Imagine this scenario: The United States, in an effort to spur exports and boost domestic producers, institutes a tax on foreign imports, some of the proceeds of which go indirectly to exporters to make their goods more affordable in international markets. Most of Europe then retaliates with tariffs on American exports that raises the cost of American exports in Europe. Japan does the same, erecting some of the highest tariffs in the world. Most of China follows suit. Britain tried to stay aloof of the customs war, but eventually caves, building its own economic borders.
Of course, I’m talking about the interwar period, when in the aftermath of the Great War, the world’s major economies played a game of tariff-one-upsmanship until global trade collapsed and the world entered the Great Depression.
But I’m also talking about today. Let’s consider what actually happens when a country devalues its currency. Switzerland, as we discussed last week, by pegging the franc to the dwindling euro, essentially devalued Swiss money 20%. Swiss consumers and Swiss businesses paid 20% more on imported goods and raw materials. Swiss exporters weren’t subject to that tax, effectively receiving a 20% subsidy for Swiss items sold domestically and being able to export at a lower cost. In other words, Switzerland’s attempt at currency devaluation yielded the exact effect of a 20% protective tariff on imports.
Switzerland wasn’t the only major economy doing this. In fact, the Swiss are the only major economy to have stopped devaluing its currency–to have stopped building a de facto protective tariff around its borders. The United States has gone through three rounds of quantitative easing, and there are increasing calls for a fourth. All signs point to Europe doing the same as early as next week. Japan has been devaluing its currency for twenty years with the same predictable result.
This is what doesn’t make sense: virtually every economist agrees that protective tariffs are almost always bad. Virtually every politician knows that protective tariffs beget even more protective tariffs in retaliation. In fact, the World Trade Organization was created to discourage trade protectionism after the mess of the Great Depression made this painfully obvious to all. Currency devaluations and protective tariffs are exactly the same in effect. And yet, there are still economists of all stripes who argue that currency devaluation is a means to lifting an economy out of its depths.
Actually, they are not exactly the same in one significant aspect. When a country devalues its currency it devalues itself. It devalues the worth of its labor. It devalues the strength of its reserves. It removes incentives for savings and investments, and encourages the export of capital. Currency devaluation creates a worse outcome even than a protective tariff.
So where does today’s spiral currency devaluation end? If the 1920s rush to protective tariffs is any indication, the answer is: not well.
Then, deflation was the result. Years of forcibly escalating prices to prop up exports and subsidize domestic producers ultimately resulted in a collapse causing prices to fall to where they really should have been all along. The price of agricultural goods was the most obvious indicator of this effect. Advances in mechanization, refrigeration, transportation, hybridization, and chemistry resulted in a surplus of agricultural goods worldwide. Too many people were engaged in direct and indirect agricultural work around the world as a result of the worldwide subsidy effect of protective tariffs. When it collapsed, so too did prices. All that the years of protective tariffs did was to take what should have been a gradual de-agriculturalization of the world’s economy and delay it long enough that it became a catastrophic global shock. In other words: deflation wasn’t the cause of the Great Depression; deflation was the logical effect of years of misbegotten economic policies practiced by every major economy in the world. To blame the Depression on deflation, therefore, is as ludicrous as blaming the mercury in a thermometer for causing a heatwave.
Central bankers today fear deflation unnecessarily. So much so that the world’s bankers are doing exactly what they know the world’s politicians did 90 years ago that led to the last Great Depression. This won’t end well.
Because we always must heed the law of unintended consequences, Americans–particularly Republicans–probably should be more circumspect in their calls for the government to erect a border fence.
We live in a time when the American economy no longer is a beacon to the world’s entrepreneurs and when members of both parties want to implement laws inhibiting American companies from relocating overseas.
It would be a shame if a border fence, once built, wasn’t necessary to keep foreigners out, but instead became a convenient means of keeping Americans in.
Thursday the Swiss National Bank gave the world a quick lesson about why a strong currency is almost always better for an economy.
It is not uncommon for economic populists to attempt to demonstrate that a falling currency benefits an economy by helping exports and by claiming that devaluation is the “normal way countries emerge from financial crisis.” Neglected by that line of thinking is that an economy’s imports necessarily increase in price as a result of that same currency devaluation. But even if we analyze both sides of the equation, it would seem that the two should balance out.
However, lower import costs as a result of a stronger currency are almost always better for both consumer and producer. Here is why this is the case: while in a global market, only a few people’s livelihoods are dependent on exports, everyone depends on imports. Even the exporters depend on imported raw materials. This sets up a situation where the individual costs of a bad economic policy–currency devaluation–are relatively small and diffused across the entire population, while the benefactors are fewer in number but have large visible gains.
But just how “small” are those costs? On Wednesday a hundred Swiss francs bought about 83 Euros. By the end of the next trading day it bought a hundred euros. As a result, everything priced in Euros fell in real terms for the Swiss consumer: Italian vegetables, German cars, French wine. And as the franc increased by a similar amount against the dollar once Switzerland removed its artificial peg to the euro, the cost of oil, metals, and most commodities likewise plummeted. It takes a lot of export losses to make up for the fact that the cost of almost everything Swiss consumers buy fell nearly 20% in a single day.
Under normal circumstances currency interventions are incremental and thus difficult to tie to precise costs. That’s what makes them fun targets for government interventionists. When gains are concentrated and losses are dispersed, it is the perfect scenario for central bankers and politicians to embark on policies that are decidedly not in the interest of the general welfare, but are in the specific interests of organized benefactors. But the SNB’s surprise move demonstrated just how big the costs of currency manipulation really are when governments and central bankers conspire to devalue money.
Unfortunately, consumers don’t have well organized and vocal advocates, so you’re not likely to hear from most quarters that what happened Thursday is good news in the long run. (“In the long run” being defined as the amount of time it takes for the Swiss economy to readjust to an unsubsidized natural state). Instead you’ll hear plenty from groups like Swiss watchmakers, who by the way, are an anachronism tethered to a technology made obsolescent 50 years ago by quartz crystals.
And that’s the point. The Swiss watch industry has much to lose only because the SNB’s artificial intervention in the currency market subsidized a larger existence these last four years than their business model deserved.
Just how large the subsidy had been is evident in today’s currency climb. Effectively, Swiss citizens were paying a 20% sales tax on almost everything they bought so that Swatch could still churn out cheap watches for overseas markets.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised New York City a war on smoking. War is what they got.
While it didn’t do so explicitly, New York’s progressive government decided that smoking was so bad that it was worth killing over. You may accuse me of hyperbole, but consider that when government passes and enforces any law, it has taken the decision to use the State’s coercive powers against the non-compliant. Above is a picture of what the law’s coercive powers look like, what a war on smoking looks like. The “war” in this picture does not look like hyperbole to me.
The law that led to Eric Garner’s death was a prohibition on the selling of loose, untaxed cigarettes. In other words, Eric Garner was a bootlegger.
Any time that government restricts a willing buyer and a willing seller from agreeing upon a price, a black market will develop. It is a rule as old as mankind. During the first Progressive era, the rule was Prohibition and the black market was big.
Eighty-eight Christmases ago sixty New Yorkers lay violently ill in the hospital. Eight already had died. The culprit was poisoned alcohol. But the criminal mind behind the culprit was the government itself.
During Prohibition, alcohol still could be produced. It was needed in the manufacture of paints and solvents. So to legally produce it, the government required it to be “denatured”. Usually that was done with the addition of poisonous methyl alcohol. But it was a simple chemist’s trick to turn methyl alcohol into ethyl alcohol, which could then be drunk. By 1926, thousands of amateur chemists were performing that trick and thereby skirting Prohibition’s rules. They had to be stopped. It was the law, after all, and the law had to be enforced. So the federal government required the addition of toxic chemicals in industrial alcohol. The additives included kerosene, strychnine, and formaldehyde. All are highly poisonous if ingested. By Prohibition’s end an estimated ten-thousand drinkers were dead.
The ten-thousand were collateral damage. Nay, they were actively violating the law. They weren’t just innocent bystanders, but were enemy combatants in the war on drink. They deserved to die. After all, they were violating the law. And if we shrink from enforcing the law, people will cease to have respect for it.
Over the last dozen years, New York City was the central front in the second progressive era’s war on smoking. Mayor Bloomberg was that front’s field marshal. He raised the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 21, prohibited smoking in all restaurants, attempted to prohibit it in parks and even apartments, and both he and his successor increased taxes step by step to an absurdly high$5.85 per pack. At that price the black market is big. But all this was necessary, Bloomberg and Deblasio have said, because 6,000 New Yorkers die every year from the effects of smoking.
In the war on smoking Eric Garner was an enemy combatant. And for that offense, the supporters of New York’s war on smoking determined that he deserved to die. I trust they’re happy with the result.
Jonathan Gruber is right. The American people are stupid. But not all Americans.
Take the President’s much recently heralded “climate change” agreement with China as an example.
Al Gore says that the joint announcement “demonstrates a serious commitment” to combating global warming.
Brad Plumer at Vox says, ”This is a significant shift in climate politics — and possibly a first step toward a broader global climate agreement.”
James West at Mother Jones enthusiastically announces, “The announcement between the two biggest emitters deals a blow to the oft-stated rhetoric that the US must wait for China before bringing domestic climate legislation.”
The Washington Post’s Stephen Stromberg gushes, that this “landmark agreement . . . does not merely commit the countries to trajectories they are already taking. It will require both nations to push harder toward cleaner energy.
According to these reports, the agreement with China was, what one Vox headline writer called, a BFD.
But was it? What exactly was agreed to?
Nothing actually. The United States and China both made non-binding pledges to reduce greenhouse gasses. However, neither side agreed to an enforcement mechanism. There is no treaty agreeement to be submitted to the Senate for ratification. There are no laws that Congress will consider. There are not even any proposed steps that the EPA could take.
Not everyone was fooled by the Administration’s announcement and the breathless fawning of his media sycophants. RedState’s Erick Erickson nailed it: ”Like so much of President Obama’s decisions over the past six years, this is another photo-op with a compliant press that does not matter and will do little.” David Harsanyi says that “there are two problems with treating the deal as big news. 1) We’re not really doing anything we weren’t going to do anyway. 2) Neither is China.” Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) called it a “non-binding charade”.
If you understand anything about the American Constitutional system and have any inkling about the current political situation in Washington you must conclude that Inhofe is right. This entire hullabaloo is a charade. International agreements can only receive the imprimatur of law by being subjected to Senate ratification requiring a two-thirds agreement. Now that the new Senate will contain only 46 Democrats, this would require that 21 Republicans join all Democrats. In fact, there isn’t even a treaty for submission to the ratification process. And the last one (Kyoto) was never submitted, because then-President Clinton knew it would fail. Laws restricting carbon consumption must go through the House that is more Republican than at any time since Calvin Coolidge was still alive. The Supreme Court has already limited what the EPA can do without additional authorizations from Congress–which is not going to happen at least before the end of the Obama Presidency.
So any objective reading of the recently announced agreement between China and the United States should be met with no more than a shrug. President Obama can announce anything he likes, but without a valid enforcement mechanism, it’s just words.
But let us get back to Gruber who called it “the stupidity of the American voter” who could easily be misled by promises grounded in economic lies and obscured by a lack of civics knowledge. That worked to get Obamacare passed, and it apparently is working in getting the Left thrilled about the President’s war on carbon. But it is not all of the American voters who are so easily duped. It apparently is only the stupidity of the President’s supporters who are so easily misled by words without substance.
In other words, the Left might want to keep in mind that Jonathan Gruber wasn’t calling all Americans stupid. He was calling the President’s supporters stupid.
Ron Fournier doesn’t like being lied to:
Appearing on an academic panel a year ago, [Jonathan Gruber] argued that the law never would have passed if the administration had been honest about the fact that the so-called penalty for noncompliance with the mandate was actually a tax.
“And, basically, call it ‘the stupidity of the American voter,’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass,” Gruber said.
He called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.
Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration’s dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public’s faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives.
Right up to the last sentence I made the same point in March of this year:
Progressives believe that they know better than others how others should live their lives. That makes Progressivism inherently anti-democratic and requires that its adherents subvert truths and manipulate rules to advance their ends.
Democratic governments follow where their people lead. Progressive governments—those led by people who see popular opinion as wrong—lead their people in a direction that they do not want to go. When the subterfuge is discovered, or when the unpopular project spectacularly fails, popular opinion turns viciously against the Progressive.
What Fournier gets wrong is that he de-links the lying from progressivism. They can’t be separated. That is because progressivism cannot survive without the lies–at least not in a democratic society.
Definitionally, progressivism is the belief that an enlightened elite knows better how people should live their lives than the people know themselves. The progressive views government as a tool for leading the populace toward change, whereas the democrat (small “d”) views government as responsive to what the people want. In other words: a democratic government does what the people want it to do, while the progressive government demands that the people do what it wants them to do, whether they want it or not.
When a minority wants the government to do what a majority does not wish to do, the minority has a choice: it can make the case to persuade, or it can lie. Since progressivism requires that the majority subvert its will to what its leaders want, its only option, if progressivism is to succeed, is to lie.
Even as he supported the intent of the law, Fournier finally admits “Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies.” If he takes a step back, he will have to see that it is not just Obamacare that is built on a foundation of lies; it is progressivism itself.
So, contra Fournier’s assertion, the progressive will not be bothered at all by Gruber’s lying–except for his having been caught. The question facing Ron Fournier going into the future, is that now that he has found himself duped by the Administration and its allies’ lies, will he allow himself to play the part of the useful idiot the next time?
Here’s another “Kinsley Gaffe” from Herr Gruber:
Obamacare was “a very clever, you know, basically [sic] exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
Poll: 39% of Democrats want Obama to run for a third term.
In no particular order, here are some thoughts 12 hours after the first polls started closing:
1. Harry Reid is a HUGE loser. He and his party paid dearly for failing to do what every Senate Majority Leader before him did: Protect the dignity of the Senate.
It used to be said that the Senate contained 99 members who looked in the mirror every morning and saw the next president looking back at him, and 1 member who didn’t want to be president because, as the Senate Majority Leader, he already thought that he was more powerful. Let’s be blunt: Harry Reid spent the last six years being President Obama’s water boy.
Popular House bills died in the Senate because the White House told Harry Reid to not let them get to the President’s desk. Harry Reid rammed unpopular bills (Obamacare) through without any Republican input, because the President refused to negotiate. When the President couldn’t get his controversial nominees through confirmation, Harry Reid scrapped the filibuster (which I bet the Senate Minority Leader now wishes was a power he still had). Harry Reid never gave Senate Dems the power to distance themselves from the President on bills like Keystone Pipeline approval or approval of popular amendments to Obamacare because the White House said no. Instead, Obama flagrantly usurped Congress’ Constitutional legislative authority via executive orders, and Harry Reid let him get away with it. Harry Reid was not the Senate Majority Leader; he was the Senate Liaison Officer to the White House. He protected the President’s ego instead of the dignity of the Senate and his own Senate majority. For being a ball-less sack without the ability to tell a President from his own party to screw himself, Harry Reid deserves the axe.
2. Harry Reid will not be the Senate Minority Leader. For one thing, see point #1 above. For another, he is a Democratic Senator from a purplish state. After yesterday there are a lot fewer of those than there were before. ”Moderate” Dems took a beating last night. That means that the remaining Democrats will be both fewer and bluer on average than they were before. Prediction: Chuck Schumer will be the Senate Minority Leader. Say what you want about him, I don’t think that anyone doubts that if confronted with a situation that threatens Chuck Schumer, that Schumer will tell Obama to twist himself into an anatomically impossible sexual position. If Nevada had a Democratic governor, Harry Reid would likely resign within the month. Even with Republican Brian Sandoval appointing a successor, Reid still might resign just to spite the President and his colleagues. But he has only himself to blame.
3. Democrats have a serious problem with the kind of industrial union and rural white voters they once had in their camp. I looked in great detail at Kentucky before the race and during the release of the results. Compared with 2010, Mitch McConnell did slightly worse than did Rand Paul in Jefferson County (Louisville), in Fayette County (Lexington), and in the three ring Cincinnati suburban counties (Boone, Campbell, and Kenton). Looking at just those three areas which contain the states largest urban black population, its student population, and its middle and upper middle class populations, the results looked exactly like the polls indicated: a McConnell win of about eight points, and a GOP performance that would fall short of 2010 levels. Instead, Mitch McConnell won by double the expected amount. And exactly as I predicted, Kentucky would tell us all that we need to know about how the rest of the night was going to unfold.
We’ll need to look at more exit polls and additional states to have a better idea, but here’s what I think happened. The Democratic message is an exclusionary one: It says to America that if you’re not black, a single female, or a government worker, you’re part of the American problem. I think that when the analysis is done we’ll learn that the overt appeals to racism turned off more white voters than it brought blacks to the polls. And if this is true, it’s good news. That’s because it might finally be the beginning of the end of the cynical Democrat-driven racial division in this country. That said, I fully expect Democrats to try it one more time in 2016. For one thing, I don’t see the President changing (see below), and for another, they really don’t have anything else to fall back on. (For example: not the “war on women”.)
You’ll hear Democrats justify last night’s abysmal loss by saying that it was typical of a mid-term result. But what they might not realize is that with absolutely no upside left in the black vote, it only takes a little bit of a change in a white electorate seven times as large to completely overwhelm a black electoral advantage. In other words, from a strictly numerical perspective, the party that has a problem with 12% of the electorate has a much smaller problem than does the party that is falling behind with 70% of the electorate.
4. Democrats also have a serious problem with other minorities. They won Asians by only one point. Four years before, Democrats took the Asian vote 58-40. They also lost support among “other”. In 2010, Democrats took that electorate 53-44. Yesterday the margin was down to 50-46. Asians and “other” are a each only 2% of the vote, but the 5-point and 18-point slippage among Dems with those groups, is not insignificant.
Message to Democrats: Just as it should be obvious to you by now that not all women think and vote alike, not all minorities think and vote alike either. Duh.
