Weekly Musing 5-4-14
Reading Burke in Sydney: Tony Abbott’s Sensible Conservatism – A Great Read
Conservatives, traditionally speaking, are essentially anti-doctrinaire and opposed to programmatic laundry lists. Like Tories of old, and unlike Tea Partiers today, they prefer flexibility and adaptability to rigid consistency and purity of dogma. As Samuel Huntington observed in an important article in the American Political Science Review in 1957, the antithesis of conservatism is not simply left-liberalism or even socialism. It is radicalism, which is best defined in terms of one’s attitude toward change. For conservatives, temperament should always trump ideology, and the single best test of temperament is a person’s attitude toward change. Although conservatism accepts the need for change, the onus of proof is always on those who advocate for it.
“Again, in striking contrast, Tea Party Republicans and many conservatives inside and outside the Beltway place more stress on classical liberalism as a rigid political ideology, à la John Stuart Mill and the Enlightenment, and less emphasis on the more classical conservative virtues of prudence, stability and measured change, à la Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton. This perhaps also helps explain why Tea Party Republicans exhibit a far deeper hostility toward the state than, say, Australian or indeed most Western conservatives.”
“America needs to believe in itself the way others still believe in it.”
A big Electoral College advantage for the Democrats is looming
If the 2016 presidential vote is evenly split between the parties, which one is more likely to win the Electoral College and therefore the presidency? I estimate that the Democrats’ chances of winning the Electoral College vote are between 83 and 89 percent, giving them a significant advantage. This argument contrasts with those who are cautious of a Democratic advantage, such as Jonathan Bernstein and Harry Enten. The reason I predict such a significant advantage is because of ongoing, long-term trends altering the electoral outlook in a number of key swing states.
To make predictions for 2016, I analyzed how the popular vote margin (the Democratic minus the Republican percentage of the vote) compared to the national vote in every state from 1992 through 2012. I examined the states individually to detect any long-term trends. For example, while Oklahoma was already significantly more Republican than the nation in 1992, it steadily became even more Republican over time.
Why Democrats Shouldn’t Be Celebrating
There seemed to be a pop-the-champagne mood among Democrats after the Obama administration’s announcement that 8 million Americans had signed up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, desperate for good news, became euphoric at the suggestion that perhaps they had turned the corner on Obamacare, moving from it being a likely political liability to an asset, and that maybe the 2014 midterm elections might not be so bad. The fact that 8 million is less than 3 percent of the 313.9 million people in the United States seemed lost in the shuffle.
My impression at the time was that this sounded a bit too much like whistling past the graveyard. Now an array of new polling from a variety of sources suggests that Democrats have no reason to be encouraged at this point. Things still look pretty awful for the party. Especially meaningful to consider is that—no matter how bad the national poll numbers appear for Democrats—eight of their nine most vulnerable Senate seats this year are in states that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Further, nine of the most competitive 11 Senate seats in both parties are in Romney states; the numbers in these states will likely be considerably worse than the national numbers.
An April 24-27 national poll for ABC News and The Washington Post gave Democrats a single-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot test, 45 percent to 44 percent. But given the lower turnout numbers in midterm elections, the likely-voter screen is far more relevant. And there, Republicans led by 5 points, 49 percent to 44 percent. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken at virtually the same time put the two parties dead even at 45 percent among all registered voters; presumably among likely voters, Republicans would have pulled ahead by a similar lead. This would suggest a very difficult environment for Democratic House and Senate candidates, particularly those in states and districts that lean heavily Republican to begin with.
The Minimal Class Divide in American Politics
How deep is the class divide in American politics today? According to some scholars and pundits, it is very deep indeed. In a recent post on the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University, the author of Unequal Democracy and a highly regarded public opinion scholar, presented evidence from a multi-nation public opinion survey that showed the relationship between income and support for cuts in government spending was considerably stronger in the U.S. than in other industrial democracies. Because of the disproportionate political influence wielded by upper-income citizens in the U.S., Bartels argued that their strong support for spending cuts has had a powerful influence on elite attitudes and ultimately on government policies.
Bartels’ findings were cited by Paul Krugman of the New York Times, one of the nation’s most influential liberal pundits, as evidence that the United States has become a “class-ridden” society in which income has a powerful influence on political attitudes and behavior. But is this really true? Before accepting results from one study as authoritative, we should examine evidence from other recent national surveys on the impact of social class on political attitudes and behavior in the U.S. to see if they show a similar pattern.
For this article, I analyzed data from the 2012 American National Election Study, the most recent edition of one of the most widely used and respected academic surveys of the American electorate. The 2012 ANES surveyed a representative national sample of more than 4,000 voters in person and via the Internet before and after the November general election. Respondents were questioned about their social characteristics and opinions on a wide range of policy issues as well as their voting decisions.
Why Democrats Should Avoid the ‘R’ Word
From time to time, we all read something where suddenly words jump out from the page, grabbing our attention. This happened to me the other day while reading a memo from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville, along with two of their colleagues who work for the Democracy Corps, Erica Seifert and Fredrica Mayer.
This piece was based on a bipartisan poll conducted last month by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for National Public Radio with the Democracy Corps, Resurgent Republic, and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund. Democracy Corps is a 15-year-old organization, started by Greenberg and Carville, and it has effectively become the survey research and message development arm of the House Democratic leaders, providing high-quality research in the form of national polls, surveys of competitive congressional districts, and focus groups among key groups. For tax reasons, all results have to be publicly released, thus giving outsiders a look over the shoulder at some of the highest quality research out there. Resurgent Republic is a new GOP version of the Democracy Corps, started by Republican pollster Whit Ayres.
