« Comment Junk | Main | Winner - Worst Op-Ed of 2007 »

December 23, 2007

Comments

i'll just note (as i have in other fora) that back in 04, many pundits (and certainly most righty bloggers) were convinced that the Dem party was about to turn into dust and blow away; it had failed in every way, and was completely irrelevant to how the Republicans were going to govern from then till the end of time; either the Dems were going to have to reinvent themselves as a center-right party where they'd at least get a seat at the table, or they were going to wither away as the party of anti-American tax-and-spenders.

but all it took was a handful of fortunately-timed scandals and a diminishing war lust and, poof, the Dems are relevant again - and not only relevant, it looks like the political center itself has swung in their direction. and now the Republicans look isolated and out of touch.

but, very little of the events were purely political. most of them were human: the GOP sex scandals had nothing to do with conservatism per se; the growing anti-war feeling probably has more to do with BushCo's unique record of mismanagement, bungling and constant deception (and the congressional GOP's refusal to hold them accountable) than anything to do with a sudden love of the anti-war wing of the Dem party.

the center shifted because one party is screwing up, not because people are changing political philosophies...

IMO, of course

and yes, i agree, the Dems will lose their position of power - probably by their own doing. i'll bet it happens in the 2010 election.

It seems that after every US election we have pundits proclaiming the death of whichever party lost this time. I remember hearing it as a kid (though I'm not sure which election it was) and believing it, thinking that would be a major change in American politics. I'm surprised anyone still pays attention, but maybe it's just that we need something to talk about and no one actually believes any of it.

I'm inclined to agree with KCinDC about that - I remember hearing it about one party and then another in the late '70s and early '80s.

The real problem for the Democratic Party right now is having an identity. Its central leadership is actively hostile to the idea: they're quite comfortable being the moderate wing of the corporate/war party. There are a variety of alternative contenders out there, the very most left-wing of which would be very mildly left of center anywhere else in the industrialized world. I have some personal preferences in the mix, of course, but the main thing that concerns me is how long the Democratic Party can drift as an anti-party, playing perpetual second fiddle and letting initiative rest with the Republicans. History suggests that a party can remain present but irrelevant that way for a long time, but it is vulnerable to challenge. And the more comprehensively boneheaded the leadership's obstinate refusal to listen to criticism, the wider the opening for a genuinely chaotic struggle and the triumph of extremists and cranks.

I worry about situations where large chunks of the population feel disenfranchised, as is now the case with regard to Iraq and good-government issues including investigation and impeachment. The older I get, the more I value peaceful change. I really prefer when authorities not feed the beast of widespread unrest. The Democratic leadership's hostility to everything that might conceivably rock their boat therefore worries me.

"It seems that after every US election we have pundits proclaiming the death of whichever party lost this time. I remember hearing it as a kid (though I'm not sure which election it was)"

It's not every election, but it's not infrequent.

I'd point to 1936, 1940, 1964, and 1974, as times when the coming death of the Republican Party was unwisely predicted.

1984 wasn't a happy year for the Democrats; death wasn't predicted, but longterm submission was. 1988 was worse. 1994 was far worse, and 1996, 2000, and 2004 weren't very cheerful elections for Democrats, save for hither and yon.

But there are contrasting years of relative competition, at least.

The main problem is, as so often, gerrymandered districting which has made Congress literally partly hereditary (!) and overall so uncompetitive that only a few dozen districts are in play in any election, despite there being 435 districts.

When we've gone from this:

[...] Between 1940 and 1970 congressional turnover continued to decline, although the change was slight compared to what had already occurred. During this period turnover declined from about one-fourth of the members of the House to about one-sixth, even slipping below 10 percent in the election of 1968. (In 1974, turnover was comparatively high, 21 percent, but this figure was lower than that recorded in nine of ten elections recorded between 1930 and 1950. And in 1974, turnover dropped back to about 15 percent.)
To:
[...] In November of 2004, 401 of the 435 sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives sought reelection. Of those 401, all but five were reelected. In other words, incumbents seeking reelection to the House had a better than 99% success rate. In the U.S. Senate, only one incumbent seeking reelection was defeated. Twenty-five of twenty-six (96%) were reelected.
Among the lesser effects of this kind of immobility in political change in the national legislature is that it masks to a great degree how the opinions of the electorate of any given district, as well as the aggregate, change from month to month, and even from one election cycle to the next, since it takes the equivalent of political fuel air bombs to get an incumbent out of our Congress.

