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?
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled with Obamacare that the federal government is limited in what it can mandate that the states legislate, I’d like to see one or more of the states lower the drinking age back to 18 this year. If you are old enough to vote and old enough to serve in the military, you should be old enough to buy a drink.
Still on the subject of alcohol, I’d like to to see more states join Washington’s lead and remove the mandatory second tier of alcohol distributors that serve as legally required monopolies that raise prices and reduce the selection available to the wine-buying public in the other 49 states.
Not that I would like to see continued violence in the Middle East, but since it is a near certainty anyway, I’d like to see it happen in 2013 without any hint that America will get even remotely involved.
I’d like to see no calls this year for any sort of extension to American involvement in Afghanistan.
I’d like to see Congress and the White House continue to be at loggerheads throughout all of 2013. Since every meaningful compromise in recent decades has resulted in higher taxes, greater spending, bigger debt, and diminished freedom, doing nothing is Washington’s best course of action.
I’d like to see the Department of Defense deal seriously with sequestration by eliminating commands, agencies, directorates, and staffs instead of reducing either the number or effectiveness of ships, wings, and brigades.
I’d also like to see DoD kill a few hideously expensive major weapons programs this year–especially the F-35.
I’d like to continue to see the collapse of the legacy broadcast and print media. CNN, NBC, Time, and the New York Times each have brands far larger than their real contemporary influence; it only follows that the economics of that untenable situation will catch up to them–hopefully in 2013.
I’d like to see 2013 produce no viral videos that spark any more line-dancing crazes. The Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, and the Macarena were each bad enough before Gangnam Style. Please, let’s not do this again. Ever.
And since I will have a college student in 2014, I’d like to see the higher education bubble burst in 2013.
| Category: Culture
| Posted at: Tuesday, 18 December 2012
From a Telegraph report about a potential lawsuit by a Christian group:
The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.
Really? Really? This parental protest against yoga is absolutely stupid.
But . . .
This “Christian” protest against yoga is the exact same kind of protest as the one perennially made by other parents who say that references to Christmas and Halloween should be removed from classrooms because it might indoctrinate their children in Christianity.
If you mock one you must mock the other. You can’t have it both ways.
With a weekend to digest recent events, I have concluded that Newtown is really just the continuation of that timeless discussion regarding the correct balance of individual rights and responsiblities against the ability and wisdom of government to control events.
An obviously mentally unstable man steals some firearms and kills more than two dozen of the most defenseless victims. Immediately, as after all such events, there goes up a cry for more restrictions on the individual ownership of guns. However, even if that were the right course of action, as John Fund points out, in a country that contains over 200 million privately owned firearms, prohibition is not possible. To outlaw gun ownership would be as futile (not to mention damaging to the cause of limiting violence) as would be an attempt to return 11 million illegal aliens to their homelands or a second attempt at the prohibition of alcohol. Some things are just too entrenched to ever completely end.
Another group has argued for a greater ability of the government to diagnose and detain mentally ill individuals. While certainly there is great merit in having a serious adult conversation about the role of mental illness in violent crime, proposals to return to an era of committing people to the Cuckoo’s Nest, are as fraught with societal danger as are proposals to ban guns. Granting to government the power to forcibly hospitalize the mentally ill who might perform violent acts is as anathema to the American way, as giving government the power to imprison those who might commit a crime. Just how many scores of thousands of imprisoned innocently insane is the right number to save the lives of the next score of innocent children?
If phrasing the trade-off that way doesn’t make you uncomfortable, then I suggest that you don’t have an appreciation for what the American ideal of freedom means. Our system was purposefully designed to default to government inaction and individual freedom. While it is understandably frustrating to victims and their families, our rules prefer that the guilty go free rather than to wrongfully imprison an innocent man. That is no less true for the criminally insane than it is for the just plain criminal.
