Monday, November 10, 2014 - Volume 5, Number 11

© Copyright 2014, The Ultrapolis Project.  All Rights Reserved.

The Next Two Years: Compromise or More Gridlock?

The Reality of the Polarization of America & The Role of For-Profit Punditry & Social Media


·         Of Houston Sermons & Subpoenas: The Salient Facts

·         Ultrapolis Reader Panel Votes and Comments on Paul Ryan Forecast

·         The 2014 Election in Cartoons, by Steve Sack, Rick McKee, and Steve Greenberg





Compromise or Gridlock?

The Effect of the Polarizing Race for Ratings, Views, and Comments


Forecasts for 2014 Mostly Correct


So, the Republicans won in 2014, just as we predicted nearly a year ago in our UWFR issue of November 27, 2013.   We also said it would be by a closer margin than in 2010, but that has not been as true.  True, fewer gains were made in the House of Representatives (gain of 63 seats in 2010, versus at least nine as of this writing (14 still outstanding), and the governorship gains will be less than the six of 2010, making our prediction correct on the raw numbers.  But, on a broader scope there have been gains in 2014 over 2010, particularly when considering the gains in the Senate and the larger overall numbers in the both houses of Congress, and the Governorships, due to the higher starting point of the Republicans this time around.


A year ago we also forecast that the government shutdown would, 1) not accomplish its goal, destined instead to end with a small concession to the Republicans; and, 2) Would not harm the GOP in 2014.  Both these developments may now seem plain in hindsight.  But, at the time, many established venues far more prominent than ours were far less certain than our unambiguous and correct forecasts on either of these items; and on the latter, if they suggested anything at all, it was usually the contrary.


Government Shutdown 2014

Non-Effect Not as Plain to Others


Back then The Washington Post wondered how badly the GOP would be hurt in 2014 in their article “Democrats See GOP Shutdown Threat as Opening for 2014 Election Gains”.  CNN equally pondered the question in “Republican Shutdown Pain May Boost Dems in 2014”.  ABC News coyly poised the question in “Will Government Shutdown Hurt House Republicans Hoping to Get to the Senate?” as it clearly suggested the answer could be ‘yes’ (of course, it turned out to be a big, fat ‘no!’ with a six-seat GOP gain in the Senate). The Guardian, being British, was more wisely circumspect, careful not to answer either way in “If the Shutdown Didn't Hurt Republicans Now, What About the 2014 Midterms?”.   On the other hand, back in the U.S., the more partisan, pro-Republican, The Weekly Standard got it right in “8 Reasons the Shutdown Won’t Hurt Republicans”.  Ultrapolis is the only non-partisan political forecaster that got it right (non-partisan, after all, we did forecast Barack Obama’s re-election two years in advance, in the wake of the huge GOP victories in 2010, and in opposition to every pro-Republican publication).


New Bi-Partisanship Around

the Corner?


On Wednesday, November 5, the day after the electoral earthquake, the President conducted his first press conference in months.  The questions from the reporters were tough, even from traditionally more sympathetic outlets like CBS and CNN.  One question came back many times in different forms:  What is going to change that will enhance prospects for compromise and the breaking of legislative gridlock in Washington?  The answer was - between the lines - nothing.


The same question was put to the new Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress, which they answered in interviews and more fully in an editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal titled “Now We Can Get Congress Going”.  Setting aside the obvious difference of their new circumstances of power, their answer also was - outside of limited issues, and yet more openly - the same.


Of course, both sides said what they know the public wants to hear; that they would “seek common ground” and look to “work together” for the good of the country.    What the inattentive voter does not realize, is that there is very little of that ground where the two sides can work together, and it is the voters who are primarily responsible for that.


Americans of Two Minds


These pages have often noted, as various studies have shown, that there has long been a measurable, growing polarization of the U.S. Congress, which has merely reflected the very real growing polarization of the American electorate itself.  When a typical voter say she wants her elected leaders to “work together”, while no doubt entirely sincere in her sentiment while uttering those words, in practice she often also means, “to do what I want.”  And with an electorate more widely split on what it wants, it becomes almost impossible for the elected leaders to find room for any compromise that will not get them thrown out of office at the next election.


