It’s The Base, Stupid

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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111 Responses

  1. Avatar MFarmer says:

    I think there’s a sizable faction of Americans who hardly ever vote, but definitely understand what’s going on, and they could make the difference. This faction leans more to the Right than Left, but they aren’t really Right or Left as the terms are understood in the political realm. If they are motivated by anything that pertains to politics, it’s the conflict between private property and the social/political movement to undermine any remains of capitalism and enhance redistribution efforts. If the private property faction of Americans, who haven’t been reliable voters, fear that the social/political movement on the Left is becoming too extreme, they will come out to vote and swing the election to Romney.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

      I don’t think things are bad enough for Romney that his supporters need resort to invoking the silent majority yet.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

        I’m not invoking the silent majority — they aren’t silent, for one thing. They are very active and “loud” in their own way in the private realm — it’s just a different world from the political realm. They achieve through economic means not political means, and just because cable news doesn’t report their every fart like they do with the political realm, doesn’t mean they are silent. There is a whole world outside the State-centered media and politcal class — it’s wonderful, try it.Report

        • Avatar No in reply to MFarmer says:

          What the runs revealed about the electorate is simple: there is a large and normally (until 2010) silent part of the Republican base who rile up easily on dog-whistling Dixie.

          Santorum tapped into them with racism and misogyny, Gingrich just with racism. Between them, they were almost as large in the base as the Sensible Types.

          The party leaders picked Romney because he has the one thing neither woman-hater Santorum or n*****-hater Gingrich have: plausible deniability. Romney can send out surrogates to say the same things Santorum and Gingrich were saying – hell, he or his PAC can hire Santorum, Gingrich, or their staff members to be surrogates anyways – and then Romney can plausibly claim to the right media outlets that “those people don’t speak for me” in a way just plausible enough to convince the semi-misogynists and semi-racists that they themselves like Romney for Romney’s sake rather than because they’re obeying the dog whistle.

          And that’s how this campaign will run. We’re just starting to see it with the latest birtherist “Obama ate dog which is way better than Romney’s animal abuse”, as if a 9 year old kid eating what his parents put on his plate is equal to the moral choice of an adult.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to No says:

            Oh, please, No, don’t fall for the media diversions about dog-eating and such — it’s just a ploy to keep us divided and take our minds off the economy and the debt. It’s amazing how well the State divided and conquered the useful idiots called American citizens. Romney isn’t Reagan, but, then, Reagan wasn’t Reagan. Reagan was a production, a once in a lifetime political character. Romney is a business-centered grown-up who’s pragmatic but is learning pragmatism in business is different than pragmatism among statists — America’s business is business and we need to get back to it — the economy is not one segment of concern, it’s everything we do.. No, it’s not Morning in America — It’s 5:30pm in America and no one’s going home until we complete this project.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to MFarmer says:

      MFarmer,

      the people who don’t vote? Poor. Black. Redneck. Hispanic. Mostly Democratic — Conservative Democrats, mind, but yellow dogs mostly.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Kimmi says:

        Not only is Kimmi’s comment correct, but it’s also the case that people who don’t vote…don’t vote.  Every time you think to yourself that there’s a group of non-voters who will, this one year, rise up and support you, you’re probably mistaken.   This is true for liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and anyone else who thinks that this is the year that previously unmobilized blocs will turn out to support them.  The burden of proof is on you, and it’s a heavy burden.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

          Yes.  This.

          I was telling my students today about the Howard Dean youth vote in ’04, and how my friend in Iowa called me on his way home from the caucus to tell me the Dean voters didn’t show up.  My first question was, “what’s the weather.”  “Damned cold,” he said.  And I replied, “Yeah, we’re all expecting young folks to go out on a bitter February night to argue politics with old folks?”  (The sad thing is, I had sort of expected it, even though I knew better. I let the media hype fool me…for, I hope, the last time ever.)Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Dan Miller says:

          . “Every time you think to yourself that there’s a group of non-voters who will, this one year, rise up and support you, you’re probably mistaken.”

          Nope, it’s happened before, and I have it from good sources that it will happen in 2012. You probably haven’t heard about it, but it’s 99% likely to happen according to this week’s report.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to MFarmer says:

            Where can I subscribe to this weekly report of which you speak? (Seriously.)

            For personal reasons as well as ones to do with the campaign itself, this is the least interesting/enjoyable presidential race of my adulthood save 1996 (the first in which I could vote).  As I’ve mentioned before, I have this vague feeling that it’s already over in one direction or another but we (or I) just don’t know which yet.  Which unfortunately functionally means that from where I sit it’s a toss-up that I can’t seem to take my eyes off of. (I’m a junkie who would like to try to start to wean myself off the needle, but I don’t think I’ll aver be able to ignore a legitimate toss-up presidential election.)  So if there’s a source that actually might convince me that this thing is over in a particular direction, which would allow me to move on to better things, I’d be very interested in examining it.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

      I think there’s a sizable faction of Americans who hardly ever vote, but definitely understand what’s going on,

      Well, anything that’s >0 has a size.  But I sincerely doubt there’s a “sizable faction” of non-voters who have much understanding, as non-voters mostly are non-attention-payers.  And the odds that they form a coherent ideological grouping of any sort are slimmer still.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

        I know it’s frightening to think about those voters entering the game — it won’t take but about a million or two. No, there is no ideological grouping, as I said, it’s mainly just protection of property.  It will be over for the Democratic Party for quite awhile, because they are definitely not into redistribution and intervention. Personally, I think the most patriotic act we can perform is to not vote.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MFarmer says:

          Nah, there’s a couple thousand of you on the Internet and that’s about all there is. When 80% of Tea Partiers are against cuts in Social Security, I’m not too worried about this secret sect of ultra-libertarians coming to take the country back. In fifty years, there will be another version of you saying the same thing you’re talking about is going to happen soon.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            A couple of thousand of me? Oh shit, now we’re in trouble. I’m not talking about an ideological grouping, dammit — I’ve said that like 3 or 4 times, now, dude. You guys are just too lost in bizarro world, or something.  I don’t think I can help you.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

          MFarmer,

          Do you honestly think that my response is motivated by fear?

