So I, like everyone else except for some comedians, got the election wrong. Even though Hillary is leading Trump by over 1,000,000 votes (61,913,199 votes (47.9%) 60,911,924 votes (47.1%) as of 11/16), Trump won the election with a strong electoral college showing, 306 to 232.
First, it is really important to note the obvious, which many in the media seem to be missing here. With the exception of Florida–a perennial tossup–all of Trump’s gains were in the Rust Belt. Hillary’s support in many western states was either as good or better than Obama 2012, she made gains in Texas (almost 600,000 more votes than Obama 2012), forced Trump to win by plurality in Arizona (although this is arguably more the product of Gary Johnson’s vote share) and only slightly fell behind Obama’s high water marks (2008 or 2012) in Georgia and South Carolina, and had a wider margin of victory in Virginia. The Northeast trended toward Trump, but only by a few percentage points (for example, Hillary lost 3 percentage points on Obama’s 2012 margin in NJ, even amid increased turnout). The only exception in this region is Upstate Maine, which swing to Trump by a net spread of 20 points. In short, in the aggregate the West, South, and Northeast did not shift very much in this election. What did shift was the formerly industrial Great Lakes/Appalachian states that moved heavily toward Trump. A combination of Trump turnout surge among uneducated white workers, lack of turnout among urban African American voters, and suburban Obama voters fleeing the Democrats explain the general political terrain in these states.
Why did suburban voters switch from Democratic support to pro-Trump?
Trump won 50% of the suburban vote, while Hillary won 45%, a pretty sizeable margin in the largest geographic electorate (49% of the electorate, compared to 34% in the big cities, and 17% in rural America. Why did this happen? This one really comes down to the fundamentals, and speaks the least to either of the two candidates unpopularity or transformative campaigning. Many forecast models actually had a generic Republican beating a generic Democrat in this election, based purely on a handful of variables. Among them, the two most important predictors are how long the party in power has held office, and the economic growth rate leading into the election. Well, the Democrats have held the executive office for eight years, which generally favors the out-party to gain the presidency. The only exceptions to this in the 20th century are Taft following TR’s two incomplete terms, Truman winning in 1948 after assuming the presidency after FDR passed, and George HW Bush winning his solitary term after Reagan’s 8 years (some consider only the latter to be analogous to the current situation given the shortened time-frame of the former, and Truman’s station of VP in the latter). Economic growth rates have been steady, but low in 2016. The first quarter had a recorded growth rate of 0.8%, the second 1.4%, and the third (ending with September) had 2.9%. Except for the last quarter, this country has not seen very much economic growth this year. While it is always unclear on what basis people feel or understand economic conditions in their everyday lives, it has historically been a good indicator into the public mood on staying pat or changing leadership.
For these basic reasons, in all likelihood suburban voters (“middle America”) were going to swing to some degree to Trump. America does have a strong tradition of switching party in power following a two-term president, and these are the types of people that generally see to that. It is also important to note this category of voters is the least likely of the three (with high white voter turnout and decreased Black turnout) to be instructed by aversive, reactionary racism. Although Trump made both latent dog-whistle (“law and order candidate,” “Make American Great Again,” etc) and overt racist pleas (banning Muslims and portraying Latin American immigrants as criminals), these voters predominantly voted for Obama in not just 2008, but also 2012. The racial backlash against the president argument and nativist appeals may have some import for this voting bloc, but it is no way the dominant explanation for the suburban switch to the GOP.
The states in which this was the primary cause of the shift are Pennsylvania and Ohio. Although Iowa is not generally conceptualized as a suburban state, the bellwether facet to this category does apply to the Iowan electorate.
Why did Black voter turnout decline so dramatically?
Although turnout was actually higher in absolute terms this election that 2012 (something pundits continue to get wrong), this aggregate trend belies group dynamics. I have yet to find a good metric for white or Asian turnout, but it is clear Latino turnout was up and African American turnout was down. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada all trended more heavily towards Democrats than expected, almost exclusively due to the rise of Latino mobilization. However, the gains in the West were more than offset by the losses in major Midwestern urban areas, such as Wayne County in Michigan, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, and Cuyahoga County in Ohio.
The margin of victory for Trump in Michigan (+10,000) and Wisconsin (+25,000) were notably much smaller than the difference between Obama and Hillary’s vote share in the two biggest metropolitan areas. Turnout declined in Milwaukee County from just under 491,000 in 2012 to just under 430,000 in 2016. Notably, Hillary won the same 66% of the vote in the county as Obama in 2012. In Wayne County, total votes cast went from 814000 in 2012 to around 766000 in 2016. Hillary did receive less support than Obama by proportion (67% to 73%), but had turnout been the same as 2012, she would have carried both states.
It should be noted Black turnout was a bit higher in places the Atlanta metro area, greater New Orleans, and Philadelphia, and also lower in Southern Florida, northeast North Carolina, Wyandotte County in Kansas, Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Shelby County in Tennessee. So what explains this variance in Black mobilization, since a clear geospatial pattern is not immediately clear?
As of now, I have three leading hypotheses. First, the obvious: Obama was a Black male, while Hillary is a white female. The racial distinction is self-evident–plenty of social science scholarship has demonstrated all people, and especially African Americans, tend to show higher levels of support, trust, and efficacy towards officials that share their descriptive features. It is expected that Hillary would lag behind Obama for this reason alone. But importantly, Hillary’s gender could have been an impediment in the Black community, which is not exempt from chauvinism. However, it is unlikely that descriptive features alone explains such a steep, concentrated decline, let alone the regional variation of the decline.
The second hypothesis is Hillary Clinton’s immense unpopularity ended up mattering a lot more than Trump’s even higher unpopularity. According to Pew in late October 2008 Obama had a favorability of 60%, while Hillary in late October had 43% favorability. Specifically to the Black community, the ubiquitous feelings of support among voters for Obama during his initial election could only be made by Hillary if Hillary was Black. Other scholarship has shown the Black voters rally around Black candidates under fire, but Hillary’s whiteness impedes a similar steadfast support for her candidacy (Clintonian honorary Blackness notwithstanding). Clinton’s inability to craft a convincing message in decreasing police violence against African Americans, lack of attention to employment strategies, and lingering questions about her loyalty to egalitarian change could also help explain her lack of standing in the Black community. But this approach is a very coarse measure, and explains none of the variation manifest in the maps.
The third, and perhaps leading hypothesis, is the role of heavy-handed voter ID laws across the nation, but most concentrated in the Rust Belt states Donald Trump flipped.
Obstructive–and biased–impediments to vote, such as voter ID laws, tend to favor Republican causes, since the people most affected by ID requirements tend to be less economically secure, which is more common in the Black community, for immigrants, the poor, students, urbanites, and the elderly. Noticeably, only the very last constituency is even remotely pro-GOP. So if voter ID laws tend to decrease the Democratic electorate, and frequently African-American voters, is it possible these laws had some effect in this election? The answer is yes.
Most of the states with the most pernicious voter ID laws–Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee–saw a decline in Black turnout during this election. The only two exceptions to this rule are Georgia and Virginia, which makes some sense: the Clinton campaign spent a lot of time encouraging turnout in and around Atlanta, while Virginia has a Democratic governor that went so far as to pardon incarcerated members of the population with an important election in sight. Additionally, Texas had an increase in turnout, but it is unclear whether Black turnout was up with Latino turnout, or if the latter simply masked a decline in the former.
The only ways to truly understand whether voter ID laws played a role in the election, beyond the recognition of a pattern, is twofold. First, interviews with voters that can testify to the increased hardship in voting and interviews with those that did not vote and their reasoning. Second, a calculation of IDs issued based on demographics would confirm a bias in which groups failed to gain the necessary IDs to vote.
States that were most affected by the decrease in Black mobilization are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio (although the latter would not have been a Clinton state even with more Black support–see suburban voter explanation).
Why did working class whites support Trump?
The most common explanation for the outcome is that disaffected white, working class voters with low educational attainment broke hard for Trump, and moreover, they turned out in high numbers to voice their displeasure with the status quo. Importantly, neither of these points are proven with the data, even if they are true. White voters made up 70% of the electorate in the election, their lowest number on record (down from 72% in 2012 and 74% in 2008). Moreover, according to exit polling Trump won about the same proportion of whites as Romney did in 2012 (Romney won 59%, Trump 58% with more third party candidate share). What about turnout? It is actually very difficult to find counties with mostly white residents that increased in turnout. For example, turnout was up by 2.5% in Hall County, Georgia, but although this is a heavily Republican county, whites only constitute 2/3 of the county population. Since both the Ds and Rs gained around 4,000 votes, it is not clear the white backlash thesis is correct.
So while it is plausible that uneducated whites in the Rust Belt feel unrepresented by both parties, leading many to favor the outsider candidate, the evidence does not show increased white support for Trump, either in the form of preferences or turnout. If anything, Trump’s 1-3% gain in vote share among Hispanic, Black, and Asian voters, and decreased turnout among Black voters, seem more consequential.
Trump did improve on Romney’s figure in regards to those that made under 30k a year–from 35% to 41%. If we assume many of these poorer voters were white (which is a hefty assumption), there is a good explanation for this change, especially in the Rust Belt. Trump preached isolationism and the false promise of being able to hedge job loss in manufacturing, and even restore many of these jobs. This plea to voters would be a successful frame, given the job loss in heavy manufacturing and lack of trade adjustment funding for jobs training with each successive free trade agreement. However, Trump will not succeed on this promise unless the labor force in the region is willing to work for 4 dollars (or less) an hour. Tax incentives are not enough to reverse private sector-led globalization and deindustrialization that has been occurring since the 1970s. The government can certainly facilitate the flight of business to other countries, but reversing that trend would require government-funded factory construction and jobs training, which there is little evidence any politician favors. The Democratic alternative–at least among the left side of the party–is economic diversification of the region, such as making education attainment higher in the region, jobs training in high-tech manufacturing, and increased demand-side stimulus to allow poorer citizens to use federal funds to redistribute wealth in their local economy.
This explanation is the most shaky for Trump’s victory. It is not clear there was an appreciable increase in poor white turnout in this election. Absent state-level exit polls in the Great Lakes, the data will not prove this point. If poor white voters were consequential in any states, it would have been predominantly the Great Lakes and Appalachia, both of which have been trending GOP for quite some time.
What about race?
With the immense amount of race-hate spewed by Donald Trump throughout the election, it is certainly plausible it activated, or made manifest, racism in the electorate. The endorsement by KKK and neo-Nazi groups of Trump, violence against racial minorities at Trump rallies, and rise in hate crimes are all reasons to assume race played a seminal role in this election. Moreover, the post-election ascendance of Steve Bannon to the top of the executive branch shows there is some work to promote white supremacy in government, if only descriptively and not substantively (although there is definitely room for both in a Trump administration).
However, the likelihood of either racial backlash against America’s first Black president or activated white supremacy by Trump being the defining facet of this election is very low. Not because it does not matter–which it obviously does–but because there are ample legitimate reasons to feel that the country is going in the wrong direction and that government is not responsive to the needs of the disaffected. Essentially, it is true some voters were mobilized by Trump’s white nationalist sentiment, but this race-centric theory fails to explain much of the suburban shift from Obama to Trump.
What can be stated about race is that racist rhetoric was not refuted by the public at-large or Trump supporters. Although we cannot know if Trump’s supporters were motivated by racism, we can safely say they were not deterred enough by Trump’s racism to vote for another candidate. This is kind of an odd dynamic, but in essence, we can say Americans are not racially liberal enough as a whole to rebuke a clearly racist political campaign. It should be noted there are probably many conservatives, like Mitt Romney and many in the Mormon community, that decided supporting another candidate (perhaps one less bigoted like Evan McMullin) was the thing to do. (Side note, I am a bit disheartened that so many Mormons decided to stick with Trump, as I suspected he would be the least attractive candidate of the main three Utah was considering.)
What about gender?
Gender is another important variable, especially with the disproportional negative media and political attention Hillary has experienced since the 1990s. She is perhaps the most scrutinized political figure in American history. Trump’s entire stamina critique of Hillary seemed to be about gender, veiled in her health episodes. It is safe to assume her gender is part of this, as is her relation to Bill’s promiscuity, her opportunistic position-taking and her email server issues. There are both legitimate and illegitimate reasons to be hesitant to support Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, Hillary’s support among men and women is nearly the same proportion as what Obama achieved in 2012 (the only big difference is the presence of third party candidates). Is it possible patriarchy is so ubiquitous in American society that women were self-policing and hyper-critical of Hillary in a way that would not occur if she were a man? Sure. Again, until we have enough interviews of women saying any woman is not well-suited to be president, we cannot posit out thin air that gender discrimination is a dominant explanation for what happened in this election.
What about immigration?
Immigration definitely mattered in this election, arguably more than race and gender. Many of the suburban voters claimed to be motivated by immigration related issues, such as building the wall or deporting undocumented residents. The anti-Latino sentiment of Trump clearly worked to mobilize Latino communities in Nevada, California, Texas, and Arizona. And unfortunately, Trump’s policy details are arguably most developed on the immigration question–a low bar, but true nonetheless. Luckily, it appears House Republicans are less apt for mass deportations than what many previously expected, so maybe a combination of meaningless fence construction and some path toward citizenship will occur. According to exit polling, those that claimed immigration was the most important issue supported Trump 64 to 32. However, among the four issue options, immigration was tied for last with foreign policy at 13%, while terrorism received 18% and the economy reached 52% (Hillary decidedly won the economy and foreign policy, while Trump won terrorism and immigration).
What about the urban-rural divide?
This is pretty clear as an important dynamic, with Trump setting records in rural areas. The resentment rural voters feel towards cities is palpable and somewhat justified: governments are located in cities, and government services are best delivered in cities. This dynamic often leaves the countryside feeling alienated from spending decisions, with little to show for their tax dollars. If the conversation ended there, an anti-establishment vote would be legitimate and easy rectify (show a new commitment to delivering services in the country). However, it is much more complicated, and heavily tied up into stereotypes and anachronistic notions of what modern governments should do. Many people in rural America have a skewed perception of what city dwellers are like. Sure they like lattes and ombre haircuts, but dependency on government support is not nearly as ubiquitous in cities as one might expect. In fact, the opposite is actually true: in what some term “red state socialism” many rural states receive more federal funds per outgoing tax dollar that do metropolitan states (New Jersey perennially getting the least for what they pay). Moreover, antagonism towards government in the countryside seems to deny the presence of social problems unique to cities that require collective governmental action, such as housing segregation, concentrated poverty, crime, and infrastructure maintenance. While the cultural divide between rural and urban folks is unlikely to get resolved, it is probably not a good sign to see the parties reshaped as metropolitan versus agrarian, as both geographic locations stand to gain from concerted government action to address the struggles in each environment.
Concerning this election, there is ample evidence that rural resentment of urbanites spurred support for Trump. There is some multicollinearity here, though, since race, class, partisan sorting, and ideology are correlated with settlement type, meaning it is difficult to ascertain the causal power of urban-rural cultural divide separate from those variables.
What about the media?