Due to the combination of gerrymandering and the overwhelming domination of money in electing people (which, of course, forces constant fund-raising at maximum rates, which forces the system -- by which we mean "the government" -- if not any given individual, to be corrupt and responsive to money over people by a couple of orders of magnitude.

Actual opinions of the electorate are, overall, considerably more malleable and fluid. Congress, which has become endlessly more brittle, no longer represents that save in quite extreme and limited fashion.

You expressed dislike for the Republican party's move towards social conservatism over the past twenty years. You add that it would be a good thing if the Republican party's loss of power reduces Evangelicals' influence.

Implicit in that statement is the belief that reason the Republicans lost power is because of Evangelicals, that Republicans acknowledge that, and consequently the Republican party will disassociate themselves from the evangelicals in order to win elections. I define this as the Jesus Freak narrative.

While I fundamentally disagree with evangelicals on most social issues, as a factual matter this is completely erroneous. The evangelicals didn't cost the Republicans power, the neo-conservatives did. And structurally speaking, its the money-cons who are electoral losers.

There's a reason fiscal conservatives latched unto the social conservatives. The social cons had electoral appeal to a passionate base that they could use to win elections with.

Far more likely, if the Republicans are smart about it, is that they jettison the neo-cons and the money-cons, embrace the isolationists and the socials cons and inject some populist economic message.

I am a cynic and a pessimist. If (a very big if) the Dems actually try to do their job after a win in both congressional and presidential elections (against massive rigging attempts and non-conceding because of "Dem fraud" by the GOP that I firmly believe is in the cards), they will have to hurt many people because there is no pain-free way out of the mess created mainly by GOP'n'Bush (and their own cowardice). Given the "liberal media" and the intellectual laziness of far too large a section of voters, they can be happy, if they manage to do the most necessary repairs before the power is taken from them again.
The only hope is from my point of view a permanent split between the "religious nuts" (as Rove called them iirc) and the Norquisteros (a living disproof of -273°C being the lower limit according to credible witnesses). The way Huckabee is treated by the "mainstream" voices of the right is a hopeful sign in that direction.
Under the current system a "new left" would do what Nader did, guaranteeing GOP victories by splitting the moderate vote enough.
Unfortunately the chances are very low that a victorious Dem pres candidate will do the right thing and get the heads of Bush and accomplices (in a way that they will not be out of trouble again within a few years).

Gary Farber writes:
I'd point to ... 1974, as [a time] when the coming death of the Republican Party was unwisely predicted.

For that matter, I remember a Daniel Bell essay, from the late '60s or early '70s, describing a scenario in which a Republican / American Independent merger led, in 1976, to a landslide leaving the Democratic Party "dead for a generation".

Of course, Bell did point out that this was only a scenario, and other essays in the book included clearly preposterous sequences of events, but this points to how swiftly the picture can change.

Gary, excellent point about ossification. A more representative Congress would be a less friendly home for careers built on doing the same thing for 20 or 30 or 40 years, more likely to shift, drift, and favor relatively short-term programs. This might be a good thing overall (at the moment I'm thinking so, as long as a better social infrastructure than we have is in place), but it'd certainly be different.

"Far more likely, if the Republicans are smart about it, is that they jettison the neo-cons and the money-cons, embrace the isolationists and the socials cons and inject some populist economic message."

I think you want William Jennings Bryan, not the Republican Party.

G'Kar, you can put the Perot-spoiler myth to bed. Bush would have needed over 2/3 of Perot votes to win the election - exit polls had him getting about half. The only state that might have swung to Bush was Ohio, had there been no Perot in 1992. In 1996, it was even less of an issue - Clinton would have needed 2% of Perot voters in PA to win the election.

on a random note, g'kar why do you keepaasumong no one wants to read your posts? Happen to like them and think that most people will too. I read via rss but no need to hide them below the fold.

Bruce, I've always opposed term limits for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, respect for politics as a profession, respect for the freedom and judgment of the voters, observing that if politicians are forced to be, by time, of limited expertise, that power simply devolves onto long-term staff, and so on.

But if something else isn't done to blow up gerrymandering and the dominant power of money in politics, term limits is starting to look to me like as perhaps a less bad alternative to what we have. No kind of cure, but perhaps a slight ameliorative (though maybe not even that).

I'd strongly prefer a radical national restructuring of redistricting, though, focused on the principle of maximizing competitive districts.

I still don't really know a solution to the problem of money in politics. Money is power, and both are fungible, and I'm pessimistic as to how their dominance over the views and votes of the average citizenry can be sufficiently limited.