Shit happens. Sorry to so crassly phrase it, but that’s just the way life is. As we grow more technologically advanced, we have had great success in controlling–even eliminating–some of that shit. Smallpox is completely gone. Polio is rare. Malaria is almost non-existent outside of the third world. The same is true of hunger–the real, dying of starvation kind. We have even the ability to screen out telemarketers without ever touching the phone.
While shit still happens, less of it happens than happened before. So it is not surprising that we look around for other shit to stop. But sometimes in our zeal to stop it all, we lose sight of the trade-offs. How many millions of man-hours of economic productivity, for example, are lost every day in airport security lines in an effort to stop a hijacking that takes place less often than once-a-year?
Rare tragic events sharpen the focus more clearly than does the every day cost of preventing them. I remember a couple dozen years ago the sad story of an airplane lap child who died when he struck the bulkhead during turbulence. Immediately a cry went out to require infant seats on aircraft. In one of those uncommon examples of when Washington considers the whole issue–that which is unseen as well as that which is seen–Congress wisely chose not to act. I say wisely, not because I wish for infants on airplanes to die, but because a serious analysis of ALL of the facts indicated that the solution would lead to more deaths than it would save. That was because if parents were forced to buy an extra ticket for their infant, some significant percentage of them would opt to drive rather than to fly. And by driving, they would make their infant child far more susceptible to accidental death. Shit happens. And sometimes we just have to let it happen, because in trying to stop it, we inadvertently add to the pile of shit.
So what should we do to mitigate the risk of shit? Confiscation, as Ed Schultz suggests? Only if you want criminals to act with less caution, not to mention the real risk of igniting a civil war. Outlaw automatic weapons as Rupert Murcoch demands? It wouldn’t have helped as they were already outlawed in 1934 and Mr. Lanza’s weapons were not automatic. Reinstituting the “assault weapons” ban that limits the size of magazines as Senator Schumer wants? That wouldn’t have helped either; as Mr. Lanza reportedly overcame that limitation by having “hundreds of rounds of ammunition in multiple magazines.” Enforce tighter restriction on gun possession by the mentally ill? That might be worth analyzing, but it still wouldn’t have helped here, as apparently Mr. Lanza shot his own mother dead and then stole her guns. More cops in schools? There are 132,000 schools in the nation; even ignoring the $13 billion additional cost, is 132,000 new police really going to stop the violence? In a mall in Clackamas it apparently only limited, but did not stop, the bloodshed. Add to the list of places where guns are illegal? They are already illegal in schools; perhaps that is why schools and other gun-free zones are such a target-rich environment.
In epidemiology there is a concept known as “herd immunity.” If enough of the population is vaccinated, epidemics can’t occur. Even the uninnoculated benefit because their vaccinated neighbors prevent a disease’s spread from getting out of control. Herd immunity doesn’t stop the disease, but it does stop its spread. The evidence of recent gun violence suggests that if enough law abiding citizens are armed, the death toll of mass murder events may similarly be limited by a form of herd immunity. It is worth considering that the answer to gun violence is the counter-intuitive: more guns.
But what I would even more strongly suggest is that more restrictions on individuals is a worse response than doing nothing. Whether it is to leave a hundred million citizens more susceptible to everyday violent acts because, unarmed, they are at the mercy of armed criminals, or to add to the already swollen number of Americans forcibly detained, any heavy-handed governmental reaction to events such as what occurred in Newtown is likely to be worse than the problem it is meant to cure.
Government was never meant to be the last line of defense against evil. We individuals are. We are the militia. That is the meaning of the Second Amendment. Shit happens. And when it does, hopefully enough of our herd is ready to deal with it before shit gets out of control.
Guy Benson echoes a similar theme:
I’m skeptical that proposing more grief-fueled laws is a meaningful solution. And even if one could accurately project that passing Gun Law X would save Y number of lives, where do Constitutional rights come into play, and who gets to weigh those factors? If curtailing the First Amendment could also be scientifically proven to save some quantifiable number of lives, would we tolerate additional government limits on those core, specifically-enumerated freedoms? These are extraordinarily difficult questions.