But here’s where the exit polls disagree with each other. The white percentage of the electorate this year was 2% smaller and virtually unchanged in its outcome (60-37 in 2010 and 60-38 in 2014). This should have translated to a smaller GOP lead. The black percentage of the electorate also was virtually unchanged (89-9 in 2010 and 89-10 in 2014) and the black electorate climbed to 12% versus 11% in 2010. Dems also gained with Latinos, going from 60-38 to 63-35, while the Latino portion of the electorate stayed stable at 8%.
In other words, the exit polls actually indicate a slight Democratic improvement over the 2010 result. This is consistent with what happened in the key counties I analyzed in Kentucky. And it is consistent with pre-election polls. But is not consistent with the actual result.
Theory: Pollsters don’t weight for urbanicity, and as a result, completely missed the disdain that rural Americans have for the Democratic Party. A county by county look at the results might bear this out. Either that, or the exit polls were completely wrong. (These are not necessarily mutually exclusive results.)
5. Don’t fuck with football. Ed Gillespie ran one spot during MNF the night before election day. It belittled Harry Reid for diminishing the Senate by taking up a bill to force the NFL to change the name of the Redskins. Red or Blue, everybody in the Washington area unites about the Redskins. The two biggest earth-shattering results last night occurred in the Virginia Senate race where nobody had Ed Gillespie within 9 points of Mark Warner, and in the Maryland Governor race where no public poll released in 2014 had the Republican candidate in the lead. Maryland and Virginia is Redskin fan base.
But let’s take this beyond football. This ad and the controversy around it was emblematic of the Democrat’s problems. Americans want their leaders to be serious and to offer serious solutions about serious problems. Re-naming a football team is not serious. Voters in those two areas rebuked Democrats for their frivolity. Oh, and don’t fuck with football.
6. The donkey in the room. (Actually the saying is about an elephant, but you know what I mean.) The donkey in the room is Barack Obama. The American people have judged him to be a failure. He is now the lamest of lame ducks. Before the 2006 midterms, President Bush went into his final two years with 55 seats in the Senate and 232 in the House. After the the opposing party holding 51 senate seats and 233 seats. Barack Obama watched the opposition party gain even greater control than happened eight years before. Republicans will likely control 54 senate seats and about 248 House seats.
More succinctly: Barack Obama took a bigger beating in 2014 than George W. Bush did in 2006.
After the defeat he took in 2010, Barack Obama didn’t change course as Bill Clinton had done when the electorate pronounced a midterm decision about him. Barack Obama has yet to show humility or responsibility about anything. Perhaps this time will be different. But probably not.
Now might be a good time for Democrats to re-look Dan McLaughlin’s primer for what to expect in 2016 that so many of them scoffed at before. His look at history said that the party with the presidency for two elections, will see a drop-off in support the third time around. Let me add to the foreboding news for Democrats: After taking sharp losses in the sixth year election, the President’s party usually loses even more two years later.
In the sixth year of the Bush administration, the President’s party lost 30 seats in the House. The following election, they lost another 21 seats and the Presidency
In the sixth year of Nixon’s administration (yes, technically Ford was president), Republicans lost 48 seats. Two years later they lost another seat and the presidency.
In 1966 LBJ’s party lost 47 seats. Two years later they lost five more and the Presidency.
We have to go back to 1958 to see a counter-example. Ike’s party lost 48 seats in the House in his second midterm, but managed to win back 22 of them in 1960. But he still lost the presidency.
The recent historical record suggests that as bad as things are for Democrats today, they are likely to be even worse after the election two years hence.
And that brings us back to Obama. He is an anchor on the Democratic Party. The damning evidence for this comes not from the Senate, where Democrats lost only red and purple states. Nor does it come from the House, where with a few exceptions the same thing occurred. No, it comes from the gubernatorial races where Republicans held purple seats in the face of overwhelming media opposition (Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and picked up cobalt blue state seats in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. There is no rational way to shrug off this result other than to say that Barack Obama was a weight on the entire Democratic Party.
And here’s what should alarm Democrats up for election in two Novembers. President Obama has been intimating to his supporters that he’s going to take all kinds of executive actions when he has more “flexibility” after this election. If those unspecified actions were popular with the American public, don’t you think he would have taken them before the election? If we are to take him at his word, the President’s apparent intent is take his favorability down even further. Here are some Democrats who might be particularly alarmed by this prospect: Colorado’s Michael Bennet, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, Washington’s Patty Murray, and whomever is going to be the Democratic nominee to try and succeed the retiring Harry Reid. All of them will have to face voters in 24 months, and the lesson of last night is to not face those voters with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent from the same party sitting in the White House.
7. One final winner this night is Sean Trende who replaces Nate Silver as this election’s geek par excellence. As early as January, Trende nailed this election. His hypothesis was that Presidential popularity and the partisan tilt of a state would play an enormous role in the closing days of the race. Ten months ago, he predicted nine seats using this methodology and it looks like this is exactly where it is going to end up.
Live feed continuously updated. For a guideline of what I’m looking at, check out this earlier post.
Good news for Republicans. Fox News has called Kentucky for Mitch McConnell. Right on target with the 2010 result in Kentucky.
No surprise: Georgia is too close to call.
Also good news for Republicans. Virginia is too close to call. The longer this goes on, the better the news this is for Republicans.
Good news for Democrats. With 68% of precincts reporting, Grimes is exceeding Rand Paul’s level of support in Fayette County, home to Kentucky’s second largest city (Lexington) and the University of Kentucky. She is up almost 6,000 votes and 9%. Rand Paul lost Fayette by only 1,200 votes four years ago. McConnell lost in 2008 by 8%. And that was in a disastrous Republican year. If those numbers hold, it’s a good sign for how Democrats and how they may be doing with younger voters.
No surprise. Republicans pick up West Virginia.
No surprise. John Kasich wins in Ohio.
No surprise. North Carolina Senate is too close to call.
Bad news for Democrats. Mark Warner still hasn’t won his race. Exit poll internals are horrible for him. He is underwater on the favorable/unfavorable rating and Ed Gillespie is ahead on that question. (See UPDATE at 1945) This is not at all like anyone expected. Keep in mind that exit polls have errors. Right now, Democrats have to hope that the exit polls are wrong.
Michael Barone is reporting that with 100% reporting Gillespie is leading Culpepper County 64-33. George Allen in a losing effort won Culpepper 58-42. This is the kind of exurban county and the kind of margin that Ed Gillespie needs to win if he is to make a realistic go of Virginia.
Fox News just showed that Warner is winning the favorable/unfavorable race 56-43. That’s different from what I first heard ten minutes ago.
Good news for Republicans. Both CNN and Fox News are reporting that Mitch McConnell leads Allison Grimes 56-41. Of course only 65% of precincts are reporting, but because the eastern half of the state has a one-hour head start in vote counting, the results from the western half of the state aren’t likely to diminish McConnell’s lead. Bottom line: if this vote holds up, Mitch McConnell’s 14-point margin will beat the 8-point two-way race spread predicted by RCP. That would be HUGE.
No surprise. Fox News just called both Arkansas races for the GOP candidates Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson the moment the polls closed.
No surprise. New Hampshire is still too close to call. But with 16% reporting, Jeanne Shaheen has an 8-point lead.
Potentially earth-shaking bad new for Democrats. With 59% of the vote counted, Ed Gillespie has a 51-46 lead in Virginia. No one expected this race to be uncalled 90 minutes after the polls closed. Even if Gillespie loses, it shows that Democrats are fighting to hold their own terrain while Republicans have an advantage on offense.
Fox News is reporting bad news for the Clintons. Bill Clinton campaigned hard in Arkansas and Kentucky. His candidates lost fast. On the other hand, I think that this really tells you how far gone the South is for Democrats. (Juan Williams supports a version of this view.) Of course, that wouldn’t be a good sign for Georgia, Louisiana, or North Carolina.
Speaking of which . . . Michael Barone is tweeting 100% counted counties in Georgia and Virginia that are showing better results for Republicans Perdue and Gillespie than Republicans in previous years.
Bad/Good news for both parties. With 64% of the vote counted, Ed Gillespie still has a 5-point lead. Nobody expected this. But what is really unexpected is that in neighboring North Carolina, which is a shade more red, Kay Hagan has a 7-point lead with 46% counted. If the two results were reversed, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. If both vote counts hold up, this will definitely merit a closer post-election look.
No surprise. These results came in earlier–in fact, when the polls in both states closed. Democrats won senate seats in New Jersey and Illinois handily.
No surprise. The GOP picked up a third seat in South Dakota.
No surprise. Michigan Dems hold the Senate seat there.
No surprise. Colorado is too close to call.
No surprise. Kansas is too close to call.
No surprise. New Hampshire is still too close to call. (But it’s looking like it’s just a matter of time until Shaheen gets the call.)
No surprise. Georgia is still too close to call.
No surprise. North Carolina is still too close to call.
No surprise. Minnesota Dems hold on to the Senate and the Gubernatorial seats.
Big surprise and bad news for Dems. Virginia is still too close to call two hours after the polls closed.
Some networks are calling VA10 for the GOP candidate John Foust. That would be a good sign for Ed Gillespie.
With 78% counted Gillespie’s lead in VA is down to 2-points. This race has the feel of ultimate Democratic victory. But still, this is a race that is about 10 points off of the RCP average in the GOP’s favor. Even as a former professional pollster, I’m heartened by the notion that voters matter more than polls.
On the flip side, Kay Hagan’s lead is down to two points with 60% counted. It’s hard to see VA going red and NC staying blue. If NC flips but VA doesn’t and both (obviously) are very close, that almost perfectly matches the 2012 results and would be strong indicator of the nationalization of these races.
Kay Hagan’s lead is down to 1% and 27,000 votes.
Gillespie’s lead is also 1% and 23,000 votes.
Meanwhile in GA, Perdue has 60% with 36% in. Michael Barone is looking at the counties and thinking that this one is close to being called as a victory without a runoff required.
Jeanne Shaheen’s lead is down to 7,000 votes with 37% counted, a 4-point spread. Still too close to call.
Here’s where we are now. Among the RCP tossup states in the Senate, none have been called. The two “pink” seats (Arkansas and Kentucky) were called immediately. The one “light blue” seat (Virginia) is still too close to call 150 minutes after the polls closed. Bottom line: I’d rather be in the Republican’s shoes right now.
No surprise. Louisiana will go to a runoff.
No surprise. New Hampshire will stay blue. Right now it looks like a 52-48 margin. I’m not sure what we can extrapolate from this race for the rest of the field. The key point is that this is the first “toss-up” state to be called for either side.
Let me get back to Kentucky. With 94% counted, Mitch McConnell has a 15-point lead over Allison Grimes. This is almost double his RCP lead. Points to consider:
Nate Silver says that there is no such thing as momentum. In a strictly mathematical sense, he’s right. But polling isn’t math, not entirely. What we’ve seen in the last week is:
(1) A return to the state’s bright red hue. I think we’re seeing the same thing in New Hampshire: a return to the bluish purple tint of that state. If everything breaks the way that 2012 went, Republicans will win North Carolina and Georgia, while losing Colorado and Iowa. I don’t think that’s going to be the way it ends, but we’ll see.
(2) President Obama is creating a ceiling for Democrats. I don’t think that anyone is surprised by that, but it certainly undercuts the argument that you’ve heard that says that Dem candidates should have embraced the president more. Sorry, but Grimes was mired in the low 40s and that’s where she is going to end up.
Fox News just called Colorado for the GOP candidate Cory Gardner. Huge news that it was called this early. So much for the “war on women”.
From my earlier post: (2014 results in bold)
2010 Sen: R over D, 24,332 (74.4%) to 8,364 (25.6%) 23,200 to 9,800
2012 Pres: R over D, 35,922 (68.4%) to 15,629 (29.8%)
2010 Sen: R over D, 18,386 (64.9%) to 9,948 (35.1%) 17,600 to 11,000
2012 Pres: R over D, 24,240 (60.3%) to 15,080 (37.5%)
2010 Sen: R over D, 29,372 (66.8%) to 14,582 (33.2%) 28,300 to 16,700
2012 Pres: R over D, 41,389 (61.1%) to 24,920 (36.8%)
In all three Cincinnati suburban ring counties McConnell didn’t match Rand Paul’s numbers from four years ago. In fact, the numbers are exactly in alignment with what I would have expected if the RCP numbers were correct. Remember, the RCP two-way race in 2010 projected an 11-point lead, when this year it anticipated an 8-point lead. So a strong Republican win, albeit by a smaller amount than four years ago, is exactly what we should have expected in these three counties. That Republicans have won so handily in Kentucky means that the result was decided by a large amount elsewhere in the state.
But where? In Fayette County, McConnell lost by 6,000 votes, five times what Rand Paul lost by four years ago. In Franklin County, McConnell beat Paul’s margin, but only by a mere 300 seats. In Jefferson County, McConnell fell short of Paul’s margin by about 7,00o votes.
It looks like Eastern and Western Kentucky coal counties trounced the Dems. If this is true, it means that rural and industrial labor may completely be divorced from Democrats forever. (BTW, Elliott County hasn’t reported its votes.)
Meanwhile, it looks like Scott Walker is going to hold on to win Wisconsin for a third time in four years. And it looks like a margin of error greater than what RCP predicted.
Mark Warner is now ahead of Ed Gillespie by 2,500 votes. And it looks like the remaining uncounted votes are in NOVA. Great fight. And a huge surprise, but it would appear that the Democrat candidate is going to hold on to win by a far narrower margin than anyone expected.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Tom Tillis is up by 31,000 votes (2%) and only 15% of precincts remaining to be counted. Of course, where those precincts are means a great deal.
Also in Georgia, there’s no question that Perdue is going to beat Nunn. Perdue is now at 57%, with 64% of the vote counted. If he stays over 50%, Republicans hold this seat.
I haven’t heard it mentioned yet. One of the “streaks” that had been going against Republicans was their recent inability to beat a sitting incumbent. So far, it looks like they have unseated Mark Udall in Colorado and Mark Pryor in Arkansas.
Pat Roberts has a 4-point lead in Kansas (17,000 votes). No one knows was tracking this race eight weeks ago and there is no history of strong polling in this state. Thus no one knows which way this might turn.
Meanwhile in Iowa, the returns are very spotty and Bruce Braley is up over Joni Ernst.
Tom Tillis’ margin is larger. It’s still only 2%, but that is now 53,000 votes.
No surprise. In Michigan the Republican governor won re-election. Along with Wiconsin’s Walker, these are huge gains for budget-cutting governors and against government unions.
In Arizona the ice cream man won. This was a Republican gubernatorial hold.
In Florida Republican Rick Scott is ahead by 80,000 votes with 97% counted. Close to a call.
HUGE NEWS. Republicans will hold Kansas. If Dems don’t take Georgia (and it looks like they won’t), they have to hold Alaska, and North Carolina, and then Louisiana again next month. Not likely.
In North Carolina, Tom Tillis still has a 52,000 vote lead and there’s only 7% of the vote left to count. Karl Rove just named four counties where if Kay Hagan is going to win, she has to run up the vote. Only one of those counties has enough uncounted votes left to count. It is Mecklenburg (Charlotte). Depending on where they are in the county will determine the outcome. Still, it’s looking better for Tillis than I think the RCP average predicted yesterday. (538 is saying a similar thing: Wake County (Raleigh) is not going to yield any more votes for Hagan.)
Democrats will flip no GOP seats. The last possibility, Georgia, was just called for the Republican Perdue. The win of any one of these seats–Alaska, Iowa, North Carolina, or Virginia gives the 51st seat to the GOP. If it doesn’t happen tonight, it could be Louisiana next month.
Right now, it looks to me like Republicans will win 53 seats, with 54 very possible, and 55 a still remote possibility.
HUGE news. I will be able to buy wine in grocery stores. If you don’t live in Tennessee, you won’t comprehend how incredibly stupid it is that has taken this long. Worse still, the new law won’t take effect until July 2016.
Michael Grimm won NY-1. He is under indictment for 20 felony counts. And yet, he is still better than the other guy. Watch the Jon Stewart story on this race and you’ll understand that the Democrat in this race is a complete idiot. Congratulations, Staten Island. In your choice between crook and the dunce, you chose the lesser of two very bad evils. But seriously, is this the best you can do?
2310 Eastern and here’s an update. The GOP has 50 senate seats already locked up and no seats that the Dems will take. Here are the seats still in play:
North Carolina. The margin is 46k in favor of the GOP with 4% remaining.
Virginia. The margin is 11k in favor of the Dem with 7% remaining.
Iowa. The Republican Joni Ernst is leading 50-47 with 53% of the vote in.
Alaska is still voting.
538 is giving Dems a 1% chance.
Game. Set. Match. Joni Ernst wins Iowa. Republicans unseated a third sitting Democratic senator and now have at least 51 seats. Four more are possibilities, although Virginia is looking very unlikely. Still, 54 is a very possible amount for the GOP.
Oh, BTW, I called it. I said that Iowa would be the 51st seat. (Of course, I didn’t expect that CO would be called by now and I expected NC already would have fallen.)
Here’s why that matters: that’s a big cushion going into 2016 when the mix of states with seats up for grabs in the Senate is less favorable to the GOP. Of course, being a presidential year, whomever wins that race will likely have coattails. Dan McClaughlin makes the case that the Democrats don’t have a structural advantage going into 2016. I agree and will make that case in the coming days. But even if a Democrat wins the presidency, he might have to carry seats to get back to 50. If the Republican wins, that’s a tall order for Democrats.
Speaking of North Carolina, Tom Tillis wins. It’s now a net at least 7-seat victory for the GOP and at least four sitting senators fell to Republicans.
Let’s look at some of the gubernatorial races.
Right now Republicans have held tossup seats in Florida, Georgia (seriously, did Dems expect to win with a Carter?) Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Dems have held onto seats close seats in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
The only gubernatorial change is that Republicans have picked up a seat in Illinois (metaphor alert). (UPDATE: I forgot Arkansas; that’s two. I also forgot Democrats won PA. Both of these were off my radar because they weren’t really close.)