That's my primary pessimism about our system, as it seems to me that all other political problems pretty much flow from those two problems.

And I don't actually favor communist revolution as an improvement.

Agreed on all that, too, Gary. I really prefer not to crimp speech at all, but at this point I think of it as almost a zoning problem: even though one building with feature X is almost never a problem, if it becomes the norm there are massive problems, and the only number of such buildings that can be tolerated fairly is therefore zero. Likewise with disallowing new construction when they can't show how traffic or water issues will be handled; acknowledging limits sometimes has to happen.

Gary:

Believe the Perot's influence was larger than the votes show - Perot's populist appeal altered the narrative of the election.

Personal view is that Clinton would have won anyway given the jobless recovery and good campaign that Clinton's crew ran, but Perot's entrance definitely did assist Clinton's '92 campaign.

'96 Perot's presence made little difference.

IIRC, the idea behind Perot's influence upon the '92 election was that he was basically running against Bush (i.e., attacking the current state of affairs). Bush was thus presented with two opponents to deal with.

"Gary:

Believe the Perot's influence was larger than the votes show"

Believe you want either Justin or G'Kar, since I've not said a word about Perot.

Sebastian, if you can do something with Typepad, can you please get them to stop telling me my e-mail address is invalid because I'm a spammer? And forcing me to delete cookies endlessly, and repost 14 times for each successful post?

Thanks.

Damnit, there it is again: "Invalid email address '[email protected] '"

"but it's not impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Republican Party declines into irrelevance while the Democrats either split or are confronted with a new electoral foe like the Greens."

It's not impossible to imagine it, but speaking as somebody who spent most of their political life in a third party, it's essentially impossible for that scenario to actually happen. The two major parties have spent the last couple of decades legally entrenching themselves against third party challenges. For instance, take the way Perot jumpstarted the Reform party with his own money... A campaign finance violation now!

More likely, given that Democrats are already used to using the law to achieve partisan entrenchment in combination with Republicans, and the way Democrats increasingly refuse to accept Republican victories as legitimate, is that the Democratic party would exploit legislative dominance to further entrench itself, creating a de facto one party state.

Aslong as there are people who view politics primarily as a way to assuage their fears or pander to their selfishness, there will always be a Republican party.

The biggest difference between the two parties is that the Democrats thinkthat the governmenthas a responisblity to, well, govern: to deal with, in a pragmatic manner, the legitimate concerns of the citizenry. The Republicans don't give a hoot about the legitimate concerns of the citizenry. They either believe as a matter of ideoplgy thhat the government should only do a few narrow functions or they believe as a matter of personal egocentrism that the government should address their issues, and only their issues (and tax someone else to pay for it).

So, since the increasing pressure of many, many legitimate concerns in the citizenry, is making ideology look dumber and dumber, I think the Demos will be in control for quite awhile.

For example: awful weather causing all kinndof economic havoc. In the near future people are going to figure out that global climate change is a much bigger problem than those scarey terrorists. All the Republicans have had to offer for the last hundred years is fearmongering and obstructionism. People are going to look to the Deomcrats to do whatDeomcrats have traditionally done: address real problems.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Brett, i think you forgot something:

    and the way Democrats increasingly refuse to accept Republican victories as legitimate, is that the Democratic party would exploit legislative dominance to further entrench itself, creating a de facto one party state.[1]

    --

    [1] J. Goldberg, Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2007) p 106)

there, fixed.

With respect, I think that the discussion is missing the bigger point. Of course the ‘populist’ party, whatever it’s called, will gain a permanent majority. Right now the majority of the electorate gets money from the government and only a sliver really pays into it. Pure democracies cannot exist over the long term because the population will learn to vote itself money, and eventually bankrupt the government.

In 2007, we spend ~$170 million per day in Iraq but incur ~$10 billion (B) per day in unfunded promises to the dependent electorate. It is unsustainable and unprecedented in American history. The people will not get the money they think is coming to them. They will be angry.

The populist party will, from here on out, maintain a majority until our government goes bankrupt and is replaced by something much meaner. It’s the democracy dance, and this is the part of the cycle where the greed of the elites is in charge, empowering itself through the distracted and dependent masses.

I’m rooting for a 1789-style Representative Republic, when the smoke clears.

Right now the majority of the electorate gets money from the government and only a sliver really pays into it.

Who are the majority of the electorate who don't pay tax? Everybody pays sales tax, right? Anyone in a job pays payroll tax. Etc. That seems to cover a majority of the electorate all by itself.

