Russia between democracy and Putin

As a chess player, I read with extra interest the article “What is Garry Kasparov’s Next Move? The great chess champion brings his knowledge to the games of Sochi, global politics and computer intelligence” by Ron Rosenbaum, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2014.

Kasparov, as you may recall, was world chess champion from 1985 to 2000, became active in Russian politics, and ran (till he was eliminated on a technicality) against Vladimir Putin in 2007.

The Smithsonian article summarize–probably reflecting Kasparov’s view–the transition from communism to democracy to oligarchy as follows:

After a coterie of Harvard-based economic advisers helped engineer the privatizing of Russian state assets in the 1990s to the profit of corrupt oligarchs, the consequent immiseration of the Russian people led to Putin’s rise to power. And that led to Putin’s ongoing attempt to recoup what had been lost—seeking to recapture the states that had separated themselves from the Soviet empire, and to crush democracy within Russia.

The dates are easy to remember: after the Soviet Union collapsed, Boris Yeltsin became the Russian leader in 1990 and Putin in 2000.

Yeltsin’s guiding principle was to turn a communist country into a capitalist one as fast as possible. As is usually the case with sudden social change imposed from above and outside (that’s for Yeltsin’s Western advisers), disaster ensued. As described in the Wikipedia article on Boris Yeltsin:

In early 1992, prices skyrocketed throughout Russia, and a deep credit crunch shut down many industries and brought about a protracted depression. The reforms devastated the living standards of much of the population, especially the groups dependent on Soviet-era state subsidies and welfare entitlement programs. Through the 1990s, Russia’s GDP fell by 50 percent, vast sectors of the economy were wiped out, inequality and unemployment grew dramatically, while incomes fell. Hyperinflation, caused by the Central Bank of Russia’s loose monetary policy, wiped out a lot of personal savings, and tens of millions of Russians were plunged into poverty.

Might there be some lessons there for the rest of us, concerning “austerity,” the abolition of social programs, and the privatization of public resources (think: gas drilling in public parks, charterization and voucherization of public schools, and outsourcing of government functions–as in the Obamacare websites)?

What happened in Russia? See Wikipedia, “Privatization in Russia.” In summary, from the “Privatization and the rise of ‘the oligarchs’” section of the Wikipedia article on Boris Yeltsin:

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin promoted privatization as a way of spreading ownership of shares in former state enterprises as widely as possible to create political support for his economic reforms. In the West, privatization was viewed as the key to the transition from Communism in Eastern Europe, ensuring a quick dismantling of the Soviet-era command economy to make way for ‘free market reforms.’ In the early 1990s, Anatoly Chubais, Yeltsin’s deputy for economic policy, emerged as a leading advocate of privatization in Russia.

In late 1992, Yeltsin launched a program of free vouchers as a way to give mass privatization a jump-start. Under the program, all Russian citizens were issued vouchers, each with a nominal value of around 10,000 rubles, for purchase of shares of select state enterprises. Although each citizen initially received a voucher of equal face value, within months most of them converged in the hands of intermediaries who were ready to buy them for cash right away.

In 1995, as Yeltsin struggled to finance Russia’s growing foreign debt and gain support from the Russian business elite for his bid in the early-1996 presidential elections, the Russian president prepared for a new wave of privatization offering stock shares in some of Russia’s most valuable state enterprises in exchange for bank loans. The program was promoted as a way of simultaneously speeding up privatization and ensuring the government a much-needed infusion of cash for its operating needs.

However, the deals were effectively giveaways of valuable state assets to a small group of tycoons in finance, industry, energy, telecommunications, and the media who came to be known as “oligarchs” in the mid-1990s. This was due to the fact that ordinary people sold their vouchers for cash. The vouchers were bought out by a small group of investors. By mid-1996, substantial ownership shares over major firms were acquired at very low prices by a handful of people.

In the absence of strong supervision and controls, that’s the tendency of capitalism: concentration of resources. We’ve seen it before in this country in the late-19th-century Robber Barons, and we’re seeing it again in their early-21st-century descendants.

And the next step? No, it doesn’t seem to be, despite Karl Marx, increasing class consciousness, international solidarity, the revolution of the people, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and an eventual workers’ utopia.