The media is culpable for this outcome in myriad ways. First, the unfettered coverage of Trump’s every move, from eating pizza with a fork and knife to taking a shit at 3am is a sign of the repugnant state of sensational, now tabloid, journalism. Making money is a necessary means to finance a news operation that allows for extensive investigative journalism, but money-making cannot be an end in itself. Trump should get a lot of credit for running a staff-less campaign and his innovative use of directly calling into news shows, but breaking regularly scheduled programing to cover one of his many rallies became gratuitous and transparently about ginning up the horse race.
Second, the lack journalistic push-back on Trump’s many false statements enigmatically fits in with the dominant to trend to draw a false equivalency on all sides of a debate. Hate speech cannot be covered as anything other than hate speech. Although the media was by-and-large critical of Trump, much of it was less fact-based and more focused on pot-shots and sensationalized quotes.
Third, the over reliance on tracking polls to explain dynamics on the ground directly contributed setting up high expectations for Hillary. There are examples of celebrities and journalists traveling around Michigan and perceiving it to be a Trump state, but the media did not seem aware of this sea change due to stable poll results and a lack of care for understanding Trump supporters.
A media that is solely concerned with ratings, and sanctimoniously dismisses a candidate that continues to beat expectations is a recipe for disaster. I do not think it is fair to claim the media should have known Trump could actually win–that is way to much to ask of anyone–but a more nuanced coverage of his bases of support would have changed expectations going into the election.
Did James Comey cost Hillary the election?
In the immediate days after the election, I would have summarily dismissed this claim. The polls showed very little movement beyond the pre-existing trend toward Trump because of the FBI reopening the investigation of Hillary’s emails. However, exit polling tells a different story about the effect of the very late announcement by Comey, which was only a week and half before an election. The weekend before the election the FBI concluded no further action would be taken on Hillary’s email scandal (although Anthony Weiner will surely be less lucky). Exit polling shows a trend: Clinton did better with voters that decided before September, while Trump did better in September and October. Importantly, those that decided to vote in the last week (after Comey reopened the investigation) supported Trump 50 to 38, while those that made up their minds in the last few days (after Comey cleared Clinton) supported Trump 46 to 44.
Hillary picking up supporters after the Comey clearance can really only be explained by two answers. It is possible as the weight of the decision to support one of the candidates became more salient, voters decided supporting Trump was a less responsible move than they had previously felt. Or, Hillary was gaining steam after a lackluster October and the emails derailed some of her “momentum.” Both could be true at the same time, but this pattern in the exit polling suggests the emails might have had some effect. In either case, Comey’s meddling in the campaign and lack of control of his own agents at the FBI (with all the leaks), suggests he has lost institutional support for his leadership. Therefore, Comey should resign effective immediately, since he is neither serving the public nor FBI interests, but is strictly looking out for himself.
While it seems likely the Comey fiasco had some effect on deterring support for Clinton, it is still unlikely that the margins are perfectly correlated with areas where she needed more support, like in the Great Lakes. Until we see evidence from voters in that region that the emails mattered on a large scale, this episode will remain a stain on the cycle, but not a determinate one.
Sixth Party System has been out of commission for too long, and what better way to return than with a roundup of all the GOP candidates for president. We have some real quality people… in America, and none seem to be running for president in this field. Oh well, one of them will advance to the general, so we may as well get to know them. The format is simple: below each picture I will explain the type of candidate, why they are running, their chances of victory, and their support base. I will handicap each candidates chance of winning the GOP primary, and if that is above zero, their chances in the general election. This is the chance of winning the presidency overall, not the likely popular vote share. Since the national electorate leans Democratic right now, anything over a 33% chance of victory denotes a strong candidate. Moreover, this percentage is estimated with the assumption that Hillary will be the Democratic candidate. If she somehow loses the primary, then all of the chances to win would be much higher. Just add 10% to each number and that is how they would fare against Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, or any other Democrat.
Primary chances are zero sum among the candidates on this page, whereas general election chances are variable since it is a new, discrete game for each candidate versus the Democrat. Structurally, Republicans face an uphill struggle to win over the national electorate, which means no GOP candidate is favored to win over Hillary in 2016. A strong GOP candidate can make it a tight race, as some of these candidates could capably achieve. Some might even win the presidency in 2016, but it would be close. Who can win some Great Lakes states, the upper South, Colorado, and/or Florida?
Well, let’s see!
Jeb! Bush (smug autocratic former Governor of Florida)
Type: neo-conservative patrician
Purpose for running: legacy, turn
Chance of winning primary: 21%
Chance of winning general: 40%
Base of support: moderates; people who like dynasties; neo-cons; GOP establishment; he wishes Hispanics
Geographic base: national, but primarily the Northeast, Florida, and the Sun Belt
Jeb! (pronounced yeb) Bush is attempting to craft an image of himself that reeks of inauthenticity. A man of the people–namely Hispanic people. The problem is he is neither of the people nor his he Hispanic. But what he is certified as is a politically connected son and brother of former presidents, and a former governor of a swing state. That pedigree would generally make him the odds-on favorite to win in a party that has historically observed an it-is-your-turn approach to candidate selection. The problem is the party has become more conservative, and the “activist” class has managed to forge the most powerful narrative, which now reverberates in formerly moderate circles. The fractured field actually helps Bush–almost everyone is to his right and will fight it out for the looney tunes vote–but he has looked quite underwhelming in these early stages of the campaign.
With his classical training as a political operative in mind, Bush’s inability to answer the “knowing what you know now, would you invade Iraq?” question is astonishing. I contend if you were to ask him that question right now, you would get a different answer.It is a pretty simple question, which from his perspective would have a telegraphed answer: yes, with some caveat. That is it. He cannot refute his brother’s vision of Iraq and domestic security without hurting his own brand. Whether Jedediah likes it or not, he is conjoined with Dubyah at the hip on nearly everything. Moving away from his brother’s legacy is only remotely possible if he at least surrounds himself with different people and espouses different wisdom on the area, but his advisers are the same people that masterminded the war, and his messaging is also the same.
Back to his ethnicity, Bush is badly hurt by Marco Rubio’s presence in the campaign. Although Rubio is Cubano, his skin color and general straight-shooting manner leave him in a much better position to court Hispanic voters than Bush, who married a Mexican woman and has a biracial child, but is himself a product of an Aryan Episcopalian aristocratic family.
Jeb!’s bumbling, tone-deaf, and incredibly back-heeled campaign is inherently cynical. It operates under the clear modus operandi that he is destined to become president, and that if he avoids controversy and gotcha’ moments, his connections and name recognition will keep him in the race until early November 2016. No matter what he overtly stresses or claims in his manicured public gatherings and speeches, Bush’s campaign is not about earning it (the candidacy), but enduring it (the campaign).
Ben Carson (blind neurosurgeon in Maryland)
Type: Tea Partier/take-my-country-back(er)
Purpose for running: profit
Chance of winning: zero
Base of support: Tea Party; conservative policy wonks and intellectuals (too small a group to build a base)
Geographic base: a couple of people at the selfish Johns Hopkins medical school
Carson’s primary reason for running for president is to sell books. Plain and simple. This is a profit-making endeavor, although I do not doubt his sincerity when he decries the PPACA as the worst form of social control since slavery, or that same-sex marriage is really not that different from bestiality. And while I find him a pretty boring, inconsequential candidate or pundit, there is something to be said for how infatuated many Tea Party groups are with his person. Do they think he has smart ideas? Do they like his tenor? Are they just looking for any black conservative, and Allen West is busy right now? All I know is Ben Carson hails from the JHU medical school which is famous for bogarting resources that the rest of the university would benefit from. Fitting that side of the school would produce a vitriolic GOP candidate.
Chris Christie (cartel Governor of New Jersey)
Type: metro machine conservative
Purpose for running: ambition and power
Chance of winning primary: 2%
Chance of winning general: 31%
Base of support: white homeowners; very confused good governance types; labor haters; network of cronies; Italians; police and firefighters.
Geographic base: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic
The Culture of Corruption candidate really hurt his credibility with the whole Birdgegate debacle. It is obvious the whole thing was orchestrated because of how he runs his operations. The facts as currently available in the public surely disqualify him from overseeing a nation of diverse thought–some that do not jive with his thinking. Especially in this historical time period, in which federal security state affairs are at a crossroads, a Nixonian candidate like Christie or Walker is quite dangerous. Christie is very enigmatic: he seems to be go-getter, no nonsense type, as seen in how he handled Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, he is petty, abusive towards any opposition (e.g. questions), and he maintains a solid record of carving out special interest privileges. If you have to live under the reign of any of these candidates, Christie might be among the least pernicious, but that says more about the field of candidates than Christie’s acceptability. Such a pity; before the scandal I thought Christie could give Hillary a run for her money. Although he is still a strong campaigner, he is unlikely to make it through the GOP primary, let alone topple Hillary.
Ted Cruz (vacuous false-idol Senator from Texas)
Type: opportunist, McCarthyite, Tea Partier
Purpose for running: attention and profit
Chance of winning primary: 1%
Chance of winning general: 3%
Base of support: Tea Party; Minutemen; various anti-government types; people who gravitate towards false idols
Geographic base: Sun Belt, Big Sky country, Washington D.C.
Ted Cruz loves attention more than anything else, such as power, governance, policy, esteem. This run for president is not serious in any way, but simply an opportunity to keep his name in the public eye so that he can sell books, book speaking engagements, and engage donors. He is a weak candidate in any general election that has at least 1/3 non-GOP voters, which makes his reelection in Texas precarious. Therefore, time is of the essence for Cruz to cash in on his exploits, lest he be left with no policy achievements and not enough money to show for his time in politics. The real kicker is if Cruz used his education and ability to cajole colleagues to do as he says for a greater purpose, he could potentially be a formal leader and decision-maker within the party. It is fairly clear he does not want this sort of responsibility, unless of course that would keep him in the public eye ever more. Cruz is one of the few in-government vanity candidates, which usually hail from non-elected circles.
iCarly Fiorina Version 0.32 (failed business executive in California)
“You’re all fired, pissants” … “Oh, I’m fired… ingrate”
Type: business conservative
Purpose for running: vanity, life-meaning
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: California Republican Party
Geographic base: Certain Silicon Valley home, Orange County
Fiorina’s version number is to suggest she has regressed below the 1.0 status, into a walking, talking demagogue. Aside from Ben Carson, she might be the least qualified person to become president. Unlike Carson, she has executive experience and has run for elected office, but short of the Trump, she has failed at being an executive as she ran HP into the ground. HP’s products, profits, innovation, market share, brand loyalty, and worker morale all declined under Fiorina. Since her departure, HP has actually returned to form to some respect, showing crappy leadership indeed outweighs decent thinkers and workers when it comes to final product. She is a vitriolic, bitter person that is very insulting and defensive in just about every setting you will see her in. California is light on the GOP bench, but even there, she is a horrible, horrible candidate. The 42.2% vote share in the California Senate race against Barbara Boxer looks pretty good, as does winning Ventura and San Diego counties. However, the year of that election was 2010, and Boxer has long faced mainstream issues with getting Socal white middle class votes, which suggests a) the impressive counties Fiorina won had more to do with dislike for Boxer, and b) 42.2% in 2010 is actually pretty awful. A stronger candidate could have brough Boxer into plurality victory territory–still a loss, but a more respectable one. Fiorina does not deserve to be president or vice president, and she really has no particular base of support to justify her candidacy. Seriously, who supports Fiorina?
Lindsey Graham (limp-wristed Senator from South Carolina)
If you get this reference, cheers.
Type: Neo-conservative war hawk
Purpose for running: policy, keep neo-con hawk line on the agenda
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: neoconservative war hawks; legal community; log-cabin Republicans
Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman made up the holy trinity of neoconservative war hawks in the Senate between the late 1990s and 2010. They were bipartisan, but generally agreed on a conservative, anti-darkies agenda. Now in 2015, Lieberman is gone, with Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire subbed in, but Graham still has all the same answers. “Invade, invade, 9/11. bomb, invade, kill, 9/11, radical Islam, war, Iran, Benghazi, bomb, security, kill kill kill.” I suppose it is disingenuous to use quotes, but I stand by those terms as a pretty good paraphrase. His presidential run is not in any way to win, but instead to do two things: become a potential VP candidate, but more importantly, keep the hawkish line in the official discourse.
I guess this presidential run means Lindsey will not announce his coming out of the closet any time soon, but I sure hope Graham accepts his homosexuality soon and drops the facade of being a lifelong bachelor.
Mike Huckabee (snake oil selling former Governor from Arkansas)
Type: evangelical conservative
Purpose for running: profit
Chance of winning primary: 9%
Chance of winning general: 22%
Base of support: Evangelical movement; certain right-wing populists; some moderates that view his rhetoric and governance as two distinct, almost disconnected paths.
Geographic base: Bible Belt, south of the Ohio River, east of the Colorado
Mike Huckabee has managed to transform from mild-mannered, pragmatic conservative governor to hate-filled, pandering, solicitous demagogue in a matter of eight years. Where Huckabee used to come across as an authentic populist with religious commitments, he now seems to represent purely reactionary elements within the country. Further, he tends to use language that foments anger and increases general hostility toward government instead of framing his perspective on issues as problem-solving what others fail to fix. These changes point towards a general lack of interest in governance, and instead, a growing interest in money. If he has a secondary motive, it might be to grow his power within the American baptist and evangelical communities, but even this may now simply serve as a vehicle for resource extraction through peddling snake oil products like crappy health care coverage after the PPACA, or weak cure-alls to diabetes. Among all the profit-motivated candidates in the race at this time, he still has the largest political base and greatest chance to at least win some primaries. He has done it before, and even if he has lost the esteem of more serious voters, his burgeoning power within the religious right affords him a strong, motivated base to turnout in droves.
Bobby Jindal (awkward malware Governor of Louisiana)
“Uh sir, you just don’t seem to get it. The fedurrul guvurnment caused the BP oil spill and is making it worse.” I imagine dealing with Jindal for coordination purposes is extremely obnoxious.
Purpose for running: self-meaning, VP bait
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: none really, but some conservative policy wonks like him
Geographic base: parts of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal is not a well-liked or popular political figure in any circles. Louisianans don’t like him, so he has no geographic base. Big money types have all-American good ol’ boys like Walker and Bush to turn to. Youths don’t like him. I am sure he holds some esteem in the Indian community, which on balance is more conservative than most Asian American communities, but that base is not strong enough in the GOP to do much. He tends to play up new generation leadership with fresh ideas, much like Rubio (and in his awkward, vague manner, Cruz), but Jindal does not actually have many ideas. School choice? Stopping Iran from getting a nuke? Repealing Obamacare? Keystone XL? Nothing innovative or original about this stuff. Even in a weak field, he would likely finish near last, but here, Jindal stands no chance. Chances are Jindal becomes a highly paid lobbyist for an oil company after he leaves the governor’s mansion.
John Kasich (calculating Governor of Ohio)
Type: Reaganite, pragmatic conservative
Purpose for running: governance; ambition
Chance of winning primary: 3%
Chance of winning general: 48%
Base of support: Beltway players; moderates; policy wonks; Reagan era pols; in-government bureaucrats; business interests without conservative social agendas
Geographic base: Great Lakes, D.C.
