report claimed:

We asked for a copy of the machine-readable data that Professor Lichtman used to run his correlations and regressions. That is, we wanted his computer runs, the data that went into them, and the regression output that was produced. The Commission told us that it did not exist—that the data as he organized it for purposes of analysis was literally unavailable. Professor Lichtman, who knows that as a matter of scholarly convention such data should be shared, also declined to provide it.

I was wondering if you could clarify if this is correct, and if it is correct what the normal procedures for this are? Thanks! Travis