Megan McArdle does too:
What Lanza shows us is the limits of the obvious policy responses. He had all the mental health resources he needed–and he did it anyway. The law stopped him from buying a gun–and he did it anyway. The school had an intercom system aimed at stopping unauthorized entry–and he did it anyway. Any practical, easy-to-implement solution to school shootings that you could propose, along with several that were not at all easy to implement, was already in place. Somehow, Lanza blew through them all.
. . . It would certainly be more comfortable for me to endorse doing something symbolic–bring back the “assault weapons ban”–in order to signal that I care. But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better. We shouldn’t have laws on the books unless we think there’s a good chance they’ll work: they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks. This is not because I don’t care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend. But they will not breathe again because we pass a law. A law would make us feel better, because it would make us feel as if we’d “done something”, as if we’d made it less likely that more children would die. But I think that would be false security. And false security is more dangerous than none.
For McArdle’s crime of pointing out the obvious truth–nothing that gun control advocates have proposed would have stopped Mr. Lanza’s murderous spree–New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait awards her the “Worst Newtown Reaction Award.” I urge you to read his column, and then, if you can stomach it, read the comments. There really are two Americas. And Chait and his readers apparently have never stepped foot in the America west of the Hudson River.
Daniel Greenfield offers his thoughts on individual rights and responsibilities versus the government’s ability to control events:
The clash that will define the future of America is this collision between the individual and the state, between disorganized freedom and organized compassion, between a self-directed experiment in self-government and an experiment conducted by trained experts on a lab monkey population. And the defining idea of this conflict is accountability.
In doing some housecleaning, I found this forgotten essay that I wrote in February and never got around to posting. With only a few changes for the sake of grammar, and clarity, here it is:
For the first time in over two years I’m afraid that Republicans could actually lose the race for the White House in 2012. Should they do so, especially in light of the enormous advantages they have over a dysfunctional Democratic Party in 2012 (high unemployment, stagnant growth, unpopular programs foisted upon the public, and an unlikable mob–OWS–as the face of liberal activism, just to name a few) it should disqualify the GOP from ever holding the presidency ever again. If the GOP loses the presidency, it will be the biggest victory of an outclassed mismatch since Aesop’s rabbit blew the race with the turtle.
So how could this be? Simple, there isn’t a candidate who can unite the opponents of Barack Obama. That alone would probably be enough to win in November.
Comparisons with Reagan, just as comparisons with FDR or JFK, almost never measure up. That’s not because those three men were supermen–they weren’t–but because in retrospect each of them is bigger now than they ever were at the time. Nonetheless, Reagan’s genius was in recognizing that politics is the art of addition, and not about subtraction or division. That is still true.
The most recent not-Romney is Rick Santorum. He is most closely associated with the “social conservative” wing of the Republican Party. This is an important member of the family of conservatism, but like its siblings–Fiscal, Defense, Libertine, and Law N. Order–none of the conservative brethren are capable of striking out on their own. Still, that’s what Santorum did, when he linked his opposition to the recent Obama decision to force abortificants upon churches to the canard of “birth control isn’t safe. That is the message of subtraction. It is a position that attracts none but the already converted. Even worse, it is a message so offensive to so many (not to mention, so factually incorrect) that it repels those who might otherwise be attracted to his position were it couched in different terms.
What I mean bythat is this: a Republican must unite the whole party around a simple message that resonates with all its wings. And that message is the same now as it was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan put all conservative factions under the banner of “Leave Us Alone.”