This reality of the electorate will amplify many elements that will make any compromise difficult in the next two years, in particular:


1-Real ideological differences between President Obama and the Republicans.  The President in particular, with no re-election prospects, will be more focused on his sincere belief in his ideological legacy than on Democratic Party campaign considerations.  His prompt declaration just hours after the polls closed that he would continue to pursue executive action in lieu of Congressional action signaled clearly his unwavering intentions.  He had to know this would enrage the Republicans even before the electoral dust settled.  Clearly, he did not care.


2-The most active voters of the Republican Party were motivated by an anti-compromise, anti-Obama message.  The Republican Party cannot now ignore their expectations, which will be fanned by conservative talk radio shows, even if many of its wiser leaders understand the risks of failure to deliver some semblance of accomplishments prior to 2016.  Images of GOP victory celebrations amid prominent “Stop Obama” and “Repeal Obamacare” signs similarly signaled the extent common ground is to be sought.


3-In American politics, compromise and cooperation can backfire, as George Bush senior learned in 1992.


Continued column 2 >



Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review

Ultrapolis Project – ultrapolisproject.com



Editor: Marco Antonio Roberts

Copy Editor: Michael Alberts

Contributing Editors:

Mark Eastman

Mark Steele









< From column 1


Unholy Alliance Fanning the Flames


In the end, we come back to the electorate.


In an unholy convergence between right-wing, profit-maximizing interests, and left-wing, shock-values-trashing entertainment interests, coverage and discussion of all issues subject to political debate has been increasingly and grotesquely dominated by the need for ratings, ‘views’, and comments.


With ratings, these are more easily attained by smug, goading, baiting, shrill, and demagogic chatter, especially if it includes comedic aspects designed to ridicule opposing views.  The old staid, serious, and respectful discussions are now only found in legacy shows seen by dwindling audiences.  Even conservative talk shows now feature graphic, below-the belt, taunting, and hyperbolic language once the exclusive domain of juveniles.   From Sean Hannity to Rachel Maddow, the tone is rough, and fairness is seen as surrender (no doubt, some readers will protest that Hannity and Maddow are nothing like each other – each half of them for the opposite reasons).


Regarding views and comments, discussion groups and all manner of social media reward quantity; and as with ratings, one gets far more of those with blasting, incendiary, and baiting posts.  For example, Facebook, which is used by 75% of American Internet users, routinely resets one’s so-called ‘news feed’ to “most popular” which makes it more likely that a post that has generated more instant responses (read, ‘knee-jerk’), continues to be seen by even more people, while quickly burying another that might ask people to take a moment to think.


Social Media Anti-Social


In our survey of discussions from news websites that lean either right or left, and of Facebook postings on political issues, we found that easily the majority of political posts are venomously partisan.


The following posts from the left were typical:


I don't have an ounce of respect for gays, women, blacks, or any minority who adheres to right-wing ideology.

Media Matters

Username Query

(Later changed to “Guest”)


This [the Republican Party] is the party who covets money more than their nation and lack any sense of patriotism. The party of "compassionate conservatism" and trickle down bulls**t [our censorship]. The liars, anti women [sic] bridge who laugh at the poor at their country club get togethers [sic]. May the Lord smite them and clean our soil from their filth.

The Daily Banter

Username chefbrucewest


From the right, posts like these are equally easy to find:


This [election] was a rejection of Obama, his Marxist policies and a rejection of the Democrat [sic] party.  And middle America did this, not the drug addicts and rabid liberals, union thugs, communists, illegals, criminals, and immigrants who are the democrats’ [sic] coalition.

Free Republic

Username Democrat_media


Interestingly, in another web publication, the liberal-leaning BillMoyers.com, where the moderators actively (and admirably) supervised the readers’ discussion, the moderator ultimately closed the discussion on a Voter ID article:


To the community,


Due to the inability of the community to comment without breaking our comment policy, including hate speech, off-topic comments, and personal attacks. This thread will be closed until further notice.




Formal Media Crudely Informal


Worse, the formal articles from erstwhile serious political discussion publications have also adopted the crude discussion style a generation ago found only among teenagers and boors.  The libertarian publication Reason’s recent column titled “4 Ways the Republicans Are Full of [S**t]” (again, our censorship), nicely exemplifies this new trend (Democrats, if that made you smile, perhaps you will also enjoy the companion column “4 Ways the Democrats Are Full of [S**t]”).