          That’s pretty funny, dude.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

            One of the ways that you can tell, sure fire, that Libertarians and Liberals are close cousins is both of their strong tendencies to always pause mid march, turn 90 degrees and leap on their neighbors face like a rabid raccoon. Lockstep unity is a conservative deal.

             Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

            “That’s pretty funny, dude.”

            It’s too tight in here. We can all use a laugh.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

              But I do smell fear — when world views crack, it causes anxiety, then everybody gets hinky, then they rejoice. There’s a crack in everything — that’s where the light gets in.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                I think I saw a free thought sneak out the back door of this place — you might want to alert the watchers.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

                I’ll tell the groundskeepers Mike. I think one of the first things I read of yours here was your decrying the hermetic ideological statist seals of the League. Without your vigilance I have no doubt we’d have descended into a passel of anarchists. Don’t ever change.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

                “Don’t ever change.”

                Only if the facts, conditions and realities change. But, so far, I don’t see more government intervention as the way out. The French get a bad rap on the Right — the French economists of the 19th century knew the score. Laissez faire, stupid.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

                I don’t see more government intervention as the way out

                Farmboy, I agree with that, which is why I thought your “fear” line was so patently ridiculous.  I’m not the person here who fears more voters demanding less government.  I just look around at the American political landscape and I sincerely don’t see it.  It’s wishful thinking.  Yeah, I wish, but that and a fiver will get me happy meal.

                Those non-voters you’re talking about are like the bulk of the population, they want government to spend less on others, and spend more on them. Property rights? Give me a break.  End zoning restrictions that prevent me from building a 10,000 square foot garage in my backyard and they’ll go nuts.  They want constraints on property use, because they’re more concerned about retail value than actual property rights.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                Of course, James, what was I thinking. It’s hopeless and people suck. Except us of course.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to MFarmer says:

                There’s a crack in everything — that’s where the light gets in.

                I don’t agree with your conclusions, but at least you have the good taste to quote Leonard Cohen. Here’s another one of his that seems apropos: I’ve seen the future, brother, it is murder.

                There’s fear out there, but it’s fear that the whole late corporate capitalist facade is about to crumble.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michelle says:

                Michelle, we need laissez faire capitalism. It’s the only economic system that will save the nation from collapse. We desperately need the innovation, creativity, dynamism and new wealth creation.Report

              • Avatar Michelle in reply to MFarmer says:

                We’ve had laissez-faire capitalism–it’s what lead to greater government regulation of business as early as the Progressive age. Without some kind of sensible regulation and balance, laissez-faire capitalism works well for a very small minority and not so well for most everybody else. The largely unregulated machinations of a bunch of bankers, machinations that nearly brought the global economy to a screeching halt, should be an object lesson in why laissez-faire is a bad idea.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michelle says:

                Laissez-faire is the very last thing they really want.   These useful idiots don’t understand what the phrase Margin Call even means.  Probably think it’s some part of Microsoft Word.

                What they want is called Banana Republicanism.

                 Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michelle says:

                These useful idiots don’t understand what the phrase Margin Call even means.

                It’s what happens at the bar right before Last Call. Everyone knows this.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michelle says:

                “The largely unregulated machinations of a bunch of bankers, machinations that nearly brought the global economy to a screeching halt, should be an object lesson in why laissez-faire is a bad idea.”

                I don’t know where to start. Please, just read Meltdown by Thomas E. Woods. It’s just not true that laissez-faire, free marketeers caused the financial crisis. It’s the exact opposite — government interventions set up the whole sordid mess. Read Meltdown, then, if you disagree, I’ll listen, but until you’ve considered the other side, I can’t help but think you’ve been hornswaggled by statist propaganda.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michelle says:

                MFarmer, you need to get a fucking trading account and a working knowledge of how derivatives actually work before embarrassing yourself.   Do you know the difference between an ICE or EUREX derivative and an OTC derivative?

                First, you explain the difference, then we’ll talk about why this Austrian asshat Thomas E. Woods is wrong about regulation.  I’ve heard of this moron before.  He’s trying to put us back in the days of JP Morgan the financier who bailed out the world when the banks got in a jam.   The Federal Reserve is there for excellent reasons.  But first you do your homework and give me a list of the current EUREX derivative products.   That will show you’re trying to learn something.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Michelle says:

                “MFarmer, you need to get a fucking trading account ”

                Make up your mind, a fucking account or a trading account. I have a fucking account at Sadie’s, but I don’t see how that’s pertinent.

                Your schtick is getting old. You dive in the weeds hoping that overloading the reader with nuances of a tangent will shut them up. I’m not impressed. Your bully-rhetoric is not very convincing either. You remind me of the wannabe tough kid in high school who would talk big when they knew they were safe, but head to head they peed their pants.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michelle says:

                Yeah it is getting old.   The concepts of money and insurance haven’t changed over time.   Nor has risk.   You call your broker and see if he’ll explain the difference between a regulated derivatives market like EUREX and the shyster OTC crap.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to MFarmer says:

          So there’s a large group of non-ideological non-voters who happen to believe Democrats all secretly want to abolish private property and also believe Mitt Romney would be noticably better? How does that “non-ideological” part work exactly? Non-ideological extreme paranoid partisanship?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Simon K says:

            That’s a good one, Simon — you are a good liberal/social/.Democrat — you’ve learned the smear tactic well, although the “paranoid” bit is getting trite, so a little innovation is called for.. Now read what I wrote one more time and get back with me.