Governor Kasich is a savvy politician, well-seasoned in decades of austerity era American governance. He probably aspires to be nearly as conservative as most of the other candidates here, but unlike them, when he perceives public sentiment is against him, he will compromise. The Issue 2 debacle in 2011 seems to have shaken the depths of his conservative agenda, but that likely made him a better general election candidate and representative of broader interests. Perhaps the fact that he has a conscience precludes him from becoming the GOP candidate, but if he somehow made it to the general, there is a strong chance he could beat Hillary to become president. When an authentic conservative willing to make deals to keep the country moving has almost no shot of winning the Republican primary, something is seriously wrong.
George Pataki (bored former Governor of New York)
“Who farted? Must be al-Qaeda.”
Type: security statist
Purpose for running: relevance, life meaning, probably profit
Chance of winning primary: zero
Base of support: Giuliani type well-to-do metropolitan homeowners who fear minorities and crime
Geographic base: places hit with terrorism, suburbs, and exurbs
As a fringe candidate running purely out of boredom and a dwindling sense of life-force, Pataki at least fulfills the security state fear monger role Giuliani usually fills. Aside from that, not much to say about Pataki except he is unlikely to gain any traction short of a terrorist attack that somehow he forecasted. That should also make him a prime suspect if one is to occur. He has a reputation as a New York conservative, but short of James Buckley, he would still seem quite moderate to the GOP base. A meaningless campaign for a meaningless person.
Rand Paul (the less disgusting Senator from Kentucky)
Type: libertarian extraordinaire
Purpose for running: keep libertarian line in public discourse; sell books
Chance of winning: 18%
Chance of winning general: 28%
Base of support: paleo-conservatives; libertarians; Bourbon GOP; college-aged white males; Ayn Rand readers.
Geographic base: national, college campuses
Every now and then Rand Paul will say or do something that seems cross-partisan and almost beneficial for the country, such as fighting the surveillance state and working with Harry Reid to retrench the prison industrial complex and enfranchise felons. That is really good stuff, and his voice within the GOP is much more important than the many Democratic civil libertarian analogs, which is quite ironic since the GOP is supposed to be the party of limited government, reserved rights, and skepticism toward governmental power. As some–but not all–political observers understand, the GOP actually seems to be the party of inflated and wasteful government, which is an interesting method of decreasing public confidence in government, which thereby bolsters claims to dismantle parts of the state that actually do serve a purpose, such as the welfare state. Anyone who followed Reagan’s presidency understands this tactic well: starve the beast to create the crisis in which retrenchment takes hold; make government so heinous regular folks will call for deregulation and the marginalization of public goods. But while these conservatives, starting with Nixon, the expansion of state oppressive apparatuses such as the surveillance and carceral states belies much of their retrenchment messages. This is where Rand Paul is both confounding and refreshing: he generally wants to dismantle nearly everything across the board, which includes conservative-led police state structures. Paul’s several filibusters have certainly kept these items on the agenda and disallow quick, bipartisan reauthorizations, even if he fails at the end of the day. Launching a filibuster when you are publishing a book about your filibusters is also a nice way to profit from these seemingly symbolic articulations.
That is where Paul becomes a little easier to figure out than say, Scott Walker: Paul wants to spread the gospel of libertarian doctrine, and if that forces him to lose some allies while he makes some money, so be it. The senator is not running for president to win, but instead to keep his agenda in the public eye, and to further build his middle-class white college boy base into a larger network. Perhaps one day he will become the GOP candidate, but right now the primary voters are not libertarians, but instead generally Huckabee type social authoritarians. In the past, Paul has pandered to this crowd (see any of his comments on civil rights), but he seems less content to make that a focal point in his current campaign. Although the Paul electorate is not fully formed, the elder (Ron) Paul did exceedingly well for an insurgency campaign in 2012. Perhaps Rand will go even further this time, which means several states outright. That libertarian strain is strong in California, Colorado, Maine, the Dakotas, and possibly Kentucky (for obvious reasons).
Rick Perry (moronic former Governor from Texas)
Certainly (I hope) an accidental sieg heil, but Niggerhead owner Perry has eclectic views on social issues, many of which are grounded in late 19th-early 20th century thought.
Type: states-rights evangelical conservative and secessionist
Purpose for running: relevance
Chance of winning primary: 5%
Chance of winning general: 2%
Base of support: secessionists; racists; Texans
Geographic base: Texas and parts of the Sun Belt
Oh Rick Perry, why do you want to advertise your stupidity? I know glasses can be perceived as a sign of intelligence, but that is if you adhere to Khmer Rouge assessments of intelligence, in which Perry should probably take the glasses off lest he be led to the killing fields. As if the glasses were not enough, he also obtained a lecturer job in the political science department of Texas A&M, which is actually a pretty good school and department despite it being his alma mater. What would complete Perry’s transformation into the conservative’s intellectual would be the ability to articulate clearly, write legibly, and remember one’s argument. Once he gets those down, National Review here he comes!
As if Perry’s meltdown last cycle was not enough, Perry is back for more. If he was the only southern conservative with occasional bouts of racist psychobabble, he might actually have a chance to make it to the final three. However, this cycle has Huckabee, Jindal, Santorum, and Cruz, which is a clown car of the same ilk. They will splinter the vote to the point that a “moderate,” northern conservative, or libertarian might carry the day, further marginalizing the quite formidable southern bloc. Perry is probably in the race to provide liberals with laughs and to potentially hype a forthcoming book about Texas secession and why he hates America so much. Of all the fringe candidates, Perry has the highest likelihood a winning a state primary (South Carolina maybe), but he will quickly lose steam and implode, much like happened to revisionist pseudo-historian Newt Gingrich.
Marco Rubio (thirsty Senator from Florida)
“Excuse my Obama bashing, I’m really rolling right now and some agua would be divine”
Purpose for running: ambition and hopeful VP pick
Chance of winning primary: 11%
Chance of winning general: 35%
Base of support: politically illiterate young people; moderates; certain Tea Partiers; Club for Growth
Geographic base: Southern Florida
The man that drinks scared, Rubio loves to tell everyone how much he likes hip-hop, and apparently, electronic music. Well that’s nice. I like hip-hop too. Oh, you like Tupac and Biggie? Me too!!!! I guess you have my vote (says no one). Although I do not doubt his sincerity with liking rap, I definitely think his infatuation with dub step is pure pandering. That said, in a general election equipped with rock the vote campaigns, he might benefit from some of these statements. But there are very few Republican primary voters who share his authentic interest in 90s hip-hop. If Rubio is crafty enough, he will try to learn a thing or two from Rand Paul and storm college campuses for his voting base. Simply put, Cubanos are not a large enough population in states out side of Florida, which will likely go for Bush over him, though I could be wrong on that. Rubio is betting the farm on this campaign as he is not running for reelection in the Senate–unlike unscrupulous Rand Paul–which implies he is either very confident in winning/gaining VP nod, or he does not want to be in DC anymore and would rather run for FL governor or get a show on Fox. Rubio’s message has predominantly focused on international issues, such as Iran and ISIS, with sprinkles of Obamacare and entitlement talk. I doubt these combination will go very far in such a crowded field, but I am hesitant to dismiss Rubio the way I do with other candidates. Historically he has shown a unique leadership style, such as his state-crossing idea generation tour when he was a state lawmaker, which allowed him to craft an image as a visionary man of the people. I do not see him doing such things nowadays, but if he can stay in the race past the first primary months, I think he could be a serious candidate that is capable of pleasing both establishment (“moderate”) GOP business interests, as well the Tea Party. Moreover, he then adds in the youthful vigor element to contrast with Hillary, and who knows, maybe he pulls off an incredible upset. Stranger things have happened.
Rick Santorum (talking airbag and former Senator from Pennsylvania)
Type: Christian conservative, blue collar conservative
Purpose for running: profit, nothing better to do
Chance of winning primary: 1%
Chance of winning general: 8%
Base of support: 19 & Counting; disenchanted conservative union workers; nuclear family idealists
Geographic base: Rust Belt
Rick Santorum is an utter moron, but lately I have realized he is probably not a bad person. Moreover, he has a strain of preferences in his career of taking pro-worker stances on some issues when the GOP line would be to his right. Granted, these are rare and often meaningless, but my point is he is not the worst. He might be a fundamentalist, but he has some common sense. He also has a low IQ, which hurts his ability to answer questions and communicate in an effective manner. Anyway, Santorum is not a threat to win this election–he seems to struggle to find an audience willing to listen to him. Unfortunately, that means this race is simply about keeping his name out there so he can make enough money off of family biographies to buy the his eponymous domain name. A frothy mixture indeed.
Donald Trump (ego-maniacal profiteer)
Type: xenophobic business conservative
Purpose for running: vanity and self-meaning
Chance of winning primary: 3%
Chance of winning general: 1%
Base of support: himself; interests abroad
Geographic base: Suburbs, NY and Chicago, Northeast
Trump is the most prolific troll in American political history. Unlike most human beings, when Trump makes an assertion at the beginning of a sentence, he has no problem completely disowning that view by the end of the sentence. Where many people are bound by consistency to decrease cognitive dissonance, Trump will float from one string of ideas to another that completely contradicts what he just said. He is neither principled nor conservative, which is what the base really wants. He is an opportunist who says what he thinks people want to hear, which may strike people as untrue, but that is what does. Many members of the GOP hate Mexicans, but Trump does not. And yet he feels very at ease with attacking anyone of that nationality as likely criminals or moochers. He makes business deals in quick succession with Chinese or Arab autocrats and tyrants, then will vilify their whole lot as enemies of the state. Wouldn’t that make Trump a traitor? Anyone that allows the words that fart out of Trumps disgusting head to bother them is misunderstanding what Trump represents in the cosmic collective: Trump is the desperate fame worshiping failure that thinks he has all the answers, when he has exactly zero solutions to anything. No matter how well he polls in New Hampshire, or any other state, the egomaniac will never gain elected office with a diverse electorate. He could run for mayor of Greenwich if he wanted, and might win, but that is about as high as this vanity candidate can buy his way into elected office. Now he could become a diplomat for a winning candidate he financed, but then he would have to knock off the racism, which might be asking too much.
Scott Walker (sinister Orwellian Governor of Wisconsin)
Type: smooth talking arsonist
Purpose for running: power, policy, ambition
Chance of winning primary: 26%
Chance of winning general: 46%
Base of support: Koch Bros™; multi-national business interests; homeowners; union haters; polarized and fearful public; bikers.
Geographic base: Great Lakes and Great Plains
First off, Scott is a such a cool dude. Like really. What a man of the people and just really humble, and hey, he is just like me: a commoner. He rides around Wisconsin in a rotund motorcycle, he has badges. I mean, so cool.
Too bad he is the contemporary incarnation of Richard Nixon. Seriously. He is the most Nixonian candidate this country has seen in… ever. His paranoia, quest for power, unscrupulous personal and institutional attacks on others, and his incredible ability to forge a seemingly benign message to cover up a dystopian policy is uncanny. Walker is the biggest threat of any candidate to become president, and then quickly deregulate an already deregulated country, open up nature reserves for resource extraction, and massively retool the surveillance/security state to Orwellian levels. Fear, like with Nixon, is his currency.
Walker is quite perplexing. The weirdest aspect of Walker’s person is no one really knows what he actually believes. It is easy to paint him as a mouthpiece for the Koch Bros™, willing to do anything for his big money donors in the quest for quid pro quo enrichment and political gain. But, he could also be a principled business oriented conservative, driven to implement his ideal vision of an American in which… businesses… and… Republicans reign supreme. But who knows to what extent he pursues his principles, discrete interests, constituent demands, or big business directives. Does it even matter?
The answer is no. Whether he believes in the policies or political tactics he readily employs hardly matters. What is known is that he pursues a deregulatory, union-busting, surveillance included agenda that would likely hurt almost every person in the country, whether they realize it or not. I could see the allure of seemingly normal, seemingly humble, seemingly direct leader that levels with people and claims to balance budgets and cut taxes. All this amounts to a middle class white male homeowner’s dream candidate.
Whether Walker is driven by personal goals or select interests, one thing is known: he is a power hungry politician that uses covert tactics to achieve his strategy of ensuring politics is filled with hatred, animosity, fear, and permanent crisis. In this context, he can step in and be the patrician leader business interests and scared people adore. God help us if ever becomes president.
Strictly about this campaign, he is among the most sophisticated politicians in the country, and he has an endless stream of dark money to keep him in the race long after most other candidates piss their sugar daddy off and bow out. I consider him the strongest primary candidate in the GOP, and among the top 4 strongest general election GOP candidate. If he wins Iowa, he could still lose in other states, but if he wins New Hampshire, I would say primary season will be over very quickly.
Harry Reid shocked all political observers by actually pulling the trigger. This will earn Reid a place in congressional history as one of the more powerful leaders the Senate has ever seen.
Today was such an important day in Senatorial (and in fact, American) history, that it warranted the first post in eleven months. Though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has long earned the respect of his peers for keeping his party together and being adept at using parliamentary procedure in the Senate, today Reid solidified his place in history by changing the rules of the Senate. The abusive use of the filibuster has marred the Senate for much of Bush’s second term, but its exponential rise under the Obama presidency has made its continued place in the system untenable. Filibuster reform advocates, such as Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), petitioned the leader to change Senate rules at the opening of the 113th Congress. The changes on the first day of the session, and succeeding agreements that intermittently pop up, hardly affected legislative output, and showed the weakness of “gentleman’s agreements.”
Unlike the highly institutionalized House of Representatives, the Senate does not operate based on lengthy and clearly defined rules, but instead, operates on precedent and cultural norms. Essentially, the House of mechanistic and routinized, a legislative body created to empower the will of the people as seen in the majority of representatives. In contrast, the Senate is a deliberative body, created to consider the validity of legislation in the other chamber, advise presidents on their appointments, and ratify treaties. Further, the Senate runs on comity and interpersonal relationships between members, which is supposed to encourage statesmanship, bipartisanship, and consensus, beyond what a pure majoritarian body encourages. The Senate, unlike the House, is a minority controlled body: not in leadership or committee chairs, but in deference to the minorities prerogatives and input into the processes the body propounds. This system has worked fine over the years, as long as members of both chambers understand their roles; Representatives advocate for the will of the majority of voters through affirmative government policy, while Senators rise above quibbles, to think about the effect of the policies would be on the country, and to refine it to the most moderate, median-voter-pleasing form.
But as the party system changed from the fifth to the sixth, and liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats switched parties, bipartisanship as a practice (and concept) waned. Paired with social migration, in which voters tend to live around those they agree with on ideology, and party primary changes, which exclude general voters in favor of party loyalists, you end up with legislators who do not understand their partisan counterparts, and worse, do not even seek to try and bridge that gap. Legislators who work constructively to build consensus are often demonized on both sides, leading to the further erosion of moderate legislators in Congress (see the primary losses of Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Lugar (R-IN), Spector (R & D-PA), and Bennett (R-UT), and Representative Castle (R-DE); and retirements of Senators Voinovich (R-OH), Hagel (R-NE), Bayh (D-IN), Snowe (R-ME), Nelson (D-NE), Dorgan (D-ND), and Bond (R-MO)). For the Senate to work in its 20th century manner, it would have to be filled with members who want to work with one another to create necessary public policy. The increasing polarity is only one half of the equation; the other half is the type of people joining the Senate more an more often. These people cater to party bases as the primary objective; not policy. General elections have become secondary to primary elections. Finally, the legislators that wield the most influence, financially and organizationally, are becoming more and more clustered on the extremes of demagoguery. Demagogues do not want to legislate; they want to instigate. A perfect storm occurs when demagogues with anti-government philosophies gain power, which is the case for 12 (or 13 if you include Chuck Grassley) of the 45 Republicans currently seated in the Senate.