Cleek, I don't footnote books I've never read, and while Goldberg is entertaining, especially when he's going on about his dog, I don't think he's an authority on anything except maybe couches.

The major parties have written laws to entrench themselves against potential third party challenges. They've written laws to entrench incumbents against challengers. Really, I think the only reason one of them hasn't done this against the other is that neither has had, since this sort of thing really got it's start, the kind of dominance necessary to do it to the other. I don't think either major party is above doing it, it's just the Democrats are likely to get the first chance, and with this sort of thing, there isn't any second chance.

We're in the end game of democracy in this country. It's not a system which has a track record of lasting forever, you know.

Jesurgislac, remember that the right counts in an, um, 'interesting' fashion. Sales taxes and property taxes are counted when declaring 'tax freedom' day, but not when complaining about the burden which the rich groans under.

I guess that supply-side economics has its own accounting, also.

There is a very real structural alignment underway that favors the Democrats. Much of recent Republican success was built upon switching the allegiance of the South from the Democrats to them. That worked for quite a while. Now, though, the parts of the country that don't agree with the South are moving over to the Democrats. John Sununu is going to lose big in New Hampshire next year, and it won't be long before the Northeast is every bit as blue as the South is red, if not more.

It simply isn't possible to build a coalition that can succeed in both places.

True Jesurgislac;

I had intended to refer to federal income taxes, where 10% of taxpayers (a subset of voters) pay 70% of the tab and the bottom 50% pay essentially nothing (3%). Another major stream is mineral rights, which is from business. I can’t find a breakdown of capital gains taxes but I bet they are skewed even more progressively than income taxes.

Establishment money pays 15%, overseas money pays nothing, and successful working stiffs pay better than half (35% income, 13% social security to $100k for now, 3.65% medical, 8% State, add local, gas, etc., etc.).

Waitresses get screwed too because they won’t see the social security benefits that they are paying 17% of their income for. But they will still vote for someone offering ‘free health care’ and ‘free education’, not realizing the temporary nature of our current system.

The 2007 system has those paying no tax or 15% tax (maybe 0.3% of the electorate), using those who pay 17% tax (maybe 60% of the electorate), against those paying 50-60% tax (maybe 5% of the electorate). The system is inherently unstable.

The Founding Fathers’ system was sustainable. It tapped the top 12% of Citizens to be the electorate, creating a wide enough voter base to prevent widespread corruption, while ensuring that a man had to have his own financial house in order before he could speak on behalf of the State.

http://www.ntu.org/main/page.php?PageID=6

Nice post, G'Kar. Those interested in the question of what dominance actually represents might want to look at the literature on the Japanese LDP, (Google LDP+ dominance) I especially like Ethan Scheiner's book Democracy Without Competition in Japan: Opposition Failure in a One-Party Dominant State, and I think that what is applicable for the US is that the rise of the Republican party created any number of "quality candidates" (for the Japanese system, quality is defined as experience) which permitted Dem dominance to be overturned, which did not take place in Japan. To extend that thesis, the reason that Repub dominance is being challenged is that the potential candidate base is drying up. The question to my mind is whether the netroots phenomenon will create a continuing pool of potential candidates who will ideally force the Dems to redefine themselves or will it force the creation of a third party.

I have long argued that Democrats can build a governing majority by moving to the center on social issues and embracing economic populism. The Democratic Party needs to focus on being the party of the middle class. A significant share of electorate is not left or right but rather economic populist-social moderate to conservative. If a party can win over these populist voters, they can become the dominant force in politics for a generation.

Brett, I don't think you're getting cleek's point. He's saying that you sound like you're quoting from DP's book, i.e. you sound like a [incivility deleted].

Speaking of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello, I notice that the top 4 keywords for the book at Amazon are currently:

propaganda (51)
editor promised cake (38)
wingnut welfare (35)
doughy pantload (23)

"Those interested in the question of what dominance actually represents might want to look at the literature on the Japanese LDP, (Google LDP+ dominance)"

One might also read any number of good sources -- Tim Weiner's very recent "Legacy of Ashes" is one such -- on the major CIA hand in founding, funding, and maintaining the LDP for decades. It was a CIA creation. Naturally, it involved major use of major Japanese war criminals, and rehabilitating them, such as eventual Prime Minister Kishi.

There's nothing like a good pay-off, except for thousands and thousands of such pay-offs, for decades, by a foreign power, to help achieve political dominance, or at least huge influence. It doesn't even take conquest first; see, say, Brazil in the early Sixties.