            I have to say, though, it’s the modern liberal mindset like yours that is troubling many non-political citizens and bringing them into the political sphere. It just all sounds so snarky and pissy and resentful — it can’t be healthy.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to MFarmer says:

              Actually, I was talking with a friend yesterday, and there was one portion of the conversation which was very uncomfortable. She was telling me about a friend of hers from Russia, and how this Russian woman was concerned about the involvement of government in various mattes over the past 20 years. Not a comfortable thing to hear.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to MFarmer says:

              I haven’t said anything about my own politics Mikes. I’m not smearing you or anyone else. I’m trying to point out the flaw in your priors by making a joke. But since apparently it just came off as an insult, let me lay this out clearly:

              Believing that one of the major political parties wants to do something clearly completely unacceptable is the hallmark of present-day American partisanship. Liberals think conservatives want to execute homosexuals. Conservatives think liberals want to outlaw christianity. Liberals think conservatives want to let corporations run the country. Conservatives think liberals want to abolish private property. Except “thinking” isn’t really what’s going on here – people have these weird fantasies about what the other side might really believe. After all, conservatives can’t really be worried that public accceptance of homosexuality might undermine the social order. That’s stupid. So they must just be bigots. Similarly, liberals can’t actually be worried about the plight of the poor. Its obvious that the poor are better of if we let businesses do what they can to create jobs. So clearly liberals must in fact have a secret agenda of putting government in charge of the economy. All of these beliefs are delusional, and when closely questioned most people don’t really hold them, but they’re worried about the real intentions of the other team because they can’t believe that they’re sincere. It doesn’t help than many high profile politicians manifestly are in fact insincere (looking at you. Mitt).

              So to suppose that a majority of uninvolved non-voters holds one of these sets of paranoid delusions, to the extent of being woken from their apathy by the outrageous behavior of one of the parties, and yet to suppose that this group is “non-partisan” or “non-ideological” is either to believe a contradiction or to suppose that the (halucinatory) threat is real. To suppose that one of these threats is real marks you out as a partisan of one side or the other. Which was my point. Or you could argue that the Obama is in fact about to start confiscating private property. Go on – its harder that protesting about how you’re being smeared.

               Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Simon K says:

                So to suppose that a majority of uninvolved non-voters holds one of these sets of paranoid delusions, to the extent of being woken from their apathy by the outrageous behavior of one of the parties, and yet to suppose that this group is “non-partisan” or “non-ideological” is either to believe a contradiction or to suppose that the (halucinatory) threat is real.

                Excellent analysis Simon K, as per usual. (I sure wish you’d comment here more often.)

                To suppose that one of these threats is real marks you out as a partisan of one side or the other. Which was my point.

                And that’s what called “decisive”!Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Stillwater says:

                Thanks. I wish I had time – I used to comment much more regularly, but more or less simultaneously my little startup was acquired by a large company and my wife and I had a baby. Both of these things have proved enormously time consuming, albeit positive in one way or another.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to MFarmer says:

          I don’t understand that at all.
          Granted, I don’t buy into the notion of divining voting patterns so simply as Kimmi laid out above.
          It was the influx of Hispanics that made the Texas legislature go Republican, that brought us Rick Perry.
          ‘Hispanic’ is a bit too wide of a group. You need to break it down a bit from there to make it meaningful.
          Likewise, blue collar workers have been leaving the Democratic Party in droves, so I’m not sure what she means by ‘poor.’

          But from my view, to not vote is simply a vote that the other votes should be given greater weight.
          How could you see that as patriotic?
          This strikes me as being the anti-social, difficult-to-get-along-with libertarianism that I remember from being in the West in the 80’s.
          You mind explaining that one?Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will H. says:

            Will,

            look at 538 (or streetprophets, who pulled it by religion). White waspy upper middle class people are who the “Reagan Democrats” were. They’re who the Democrats lost. Not the lower class (with the possible exception of the south).

             Report

    • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to MFarmer says:

      this reminds me of the 2008 meme that “people say they will vote for obama but when they’re in the privacy of the voting booth they will not”.  that proved to be false, no matter how loud the right clapped for it.Report

      • Um, notice nobody’s asking you for evidence for the last sentence.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Was that reply misplaced?
          It looked like it went to the above.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will H. says:

            Aye, WillH, in the taxonomy of LoOG, the bigger the dog, all the more the fleas, you poor bastard.  Arf.

            I do disagree strongly with the assertion that in a putative league of gentlemen, casting doubt on somebody’s assertion is the principled reply, as if we are all adversaries and enemies.  This isn’t what a “Symposium” is for, a League of Gentle[persons].

            If you find a factoid questionable, look it up for yrself, whether or not you find the assertion congenial to your own position.  All things considered, left/right or blue/red, half of it should sound like a lie and the other half should sound too good to be true.

            In the end, WillH, you were inaccurate on this, but only somewhat.  ~40% of the AFL-CIO vote for the GOP still lends your argument substantive support.  Kerry beat Bush among AFL-CIO males by 18 points: 57-43, yes?  No?  Not decisive among a hell-or-highwater traditional Dem constituency.

            2012:  Obama in opposition to the AFL-CIO types supporting the Keystone XL pipeline while he blocks it to accommodate his left flank of enviro-wienies?

            I’d rather be Mitt Romney trying to fire up the fundies @ the late Rev Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University than be Barack Obama trying to refire up the AFL-CIO vote, but that’s just me.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Thank you for responding. I would like to go into this a little more.