Let Putin and the Russian oligarchs be a warning to us! When whole groups of people are left out, social unrest ensues. See “Yeltsin’s economic legacy” by Alexander Koliandre, BBC News, Moscow, 24 April 2007:

Those who were unable to adapt quickly suffered. In particular, those employed by the state – including teachers, doctors, professors and policemen – learned to hate the “new Russians” who were flocking to the newly-opened restaurants, night clubs and casinos.

And how about that “coterie of Harvard-based economic advisers” whose advice brought about the collapse of the Russian economy and the consequent rise of Putin? You guessed it, that would be the work of Lawrence Summers, when he worked at the US Treasury Department (he didn’t become Secretary of the Treasury until 1999). Per Wikipedia:

Summers set up a project through which the Harvard Institute for International Development provided advice to the Russian government between 1992 and 1997. Later there was a scandal when it emerged that some of the Harvard project members had invested in Russia, and were therefore not impartial advisors. Summers encouraged then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin to use the same “three-’ations’” of policy he advocated in the Clinton Administration– “privatization, stabilization, and liberalization.”

Well, at least we can be thankful that Summers did not get another chance to implement his philosophy in our country, since he had to give up his bid to become Federal Reserve chairman in 2013.

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Age of Reason over, Bush proclaimed

Six years ago, I wrote the following little political satire. I have often thought back to it and decided to repost it in support of Sue Tiernan’s comment on “Global climate disruption: the latest.” If Al Gore had not been so reasonable (as later reflected in his book The Assault on Reason), he might have won enough votes in 2000 to be out of the Supreme Court’s sights. I have to say, nothing in today’s national discourse leads me to believe I was being pessimistic as regards the overall direction of our culture. Still, we do need to keep honoring and supporting the public figures who speak up for science and the exercise of reason to solve contemporary problems. As Winston Churchill said: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.”

Washington, December 22, 2007 — In his first known foray into intellectual history, President George W. Bush today issued a proclamation that the Age of Reason ended in late 2000.

“Laura has told me about this former politician’s book called The Assault on Reason,” the President said. “I completely agree with any assault. Who needs reason any more when we have TV, marketing, polling, prayer, focus groups, and Vice President Cheney?”

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, drawing on her experience as a former professor of political science at Stanford University, endorsed the President’s decree, saying: “Five hundred years for the Roman Empire, 1,000 for the Middle Ages, then 500 for the Age of Reason, that’s enough.”

“The year 2000 was a symbolic year in American and human history; now we’re in the Age of Post-Reason, or PR for short,” Rice continued. I’d expect this new age to last until about the year 2500, unless as our good friends in the fundamentalist movement say, Armageddon intervenes.”

“Absolutely right!” exclaimed former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, reached at his secret retreat in Texas. “Reason is quaint and old-fashioned. One of those early presidents — someone whose last name begins with J, I think — had it totally backwards when he said: ‘Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.’ Now there’s a guy who obviously never heard of public relations and press releases.”

Bush ally and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, reached at his secret office somewhere between Cairo and Kabul, also applauded the President’s announcement, saying: “I’m sure this news will be well received here in the Middle East. The Bush Post-Reason Doctrine will help bring all those warring parties together in a common world view.”

In a related story, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 295 points on news that the Universal Astrology Association has predicted a good year for stocks in 2008 based on a favorable conjunction of Venus and Mars.

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Global climate disruption: the latest

On February 27, I attended an interesting discussion memorably entitled “What a Winter! Forum on Climate Change Policy to Protect and Preserve PA” at West Chester University, sponsored by the West Chester University Sustainability Advisory Council, Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reductions (BLUER), and Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP). With an audience of about 100, speakers were:

Ashlie Delshad, Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Chester University, Energy and Environmental Policy Expert, Sustainability Advisory Council and Climate Action Plan Committee Member

John Hanger, former secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection. Served on the Public Utilities Commission and was instrumental in securing electricity provider choice as we know it today in PA

David Mazzocco, Chair, Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reductions (BLUER), West Chester Borough

Paul Morgan, Professor of Secondary and Professional Education, West Chester University, Sustainability Coordinator, Climate Action Plan Committee Chair

John Quigley, former Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (2009-11), and since then consultant to nongovernmental organizations, state governments, and foundations on conservation and sustainability

Moderator: Mark W. Davis, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, West Chester University, Environmental Policy Expert, Sustainability Advisory Council

The discussion oscillated between examples of good works and gloom at the continuing piling-on of CO2 and methane into our one and only atmosphere.