What is startling is how the parties are changing every successive election, with less and less policy driven individuals being elected into the Senate. Of the demagogues I enumerated above, over half of them have entered the Senate after the 2010 election. Is it due to the anger against Obamacare during that election? One can only hope, though the trend of GOP party purity (whose purity?) does not seem to be going anywhere.
So today, after being so apprehensive as to indicate this would never happen, Harry Reid overruled the presiding officer (as advised by the parliamentarian), to change the cloture rule on executive appointments (except those to the Supreme Court) from a 60 vote threshold to a simple 51 vote majority. Chuck Grassley’s distorted talk about packing the courts (by offering three judges to a three judge vacancy) will now actually lead to packing the courts. Obama can nominate nearly 100 judges to different federal courts, and that number is likely to climb to 150 by the end of his presidency (creating a 3D to 2R national balance on the courts). This change in the cloture rule, so that the 60 votes only applies to legislation and SC nominees, has ushered in a new era in Senate history. This is the beginning of majority rule in the Senate.
What of the Democrats? Are they blameless in this predicament? No, but false analogies often blame both sides equally for what one side is more responsible for. The current problem of government productivity is because of Republican base pandering and irrational hatred of the president. But Democrats are equally responsible for the quality of legislation deteriorating, and for public policy to take a back seat to political processes. I will not address this point too much within this post, but essentially, the administration of government is becoming increasingly inefficient, poorly targeted, cumbersome, and misguided. A new paradigm of policymaking must be created that is not based on logrolling, pork-barreling, particularized benefits, or ideological purity. The new system must revolve around pragmatism in making government work for the people, which only the Democratic party is in a position to achieve (therefore it is their responsibility).
But back to the question of blame and solutions. Senate Democrats have been slow to understand the depths of the body’s problems, and therefore, deserve some blame for it getting this bad. Take for example Carl Levin of Michigan. He, along with Senators Pryor and Manchin (both conservatives), voted against the change today. His rationale was that it sets a horrible precedent for future Senatorial rules changes, and intimated there may have been another way. His idealistic view is not ingrained in reality, and his stature within the party has carried much water on this issue. He himself probably deferred action on filibusters by working with Senators McCain, Lieberman (when he was around), Snowe, and Graham to create agreements that were not adhered to. It is old guard Democrats like Levin who are ill-equipped to successfully legislate in the current Sixth Party System. Their memories of the better days inhibit their ability to diagnose the issues and solutions to contemporary problems. Ideology does not matter much in this discussion; what matters is understanding changes in society and party dynamics that warrant changes in institutions. Otherwise, our governing institutions simply look illegitimate and out of touch, like the outgoing senator.
Carl Levin opposed the change, caught between nostalgia and idealism, and the reality of the contemporary party system. Levin’s solution to the problem (the status quo) would essentially lead to more government inaction on key appointments and legislation. Levin is a respected Senator, but he has never been lauded for his vision as a leader, so this is a fitting exit to his congressional career.
Though the filibuster is still around on the more important legislative votes, Abe Lincoln would say a house divided cannot stand, and Senate with domain specific rules surely cannot either. This means soon the Senate will completely remove the filibuster from use on all matters. Every course of action will require just the majority caucus to push through legislation. One can argue this is a sad day for deliberation, but since that has largely disappeared anyway as a product of the low quality people elected to this branch (the House included) nowadays, responsible party government will have to take over. There are definite downsides to this approach, which means party voters need to hold their members more accountable than they have so far, which we have no reason to believe will happen. Essentially, the filibuster’s removal will not save the entire system, nor will it destroy it. But it does allow the legislative process to fulfill its duties more readily, which inherently benefits the causes of affirmative government policy over those who wish to destroy, or obstruct, the government. Will there be examples of Republicans using this change to their favor, on perhaps horrifying draconian measures? Yes, but there is always bad with the good.
This is a step in the right direction. Chamber differences will still create a system in which the bodies negotiate with one another, and further, the checks and balances in the system will keep radical change from happening too quickly. But at least change can happen, now that the filibuster is on its last legs.
I did not pay much attention to this uncompetitive race, but when I saw a non-partisan prognosticator claiming Ted Cruz is a future superstar in national politics, I decided to check out some of the debates between Cruz and his Democratic opponent Paul Sadler. Before I checked out these debates, I knew the election result. Cruz won 56.6% to Sadler’s 40.5% vote share. I thought, hmm, a Tea Partier winning well, but not impressively, a state where Romney won with 57% of the vote. Coming into the debate, I had heard Cruz was an expert debater. What I found did not quite conform to that view. He is methodical and premise oriented, which creates clear logical arguments, but in debate, premised arguments rely on factual efficacy. Much of what Cruz claimed throughout the debate were simply ordered talking points that mirror the Tea Party (and nowadays, GOP) mantras. Cruz’s delivery is understated, unoffensive, and yet, the crux of his policies would leave many people who might have voted for him in a worse position. He is an intelligent, educated man, but that begs the question, why does he hold his extreme views?
However, the revelation of these debates, and my belated viewing of them, was actually the sincere and effective manner in which Cruz’s opponent discussed issues. Even though Sadler would often admit, “maybe I am not explaining this as well as I need to,” the fact is, Sadler was more honest and straight with the voters of Texas. Where Cruz would avoid addressing what to do with current undocumented immigrants, or the DREAM Act, or balancing the budget, Sadler pinned himself to clear policy positions that he could work toward from day one. Now I do not know the baggage Sadler has, and I have been aware that he was not a first tier candidate, (as that candidate, former Army Lieutenant General Richardo Sanchez, dropped out), but his truthful and sincere approach very much impressed me. I could see him working to fix problems. Now for Texas, he may a liberal, but in national politics he would be a firm moderate, and the Senate needs many more of them to forge a new bipartisan way.
Too bad Sadler lost. I guess one of the Castro brothers will face Cruz in 2018, which by then, Texas will be an embryonic swing state.
Also, a word about Cruz. He now joins the extreme right faction of the Senate, and he and Mike Lee will construct a plethora of reactionary bills that most GOP voters would not even support. However, given Cruz’s education and background, I wonder if he, and possibly Marco Rubio, may change their tune at some point and move toward the middle. If these two Senators did that, they might contribute to the GOP becoming a next generation party, and thus ensure the GOP maintains its place in our two-party system. Cruz is the kind of politician who may never change, and may simply dig his heels in, but if he sees the light, he may be “a future superstar in national politics.”
The Sixth Party System failed to call every race correctly. SPS called 29/33 (88%) Senate races correctly (being wrong about Tester in Montana, Flake in Arizona, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Baldwin in Wisconsin), and 49/50 (98%) states (with Florida going for Obama being somewhat of a surprise).
Obama won every state he won in 2008 except for Indiana and (by a slim margin) North Carolina, even with a reduction of his popular vote by 6 million voters.
You might say, how can that be? A simple glance at all the Midwest prairie states shows that Obama’s share of the vote in conservative states decreased by an average of 5% across the board. For example, Obama received 42% of the vote in Kansas in 2008, but only 37% this election. Same margin for Wyoming, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.
The electorate was somewhat stickier in the South, as Obama basically matched what he received in 2008 in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. This is largely because white voters did not vote for Obama in these parts in 2008, so he could not go down very much. The minority Black electorate still supported Obama by the same intensity (though turnout was slightly down).
Other Appalachian and Tennessee Valley states that do not have a significant Black population, and therefore did not have the electoral anchor of the South, decreased their support for Obama by about4-5% on average. This includes a 3% reduction in Tennessee and Kentucky, and a 6-7% reduction in Indiana and West Virginia. Here is where white voters who formerly thought of him as a structural reformer, only to later believe him to be an uber-liberal, channeled their alienation and voted for Romney. It also did not help that all of these states have moved away from the Democratic party in general in the last decade, and furthermore, that these voters may identify Obama to be anti-coal, anti-domestic energy, which poses a threat to their livelihood (especially true in Kentucky and West Virginia).
Furthermore, in non-competitive states with a blue hue, Obama’s average decreased by 2-3%. This follows in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, New Mexico, Maine, New York, etc etc.
Finally, Obama’s strength lay in battleground states. He tailored policies to appeal to those who reside in those states, and this shows in the empirical data. Obama’s average reduction in swing states was between2-3%, which is almost statistically insignificant based on his previous margin. These states were Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina.
All of these reductions explain his lower percentage of the popular vote, even without addressing the turnout question in metropolitan areas. One can conclude that Obama essentially faced an average 3-4% reduction across the board, but that where it counted, the margin was less. Essentially, the Obama campaign relented on governing or campaigning as base pleasers, and instead focused on policies tailored for, and GOTV efforts in, swing states, thus ensuring his reelection even with popular parity. Quite an astute strategy in such a vitriolic and anti-government environment.
The dichotomy of the House and Senate essentially remaining the same, in conjunction with Obama winning reelection by a slim popular vote, but a large electoral vote, poses several questions.
Do institutions (1/3 of the Senate running each cycle; the electoral college) impede the will of the people?
Why did some great candidates, like Kathy Hochul, lose, and some lackluster candidates, like Martha McSally, win?
How does the electorate conceptualize policy-making in relation to their vote? Would a voter favor a moderate who could advocate and fulfill a legislative agenda that would benefit the voter, or instead, would the voter favor an ideological member who cannot work in a bipartisan manner?
How will the GOP reassess their platform. With the current redistricting, there is a strong possibility the GOP controls the House for the next decade. The only impediment will be either a) Blue Dogs make a comback or a realignment takes place in the South, or b) The GOP becomes more extreme and loses moderate areas (like most of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan).
Why not pile everything in at the end? The Sixth Party System likes handicapping as much as the next person, so let’s get to it:
Election Landscape: 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans, 2 Independents; 23 Dem caucus members versus 10 GOP.
Overall Senate Landscape: 51D to 47R to 2I (53D to 47R)
Arizona (retiring R)-Jeff Flake (R) versus Richard Carmona (D):
Flake is too odd to be a sure fire victor, which, coupled with Richard Carmona’s positioning as a right of center candidate, leads me to believe Carmona will win. He is one of the strongest localized candidates the Dems have recruited in a decade. His strategy will lay the groundwork for a further Dem penetration into red, Midwestern and Western territory.
Estimate: Carmona wins, 49.3% to 48.9% D+1R-1
California (D incumbent)-Dianne Feinstein (D) versus Elizabeth Emken (R):
Feinstein is invincible in California, for one, she is to the right of Boxer (and most Democrats), which allows her to win a significant amount of voters in the Central Valley and Greater San Diego area. Secondly, she maintains liberal support based on her legacy in San Francisco following the Harvey Milk and Mayor Mascone. The base has not been pleased with her conservative ways in quite some time, and yet she has never received a serious challenge. Also, it helps the GOP conceded this seat by running a far-right campaign, just like Carly Fiorina did in 2010. Invincible, I tells ya.
Estimate: Feinstein wins, 64% to 34% No Net Change
Connecticut (Retiring I)-Chris Murphy (D) versus Linda McMahon (R):
Money talks, and Linda McMahon has tons of it. She has been attacking Murphy very hard, and it seems to have had an effect. However, a blue state is a blue state, and only a strong ideas candidate with integrity and credibility can pull off this upset—McMahon is not that candidate. Murphy fits the state well, as he could easily be a shill for the financial services sector, which is essentially the number one issue in CT political elite circles.
Estimate: Murphy wins, 53% to 46% D+1 I-1
Delaware (D Incumbent)-Tom Carper (D) v. Kevin Wade (R) v. Alex Pires (I):
Interesting blowout race, as Alex Pires has flanked Carper to the left, which may shift his margin of victory. Wade is a weak candidate, sort of a business Tea Party type. He makes incendiary remarks and uses faulty attacks to often to beat Carper. Anyway, Carper has a lock on this state, perennially (at least until the GOP begins to accept moderates back into the fold).
Estimate: Carper wins, 62% to 32% to 4% No Net Change
Florida (D Incumbent)-Bill Nelson (D) versus Connie Mack (R):
Nelson is a very unique and above-the-frey type of politician. Mack is trying is darndest to tie Nelson to Obama, but the voters of Florida know Nelson is his own type of Democrat, albeit predominantly liberal. Mack was actually a strong candidate, but he cannot beat Nelson, who is stronger. At least Mack and his imploding wife will have each other when they both lose their races. Even with Romney winning the state, Nelson will win.
Estimate: Nelson wins, 55% to 44% No Net Change
Hawaii (Retiring D)-Mazie Hirono versus Linda Lingle (R):
Cannot fault Lingle for a second; she is a strong candidate, a firm moderate, and a reasonable policymaker. However, the native son being on the ballot, and Hirono representing the island’s views closely, means Lingle is out to sea. She would have beat Ed Case, and truth be told, I would have voted for her over his slimey behind.
Estimate: Hirono wins, 57% to 43% No Net Change
Indiana (Retiring R, sort of*)-Joe Donnelly (D) v. Tricky Dick Mourdock (R) v. Andrew Horning (L):
The asterisk is because Dick Lugar, one of the great statesman currently in government, lost his primary; he did not want to retire, but the Tea Party got him. We all know Mourdock has repeatedly shot himself in the foot on various issues, not just God-created rape, but even without those blunders, Donnelly could have won. He is a centrist, much like the center-right electorate of the state, and in absolute terms, he is ideologically closer to Lugar than Mourdock. He is banking on people realizing this, and voting for him. I think they will. He is a strong candiate, who would have held Lugar to around 60%; Mourdock will not fare as well. Additionally, Horning will siphon a significant portion of anti-GOP conservatives that otherwise would have bit the bullet and voted for Mourdock. Horning is your classic libertarian, but with a slightly better niche combating the GOP from within, then leaving when his attempts let to no avail.
Estimate: Donnelly wins 51% to 46% to 3% D+1R-1
Maine (Retiring R)-Angus King (I) v. Charles Summers (R) v. Cynthia Dill (D) v. Danny Dalton (I) v. Andrew Ian Dodge (I) v. Steve Woods (I):
Only way popular former Governor Angus “The” King loses is if Dill siphons enough far-left votes from him. Luckily, the presence of another liberal in the race, as well as three conservatives, will splinter all ideological groups, and the race ill become a cult of personality and name recognition. Both of those factors leave King atop the standings, and the king will join the Senate, where he will caucus with the Democrats. Interesting because all six leading, as in debate participating, candidates support Roe v. Wade, including the Tea Partier Dodge and Republican Summers.
Estimate: King 48% to Summers 31% to Dill 17% I+1 R-1
Maryland (D Incumbent)-Ben Cardin (D) v. Dan Bongino (R) v. Rob Sobhani (I) v. Dean Ahmad (L):
The presence of Sobhani attracts votes from both sides, limiting Cardin’s margin of victory, but also stymieing Bongino’s ability to attract a plurality. Non-race.