              I may have been a bit off on the numbers, but the point stands that the AFL-CIO leadership is rather weak, although they do enjoy officious statements to the contrary, and that the “union vote” is by no means a hard Democratic constituency, and the loss of blue collar workers generally. Further, union members make up 13% of the populace, but 26% of the voters.
              Again, though roughly 2/3 of the Hispanic vote went to Obama in 2004, there were still an awful lot of then voting for Perry that year– and as Perry was seen as the heir-apparent to the Republican nomination early on, I wouldn’t consider Hispanics to be a solid Democratic constituency; more of a mind to vote either way.

              Here’s a write-up of the polls that I referred to earlier. Selected quotes:

              In 2008, he [Obama] carried 39 percent of those blue collar men. In other words, all four of the surveys find Obama losing ground among working-class white men, consistently his toughest audience….

              The variation among the polls is somewhat wider with the waitress moms. In 2008, Obama won 41 percent of those non-college white women; his showing in the new surveys varies from a low of 37 percent (in Gallup and Pew) to 42 percent (in ABC/Washington Post) to 46 percent (in the CNN survey). Romney’s numbers among them varies from 46 percent in CNN to 54 percent in Pew.

              It doesn’t exactly play into the “war on women” scenario.
              The results in women polled seem to reflect societal changes. Married women tend to support Republican candidates, and there are currently more single women than married ones, which is something of an oddity.
              All of the doomsday scenarios that I hear about Romney, that his campaign is over before it began and such– I just don’t place much stock in that. They haven’t even had the convention yet, for crying out loud.

              Now, it was August 15th of last year that I published a post talking about how I supported Obama. It had a link to this op-ed he had written for USA Today, and I embedded this video.
              But to be honest about the matter, it was the whole ‘compromise’ leading up to the Rush/Fluke affair that turned me off, and that’s what made me give Romney a serious second look. To me, the separation of church & state is absolute. The United States of America ends at the doors of the church; on the other side is the Kingdom of God. There is no overlapping jurisdiction there.
              That, and hassling Romney about being a Mormon. I don’t cotton to that sort of thing. He’s a man of the book. Let him walk free.Report

      • How do you know it was false?  I’m sure some people claimed they were going to vote for Obama in 2008 but decided not to when they went to the polls.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Let me first say where I agree with you.  I, too, think that Romney is in desperate need of shoring up his base.  If they stay home come election day, he has no hope.

    Now here’s where I disagree with you. When you say, “The country is so politically divided and ideologically polarized”.

    No, that’s not true. It appears divided and polarized, but that’s an illusion caused by the nature of the media and by the increased polarization of Congress, which is caused by gerrymandered districts.  Indeed most of those independents are effectively committed to one party or the other, but they are more likely to be toward the center rather than toward the far ends of the spectrum.  The American electorate is not by any means perfectly normally distributed, but neither is it remotely bimodal.Report

    • I don’t think there’s effectively a difference, though I agree that most people aren’t particularly ideological one way or the other.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Elias, there’s a huge difference!  The difference won’t show up in D.C. right now because gerrymandered districts cause polarized legislators.  But if the public was really polarized there’d be no hope for toning things down and finding what common ground there is.  But since the public is not that polarized, there actually is such hope.  Not that it will be easy to achieve. But just getting most states to have a redistricting rule requiring the maximization of competitive districts would dramatically change things precisely because at the foundational level of the public there really is a big comparatively moderate crowd.

        Focusing on that crowd and trying to adjust our institutions to increase their influence is the only realistic hope for this country (and I say that knowing full well they’re not going to support my positions on the issues), so please don’t just wave it off as meaningless.  All of us reasonably good and reasonably reasonable people need to work together on this.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley says:

          While I think we need to end gerrymandering as much as possible, I think you’re overestimating the effects it would have on candidates in the general. There were more moderates in the 70’s due to the political culture, not the gerrymandering process.

          Look back to 2010. Lot’s of people far to the right of their districts won in 2010. Now, even in states where there wasn’t much gerrymandering, lots of those Congresspeople will win in 2012 despite being out of bounds with their district because of financial advantages, inertia, and a lack of good candidates from the other side. You could replace 2010 and right with 2006 and left to a much lesser extent.

          In addition, look at “districts” that should moderate because of the population – ie. Senate seats. Moderate Republican’s aren’t winning nominations in even “moderate” states like Colorado, Missouri, and Nevada. And they’re still coming close to winning when compared to their positions. Despite being batsh*t crazy, Sharron Angle got 44% of the vote in Nevada. The truth is, outside of a very small population depending on the state, people aren’t going to look hard into the specific policy positions of candidates. They’re going to assume they line up with their positions, whether you’re a liberal, moderate, or conservative.

          I mean, do you honestly think Paul Ryan wins a D+2 district year after year because there are a lot of Democrats that support right-wing economic policy or because his opponents have no money and most voters assume he’s a moderate to center-right politician because, “hey, we’re not a crazy place like Alabama or Utah.”

           Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Jesse,

            Come live in my district.  The state legislature very carefully avoids including any sections of Washtenaw County (home of the U of Mich), even though doing so makes our district less compact.  A moderate-to-liberal Congressman won it in ’08, on Obama’s coattails, but the religious right-wing dude took it right back in the next election.  I could very easily redraw Michigan’s districts to exclude any excessively right-wing winners, even though we have all those Dutch Reformed folks over on the western side of the state.

            Then again, our interpretations of “excessively” right wing may differ.