This is an often discussed and argued about aspect of Japanese politics, (google "Reverse Course" + Japan), but I'm not sure if I would go as far as to say that had the CIA not intervened, we would have a much less dominant LDP (and it is not really certain if, having imagined a less involved CIA, we would have a more heavy handed intervention later if and when a government with a more leftist center came to power).

I'd also point people to Bill Totten's summary of Weiner's book on the Kishi-CIA relationship here
as well as the comment, which quotes a review pointing to some underlying flaws in Weiner's account (which would have probably made the book more powerful rather than less)

A quote that I think would be equally applicable to the crafted Republican majority from the above link is

Kishi told the Americans that his strategy was to wreck the ruling Liberal Party, rename it, rebuild it, and run it.

I think that if we could find a name to agree upon, we could change Liberal to Republican.

I'd also go as far as to say that the vast majority of Japanese have no inkling of these notions, so in terms of post LDP dominance, at least in terms of the post Kishi era and certainly in terms of the post Lockheed scandal, the explanatory force of the CIA intervention fades. One *could* argue that the CIA created a strong foundation in Japan that they were unable to so in any of the other places where they intervened (but the problem of relying on ethnocentric explanation of Japanese differences may loom up) which then created the situation we have, but I'm not sure I would go that far.

These things have a tendency to run in 20 year cycles. The marker in each case is a complete disenchantment with the narrative promulgated by the party in question among elites. Usually in the recent past we could count on even conservatives who had better sense to pay homage to all the "social values" and "government is the problem" narratives that have been the stock (along with racist codes, of course) of the Republicans since George Wallace showed them how to make it work. We got a continuous stream from all and sundry since the yokels (and, make no mistake, that's how they look at it at the country clubs) would swallow it. True, you got the occasional burp (Mr. Bill) and it took awhile for Congress to come around (no disaster = slow turnover), but did anyone, even 4 years ago, think the ideas were finally stale?

Ah, how the times change! The yokels are in revolt; the plurality of them has rebelled and the True Believers are in denial. The chatterers are, as usual, bewildered because the narrative they used for years and that brought them into the limelight is losing its bite. The elites are floundering, unable to take the old ideas seriously anymore and incapable of coming up with new ones. The signs are obvious: the Democrats are running on programs of incremental change that boil down to, "You've probably noticed I'm not a Republican!" and look like a cinch to win by just saying that. No wonder the Pubs are in such a dudgeon; they can't run on issues because the electorate is TIRED OF THEM.

Why? It's a triple whammy: a war that is prolonged for no sensible strategic reason and that seems to be calculated solely to kill more young Americans and Iraqis, demonstrations - Katrina - of governmental incompetence that make Jimmy Carter look like a paragon of administrative efficiency, and shameful assaults on national honor - torture and attendant outrages at home. How can anyone support this and show his/her face in public in usual circumstances? I hang with a lot of conservatives - REAL conservatives, the elite types - and they won't even discuss the war or the administration anymore. They're hoping that the damage won't last. That is the extent of their hopes.

They're wrong. This will, I think, be one of those elections that signals a long term shift in American political allegiances. The main indicator = the overwhelming shift in political identification towards Democrats among young people. It has happened before and it almost invariably has long term effects.

I wasn't trying to lend support to a CIA-masterminds-all-events narrative, LJ, whether in Japan or anywhere else. The thrust of Weiner's book -- which I think is a bit one-sided, actually -- is that the CIA's rep is vastly over-rated, and I more or less agree, though as usual I'm more comfortable discussing specifics.

But generally speaking, the CIA's political influence has always been, at best, highly rough, and tended to consist of working with people who tend towards both brutal incompetency (less of the "brutal" in Japan than most places) without taking direction well. That the CIA has lent a lot of support to many folk doesn't mean that said folk become complete puppets, and it doesn't mean that the CIA was ever pulling all the strings anywhere, at least for very long.

So I'm certainly not trying to suggest any sort of over-emphasis of CIA influence.

Nonetheless, for all that the CIA has never been some sort of master center for pulling off tons of successful coups and influence jobs, the number of attempts over the decades has been huge around the world, and the degree of influence large, if limited, fragmentary, erratic, and variable. More people should know about the sober facts, and not be put off by the extremist hysterical versions; the facts are bad enough without either exaggerating them, or dismissing them because lots of exaggerations are also out there.

"I'd also point people to Bill Totten's summary of Weiner's book on the Kishi-CIA relationship here"

It's not a "summary"; it's simply the whole chapter, with footnotes. For a moment I was wondering why you were pointing me at it, as I've read it, but then I realized you'd pointed "people" to it, which makes sense.

