Monday, August 20, 2018

But What About the Senate?

Yesterday I covered the quite favorable outlook for a Democratic takeover of the House, according to various models. (See Jonathan Bernstein on Bloomberg for a similar take.) But what about the Senate? Here the situation is radically different, as forcefully argued by David Wasserman today in the New York Times.
"The proper way to view the 2018 midterms might not be as one event, but as two very different elections playing out at once. It’s almost Mars vs. Venus: The Senate hinges on red, rural states where Democrats are on defense. But the House will be decided by swing, suburban seats where Republicans are highly vulnerable....
This fall, Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats, with Bernie Sanders and Angus King (more than half of their caucus), including five seats that voted for President Trump by 19 points or more. Republicans are defending only nine seats (fewer than a fifth of their caucus); all but one are states Mr. Trump carried....
These are two truly different universes: The median competitive Senate seat gave Mr. Trump 56 percent in 2016, has a population density of 88 people per square mile and falls below the national average in educational attainment and income. But the median competitive House district gave Mr. Trump 49 percent of the vote, has a population density of 375 people per square mile and ranks above the national average in college graduates and income."
Care for a probability estimate? Senate models are a bit thin on the ground, but David Byler at the Weekly Standard has created one that's worth checking out. His verdict: Dems have about a 28 percent chance of taking over the Senate. Sounds about right.
About this website
WEEKLYSTANDARD.COM
● The Republicans have a great map -- if the Democrats lose even one competitive race, it becomes very difficult for them to win the chamber.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

It's Election Forecasting Time!

Election forecasting season is heating up with the release of 538's spiffy new House forecasting model. For those who have not yet seen it, their standard model (they have two alternate versions) gives the Democrats a 3 in 4 chance (75.3 percent) of taking the House. The average Democratic gain is projected to be 35 seats. As a nice bonus you can look up the chances that Democrats will take any particular seat both through maps and lists.
While the 538 forecast is the new and shiny, there are several other credible models that get much the same results with less complicated methodologies. The Economist model, which has been running since late spring, gives the Democrats a 70 percent chance of taking the House. They project an average Democratic gain of 29 seats.
G. Elliott Morris' Crosstab site has also been running a model for quite awhile. He gives Democrats a 76 percent chance of taking the House (no specific seat gain projected).
So everybody seems to singing from the same hymnal which is reassuring. It hardly needs emphasizing that these models generate probabilities not certainties and that the improbable sometimes does happen. But the agreement among models and the fairly high probabilities assigned to Democratic takeover simply reflect the fact that almost all of the data we have right now is telling a story favorable to the Democrats.
Just how favorable the story is was emphasized in some interesting remarks by Cook Political Report's David Wasserman--as astute and careful an analyst of House elections as you can find--in an interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios:
"Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report's House analyst, says the most under-covered aspect of 2018 is that "a blue wave is obscuring a red exodus." Republican House members are retiring at a startling clip — a trend that senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told me earlier this year was worrying her more than any other trend affecting the midterms.
There are 43 Republican seats now without an incumbent on the ballot. That's more than one out of every six Republicans in the House — a record in at least a century, Wasserman says.
Just in the past eight months, the number of vulnerable Republican seats has almost doubled, according to Wasserman. Democrats need to win 23 seats to claim control of the House. Today, the Cook Political Report rates 37 Republican-held seats as toss-ups or worse. At the beginning of the year, it was only 20.
Wasserman says the most important sign that 2018 will be a "wave" year — with Democrats winning control of the House — is the intensity gap between the two parties. In polls, Democrats consistently rate their interest in voting as significantly higher than Republicans. And Democrats have voted in extraordinary numbers in the special elections held the past year, despite Republicans holding on to win almost all of these races.
"There's a bit of over-caution, perhaps, on the part of the punditocracy, after what happened in 2016," Wasserman told Axios. "But if anything most media could be under-rating Democrats' potential to gain a lot of seats. They could be caught being cautious in the wrong direction."
So it looks pretty good. But it ain't over 'til it's over.
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PROJECTS.FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM
FiveThirtyEight's predictions for the 2018 House elections

Friday, August 17, 2018

Does Trumpism = fascism?

Certainly the antifa folks would have us believe so. But a careful consideration of what fascism has historically meant and what Trumpism is today reveals that Trumpism is more usefully thought of as right populism. The fascist label confuses more than it clarifies. Indeed, it can lead the left into unproductive adventurism and a failure to look deeply at the left's own failings in the current political context.
All this is explained quite lucidly in Sheri Berman's recent essay on Vox. She concludes her article:
"Will traditional parties of the left — the Democratic Party in the US, Social Democratic and Labor parties in Europe — be able to reform their organizational infrastructures and appeals so as to be able to recapture the working- and middle-class voters they lost to the populist right? In the US, those worrying signs that a significant number of Republicans will not band together to check Trump leaves the Democratic Party as the most important watchdog or conservator of democracy. Successfully carrying out that role will require a degree of efficacy and cohesion the party has hitherto not exhibited.
In order to be able to check Trump, the Democrats will need to overcome or reconcile their internal divisions over both cultural and economic issues; only then can they hope to build the type of broad, cross-class coalition that would enable them to win elections at the national, state, and local levels and prevent Trump and his Republican enablers from playing different groups of Americans against one another, as they did so successfully in our most recent election as well as in many of the ones proceeding it.
Populism, in short, should not be blithely equated to fascism, nor does 2016 look like 1933. But in politics, as in much of the rest of life, nothing lasts forever, and for democracy to not just survive but thrive, democrats — including Democrats — will need to start doing better."
Amen.
About this website
VOX.COM
A leading expert on 1930s-era politics explains that Trump is a right-wing populist, not a fascist — and the distinction matters.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Abolishing ICE Is a Pretty Terrible Campaign Slogan