Here is where some of the other governor’s races sit: Republicans lead in Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas (thanks to Pat Roberts–more specifically thanks to Democrats nationalizing the Kansas senate race), Massachusetts (seriously), Maryland (even more seriously) and Maine. Dems hold the current lead in no gubernatorial race they don’t currently lead. Four of the above seats would be GOP gains.
I’m glad she won and her past indicates that she has a strong future. But Joni Ernst won’t ever realize that future if she doesn’t get rid of that annoying laugh of hers.
Martha Chokely will never be heard from again. At least that’s what Massachusetts Democrats hope. The GOP picked up that seat.
Also, I missed earlier that PA and AR were pickups (one Repub and one Dem) when I counted up the gubernatorial seats. This now makes a net GOP +2 in governor’s races.
Mark Warner is the “apparent” winner in Virginia. The margin is only 12k. But that’s a lot to make up in a recount. There are still votes outstanding. But still it looks bad for the GOP candidate Ed Gillespie. That said, he may be the biggest winner of the night. I expect that in the morning they will look at what the final count looks like and then determine if there is anything there to contest.
Maryland and Virginia are both major surprises tonight. Even if the GOP candidates end up losing, nobody expected these contests to be that close. Question: did the Redskins name controversy crush Democratic support? It may seem like a little thing, but that’s the point. Is the (former) Senate Majority Leader’s desire to use the federal government to change the name of a sports franchise a symbol of a massive overreach of federal power? Discuss in the comments.
Republican Paul LePage holds on to win the governor’s seat in Maine. Alaska, where voting is still ongoing, and Kansas, where Sam Brownback is holding a 2.5% lead with 17% of the vote left to count, are the only tossup incumbent seats held by the GOP that remain to be decided. Meanwhile, Colorado and Connecticut could still flip to the GOP. And in both, the Republican candidate currently is winning–albeit by less than a point in each race.
Bottom line: Governor’s races were as nationalized in 2014 as were the senatorial races. I’m not surprised by this, as it is a natural result of the 40-year ongoing ideological homogenization of the parties, as well as by the demographic stratification of the Democratic Party. When your base is near unanimity among blacks, single women, and government workers, and huge negative margins with almost everyone else, you’re only going to do well where those demographics approach a majority.
Oh, btw, President Obama waded into governor’s races when it looked like senatorial candidates treated him like President Ebola. Just like Clinton’s foray into the Southeast, that didn’t work out so well.
With 65% of the vote counted, the margin in the Connecticut governor’s race is 7. Not seven percent, but seven votes.
Republican Larry Hogan will win the governor’s race in Maryland. This is the fourth GOP pickup in gubernatorial races against only one loss.
Two lessons: Barack Obama, who actually campaigned here, is now persona non grata everywhere. And don’t run against the Redskins.
Sam Brownback will win Kansas. I called this days ago. By nationalizing the Pat Roberts senate race, Brownback got a boost. I submit that Brownback was not going to win if the Roberts-Orman race had never heated up. By playing games in Kansas, Dems lost both races.
538 is reporting that Dems had an apparent 6-point advantage in the senate polls and a 2-point apparent advantage in gubernatorial races. I had a sense that it was going to be like this, although not by this much. This is a wave, which I define as nearly every race tilting in the same direction. That’s what happened tonight.
That said, two years ago, I made the analogy to polls being like hitting in major league baseball. If we poll people randomly–relatively easy to do–we are only half the way there. The harder part is knowing who is going to show up to vote. The analogy I made then was that predicting electoral outcomes was like looking at a pitcher-batter lineup and being able to project exactly where the ball was going to land. A good pollster can do that. But what the pollster can’t do is to know in which ballpark the game is played. In baseball a long line drive to left field is a home run in Wrigley if the wind is blowing out. It’s just a long single at Fenway.
Shorter and to the point: pollsters can tell you almost exactly how people are going to vote. But they can’t tell you who will vote.
While I await the Alaska outcome, let’s summarize:
Republicans have won the Senate with at least 52 seats with another GOP gain likely in Louisiana and the GOP favored (at least for another minute) in Alaska. That’s a net gain of 7 to 9 seats.
Republicans have gained at least a net three seats in governor’s races. Colorado is looking like another gain. Connecticut is still a possible gain. And Alaska is the only remaining state where Dems can pick up a seat. That’s a net GOP gain of 2 to 5 seats for the GOP when the predictions going into tonight were for a loss of 1 to 2 seats. This is an astounding loss for Dems. Look also where the GOP won: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin, and potentially Colorado. These are presidential battleground seats. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are the only presidential battleground seats that Democrats won tonight. This will have an effect in 2016.
In the House, West Virginia went all Republican. So did Arkansas. The GOP picked up all but one seat in Iowa. I predicted this based on what happened up ticket. In New Hampshire, Democrat Shea-Porter is again the former congressman from her district. NY-24 flipped GOP. A seat in Illinois flipped too. Georgia and North Carolina house seats also benefitted from upstream GOP wins. The only tossup that the Dems currently have taken is FL-27. There are still dozens of seats left to be decided, but it looks like a double-digit gain in the House, and then some.
Finally, before I go to sleep for the night, let’s look at the exit polls in the national House races.
Whites voted 60-38 for the GOP. That’s right in line with expectations. What is unexpected is that whites made up 75% of the electorate. Blacks went 89-10 for Dems. Ten points is way more than anyone expected among blacks. Latinos went 63-35 for Dems. Worse still for Dems is that the Latino vote was only 8% of the total. That’s a level of slippage that will crush Dems if it continues. Asians split their vote, going 50-49 for the Dems. That’s has huge implications for the future when you have one party that wants to treat all minorities alike. Those minorities have a vote themselves.
The Bluegrass State is your guide for what to look for tonight so that you can go to bed early and then wake up tomorrow refreshed for the first day of the 734-day long 2016 election season.
Polls close at 6:00 pm in Kentucky. But because half of the state is in the Central time zone, that means that it won’t be until 7:00 pm Eastern that the networks will begin to call the race. That gives analysts an hour to analyze most of the state’s results before they announce any conclusions.
Most of the Democratic-leaning voters live in the Eastern half of the state, which means that for Ms. Grimes to have any chance of unseating Sen. McConnell, she has to roll up a two or three point margin in the Eastern time zone in order to withstand the GOP’s advantage in the western part of the state. In 2010 the networks immediately called Kentucky for Rand Paul because it was obvious that in the eastern part of the state, he already had won and the west was just going to add to his advantage. Look for the same to happen again tonight. If it doesn’t–ie, if Grimes has a narrow lead in the eastern half of the state that delays the call for a GOP win, it portends a hugely disappointing night for Republicans overall.
On election day in 2010 Rand Paul had an 11-point lead in the RCP average. This year, Mitch McConnell’s lead is only 7.2 points. Interestingly, while the spread between the candidates is different, the shape of the race this year is almost identical to what it was in 2010. In the last week of polling, the GOP candidate both times saw a sharp uptick, while the Democratic candidate was down narrowly.
The RCP average had Paul up 51.8 to 40.8. But if you assume that the remaining 7.4% of the electorate that was undecided did not in fact vote, that means that in a two-way race, the RCP average was 55.9% for Paul to 44.1% for Conway. In fact, that was within a tenth of a point of the final results: 55.8 to 44.2. In other words, the RCP average was dead on accurate in Kentucky four years ago. (UPDATE: If the RCP Average this year is correct, McConnell’s 49.0 to 41.8 lead over Grimes translates to 54.0 to 46.0 win in a two-way contest.)
Here’s what to look for in Kentucky to see if RCP is right again, and if they are off, where is the difference and what it might portend for other states.
Jefferson County (Louisville). Conway won 55.4% to Paul’s 44.2% and came out of the county containing Kentucky’s largest city and largest black population with only a 29,000 vote lead. If McConnell either keeps Grimes below 55% or if turnout is significantly below the 258,000 who voted there four years ago, it tells us that the Democrat’s overt racial appeals did not work. If turnout in Jefferson County is up and the margin is much larger, Dems probably are going to do better that expected in states with large urban black populations like Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
Franklin County (Frankfort). Conway won the state capitol 57.3% to 42.6% and accumulated a lead of 2,742 votes out of 18,566. If McConnell reduces that lead, it means that Obama is dragging down the party even in areas where one of its core member groups (government workers) live. That result should make Mark Warner nervous. If Grimes significantly exceeds Conway’s margin of victory in Franklin County, it may indicate that Dems will exceed their turnout expectations the rest of the night in places like Raleigh, North Carolina.
Fayette County (Lexington). Jack Conway beat Rand Paul by a little over 1,200 votes out of nearly 90,000 in the state’s second-largest city and home to the University of Kentucky. Two years later turnout was up almost 35%, but the margin was still almost the same 1,200 votes between Obama and Romney. If McConnell actually wins Fayette County, it means that either young turnout and/or young voter support for Democrats is way down. If McConnell loses by a bigger margin, it may mean that he will do worse elsewhere with young voters. On the other hand, it may also mean that young turnout for Rand Paul was the motivator four years ago, which would mean that Lexington offers little national implications for 2014, but could portend great things for Rand Paul in 2016.
The last area where Grimes has to do well is in coal country. Kentucky has two areas where coal mining is big: in the southeastern part of the state and in the west near Paducah. In 2010 those areas still had some Democratic holdouts that by 2012 had shifted Republican. If that shift sticks again in a mid-term election, it is bad for Democrats in areas where traditional labor unions are dominant. While the UMW is a special target of modern Democrats, if they lose that traditional blue base, it may mean that unions in the construction and transportation fields are likewise susceptible to a Republican message. One place to watch is Elliott County on the edge of Kentucky’s eastern coal region. It was one of only four counties to vote for Obama in 2012, and is the last Democratic holdout in the state outside of the Democrats’ new demographic of blacks, students, and government workers. Elliott County Kentucky has the distinction of having the longest continuous streak of voting for the Democratic presidential candidate of any county in the country. (You’ll notice below the change from 2010 (left) to 2012 right.) Elliott County is worth only 2,500 votes in a presidential election, and not even 1,500 in a midterm. But if it tilts to the Republican column, it shows that the old New Deal Democratic pull over labor is dead. That tilt won’t happen this year. In 2010 Elliott went exactly 2:1 for Conway over Paul. If McConnell eats into that 2:1 margin in Elliott County, that would be bad for Democrats. If Mitch McConnell manages to hold the majority of the Kentucky counties that Rand Paul lost, but that Mitt Romney won, that is very bad news for candidates at all levels in labor states like Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and West Virginia.
Mitch McConnell has to do well in the three northernmost Kentucky counties. These Cincinnati suburbs happen to be “Ohio’s” fastest growing communities. What happens there may be indicative of what is to come in other suburban ring counties nationwide. Here are their 2010 and 2012 results:
2010 Sen: R over D, 24,332 (74.4%) to 8,364 (25.6%)
2012 Pres: R over D, 35,922 (68.4%) to 15,629 (29.8%)
2010 Sen: R over D, 18,386 (64.9%) to 9,948 (35.1%)
2012 Pres: R over D, 24,240 (60.3%) to 15,080 (37.5%)
2010 Sen: R over D, 29,372 (66.8%) to 14,582 (33.2%)
2012 Pres: R over D, 41,389 (61.1%) to 24,920 (36.8%)
You’ll notice that in all three counties, turnout in 2012 was up about one-third, and Republican support dropped about 4-6 points. These are counties where Ohioans went to escape higher taxes beginning about the time Dick Celeste was the Buckeye State governor. But they are not so monolithically Republican that Democrats can’t make inroads–especially with suburban women. These three counties will give us our first real indicators of how well the “war on women” worked for Democrats, or how much it backfired. Expect to see slightly lower turnout than in 2010 and slightly better percentages for the Democrat Grimes. But don’t expect those results to get as high a Obama’s 2012 numbers. If Grimes comes close to matching Obama’s 2012 percentages in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Counties, the war on women worked. If Grimes only matches Conway’s percentages (or worse, if she falls short), it likely indicates that Democrats are losing married women at a precipitous rate and/or that they are losing what remains of their already low level of male support. The results in these three counties may be precursors to what happens in southern New Hampshire with its influx of Bay State expats as well as in Colorado and North Carolina.
Okay, if you want to stay up later and confirm Kentucky’s early prognostications, here’s what else to look for tonight:
1900 Eastern. Virginia’s polls close. If the race is not immediately called for Mark Warner, that’s a bad sign for Democrats. It’s hard to imagine the polls being that wrong in the Old Dominion, but this is one of two states where a Republican shocker could occur. It’s a very small chance, but it’s not zero. If it does happen, this election is on par with a 1980, 1994, or 2006 tectonic shift.
1900 Eastern. Georgia’s polls close. If the polls are accurate, Perdue will be leading Nunn and should be flirting with 50% of the vote. If he is easily clearing 50%, that’s a bad sign for North Carolina. If he is having trouble beating Nunn, that’s a good sign for Democrats in North Carolina, and bad sign for Republicans in January when the runoff would occur.
1930 Eastern. North Carolina’s polls close. Expect it to stay close for hours. If it isn’t close, that’s a good sign for the winning party nationwide. If Democrats lose North Carolina, they almost certainly lose the Senate. In fact, it’s almost certain that if they lose North Carolina, they lose Georgia too and have a chance at picking off only one state: Kansas.
1930 Eastern. West Virginia’s polls close. The Mountain State’s 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts are too close to call. But if it is a good Republican night, they should win both.
2000 Eastern. The big prize is New Hampshire. Like North Carolina, expect it to stay close for hours. If Shaheen wins handily, this is a potential good sign for Democrats in Alaska and Colorado, two other tossup states with libertarian streaks. If Shaheen loses, it’s inconceivable that there is a path that allows Democrats to retain the Senate. In fact, if they lose the Granite State, it’s almost inconceivable that Democrats could hold more than 46 seats by the time the runoffs are over.
2030 Eastern. Arkansas closes. The calls should go almost immediately to Tom Cotton and Asa Hutchinson. If a half hour passes without a declared winner, Republicans are in for a long night. Republicans should also see the retention of two House seats in Arkansas. If they do, then not only are they cementing their control of a once very blue state, they will remove two of only ten realistic pickup opportunities for the Democrats and will stand a better chance of double-digit gains in the House.
2100 Eastern. Colorado and Kansas are the big prizes this hour. They are also two of the hardest to predict. Colorado has given pollsters fits before. And in the Sunflower State, the big question is whether on election day Kansans will return to their Republican roots. Since Colorado has mail-in voting, vote-counting could take hours (even days, if it’s close). So Kansas will probably be the first known result of the two. If Pat Roberts holds on to win, Democrats have to win too many states they are currently expected to lose. If Roberts and Brownback win, Democrats will get a double punch to the gut.
2100 Eastern. Louisiana’s polls close. We won’t know the outcome, but if Mary Landrieu exceeds 46% or if she falls short of 41%, we’ll have a pretty good clue about what the eventual December result will be.
2100 Eastern. Michigan’s polls close in the western part of the Upper Peninsula one hour after they close in the vastly more populated rest of the state. Gov. Rick Snyder is ahead–even in most of the Democratic-leaning polls. But he’s not ahead by much. Still, with an hour to count ballots in the Lower Peninsula, we should have a call soon after the Yoopers are done voting. A win by Snyder is good news for Detroit, but don’t expect Detroiters to take it that way. Additionally, Dan Benishek is fighting to retain his seat in the UP. If he holds on, it’s another seat Democrats can’t pick up. If Snyder loses, that indicates that blacks turned out at higher than expected amounts and that Obama still has coattails with at least one demographic.
2100 Eastern. Wisconsin is hosting what probably is the most closely watched gubernatorial election tonight. Scott Walker looks to be opening up a lead over Mary Burke. If he wins handily in the face of the shit-storm that’s been thrown at him, it is very bad news for progressives and public employee unions nationwide. If he beats the RCP spread of just over 2 points, it’s a good sign for GOP candidates in two neighboring congressional districts in Iowa and Minnesota that share media markets with the Badger State. It’s also a good sign for him in 2016.
2100 Eastern. The shocker of the night would be a GOP senate win in New Mexico. If it does happen, it will be a result of the coattails of Gov. Susana Martinez, who immediately will become a top-level presidential prospect.
2200 Eastern. Iowa. If Republicans are having a good night, when the Hawkeye State is called, it may be their 51st seat. Watch the House seats here too. With a dismal gubernatorial nominee, and a lacklustre Bruce Braley pulling down the ticket, Republicans will win three seats here if it is a good night. A Braley win and the retention of only the 4th Congressional district probably means that Republicans won’t take the senate and will gain only a disappointing three to six seats in the House.
2200 Eastern. Nevada. Watch the 4th district. It wasn’t even on anyone’s radar as recently as two weeks ago. However, early voting looks to be so dismal for Democrats in the Silver State, that a solid blue seat might be in play. I expect Democrat Steven Horsford to hold on. But if he does not, then neither will Harry Reid hold on to his leadership of the Democratic Party in the Senate.
0100 Eastern. Alaska. We won’t know the results there until muchlater. So hopefully, Republicans will already have won 51 seats by then and we can all go to bed.
| Category: Government
| Posted at: Thursday, 30 October 2014
This is a long post, so recharge your glass before you start.
The order of states might seem a bit odd, but when you read the second post in this series (with updated numbers) it might make more sense.
Let’s start with Mississippi. With the largest black population of any state in the Union, you would think that Mississippi is ripe for a Democratic takeover. You would think wrong. The white vote in the Magnolia State is so red that even when nearly half of those Republican voters are left fuming after the dirty tricks that the incumbent Senator Thad Cochran used to win a primary runoff, the Democrat Travis Childers still will be swamped by a red tide.