Among other tidbits, I learned or was reminded that:

Less than half (44%) of Americans believe that human activity contributes to human activity (Delshad).

Scientists need to talk like the public if they are to education the rest of us (Delshad).

Big houses, big cars and big money (i.e., overconsumption) are our problem (Morgan).

West Chester’s 11% drop in global warming gases, however laudable, is a one-time drop due to conversion to natural gas (Mazzocco).

“Global climate disruption” is an effective term that incorporates more than just the warming side of what is happening to our climate (Quigley).

The Obama administration has done more for climate and energy than all earlier administrations (Quigley).

Our own state, all by itself, releases 1% of the planet’s global warming gases and unfortunately the climate change policy developed under the Rendell administration was shelved the day the current governor took office (Quigley).

90% of US energy comes from coal, gas, oil, and nuclear; 10% from renewables; and efficiency is always to the good (Hanger).

On the positive side, in 2011 PA emissions were the lowest in 35 years, due to decreasing reliance on coal (Hanger).

The current paralysis brought on by Republican leaders’ adamant opposition to action can be broken in two ways: a huge electoral change similar to the 1932 wipe-out of all but 16 Republican senators, or by a disaster on the order of the flooding of Miami (Hanger).

The audience was asked to submit written questions. Mine didn’t get answered, and really, I can see why it wasn’t chosen: “Why are Americans so averse to paying attention to science?” Here are a few more points in answer to others’ questions:

We can get to totally renewable energy only by massive change, which only the government can drive (Quigley).

Change will have to occur when supply and demand are disrupted (Dershad).

Natural gas is 50% more efficient but the current high releases of methane in production and transmission remain to be regulated (Quigley).

It takes money to save money (Morgan).

West Chester is to use 100% energy for Borough government consumption (Mazzocco).

We have the technology to reduce methane leaks from gas wells and transmission; we just have to use it. Meanwhile, global coal use is increasing by 2% a year, which won’t be cut till China and India use more renewables (Quigley, Hanger).

“Single issue bias” causes us to relax too soon, after accomplishing one step (Morgan).

Western governments need to help developing countries to “leap frog” from no electricity to clean energy (Dershad).

The globe can’t get to 80% renewables till 2050; when there are 2 billion people without electricity today, progress will be slow (Quigley).

The US used to be built on innovation…. (Mazzocco)

PA can cut carbon output double efficiency, increase wind power X 4 and solar X 10. PA needs to pull the 52-point climate change plan from 4 years ago out of the drawer. We have to cross partisan lines. But that means both parties will have to do it (Hanger).

If discussions of this caliber took place across the country, and if people listened and reflected, we might move faster to solve one of the principal problems of our time — and one that we can, indeed, solve.

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John Hanger’s issues are still in play

John Hanger has taken himself out of the gubernatorial race after filing more than twice the required number of signatures. He has been an exceptional candidate because he ran on a number of issues that he has injected permanently into the race.

His strong stand on important issues is why many of us worked hard on his behalf in Chester County and why, some time back, former governor Ed Rendell said: “He’s been the most substantive in responding to Gov. Corbett.”

It is all too easy for candidates to praise “a world-class education or our children” or “genuine environmental stewardship.” But Hanger has been the sort of candidate who gets to the details. To name a few:

We should hold charter schools to the same fiscal and educational accountability as traditional public schools and shut down cyber schools if they can’t use taxpayers’ money as students deserve.

His College Affordability Plan would offer community college students two years of deferred tuition, and state system students one year, to be repaid out of their future earnings.

The state must do as Hanger did as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection: crack down on fracking, increase inspection staff, raise drilling fees, punish violations, and continue the moratorium on drilling in state forests and parks and in the Delaware River Basin. And, of course, we need the same level of taxation of natural gas extraction that every other drilling state has.

The state also needs to implement its own 2009 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan,which Hanger worked on when in the Rendell administration.