“Leave us Alone” applies to Catholics justifiably outraged by the government trampling upon their First Amendment rights. After all, even if you disagree with the Church’s religious position, you must admit, the First Amendment accords to all religions the right to be wrong, otherwise, the right is not a right at all if its only protection is to protect popular positions. Had Santorum cloaked his argument in “Leave Us Alone,” he would have acknowledged the freedom of churches to decide what medical procedures they would pay for, but would do so without appearing to compromise the right of people to choose to do otherwise with their own money. It is a message consistent with (or at least, not in opposition to) the other conservative brothers.
Rick Santorum is hardly the first to make this blunder. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman, each fell by failing to embrace a logically coherent message. The problem, I suspect, is that “Leave Us Alone,” or at least its implications, is not a message that any of the current Republican candidates really embrace. For if you truly wish to be left alone, it implies a reciprocal obligation to leave others alone as well. For defense conservatives that means that if you want others to leave America alone, you must let be those military threats that are non-existental in nature: Libya and the Taliban, for example. To the law and order conservative, it implies a level of tolerance to at least some of those activities, like prostitution and minor drug abuse, that are distasteful, but are not a threat to any but those who engage in them. To the fiscal conservative, “Leave Us Alone,” requires that we not fund any good ideas with public moneys, since, if they realy were ”good ideas,” they would find ample private funds.
You see, it’s not simply about “messaging” your support for or opposition to programs. It’s about actually believing your message and all its implications. And when you believe in your message, you are consistent with your message. If there is a Republican killer this year, consistency will be its name. That’s why it’s time to unite the Republican brand around the simple message of LEAVE US ALONE.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Thursday, 8 November 2012
Two months ago today I posted this analogy between the 2012 presidential race and the one concluded just eight years before. It seems worthy of review again today.
” . . . 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. It should have taken years for the GOP to disassociate its reputation from Huckabee’s form of Evangelical theocracy. Except now it appears that Democrats look ready to rush into their own version of anti-First-Amendment totalitarianism that, instead of forcing adherence to religious views, forces opposition to them. Most Americans hate both extremes of this tangential debate.”
Sean Trende wrote along similar lines today:
“Democrats, like Republicans today, were despondent. Aside from having a president they loathed in the White House for four more years, they were terrified by what seemed to be an emerging Republican majority. John Kerry had, after all, hit all of his turnout targets, only to be swamped by the Republican re-election effort. “Values voters” was the catchphrase . . . “
But 2004 was a Republican heyday, not matched by GOP turnout since. If Mitt Romney had only secured John McCain’s numbers, he would have come exceedingly close in the popular vote and would have picked up at least Ohio. If he had reached Bush’s levels, he would have won.
However, that is not to say that, had white turnout not fallen so precipitously this year, that Romney would have been victorious. (Sean Trende did not conclude that, although one might get that impression from what he wrote.) In fact, my own analysis of the effect of marginally likely voters tells me that had turnout increased, Mitt Romney would have lost even more.
I usually eschew labels because they are often ambiguous and imprecise. Just what is a conservative, for example? Leaving aside the fiscal, there are two other predominant conservative flavors: Western and Southern. Western conservatives are live and let live. A hard life eked out of mountains and prairies requires independent men. Southern conservatives, on the other hand, are too often perceived (often correctly) as operating in fear that somewhere someone might be having sex.
My daughter, who attends a conservative Catholic high school in the South, and who, the night before, was in tears over the result of the race, told me that she and her friends wonder about opposition to gay marriage: “Why is it such a big deal what other people do?” I think that she is right. But that is a Western conservative position of live and let live.
Republicans have lost Colorado now two elections in a row. Usually the excuse is an influx of Hispanics who lean Democratic. But I think that explanation falls dreadfully short. Two states north in Montana there is nary a Spanish accent around. It is less than 3% latin and is one of whitest states in the land. Bush beat Kerry there by 21 percent. Eight years later Romney’s margin had fallen to only 7 points.