Estimate: Cardin 56% to Bongino 25% to Sobhani 12% to Ahmad 1% No Net Change
Massachusetts (R Incumbent)-Elizabeth Warren (D) versus Scott Brown (R):
Excellent race. Two strong candidates. Here is how both parties should proceed, by selecting district/state tailor made candidates that can attract voters of the opposite party. In this case, Scott Brown does not attract Dems that much, but he is incredibly strong among the state’s 50% Independents. However, this race will surely end in his defeat. Warren, though a member of the Harvard elite, has the important pedigree as an outsider turned insider reformer, and it is quite difficult to make her look bad. Brown has tried the carpetbagger stuff, but Warren fits the state’s interests well, and the voters will make that clear. Even in defeat, Scott Brown is one of the best GOP campaigners in the biz today.
Estimate: Warren wins, 49.2% to 48.3% D+1R-1
Michigan (D Incumbent)-Debbie Stabenow (D) v. Pete Hoekstra (R) v. Scotty Boman (L):
Remember that racist ad with a Berkeley alum pandering to xenophobia? We were so proud to see one of our own contribute to racist propaganda!! Anyway, Hoekstra is not that weak of a candidate: yes, he is pron to verbal gaffs and racist/anti-Islamic behavior, but he has a manner that resonates with suburban males. However, that is not enough to overcome Stabenow. She has adeptly positioned herself as Ag committee chairman, which will benefit her in the rural parts of the state that Dems have trouble in. Of course, if a farm bill passed, that would be even better, but most concerned voters understand that issue was on the House side. Anywho, Stabenow wins by a wider margin than she should of.
Estimate: Stabenow wins, 56% to 40% to 3% No Net Change
Minnesota (D Incumbent)-Amy Klobuchar (D) versus Kurt Bills (R):
Way off the grid. Klobuchar us perhaps the best Democrat in the nation at attracting GOP voters, even though she is liberal. This race may see a 30 to 45 point margin. Here is an example of a candidate who has cultivated her electorate well.
Estimate: Klobuchar wins, 66% to 34% No Net Change
Mississippi (R Incumbent)-Roger Wicker (R) v. Albert Gore (D) (and some other cons):
Wicker is a vulnerable republican, as he is not very prolific at any policy field and has definite weaknesses in personality. However, the Dems have conceded this seat, for no apparent reason that to justify not spending money on a losing race. So you get some old foggy name Al Gore and that’s that.
Estimate: Wicker wins, 62% to 35% to 3% others No Net Change
Missouri (D Incumbent)-Claire McCaskill v. Todd Akin (R) v. Jonathan Dine (L):
Yup, never good to justify, or legitimize rape. McCaskill would have lost to Sarah Steelman by a good 7 points, but Akin is out of touch enough to cost his party this election. On merit, McCaskill does deserve to win, as she is a moderate in a moderate state, but Obama will drag her down a little. Essentially, to make up for the structural disadvantage, she needed the other guy to mess up and make himself look unelectable. Well, Akin did… loser. Dine will get the conservative voters who were disenchanted with Akin, but not enough to simply stay home.
Estimate: McCaskill 48.8% to 46.3% to 3% No Net Change
Montana (D Incumbent)-Jon Tester (D) v. Denny Rehberg (R) v. Dan Cox (L):
Suing the government because firefighters did not save enough of your large estate is not a flattering look for a politician. Such is the case with Denny Rehberg, whose selfishness and bad-guy qualities may cost him the race. Additionally, Dan Cox is a fairly strong Lib candidate, and will steal some votes otherwise allocated to Rehberg. However, structural factors, and Tester’s difficulty disassociating himself from leadership, will lead Rehberg to gain a promotion he does not deserve.
Estimate: Rehberg wins, 48.3 to 48.1 to 3.4 R+1 D-1
Nebraska (Retiring D)-Deb Fischer (R) versus Bob Kerrey (D):
Ben Nelson probably could have weathered the storm, even with the PPACA vote, but he chose to quit. Though I have had a lot of personal animus toward Nelson over the years, he has been valuable in key votes, and for that, liberals should be thankful (to some extent). Anyway, Deb Fischer was the second weakest potential candidate to emerge from the GOP primary, ahead of Tea Partier Don Stenberg, but behind established candidate Jon Bruning. And Bob Kerrey was the strongest potential candidate. However, the deficit in this race, caused by the hatred of Obama and rightward, intolerant turn of the general electorate, has left this race solidly for Fischer. Had Kerrey maintained his presence in NE, he could win, but being a “New York liberal” does not play well in Kearney.
Estimate: Fischer wins, 56% to 43% R+1D-1
Nevada (R Incumbent)-Dean Heller (R) versus Shelley Berkeley (D):
Not hard to diagnose this race. Heller is from the rural northern part of the state, which explains his Tea Party conservatism, and Berkeley is a New York transplant from Vegas. Statewide elections in Nevada always hinge on either a) massive turnout in Las Vegas and Henderson, or b) the swing electorate in Reno and Carson City. This race will not benefit from heightened turnout like 2008, as home foreclosures and unemployment have made pro-Dem turnout less likely. Therefore, the race will be decided in Reno, where Berkeley is unpopular and is seen a too closely aligned with Vegas interest (and some conflict of interest stuff). Heller, on the other hand, has very little baggage other than his voting record, and can appeal to people with his reform minded rhetoric. I expect split ticket voters to favor Heller, as pragmatic moderates may see Obama’s predicament as not solely his doing, but nonetheless not support Berkeley’s elitist caricature.
Estimate: Heller wins, 51% to 49% No Net Change
New Jersey (D Incumbent)-Bob Menendez (D) v. Joe Kyrillos (R) v. Ken Kaplan (L):
Menendez seemed vulnerable going into the race, but Kyrillos has an incredible amount of trouble explaining his views on matters that put New Jerseyeans at odds with national Republicans. He still has not explained how he would vote on abortion legislation, which although it is not the premier issue, is just a microcosm of his policies as a whole. Menendez wins by default.
Estimate: Menendez wins, 56% to 40% to 3% No Net Change
New Mexico (Retiring D)-Martin Heinrich versus Heather Wilson (R):
Wilson is a strong candidate, with an interesting pedigree and reasonable stances for her electorate. However, New Mexico is moving away from the party, f not the values, that she is connected to. Heinrich was thought to be a much stronger candidate, but has proven lackluster; only good enough to win. Some might say that is good enough.
Estimate: Heinrich wins 54% to 45% No Net Change
New York (D Incumbent)-Kirsten Gillibrand (D, Working Families, and Independence) versus Wendy Long (R and Conservative):
Gillibrand has moved to the left since coming under the guidance of Chuck Schumer, and is being groomed to possibly be the first female president of the nation. Fortunately for her, she is well liked in all parts of the state, and as an indicator of how center-right voters view her, she received the Independence party endorsement. She will win handedly.
Estimate: Gillibrand wins, 68% to 28% No Net Change
North Dakota (Retiring D)-Rick Berg (R) versus Heidi Heitkamp:
Heitkamp is a superb candidate. In a midterm election, she might have won. However, in this presidential election year, she may be tied to Obama, and may lose the race by a slim margin. Berg has problems conveying his accomplishments, but his party identification may prove enough to gain a plurality. Too bad, Heidi is an ideas person to boot.
Estimate: Berg wins, 50.6% to 49.1% R+1D-1
Ohio (D Incumbent)-Sherrod Brown (D) versus Josh Mandel (R):
Mandel is a very creepy and awkward guy. I do not doubt he patriotic, and I do not doubt in his heart, he believes what he stands for, but I do question how aware of social forces and inequity he is aware of. Watching the debates between he and Brown, it looked quite forced and gimmicky how he was trying to pigeonhole Brown. Brown was talking about policy, and Mandel was rolling in mud and trying to mislead people. His youth means he will eventually become Governor or Senator, but it will not be during this election. Some split ticketing, in favor of Brown (especially in the Southeast portion of the state).
Estimate: Brown wins, 53% to 46% No Net Change
Pennsylvania (D Incumbent)-Bob Casey (D) versus Tom Smith (R):
Tom Smith is not ready to join government. He has a very low level of understanding about both politics and policy, and I do not think that would change with experience. I think he would simply end up totting the party line in a mindless fashion. Watching the debates, it is clear Casey has learned from his position on the Joint Committee on Taxation, whereas Smith knows almost nothing. The surge for Smith has been because of the millions of dollars he has spent attacking Casey. It may have cut Casey’s margin, but will not change the election outcome.
Estimate: Casey wins, 58% to 40% No Net Change
Rhode Island (D Incumbent)-Sheldon Whitehouse (D) versus Barry Hinckley (R):
Whitehouse and his cohort Senator Reed are highly entrenched in Rhode Island. Even though Representative Cicilline is facing a tough reelection, almost all of detractors from Cicilline will still support Whitehouse. He is a smart legislator who minds the interest of his people. On the other hand, Hinckley has not gained any momentum as he has not found a line of attack that works against Whitehouse.
Estimate: Whitehouse wins, 63% to 36% No Net Change
Tennessee (R Incumbent)-Bob Corker (R) v. Mark Clayton (D) v. Shaun Crowell (L):
Bob Corker, though a millionaire, was once considered a conservative reformer who may work independently of his party. Every now and then, this permutation of Corker still shows up on a procedural vote, but he has otherwise become the party’s median member. His Democratic opponent is an incendiary dixie-crat who the party disavowed in a state with a relatively strong bench. Crowell will take more votes from Clayton than Corker, but Corker will get some of the Democrat votes that might otherwise have stayed home. Crappy situation for the Dems, but Corker could not have wished for a easier election.
By the way, Clayton’s “Issues” tab on his campaign page is quite interesting. He praises Hillary Clinton and talks about “Snoopy bills” (privacy rights), while simultaneously .
Estimate: Corker wins, 71% to 24% to 4% No Net Change
Texas (R Incumbent)-Ted Cruz (R) v. Paul Sadler (D) v. John Myers (L):
Ted Cruz will fit nicely with the Rand Paul-Rob Johnson-Mike Lee-Jim DeMint faction of the Senate. Texas will become a purple state within the decade, but its current constitution is bright red. Paul Sadler is conservative, but the Texan electorate has no tolerance for a Democrat right now, period. Cruz will win despite Myers operating in the same space, as well as some other candidates. But that would only be a problem if the race was close, which it won’t be.
Estimate: Cruz wins, 55% to 44% to 2% No Net Change
Utah (R Incumbent)-Orrin Hatch (R) versus Scott Howell (D):
Hatch lucked out of the eponymous Tea Party state convention, and then the election was over. No much to say, except Hatch is as much a product of this era of ideological shift as any other Senator. He was an original sponsor of the DREAM Act in the Senate, but has since become an Obama conspiracy theorist and bad-faith dealer.
Estimate: Hatch wins, 68% to 31% No Net Change
Vermont (I Incumbent)-Bernie Sanders v. MacGovern (R) v. odd bunch:
I am watching the Vermont Senate debate right now, and man, between the pro-marijuana, China is Big Bird lady, and hippie burnout who thinks Sanders is a warmonger, to the lady who says bills need to be a few words, and the Austrian engineer who thinks the Democrats and Republicans are really only one party, Sanders looks outright moderate and reasonable. If there was one person I could work for in Congress, it would be Bernie Sanders. He will win this one with a wide margin, even though MacGovern isn’t that for from the median voter in suburban areas of eastern Vermont.
The moderator questioned him pretty hard about why he supports the F-35, which he was largely defensive in response. Interesting turn of events when Sanders is the pro-military industrial complex candidate. I actually agree with his pragmatism—local jobs valuable and should be preserved, while the greater policy should be changed.
Estimate: Sanders wins, 76% to 23% (1% for all other candidates) No Net Change
Virginia (Retiring D)-Tim Kaine (D) versus George Allen (R):
George Allen wants his old seat back, and the conservative political elite want it back for him. In this newly purple state, Tim Kaine and George Allen both hold a soft spot in the electorate, one for his father’s coaching experience, the other for his stewardship of Virginia into a job creating machine. Both are ex-Governors, both have high name recognition, and both wield incredible sums of money. This one will not be as close as it could, but in this Obama year, expect high turnout in Northern Virginia, ensuring Kaine’s victory.
Estimate: Kaine wins, 51% to 48% No Net Change
Washington (D Incumbent)-Maria Cantwell (D) versus Michael Baumgartner (R):
Cantwell is a New Democrat and her ideological pairing of state business interest, like Boeing and the tech sector, with her ability to speak on social issues, make her a well positioned candidate in her Washington. Baumgartner is also a unique Republican, as he seems to be the next generation of Tea Party deconstructionist, but seemingly a little more selective on what he is nihilistic about.
Estimate: Cantwell wins, 57% to 42% No Net Change
West Virginia (D Incumbent)-Joe Manchin (D) versus John Raese (R):
Rematch of the last special election, which was much closer than this one will be. Raese does not have credibility with voters and in many ways works against workers’ rights that some in West Virginia still value. On the other side, Manchin has tailored an localized image as the last protector of West Virginian interests, including coal in all forms and a commercial of him shooting a target with Obama’s face on it (pretty fucked up, regardless of who is President). His independence from his party, as well as his paternalistic approach (which he had as Governor), will lead him to an easy victory. Shelley Moore-Capito could have given Manchin a run for his money, but Raese cannot.
Estimate: Manchin wins, 59% to 40% No Net Change
Wisconsin (Retiring D)-Tommy Thompson (R) versus Tammy Baldwin (D):
In the most polarized state in the nation, it is possible this race replicates the electoral geography of the recent Scott Walker recall election. Both Thompson and Baldwin are strong candidates, Thompson because of his highly esteemed record in Wisconsin, and Baldwin because of the progressive views she holds. These two dimensions provide the two contending interests (labor, youth and educated progressives versus religious, rural and suburban conservatives). Pragmatic conservatives are not necessarily too far removed from Baldwin ideologically to inhibit their crossover.
Estimate: Thompson wins, 49.7 to 49.2R+1D-1
Wyoming (Incumbent R)-John Barrasso (R) versus Tim Chestnut (D):
Wyoming is the most conservative state in the country, which makes it even nicer that Chestnut is running as an authentic, reasoned liberal. The only major caveat is his energy policy, but being the way Wyoming is constituted, that makes perfect sense. Barrasso is well-entrenched, even if he is one of the worst offenders of misleading voters, distorting the truth, and operating in bad faith when he legislates (although, is legislating against his ideology?). Barrasso should imitate his compadre Mike Enzi, who is on the far-right, and yet has decent working relations with numerous moderates and liberals in the Senate. Still waiting for Freudenthal to run, maybe in six years…
Estimate: Barrasso wins, 68% to 29% No Net Change
Overall Change In The Senate: No Net Change! The Democrats will gain some new seats, while losing some in the Midwest, which will all be offset. Even two independents who caucus with the Democrats will return to the Senate (King will caucus with the majority, which will be Democratic once more).
I hope you enjoyed this set of predictions and did your civic duty and voted! If you have not voted early, make sure to take some time to vote today!!
Obama wins, despite a country searching for a new way. Simply put, not enough voters believe Romney can do any better, and how he would govern if elected. Vacillation is not a good political quality.