Hanger also proposed a Citizens Gas Drilling Complaint Office to investigate complaints (which include depriving landowners of contracted payments) against the gas industry.

He endorsed universal single-payer health care. Obamacare moves us toward the ultimate goal: covering everyone, no more families thrown out of their homes because of medical bills, no more Americans dying for lack of treatment. The eventual fair and cost-efficient solution is Medicare for All.

Under the slogans of “Schools not Jails” and “Jobs not Jails,” Hanger would allow sick people the use of medical cannabis, reduce the penalties for marijuana possession to the equivalent of a traffic ticket, and move toward full legalization, thus gaining the state $500,000,000 a year in gained taxes and reduced enforcement costs and ending the current racially discriminatory “war” on marijuana users.

Those who prioritize these issues have lost a candidate, but not an advocate; and we will be scanning the remaining gubernatorial hopefuls, as well as those for lieutenant governor and other offices, to see how they would continue what John Hanger has started.

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Learning from maps and history: The case of Ukraine

I’m a map person. I think maps help us visualize the abstract. I found this one particularly interesting, from Dave Schuler, “The Ukraine Crisis in Three Maps,” Outside the Beltway, 3/1/14:


(For the percentages, see the map in Springtime of Nations.)

European countries like Ukraine (the largest country lying entirely in Europe) achieved ethnic diversity by spontaneous or forced migrations and by accretion of once independent or isolated areas. We see those factors, to some degree, in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska.

One underlying question on some people’s minds is whether Putin is, as many here believe, a crazed fascist. He is, in fact, using the same argument to occupy Crimea as Hitler did in occupying Czechoslovakia: basically, “The Russians / Germans there are being threatened by a foreign people.”

We used the argument ourselves in 1983, when president Reagan invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada, ostensibly at the request of a deposed Governor General and to protect a few hundred American medical students there, but in reality to overthrow a newly installed Marxist government. The invasion was condemned by the UN General Assembly by a vote of 108-9, but of course the US vetoed a similar resolution in the UN Security Council. History is written by the winners, as they say.

Multi-ethnic states always have a potential point of weakness. Japan could have argued in World War II that the US and Canada were sending people of Japanese origin to concentration camps. They were, but Japan didn’t have the means to send an army to liberate the prisoners. And, fortunately, most of them survived, unlike in the German and Russian versions. Don’t be shocked by the term; concentration caps were used by the British during the Boer War in South Africa and their history is much older than that.

As the map above shows, there is ethnicity and there is language. People don’t always speak the language associated with their ethnicity. A lot of Americans of Hispanic or Japanese origin don’t speak Spanish or Japanese. However, 77% of Crimean residents indicate Russian is their native language, and 90.6% in Sevastopol, according to a map in “2014 Crimean crisis” at Wikipedia.

Another way to figure out what people are thinking is how they vote (in countries that vote in a relatively transparent manner). Here’s another map from “The Ukraine Crisis in Three Maps”:











The blue shows where Timoshenko (the former prime minister who just was released from prison) won the second round of voting in 2010, and the blue shows where Yanukovych (the former prime minister who just fled into Russian protection) won (and he won overall with 48%). On the whole, the more ethnically and linguistically areas went for the Russian protegé while the other areas, closer to the rest of Europe, went for the more Europe-leaning candidate. That isn’t too surprising; you don’t need to look far in US voting patterns to see the underlying demographics.

Here’s something I really should have known (from Wikipedia, “Ukraine“; see links there):

Having served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukrainian SSR in 1938–49, Khrushchev was intimately familiar with the republic; after taking power union-wide, he began to emphasize the friendship between the Ukrainian and Russian nations. In 1954, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav was widely celebrated. Crimea was transferred from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.

You can see a lot more on that in Krishnadev Calamur, “Crimea: A Gift To Ukraine Becomes A Political Flash Point,”, 2/27/14. So Crimea was part of Russia from 1783 to 1954. It just happened that Nikita Khrushchev was born in a Russian village near the Ukrainian border, was made head of the Communist Party in Ukraine in 1937, and his (third) wife was Ukrainian. Such personal backgrounds have more impact on history than we might expect.