West Virginia. You know how ex-smokers become even more sadistically anti-smoking than anti-smokers who never smoked? That’s what happens when a long-blue state turns red. Shelley Moore Capito will crush Natalie Tennant and the GOP will take the state house and all three US House seats by the end of the night.
South Dakota. Have you ever locked yourself out of the house? Once you realize what you’ve done, you panic and start scrambling around the house in the hope that some window somewhere might be left unsecured. That’s what happened a couple weeks ago in South Dakota. Democrats saw that all the doors were locked–doors, being those purplish states that they might be able to walk through. South Dakota was a window, that by some magic set of circumstances might yield entry to their goal of not being locked out of the Senate’s leadership. Sorry, but the window is locked.
In Arkansas the name Pryor won’t be enough to save the seat. Mark Pryor has been in a steady descent since Independence Day when he last led Tom Cotton by a single point. Falling from 45.5 his RCP average of 1 July, Pryor is now four points lower. In retrospect, the result will have been obvious and smart political followers will wonder why they ever thought that Arkansas was really in play.
Kentucky was never quite as bright blue as some as its neighbors. Hence it is not quite so red now. Like Mississippi, Kentucky is far more conservative than is its senior senator. However, unlike Mississippi, it is not so red that it could bleed away Tea Party votes and still cruise to a GOP victory. A better Democratic candidate might have been able to exploit a divide within the GOP to win a Kentucky Senate Seat. Allison Lundergan Grimes is not that candidate. Her campaign has been so horrendously bad that were it not for Wendy Davis, Grimes would be a bigger national punch line. Since the beginning of September, Grimes has flat-lined at 42 percent. Mitch McConnell’s support is anemically low for a likely Senate Majority Leader, but he will still pull out a win. I’ll explain more in a later post, but Kentucky will likely give us our first real glimpse in how the rest of the night is going to unfold. Grimes is going to lose. But if she keeps it close–ie, under five points–the GOP may come away disappointed for the third election in a row. If McConnell manages to come close to Rand Paul’s 2010 margin of 55-44, then even MSNBC correspondents will bemoan the President curse on his party before midnight.
Alaska is a tricky place to predict. Polling is usually off by more than the national average. But it is also off in the same direction every time. Historically, polls favor Democrats by between 3 and 12 points. Mark Begich has stayed between 42 and 43 points since the beginning of October. The only variation has been the result of a single, unreplicated poll by a highly-partisan analyst who released the results on Facebook because he has no website, included no cross-tabs, and also found that Dan Young is ahead by only a single point. There are so many red-flags about this poll that it’s worth betting against. That said, Nate Silver posits that there is a 15-point spread in the margin of error in Alaska, and who is to say that Mr. Moore’s poll isn’t the correct one and everyone else is off by 15 points. Meanwhile in the Frontier State’s gubernatorial race, Independent (D) Bill Walker is leading Republican incumbent Sean Parnell by less than two points. But . . . the spread between the four most recent polls that make up that prediction are Parnell +5, Parnell +3, Walker +6 and Walker +9. In order to have a meaningful of average of polls, you must have a normally distributed sample of polls. It’s only four data points, but these polls do not appear to be normally distributed. Which means that the average Walker lead of 1.8 is bunk. Two of them are right and the other two are very wrong. He’s either leading by five or trailing by just as much. History tells us that Parnell and Sullivan win their races by more than the average would predict. There will come a year when this history changes. Just not this year in America’s ultimate libertarian state when America’s ultimate anti-libertarian President is underwater by a solid double-digit amount.
Louisiana. Mary Landrieu has survived close races before. But this year there has been only a single public poll since Independence Day showing her with over 46% in a race between her and Bill Cassidy. And that one poll still had her losing by three points. If the race were November 4th, she would lose a head-to-head race. But the race isn’t November 4th. The primary is. The runoff is on December 6th. The trick for her next week is to keep it close. If she can exceed 45% in the initial contest she has a chance to get within the margin of fraud of a win. (In Louisiana, the margin of fraud is larger than in most other states.) If she is barely able to break 40% in November, then absent a cataclysmic change in the political environment, the only thing she gains is a one-month reprieve before she is voted out. She won’t reach the amount she needs.
If you’re keeping score, along with Montana, this brings us to a Republican pickup of 5 Senate seats and a 50-50 split. The loss of another Democratic seat would flip the upper chamber to the GOP. Except that, there are two GOP seats that shouldn’t be in play, but are.
Kansas is our second example of the Locked Door Syndrome. Only this window might be open. When one party completely dominates, it ultimately divides into two competing wings, one of which combines with the party out of power in a new coalition. Governor Sam Brownback leads the tax-cutting government-slashing wing, while Kansas state senate Republicans are big business crony capitalists who do quite well under big government. Senator Pat Roberts is representative of the latter wing. These two wings cannot co-exist long in one party and thus, the logical coalition is for the party of big business to join with the party of big government under one banner. In this sense, Kansas is on the cutting edge of what is to come nationwide. The division is stark enough that in a more neutral political environment, it would be likely that neither wing would achieve a majority and both Brownback and Roberts would lose. In fact, it was probably going to be the case that, had national Democrats not tried to force open a window in Kansas by supporting Greg Orman, that Brownback was going to lose this year. The only thing now saving Brownback is that some small government Republicans who otherwise would have stayed home, will instead hold their noses to vote for Roberts in order to ensure that Republicans take the Senate. Talk about blowback.
Georgia is interesting. You have to read Sean Trende’s analysis of eight decades of voting patterns in the Peach State in order to understand its idiosyncracies. One of the most puzzling enigmas is its racial characterization of voters. Trende points out that “unknown” is the fastest growing race in the state. And nobody knows who they are. So when you look at early vote counts and see that the zip codes with the highest proportion of early votes comes from areas with larger non-white populations, you have to remember that some of those non-whites are unknowns. Strange. Also strange is that, aside from Alaska, Georgia is the only state in the nation where the Democratic Senate candidate has a demonstrable trend of higher numbers since October 1st. In fact, among the closest governor’s races in the nation, Pat Quinn in Illinois and Dannel Malloy are the only Democrats to show significant improvement over the last month. Jimmy Carter’s grandson is mired at the same 44% where he was at the end of September and where he peaked at the end of July. So whatever is happening in the Perdue-Nunn race is not showing up in the other Georgia statewide race.
Let me digress about this point because it bears repeating: There are only four Democrats in closely contested state-wide races who have shown an improved level of support during the month of October. This is an enormously important point–especially this year.
All of the major poll aggregators focus on the head-to-head spread. But not all spreads are the same. The Democratic candidate with steady 2-point lead who is ahead 49-47 (Shaheen) is in a substantially better position going into the last few weeks of campaigning than is the Democratic candidate leading by two points but who has less than 45% support (Hagan and almost everybody else with a “D” after their name). Barack Obama in 2012 struggled to hit the 50% mark. But he was close enough to it that all he had to do was to demonize his opponent enough so that enough of the undecideds stayed home and 49% was enough to win when it came time to count those who actually showed up to vote. You aren’t likely to succeed by employing that same demonization strategy when there are 14 percent undecideds in the last few weeks of the race. That’s like trying to run out the clock in football with a three-point lead and fifteen minutes left. All summer long we have seen a substantially greater number of undecideds than in years past. By the end of October one of two things were going to happen: undecideds were going to break for one party or the other, or they was going to stay home. We now have a month’s worth of data showing no evidence of a break toward Democrats in 16 of the 20 most hotly contested statewide races in the country. However, in over half of those races (11 out of 20) the GOP candidate is up over the last four weeks and/or the Democrat has noticeably declined. (AR-Gov, AR-Sen, CO-Sen, GA-Gov, IA-Sen, KS-Gov, MA-Gov, MI-Gov, NC-Sen, NH-Sen, and NH-Gov).
(As an aside to my digression, the movement we’re seeing undercuts Nate Cohn’s argument that the polls are biased in the GOP’s favor. Even if that were true, a consistent skew won’t disguise movement. October’s polls clearly have shown movement in a Republican direction.) However, even though we see movement now, doesn’t mean that it will continue (Nate Silver’s point). What it does mean is that in the next five days, absent a massive change, in all but three races Democrats have already persuaded all the voters that they are going to persuade, while Republicans have some potential upside still remaining. (This BTW, is how a “wave” forms causing almost every race to “tilt” in the same direction.) In a later piece I want to explore this strange year and expand on what I discussed regarding Kansas and tell you what I think it portends for the future alignment of the parties.
End of digression.
When it comes right down to it, Michelle Nunn has to force a runoff if she expects to win. If she does, January 6th is a long way away. Since control of the Senate won’t be at stake by then, this could very well be the year when Georgia Democrats end their streak of losing runoff races.
Colorado. Wow, did Mark Uterus, I mean, Udall, blow it. And I predicted it two years ago:
” . . . pinning your party’s hopes on the most vocal advocates of a highly controversial social issue, when there is near universal agreement that other issues are more important, gives your party’s megaphone to those who are both extreme and irrelevant. Sandra Fluke is this year’s Terri Schiavo. For every already-Democrat she inspires to vote, she turns off at least one independent for the crime of insulting them by ignoring larger issues. Karl Rove’s plan to drive up Evangelical turnout in 2004, while it worked then, gave rise four years later to Mike Huckabee, who is perhaps the most demagogic and dangerous major presidential candidate to have run for office since William Jennings Bryan beclowned himself and his party in the late 19th century.”
Barack Obama won with the “war on woman” sword in 2012 and Mark Udall will die by that same sword this year. The desperation NARAL radio ad preposterously postulates that in “Cory’s [Gardner'] world” there will be condom shortages and a ban on birth control. Again, if it weren’t for Wendy Davis,Udall and Grimes would be fighting for the “2014 I am not a witch award.” Both sides should study the Colorado race, but especially Democrats, as Colorado was the most winnable race that they didn’t have to lose. Oh, BTW, Udall flames out so spectacularly that he takes down Hickenlooper with him.
Iowa. You do not say that lawyers make better legislators anywhere. You especially do not say that lawyers make better legislators than do farmers when you’re trying to win a race in Iowa. This election was over the moment that recorded remark hit the news. B.C. (Before Catastrophe) Joni Ernst was five points down and never over 36% in the polls. Since then Bruce Braley has never been higher than he was the day he made that stupid remark. Braley too is a strong contender for the “I am not a witch” award. Aided by Braley’s collapse and Terry Branstad’s large margin in the governor’s race, three of the Hawkeye State’s four US House seats end the night red.
North Carolina and New Hampshire are worth discussing together. Prognosticators have been lumping them that way because both female Democratic incumbents have clung to one or two-point leads even as their male GOP opponents have gained noticeably over the last month of the race. But for reasons I discussed in my digression above, having the same spread does not mean that they are in the same place. Kay Hagan is stuck at +/- of one point of 45% since Labor Day, which is exactly where she was on the Fourth of July. Feminists could say that Hagan has hit a glass ceiling. Jeanne Shaheen is bounded by a similar +/- one-point range. The difference is that her range is +/ one point of 48%. Another difference is that North Carolina is a shade more red than is New Hampshire. This is especially true in midterm years. Hagan’s supporters will point to early voting totals that show that compared with 2010, Democratic turnout is up two-percent, while Republicans are down six. What they overlook, however, is that Republican Richard Burr beat his Democratic opponent by nearly 12%. So Hagan’s apparent eight-point improvement over Elaine Marshall’s early numbers four years ago is good, but it is not good enough. Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen end the night on the opposite sides of their races: Shaheen wins hers while Hagan loses.
The what-might-have-been states: Minnesota, New Mexico, and Virginia. All three could have been won with the right candidate and the right message. Instead of finishing with 53 or 54 Senate seats (depending on Georgia’s January outcome), Republicans could have seized as many as 58 seats. That they played defense while Democrats shot themselves in the foot made short-term sense, but was a lost major long-term opportunity to remake the Republican brand.
There’s still a few days left and thus time or a few more shoes to drop. More to follow after a few more polls.
Carl DeMaio is a Republican former San Diego city councilman. Among his many “conservative” proposals, he supported pension reforms that would eliminate defined benefits for public employees. In California where defined benefit pensions burden the state with huge amounts of looming debt, this kind of reform is absolutely necessary in order to avoid a fiscal crisis that is sure to come. DeMaio had a viable plan to fix San Diego’s pension problems by reducing spending elsewhere in the city’s budget. Two years ago he narrowly lost the race to be San Diego’s mayor. It wasn’t his pension reform plans that got him; he was weathering that assault by fiercely opposed teacher and public employee unions. No, what kept him from getting more than 47.5% of the vote was the fact that DeMaio is gay.
DeMaio is now locked in a toss-up race for the US House seat held by one one-term incumbent Scott Peters. One week before election day the National Organization for Marriage endorsed the Democrat Peters.
There is nothing odd about an advocacy group endorsing candidates from the party it usually opposes. The National Rifle Association endorsed several pro-gun Senate Democrats in 2010 who then went on to win, including Max Baucus, Mark Begich, and Harry Reid. Successful advocacy groups advocate positions, not parties, thus enabling the groups to have allies no matter who wins control.
That is not what NOM has done. DeMaio’s Democratic opponent is very pro-gay marriage.
In the case where both party’s candidates are on the same side of an issue, a successful advocacy group supporting the other side would either have saved its political capital for another race and declined to endorse, or it would have asked its supporters to hold their noses and vote for the candidate from the party it usually supports in order that it would have a vote with the leadership of the party in control of the chamber.
What NOM has done is to demonstrate that it doesn’t want a vote at the Republican table; it wants a veto over the GOP.
If it hasn’t already, gay marriage is coming to a town near you. You can’t stop it. And over time, you’re going to look like a fool for having tried. Here is why: At most, no more than one-percent of the American people will ever want to enter into a gay marriage. One percent.
A jobs crisis that has reduced the percentage of Americans working to its lowest level in three decades, sixteen-trillion dollars of unsustainable debt, a sabre-rattling Russia, a European Union that is one shock away from setting off a fiscal calamity, an anti-entrepreneur and freedom-crushing federal bureaucratic apparatus that is simultaneously omnipresent and incompetent . . . and in the face of all that you’re going to vote on the basis that one percent of the population might be enjoying the horizontal mambo with someone you don’t approve of? If that’s really your highest priority, you’re an idiot.
If that’s you, you’re also not on the side of freedom. That is because you stand opposed to the small businessman stymied by bureaucratic cronyism. You stand opposed to Europeans who have struggled for decades to get out from under the Soviet shadow. You stand opposed to your own children and grandchildren who deserve to be born without soul-crushing debt that will forever limit their futures. That you would deny all that freedom just to impose your will on those with whom you disagree makes you a totalitarian no better than the “progressive” who gleefully would do the same to you.
You don’t have to support gay marriage. But you do have to tolerate it. Of course, that’s what freedom really means: allowing someone to do something with which you disagree so that in return someone can’t stop you from doing what they disagree with.
There has never been a more intolerant movement than the progressive movement that in the name of “tolerance” forces you to bend to their will. If you want to take a gay marriage position that you can win, then support the freedom to opt out of it instead of having the government force you to participate. Even many gay-marriage supporters balked when Coeur d’Alene, Idaho tried to force a wedding chapel to perform gay weddings. No lover of freedom could ever support such a rule, but that is what progressives want.
And that is what the National Organization for Marriage wants. They want to force the Republican Party to bend to its will. If Republican candidates in close races demonstrate that they can win without NOM’s support, then NOM has no power at all.
Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good reason for a gay marriage supporter to cross the aisle and support a gay Republican, thus putting an end to NOM once and for all.
When I was a planner at U.S. European Command I was part of a group that looked at counter-terrorism planning. One of the concerns we were addressing was the “lone wolf” attacker. That was what we called an inspired individual who took it upon himself to, on his own, stage a terrorist attack. I took the counter-intuitive position that the lone-wolf attacker was not a problem; instead he was an indicator of success.
Terrorism is not how the strong attack their enemies. Coordinated terrorist attacks originating in the Middle East are themselves a counter-intuitive indicator of success. That is because the American military (and its Western Allies) are far too strong to attack symetrically. Al Qaeda never could hope to attack the United States militarily. They never have had the resources to directly confront America with missiles and tanks. So they have had to resort to organized terrorist attacks.
Lone wolf attacks like the ones perpetrated against Canada twice in the last two days are indicators that now even organized terrorist attacks often are beyond the abilities of al Qaeda and affiliated groups. Since al Qaeda’s losses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, they rarely have been able even to conduct organized terrorist attacks. As horrible as these lone wolf types of attacks are, they amount to little more than murders, not wholesale attacks against the West.
And that was my point to the other planners at EUCOM: lone wolf attacks don’t need a military solution. When the enemy’s attacks amount to a few (obviously very tragic) murders that the police can handle, a military response unnecessarily expends more of our resources while it gives our enemies more credit than they deserve.
If Republicans wanted to ensure that the Kansas Senate seat stayed in GOP hands, they would join the suit by Democrat Senate candidate Chad Taylor and ask to have Pat Roberts’ name removed from the ballot so that it could be replaced by the primary’s runner-up, Milton Wolf.
That they would never even consider doing that tells you that the national party would rather lose a seat than to have it fall into Tea Party hands.
Why Republicans will gain at least 9 seats in the Senate and reduce the number of Democrats in the House to below 190 seats, their lowest level since 1930.
The RCP average has Dems and Repubs deadlocked at 45 seats each, with ten more too close to call. Unfortunately for Dems, seven of those seats are in red states and three are in purple. Not one seat is being fought on favorable terrain where the President’s popularity might keep the Democratic senate nominee above water.
Speaking of which, President Obama is underwater himself. Not just underwater, but an anchor. At this point in the 2010 election cycle, President Obama was more unpopular than popular, but by only four points: approximately 49-45. Today the RCP average has the margin at 13 points, with only 41% of voters approving of the president’s job.