The election is tomorrow, and accordingly, a belated electoral college prediction is necessary. I regret my inactivity on this blog in the last six months, but life sometimes pushes hobbies to the wayside. Let’s get into it:
Among the tossup states, it is my belief Obama will take all of the Rustbelt states, largely due to the auto bailout and ancestral alliance to unions (though the 2010 election showed union members are willing to leave the Democratic party). This means, regardless of the voter irregularities in the counting of votes in Ohio, which Governor Kasich’s character has ensured will occur, Obama’s margin will be large enough to where it is moot. Wisconsin may be even closer than Ohio, but the ground game, and national level thinking of the electorate, will once again make it a blue state.
Florida will go for Romney. Rick Scott becoming Governor of Florida shows the electorate there is among the least informed and aware in the country. There are simply not enough Jewish and black voters in Florida to overcome the caucazoid and Cuban conservative coalition. Florida will be a blue state again, but not this election. Virginia, in contrast, will go for Obama based on the yuppie class that populates the northern segment of the state. Their whole reason for even living in Virginia is due to the expansion of the federal government, so this constituency will break hard for Obama. Still a 50-49 race, but the victor will be the same as 2008.
Moving west, the pundits and pollsters seem to think Colorado is in Romney’s camp, but the demographics, and good governance history of Colorado, make me think otherwise. In truth, Romney is the perfect type of Republican for this state: moderate, sort of folksy (in a contrived way), and non-threatening. However, the voter intensity in this state will still favor Obama, as a whole new group of 18-21 years olds who are not policy oriented (and thus do not feel scorned by Obama’s continuation of Bush era policies) will vote as they would have in 2008. Expect a 51-48 victory there, with Gary Johnson pulling a max of 2% of the vote (leaving a 50-48-2 split). In Nevada, the preponderance of Mormons and the state’s nation’s worst unemployment figures should all aid Romney. Again however, demographic changes, and the inability (or lack of trying) to court Hispanics into the GOP has left a structural gap that cannot be made up this election. Expect a 51-46-3 split, with Gary Johnson pulling evenly from Obama and Romney in third place.
That leaves the electoral college at 303 to 235, in favor of Obamar. The overall popular vote will be something like 63,500,000 for Obama and 62,000,000 for Romney. As you can see, I expect lower voter turnout, by about 2 million voters, than in the 2008 election. Most of these would have supported Obama, but are to his ideological left and feel betrayed by not fighting harder for a progressive change agenda.
And that is the election. Next up in national politics: gridlock in Congress, a civil war in the GOP, and who will crack first on the sequester?
Disgraceful. Mary Bono-Mack’s performance was one of the best reinterpretations of the Wicked Witch of the West that I have ever seen. She should be embarrassed and ashamed for how she has acted.
This woman is desperate. I have at various points in my life afforded Mary Bono-Mack more respect than the average Republican because she used to be a pro-environment, social moderate. She has shown herself in recent times to be a complete hack, much like her current husband Connie (maybe she simply emulates whoever her husband is; Sonny would be ashamed).
She also made the outrageous (among many) claim that “Joe Biden was out defending Iran”: Really, really!? Did she watch the debate? Quite disgraceful. I really have had an exalted view of Bono-Mack compared to whoever this person is. Of all the members of the state GOP, I thought she was the most malleable to her constituents’ needs; turns out I was wrong. She is a vindictive, scared women, who will stop at nothing to assassinate Raul Ruiz’s character, especially when he clearly has a wonderful personal story. Not everyone can marry into money (twice).
Saying she wants to get rid of the high-speed rail that “nobody wants” is pretty out there. The voters passed Proposition 1A in 2008 with 52.7% of the vote. She does not respect the voters of the state.
I did not think this election was going to be that close, even with the changing demographics of the district. She has shown the ability to garner votes from moderates and independents in the district. And yet, after seeing this debate, I think she knows something I do not. Maybe they put a poll into the field and it came back with her losing to Ruiz. They obviously would not publish it.
Everything Bono-Mack presented in the debate confirms Raul Ruiz’s critique of her. She is out of touch. She is fickle. She has disdain for those who disagree with her, instead of trying to understand why they might think that way. Furthermore, she does not have enough intellectual integrity to even explain her views on a myriad of subjects, and thinks posing questions to her are simply attacks.
Raul Ruiz was very impressive. He spoke efficiently and sincerely. He should be rewarded by going to Washington. CA-36 deserves someone who knows what it is like to live in the district.
It has certainly been awhile, but the VP debate poses as good an opportunity to get back into the swing of things as any other event. Let’s do it, bullet-point style:
When Ryan claims that his Medivoucher program will not cut benefits to anyone who needs them, but simply reduce benefits for the rich, it is the first step in a long process to end the program. True, vouchers with support for the poor is not so bad in itself, if indeed it covers everyone’s medical costs (unlikely as it is), but turning a universal benefit program into a means-tested program is the easiest way to reduce the policy constituency and therefore splinter the political clout of those who are still in the program. Universal programs have much more of a shelf-life than means-tested ones, and Ryan is quite aware of this. This is why it is true that Ryan would end Medicare—his policies would create a path dependence in which the complete retrenchment of the social safety net would take shape.
Essentially the playbook of Romney-Ryan is to take the opposite view of Obama-Biden. It is pretty odd that such a strategy would be employed in America’s uber-ideological struggle. However, the one characteristic of the current party system that is more dominantly divisive that ideology is partisanship, and essentially that is what this is. Romney-Ryan will position themselves wherever they see an electoral advantage, but the problem is they are alienating their base
Who me? Why would I tell you the truth when I constantly say “the truth is” and then follow with a lie… or two…
If this guy is the future of the Republican Party, you have to question in what alternate reality would such a party even still exist. Throughout the speech he gave to keynote a fundraiser in South Carolina today, Marco Rubio solidified his uncanny ability to misappropriate the opposing view in every manner other than the truth. He has claimed throughout the speech: a) Obama does not believe in America b) all Obama believes in is government c) the Republican Party is a big tent party, one which is bigger than that of the Democratic party d) the Senate is better because of Jim DeMint e) Obama is the most divisive figure in modern America history (More divisive than you, Jim DeMint, or Bush-Rove circa 2004? Oh that’s right, Rubio did not follow national politics back then) f) the only two things he can do as a Senator are write laws and create new bureaucracies (you can place holds on nominations, as you have done; you ratify treaties; you confirm justices to the high court; you allocate the distribution of public funds for government projects; you provide moral leadership to a nation (something Rubio has forfeited with his conceit) g) I could keep going but why should I.
Also, he is relying heavily on a teleprompter, in a much more contrived and obvious fashion than Obama. Perhaps the next line of conservative attacks should be: we use teleprompters, but we are not as good at it as Obama, therefore, he is an elitist Kenyan Muslim socialist fascist.
Wow, now he is talking about his father’s struggle as an ex-Cuban bartender. This guy is about as inauthentic and insincere in what he says and how he acts as anyone in Congress, rivaled only by his pal Mitt Rombot 2.3 (pending further updates). If this is the future of the Republican Party, I fear America may devolve into a one party state, without socialism, but instead demagoguery and money driven electioneering.
4. The Revolutionary Conservative… 116,776… 7.0 (-4)
This map says a lot. Romney essentially took the areas that are most metropolitan and generally liberal or moderate. This map, if painted blue and red, would closely resemble an overachieving Democrat beating anout of touch far-right winger. This primary is truly pathetic. All pandering, so many lies, and no vision. If this country were left to these candidates to guide the nation, you may as well move to India because that is the type of economy they envision: a race to the bottom and gross economic inequity.
Praise Jesus! I swear, this guy will be the face of the Evangelical Right in the Republican Party once his playing career is over. Hopefully he will make for a less insidious politician than the current Evangelical hate mongers. I do not even know if he will reside in Florida again, but people will remember him…
Oh wait, is this about Tebow or the primary?
I guess the latter.
Here are the predictions:
1. Mittbot… 45%
2. Fathead… 28%
3. Santorum… 14%
4. Nostradamus Paul… 11%
The only caveat I might add is that Paul is very popular among college students and there are a lot of colleges in Florida. The thing is, do they participate in the Republican primary? Hopefully Nate Silver will have an exit poll consortium that sheds light on this cleavage. If college voters really turnout, Paul could get up 17%.
1. Newt “Dude, Where’s My Next Wife” Gingrich… 40%
2. Mitt “Rombot” Romney … 30%
3. Rick “Santorum” Santorum … 15%
4. Ron “The World Is Ending” Paul… 12%
5. Rick “At This Rate, I’ll Be Governor Forever” Perry… 2%
Whoohooh! More garbage to eat!
This is a demographical map of slave concentration in South Carolina from 1861. It seems to speak volumes about what the state has historically stood for: right-wing racism, incendiary behavior, violence, aristocratic commercial control, and general oppression of the black, and by the white, populace. When deciding what image to upload for this post, I considered John Calhoun’s portrait, a Nullifier Party poster, an image of a lynching in 1932, a Barbadian planter family portrait from the 1740s, an image of Strom Thurmond filibustering the Civil Rights legislation in the late 50s and 60s, or a picture of Fort Sumter being bombarded. How about this quote from Governor Tillman:
“We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”
If you love disgraceful history… then you will love South Carolina
Winner by town (Purple is Huntsman, Dark Grey is “tied”, Light Grey is “no results”)
Bubble by size of winner’s lead (the biggest being Rockingham County’s 26.4% margin for Romney)
Third, FiveThirtyEight’s Exit Polls:
exit poll stuff…
Four, Sixth Party System’s final analysis:
Who cares? After my Iowa writeup I realized none of this matters. I could tell you, Paul did well in the most rural and liberal areas of the state, that Huntsman’s support was primarily from independents, or that Romney essentially lives in New Hampshire so that he can win their electorate, but none of that matters. Huntsman will now drop out, meaning Romney is the only non-insane Republican left in the field. Essentially, this seals his candidacy, as too many caretaker type voters will simply be too afraid of a Paul or Gingrich presidency, and cannot take Santorum or Perry seriously. From here, the race will be defined by Paul conceding non-split delegate states, while finishing second in almost every state that does split their delegates. Santorum will rise above Newt from here on out, and Perry will never recover from his own cognitive shortcomings. Santorum will benefit from extremely conservative electorates, but Romney has all the endorsements that matter, so he will continue to win.
This is all quite disgusting.
What is the Republican Party at this point other than an economically anarcho-capitalistic and socially authoritarian fiefdom? Seems like this dynamic will not change until Republican voters realize how little they benefit from the votes they cast.
The Iowa caucuses were yesterday! Were you not tremendously excited!?!? So many choices, so many great builders of an egalitarian, fair, and prosperous society! So many innovative ideas to get America back on track!
Well, maybe not. Maybe there was not one decent candidate. That would explain the highly fractured results that this post will analyze. Another reason for the level of parity was simply due to market saturation and the stabilization of bases of support. With the exception of Michelle Bachmann (and Jon Huntsman, who did not campaign in Iowa), every candidate had a core geographic base within the state. This is noticeable when looking at the results, as supplied by Iowacaucus.com. This post will analyze why each candidate received the support from each geographic reason, though I will omit potential endorsement effects, since I am simply unaware and do not care enough to piece together the effect they had. First the results:
Wow, that’s amazing! So much parity, mmm parity. Anyway, my predictions were wrong, but I was 2/3 correct by having the top two so close; I guess I underestimated the extent to which Rick Perry would still attract votes, which helped Santorum pull closer to Paul and Romney, eventually nearly surpassing both of them.
1. Mitt Romney
30,015 votes; 24.6%
Strength: Biggest metropolitan areas
Romney received more or less what was expected of him, receiving a fourth of the vote. The problem is that the presumptive nominee should receive more than that, unless he is struggling. Romney won six of the eight counties that possess the eight biggest cities in the state, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport. The two he did not win, which were Woodbury county (Sioux City) and Black Hawk county (Waterloo), he was within 5% and 1% of the winner, respectively. Chances are he won those cities, but lost the more rural surrounding parts of the counties. Romney concentrated his personal appearances in big cities, and this decision shows why he ran strong there while Santorum took the sparsely populated counties, which he visited nearly all of. All in all, in could have been worse for Romney in this very conservative electorate, but it most certainly could have been much, much better for the only candidate that poses a threat to Obama’s reelection prospects.
2. Rick Santorum
30,007 votes; 24.5%
Strength: Northwest; West; rural conservative heartland throughout
Santorum’s strength lay in his conclusive reception as the most authentically socially conservative candidate in the field. For this reason, his map looks very much like a classic Republican versus Democrat map of the state, such as the 2008 presidential election:
Santorum’s strength arises from the cacophony of ideological views that spawn from ideological migration. As is the case with most of the following maps, the more conservative the candidate, the better they do in densely conservative areas, since the echo-chamber of extremism takes hold. The other side of the coin is the more liberal an area, the more likely they are to vote for a moderate Republican, since these voters are only conservative compared to their Democratic counterparts, but probably share many principles and beliefs. This explains why the moderate Romney and libertine Paul did best in the eastern part of the state, which is more liberal, densely populated, and youthful. Republican voters, and voters in general, reflect their surroundings, and the more uniform the views, the more extreme the result; whereas the more heterogeneous the views of those around you, the more temperate result occurs.
Santorum’s strongest showings were in the counties of Sioux and Lyon, which are by far the two most right-wing extreme conservative reactionary in the state, and possibly the Midwest. The hateful Dutch Reformed churches that preach hating the gays in these counties would clearly latch onto Santorum, who was known as one of the most anti-gay legislators in congress during his tenure. Elsewhere, Santorum did exceptionally well in the counties just west of Des Moines, which he frequented about as much as every other candidate combined. Santorum surged in a last minute frantic exodus of undecided social conservatives who simply learned enough about every other candidate to get turned off, which if this would have extended a little longer, might have also been the case with Santorum.
3. Ron Paul
26,219 votes; 21.4%
Strength: Eastern part, college towns, metro areas
Ron Paul’s support reflected where he spent most of his time, which was the eastern part of the state and big cities. I am not quite sure how many college-aged Republicans voted, but that demographic certainly provided his GOTV efforts and door-knockers. Paul’s map reflects his regional support was nearly the same as Romney’s, but he simply ran behind him in most of these areas, except Waterloo. I expected him to win the caucus, but the voters that would have supplied that victory instead decided to support Santorum as the safer bet, being less controversial and risky policy-wise than Paul. His messages still resonate with many conservatives, but his doctrinaire libertarianism does scare many of the more authoritarian minded social conservatives who would like to restrict, not increase, freedoms.
4. Newt Gingrich
16,251 votes; 13.3%
Strength: Rural northern and western parts
Gingrich’s numbers were fairly dissipated throughout, not winning a single county (which even Rick Perry won two). Gingrich was weakest in metropolitan areas, showing both a cultural difference with the candidate, and an educational difference, with the less educated people in rural areas succumbing to his demagoguery more than city folk. Not much to say about this map, other than it shows he had trouble holding onto all the people who said they supported him in polls, with the likely reason because they learned more about who he was and decided he is more repulsive than endearing. Quite the flame-out, but since all he wants to do is sell books, he ends up winning anyway.