It’s as if France, which for centuries fought Germany over Alsace (more German, ethnically) and Lorraine (more French, ethnically), after World War II, had said to Germany: “Oh, be my guest, you have Alsace after all.”

I have some sympathy for captive nationalities, that is, peoples who are ruled by others, such as the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, or the Catalans in Spain and France. Sometimes peoples solve it; Czechoslovakia split up, and no one seems to be complaining. But US policy (or Chinese policy, for that matter, with about 10 million Uyghurs on their western frontier) is not to promote the dismantling of countries. In fact, the US and its allies have been desperately trying to preserve the Middle Eastern boundaries imposed by the Western powers on the collapsed Ottoman Empire less than 100 years ago.

This is a tricky area for us. At the end of World War I, almost a century ago, Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points proclaimed the right of self-determination (from Wikipedia):

“National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. Self determination is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action….”

I guess we were for it before we were against it.

There is a current flood of historical information on Ukraine and the Crimea (which, by the way, is currently an autonomous republic within Ukraine, with its own constitution and parliament). We might also recall the Crimean War (1853-56), which Western countries entered basically to keep Russia from taking over Ottoman territory.

My point is that history is very complicated. I’m not saying that Crimea should or should not become part of Russia again (though I am guessing some sort of “protectorate” is more likely).

It would be a pretty tough deal for the US if part of Alaska were to want to go back to Russia or parts of our Southwest to Mexico. It makes Russia sort of nervous that the US has been occupying Afghanistan (which adjoins the former USSR) since 2001. It made the US sort of nervous when the USSR was sending missiles to Cuba (which does not adjoin the US).

That’s all: history is very complicated and our leaders, as well as the rest of us, should try to find out more about it. I’m sure Putin does.

But I can’t resist adding, if you’re not yet convinced about historical complexity (“Crimea,” Wikipedia, with many links):

The Cimmerians, Bulgars, Greeks, Scythians, Goths, Huns, Khazars, the state of Kievan Rus’, Byzantine Greeks, Kipchaks, Ottoman Turks, Golden Horde Tatars and the Mongols each controlled Crimea in its earlier history. In the 13th century, it was partly controlled by the Venetians and by the Genoese; they were followed by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries, the Russian Empire in the 18th to 20th centuries, Germany during World War II and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and later the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, within the Soviet Union during the rest of the 20th century until Crimea became part of independent Ukraine with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Why it’s colder here—because it’s warmer there

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 3/3/14

The current pattern, here in Pennsylvania, of unusually hot summers and unusually cold winters, is surprising us all. But it shouldn’t, as it has been going on for several years.

We tend to think our own weather sets the worldwide trend. The forecast for tonight in West Chester is for -1 degrees. How about Anchorage, Alaska? A balmy 21 degrees! That extremely random sample bears out the premise of what you are about to read.

I’m going to repost what I still see as the reasonable explanation for the climatic weirdness of our time, from a blog I wrote three years ago, “Why it’s colder here—because it’s warmer there,” in February 2011:

I just heard an interesting interview by Robin Young, “Scientists Blame Dramatic Weather On Weakening ‘Arctic Fence,’” Here and Now, 2/3/11. Listen there; here’s the online description:

Many parts of Europe and the U.S. have seen unusual snowstorms and frigid temperatures for two years in a row. But places like northern Canada and Greenland have seen temperatures that in some months are running 15 to 20 degrees above average.

The reason, some researchers say, is a weakening “vortex,” a kind of atmospheric fence, that normally keeps cold air up north and warmer air south. We speak with Justin Gillis, who covers climate issues for the New York Times, about why the weather world seems to have flipped upside down.

The interview brings out that the jet stream, which normally circles the North Pole from west to east, currently is dipping down to visit us, one factor in the disrupted weather patterns the world has seen lately.

People tend to have short memories. Many of us have probably stepped outside the last few weeks and exclaimed: “Well, global warming is over, at least!”

Not likely: the program mentioned that 2010 tied 2005 and 1998 as the warmest ever as a global average and 2010 saw the hottest summer ever in the Mid-Atlantic states. The globe has warmed by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last couple of centuries, most in the past 30 or 40 years, according to Justin Gillis. See his related New York Times article “Cold Jumps Arctic ‘Fence,’ Stoking Winter’s Fury.”