            But honestly, I think folks like you gain too much from polarization to actually want to end it.  You bemoan it, but you always make it about the other side.  They’re the polarized and polarizing folks, not you. But you know, I lived in San Francisco back in the late ’80s, and Nancy Pelosi was my rep–she’s polar, man, no less than Ryan.

            <i>do you honestly think Paul Ryan wins a D+2 district year after year because there are a lot of Democrats that support right-wing economic policy or because his opponents have no money and most voters assume he’s a moderate to center-right politician because, “hey, we’re not a crazy place like Alabama or Utah.”</i>

            Me suspects you don’t know Wisconsin Dems.  There’s a lot of blue collar NRA Reagan Democrats up there, right.  Perhaps Michael Drew can give us some insight into Ryan’s district and what kind of folks the Dems have managed to run against him.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley says:

              Of course there’s some gerrymandering going on. But, even if you took the Iowa model and modified it to most states, you wouldn’t get any moderation from either side. Because moderates don’t vote in primaries. And as I said again, most people don’t actually know the policy positions of the people they’re voting for unless a lot of money is spent on pointing it out.

              Harry Reid spent millions of dollars to point out how crazy Sharron Angle was and she still got 44%. Do you think that 44% of Nevadans agreed with Sharron Angle’s policy positions? Of course not. By the same measure, I doubt 40-something percent of people in Alan Grayson’s district agreed with him. But, if Dan Webster felt he was too old and Grayson hadn’t put out that Taliban Dan ad, he could’ve probably won reelection.

              Well, I would argue that the amount of people far to the left in Congress as a percentage of their party is much smaller than the amount of people in the GOP far to the right, but regardless, I don’t really have a problem with a crazy right-winger winning a district in the middle of Utah or a “far left” person winning a district in San Francisco or my district in Seattle.

              As for Wisconsin Dems, if you polled Paul Ryan’s plan, I’d doubt it’d get good support since it actually is a moderate suburban district and Paul Ryan’s plan isn’t popular at all out there in the rest of the nation that is suburban and moderate to a large extent.

              My larger point is that the GOP didn’t move right (nor the DNC move left on social issues) because of gerrymandering. They moved because we’re turning into a parliamentary system on a Congressional level. The multi-polar aspects of both parties was a wacky result of our history, not a system set up by our Founders. It was always going to die out and the sooner we realize that, the better we are as a nation.

              Now, I’d actually reform things to proportional representation and radically reforming the Senate, but I admit on that point I’m a dreamer. 🙂Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Now, I’d actually reform things to proportional representation and radically reforming the Senate, but I admit on that point I’m a dreamer. 🙂

                I’m republican (small r, note) enough to appreciate the value of the disproportionate Senate.  But one thing I’d do if I had my way was to not fuss about whether districts are gerrymandered, and just get rid of them altogether.  Michigan’s 15 representatives would all come from the same district, and the electoral structure would either be proportional or just 1-3 votes per person, to ensure real third parties would emerge.  To make this meaningful in some of the small population states we’d need to increase the size of the House, but that’s overdue anyway–we haven’t increased it in a hundred years now, even though the country’s population has tripled.

                I might shift to assymetrical bicameralism, though (when the two houses are unequal in power), and just have the Senate be somewhat more like Canada’s Senate.  No need to get their agreement to laws*, but they can bring issues to the lower house’s attention, raise objections and propose amendments to bills, acting, as the phrase has it, like a chamber of “sober second thought.”

                But I don’t expect any of that to happen, so I content myself with advocating for changes that are smaller, but at least potentially achievable.
                ______________________
                *I think Canada’s Senate does have to agree, but they rarely don’t block because Senators being appointed for life they lack democratic legitimacy.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, the Canadian Senate can reject a bill which sends it back to the House but if the House passes the same bill a second time the Senate isn’t able to block it further. Kindof a form of do-over. I confess yours is the first time I’ve seen anyone anywhere express anything positive about the Canadian Senate (which my own dad referred to as “the romper room in Ottawa where the old farts sleep”).Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

              You’re right about the Wisconsin Dems being much different. Madison is more like the ones you would expect to see nationally.
              Milwaukee is much more blue collar conservative, and the Townies to the south of there are very conservative.
              Wisconsin brought us Russ Feingold for so many years as well as Ryan.
              It’s really a mixed lot.
              Much of the upper Midwest is very similar.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

              I wish I could.  (Sorry for coming late to this.) My extended family is from Racine, in his district.  But they’re all very religious Republican voters except maybe one aunt of mine.  Obviously, the kind of industrial flight that his district has experienced over the last twenty years basically puts politics in a state of complete flux (as relates where the fundamentals of the district would tend to lead it in relatively secure economic times, such as 1971-1993, when it was represented by the great Les Aspin).  I think he emerged at the right time offering an appealing profile and a strong, simple message about what “the problem” is and what to do to fix it.  He also was first elected in the midst of l’affaire Oval Office Blowjob, and I suspect he forged a bit of a bond with the district with his squeaky-clean, take-home-to-mom image that they could embrace in response to that unpleasantness – including a fair number of the Reagan Democrats James refers to.  But the industrial evacuation is the real driver of the change – including among Reagan or swing “Democrats.”  He undeniably has a talent for stepping into situations of doubt and insecurity and offering leadership that people respond to, whatever you (or perhaps they, if they were to stop and think about it for moment?) think of where that leadership proposes to take them.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin%27s_1st_congressional_districtReport

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Michael, thanks.  Will, thanks to you, too.  I was just going off general impressions about Wisconsin. All I really know about the state is that it has the Leinenkeugel’s brewery and I’d better not speed when I drive through there.Report