One of the most useful things that the Democracy Corps does in its polling, like other high-quality pollsters for both sides, is to test various messages for each party, ascertaining which ones are more salient than others. Sometimes messages may sound good, particularly to folks inside the Beltway, but when actually tested with real voters, the response isn’t always as anticipated.
The key phrase in the Greenberg/Carville memo was, “As a start, Democrats should bury any mention of ‘the recovery.’ ” The full paragraph went like this:
Democrats have to be hard-hitting and focused on the economy. As a start, Democrats should bury any mention of “the recovery.” That message was tested in the bipartisan poll we conducted for NPR, and it lost to the Republican message championed by Karl Rove. The Democratic message missed how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face. That framework gets in the way of a direct economic message.
Technically speaking, the recession lasted 18 months, starting in December 2007 and ending in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of when business cycles and recessions begin and end. That 18-month duration is not quite twice as long as the 11.1-month average length of economic retraction in the 11 business cycles since 1945. From a political perspective, what a cross section of American voters think of the economy matters more than a panel of the top economists. Last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 57 percent of Americans believe we are still in a recession; just 41 percent say we are not, with pessimism just gradually diminishing over the last few years. It is what average people think that’s important, not what economists say.
But back to the Greenberg/Carville memo. If voters flip out at the mere suggestion that a recovery is underway, that reaction is very telling. In fact, it may help explain why nonconservative voters are so down on President Obama and, inferentially, his party. Sure, the Affordable Care Act is an element, but maybe it isn’t all of the equation.
All of this came up in the context of framing an economic-policy debate question, putting forward the case from each side of the aisle.
The Democratic candidate says: The economy is recovering, but not for regular hardworking people. Incomes of CEOs and the top 1 percent are soaring, but in the real economy, people are working harder at jobs that don’t pay enough to live on. We have got to do something. We must raise the minimum wage, help people afford job training and college, build a 21st-century infrastructure, and stop unfair trade agreements that wipe out American jobs.
The Republican candidate says: The Obama administration has had six years to get this economy going and its policies haven’t worked. Monthly wages are going down, and there are not enough good-paying jobs to create opportunities for struggling families. We need to start making things in America again, and stop excessive regulations that are hurting the economy. It’s time to produce more energy here at home, and educate people for the jobs of the 21st century.
Each paragraph sums up rather nicely the argument that each side makes, with the Republican argument edging out the Democratic by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent (which is within the 3.18 percentage point margin of error for the survey of 950 voters).
My thought has long been that back in 2009 and 2010, even though many Americans may have been sympathetic to the idea that changes should be made in our health care system, the public wanted the focus at that time to be on job creation and the economy, which polling at the time indicated was absolutely the case. To the extent that Washington seemed obsessed with health care, voters wanted the government’s focus on jobs, and this rubbed them raw. To this day, Americans don’t think the economy has been effectively dealt with. Thus, maybe Democrats should avoid the “R” word.
Obamanomics at work: China poised to pass US as world’s leading economic power this year
The US is on the brink of losing its status as the world’s largest economy, and is likely to slip behind China this year, sooner than widely anticipated, according to the world’s leading statistical agencies.
The US has been the global leader since overtaking the UK in 1872. Most economists previously thought China would pull ahead in 2019.
The world’s rich countries still account for 50 per cent of global GDP while containing only 17 per cent of the world’s population.
Having compared the actual cost of living in different countries, the report also found that the four most expensive countries to live in are Switzerland, Norway, Bermuda and Australia, with the cheapest being Egypt, Pakistan, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
The Unhappy Truth About Ukraine
For now, there’s nothing that can or will be done to stop Russia from playing ugly games with its non-NATO neighbors. But in the long term, Moscow can be made to regret its folly.
The reality that no one in the West can bear to face is that there is nothing that can be done to stop the growing control of Russia and Russian-backed militias in eastern Ukraine. President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and a few half-hearted Europeans can threaten and bloviate, but President Putin is obviously untroubled by this noise. All Obama and his minions are doing is underlining who holds the cards, and it isn’t Washington.
In the short run, Russia has the power to do as it pleases on its borders. But, and here’s the good news, the United States and the West have the real power over the long run—if only Western nations would unite strategically and take the decisions that could reverse the tide over time. Russia is counting on continued Western lack of resolve and banking on avoiding the pain of its “conquests.” It will not be easy for Putin to absorb the poverty-stricken and indigestible eastern Ukraine, even if Russian-speakers make up a majority of inhabitants. These Russian-speakers likely will discover a future unhappier than their past.
Former GOP party chair Saul Anuzis pondered Congressional run
Saul Anuzis and his bride sat around the kitchen table. It was not a pretty sight. On one hand the former state GOP chair knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run for Congress.
But the data was irrefutable: 4 kids in college, a hefty home mortgage, and the normal costs of staying alive.
The math did not add up. They could not afford it.
So he did what any self-respecting Michigander would do. He bought three daily lottery tickets for a dollar apiece. If he hit the jackpot, he’d run. If not, he’d be left to ponder what might have been.
Nowadays the former Michigan Republican Party chair ponders.
Mr. Anuzis, had he run for the 8th Congressional seat, might have made it interesting in that some of his views would most certainly have angered the far right of his beloved party.
NEW Facebook Page…
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26 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Switzerland
There’s just something about stunning images in a far away land that just make you want to pack your bags, book a ticket, and see in person. With Switzerland and these shots, it’s going to be hard to do anything but just that.
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