But: "as well as the comment, which quotes a review pointing to some underlying flaws in Weiner's account (which would have probably made the book more powerful rather than less)"

Eh. As I indicated, while I think the Weiner -- which I'm not quite done with, but close -- is good, it's less good than I'd hoped. It's a lot less thorough and detailed than it could have been from plenty of material already in the public record, and it's very one note in hammering almost purely at CIA's failures. So suggesting that the book isn't hard enough on the CIA seems quite silly to me. I don't disagree with Weiner's points, but that quote from "William Blums" strikes me as a pretty darn wrongheaded view of the book, I'm afraid. Have you read Weiner's whole book, or just that blog excerpt?

Tracy; your heart is in the right place but your ideal fails the reality check. ‘Globalization’ boils down to the American dream yielding to world reality. The reality of the world in 2007 boils down to return on investment for a small group of people. You should get a chance to see women being turned away from $1/hr agricultural jobs. It doesn’t jolt you too much until you see where they live.

Can someone explain to me why the Democratic congress:

(1) Voted to sustain the 15% tax rate for hedge fund managers;
(2) voted to grant government subsidies to farmers making millions per year;
(3) voted to maintain a steady stream of imported waitresses and factory workers to suppress working class wages; and
(4) voted to keep the taxpayer’s money flowing to big contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And God knows what else. They are selling emotion, there are lots of buyers, and they get lots of money. The Central American business model is far more efficient that the North American alternative and things always boil down to cash. Modern-day slavery is coming, like it or not. Just don’t believe the lies that we are being fed. Please.

Personally, I won’t bet against the North American male.

I think it will boil down to which party produces an inspiring leader.

The Republican Presidential candidates are laughable...but so are the Congressional Dems.

Harry and Nancy need to step down.

Gary,
I've unfortunately only read the stuff about Japan that has gotten filtered thru both the Japanese media here and Japan watchers in general. As such, I didn't realize that Totten had just lifted Weiner's chapter, I thought it was just his notes on the chapter. I also pass on Chalmers Johnson's glowing review of the book to any interested.

Setting aside the copyright busting nature of Totten's post, I'm all for more people realizing the sorts of things that the CIA has done, and how unsuccessful they have been at doing it (though Japan might be counted as a success story, I suppose) but given the fact that Henry Kissinger just got an honorary doctorate at Waseda, I see a particular obliviousness on the part of the Japanese.

As for Blum's comment (I hesitated to link to it because of the fickleness of the spam filter), absent reading the book, I think there is some truth to the final part of the quoted comment, which is

Whatever jaundiced eye Weiner focuses on the CIA, he still implicitly accepts the two basic beliefs of the Cold
War: 1)There existed out there something called The International Communist Conspiracy, fueled by implacable Soviet expansionism; 2)United States foreign policy meant well. It may have frequently been bumbling and ineffective, but its intentions were noble. And still are.

Of course, I'd be interested if that impression was the wrong one to take away from the book, so your thoughts are welcome, though it is a bit far from the topic of the post, so I'd hope people blame me rather than you for an drift

Gary Farber -- do you think the decline in political turnover could be the result of modern polling? It seems like I frequently see incumbents stepping down, not running for re-election because the polls tell them they're sure to lose. The ones who do run get re-elected, but there's still turnover. Kind of the same process that led to the demise of the brokered convention, even though there's no gerrymandering in the primaries.

Demographics alone will ensure that the Republican party will cease to being relevant to the political process. As the U.S. becomes more black and Hispanics, the Republicans will soon be unable to win most elections. If you look at the 2008 election, over 100 Democratic Congressmen are running unoppose and the Democratic nominee knows that they will win ever state that Kerry won without spending a dime.

The Republican Party has stopped being a national party (look at New England) and will soon stop being a relevant political organization.

The real question is what will the U.S. be like as a one party state just like most of those deeply blue urban areas.

The real question is what will the U.S. be like as a one party state just like most of those deeply (red) (rural) areas.

Changes made to induce thought only.

The Republican Party has stopped being a national party (look at New England) and will soon stop being a relevant political organization.

So the overcompensating SuperDestroyer is back warning us all about the dire situation caused by less than white people.

Look at New England. M. Jodi Rell in CT, Donald L. Carcieri in Rhode Island, Jim Douglas in Vermont.

It doesn't appear to me that Republicans are an endangered species in New England.