It isn’t just gay marriage. But the GOP’s fascination with the sexual values of others has made it too easy for Democrats to caricature a party so full of Akins, that Mourdocks, who attempted nuanced arguments about life’s value, were left screaming voiceless into the wind. Vaginas and Flukes convinced not a single voter to vote Democratic, but they did make Republicans toxic to any who might be on the fence.
Live and let live, a philosphy logically consistent with fiscal conservtism, is leaving the GOP. They certainly aren’t turning Democratic, but they are turned off by the Republican brand. Meanwhile the “values voters” that propelled Bush to victory are dying off and not being replaced. Western states are flipping blue, not because Democrats are winning there, but because Republicans have chosen a losing philosophy around which to unite their base.
East of Helena by 2,500 miles sits a state that flies under a similar Gadsden flag. The “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire was once a reliable red island in a very blue sea. However, not since 2000, the last year when Republicans weren’t hitched to a Southern conservative wagon, has it voted GOP. Similar to the excuse offered about Colorado, the GOP’s decline is blamed on immigration. But again, that falls short. “Massholes,” as they are often derogatorily known, don’t flee the taxes of the Bay State to impose them on their new home. Upper New England, with its hardscrabble history, is the home of the original Western Conservative. Populated by a large number of refugees of Massachusetts’ puritanism, the area has long rejected the efforts of others to impose social mores.
This is who we once were as a country. The most lopsided presidential election of the last hundred years was won by a Republican from Upper New England, Calvin Coolidge, who would no longer recognize his GOP home. Silent Cal would abhor Huckabee Republicans who would tell others how to live in their bedrooms, just as he would abhor Barack Obamas and Mike Bloombergs who wish to control every other room of the house. Most Americans, like Coolidge before them, hate both extremes of this tangential debate.
UPDATE: Here’s an observation from the Democratic side of their own problems:
I did some work with OFA this year and my humble opinion is that the current Democratic party is on borrowed time. We’ve become TOO big of a tent when in reality white liberals essentially have nothing in common with Latinos or African-Americans. By pandering so much to specific identity groups we have driven white men away in droves and will soon start losing moderate women and Latinos as well. It’s a very awkward arrangement and instead of a party with a consensus of interests, we are the “Not the GOP” party. The GOP will figure it out with Latinos, to whom they have much to offer, and will moderate many of their stances or not speak of them at all. Pro-life is actually becoming a majority report and liberals an extreme minority. It will be interesting to see what happens to us going forward.
“We are not the Republicans” is no more successful of a slogan than the 2012 slogan of “We are not Obama.” In fact, that was John Kerry’s 2004 platform and it failed then too.
In many ways both parties are still vestiges of our geographic precursors, only instead of disparate geographic regions, they are now inconsistent constituencies. Reagan was supposed to have changed that by coalescing Republicans around an ideology. That ideology was ”leave us alone.” Leave us alone so that we don’t have to pay crippling taxes. Leave us alone from excessive government restrictions. Leave us alone to worship our gods. At a time when being a social conservative meant having legitimate concerns about bussing and crime, it was easier to coalesce an outcast minority to the cause. But here’s the rub for social conservatives: crime is no longer an issue. Nor is bussing. Social conservatives won. However, once they went on the offensive, opposition to gay marriage and immigration, for example, they no longer had the sympathetic argument of the victim oppressed by the world. They were the oppressors, imposing their views on people who just wanted to be left alone. If Republicans could look past their legacy ideas and groups, they might be able to link together a party, not by cobbling together groups disassociated from the other, but by building a cohesive party united around a logically consistent message and cause.
I encourage you to read Meghan McArdle’s article at the link and stroll through the comments.
As polls begin closing in the Eastern time zone, I am actually rather complacent about the outcome. Yes, I voted for Mitt Romney, and yes, I want him to win. But I guess I have a fatalistic view about what happens regardless of which man wins tonight.