5. Rick Perry
12,604 votes; 10.3%
Strength: The populist southern counties, and generally the west
Perry’s map shows a cleavage in the types of conservatives that participate in the Iowa caucus. The southern region is known to be very populist oriented, and evidently the counties of Union and Taylor thought Perry was a man of the people, or a successful leader. I guess his meet and greet in Creston went well. Very interesting concentration in the south, either because i) very few other people spent that much time there, ii) something about the region lends itself to southern leadership, or iii) proximity to Missouri somehow makes the demographics more southern oriented. I could look into this, but really I do not care why Perry did well in southern Iowa; he will drop out soon with a boatload of campaign dollars to run for a 4th term as Texas Executioner-in-Chief.
6. Michelle Bachmann
6,073 votes; 5%
Strength: Some southwestern and northern counties, but hardly any real support
Considering Bachmann was the only native born Iowan in the race, and she won the Ames poll, 5% was about the floor she could receive; and she hit the floor hard. So hard she will most likely drop out of the race. She did not campaign in any other states, so finishing 6th with all her eggs in this basket means she’s going back to Washington, to fight another day against the evil socialist (centrist) President Obama.
7. Jon Huntsman
745 votes; 0.6%
Strength: Metro areas? Otherwise, nowhere
Huntsman… if he would have just campaigned here he could have surged like Santorum, except to a lesser degree being that his ideology is much more moderate. This map essentially shows nothing, being that the dark grey county is Worth county where he received 3 votes total. As a percentage, that was his best showing. So, this map essentally shows where he received one or more votes, which is hilarious.
Ben Nelson retired from the Senate today. Huzzah. Ben Nelson’s retirement (paired with that of Dan Boren) may very well signify the complete denouement of the Fifth Party System. These two conservative legislators, were indeed, conservative Democrats. They have historically voted with Republicans just as often as Democrats; in 2011, Dan Boren voted with the Democrats 566 of 1,146 times (49.4%), while Nelson seemed to ironically get more with the program and voted with Democrats 182 of 229 times (79.5%). Nelson’s numbers are inflated because of the numerous votes on procedure in the Senate, which distorts areas of disagreement with opposition; unlike the House, the Senate still had moderates of both parties who could work with one another to win passage on some issues. A more filtered approach on the issues finds Nelson holds more conservative views than liberal ones. Boren might seemingly have a more conservative record, but that is due to his being in the House where his vote was simply not as necessary to propel the party agenda to fruition. On the one hand, I personally disagree with these people on most issues, and am happy to see them go; on the other, these seats are firmly Republican, so while the party becomes more ideologically pure, it does so at a negative electoral consequence. The Sixth Party System poses serious questions about bipartisan governance, and the increasingly dominant trend of party polarization. Either the voters pick a side and provide them with an extensive mandate, or legislative gridlock will be the norm.
Goodbye Senator Nelson and Representative Boren. You often voted against the party that you played an instrumental role in putting in power. What an odd feeling, knowing you helped an entity accomplish policy goals you did not favor. A special happy-to-see-you-go to Senator Nelson. You were a thorn in the side of progress. Your practice of quid pro quo politics for several major bills including the Stimulus and the PPACA showed you had little adherence to your ideology, since simply exempting your state from Medicare cuts was enough to override your beliefs and acquire your vote. Quite the enigma: Opposed the most imperative Health Care legislation since 1965, and yet his party identity was the reason it was able to pass.
The issue of timing also could be important for a federal lawsuit filed this week by other Republican activists seeking to overturn the redistricting commission’s congressional maps. A separate group of Republicans, including former Rep. George Radanovich, filed the suit, which alleges that the congressional maps violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act by failing to protect minority rights in some places.
The three member court panel that is in charge of creating the new congressional districts in Texas (because Republicans overreached), issued its interim map yesterday, which is slightly nicer to Democrats than the previous one. But as this post will demonstrate, it could be much, much nicer to Democrats if they had control of the process and hired me to draw the lines. Picture below is the current map:
This map was created by Tom Delay in his infamous mid-decade partisan gerrymander, which set out to remove as many veteran Democrat congressman as possible (which it did, except for the persistent Lloyd Dogget and until 2010, Chet Edwards). This map has typically yielded around a 22-10, 23-9 congressional delegation in favor of the Republicans. Then the census data for 2010 showed the state was to gain 4 seats, and Republicans greedily tried to make all of them Republican, upping their advantage to 27 to 9 (in a state that voted 44% for Obama). So because of several consolidated court challenges to the proposed map, the court drew this one:
Now, it is certainly better than the previous one, but Republicans would still get a minimum of 21 of the 36 districts (if Dems gain every tossup and two lean R districts), but will likely collect about 24 on average. Pictured below is the map I drew, and though it can have a population deviation as large as 1200, most are fairly close (within+/- 200). This map has several wonderful qualities:
1) It limits safe/solid districts all around to just 19 districts, leaving 17 lean/tossup districts. The increase in district competitiveness should lead to more moderate, pragmatic legislators. These legislators are the glue in the traditional American political system, but have been disappearing as incumbent gerrymanders and party primaries lead to more radically polarized lawmakers.
2) It helps the Democrats! Though the Dems will have to win swing districts, they could potentially win 21 of the 36 districts (the exact opposite of the so-called wonderful court map). These Democrats may be moderates, but several of them should carve out a niche within each district, which in conjunction with population growth, should make some of the swing districts become lean/safe D over time.
3) This is all accomplished with very few odd shaped districts. Though some districts are enormous and some are tiny, they are normal shapes without any apparent partisan gerrymandering taking place (even though this is a Democrat gerrymander).
Here is a breakdown of Obama’s percentages in the current districts, the legislative version, the court version, and my version:
Even though this is a Democratic gerrymander, it is still essentially a fair map in that it has 14 Republican districts, 14 Democratic districts, and 8 tossups.
For more calculations and for replicability, here is a spreadsheet of these calculations:
Redistricting is something I am fascinated with, and yet it is something I have not yet added to this political diary. So here it is! Since the Nevada legislature could not agree on a redistricting plan, Carson District Judge James Russell had to design the districts instead. I must say, these are some exceptionally awesome districts—for Democrats. I really like the similarly sized second and fourth districts. You know, I also like the first and third. Why is this? Well, other than their wonderful compactness and contiguity, Judge Russell has managed to create three swing districts and one safe Democrat district. These swing districts were all won by Obama, which is a high watermark to replicate, but a good sign in general.
I tried to replicate the districts in my all-time favorite app, Dave’s Redistricting App (you must try it), and though the exact lines are different from the final map, I think I got pretty close. I did not just do this for cartography purposes, but it actually allowed me to obtain election data for the new districts. Here’s what I came up with:
*Rep. Berkley is running for the Senate. Dina Titus is now in the district so she is running for the seat.
I was watching C-SPAN late at night like I commonly do, and a rerun of Susan Collins on the Senate floor was playing. She was talking about the stagnant recovery and how people are losing jobs. Then she cited a recent call center closure in Maine that led to the loss of 13-20 jobs. I repeat: 13 to 20 jobs. Now this may be important to demonstrate that this is a symptom of a greater trend in her state. But it’s not. This was literally the only case she cited. The fact is, Maine’s unemployment rate has been decreasing consistently since January 2010. It now sits at 7.5%, a full point and a half lower than the national rate, and almost half the rate of Nevada’s unemployment. When you are a Senator of a state in America, and your primary complaint in a floor speech is the loss of a little over a dozen jobs, you (and your state) live a charmed life. That’s not say 7.5% unemployment is good, but it does seem she’s a little out of touch, though her intentions are correct.
That said, The Sixth Party System would like to thank Susan Collins for her generally moderate views. Though I still do not agree with most of them, I am glad that not every Republican is moving to the right simply because it’s in vogue. If the Senate was made up of more Republicans like her, gridlock would be only a minor concern; the real problem would be: okay, so we’ve enacted policies a, b, and c, now how are they working? Oh, not so well, well let’s try x, y, and z. This is what a functioning government looks like…
It makes sense that there is gridlock in divided government, not only for the ideological polarization, but for pure party reasons. Neither party has the mandate, so instead of working together to forge policy (which generally does not coincide with single party rule either), parties have to create distinctions to inform voters. The voters then decide which party to support and hopefully return a mandate. This is valuable for the longevity of America’s two party system—if both parties are out of step with the electorate, they have good reason to wait for direction from the electorate, otherwise the whole system may be at risk. Divided government stems the output of legislation, allowing the public to decide if stability (as in gridlock) is better to live under, or a certain amount of uncertainty and progress (as in single party control) is preferable. Gridlock serves as the proverbial transitional pivot in American politics, allowing for a change of direction or a reaffirmation of prior policies.
Still, gridlock itself is a public problem requiring amelioration, especially since it has been occurring at a higher rate with each succeeding decade since the 1970s. America must use these stagnant periods with great expediency and decide which line of proposed policies (if any) work best. This is presupposing that divided government cannot produce adequete, or preferable, policies, which unfortunately seems to be the case as the parties become more ideologically homogenous and regional. As state and local interests congeal on one side of the partisan divide or another, instead of being represented within both, the likelihood of gridlock and unfavorable compromises increases.
If only congress was as unified as proximity might indicate.
-Jimmy Carter destroyed our economy; she worked on his behalf when he ran in 1976…
-Claimed FDR had elastic view of constitution, Coolidge saw it better; in reality, FDR cleaned up the mess the three laissez-faire Republicans left from the 1920s (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, though he is least culpable for the economy going down hill. He just handled it poorly)
-Claimed she wouldn’t write Obama a 2.3 trillion dollar check, meaning raising the debt ceiling; again, in reality, the debt ceiling needed to be raised for past debts that accrue interests, as well as ongoing spending that had nothing to do with Obama
-She claimed the only opportunity to repeal “Obamacare” is by defeating Obama in 2012 and gaining a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. She is correct, but it will not be repealed.
-“campaign and blame” referring to all Obama seems to do. Mitt, you are talking about yourself. Since 2007, you have not stopped campaigning. Additionally, all you do is complain about Obama being European, which does not come across as authentic jingoism or racism; Mitt, you will never be conservative enough to win true conservatives over. Run as the innovative Republican, and you may win. But you won’t, because you are pandering and playing it safe.
-“you have to be legal to get that” referring to in-state tuition for undocumented students… like Perry’s position is really the left alternative; both are forms of denying financial assistance to good students who happen to be of a different culture than “white people.”
-Massachusetts was the first state to have a universal health care insurance program. With Democratic legislature, he was able to tame their initiative. What if Romney used this as his chief accomplishment? How different everything would be. Romney would be bragging that Obama and the Democratic Congress modeled their federal overhaul on his state. He would instantly be the innovative Republican
———————–>Thinks the federal courts are liberal<———————
-“Be with me, not just for me… [and buy my book in a few minutes]”
-He always has to give a history lesson. Yes, you know history, however, you sabotage your narrative when you distort history to perfectly fit your current views. America has changed, but you have not.
-“Not an American administration”–take note Mitt, this is what authentic jingoism sounds like. Do I smell a hint of racism?
-“Best Food Stamp president in America history. I want to be the greatest paycheck president in American history.” Vainglorious, sir.
-“Kill jobs, the Obama model, or create jobs, the Reagan model.” You are more attached to Reagan than the two speakers ahead of you, and they both poll much better than you. Maybe something needs to change?
-Wow, you just plugged your wife’s book, your most recent book, and a movie the two of you just made. Newt, you are now officially a Televangelist. But instead of peddling Christianity, you are peddling American Exceptionalism.
The Rational Actor?:
-“[Nondescript Chinese], just kidding” Huntsman’s opening line. Funny man.
-“We decided to adopt a chinese girl” This guy is killing it on the comedy routine. He thinks CPAC values this?
-NO WAY! HUNTSMAN JUST SAID HE IS THE ONLY CANDIDATE TO UNEQUIVOCALLY ENDORSE THE RYAN PLAN! This makes me believe he is following the Romney strategy that panders instead of playing to one’s strengths.
-“[I’m not giving you an] academic sermon.” Exactly what Gingrich did before Huntsman took the stage.
-“‘We must bring into the tent moderate Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats.” And liberal Republicans for good measure.
————–Best speech thus far. It differentiated himself from the field well————-
“President Obama in 2008 won by offering false hope,” this might be the most fucked up insult of the night. He gave you a wonderful job you ungrateful panderer.
During the floor debate for Speaker Boehner’s last ditch “Cut, Cap and Balance 3.0” (S. 627), Rep. Camp claimed the “the national debt will double under President Obama’s time in office, up to over 23 trillion dollars by 2023”. The thing is, even if Obama is reelected, he will only be in office until 2017. That would require another president to escalate the debt for 4 years. Disingenuous arguments may prevail on both sides, as Donna Edwards said this bill will end Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but these convoluted back-and-forths only serve to confuse viewers and make Americans more cynical about government. This political environment is utterly toxic. Atlas may shrug at big government, but we all shrug watching c-span.
On the Senate side, you have opportunistic Senators like Joe Manchin vacillating back and forth saying we can’t raise taxes, but people need to pay their fair share, while simultaneously saying we need to cut spending, but can’t touch medicare or social security. I have watched this man since Robert Byrd’s death and he is truly an opportunist. He always paints himself as a problem solver, while not proposing legislation or orchestrating negotiations. He always talks about how everyone created this problem, but of course he has not. It is always the blame game with him and nothing is ever good enough. He said he could not support the Reid or Boehner plans, but then said they both get us closer to where we need to be. Manchin will switch parties while in the Senate within the next 5 years, that is unless the Democrats maintain uninterrupted control; that is, because he is an opportunist.
An interesting idea for anyone out there is to calculate exactly how many of the 535 congressman you actually like. And beyond that, how many have integrity? How many propose effective legislation? Where do these fields converge? I have done my own calculations and may post them soon, but it is substantially less than the number of congressman who give good soundbites.
During a press conference to disparage Majority Leader Harry Reid’s debt ceiling bill, Mitch McConnell claimed “pairing the amount of increase in the debt ceiling with an equal number of cuts” is a proper way of handling this. He then added, “and we will proceed along these lines for the next two years.” What is interesting is how he attached this procedure to the remainder of Obama’s term, not indefinitely, which implies if they win the presidency, they will abandon this strategy. That is because they know it is ridiculous, but since it hurts Obama, they go with it.
Gridlock--it only requires one stubborn party in divided government
Watching C-SPAN during work today I noticed a trend on the Republican side of the aisle. Republican after Republican talked specifically about their grand kids, by name, to make the point that they will face unbearable debt. Aside from the obvious short sided hypocrisy, it just seems very disingenuous to use your grandchildren as the cover to create a 2/3 mandate to raise taxes.
Also, there is something wholly fallacious with the “we need balance our budget the way American families balance their budget” argument. As John Garamendi pointed out in the well of the House, families have credit cards, mortgages, student loans and other forms of borrowing. A 3 to 1 cut-to-tax ratio acknowledges the mandate the Republicans received in 2010, but their refusal to budge an inch is making “the perfect the enemy of the good.” Of course the current manifestation of the Republicans view any compromise as betraying their ideals. In this form of government, with separated powers and a bicameral, equal powered legislature, perfect idealism invokes gridlock and overly extreme shocks to the electorate.
