Friends like Sarah Palin’s

In my latest for the Guardian, I salute John McCain for flying one last mission on behalf of his country. The McCain campaign-fueled orgy of anonymous recriminations over Sarah Palin has proved in a way nothing else could that the media had little to do with bringing down the Republican ticket.

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An endangered New England species

The moderate New England Republican is all but extinct following yesterday’s defeat of New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and Connecticut Rep. Christopher Shays. In the long run, this won’t be good for the country.

How can you have bipartisanship when the Democratic and Republican parties are hardening into exclusively liberal and conservative camps? Answer: You can’t. Ironically, the conservative Democrat has made something of a comeback in recent years, exemplified by the rise of Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. But they need counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

Which is why I’m glad that Maine Sen. Susan Collins won re-election. Collins and Maine’s other Republican senator, Olympia Snowe, are the last of what was once a pretty common species.

Obama wins, a bit later than expected

In an instant-reaction piece for the Guardian, I look at Barack Obama’s victory – which came somewhat later than might have been expected based on the pre-election polls, but which proved to be decisive enough.

Nice speech by John McCain. Obama’s up in a few minutes.

Students document the vote (II)

More from my Reinventing the News students:

That will be it for tonight, as I need to file with the Guardian soon. Sooner than I can manage, probably.

If exit polls were votes

Then Obama would be headed for a huge victory. Actually, he wouldn’t, as President Kerry would be standing for re-election. So let’s wait and see.

Students document the vote

My Reinventing the News students are hitting the polls today. Some early returns:

I’ll try to link to more student posts as I find them.

Twittering the vote

WBUR Radio has a Twitter feed going to which anyone with a Twitter account can contribute. The idea is to tell folks what your voting experience was like today. Just stick a #wburvote into whatever you write.

Election Day in Danvers

For a Flickr slideshow, click here or on photo

Mrs. Media Nation and I timed our voting perfectly. I’m working at home today, so we walked to Danvers High School a little after 10 a.m. With the morning rush over and the evening a long way off, we figured we wouldn’t have to wait too long.

Although there were longish lines of cars heading up and down Cabot Road, and though the parking lot was nearly full, we were right — once we were inside the gym, we breezed right through.

A poll worker told me that more than 500 people had voted in our precinct, way more than the typical number. I would imagine the explosion will come after work.

I also posted a few photos to the Polling Place Photo Project. Please have a look.

McCain’s misleading 401(k) accusation

I nearly choked on my cereal when I read in the Boston Globe this morning that John McCain had accused Barack Obama [Note: McCain may not have been specifically referring to Obama; see update below] of proposing to tax individual retirement accounts. Scott Helman and Sasha Issenberg write:

“Watch out, they’re even talking about taxing your 401(k) contributions,” McCain said at Pittsburgh International Airport. “I’m going to protect people’s retirement, not tax it. I’m going to protect Social Security. I’m going to protect Medicare.”

I’ve done some quick research, and, as best as I can tell, McCain’s charge is not true. The slightly longer version is that he’s building assumptions upon assumptions, based in part on a mistake, and accepting the rhetoric of an anti-tax think tank as to what theoretical effect Obama’s tax proposals might have on 401(k)s.

According to the nonpartisan watchdog site FactCheck.org, McCain has been making this accusation off and on since last spring. I have to confess that I hadn’t been aware of it until now. FactCheck says McCain is staking his claim on a “giant blunder,” latching on to Obama’s proposal to raise the capital-gains tax. But 401(k) accounts allow you to invest your money tax-free, and are taxed as ordinary income when you reach retirement age and begin to withdraw money. The capital-gains tax has nothing to do with 401(k)s.

Some on the right argue that raising taxes the capital-gains tax and corporate income taxes will hurt 401(k)s because low taxes are always good for business and high taxes are always bad. That’s the case made by Deroy Murdock at Human Events, who points to a calculator on the Web site of Americans for Tax Reform that shows the value of your 401(k) rising under McCain and shrinking under Obama. I haven’t tried it, but it is transparently based on the assumption that the economy will do better with McCain as president than Obama.

Americans for Tax Reform, by the way, is a vehicle for anti-tax radical Grover Norquist, famous for once having said, “My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Bottom line: McCain’s accusation is false through and through misleading. We’re all familiar with the trickle-down arguments on which it is based. But if you’re McCain, it sounds so much better to say that Obama wants to tax the 401(k)s of “policemen, firefighters, nurses,” as he did last April, than it does to say ordinary people might suffer some theoretical harm if Obama raises taxes on ExxonMobil.

Update: Mike from Norwell reports that there are some congressional Democrats who are proposing a tax on 401(k) accounts. Not Obama’s proposal, and, needless to say, he would be insane to go along with it. He is not insane. But I’ve toned down the headline.

The gap widens

Every time I go to the Real Clear Politics composite poll average, the gap widens. It’s now Obama 51.2 percent, McCain 44.2 percent.