Here is what I envision over the next four years:
The bond yield is going to skyrocket as inflation begins to take hold. That will push up the deficit because of the increased interest the government will have to pay to its creditors. The effects of inflation will be horrible. We’ll do something stupid to forestall this, like feed even more debt to the Fed. It won’t work. Inflation will find our door. But if I’m wrong, and inflation doesn’t come, that is almost as bad, as it means another four years of super low interest rates and a corresponding dearth of interest income and saving. Four more years of baby boomers retiring with no increase in interest rates is very bad indeed.
Regardless of who is in charge, America will still be held back by the sclerotic state of the nation’s bureaucracy. As Meghan McArdle pointed out recently, there have been plans for hardening the essential infrastructure of the NY/NJ area for years. It would have been nice to have last week. Those plans are still in review. They will still be in review a decade from now. This, in a city that saw the Empire State Building go from a hole in the ground to completion in less than 14 months. Obamacare is just the latest circle of bureaucratic hell through which America’s entrepreneuers must wade, and even if Romney is elected, much of it, I am saddened to report, will remain intact. At some point our economic engines are like Napoleon’s troops invading Russia: supply lines were so long that there was no room for anything else in the carriage but the fodder for the horses pulling the carts. There was nothing left to do then but to eat the horse. I fear that we’re nearing that point.
An even bumpier economic ride is overdue overseas. China is on the edge of a cliff; its coming catastrophe will either be economic or cultural. Probably both. Japan is nearing the end of its free money holiday. With the highest debt load in the developed world as well as the oldest population, Japan is not just an economic mess, but serves as a warning to others who are quickly tracing the same path. Even more concerning is that China and Japan are both still very closed societies; they are unlikely to search earnestly and inwardly for blame or solution. It is easier to look outside for blame. And then there’s Europe: beset by unbridgeable divides, it will collapse with rippling economic, cultural, and perhaps even military effects upon the United States.
Unfortunately our competitors and enemies will not bide their time these next four years. Our foolishness in the Middle East and in North Africa has placed America in a damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t situation. But of the two, doesn’t–disengagement–offers the least potential downsides. Regardless of who is elected, we won’t disengage. Instead we will continue to reinforce failure overseas just as we have for years. As for Russia . . . enough said.
We are an nation divided evenly between two irreconciable ideologies. On the one side is the collectivist progressive who knows that by centralizing control in the hands of leaders empowered by special powers, that America will be a fairer place. On the other side is the rugged individualist who knows that if he were freed of extraordinary restrictions that he could accomplish extraordinary things and that will make America a stronger place.
This is not a new conflict. In fact, it’s the conflict that gave birth to our nation, when we left England and an anointed elite behind. But we didn’t leave it entirely behind. And by degree, collectivism has returned. For decades we have been able to paper over the differences between the two camps through the incredible surplusses that we have amassed. But those surplusses are soon to come to an end.
We could forestall that day, perhaps even reverse time. But unfortunately, even if Mitt Romney wins tonight, he will not win with a mandate for real change. Thus we will toddle down Japan’s path to our own end. At least that beats sprinting there.
Sara Hoyt: We’ve come to the end of cake
Read the whole thing.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Saturday, 3 November 2012
One of the more interesting graphical representations of poll results is produced by the ABC/Washington Post daily tracking poll. It shows the level of support for the President among various demographics and compares that with where it stood four years ago.
Not surprisingly, support for President Obama across virtually every demographic is down from four years before. But there is one demographic that stands out with the sharpest decline–and it is mine.
Americans age 40-49 went from a 49-49 split in 2008 to give Romney a 59-38 advantage today.* Not only is this 21-point swing the largest on the chart, it makes this age cohort the most conservative of any chronological group.
People in their 40s today were born between 1963 and 1972 and we are a product of that age. Our childhood political memories include gas lines, inflation, long recessions, unemployment, a weak American military, and a fearful USSR. Those were the issues of the late-1970s when we were 7 and 17 years old. Along with polaroids of ourselves in plaid polyester and set to a soundtrack of disco (undoubtedly played on an 8-track with an annoying ”jump” in the middle of a song), they weren’t very memorable years.