But hey, it's all about the brown people for SuperD!

The real question is what will the U.S. be like as a one party state just like most of those deeply blue urban areas.

Yeah, we might get a government that actually helps out people that need help, not those at the top of the heap, and one that actually knows how to win wars. Like the government we had in the 30s and 40s, the last time the Republican Party imploded. What a disaster that would be!

Gary Farber,

You wrote: "I'd strongly prefer a radical national restructuring of redistricting, though, focused on the principle of maximizing competitive districts."

What's your opinion on proportional representation?

To propose something specific, what's your opinion on PR by state for the House of Representatives? E.g. California would choose its 53 representatives by single transferable vote, Texas its 32, etc.

"Like the government we had in the 30s and 40s, the last time the Republican Party imploded."

So what was 1964? A small bump in the road?

"Gary Farber -- do you think the decline in political turnover could be the result of modern polling?"

No. Politicians were no less canny before polls, and little less aware, as a rule, of losses of groups of political supporters. Any such effect would be minor and marginal, I should think.

It's no mystery what the reasons for turnover decline are: they stare us in the face. #1, #2, and #3 are the money, the money, the money. #4 is the incumbent being able to use the power of government, which also is what gets #1, #2, and #3.

LJ:

1)There existed out there something called The International Communist Conspiracy, fueled by implacable Soviet expansionism; 2)United States foreign policy meant well. It may have frequently been bumbling and ineffective, but its intentions were noble. And still are.

Of course, I'd be interested if that impression was the wrong one to take away from the book, so your thoughts are welcome, though it is a bit far from the topic of the post, so I'd hope people blame me rather than you for an drift

I still have to finish the last quarter of the book, so I'd be a lot more comfortable answering then.

However: yeah, there was a "communist conspiracy." Of course, Weiner's view is the opposite of that it was "fueled by implacable Soviet expansionism." Among his theses is that the Soviet's weren't particularly expansionist at all, and almost every American view that they were was completely wrong. It's a point of the book. So that's total garbage. Which was my point.

"United States foreign policy meant well."

It did mean well, to some degree, and in other ways it didn't at all. Trying to analyze a subject this complex in a sentence that's at a first grade level just doesn't work and isn't helpful.

But I'd say that deriving that notion from Weiner is, again, kinda lunatic, it's so off-base.

"Of course, I'd be interested if that impression was the wrong one to take away from the book, so your thoughts are welcome"

So although I may modify my view after finishing the last quarter of the book, yeah, my opinion is that that impression is the wrong one to take away, to the point of kooksville.

"What's your opinion on proportional representation?"

Incredibly skeptical. It's historically tended to make polities highly unstable, fragmented, and prone to extremism. See Italy and Israel for just two prominent examples.

Maybe there are ways to avoid those proven effects, but I'd like to see them in practice and be sure they can be duplicated, before wanting to adopt such a system myself.

"To propose something specific, what's your opinion on PR by state for the House of Representatives? E.g. California would choose its 53 representatives by single transferable vote, Texas its 32, etc."

I'm pretty conservative about making radical structural changes in the nature of government, it turns out. The Law Of Unintended Consequences is a powerful and underestimated bane.

Do I need to expand on why proportional representation so frequently leads to instability and highly increasing the power of extremist minorities? It's true that not having a parliamentary government would keep the government itself from collapsing so frequently, and would make for somewhat more stability, but the effect would still be present in Congress.

Simply put, proportional voting puts many more extremists who appeal to a small, but highly opinionated, segment of the population, into office. Once there, since the government now consists of many small parties, to construct a working majority, one has to include many of these these small extremist parties in the government, and adopt some of their extremist policies.

That's bad.

Then, since the government, or Congressional majority, relies on a bunch of tiny squabbling extremist parties, it has to either: a) keep giving into extremist parties supported only by the tiny minorities who elected these extremist parties, or: b) witness said parties constantly pulling out of the governing coalition, causing its frequent collapse, and frequent instability in the government/majority, as well.

Again: bad. We see in Italy and Israel decade after decade after decade of these immensely destructive effects of proportional representation.

I wouldn't want such a system, no. Talk to me about proportional representation that can somehow avoid those effects, and I might become more open-minded and interested.

Thanks, Gary, you've whetted my appetite to read more of the whole book, the first chapter is here

Gary: Talk to me about proportional representation that can somehow avoid those effects

Italy and Israel are unfairly bad examples; in both countries, the threshold for representation was set unusually low. In Germany, the threshold is 5%, IIRC; they've typically had between three and six parties represented, and the system has worked fairly well. Most PR countries, as I understand it, set the threshold at about that level. Crises are still possible at that level - cf. Belgium's recent troubles - but they aren't that common.

