Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Narrative Failure

There's nothing more annoying that excessive crowing over an election, but I can't help taking just a moment to observe that there's something which doesn't quite fit about the idea that the GOP (and in a number of cases, the Tea Party wing of the GOP) did so well yesterday because the electorate was outraged that Obama and congress didn't tack harder left in the last two years. Yes, it's true that it was moderate Democrats, in many cases, who lost, but that's mainly because those moderate Democrats were elected in 2010 in districts which were to the right of them, districts which had previously been held by the GOP. But the fact that Pelosi was reelected while Driehaus lost doesn't mean that the electorate as a whole wants people on the hard left -- it's because Pelosi's district is in San Francisco while Driehaus's was in Cincinnati.

What both rightists and leftists should keep in mind after elections like this one and 2008 as well is that elections in the US are decided by a swing bloc which might charitably be described as pragmatic/a-political (or uncharitably as generally ignorant of political ideology and policy.) In 2008, that bloc looked at the landscape and said to itself, "Things aren't going so well, and Obama seems like he has exciting new ideas." This year, those same people looked around and said, "I keep hearing about 'stimulus' and debt and the health care bill, but all I can see right now is that a lot of people are out of work and insurance costs are going up. Let's throw the bums out."

Obama bet big that either he would have the magical ability to fix the economy, or it would fix itself, within two years. He lost that one. Now Republicans are betting that things will either look better in two years, or it will be possible to pin remaining problems on Obama. Only time will tell.

As someone who does have a formed political and economic philosophy, it's frustrating to me that elections are decided the way they are, though probably less so than for progressives since gridlock is not all that bad a thing according to my philosophy, while theirs require that the helping hand of statism shepherd us firmly and rapidly into the brave new world that is ahead.


Anonymous said...

The Hibbs model predicted that Dems would lose 45 seats in the House this time around. The Hibbs model, as I'm sure you know, looks only at two factors: 1) results of the previous election; and 2) the economy.

Before dismissing such a simple model, keep in mind that the Hibbs model has been highly reliable for 60 years. It has never been off by more than 15 seats, and has usually been within five.

Since Hibbs predicted a 45 seat swing, and we actually had a 60 seat swing, this means we can blame our President for, at most, the loss of 15 seats in the House. At most.


Darwin said...

I'm not precisely blaming our president -- in fact I think the basic diagnosis I made here is pretty much in keeping with the Hibbs model. Given a two party system, and that the Dems had total control over the last two years, combined with the economy not improving, the swing portion of the electorate supported the other party.

Two things I'd note, however:

- It only makes sense to say that the president is only responsible for the number of seat swaps +/- the Hibbs prediction if one assumes that the president has no effect at all on the economy. I tend to think he has fairly little (though not none) but it's perhaps significant that Obama attempted to pin the state of the economy in 2008 on Bush, and claimed that he could fix it, regardless of whether or not he actually believed this to be true or not.

- Given that the GOP has already picked up 60 and there are still 11 seats waiting to come in, it seems likely that this year will set a new record in deviation from the Hibbs model.

Amber said...

In regards to your last question, that seems to be what just happened in CA... not only did the Dems win a clean sweep of all the major state offices, they also won a ballot proposition to require only a simple majority to pass the budget, which is a nice election day present to the already Dem majority legislature.

There's not much standing in the way of the Dems doing what they will - so long as they can decide what exactly it is they want to do and they don't get caught up making the perfect the enemy of the good. I don't think they'll be able to do either of these things, so I'm not too perturbed at the state of affairs. But there certainly is the potential for things to get more *ahem* interesting in this crazy state...