Losing Elections, Losing Excuses


In the wake of every election, the less self-reflective among the more partisan losers always like to trot out a litany of reasons why the electoral result is illegitimate: Too many voters did not vote; those that did were ill-informed, ill-tempered, or ill-willed; the electoral map was stacked; money influenced the election, etc.   This is pointless, as all these things are true to some extent in every election, and it is always impossible to prove how much difference they made in any one vote.  It is also irrelevant, as an election is an election, and people have a right to vote as they do for any reason they choose; besides, not voting is also a form of voting.


In our democracy, arguments about a vote’s legitimacy are usually employed hypocritically by partisans who will argue that the voters are somehow defective when they vote against the partisan’s side, but enlightened and rational when they vote the partisan’s way.  They do us no service.


Continued column 3 >


< From column 2


Son of Gridlock


The next few months will likely feature a few, limited legislative compromises, as both parties seek to prove they are willing to “work together”.  After that, once the President takes unilateral executive action on immigration, or the Congress passes a repeal of Obamacare, the realities of the polarized American electorate will reassert themselves, and gridlock at the national level will return with a new vengeance as November 2016 comes ever closer.


Is there any hope this polarization of the electorate will somehow be reversed, and progress will be made to reverse the decline of the American middle class?  This would take the rise of an unusually charismatic leader with a broad new vision aimed at improving the lot of the middle class, and the ability to articulate that vision to his or her party’s core constituency, while also appealing to a wide cross-section of those of both major parties that still linger closer to the center.  While we are looking closely at one possible candidate to be that leader, we are not yet ready to say that leader is anywhere in sight.

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Houston Sermons & Subpoenas

The Salient Facts of the Case


Rarely do we get as many instant, multiple inquiries from readers asking for our take on a specific event the way we did when the news broke about the subpoenas issued on behalf of the City of Houston to five Houston area churches.  At the time we received the first questions from our readers, we only knew what had just been reported in the news, and the preceding events of the controversy that led to the subpoenas.  Though normally these pages avoid covering any stories or points of view that are already widely presented and explained elsewhere, in this case we saw enough misleading coverage of the issue in both left- and right-leaning media, and observed enough social media discussions that only served to further polarize the issue, that we see a benefit to explaining the facts of this case as we have learned them.


The truth of the matter is that both sides have legitimate points in the question of the subpoenas (we know: how boring).  For the background on this controversy, please refer to the Houston Chronicle’s story of October 14, “City Subpoenas Sermons in Equal Rights Case”.


The subpoenas that caused the furor requested the following:


All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO*, the Petition, Mayor Anise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession


*Houston Equal Rights Ordinance extends employment and public accommodations rights and protections, at a municipal level, to minorities and women already singled out for protection by federal and state laws, and in addition to sexual minorities identified as gay, bisexual or transgender (formerly often referred to as transsexual), and provides for substantial penalties for offenders of the ordinance.


There is a complex mix of conflicting laws and commonly accepted legal practices that come into play in this issue, and we don’t have the space to discuss them all in any detail here.  Instead, let us summarize the two most salient points:


In the face a lawsuit by the churches in question against the city, The city’s legal team has a right to issue subpoenas to determine relevant facts of the case that may help in its defense.  In and of themselves they are not an attack on someone’s free speech or religious expression.



The subpoenas were far too broad, as Mayor Anise Parker later conceded when she directed the legal team to withdraw the subpoenas and request new, more narrowly tailored ones.  While the complaint of the churches was exaggerated, they were right to complain that the subpoenas chilled free speech; that because of their broad reach into any mention of “homosexuality” or “gender identity” and other items beyond specifically H.E.R.O., they could be interpreted as an attempt at intimidation.


The mayor took the correct step in walking back those subpoenas.


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Ultrapolis Readers’ Panel Comments

Panel Disagrees With Ultrapolis Forecast on Paul Ryan in 2016



Paul Ryan Leading Candidate for Republican Nomination in 2016 (Twitter/Ultrapolis,10-27-14)



Vote: No. He's not politically savvy enough; he's not experienced enough. If he runs, he will not be one of the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination.


Vote: Yes.  He's attractive and photographs well.  (This comment is not sarcastic.  It's based on serious contemplation of what we find important in our politicians).


Very Conservative

Vote: No.  I think Rand Paul is a more likely to be a leading candidate.




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The Shutdown Effect

The Need for Compromise

The Semantics of 2014



Main Index of the Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review


© Copyright 2014, The Ultrapolis Project – All Rights Reserved.