Worse than that, while the President himself is unpopular, his policies themselves are even more unpopular. A recent ABC/WSJ poll found disapproval for his presidency to be 51%. But the disapproval levels for his policies lagged even that: 54% against his handling of the economy, 56% against his international affairs, 56% against his implementation of health care, and 59% against his immigration policies. Worse still, now that terrorism is becoming a concern with more Americans, the greatest number of Americans ever support Republicans over Democrats on this issue by a 55 to 32 margin. Compared with 2010, Dems have fallen 10 points and Repubs have gained 4 on an issue they already led and that wasn’t a top concern four years ago. Republicans, who began the year thinking that they could again use Obamacare as a cudgel against Democrats, have discovered that they have a whole arsenal of clubs from which to choose to beat their opponents. On virtually every issue Democratic positions are overwhelmingly unpopular.
Still worse for Democrats is that re-districting since 2010 has worsened their position. Racial gerrymandering is the main culprit. Most of the 41 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be returned to Washington in January with huge margins of victory. Democrats have built these districts’ lines to ensure a large amount of black representation in Congress. Many such seats are more than 80% Democratic. In a 50-50 nation where one-tenth of the House seats are hugely Democratic, that leaves many fewer Democrats to sprinkle around the rest of the country. For years, Republicans have had a Brer Rabbit attitude toward Democratically-led racial gerrymandering, as it gives them a disproportionate edge in the rest of the country. So in House seats that aren’t CBC house seats, President Obama is on average even more unpopular than he already is nationally.
On this date four years ago the RCP average had the GOP favored in 207 seats and the Democrats in 193. All 35 tossups broke for the GOP. The House in big elections tends to break big for the winning side. This year, the GOP is favored to win 230 seats—27 more than they were favored to win at this time in 2010. Democrats are favored in only 188, 5 fewer than in 2010. Of the 17 tossups, 13 are currently Democratic-held. Just as in the Senate, Democrats are fighting a reeling defense everywhere in the House. Worse for Democrats is that between September 11, 2010 and the 2010 election, the map widened in the GOP’s favor. They saw their lead slip such that on election day, the RCP average had them ahead in only 171 seats. On average, every seat moved over one notch; seats that had been leaning Democratic became tossups, forcing Democrats to defend even more turf. If a similar movement occurs again, expect Democrats to see another dozen or so seats slip away where they are currently favored to win.
And here’s why that might happen. Democrats spent the summer of 2010 fluctuating between 41 and 44 percent support on the generic congressional ballot question. This summer they are in exactly the same place. In 2010 the GOP began its rise out of the same region right around the 4th of July. But until then they were neck-and-neck with the Dems. This year the GOP looks to have begun its climb about six weeks later and now finds itself five points ahead of where it was just three weeks ago and with the highest level of support it has enjoyed all year. If this is indicative of undecideds breaking against the Dems, it will reflect in races where Democratic incumbents currently look safe.
I’ve lived through three landslide midterm elections in my adult life and all of them looked like this. But neither 1994, 2006, nor 2010 looked this bad for the party in the White House until much later in the race. Plus, in 2006 Republicans had a firewall of eight untouchable seats. No matter what happened they would keep Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. This year Democrats have three fewer seats that are firmly out of reach of the GOP. Even the President’s home state of Illinois is not safe. While unlikely, a veto-proof GOP majority in the senate and as few as 175 Democrats in the House, is not out of range.
Why the GOP will miss its opportunity (again).
Republicans are not the Stupid Party™ for nothing. In 2010 and 2012 they made the mistake of nominating wackos and witches in swing states and even blue ones where they had credible alternatives who were almost guaranteed to win. This time the GOP applied an opposite, but equally stupid approach. In three states so Republican that a red dog could win, they renominated their RINO incumbents who were the only Republicans in those states who could possibly lose. Kansas, a state so Republican that FDR won there only twice, typified the stupidity, but Kentucky and Mississippi weren’t far behind. The national GOP, tone deaf as always, didn’t appreciate that the only thing less popular in Kansas than a Kansas Democrat was a Washington Republican. By propping up the dinosaur Roberts, they have ensured the loss of a seat they couldn’t lose.
Almost as bad as Republican leaders are Republican voters. In 2010 complacency cost them seats they were going to win. Going into election day, Republicans led in Colorado and Nevada and were tied in Washington. They lost all three seats. In fact, the Republican candidate failed to beat the final RCP average in every single tossup state. The Obama turnout machine turned out while Republicans stayed home thinking that they already had the win.
And in 2010 Democrats gave Republicans an incentive they don’t have now: Nancy Pelosi. Sure, she is still around. But she no longer leads the House. Almost as unpopular as she was at her nadir, is the GOP’s John Boehner. “A pox upon both your houses” is the voters’ mood.
That thinking is evident in the generic congressional question, where this year, Republicans have never been able to break away from the Dems. If “none of the above” were a choice, it would probably win. Without a hated nemesis and with lackluster leadership of their own, a landslide victory—or even control of the Senate—is not going to happen.
UPDATE: Jay Cost notes a similar trend to what I stated in the first part of this post
All in all, this is precisely the sort of poll you do not want to see if you are a Democrat. With less than two months until the 2014 midterm, Republicans are polling stronger in the NBC/WSJ poll than at any point since … two months before the 2010 midterm.
President Obama’s admission that he lacks a strategy for dealing with the Islamic State was a foolish thing for a President to admit out loud. But it is not surprising. That is because for most of our nation’s history, America has lacked an explicit foreign policy and a supporting strategy.
When we have approximated a guiding principle, we usually have done so only as far as to define what we were against: against European intervention in the Western Hemisphere under the Monroe Doctrine, against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, and against Soviet expansion during the Cold War.
The eight years of the second Bush presidency at least had the virtue of America and the world clearly understanding what the United States stood against. We stood against the use of terrorism, be it deployed in Baghdad or Britain. Of course, fabricating a strategy from opposition to a tactic is a form of reverse-engineering that was bound to be a less than successful exercise.
The last six years haven’t even possessed that murky level of clarity: withdrawal at any cost in Iraq, withdrawal on a fixed timeline from Afghanistan, intervention without aims in Libya, and a stutter-step approach to a Syrian civil war that now has America on the precipice of being on the de facto side of Bashar Al Assad, about whom the President said, “must go”. What exactly is the point?
The jumbled mess that seems to be American Middle Eastern foreign policy was pithily encapsulated by one online commenter:
“We’re supporting Shia in Iraq near Baghdad, mostly Sunni Kurds in the North, and never Kurdish independence anywhere. We support vetted moderate Sunnis in Syria who only sometimes give that support to their more radical Sunni Salafist brothers in the IS to kill the Alawite Shia Assad government they both oppose, and of course destroy the Shia we support in Iraq. We support the ultra-Sunni Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, but not their tribal affiliated Al Khalifa Sunni brothers in Bahrain. There we seem to support democracy which would lead to Shia government. We don’t support the Shia aytollahs in Iran, nor their more secular opposition which protested and was crushed a few years ago.”
Again, what exactly is the point?
In addition to lacking a strategy, President Obama’s confused rhetoric demonstrates that there also is no tactical point to our military endeavors in the region. White House correspondent Alexis Simeldinger’s recent report may look like a semantic exercise. However, “destroy” and “degrade” are very different military objectives. From such terms necessarily flow military plans to support the attainment of the President’s specified objectives. When the President himself postulates that the goal is to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, he has contradicted himself in the space of three words.
This is not the first time. American intentions in Libya were doomed from the start because those intentions themselves were never clear to military leaders in US Africa Command (AFRICOM) who quite literally didn’t know what the President wanted them to accomplish. You cannot have a coherent strategy if you don’t have a clear objective.
After the fact, the Bush Administration recognized this glaring deficiency when it attempted to construct a goal for the war in Iraq. Defeat Saddam Hussein, which was the original 2003 goal, is not an objective. It is a means to an objective. What Iraq was supposed to look and act like should have been the objective.
To his credit, Bush developed the objective of a self-sustaining, stable, and responsible Iraq was marginally achieved, at least by 2010. To his detriment, for at least the first three years of the war, Bush and the country muddled through the Iraq War because the Administration couldn’t even define what victory should look like so that America would know when to send its troops home. To Obama’s credit, he continued in Iraq and made great strides toward Bush’s goal during the first two years of his presidency. To his detriment, he, like his predecessor, failed to understand that after the conflict portion of war is over, peace is more of a rheostat than a switch. You can’t flip it off suddenly and expect that stability would remain.
There seems to be one cause more than any other that makes America stumble into its foreign policy mistakes. That cause is the feeling that “We need to do something”. Whether we need to do something because we feel that people around the world are being wronged or because we feel that someone has wronged us, the urge to “do something” is a natural human emotion. It arises out of sympathy for a victim or anger at an affront. But sympathy and anger are emotions. They are not logical reasons for entering a conflict.
Unfortunately, most of America’s “bad” wars seem to have begun this way. Two-hundred years ago, the fledgling nation tired of diminutive treatment from Great Britain, and so feeling that it had to do something to show Britain that it could not be pushed around, America launched a war against its former occupier at a time when it was itself then occupied by the much greater task of defeating Napoleon. The war ended exactly as it began: confusedly, and earning no concessions for America from the British. In fact, the Treaty of Ghent is one of the few treaties in history that explicitly enshrines the status quo ante bellum. Well, except for the 15,000 Americans who died as a result of the War of 1812.
A century later the president, against the wishes of the country, provided quasi-support to Allied Powers engaged in a far-off war, and then cried foul when the Central Powers attacked that support. “We have to do something” became his rallying cry and so America entered a regrettable war in which it never had any business being. When mercifully World War I came to a close, voters so abhorred President Wilson for the pointless conflict that less than a week from victory, they jettisoned 25 members of his party from the House and turned over control of the Senate to the opposition.
Wars in Vietnam, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, have likewise left America in no better position than before the commencement of hostilities. And all of these conflicts began over an American feeling that it had to do something. By acting on the basis of emotion instead of thought, America invited the probability that the unintended consequences of “something” would be worse than if it had done nothing. Like medieval doctors treating ailments with leeches and bloodletting, the “cure” always leaves the patient no better off than before the treatment, and often is worse than the disease itself.
Today you have everyone from National Review’s Rich Lowry to progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren saying that destroying the Islamic State should be the nation’s “Number one priority”. Left-leaning columnist Jonathan Alter says that “There’s not much disagreement on how to handle ISIS. U.S. warplanes have already flown more than 100 sorties to degrade ISIS ground forces, and many more bombs are on the way.”
Alter is probably right about what will be done, but never addressed is why America would do it. What does it expect to accomplish? How, as a result of aerial strikes, does America expect that the situation will be better?
Unfortunately, the entire debate is backwards. Instead of asking what military action we should take, we need first ask ourselves what do we want the post-military situation to look like? Then and only then can the Department of Defense propose a military plan to achieve that end result. And sometimes that plan, means no plan, because sometimes, any military solution only makes the situation worse. In other words, the first question is not “What?” but “Why?” Taking any action without a goal and the thoughtful analysis of whether or not the goal is attainable, is foolish, costly, and dangerous.
I submit that while destroying IS may end up being the right course of action, before we decide to do that, our number one foreign policy priority ought to be figuring out as our objective what we want the world to look like, and then formulating a feasible strategy to get us there.
Otherwise, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is just going to join a long list of Middle Eastern public-enemy-number-ones over the last quarter-century including: Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein (again), Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Muqtada al Sadr, Muammar Khadafy, and Bashar al Assad. Without first understanding the objective of American intervention, the only certainty is that after the Islamic State, we simply will find ourselves confronted by yet another “great” threat with a hard-to-pronounce name.
Further complicating the question of what to do about the Islamic State is the fact that the Middle East really is a tertiary problem for the United States. What we choose to do there puts in peril American prestige and power in theaters more important and potentially more dangerous. Both Europe, with an economically injured but still militarily dangerous Russia, and Asia, with an emerging China and a declining Japan, are much bigger concerns than a terrorist organization whose reach is limited and whose only direct attack on America has been a couple murders.
Perhaps that’s a little too crassly stated. After all, televised beheadings are incomparably gruesome. However, let us attempt to maintain some proportionality: do we really think that the best answer is to launch thousands of forces and spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to end a murder rate that falls short of a Chicago weekend?
Finally, let us attempt to maintain some perspective as well. The development of IS was a wholly predictable event. The destabilization of Bashar al Assad guaranteed the emergence of IS or someone else like it. In that region of the world, the only surety was that any resultant opposition wasn’t going to be moderate and democratic. So if non-intervention in the Syrian Civil War was the right choice—and it probably was—then we should have known that this was going to happen. If the decision to leave Iraq was the right choice—and it probably was (although it certainly could have been a more measured withdrawal)—then the rise of a brutal opposition was a predictable consequence. But if this was a foreseeable outcome, what was a better alternative? It’s very likely that there wasn’t one, and that there still isn’t one.
Perhaps this indicates that the most important principle to keep in mind when it comes to deciding a strategy is best encapsulated in Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer for serenity. God grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
In other words, having no strategy, might not be the worst thing. (But still, you don’t say that.)
In Part II: How to create an American strategy
If you like wonky political analysis, Dan “Baseball Crank” McLaughlin has an excruciatingly detailed look at what the historical record portends for the 2016 political landscape.
McLaughlin’s conclusion based on evaluating every presidential election since the American Civil War is that a party that enjoys presidential incumbency for eight straight years almost always sees a drop-off in support in the following election. While this isn’t an earth-shattering result–almost all political analysts recognize that after two successful elections, it is very hard to win a third–McLaughlin shows that the mathematics behind this phenomenon are nearly unanimous. Even when parties do win third elections (FDR in 1940, and George H W Bush in 1988, for example), there is a pronounced drop-off in the amount of support that the incumbent party gets compared to the previous election’s results.
While I urge you to read the article, that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I saw something in one of McLaughlin’s charts that has caused me to question a bit of conventional wisdom that I have always before accepted.
Conventional wisdom holds that higher voter turnout favors Democrats over Republicans. So take a look at this chart from McLaughlin’s analysis. What this shows is the total presidential vote count for each party as well as the total number of voting eligible age non-voters from 1980 to 2012.Look at the blue line for Democrats. Aside from 2008 it is remarkably steady. So steady, in fact, that with an R-squared of .978, a Democratic candidate for president can expect to receive 3.87 million more votes than the Democratic nominee did four years before. Again, aside from 2008, in the last ten presidential elections, the Democratic nominee never over or underperformed this projection by more than 2.2 million votes. I’ve reproduced just the Republican and Democratic data below and added the linear trend that is fitted to 1980-2012 Democratic vote totals except for the outlier year of 2008.
In 2008 Barack Obama overperformed the trend line by an astounding 8.5 million votes as he turned out an anomalously large number of youth, minorities, and independents. Four years later, Obama overperformed the Democratic trend by a mere 1.1 million votes, a much more historically normal result.
Now look at the red line for the number of Republican votes. It is all over the place. In 1984 and 1988, when Democratic performance was almost exactly in line with the historical trend, Republicans outdistanced them by 17 million and 7 million votes. In 1992 and 1996, when Democrats only slightly underperformed their trend, Republicans fell woefully short by 6 million and 8 million votes.
Wondering how far back the trend line goes, I plotted the same data for all post-war presidential elections. Prior to 1980 there is more Democratic variability than in subsequent years, but the extreme linearity of the trend disappears at least before 1972. (If we consider, back to 1972, the 1976 election joins the 2008 election as an outlier. These two elections, Carter’s post-Watergate election and the first election with a black man on the ballot, might indicate that modern Democrats have very little independent or cross-over appeal, and that when it does occur, it happens only as a result of an uncommon circumstance.)
What’s interesting about the period between 1972 and 1980 when this pattern appears to have established itself is that this was the time when the Democratic Party completed its realignment. Previously it had been a coalition of geographies: white Southerners and urban Northern Catholics. Bouncing in and out of the Democratic coalition before then were Midwestern farmers, Northern Protestants, and blacks.
What has changed since is that the Democratic coalition is now almost entirely demographically based and includes nearly all black voters, a solid majority of Hispanics, and a steady percentage of women. Aside from these groups, there is very little bouncing in and out of the Democratic coalition since the 1970s. Again, with the exception of 2008 when Barack Obama greatly expanded his party’s vote before it collapsed back to its normal self four years later, the only growth Democrats have seen over the last four decades looks to be entirely dependent on the population growth of its constituencies.
Of course, many Democratic pundits and strategists would take comfort from such a conclusion. After all, at least one portion of the Democratic triad (Hispanics) is growing faster than the general rate of population growth. (McLaughlin addresses this point in another post here.)
On the other hand, the record of the last ten elections indicates that Republicans have far more upside potential, having bested the Democratic trend line by five million or more votes on four occasions. Democrats have never beaten that same trend by even half that amount except for once.
Of course, Republicans have also far underperformed the Democratic trendline. In 1992 and then again in 1996 voters who might have voted Republican either didn’t vote or voted for H. Ross Perot, and in 2012 a milquetoast Mitt Romney couldn’t even manage the Republican vote total amassed eight years before when the country’s population was nearly 20 million people fewer.
Sean Trende has made this point before:
” . . . census data and exit polls reveal that some 6 million white voters opted to sit out [the 2012] election. The data show these non-voters were not primarily Southerners or evangelicals, but were located in Northeast, Midwest and Southwest. Mainly, they fit the profile of “Reagan Democrats” or, more recently, a Ross Perot supporter. For these no-shows, Mitt Romney was not a natural fit.”
Less hitched to demography, Republicans are a coalition of ideas that in some years have more or less overlap and appeal than in other years and are more or less represented by a particular nominee.
In other words, the electorate includes really only two types of people: reliable Democrats who always vote no matter the nominee, and potential voters who will almost never vote Democrat but might vote Republican if their nominee can persuade them. Furthermore the number of the latter vastly exceeds the former. While in most years Democrats achieve a very predictable result based almost entirely on the mechanics of population growth, this raw political landscape allows Republicans the opportunity to enjoy earth-shattering landslides when it chooses well, or to suffer soul-crushing defeats when it does not.