Today Paul Starr published a compelling critique of the slogan on the American Prospect website, while John Judis offered a similarly critical take on the New Republic site. Also of interest is an older op-ed by Justin Gest and Tyler Reny that was in the Los Angeles Times.
The articles have occasioned some blowback, despite acknowledgement of the indisputable fact that this is quite an unpopular policy, including especially among moderate and swing voters. As near as I can make out, those determined to defend the slogan claim one or several of the following:
* the activists promulgating this slogan are well-intentioned so we should be empathetic with their concerns.
* the slogan may alienate moderate and swing voters but there really aren't any anymore so it doesn't matter.
* since candidates running in swing districts generally are disavowing the slogan it will not hurt them.
* the Democrats are on track for a good election so this is just a bit of high spirits that won't matter for the outcome.
* the public is supportive of many Democratic policies on immigration while disliking many of Trump's. One somewhat controversial stand on immigration will not overshadow these views.
To which I say:
* well-intentioned policies can easily be toxic politically and we do have an election coming up.
* there may be fewer swing voters than in the past but there are still quite a few and they will greatly matter to the size of a blue wave in November.
* sure, Democratic candidates may disavow the slogan but (surprise!) GOP opponents will lie anyway and say those candidates support it (this is already happening).
* the Democrats are benefiting greatly in this election cycle from a national mood that sees Trump and the GOP as extreme; why would you want to give the Republicans an opportunity to tar the Democrats with the same brush?
* sure, the public supports Democrats' advocacy for the Dreamers and does not support many of Trump's draconian measures. But they still believe in border security and the median voter will make the equation abolish ICE = no enforcement against illegal immigrants = open borders. This is a good way to turn whatever advantages Democrats currently have on immigration into their opposite.
As Starr puts it in his article:
"The brutal inhumanity of Trump’s child-separation policies, turning away of refugees, and deportations of immigrants who have long been well-regarded members of their community should put Republicans this fall wholly on the defensive on immigration. Republican candidates ought to have a lot of awkward explaining to do, and Democrats ought to have opportunities to win back support. Not all conservatives and independents are hopelessly anti-immigrant; many Republicans have supported bipartisan immigration reform, and many pay heed to religious leaders who have strongly condemned the child separations and other inhumane measures Trump has adopted.
The “Abolish ICE” campaign has three distinct things wrong with it. First, it focuses attention on the bureaucracy carrying out current policies rather than the responsible political leaders and the policies themselves. It sounds a lot like right-wing campaigns to abolish the Department of Education or Department of Energy.
Second, abolishing ICE raises the question of what would replace the agency, and the fact is those demanding its abolition have no clear idea. “Abolish ICE” legislation introduced by Representative Mark Pocan, Democrat of Wisconsin, calls for a commission to study the issue for a year. That’s not much of a response to skeptical voters. Calling for a study commission is a classic political move to avoid answering tough questions.
Third, Trump and other Republicans have seized on “Abolish ICE” for obvious reasons: The slogan seems to confirm Trump’s accusations that Democrats favor “open borders” and are “weak” on border security. As a result, instead of Republicans having a lot of awkward explaining to do, Democratic candidates all over the country are now being forced to explain where they stand on ICE—always a slippery matter—and nearly all candidates in competitive races are skating away from the idea of abolishing the agency."
In other words, let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! This slogan hurts the Democrats at the margin in competitive races and it is at the margins where a lot of these races will be decided. Democrats should be focused like a laser beam on maximizing their chances of victory--and as big a victory as possible--this November. This slogan does not--and will not--help.
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PROSPECT.ORG
The “Abolish ICE” slogan hands Republicans an opportunity on an issue where they ought to be entirely on the defensive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Will the White Working Class Save Trump and the GOP in November?

Well, if they're going to do so, they'll have to do show a lot better for Team Red than they're currently doing in the polls. Two just-released polls from Quinnipiac and CNN report predictable advantages for the Democrats in the generic Congressional ballot among minority voters and white college graduates but just 13 and 10 point advantages, respectively, among white noncollege voters for the Republicans. That is far below levels of support the GOP likely needs from their base voter group to stave off the Democrats in November.
By comparison, the exit polls indicated a 30 point advantage for the Republicans among white noncollege voters in 2014 and well over 30 points in 2016 (other estimates more reliable than the exit polls also had the GOP white noncollege advantage over 30 points).
So, yes this is national data and the races are not national this year. But this is a very bad sign for the Trumpified GOP. Could the bloom be off the rose, so to speak among the white working class? Keep your eye on this one in November.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

All the Cool Kids Are Reading Ashoka Mody's EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts!