The Republican field is still wide open to challenge President Obama in November 2012. Below is an assessment of each candidates strengths and weaknesses. The field is separated into 3 fields: Already announced presidential campaign, likely to run/formed committee, and unlikely to run but loves publicity. Here we go…
Newt Gingrich (GA)
Strengths: Firebrand member of intellectual wing of party. Has the ability to mobilize the racist and anti-Obama wing of electorate well. Comes up with creative ideas that accomplish conservative policy aspirations. Has a track record of fiscal discipline… sort of.
Weaknesses: Hated by half of the general electorate. One of the weakest candidates against Obama. Cannot stop making incendiary remarks, if not about Obama being a secular-socialist-fascist-nazi, then calling Paul Ryan’s budget “right-wing social engineering.” Has establishment and Tea Party credentials, but lacks a base of support in either.
Gary Johnson (NM) Update: Dropped out on 12/28/11 to run as Libertarian candidate
Ideology: Libertarian, social moderate
Strengths: Has some sensible plans about how to reduce spending and end the war on drugs—good in the general election. Good Government pragmatist.
Weaknesses: Has some sensible plans about how to reduce spending and end the war on drugs—bad in the primary election. He supports a woman’s right to choose, which is tantamount to murdering babies in Republican primaries.
Ron Paul (TX)
Strengths: Very consistent in adhering rhetorically and in practice to his strict constitutionalists/libertarian views. This could finally be the year the electorate is desperate enough to tackle the debt that they select Paul. If debt is the number one issue he has a great shot at winning the primary, though his views on the Department of Education alone would cost him the general.
Weaknesses: A novelty in many respects, votes too “left” on foreign policy and wants to dismantle the military industrial complex, which most conservatives dearly love. Too honest/consistent.
Formed Exploratory Committee/Likely To Run
Herman Cain (GA) Update: Formally Announced on May 21, 2011; dropped out on December 3
Strengths: Tea Partiers could collectivize around his candidacy, even if they are racist and he is black. Appeals to the I-am-qualified-to-be-president-because-I-have-never-served-in-government crowd who instinctually think everyone in government is doing something to screw them over. Will fair well in South Carolina, but nowhere else.
Weaknesses: Too inflammatory to be a serious candidate. Does not have ideas about how to practically fix government, only sweeping idealisms that will collide into a wall in government.
John Huntsman (UT) Update: On June 21, 2011 Huntsman announced his candidacy; dropped out 1/16/12
Ideology: Mainstream Conservative (with some moderate views)
Strengths: Good general election candidate who can capture moderate votes in Ohio and Florida. He can bridge the gap between the Tea Party and the rest of the country. One of the few Republicans I can say is a good person and that when he signs legislation he thinks about those it affects.
Weaknesses: Too diplomatic in how he speaks about Obama to win the votes of indignant primary voters. Very low key, hard to gain traction that way.
Mitch Daniels (IN) Update: Dropped out May 21st to spare family of scrutiny
Ideology: Pragmatic Conservative
Strengths: Has the know-how greatly reduce federal spending in a sensible manner.
Weaknesses: Said he was not against raising taxes and refused to take Grover Norquist’s No Tax Pledge, which is an asset in governance, but a deficiency in an extreme primary culture. If he makes it to Super Tuesday he may fair a shot, or if the convention deadlocks and a consensus candidate is drafted (which rarely happens anymore)
Tim Pawlenty (MN) Update: Pawlenty formally announced on May 23, 2011; dropped out august 13
Ideology: Mainstream Conservative
Strengths: Will most likely be the Republican candidate once the delegates are heard. Has the evangelical background (converted to Baptist from Catholicism) and the mainstream business Republican support to make him the ultimate consensus nominee. Also is credible in a general election since he twice won election statewide in dark blue Minnesota. Will likely be the Republican candidate when all is said and done.
Weaknesses: Has a somewhat shaky fiscal record in Minnesota, diverting money allocated for certain programs into others, which led to a 5 billion dollar deficit the next year (it is notable that this might not hurt him in a Republican primary since his method was to take money from healthcare and education; two things Republicans do not highly prioritize).
Mitt Romney (MA) Update: Announced candidacy on 2 June 2011
Ideology: Moderate (though he paints himself as otherwise)
Strengths: Can appeal to a broad constituency in a general election. Hails from a very blue state, and yet he governed in a bipartisan way. Has some creative ideas and has a history of working to forge consensus. The only candidate that the Obama white house fears facing.
Weaknesses: Flip-flops at a record breaking pace. Unclear if he actually holds any principled beliefs, or if winning is his only motivator. Seems insincere to Republicans when he says he’s pro-life, or now when he tries to bash Obamacare while hailing his own health care initiative that served as the template for the former plan. Will have trouble in the primaries.
Rick Santorum (PA) Update: Announced candidacy on 6 June 2011
Ideology: Evangelical Conservative
Strengths: Appeals to the radical fringe in his party.
Weaknesses: Was driven out of the Senate because of hateful stances on many issues, not to mention he has a poor legislative record. The more you learn about Santorum, the more it becomes apparent he is a creep.
Loves Publicity… But Will Not Run
Michelle Bachmann (MN) Update: Announced 6/13/11;
Strengths: Adopted the Tea Party as her base, and it seems like they believe she is one of them (whatever “them” is). Raises a lot of money and can merge the deregulatory, business side with the radical side of the party. Definitely a threat in Iowa.
Weaknesses: Questions abound regarding her intellect, competence, and mass appeal. She can fan the flames of hate, but can she gain support for her policies. Not well-rounded, and she is quite prone to verbal diarrhea.
John Bolton (MD)
Ideology: Strict Conservative
Strengths: Party insider, plenty of connections.
Weaknesses: Low name recognition, radical stances of international affairs (such as the deep belief that the US should pull out of the UN), and has alienated quite a few former Bush administration allies. If he did run, he would poll low early, poll low late. As with Bachmann, he is better at speaking out against Obama than gaining support for his views.
Rudy Guiliani (NY)
Ideology: None really
Strengths: 9/11, though that has become a novelty and has less relevance now that Osama is dead. In a general election his record as mayor would actually help him a lot, but he will likely not survive a Republican primary (just like last time).
Weaknesses: Too liberal for primary voters. Simply does not excel at any of the issues voters care about this election cycle.
Sarah Palin (Formerly Alaska, but they hate her now)
Ideology: Evangelical Conservative/Opportunism
Strengths: Name recognition, fundraising, and the ability to control the media. Speaks to a devoted following that would do anything for her. However…
Weaknesses: She lacks an in-depth understanding of the issues facing the nation. When she speaks about policy it often sounds disjointed, confusing and indicative of someone trying to provide a good answer with little knowledge. She stammers and strings along sentences with little substance. She can be stumped by simple questions, such as “what magazines do you read?” She has created an unlikely coalition of liberals, moderates and conservatives, all agreeing she is unqualified to be president. Her name recognition only helps for Republicans, but the nation as a whole gives her a favorability rating under 20%. She will not run, but if she did Obama would actually win more states than he did in 2008, something very unlikely to happen against any other Republican in this volatile environment.
The sixth party system is a label to categorize the political party dynamic in present day America. Others have posited that this system either has not started yet, or began when LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, forfeiting the South electorally. I contend this most recent system actually began in the late 1980s to early 1990s when both parties began to ideologically homogenize. This process has seen both parties purge themselves of moderates and ideological minorities. Others have contended that America has moved from a four party system, with a left and right-wing of each party, to a simple two party system. This new party discipline resembles parliamentary politics, which conflicts with the necessity for bipartisanship in America’s divided powers. This has noticeably taken shape within the Democrat Party as southern, conservative Democrats have grown scarce. In the Republican Party, liberal Republicans, such as Jacob Javitz, are now completely extinct. Only a handful of moderate Republicans currently exist, with more and more retiring each election cycle (Former Senator of Ohio George Voinovich being the most recent). This dynamic culminated in the Clinton versus Gingrich government shutdown of 1995, and the narrow agendas of each party in the current political atmosphere. Once an electorate chooses a side, the winner deems it as a mandate to pursue their most controversial agenda items, instead of the true cause of electoral shifts: dissatisfaction with both sides.
This new system is typified by heavy partisanship, strong party discipline in voting, and legislative gridlock. It is as much caused by social migration, incumbent friendly redistricting, and party primaries as much as changes among political parties and actors.
This blog will be used to explain this new system, with infusions of political commentary, observations, electoral predictions and other characterizing modes of this system. I will also comment on gridlock and partisanship as it occurs on a daily basis, since in my eyes these are the defining products of the sixth party system.
Just to provide some contextual background, here are the previous 5 party systems and their dominant characteristics:
The First Party System (1789-1833)
Began as intra-party differences between the pro-federal expansion Hamiltonians and the rural, state-centric Jeffersonians. Theses factions evolved into America’s first parties: the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. During the peek of their rivalry, numerical parity was pervasive and party discipline was fairly low. The Anti-Federalists drew from the former anti-constitutionalists as well as former Federalists (like James Madison) who were strict in their constitutional scope, leading to a retraction from supporting further federal powers. The Anti-Federalists became the Democratic-Republicans by the time Secretary of State Jefferson ran for president to succeed Washington, but losing to Federalist Vice President John Adams (Note: Like Washington, Adams did not favor factionalism, and was only a Federalist for pragmatic reasons, i.e. needing a political base for his ambitions and his differences to Democratic-Republican ideology). Roughly, this system lasted from Washington’s first administration after his 1789 election to 1833, with the D-Rs enveloping the electorate and winning the presidency (post-Washington) 11 out of 12 times. The dominant issues of the time were the role of the federal government, tariffs, domestic improvements, foreign policy relating to France and Britain, and westward expansion. This system reflected regionalism/sectionalism much less than every system to follow.
The Second Party System (1833-1853)
Andrew Jackson is the father of the American political party as we know it today. Together with his right-hand man and successor, “The Little Magician” Martin Van Buren, following Jackson’s defeat in 1824 the Democratic-Republicans split, with the more prevalent group transitioning into Jacksonian Democrats (and the others led by Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams retaining the label of National Republicans). The Democrats invented important mainstays such as the party convention, universal suffrage for white males, and the establishment of politics as an intimate part of the American household. As Harry Watson puts it, “Intensified public involvement in politics and the formation of enduring political parties in government and in the electorate were the two most fundamental elements in the political changes of the Jacksonian era” (1990). Jackson took on controversial measures such as withdrawing all federal funds from the Second Bank of the United States and mandated the movement of all native peoples from east of the Mississippi river to the west, which they had never known and would meet other natives who would be hostile to the encroachment on their land. Opposition to Jackson’s policies came for various reasons from disparate groups of legislators, civic leaders and citizens. Among the most outraged legislators was South Carolina nullifier/states’ rights leader John Calhoun, Virginian John Tyler, and Jackson rival Henry Clay. It took some time before these people could form a unified opposition, but eventually they did in the form of the Whig Party. The Whig party has its origins in the South, where Calhoun proposed the adoption of the Whig name because he found many similarities between the British Whigs fight against the Tories and Monarchy as being analogous to his own fight against the tyrannical Jackson. Whereas the North appreciated the name because it represented the liberal party in the British parliament, and they sought to restore America to the consensus years, with the major platform revolving around John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay’s American System, which called for internal improvements, such as canals and roads, mail service, universities, among other issues. The Democrats were the dominant party in this era, winning three out of the five presidential elections and holding the legislature for all but four years.
The Third Party System (1853-1896)
The tensions in the country over slavery grew too severe to maintain multi-factional parties. Pro-slavery Wigs and anti-slavery Democrats, not to mention former Free Soilers, finally decided a coherent, singularly ideological party to end slavery was necessary to accomplish the destruction of an insidious economic and social institution. The Republican party was borne from the upheaval that ensued after the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Wisconsin and Michigan were the first to hold nominating conventions, and by 1856 they fielded a national presidential candidate (the egoistic, but somewhat decent Joihn C. Frémont). This party system was the first to greatly settle on geography, where the second introduced regionalism, the third imprinted it. The north became firmly Republican and remained such through most of the era, while the south was staunchly Democrat; however, the enfranchisement of southern Blacks and importation of Scalawags led to a post civil war eraof Republican control over the south. Abolitionist and anti-Catholic Republicans versus agrarian and Catholic Democrats. Republicans were pro-railroad, laissez-faire, pro-monopoly, pro-gold standard, and appealed to liberal and conservative northerners and populist farmers and frontiersman in the West. Democrats were agrarian, pro-slavery, anti-enfranchisement, and status quo e.g. Missouri Compromise. The only successful Democratic candidate for president was Grover Cleveland, and enigmatic New Yorker who believed in the gold standard, agrarian values, and government as a regulator of sorts. It is debateable whether he was an imperialist the way Harrison, McKinley and Roosevelt were.
The Fourth Party System (1896-1932)
Commonly referred to as the Progressive era, both Republicans and Democrats branched out to include new platforms to coincide with the impending modernity of full industrial society. Both parties adopted progressive reforms to move America into 20th century, including anti-trust legislation and enforcement, the federal income tax, women enfranchisement, the creation of the FDA, the Federal Reserve system, the diminishment of patronage and rise of the independent civil service. The leading progressives of the Republican Party were Teddy Roosevelt, in some ways Herbert Hoover, Hiram Johnson, Jane Addams and Robert La Follette. The leading Democratic progressives were Al Smith, Harold Ickes, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, James Middleton Cox and Thomas Marshall. By the 1920s the progressive era had ended, and the era of laissez-faire democracy set in. The fourth party system is distinct for its lack of major party differences, as both parties had progressive and conservative factions vying for power.
The Fifth Party System (1932-1992)
The Fifth Party system began with the inception of FDR as president. The parties maintained heterogeneous ideologically, with the Democrats being composed of immigrants, Catholics, machine politicians, southern farmers and segregationists, and populists. The Republicans were composed of reformists, laissez-faire types, the rich, Protestants, and purveyors of the status quo. FDR shifted the coalition towards populism in the south and liberalism (meaning the left) in the north and west. FDR defined many of the issues that defined the system, including the social safety net, increased taxes, economic growth through public investment, mass employment, mass production, increasing quality of life, infrastructure, farm subsidies, America acting as world police and arbiter (though Wilson initiated this), and the everlasting shelving of the enumerated powers for contemporary, all-encompassing government. The beginning of the system saw the dominance of the New Deal coalition, often having to overcome the conservative Judiciary. Once many traditionalist soured on the New Deal, a conservative coalition (conservative Dems and Repubs) took hold throughout the ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s. This coalition only waned during the Great Society, in which the loss of JFK and the resulting countrywide state of mourning, social volatility between race and class, and forceful Master of the Senate in the Executive led to systemic changes to America. Civil Rights legislation was led nationally by LBJ, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Everett Dirksen actually corralled more Republican support (by percentage) than Democratic support on final passage. The Great Society, much like the New Deal, led to a sustained conservative backlash throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The Reagan Revolution moved this country to a new narrative of social service abusing welfare queens, and soon tax cuts became the only stimulus accepted widely enough to pass. The system can largely be characterized as a dominant liberal-progressive branch of the Democratic Party guiding governmental policy, only offset by moderate (Eisenhower-Nixon-Ford-H.W. Bush) to conservative (Reagan) executive control. The parties both maintained conservative and liberal factions, which allowed for many variations of legislative coalitions. The end of this system is best characterized as the point where liberal Republicans and conservative southern Democrats switched party identifications, leaving both parties more ideologically homogenous than had ever been the case.