And that brings us back to the question of turnout. The conventional wisdom is that because the Democrat’s voter base includes groups with historically lower turnout rates, they are the ones to benefit from higher turnout. However, the record of the last forty years places nearly the entire burden for victory on the ability of the GOP presidential nominee to excite that portion of the electorate that was never going to show up to vote for the Democrat anyway.
I remember when I was a young Soldier in Germany and America stood against the idea of countries erecting walls to keep people from leaving.
Two days ago I picked up the theme of a Jim Geraghty piece and said that Progressives are so fixated on ends that they have no allegiance to means and have no consideration for the negative consequences of their utopian dreams. On a related note yesterday, Daniel Henninger wondered “Why can’t the Left govern?”
Henninger focused on President Obama, whose only major legislative accomplishment has worsened American health care, and on Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose attacks on New York’s charter schools spiraled out of control and sunk his high approval ratings to below 50%, and on France’s François Hollande, whose draconian taxes have pushed his popularity to the lowest ever recorded of a French President in the modern era.
Since in my earlier writing I made the analogy between modern Progressives and the era of the original Progressives, let me throw into the mix President Woodrow Wilson as an example of the failure of their ilk to govern. Wilson was so unpopular at the end of his second term that Warren Harding’s 26-point margin of victory still holds the record for the largest landslide of any President elected in the last hundred years. None of FDR’s elections were bigger wins. Nor was LBJ’s. William McGovern and Walter Mondale both cruised to respectable finishes compared to James Cox, 1920’s loser. Four years after he left, Wilson’s Democrats were still so unpopular that they didn’t receive even 30% of the popular vote, a pitifully low level that the losing party has never since failed to achieve.
What is it about ideologue Leftists that makes them so unpopular after their failed attempts at governing?
As I said the other day, Progressives believe that they know better than others how others should live their lives. That makes Progressivism inherently anti-democratic and requires that its adherents subvert truths and manipulate rules to advance their ends.
Democratic governments follow where their people lead. Progressive governments—those led by people who see popular opinion as wrong—lead their people in a direction that they do not want to go. When the subterfuge is discovered, or when the unpopular project spectacularly fails, popular opinion turns viciously against the Progressive.
By Executive Order (and not, it is important to note, by an act of Congress) President Wilson created the Committee on Public Information in 1917. The CPI was known by the New York Times as the “Committee on Public Misinformation” and by harsher critics was called the ominous sounding, “House of Truth”. This was America’s World War One propaganda ministry. It fabricated German atrocities, as well as American strengths. Anticipating by nearly a century the notoriously faked photo of an Iranian missile launch, one early CPI story announced that “the first American-built battle planes are today en route to the front in France”. The false “news” was accompanied by doctored pictures that were in fact of a single plane that was still in testing. (If you have ever wondered why the horrors of the Holocaust took so long to gain traction in the American press, in part, it was because Americans were still skeptical after having been lied to by their own government about imaginary German horrors from the last war.)
The CPI’s tactics came straight from its allies in the Anti-Saloon League, which employed a similar propaganda machine and a similar virulently nativist message to advance the cause of Prohibition.
Democracies don’t like being lied to. As soon as the war was over, the magnitude and frequency of the lies became apparent. Americans quickly recognized that their entry into the war was a catastrophic mistake. The result was that by the end of the 1920s, the label “progressive” largely had disappeared from the American political lexicon, not to be resurrected for another eighty years.
Democracies also don’t like failure.
To the Progressive, ideology trumps results. Most arenas outside of government don’t work that way. A product that isn’t popular loses money. It matters not how noble the cause or its producer.
In government failure is so easy to achieve because success is so difficult to ascertain. Ironically, it is the very nature of popular forms of government that makes this possible. Democracies, because they lag popular opinion—and especially constitutional republics, that purposefully employ procedures to dampen the excesses of democracy—are necessarily lethargic beings. Results arrive at a glacial pace. It is often years after one has advanced a program that it can objectively be determined to be a success. By then it is too late for its advocates to be held accountable if it had failed.
In 2002 I was part of an efficiency project initiated at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. The idea was that TRADOC should measure both the resources put into its programs and its programs’ results. For each program the objectively measurable input was money. I had no objection to this. However, since most of those programs were years-long projects, there was the need for intermediate objectives. It turned out that in almost every case, the measurable “output” was also money. If a project was expected to cost $100 million, the faster it could acquire that hundred-million was the measure of the success of the project. Each program was its own self-licking ice cream cone and no one was ever going to be judged on whether or not the program actually worked. The programs themselves became the goal. Left far behind were the goals of the original programs.
If this attitude exists within the military, a branch of government which occasionally gets called upon to deliver demonstrable results (ie, win a war), imagine how detached other branches of government are from having to account for their successes and failures. This is the perfect camouflage for a Progressive as he never has to face judgment for his results. All that matters is that he tried.
Returning to Henninger’s column, he likens Obamacare to the international anti-global warming movement and concludes that their “activity is increasingly disconnected from the issue of mitigating climate change.” It’s no wonder; Progressives steeped in a lifetime of bureaucratic myopia rarely have to achieve a measurable outcome. And on those few occasions, as in the case of Obamacare, that they are successful in shepherding a program through to fruition, they are unprepared by their upbringing as to how to create a program that actually demonstrates a successful result. So when Nancy Pelosi unfacetiously said that Congress had to pass the 2,000 page bill so that they could find out what was in it, she was confessing to being not unlike the automobile-chasing dog: “Now that I’ve caught the car, what do I do with it?”
Today’s New York Times makes this point. The White House announced yesterday that six-million people had signed up for Obamacare, a figure that “the law’s backers hail as a success.” But not so fast. Drew Altman, President of the Kaiser Family Foundation (an organization which has long been supportive of Obamacare) attempted to redirect the issue as to whether or not the program itself is successful.
“The whole narrative about Obamacare — ‘Will they get to six million? What is the percentage of young adults going to be?’ — has almost nothing to do with whether the law is working or not, whether the premiums are affordable or not, whether people think they are getting a good deal or not.”
Altman is right to point out that the goal of Obamacare is not that people sign up for it, but that it work. That’s something that the Progressive is unprepared for.
Progressivism exists outside the arena of accountability. Its practitioners have never been judged on ultimate outcomes. While it is in the pursuit of their programs that they often can claim a noble rhetorical advantage, It is only after their program is law that it is on full display. Then the autopsy of its failure exposes their lies and the anti-democratic subversions employed to bring about a program the population never wanted. And that is why when Progressivism fails, it fails spectacularly, and why the Progressive is so often ultimately judged to be a governing failure.
Jim Geraghty pens a controversial piece wherein he opines that liberals are more tolerant of the hypocrisy of other liberals than are conservatives. Before I get to that portion of his argument, I’d like to address his conclusion with an historical analogy. Geraghty writes:
“As long as a particular position or stance lets progressives feel good about themselves, they will embrace it. Thus the measuring stick of Obamacare is not whether it’s actually providing the uninsured with health insurance . . . but whether a liberal feels that it’s a sign that he cares about the uninsured more than other people.
Liberals will deem Obamacare a failure only if it stops making them feel good about themselves.
The original Progressives advanced another misbegotten law that made them “feel good about themselves”, even while it destroyed the country. That law was Prohibition. In 1925, H.L. Mencken observed,
“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
It would be another eight years after what was obvious to Mencken was finally obvious enough to Progressives that Prohibition was repealed. And even then, it was not the obviousness of the chaos created by Prohibition that turned Progressive minds. It was the fact that by 1933 Congress finally got around to re-apportioning districts–a decennial requirement that was purposefully (and unconstitutionally) ignored following the 1920 Census, because Progressives knew that if they counted the nation’s newly arrived Catholics and Jews, that their beloved Prohibition would have gone to an earlier grave.
Still, even after Prohibition died with the 21st Amendment, Progressives consoled themselves with the belief that it was a “noble experiment”.
There was absolutely nothing noble about Prohibition or about its supporters, who employed more dastardly tactics even than just using unconstitutional measures to over-represent the nation’s more rural (dry) areas instead of its burgeoning urban (wet) cities.
Daniel Okrent catalogued just some of the evils that Prohibition’s adherents used to advance their cause. They actively cultivated the support of both flavors of racists, typified by the overtly bigoted Arkansas congressman John Tillman, as well as soft bigoted paternalists like the United Methodist Church which explained in an official publication that “Under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol, consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist its evil effects.” They encouraged anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism, as both religions were associated with alcohol’s manufacture, sale, and consumption. They stirred up nativism, specifically directed against Irish, Italians, and Jews. They not only allied with a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, they made the modern Klan and purposefully harnessed its hatred in order to enjoy the benefits of the fear unleashed by strong arm tactics that closely resembled those of Nazi brownshirts a decade later.
Most unforgivably of all, Progressives attacked all things German as war began on the Continent. A year after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress and claimed that those Americans “born under other flags . . . poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.” The metaphor was well-chosen. While not an avid dry himself, Wilson wanted those supreme executive powers that only war could bestow. If that meant further stoking nativism to bring those zealots closer to his aims, then so be it.
Yes, what I am saying is that early Progressives supported their cause so fervently that entry into World War I–the single most disastrous American political mistake of the last hundred years–became a desirable means of achieving their Prohibitionist ends.
And all of what I just described is the horror that occurred before Prohibition’s enactment. History tells us full well the terror unleashed as a result.
Those early 20th century Progressives are the intellectual forebears of modern Progressivism. Therefore, it should surprise us not that a movement which allegedly supported greater democratization in the form of the Nineteenth Amendment’s extension of the franchise to women, also purposefully blocked blacks from the polls and diminished the value of an urban immigrant’s vote. Women supported prohibition; blacks and immigrants did not. Hypocrisy has a long pedigree in progressive politics.
In an answer to his own question “Why [is it] so hard to make progressives live up to their own rules?” Geraghty comes close to the truth when he says that Progressivism is about making progressives “feel good about themselves”. But even closer to the truth is this oft-quoted observation from C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Progressivism is the belief that they know better than others how others should live their lives. There is nothing that they won’t do, there is no ally so abhorrent, there is no rule so inflexible, that a Progressive won’t embrace the unthinkable to advance their cause. That is because they do so with the approval of their conscience. (As an aside, this is why some strands of “Christian” conservativism have far more in common with Progressives than they do with most conservatives.)
In short, the end justifies the means–even if that end is measurably (as in the case of Prohibition and Obamacare) worse than the beginning. Adherence to means has no meaning in the progressive mind.
PJMedia picked up a piece I wrote the other day. Go there and read the whole thing. [Edited: Below is an excerpt from the pre-edited version I wrote. I think that it is a little more clear on a few points.]
The irony of NATO’s past quarter-century is that its most recent entrants are its most enthusiastically pro-NATO, and yet they offer the least reason to the other members to justify a united response in their defense. They know the danger of Russian expansion. They’ve lived it. But the further east NATO expands, the less immediate the danger that the fall of those regions represents to the more western members. More simply put: Is there anybody who really thinks that Californians want to risk a nuclear war with Russia in order to save the likes of Albania?
For twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, until the Russian invasion of Georgia reminded them of what a mutual defense treaty really means, Americans forgot that NATO wasn’t a clubhouse; it was an actual club—the kind with which you beat an opponent to death. And by admitting new members you agreed to swing that club if any one of the members was attacked.
Today, NATO is not a club; it’s a glass bat. The power of a glass bat is in the threat of its swinging. But once it makes contact it shatters into 28 pieces and loses all its power. This is true of any large coalition, but especially one so culturally and geographically far-flung that it can’t seem to agree that Russia even is an enemy.
Arguably, NATO is already shattered, the fault of which lies at the feet of America’s last President, who short-sightedly used its one-time-use power against a non-existential threat in Afghanistan. (The truth is that President Bush could have received the help of most NATO nations in Afghanistan even without the NATO imprimatur and without swinging the glass bat. After all, he did so in Iraq.) Most of the 28 NATO nations gave all that they could give over the last 13 years in Afghanistan. There is no more that they can reasonably expect to extract from their populaces.
Knowing all too well the real costs of warfare makes countries less inclined to intercede when there appears to be no real immediate importance to the threat. It was because the memory of World War One was so fresh in the minds of the Allies, that Hitler was allowed to re-arm Germany, march into the Palatinate, annex Austria, and forcibly annex a portion of sovereign Czechoslovakia, all without Western Europeans lifting a finger to stop him. And that was two decades after a war that the Allies won. Immediately on the heels of the thirteen-year muddle of Afghanistan, there is even less likelihood that all 28 nations are going to sign on to the task of poking a Russian bear unless they really see that the bear is bearing down on them.
So when un-uniformed Russians appear in military formations in tiny Narva and say that they are there to protect Russian lives from Estonian transgressions (and there will be just enough merit to the claim to cloud the argument), how will NATO react? Will it rush headlong into war, obeying its mutual defense obligations just as the Central Powers did after the assassination of a minor royalty in 1914? Or will NATO react with a shrug, just as war-weary Europeans did when Hitler marched unopposed into Vienna?
I’m guessing that Russia thinks that NATO is an already-shattered glass bat and that it will pursue the latter course. And if he’s right, Vladimir Putin can finally record the hour of NATO’s death. Then Europe’s only Emperor will go about exercising greater authority over European affairs without American interference.
But if Putin is wrong in his calculation of NATO resolve . . .
That’s the question ABC News asks:
Bob Shlora of Alpharetta, Ga., was supposed to be a belated Obamacare success story. After weeks of trying, the 61-year-old told ABC News he fully enrolled in a new health insurance plan through the federal marketplace over the weekend, and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it.
But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Shlora said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan. . .
Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.
It obviously is a bad thing to lose health insurance even if the prospect of needing it is just a theoretical abstraction. It is far worse for that abstraction to become a concrete reality. If, after January 1st, many thousands of Americans find that they need the health insurance that they think that they signed up for, then the Obama administration is going to be pining for the days when their approval ratings were in the low 40s.
This ABC News report suggests that the “fix” now being touted by the White House is actually a front-end website that isn’t connected to a back-end that can deliver the ordered product. We’ll know soon enough. But nothing about Obamacare to this point should give anyone any confidence that we won’t be seeing scores of tragic stories of procedures denied, prescriptions unfilled, and deteriorating medical conditions.
Prior to the disastrous implementation of Obamacare, has there ever been a law that fell that so far out of disfavor that the American people clamored for wholesale repeal? Yes, it was called Prohibition.
The parallels between Prohibition and Obamacare begin with the fact that both laws were the culmination of decades of “Progressive” ideals. A century ago Progressives believed that people would be better off if they were able to control what individuals were allowed to buy and sell. Modern Progressives are no different. From its first attempt in Maine in the 1850s, Progressives in both parties worked tirelessly to extend anti-alcohol laws to the entire country. This most recent bout of progressivism began sixty years ago with Democrat Harry Truman, who pushed the idea of socialized medicine. The movement received considerable advancement from Democrat Lyndon Johnson, who created Medicare, Republican George W. Bush, who added prescription drugs coverage, and Republican Mitt Romney, who built the first Obamacare-like system in Massachusetts.
Many Progressives of an earlier era wanted Prohibition for others, but not for themselves. The progressive United Methodist Church, which was officially dry but whose membership certainly wasn’t, said that, “Under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol, consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist its evil effects.” A Collier’s editorial elaborated on this form of racial paternalism, “White men are beginning to see that moral responsibility for the negro rests on them, and that it is a betrayal of responsibility to permit illicit sales of dangerous liquors and drugs.” These were the attitudes of “Wet-Drys,” people who themselves drank, but who didn’t want “others” to drink. Besides racism, anti-Catholicism was rampant among earlier Progressives. Germans, Italians, and Irish (and let us not forget anti-Catholicism’s sibling, anti-semitism), flooded America’s cities during this period–and they all drank! Modern progressives similarly want Obamacare for thee, but not for me. Most infamous is that Congress specifically exempted itself and its employees from the new Obamacare requirements when it passed the law. Favored Progressive partners too–especially unions–have asked for, and gained their own Obamacare exemptions. Hypocrisy enjoys a long pedigree among Progressives.
Electoral chicanery is another similarity. There was a rush to enact the Eighteenth Amendment before the 1920 Census resulted in redistricting that would give more House seats to the cities and the immigrant Catholics who lived there. Following the census, which recorded a 21% population increase largely as a result of immigration, there was so much concern that “Wets” would gain the upper hand in Congress as well as in state legislatures, that Congress was never redistricted in accordance with the Constitution. Until 1933 when Prohibition was finally overturned, the House was stuck with the same district lines that were drawn back in 1910. A century later, modern Progressives played similar games after Republican Scott
Walker Brown’s surprise election to the Senate from Massachusetts meant that the House bill enacting Obamacare could not be ratified. Instead, an earlier Senate bill, that was nowhere near to ready for implementation and which had not gone through a conference committee, was accepted without modification in the House, and in defiance of the Constitutional provision that revenue bills had to originate in the House.
In 1925 H.L. Mencken observed:
“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”
More than three years after the passage of Obamacare, one could make similar observations: there is not greater health insurance coverage but less; there is not lower health care costs, but more; and certainly, respect for the law–even from the law’s namesake and executor–has not increased, but diminished.
There is a final similarity which I am afraid might also come to pass. While it is popularly believed that the 18th Amendment was repealed, that was actually not exactly true. The 21st Amendment did not return things to the way they had been. Instead of repeal, the modfication to the Constitution gave the States special power to legislate alcohol. Because the Amendment gives the States jurisdiction, alcohol is not afforded protection under the interstate commerce clause. Each state can, and does, tax interstate sales, while they prevent residents from acquiring alcohol across state lines. This, and a whole host of other state restrictions, has created a hodge podge of laws that makes life difficult for wine-makers, retailers, and consumers alike. The only beneficiaries of such legal confusion are the descendants of Prohibition’s bootleggers who are now ensconced in legally mandated monopolies.