              • Avatar Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

                Their 1884 Bock is probably the best American bock you’ll find out there.
                Capitol is probably the best all-around Wisc. brewery, IMHO. Just about anything from Capitol is worth trying.
                Sprecher has some really good special runs, if you don’t mind paying for them.
                And Spotted Cow is on tap in most places; a good farmhouse ale.
                And keep a lookout at the package locations for the Schell Firebrick; the best available version of a Vienna lager in No. America, IMHO.Report

        • I don’t think there’s “hope” as you’re conceiving of it here. I mean, I doubt civil war will break out anytime soon, but if not for the fact that modern conservatism is doomed through demographic destiny, I think our current state of affairs would extend into the indefinite future.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

      If gerrymandering is the problem, than polarization shouldn’t have risen at all in the Senate.  It has.  There’s a pretty good consensus in political science that gerrymandering explains very little of the rise in polarization.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Damn it, you said what I wasted two paragraphs on in two sentences.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Though each political scientist from Wyoming is cited 70 times as often as then ones from California.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Dan,

        No consensus at all among political scientists on that score. Not to rip on McCarty when I say that, because it’s not a claim he makes in that link, either.

        Briefly, though, I’ll note a bit of an error that underlies his analysis.  He says:

        <i>There has been an increase in Democrats representing very liberal districts, but this has been primarily confined to urban and majority-minority districts – those that are least susceptible to the partisan gerrymandering that is alleged to have caused polarization</i>

        Those are not at all unsusceptible to gerrymandering.  Majority-minority districts very frequently are an intentional result of gerrymandering–racial gerrymandering to be sure, but one with an ideological consequence.  And urban districts aren’t necessarily natural–districts can be drawn to divide an urban core from its more conservative suburbs/adjacent rural areas or they can be drawn to cut across those lines.

        As to the Senate, much of that is due to the readjustment of the parties (and this also plays its effects in the House), such that Southern conservatives shifted from the Democratic party to the Republican party, altering the ideological balance of each party without any necessary alteration in the ideological balance of the American electorate as a whole.  So the Republican party is less centrist now, and the Democrats are no longer having to balance two ideologically-opposed wings.  The intra-party polarization of the Democrats diminished, and the inter-party polarization increased. But not a single American needed to shift their ideological position for that to be able to happen.  There’s also, I think, been a breakdown in comity in Congress, that’s concomitant with the rise in talk radio-style political grandstanding.  That’s enabled some of the ideological polarization that was always there to become more visible, because it’s just more politically acceptable.

        I should add that I didn’t intend to suggest that gerrymandering was the only cause of congressional polarization, but I can see how it came across that way. I emphasized that because at present it’s the most direct and effective way we have to reduce the ideological polarization in Congress.

        But I’m not saying McCarty’s work is completely wrong. Not by any means.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

            OK, I tried to leave a response and it didn’t take.  Let’s try again.

            Check out this book by Morris Fiorina: Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America.

            Fiorina’s quite eminent.  That doesn’t mean he’s right.  But it does mean there’s not actually a consensus.Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

              Maybe consensus was overstating things, so let me walk that back (and thanks for calling me on it–it was my impression, but you’re right, not supported by the link).  That said, I still think you’re wrong about polarization.  Are elites more polarized than the general public? Of course they are–after all, they’re the highest-information, most involved people out there.  Polarization tends to be highest among the people who are most informed and politically active (apologies for linking to a partisan source, but it gets the point across–overlook the bias).  So you’d expect members of Congress, who are extremely well-informed and vote at a rate of ~100%, to be more polarized than the average American.

              That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s been no movement apart on the part of average voters.  After all, county-level results are more polarized now, which like the Senate has no gerrymandering.  I haven’t read Fiorina’s book, which is frankly a criminal omission on my part given my interests (but in my defense, my WoW character has a gear level of 387).  And his point that there are plenty of drivers of polarization besides voter sentiment is well taken.  But I think there has to be some movement apart.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Dan Miller says:

                REDFORD: What we observed that night was mind-bending. Here were sworn enemies, the leaders who beat the shit out of each other all day in public, but the minute those doors closed for the state dinner, the daggers went away and it was one big happy family. Condoleezza Rice got up and couldn’t have been sweeter or more gracious; she was smiling at everyone. I thought, This is so bizarre. Then I saw former Republican senator Bill Frist weaving through the tables, and he came over to Ted Kennedy and started massaging his shoulders and laughing like they were the oldest buddies in the world. Everybody was crossing the aisles and chuckling, and I said, “Oh, I get it! It really is just a game.” They have to go out and say, “I represent so-and-so and such-and-such a platform,” but it’s absolute total bullshit.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And Hilary Clinton was actually very well-respected by a lot of leading Republicans in the Senate.  It would be good for the country if they could do more of that in public, but every politician must first and foremost think about each action’s net effect on electoral votes.

                At the end of the day, the enemy really is us.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

                Hillary was fab at working the crowd.

                Remember the “third senator from New York”?

                That’s what she got for being sweet and humble (or at least actin’ that way. appearances matter).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

                Dan,

                I agree that the more informed people are generally more polarized, which is why I always chuckle when I see people say we need more educated voters. 😉

                But I think a lot of it has to do with the shift of Southern conservatives out of the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, which in turn drove moderates out of the Republican Party.  By making the parties more ideologically coherent, the distance between the parties changed. That in itself promotes more partisan debate, but it still doesn’t mean the actual voting members of the public have moved farther apart ideologically in any fundamental sense. (There may be some confusion on this issue to the extent we don’t always distinguish clearly between ideology and partisanship–I try to, for clarity and a sense of professional duty, but I probably slip sometimes and help to keep things muddied.)

                What Fiorina’s book does is look at the public issue by issue, demonstrating that the bulk of the public is actually clustered around the center on most issues. For example, abortion, where few people people are either opposed to abortion under any circumstances and few are supportive of total abortion on demand, but the bulk are muddled up on supporting it in particular circumstances.

