Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election Results Analysis

FLG finds the rush to form the narrative around how to interpret the election results yesterday hilarious. Conservatives are trying to draw a direct line from the NJ and VA races to Obama. The Left is focusing on the NY race and throwing out any possible logic for why the results don't mean anything that should hold back the progressive agenda until something sticks.

The Left does have a point about being an incumbent in times of economic trouble and there being particular candidates in each contest. But they're overstating these. Furthermore, focusing on the win in NY-23 is stupid for two reasons. First, it has almost no impact on national policy and is far less important than losing two governorships. Second, if you take the vote for the Republican and Conservative in that race and add them, then the Democrat loses. I realize this is a hypothetical and that there is an internecine debate on the Right. But I'd be a bit concerned if I were the Democrats that the Republicans will heal those wounds. More people voted for somebody other than the Democrat.

I always think these things are to be expected. So, I wouldn't read too much into this as a conservative either. It's a see-saw where each party gets elected, and the almost inevitably misreads its mandate. This alienates the moderate voters, who then elects a majority from the other party. It's pretty natural.

Interesting story about this theory, and I'm obviously not the only one who has thought of it by any means, is that I was in a congressional politics class and brought it up to the professor. The discussion went something like this:
Prof: Didn't happen in 2002. So, your theory isn't very useful.

Me: Are you serious?

Prof: Of course I'm serious, what good is a theory if it can't predict results?

Me: You really expect a theory of politics as simple as "Americans prefer divided government" to explain the results of every election without fail as if there are no other factors at work?

Prof: Yes, otherwise it's not worthwhile.

Me: Can't it be more like there's a normal range with some standard deviation that the results fall into? Other mitigating factors, like wars or depressions or what have you enter into the picture, but generally speaking Americans strongly prefer divided government.

Prof: A theory without explanatory or predictive power isn't very useful.

Me: Are you seriously saying that a theory without perfect explanatory power is useless?

Prof: We do endeavor to be political scientists.

Me: There's a Cervantes novel you ought to read.

Prof: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.

Me: Nothing, just contemplating your statement.

Anyway, getting back to the issue at hand -- yesterday's elections -- Democrats ought to be a bit chastened and consider this a warning for 2010. Republicans need to realize that these weren't pro-hard line conservative votes either and that they'd better get their own house in order before then too.


George Pal said...

In keeping with his signal life long achievement of having never achieved anything and having been handed everything, including a presidency and a Nobel, it is unfair to expect Obama’s coattails to deliver what Obama, for the life of him, could not.

BTW, Obama’s singular achievement of not having achieved anything is a public expression of ‘benefit of the doubt’. Personally, I doubt he has achieved even this much. His rise to power, such as it is, and as inexplicable as it is, might best be explained by noting the scent of sulfur and the hallmark of a Faustian bargain.

BTW II, I haven’t seen it suggested anywhere else but I’m convinced Obama traded the Olympics for the Nobel – even-steven.

arethusa said...

Sounds like FLG is a lot of fun to have in class! ;-)

Withywindle said...

The analysis at the National Review Online is pretty similar.

FLG said...

"his signal life long achievement of having never achieved anything and having been handed everything"

That made me laugh.


I'm not really that bad. Well, I don't think I'm that bad. You'd have to ask GEC if I am. But I do so hate the pretension and indeed the bias of political science toward science. It's the study of politics. The empirical part, while useful in some circumstances, really distorts the entire discipline for the worse.


Even K-LO?

Anonymous said...

How about, 'when Dems are in power, voters notice how much they hate the Dems, when Reeps are in power, voters notice how much they hate the Reeps'?

As Hitler said, 'Who now remembers Duke Cunningham?'


The Ancient said...

1) All politics is local except when it isn't.

2) The phrase "political science" is aspirational not vocational. (Like "home economics.")

3) The Corner people have their knickers in a twist because they can never quite figure out what independent suburban voters will do. (It's a cat/dog thing.)

4) The default assumption in the media is that Obama is a bright guy, an analytical guy, a knowledgeable guy. But there is literally no evidence of any of that. (I admit that I have high standards, but still. Why cut him slack because he is half-Kenyan with a charming smile? Because we are all so ridden with guilt? I think not.)

Obama has never, ever sounded smart and analytical in public on an extemporaneous basis. He cannot speak coherently without a TelePrompTer. (And this is increasingly obvious.) More important, he gives no evidence that he has a reservoir of knowledge to call upon as he thinks through or weighs options. (Meanwhile, he endlessly rehearses the sound bites that David Axelrod writes for him.)

I think there are tens of millions of people who are deeply invested in the idea that Obama is someone other than what he now appears to be. Most of them couldn't be persuaded that up is down, even when it is.

The problem with an empty suit is that he will sign on for anything at all -- if it helps him.

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