Similarly, when Obamacare meets its demise, it is unfortunately likely to die in such a way that the successor system will leave Americans worse off than they were before Obamacare ever became law. I hope that on this latter prediction, I am proved wrong.
There are two consensus opinions that have formed about Obamacare:
1. The website will not work this year. Every “fix” of known flaws is going to expose (and perhaps even worsen) underlying flaws that haven’t yet been discovered because few people have gotten far enough into the website to discover them.
2. The Obamacare law itself will need significant surgery and Democrats in particular are going to need for that surgery to have to happen very, very soon.
Not yet the consensus opinion, but soon will be, is that the second item is very much like the first: attempts to “patch” flaws in the law, just like patching flaws in the code, will expose huge problems lurking beneath the surface. When Nancy Pelosi said that we had to pass the 2,000+ page bill to see what was in it, what she could have said is that we’re going to have to actually implement it to really learn what is in there. It won’t be pretty.
Now here’s some added Washington reality. Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, nothing significant will happen in Congress. Nothing. Even as millions of Americans get Blue Cross pink slips, that won’t get in the way of Congressional Christmas parties and taxpayer-funded vacations to warmer climes. Oh, sure, there will be the usual press conferences and photo ops; that never stops. But real work–the kind that is done by armies of staffers and lobbyists who write these bills–that won’t happen. This means that whatever can be done before or shortly after the fecal matter hits the rotary device on 1 January is going to have to be short and sweet.
Going back to the status quo ante bellum is not possible. The plans that are dropping people by the millions no longer exist. They can’t exist under the current law and the new laws under which they could exist, won’t be written by Congress and then implemented by the insurance companies for months. Many months. At this point there are only bad options and worse options. Nothing government can do will forestall this problem. In fact, every attempt will just make the overall problem worse and further entrench the disarray.
There is only one institution in the world, only one power, that has the ability to quickly react, and that is the free market. Forget about Washington being able to solve the problem; they have neither the time nor the cognitive ability to diagnose the problem, much less, to fix it. Instead all Washington should do is to default to the States. Each of the states already has on their individual state codes, health care laws. That’s how the bulk of the health care industry was regulated in the past–a past that was only six weeks ago. With one exception, the Federal government should just get out of the way. And that exception is that it should allow for cross-state portability. That will do more than anything else to spur the market to provide health care solutions. No minimum coverage requirements, no maternity care for 80-year old men, no 26-year old children on their parents’ plans. Nothing. Let people shop in any state to find the plan that fits them. The market will quickly move in to meet most customers’ needs. And while that won’t insure everyone, it will insure most of those who have been recently dropped or who physically can’t buy coverage now.
Will it happen? Not a chance. You see, there’s another Washington reality at work: Never let a crisis go to waste. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, adhere to that ideal. Nothing so simple could disguise the payoffs and graft that Congress can’t wait to attach to the Omnibus package to “fix” Obamacare. And that means that the fix will be long in coming and will only make matters worse.
Now go and have a Merry Christmas! (Too bad it’s going to feel more like a Groundhog Day version of Halloween.)
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is in a bit of trouble for making this statement in his Monday column:
People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.
While there is some, surprisingly, the bulk of the criticism does not come from the Right for having been portrayed as knuckle-dragging dinosaurs whose acceptance of Justice Clarence Thomas’ biracial marriage and former VP Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter belie Cohen’s stereotype un-updated since the Archie Bunker era.
No, it’s actually the Left that has most criticized Cohen. The Huffington Post said, “Dear Washington Post: Please fire this man.” Esquire put Cohen in the “Newspaper Stupid Top 40.” Paul Farhi catalogues some of the others who voice umbrage at Cohen’s remarks, including Gawker, Slate, Salon, and MSNBC. All this “venom-spewing” as Farhi said, from ”people who should be [Cohen's] allies.”
Sadly, this is normal for the Left. Who could forget their outrage directed toward radio host Bill Bennett when he was asked about a statistic from the then recently-published Freakonomics that said that crime has gone down because of abortion:
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don’t know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don’t know. I mean, it cuts both – you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well –
CALLER: Well, I don’t think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
The Leftists at Media Matters had a field day with Bennett’s comments even when their excerpts clearly exhonerated (highlighted above) him of the thought-crime of advocating the racial infanticide that they say Bennett advocated.
Bennett was engaging in the logical device known as reductio ad absurdum, whereby an argument is reduced to an absurdity so as to demonstrate the fallacy of the premise. It just so happens that last night I mentioned to my seventh-grade son the classic reductio ad absurdum: A Modest Proposal, wherein Jonathan Swift argues that to eliminate the surplus population of beggars, the Irish should be allowed to sell their unweaned children to be used as stew meat.
In 1729 Swift’s reader’s quickly recognized the essay as satire. Sadly, I don’t think that American Leftists today would be able to understand the argument. If their umbrage toward Cohen–who clearly was not advocating discrimination against biracial and gay couples—is any indicator, were Swift to write his classic today, MSNBC would surely charge him with cannibalism.
Prior to this week I could have dismissed Leftist outrage directed at Bennett as political fanaticism akin to the fanatic football fan who, even upon seeing the slow-motion replay, yells at the referee for blowing a call that he clearly called correctly. Heretofore, I could have accepted that Bennett’s detractors understood his argument but purposefully misconstrued it so as to appeal to Low-Information Voters who might have heard only an edited version of the exchange. Now as a result of the outrage that the Left directs against its own Richard Cohen, it is obvious that the Left isn’t trying to appeal to Low-Information Voters, but is instead made up of a large swath of Low-Intelligence Voters.
How else could one explain Obamacare? Many of the people who are incapable of understanding Cohen’s argument are the same ones who are logically incapable of understanding that Obamacare could not work the way the President promised. Unless you believed, as one commenter noted, that Obamacare was powered by “unicorn farts and pixie dust,” it was always completely illogical to believe that more people could get more health coverage without some people paying higher prices or being kicked off of their existing plans.
Another Cohen, Michael Cohen (I don’t know if he is a relation), buttresses that point (hat tip: David Henderson).
But, of course, this means that some Americans would not only lose their plans and access to their doctor, but in the case of particularly healthy individuals, reform could yield higher premiums. Beyond that, reforming such a huge chunk of the U.S. economy necessarily leads to often unanticipated changes for millions of Americans.
Acknowledging that reality would have been the honest thing to do. So would asking healthier and wealthier Americans to sacrifice for the greater good of ensuring every American have health-care coverage.
But doing so would have opened Obama and his democratic allies up to the charge that Obamacare would lead to widespread dislocations — and made the path to reform that much politically harder to traverse.
Indeed, this is precisely the argument that was made by Republicans . . .
In other words: Everything Republicans told you about Obamacare was true, but–and these are Michael Cohen’s words–you “can’t handle the truth.” What he didn’t say but is clearly implied and could have appended: “And we know that you are too stupid and too illogical to figure out the truth on your own.” Logical fallacy abounds on the Left, and this Cohen actually celebrates it.
This is where the modern Left is today: at the head of an easily manipulable cadre of useful idiots. To be sure, the Right has its share of blind adherents as well. To some, the words “abortion” and “homosexual” are like red herrings to a dog: they quickly distract. But I’m hard-pressed to find so glaring an example as Obamacare to demonstrate how easy it was to dupe millions of people who should have been smart enough to know otherwise.
For years it has been fashionable in some segments of the Right to complain that America’s public schools are engaged in indoctrination instead of education. But the Left’s slander of Richard Cohen might point at a reality far worse. It’s not that millions of Americans have been taught the wrong things–bad lessons can be unlearned. Much worse is the possibility that many millions of Americans have never been taught how to critically read and to logically think. If this is true, it does not bode well for the nation’s future.
Over at the Daily Beast Jamelle Bouie accuses Sarah Palin of rhetorical overreach by recently likening the national debt to slavery.
It just so happens that the introductory chapter of a book I’ve been working on doesn’t just employ slavery as a simile, but actually asserts that a central feature of modern government is slavery. Undoubtedly, Mr. Bouie will take umbrage at the equivalence. But I challenge him and you to refute the assertion on logical grounds. I look forward to critiques and encourage discussion if you dare to proceed . . .
A month ago I postulated that the President did not give into Republican demands to delay Obamacare, even when it was becoming obvious that Obamacare was not ready for rollout, because of his arrogant, personal hatred for the GOP (It’ not business; it’s strictly personal).
Jonah Goldberg offers a more damning alternative. (Hat tip: Glenn)
“Why Obama didn’t do this and why it didn’t occur to him are good questions. Hubris obviously played a role, as it does in nearly everything this White House does. But the best answer is he didn’t know how terrible things were over at HHS.”
Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is usually right. And in this case, the simplest explanation may be that the President really didn’t know just how screwed up was the execution of his signature legislative accomplishment. That he really did think that just by passing the law that America’s health care would be better. That he thought that just by throwing $600 million at a software system was enough to guarantee success. The simplest explanation, therefore, may be that the man is just incompetent.
That is also the scariest explanation.
Remember a couple weeks ago I said that it was purely for personal reasons that the President would not compromise by asking for a one-year budget deal in exchange for giving Republicans a one-year delay in Obamacare? Well the President only got a 90-day budget deal and it looks like it is his side that now needs an Obamacare delay.
If Republicans really want to destroy Obamacare, they would assure the Administration that there is no chance that Congress will obstruct the President’s signature plan.
I told you so:
“In the immediate weeks ahead, Democrats can’t cave for fear of losing votes. Meanwhile, because it would be a violation of principles that gains them no tactical, operational, or strategic advantage, Tea Party Republicans will not cave. If I had to guess, I would wager that Speaker Boehner will blink and negotiate a deal in order to preserve Republican-leaning big business groups under the GOP banner.”
It remains to be seen if the second half of my prediction comes true:
“But that in 2014 and 2016 Republicans will get crushed as the Tea Party goes rogue and that by 2020 the GOP will cease to exist.”
It’s 2,000 words, but read the whole thing.
The way the debt ceiling fight was so chronologically close to the Obamacare shutdown put the GOP at a disadvantage. Republicans got snookered by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who used “extraordinary measures” to extend the date of the debt ceiling debate to where it would be conflated with the Obamacare rollout. Republicans aren’t known as the “stupid party” for nothing.
Now Tea Partiers are super pissed at the GOP. GOP Elite are pissed at the Tea Party base of the party. And Obama Democrats got everything they wanted. If there was a scenario that gave Democrats any hope of taking over the House in 2014 in the face of a big Republican structural advantage, this was it.
“The political fallout from the confrontation is very real. Republicans got almost nothing out of the deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling except, of course, that they lost another 10 percentage points in their favorable rating and looked less like an organized political party and more like a disorganized, confused rabble.
. . . Small donors will be disenchanted that Republican officeholders caved on both the shutdown and debt ceiling, while the larger donors, who tend to be more pragmatic, are likely to sit on their cash for fear that the GOP will do something else crazy to threaten the economy and the party’s electoral prospects.”
“Congressional Republicans will be very, very lucky if they manage to come out of the current government shutdown/debt ceiling fight with nothing. It’s more likely that, having gone to battle over the wrong issues with the wrong strategy, the Republicans will have actually lost ground, both politically and in terms of their policy objectives.”
The Nation offers an alternative view:
“Because the deal only includes minor concessions, the Beltway consensus is that it represents a resounding defeat for Republicans, who “surrendered” their original demands to defund or delay Obamacare. In the skirmish of opinion polls, that may be true, for now. But in the war of ideas, the Senate deal is but a stalemate, one made almost entirely on conservative terms. The GOP now goes into budget talks with sequestration as the new baseline, primed to demand longer-term cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And they still hold the gun of a US default to the nation’s head in the next debt ceiling showdown.
Surrender? Any more “victories” like this and Democrats will end up paying tribute into the GOP’s coffers.”
So too does Peter Beinart who complains that the deal locks in the sequestration cuts as the new baseline: ”If this is Republican surrender, I hope I never see Republican victory.”
If you’re not scared off by two-thousand word essays, read this to understand why Washington, DC Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray staged a photo-op stunt to beg Senate Democrats to end the standoff over Obamacare, while the usually Republican-leaning National Chamber of Commerce pleaded with Congress to add some more headroom to the debt ceiling.
Shorter than 2,000-word version:
DC Mayors represent government workers who are the major casualties of temporary government shutdowns, while business groups represent big business, which depends on government spending fueled by even deeper debt.
UPDATE: (Delegates representing DC too.)
ALSO: Establishment GOP lashes out at Tea Party
Economists like to talk about the multiplier effect of government spending. The theory is that if the government spends a dollar buying products, services, or even spending it on welfare, the money is transmitted through the economy many times over when the original recipient buys things which then put extra money in the pocket of another recipient, who then buys things, and so on.
Keynesian estimators of the multiplier effect often focus on the spending and thus only predict a positive multiplier. This, however, analyzes only one half of the equation: ”that which is seen,” in the words of Frederic Bastiat. That which is unseen is where the money came from. In the case of government spending, it can only come from higher taxes, meaning that someone else is unable to spend himself that which the government spent, or from higher borrowing, meaning that someone else in the future is unable to spend the amount of money borrowed plus interest. The multiplier effect, therefore, can only be positive when viewed through the double entry accounting method, if the government spending today has a higher multiplier than the multiplier effect of private spending, whether today or in the future. Depending on their political stripes, economists latch onto data that buttress their belief that government spending is more or less efficient than private spending.
Today comes data that point substantially in the direction of anti-Keynesians who argue that government spending is a bigger drag on the economy than if the spending decisions were to be left in private hands.
The ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee produced this chart showing that over the last two years, the government added $2.4 trillion in debt and saw GDP increase by only $1.2 trillion. Keep in mind that government spending is part of the equation used to calculate GDP. So this chart implies a negative multiplier of 50%–meaning that for every government dollar spent through debt, the economy shrank 50 cents. Even if we were to use the pre-2009 deficit of $400 billion a year as a baseline, this would mean that the extra government deficit spending of $1.6 trillion over the last two years resulted in a GDP increase of only $1.2 trillion and a negative multiplier effect of 25%.
No company in the world would borrow money if they expected a negative return on investment as this chart implies. And yet we are told again and again that the economy will collapse if we don’t extend what is clearly counterproductive deficit spending.
MORE: This chart dovetails nicely with John Tamny’s column from yesterday:
“First off, there’s no such thing as fiscal stimulus of the spending kind. Though it’s well known at this point, governments can only spend money they’ve first taken from the private sector. In short, governments can at best merely steal demand from certain economic sectors in order to fund generalized waste and a bigger state. There’s no economic growth to speak of, rather there’s decline.”
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Thanks to John Tamny’s RealClearMarkets for the link. While you’re here, take a look around.
To be “sovereign” means that there is no higher legal authority. This is why, historically, sovereign debt is a bad risk: if the sovereign doesn’t want to pay back the debt, there is no authority that can order the debt repaid.
Francis Menton briefly describes Argentina’s journeys through the United States court system as the South American company attempts to evade debt issued in New York. The end game is near and Argentina’s lawyer told the judge what it will be: ”We would not voluntarily obey such an order [to repay the debt].” The Argentinians are essentially echoing Andrew Jackson’s rebuke of the Supreme Court: “They have made their decision, now let them enforce it.”
I suppose that the courts could seize whatever meager assets the broke country might have in American banks, but American courts have no real means to force Argentina to repay the debt. What the court can do is to deny Argentina access to future New York credit markets, which causes Menton to remark:
” . . . getting cut off from credit would probably be the best thing that could ever happen to Argentina, finally forcing a reduction in its wildly bloated state sector and out-of-control crony capitalism.”
The same would be true for the United States, but I fear that we’re going to have to get a lot closer to Argentina’s miserable state of affairs before we accept it.
Republicans want a delay in Obamacare. Because of the many significant problems with the rollout of Obamacare, and because he has delayed parts of the law himself some 19 times, President Obama should want a delay in Obamacare too. One year gives Democrats an opportunity to fix systemic errors in the software, the regulations, and the law. One year gives nothing at all to the Republicans–nothing–except the opportunity to crow a little bit.
That the President can’t compromise in a way that gives him everything he wants, plus the extra time he needs, is not about business. It’s strictly personal.
UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn for the link. While you’re here, take a look around.
MORE: Allahpundit and Evan McMurray dissect Wolf Blitzer’s wonderment that it isn’t the Democrats who are the ones begging for a year’s delay.
Exit question: Do national Democrats hate the Tea Party so much that they would take all the (well-deserved) negative reaction over the Obamacare Follies rather than to give in on just the delay even while it benefits them more than Republicans in the long run?
ALSO: Thanks to Ed and Moe.
‘Gestapo’ tactics meet senior citizens at Yellowstone.
How is it possible that both President Obama and the “Tea Party” hold an advantage in the budget standoff? It isn’t a contradiction if you understand that one side has a tactical and operational advantage, while the other side has the long-term strategic advantage.
For the next two weeks President Obama is at a tactical disadvantage as he is sacrificing the interests of his own forces in order to secure a greater goal. So far those most hurt by the government shutdown are government workers who are denied a paycheck. They are, in effect, on strike. But unlike an ordinary strike, where a union’s rank and file walk off the job and accept a temporary loss of income in exchange for a negotiating advantage to secure a bigger benefit, in this strike the workers out of work don’t want the benefit that their union’s leadership (national Democrats) want to secure. That’s because the benefit in question is Obamacare, which no government worker wants and many actual unions have exhaustively tried to avoid. (more…)
Every time the United States gets ready to bump up against another debt ceiling limit, the old 14th Amendment canard seems to make an appearance.
I’ve previously devastated that argument. So too have others. But let me sum up why usurping powers supposedly granted by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment is not just unconstitutional, but counter-productive:
1. Section 8 of Article I exclusively grants to Congress the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.”
2. The obligation to repay all debt supposedly set by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment only exists if you leave out three significant words in that very amendment: ”The validity of the public debt of the United State, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” The debt ceiling is the authorization that allows the Treasury to issue more debt. Without it, there is no “authorized by law.”