                I should add I was pleased when I check Amazon to see that the book is in its third edition, which was published in 2010.  My copy was (was, because that one student never returned it, grrr) the first edition, and just old enough it could have been easily dismissed as out of date.  Good on Fiorina for updating it at a time when things are, or at least appear to be, changing so rapidly.

                Let me close by saying that I may have made too strong of a statement or impression.  I don’t claim with certainty or any absoluteness that the public isn’t getting more polarized ideologically, just that I am skeptical about it.  I am inclined to think it’s just increased polarization of the parties due to the realignment of the southern conservatives and northern Lincoln Chafee-types, exacerbated in Congress by extensive partisan gerrymandering.  But I won’t step out on a limb so far as to claim that’s 100% of what’s going on.  Just that any coherent account of what’s going on has to include that as a fundamental component.Report

              • I’ll have to read Fiorina’s book.

                (I hate it when I lend a book and people don’t return it, by the way.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                I heard on NPR yesterday that split-ticket voting had dropped from around 45% of voters in, I think, the ’80s to roughly 1/3 these days.

                That would certainly indicate more partisan polarizaton.  Unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about ideological polarization, even though it would be an expected result of ideological polarization.Report

              • I never lend people books. They never return them.

                Lord knows, that’s how I got all of mine.

                – Anatole FranceReport

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                What Fiorina’s book does is look at the public issue by issue, demonstrating that the bulk of the public is actually clustered around the center on most issues.

                Without having read the book, it’s foolhish of me to comment on it (not like that’s ever stopped be before!) but when someone says that most people (the majority, whatever) are clustered around the center on most issues, I don’t know what that means. Is the center the midpoint between two ideological extremes? Is it what’s left when you cancel out the most vocal voices pushing things to the radical left or the radical right? Is it what David Brooks thinks it is: a view which pisses off both sides equally?

                Or maybe this is the better way to say it: given that political views fall on a continuum between two extremes (or let’s just limit it to two extremes) it’s easy to carve out the middle and trivially conclude that the majority of people hold centrist views. But it’s just as easy to carve out the left-most two-thirds and conclude that the majority of people hold mostly leftish views. Or that the rightward two-thirds do. So the claim that most people are in the middle is in some sense trivially true.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

          That makes sense; but I have a hard time reconciling that line of thought to the Senate.
          There are too many states out there that have Senators that seem to be hard on both sides, roughly a third of them.
          Ak: Begich, Murkowski; Ark.: Pryor, Boozman; Fla.: Nelson, Rubio; Iowa: Harkin, Grassley; Ill.: Durbin, Kirk; La.: Landrieu, Vitter; Mass.: Kerry, Brown; Mo.: McCaskill, Blunt; NC: Hagan, Burr; ND: Conrad, Hoeven; NH: Shaheen, Ayotte; Nev.: Reid, Heller; Ohio: Brown, Portman; Penn.: Casey, Toomey; SD: Johnson, Thune; Wisc.; Kohl, Johnson.
          They don’t appear to be related geographically.
          Maybe I’m missing something here.
          What gives?
          Thoughts?Report

  3. You’re right about Romney, Elias.  Wrong about Kleiman.

    ;-PReport

  4. Avatar No says:

    One part you fail to consider is the dirty tricks area.

    12 states trying to “toughen up laws against voter fraud.” All twelve ideas scarily similar: trying to make sure too many of the “wrong” people, that is to say poor and brown, voted Obama in 2008 and they aim to fix that by claiming a vast epidemic of vote fraud in spite of overwhelming evidence that it simply doesn’t exist.

    Then there’s the resurgence of Birtherism, which Romney surrogates are gleefully encouraging. And the pontifications of Pope Beingadick, telling those uppity nuns to stop worrying about the poor, the sick, and the children and get back to the Catholic Church’s real jobs: opposing women’s rights, opposing equal human rights, opposing “feminism”, and opposing the idea that a catholic acting the asshole may be holier than a buddhist who lives a saintly life. I actually wonder why Pope Beingadick waited till nowm was he worried his words would flush Santorum’s chances further down the toilet?

    Even your own Tom and MFarmer can’t resist slipping in their code words. On the Republican side, this election isn’t about the substance: they intend to win it the Santorum and Gingrich way, dog-whistling Dixie all through the Southern Strategy.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to No says:

      The voting obstacles definitely have to potential to be the difference in a close election.  But then, in a close election, so does every other little thing.Report

  5. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    It’s always the same, every four years, the Republican goes to Liberty U like Henry to Canossa.   Nobody should be terribly surprised at this move.   It’s never wrong for a Republican to pander to the God ‘n Guns ‘n ‘Bortion crowd.   It’s expected to the point of tradition.

    Yes, this will be a base turnout sort of election.  Unlike 2008, where nobody expected that old criminal Dick Cheney to run for POTUS, there are no fresh new faces on the podium.  It’s just ol’ Mitt Romney.   He’s been around a while, it’s his turn at bat,  No surprises, it’s the standard-issue pandering and ring-kissing, (if Jerry Falwell’s sphincter counts as a ring) and general warming-up exercises.  Obama’s got problems but he’s also got incumbency and even Abraham Lincoln, for all his problems, was re-elected as an incumbent in wartime.   Maybe America’s had too few wars to see a first termer turned out of office during wartime but we’ve now entered an era of foreign policy where war is politics, not by other means, but by the only means possible.