In sum, it seems quite likely that the weather is (somewhat) colder than usual here right now because it’s (a lot) warmer in the Arctic.

Find out more in “A ‘Bulge’ in Atmospheric Pressure Gives Us a Super-Cold Winter Amid Global Warming” by Christa Marshall and Tiffany Stecker, New York Times, 1/5/11:

…According to some climate scientists, the cold in places like Florida actually could be a sign of warming, rather than an argument against the phenomenon.

The ongoing disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic from elevated temperatures is a factor to changes in atmospheric pressure that control jet streams of air, explained James Overland, an oceanographer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

That is because ice-less ocean is darker and, thus, absorbs more solar heat, which in turn spews warmer air than average back into the Arctic atmosphere.

That unusually warm air can contribute to a “bulge” effect to the atmospheric pressure controlling how cold air flows, according to Overland, who works at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Rather than moving circularly in the Arctic from west to east as typical, the bulge may prompt air to move in a U-shaped pattern down to the southern United States….

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SE PA presidential vote trends, 1988-2012

Here’s an interesting map from “Democrats are from cities, Republicans are from exurbs” by David Jarman, Daily Kos, 2/9/14:










The map shows net change in the number of votes for Democratic and Republican candidates for president in 2012 compared to 1988. It does not show voter registration; so Independents and party-crossing presidential voters are attributed to the party whose candidate they voted for. And it does not take the relative strength of D and R candidates into account: no doubt, Dukakis and Romney would have done better had they been more appealing candidates.

And we know presidential years aren’t typical years. Some blue areas on the map could be white or red in off-year elections. It would be instructive to compare this year’s future results to prior gubernatorial election years. But then, you’d have to add that if the Dem gubernatorial candidate gains over the 2010 candidate, which seems highly likely given the R incumbent’s tanking in the polls, that the D gains could come only from the nature of the candidates, not the voters. Corbett isn’t popular even among R’s.

Still, the map does bear some relation to registration shifts over the past generation. The map shows Chester County as blue, and indeed D’s have closed the registration gap here, though R’s remain in the plurality (not the majority: D’s and I’s outnumber R’s here).

Note the PA trend from the map: relative R gains in the West, relative Dem gains in the East, mixed in the middle. SE Pennsylvania is taking part in Dem growth along the East Coast Metropolitan Corridor, from New England to the Washington DC area.

We can dig out the exact figures in the underlying table “88-12 Net Change” at for southeastern PA:

Pres D:R change 1988:2012

If we were advising the R’s, we would certainly worry about the deficit of 634,000+ votes over those 24 years. We’d advise them to concentrate as many D votes as they can into Philadelphia (that’s the “packing” part of gerrymandering) and adjoining areas and dilute the D vote as much as possible in the rest of the Southeast (known as “cracking”). This is why the US Congress, state House and Senate have only one D representing any part of Chester County (Andy Dinniman, PA Senate 19). A year from now, things could look very different.

The inability to gerrymander the whole state is why Obama won PA in 2012 and why the PA attorney general, auditor general, and treasurer are D’s.

You can plainly see a pattern in the table: the closer to Philadelphia, the more the D’s gained: 250,000+ in Philadelphia, 100,000+ in MontCo and DelCo, just short of 50,000 in Bucks and Chester, and not so much in Berks and Lancaster.

These counties grew a lot in population, because even with the big D gain in Obama over Dukakis, the R count grew too, though much less, except in Philadelphia and DelCo.

What do we learn about the 2014 election (governor, lieutenant governor, state House, 1/3 of state Senate)? The D’s really need to turn out voters en masse in those 6 counties, but the R’s would want to play it cool and just speak to voters already in their camp. That’s what the R’s usually do in Chester County. The D’s will want to cause a lot of excitement and get people to the polls, in a replay of 2008, when D’s won 3 PA House seats from Chester County.

So D’s want 2014 to be 2008 and R’s want it to be 2010. With a governor widely seen as anti-education, anti-environment, pro-fracking, and bedeviled by the “just close your eyes” and “sibling marriage” flaps at the top of the R ticket, I like the D’s chances.

We’ll need to look at party registration too. Another day!

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