3. Even if that isn’t clear enough, Section 5 of the 14th Amendment re-emphasizes that point: ”The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this Article.”
4. The whole reason purportedly given for arguing that the President should use this non-existent power is so that the world’s bond markets won’t be spooked and call into question whether or not debt issued by the Treasury is valid. However, the Constitutional uncertainty of debt issued under such circumstances induces the very market spookiness that those making the argument supposedly wish to avoid.
5. In a contest between violating a law and violating the Constitution, the Constitution wins. The Constitution demands that only Congress can authorize debt. The Constitution also demands that the President must repay debt. It is a mere law (and a relatively recent one) that requires the President to spend every dime that Congress authorizes. The Constitution, therefore simply demands that the President simply prioritize debt repayment over other spending. Sure, that means that he has to violate the 1974 Anti-impoundment act, but it would now be unconstitutional to follow that law without an increase in the debt ceiling. (Plus, it was a stupid law in the first place.)
There’s more from the way-back-machine here and here. Plus this three-year-old anti-anti-impoundment piece from Daniel Henninger.
MORE: From John Hinderaker: “The Federal Government Can’t and Won’t Default on its Debt Obligations.” My five points above tell you why the federal government can’t. To understand why the President won’t default, read this long piece to understand how operationally dependent the Democratic Party is upon debt.
The nearly four-year-long stalemate of the Great War ended only because fresh American troops arrived on the front lines in the summer of 1918 at the rate of 10,000 a day. Twenty-one years later the Allies envisioned another lengthy trench-style war when they relied upon a line of interconnected, powerfully-fortified concrete bunkers named after French Minister of War, Andre Maginot. A generation after the First World War, and only six weeks after the second war began in earnest, the whole of France was under German rule.
A mere 100 hours after the American-led offensive to liberate Kuwait began, the war was over. A dozen years later a similar ground offensive was nearly as quickly concluded . . . but that war was only beginning.
It is human nature to extrapolate linearly from the past. Investment advisers in the 1920s and the 1990s, as well as real estate professionals in the oughts, forecasted incredible and continuous increases in value. Climatologists 30 years ago observed sharply colder winters of the late-seventies and forecasted a new ice age; a generation later many of those same scientists watched temperatures climb and extrapolated that to a future of rising seas and scorched lands.
Here we are today, eighteen years after the last government shutdown and Democrats blithely predict a certain public relations victory while many Old Guard Republicans, still snakebit by the past, fear for their electoral futures.
Life has a way of not staying on script.
Conventional wisdom holds that military service disproportionately attracts minorities and men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many believe that troops enlist because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country. Others believe that the war in Iraq has forced the military to lower its recruiting standards.
. . . studies that examined the backgrounds of enlisted personnel refute this interpretation.
I have to admit that in 2001 I accepted the CW that the militarily disproportionately accepted poor minorities. And then I checked for myself. I did a very similar analysis to this Heritage Foundation study and discovered a very similar result: Americans from the poorest backgrounds are the least likely to join the Army.
A few notes about my study:
1. It was three computers ago and I’ve lost all the raw data, but the results are still clear in my mind. Take that for what it’s worth–yes I encourage skepticism–but to partially allay that, I posted the same thing back in 2005.
2. I looked at FY 2001 Active Army enlistments, USMA enrollees, and ROTC contracts. That was before September 11th for all but the last three weeks of the year. Additionally, it was only Army data. Sad for an Army man to admit: of the services, the Army has the worst record when it comes to marketing to high quality applicants. In other words: if the Army looked good, the other services (especially Marines and Air Force) are bound to look even better.
3. I didn’t break my data down into census tracts, but to zip codes, which is a less discrete variable. However, I did look at individual zip codes with which I was personally familiar, and I found that evidence from those areas matched the results of the overall study.
4. I looked at census data for 17-24 year olds, which is a the usual target market for Army recruiters. It’s unclear from the Heritage study how they accounted for age.
Bottom line results of my study: the least likely quintile of zip codes to send recruits into the active Army, was the economically lowest-ranked quintile. By far. In other words, the 20% of poorest neighborhoods were the least likely to send people into the Active Army (the easiest of the four services to enter). My going-in hypothesis was the opposite. I expected the poorest neighborhoods to provide the most recruits. I was wrong.
Instead, I suppose, that the poorest neighborhoods are those that are the most likely to produce 17-24 year olds who are ungraduated from high school, with a disqualifying criminal record, and/or unable to pass a drug test.
More to the point: One-fifth of our nation’s children are growing up in neighborhoods where they don’t even have the military as a realistic possible path to betterment. Ouch.
*Standard disclaimer to tell you that these are my opinions only and not those of DoD, and cetera.
Frank J. Fleming wonders “Why does the government hate conservatives?” And by “government,” he implicitly means the 1.8 million civilian employees of America’s largest employer. It’s a good question. But I think that it doesn’t go far enough in wondering who these 1.8 million people are.
One truth almost universally and uncritically accepted is that the American civil service system implemented by degrees during the early Progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is a good thing. Perhaps now is the time to question the wisdom of government by tenured appartchiks. Whatever its downfalls, the spoils system at least had the benefit of a thorough housecleaning every four to eight years. Absent such high turnover, the current system erects a legalocracy of inefficiency behind which anonymous and unfirable cogs operate with impunity for decades and generations. Without fear of ever being outside the system, government workers themselves have every incentive to complicate that system in their own favor. Rules become undecipherable, the pace of action becomes glacial, and budgets grow unsustainably large. Meanwhile, administrations come and go and the bureaucracy continues to grow.
James Taranto has argued that if the ongoing IRS scandal didn’t generate in the White House that it is actually a far worse outcome for Americans than if the President himself directed the targeting of conservative groups. His point is that if the targeting is spontaneous, then it is indicative that the government itself has become politicized.
A return to the spoils system, admittedly, would not fix that, as almost definitionally such a system is partisan. But there is a difference between a partisan government that owes allegiance to a temporary leadership and a politicized government whose only allegiance is to the continued growth of government itself. As Taranto argues, if this is the case then “government itself has become a threat to the Constitution.”
While Democrats generally embrace a larger government, they would be mistaken to believe that they too aren’t in the crosshairs of certain branches of the bureaucracy. In the realm of Defense the tilt of those who work there has been generally Republican, as that party has been more predisposed to greater Defense spending over the last couple generations. The entrenchment is so deep that even when a Nobel Peace Prize winning President who ran on a platform of decreased wartime activity finds it difficult to reverse course. One can’t help but to wonder how much of the argument in favor of opening yet another Mideastern front in Syria came from self-serving bureacrats whose departments and budgets would expand as the result of the military action.
Isolated from firing as they are, civil service bureaucrats are impervious to change. At worst, they hold the line and wait four to eight years for a change in government. But they never retreat. And hence, the apparatchikacy continues to grow.
Returning to Fleming’s question we stumble across the obvious answer, Why does government hate [fiscal] conservatives? Because fiscal conservatism necessarily means a decrease in the size of government. And nothing is more dangerous to the bureaucracy that has become the fourth branch of government. What is scariest is that if the apparatchikacy itself wins in a battle against the citizenry that supports it, then we are no longer citizens, but have instead returned to the days of 1775 where we are subjects of an unelected government.
A. Barton Hinkle raises the same concern:
” . . . it is not a happy thing to note that the fourth branch of government – the administrative state against which Republican politicians rail – is largely impervious to elections. And that despite the uproar over domestic surveillance, an activity the election of Barack Obama was supposed to curtail, the general consensus seems to hold that such monitoring will continue unabated. Politicians come and go; autonomous agencies and mass surveillance are here to stay. Elections still matter a great deal in the U.S., but they matter now less than they once did – and less than they should.”
* These opinions are my own and not those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.
When determining if we should do anything about global warming, I propose a four-step approach:
1. Are global temperatures warming?
2. Do the negative consequences of the change outweigh the positive consequences?
3. Can we do anything that will reverse the change?
4. Do the net positive consequences of the action outweigh the net negative consequences of doing nothing?
Notice, the steps have nothing at all whatsoever to do with whether or not global warming is anthropogenic. The climate’s “naturalness” is actually irrelevant. If a 10 kilometer-wide asteroid were hurling toward earth at 100,000 km per hour, it would be a completely natural event. However, just because the meteor wasn’t anthropogenic doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t take actions to deflect it.
Notice also, that we could change question 1 from “warming” to “cooling” and the four-step approach still works. And quite frankly, cooling is probably a more historically problematic situation.
If the answer to any one of the above four questions is “No,” then we should do absolutely nothing about a changing climate. If the answer to all of the questions are “Yes,” then, and only then, should we take any actions.
This is not the discussion we have been having for twenty years. Instead, we have been chased onto an anthropogenic side path well worn by Rousseauian “modern man is bad” theorists. The discussion over naturalness is not only, as I have already said, irrelevant, it is also self-destructive, as the question itself presupposes that natural is good and that anything that deviates from it must be returned to a state of nature.
Peter Ferrara: Global Cooling is Here
Thanks to Glenn for the link. It’s nice to see something I wrote a month ago still relevant today. Also here and here.
Edited to add the word “net” to question #4 per a comment from a reader.
The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan lays out the known facts of the IRS case and concludes that it requires a special prosecutor. She’s right, and frankly, it’s amazing how in a week, the American media has pretty much come around from the question of if a special prosecutor is needed for the IRS investigation, to how broad should be the limits of the special prosecutor’s investigation?
But here’s where Noonan gets it wrong. Right in the last paragraph:
“Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.”
Actually it wouldn’t be “tragic” if the American people were not to have confidence in this or any arm of their government. It would be exactly what the Founders called for.
My favorite quotation from the entire 85 editions of the Federalist Papers is this one from Federalist 25 by Alexander Hamilton:
“The people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
In fact, you could almost sum up the gist of the entire Constitution with that single statement, as the Constitution attempted to set up a system where no branch of government was in sole possession of the means of injuring our rights. How far we have strayed, however, when the wing of the government that determines how much of our labors are to be taken into the Federal trough also inquires about our associations, our religious practices, and soon, our medical care.
Peggy, you are right to call for a special investigator. But you are wrong to assert that it is a tragedy if, as a result of this scandal, we no longer have confidence in the IRS. The real tragedies would occur as a result of believing that any branch of government was deserving of our unsuspicious confidence.
Conservative Pundits are Outraged that Army Major Nidal Hasan has received approximately $278,000 since he allegedly shot dead more than a dozen Soldiers at Fort Hood more than three years ago. I wish they would reconsider their outrage, because this is what “presumption of innocence” means.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from the individual state legal codes in the sense that when you are accused of violating it, it is your employer who is going to determine your guilt. The normal criminal defendant can return to his job–or at least a job–while he awaits trial. It is not possible that a military defendant could be removed from the service before trial–for to do so would punish his pursuit of career advancement were he to be found not guilty. Furthermore, were defendants to be deprived of their livelihood while they awaited military trial by court martial, they would be deprived of their livelihood just by being accused.
To those conservatives who decry this condition, imagine this unfortunately all too plausible scenario:
A Coyote News reporter hot on the trail of a controversial secret Administration program to support rebels in a far-off land discovers classified documents that shows that those rebels are in fact terrorist affiliated and that the Department of State knew about it and still provided them with Stinger missiles. The Administration, afraid of the political fallout were the revelation to become known, charges the journalist as a co-conspirator in the leak. Were that Coyote News reporter subjected to a criminal justice system that denied him his paycheck while he awaited trial, the mere accusation of criminality could be used to subdue whistleblowers and to punish innocents.
Now sure, there is little doubt that Nidal Hasan is guilty of murdering his comrades. But we have a system that does not express guilt as shades of grey. You are or you are not guilty. And until a jury of your peers finds you guilty, you are presumed innocent.
Trust me, you do not want to live under a system where the yet-to-be-tried are considered to be mostly-guilty and are essentially treated as such. And trust me, you do not want to live under a government that has even more tools to freeze out those who speak out against it. In other words: $278,000 is a dirt cheap price for freedom.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is facing criticism for his insistence that any federal disaster relief money for the victim’s of yesterday’s storms in his home state be offset by cuts somewhere else in the federal budget.
Online commenters are outraged. One said:
“It does indeed take a special person to look at the situation in Oklahoma and immediate wonder “Who’s going to pay for this?”
While I’m pretty sure that “special” was intended snarkily, it does indeed take a special kind of person to wonder who is going to pay for this. And thank goodness Senator Coburn is that kind of person.
The immediate response to any tragedy is to want to help. And when you are the keepers of nearly $4 trillion budget, it is very easy to wish to throw a few billion at the problem as a genuine gesture of good will. But the fact is that someone is going to pay for this. And it very much matters who that someone is.
Should it be the taxpayers, who then don’t have that additional money themselves to spend on their own necessities of life? A billion dollars of new spending paid for by taxes adds approximately $12 to the tax bill for a family of four. That doesn’t seem like much, but that’s a billion dollars less spent on food, transportation, and clothing. Not to mention, what do you do for the next tornado, hurricane, or wild fire. Is it the taxpayers who should pay for this?
Should the cost be borne by more debt? That saddles generations to come with the expense, since they will be paying back the billion dollars. Or since we rarely retire debt, we just roll it over, it might be more accurate to state that future generations will make infinite recurring payments on the billion dollars of debt. In effect, then, the cost will be diminished future spending and investment. Is that who should pay to recover from the tornado damage?
Should the burden fall upon current recipients of government spending as Senator Coburn suggests? If you ask me, that’s a less sympathetic lot than the other two choices of higher taxes or larger debt. You can’t tell me that any sentient being (which means, apparently, the majority of Americans other than most of Sen Coburn’s colleagues) couldn’t find a billion dollars somewhere in the federal budget that couldn’t stand to be trimmed.
It’s easy to want to throw money around willy-nilly at problems but it really does take a special person to ask the uncomfortable but important question: ”Who is going to pay for this?”
Whenever you feel yourself about to utter the I-word (impeachment), Stop it! Just Stop it!
It makes you look like a fool, much like the President made himself look like a fool when in the space of a single sentence he contradicted himself when he said of the arrest of a black Harvard professor: we don’t yet know the facts of the case, but the police acted stupidly.
We don’t yet know enough of the facts surrounding Benghazi-IRS-AP to really know what happened, certainly not enough to begin saying the I-word.
So when you find yourself about to say the I-word, take Bob Newhart’s advice:
“S-T-O-P . . . new word . . . I-T!”
Da Tech Guy agrees: The Impeachment Trap.
If it gets to the point where what we know is that damning, it will be Democrats who will be screaming the I-word so as to distance themselves from crimes. Until then. Stop it!
Rep Chaffetz and National Review’s Andrew Johnson: Stop it!
Tim Dunkin: Stop it!
Sen Inhofe: Stop it!
Pamela Geller: Stop it!
Two Boston area immigrants who fell under the spell of a radical ideology that espoused the use of bombs against innocents were allegedly behind the violent April 15 multiple murders.
But it’s not who you think it is. The year was 1920 and the two men were Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Aside from the date and the location, there are other parallels too. And they speak more about us than they do about either Sacco and Vanzetti or the Tsarnaev Brothers.
The nineteen-teens and twenties was a period of great tumult in the United States. After the First World War, which was widely viewed as disastrous mistake for having gotten involved, Americans rejected all things associated with the outside world. The aftermath of the Great War brought upheaval to Europe. Replacing failing empires and monarchies was Russian communism, German socialism, and varying amounts of anarchy seemingly everywhere else.
Today there is the ongoing collapse of the Euro and the demise of Middle Eastern strongmen, and so we fear radical islamism and economic contagion from Cyprus and Greece.
Eight decades ago the end of the war brought economic troubles too. High unemployment, which was widely and mistakenly thought of as a normal post-war adjustment to a lack of military demand and a surplus of returning soldiers, was actually just a result of the post-war continuation of the ongoing de-agriculturalization of the world economy. Regardless of the cause, greater unemployment turned American workers against more recent immigrants who were looking for work too. In 1917 America passed its first immigration restriction laws barring the entry of “idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics . . . ” and Asians. Just a year before, an influential eugenicist wrote The Passing of the Great Race that became widely popular. By 1924 America had its first immigration quotas that attempting to freeze in place the country’s racial composition.
Today unemployment is higher than normal as the world deals with the fallout associated with becoming a post-manufacturing economy. Pat Buchanan hawks The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. Politicians from all sides rail against “illegal” immigration but very often demagogue all immigration.
Both periods were characterized by big fights over petty tangential issues that many prudes insisted contributed to unrest and crime. The Volstead Act passed in the wake of the 18th Amendment gave us Prohibition, while today the President and many Democratic leaders want to outlaw guns. Were those laws to pass, more, not less, crime would be the result, just as more crime was the result of Prohibition too.
Certainly I could carry the parallels further, but let me just conclude with a few questions:
- Was it really necessary to quarantine an entire city to capture a couple criminals whose bombing victims numbered one-one-thousandth of those killed on 9/11?
- Does it not speak volumes about the limits of power and the power of people that the police were unsuccessful during their hours of uninhibited manhunt, but as soon as the house arrest was lifted a citizen found the suspect?
- Is it realistic to expect that among millions of immigrants there won’t be a few criminals, when we have millions of native Americans locked up here at home?
- Is not labeling violence as “terrorism” or “an act of war” just another form of “hate” crime, which attempts to characterize criminals by their thoughts instead of their acts?
- If three dead bombing victims is enough to rescind an American citizen’s constitutional rights, is two? Or one? Or none?
Jonathan Gruber, a paid White House Obamacare consultant, said that “Seniors do a terrible job choosing health care plans.” A slide deck he circulated in 2013 claimed “12 percent of seniors allegedly picked the lowest-cost Medicare Part D plan and could on average save up to 30 percent more.”
Gruber seems to be saying that if one-in-eight adults make (what he perceives to be) a bad choice, then the government should step in and dictate what eight out of eight adults should choose.
Shorter version: You’re too stupid to know what’s best for you.