    The VU meter on my little RBOB/unemployment models is moving solidly for Obama by about five points.   The worst thing which could happen to Obama at this point is a war with Iran, which means if the GOP wants to motivate the Fearful Freddies of their base to the voting booth, they’ll continue this war dance and ululation around the fire, breathing out threats and imprecations toward the mullahs of Iran.   That’ll boink the RBOB market.   Even a few points out there counts for a big wiggle on my RBOBotron.Report

  6. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I think, in a sense, you’re overthinking it.

    To win, Romney needs to get more GOP votes than McCain did OR Obama needs to lose Democratic votes. (Not “partisans” but people pulling that D or R lever for President).

    So, in a nutshell: Who (demographically) has Romney gained over McCain? Who has he lost? Who (demographically) has Obama gained? Lost? Add in a fudge factor for demographic change over four years…

    And what you find is that Romney wins if the turnout is like 2010, but not by much. And he gets loses if the turnout is like 2008. And he loses by even more if the turnout is like 2008, but he doesn’t make back the losses among female voters. (That’s still a big iff — that might all blow over, depending on how hard the GOP is trying to tie that albatross around it’s neck).

    I can see Romney increasing his share of the sub 50k a year white vote over 2008. But he appears to be losing ground among Hispanics and women — significant. There aren’t enough whites to make up for that.

    And, God help me, I can’t see the GOP base being any more enthusiastic about Romney than McCain, and certainly can’t see them hating Obama now more than they did in 2008. He’s still the Devil Democrat, the most socialistic, most liberaly Democrat since the last opponent they had.

    So, yeah — where’s Romney going to pick up enough votes that McCain didn’t? Or make enough Obama voters stay home? What’s he got to offer Obama voters over McCain? What’s he got to offer irregular voters, to get them to come out when they didn’t in 2008? New voters? Is Romney super-popular with the newly 18?

    Maybe 2012 will be more like 2010 than 2008 — but I have a hard time buying it. Especially given the Tea Party’s falling ratings. There’s a lot of 2010 buyer’s remorse out there.

    In the end, Romney’s personal numbers are pretty abysmal — whereas Obama’s beats his own job approval numbers. That’s not an insignificant thing in an election.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Morat20 says:

      Morat20, you’re leaving out Obama’s side of this. The shine is off the Hope&Change schtick. He will never be able to campaign on sparkles and rainbows again. He has a record and it’s the record of a (exceptionally) cautious moderate center lefty. There’re serious questions as to whether he’ll be able to turn out the youth vote like he did in 2008 and also whether the Dem base in general will muster like they did in 2008 with the rancid taste of W on their collective tongues.

      Personally it’s so fluid right now that I really just watch gas prices and unemployment and leave it at that. Everything else isn’t going to gel until later in the year.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

      Actually, this is a bingo, Mr. Morat:

      “And, God help me, I can’t see the GOP base being any more enthusiastic about Romney than McCain, and certainly can’t see them hating Obama now more than they did in 2008.”

      We are and we do.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        I’ve been following your posts. You’re not exactly…representative…of the GOP base. I spend more time listening to the folks around me.

        Living in Texas has it’s ups and downs, but it’s pretty easy to feel the pulse of the GOP base from here. Why, all I have to do is pay attention to some of my relatives and friend’s facebook pages.

        Then again, I’m not sure how I’d know. What’s worse then “kenyan socialist”? Like Kenyan Socialist squared? And Romney, well….he’s no Santorum, that’s for sure.

        But you hold tight to the firm belief that 2012 will be different, because there’s a silent upswell against Obama that magically doesn’t show in polls.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Morat20 says:

          Mr. Morat, I’m not hitting on the polls at all, which look fine for Romney*.  It’s too early.

          What I am saying is that nobody liked McCain—or his temperament—and some like Romney, especially for his temperament.  As for Obama, there was the hope he’d govern as a centrist, but after forcing Obamacare down our throats, the green energy debacle, the delaying of the Keystone pipeline, and his vicious partisan rhetorical style, yes, Obama is hated not just for being a Democrat, but for being a leftist and a divisive one at that.  Plus, he stinks on the economy bigtime.

          I’m comfortable comparing Obama over McCain [’08]  to Clinton over Dole ’96].  You always hate your side to lose, but some losses aren’t as bad as others.  Obama vs. Romney, different story.

          _______________

          http://harndenblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/04/barack-obamas-re-election-bid-is-in-deep-trouble.html

          “Drill down into the numbers of the latest CBS poll and there are ominous signs for Obama. Only 33 percent of Americans believe the economy is moving in the right direction. A mere 16 percent feel they are getting ahead financially. Some 38 percent think their situation will get worse if Obama is re-elected, 26 percent think it will get better.A cursory look back at incumbent versus challenger presidential races does not give Obama much comfort.

          In April 1976, President Gerald Ford was in about the same position as Obama is now. He lost the 1976 general election to Jimmy Carter by two points. In April 1980, President Jimmy Carter was leading Ronald Reagan by 38 points to 32 points with John Anderson on 22. In November 1980, Reagan won by 10 points.

          In April 1992, President George H.W. Bush was on 46 percent and Bill Clinton on 26 percent. In November 1992, Clinton won by six points. In April 2004, President George W. Bush was on 50 percent and John Kerry on 44 percent. In November 2004, Bush won by two points.

          We are already past the point at which it seems plausible that 2012 will be a repeat of 1996 when the incumbent (Clinton) cruised to a comfortable eight-point victory over the challenger (Bob Dole). Rather, we are probably looking at a 1992 scenario – an incumbent defeat – or a 2004 race – the incumbent (or the challenger) eking out a narrow victory.”

           

          Report

      • Avatar Jeff in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        +1

        This post is awesome in how much stupid is contained in so few words.

        Unlike you, I remember 2008.Report

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