In our adolescence we had Ataris and Apples, music on CDs, improving economies, stable gas prices, a strong dollar for overseas travel, the death of the Soviet Union, and jobs when we finished college. Dressed in khakis and Izods, our lives under Reagan were significantly better and that was when we came of age.
Consider also what we didn’t have because we either weren’t born or we were too young: the Tet Offensive, Watergate, Martin Luther King’s assassination, urban riots, and discrimination against women and blacks when they searched for jobs. We are more conservative than both our elders who remember the injustice of the 60s and our juniors who never knew how bad Carter was.
But it is not just our cohort that makes us conservative; it is our age. We are in our forties: too young to be old and too old to be young. We are too young to be near enough to Social Security to hope that we can preserve it and too far away from it to think that we can. We are entering our years of peak earnings but we fear that our peaks are in the rear. Our children are bound for college and we wonder how we’ll pay the bills. We are too young for the complacency of nostalgia and too old to live without care.
It is no wonder that we favor Mitt Romney. We have seen better days and worse ones and we know that we can choose which ones to have. We are young enough still to look forward, but not so young that we live only day to day. We are old enough to have acquired some wisdom but not so old to have given some of it back. And we see dismal echoes of Carter in Obama and we remember Reagan ending those years.
* NOTE: The cohort of 40-49 year olds four years ago is not exactly the same people as four years ago; only those born between 1963 and 1968 exist in the 40-49 age group in both years.
| Category: 2012
| Posted at: Friday, 2 November 2012
In 2008 I was running a few monthly polls in Iraq. One of the polls was a huge survey with many-thousands of respondents so that we could dig down deep to the provincial level and below. The contractor was Gallup.
I was engaged in a running commentary with Gallup’s analysts about how they weighted their sample results. They weighted for factors like age, sex, and urbanicity. But I was concerned that they didn’t weight for the one characteristic likely to produce the most divergent answers throughout the rest of the poll: religious sect. I argued that whether one was Sunni or Shia, it wasn’t something that changed from time to time, and that therefore, we could weight samples to account for it.
I was wrong.
A few months later, one of the provinces which had always reported a Sunni percentage of the population that was within the margin of error of zero percent, had all of the sudden jumped to about 15% Sunni. Something was wrong with the poll! Then the next month it happened again. And again.
There was nothing wrong with the poll. It was simply a reflection of a change in the security situation on the ground. Iraqi government forces had crushed the local Shia mafia and the Sunni who lived among them were no longer afraid. Prior to then, a social acceptability bias was in place, and that caused Sunni respondents to tell pollers that they were of the other sect. (There was also the cultural effect of taqiya, which had the effect of a form of political correctness.)
Three months ago Sean Trende explored a similar issue when he explained why it was wrong to weight for party ID:
The problem is that party identification is not an immutable characteristic, such as race, age, or gender. It fluctuates. Even the wording of the question can elicit very different answers.
Trende notes that party ID isn’t usually a factor as long as it doesn’t fluctuate wildly from poll to poll when conducted by the same organization.
I would broaden that to include what I learned from my example above. When there is a big divergence in party preference, it should make you go “hmmmm.” Changes may be a result of exogenous factors. Republican-leaning independents in Missouri, for example, might not have been so inclined to identify with the GOP after Todd Akin made his idiotic remarks. Change may also be indicative of a bad sample overly filled with unlikely voters (particularly if unlikely voters are more likely to identify with one side). And if one polling company continuously has different party identifications from another, by seeing that rather than disguising it through weighting, we are immediately notified of different methodologies and assumptions employed by the different organizations.
If polling organizations weighted for party ID, we would have fewer clues that something is weird with a poll or that things might have changed on the ground. So while you should watch the party breakdown number, it is correct that polling companies should not weight for the result.