That's right. Don't miss out. As Arthur Goldhammer has noted, Mody's book is "the best single book not only on the euro crisis but on the euro project tout court". I agree! If you want to really, really understand how the Eurozone came to be and how it went awry, this is the book for you.
To further whet your appetite, here's is a snippet from Christopher Caldwell's excellent review of the book in The Weekly Standard (yes, The Weekly Standard--don't be close-minded!).
"There is a profound mystery about the euro, according to the Princeton economist Ashoka Mody. “Why,” he asks in EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts, his authoritative new history of the currency, “did Europeans attempt such a venture that carried no obvious benefits but came with huge risks?” There is an answer to this: Often what economists call risks politicians see as opportunities.
Germany has been the main actor in this story since the euro was conceived a half-century ago. Back then, the country’s neighbors, above all France, resented the strong German currency, the deutsche mark, and the devaluations into which Germany’s more productive and disciplined economy so often forced them. But Germany, too, had an interest in unifying Europe economically. The resolution of the Second World War had deprived it of many of the attributes of national sovereignty—and this gave it an interest in weakening the sovereignty of its neighbors. It’s funny: “European unity” was a project that advanced because a lot of parochial politicians hoped to pull a fast one on their rivals in other countries.
Mody parts ways with David Marsh’s 2009 book The Euro, which up till now has been the standard reference. Marsh, a British journalist who for many years covered Germany’s Bundesbank, defends the euro and the Germans. He paints the early political champions of the common currency, German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, as macroeconomic sophisticates who bequeathed a seaworthy vessel to their less money-minded successors, Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand. In particular, Schmidt was attuned to the threat of American macroeconomic irresponsibility, recalling how Lyndon Johnson’s attempts to simultaneously build out a welfare state and rescue Vietnam inflicted inflation on European economies. In Marsh’s telling, the euro was almost an act of transatlantic self-defense.
For Mody, who represented the IMF in its program to rescue the Irish financial system a decade ago, the euro was an “economic absurdity” from the start. Germany is the villain, although of a strange kind—the villain of something it had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing. Words in a German’s mouth mean different things than they do in the mouths of others. When most Europeans talk of “banking union,” they mean the Europe-wide pooling of liability in order to lower risk. When a German says “banking union,” he means having German accountants lay down the law to banks in Greece. “We as Germans do not want to pay into a big pot,” says Germany’s former finance minister Peer Steinbrück, as if it were an aesthetic matter."
Great stuff. Read the whole review. And then get the book!
About this article
WEEKLYSTANDARD.COM
Christopher Caldwell on the euro and the damage it wrought.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Social Democracy vs. Democratic Socialism

Sheri Berman had a very interesting article in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post comparing social democracy with democratic socialism. I think Berman is a little hard on today's democratic socialists, most of whom are really just left-ish social democrats, rather than true blue democratic socialists committed to replacing capitalism with a different economic system. In this sense, I think she errs in comparing today's democratic socialists with the genuinely revolutionary socialists who stayed out of the Third (Communist) International and briefly formed their own international (sometimes referred to as the "two and a half international"). The democratic socialists of today don't match up very well, either ideologically or in terms of social base, with those socialists of yesteryear.
Most democratic socialists today are really mostly concerned--here and in Europe--with pushing the left into a more confrontational attitude toward neoliberalism and toward the adoption of larger-scale reforms. That's pretty far from the revolutionary replacement of capitalism with socialism. Still, Berman does raise some important questions for those democratic socialists who are explicitly committed to replacing, rather than reforming, capitalism. .She asks:
"What does the DSA’s goal of socialism actually mean? If abolishing capitalism is its goal, as its adherents say, how are the growth, efficiency and innovation that are the prerequisites for redistribution to be achieved? And if reforms can’t create a better world (“Today’s democratic socialists don’t see positive policy reforms as something we’ll stack up until one day, voilà!, we have socialism,” as one democratic socialist wrote in Vox), then how is socialism to be achieved? Is democracy, even when flawed, a means or an end? Will democratic socialists prioritize democracy if the votes for a “socialist future” do not materialize? Will they eschew the compromises and alliances necessary to protect democracy? The unwillingness of Jean-Luc Mélenchon to support President Emanuel Macron in the French presidential elections, and the refusal by some American leftists to support Hillary Clinton, come to mind, as does the willingness of some democratic socialists to consider running outside the Democratic Party. And will democratic socialists accept the trade-offs and bridge-building necessary to win elections? Or is compromise, as [one democratic socialist] put it, antithetical to truly fighting “for the working class and marginalized”?"
Good questions all! Or, put another way, was this guy the main man or a shameless capitulator to the bourgeousie? Every generation must answer this all-important question!