"It's historically tended to make polities highly unstable, fragmented, and prone to extremism. See Italy and Israel for just two prominent examples."

PR just makes polities more democratic, and such is the nature of democracy. Our great strength as a nation has been that we were a constitutional republic with democratically elected representatives exercising strictly limited powers. It's quite understandable, of course, that the political class wouldn't be very enthusiastic about recognizing the importance of limiting the power of the political class.

Given a restoration of those limits, I'd like to see a form of PR based on representatives exercising proxies delegated to them by the voters; You get 10,000 votes, you get to vote 10,000 proxies in the legislature.

I don't think electing House members by PR within states would cause great destabilization.

There are about 700K people per Representative in the country, so in a large state a party would have to have this much support to get a seat.

But there are several small state with populations in the 500K - 1000K range. They get two Senators each as well as a Representative. Notice that in those states it would take only the support of a few hundred thousand people to elect a third party candidate, but it seldom happens, and Bernie Sanders has not destabilized the Republic.

The fact that we do not have a parliamentary system, and do have elections at fixed intervals, would mitigate third party power. Even the fact that the organization of Congress is set for two years (as we've learned from Lieberman's outbursts) helps.

In the end, PR is the only solution to gerrymandering. Election by geographic districts is inherently flawed. It works in the many places where political views are closely correlated with location, but really depends on that to produce reasonable results.

It's historically tended to make polities highly unstable, fragmented, and prone to extremism. See Italy and Israel for just two prominent examples.

Perhaps out of ignorance, I don't really think of Germany or other democracies to be unstable. AFAICT ItalyAndIsrael is just the worst-case bogeyman thrown out by PR detractors when those cases are really not representative of all PR nations.

It would be like saying the US Constitution must be scrapped because any system that elects George W. Bush to its top executive post twice is too flawed to remain under consideration.

If can provide a rationale why Italy's experience with PR is typical and Germany's isn't, I'd be very interested to hear it.

Don't forget that even a small terrorist attack in the next year could turn the Democratic trend on its head. Guiliani would win the Presidency and would stop at nothing to get re-elected, and we could end up with a super-conservative Supreme Court and eight more years of counterproductive aggressiveness and corrupt cronyism. It's horrible to think about but important to keep in mind.

Amos Newcombe,

Have you forgotten that the Democratic party was the party of Jim Crow in the 1930's and 40's. Or that the Democratic Party was the party of quotas, forced busing, and minority set asides.

If having a one party Democratic majority was great for the little guy, then Detroit, Baltimore, Philly, and DC would be great places to live. Instead, most of those cities have lost large percentages of the population since they became deep blue, one party states. People had to vote with their feet because nothing could be changed at the ballot box.

Maybe, one party state socialism works great in a very non-diverse country like parts of Europe or maybe in the U.S. in the 1930's but it really sucks in modern America.

For Bill:

Dude, I didn't say that the Dems would use power effectively - though it would be harder for them to do worse. All I said is that the Pub narrative is bankrupt and that I think we are headed to 20 - 30 years of Dem dominance.

Personally, I hope we end up looking like Sweden, but that will be hard to get done. No question, however, that it looks like we are headed for a sea change in US politics.

"It would be like saying the US Constitution must be scrapped because any system that elects George W. Bush to its top executive post twice is too flawed to remain under consideration."

Which is more or less the thrust of the argument for switching to PR. If the argument is "don't switch unless the system is clearly broken," then you're arguing against switching our system.

But I also observe that while there are certainly valid arguments for changing to a PR system, and no system is perfect, and each has its pros and cons, that a certain amount of "the grass is greener with that other system" is always inevitable, as well.

"It would be like saying the US Constitution must be scrapped because any system that elects George W. Bush to its top executive post twice is too flawed to remain under consideration."

Which is more or less the thrust of the argument for switching to PR. If the argument is "don't switch unless the system is clearly broken," then you're arguing against switching our system.

But I also observe that while there are certainly valid arguments for changing to a PR system, and no system is perfect, and each has its pros and cons, that a certain amount of "the grass is greener with that other system" is always inevitable, as well.

Have you forgotten that the Democratic party was the party of Jim Crow in the 1930's and 40's.
Seems like you're the one forgetting that, SD, with your argument that demographic changes mean permanent Democratic control. Parties change, and the Republicans could stop being the party of racists just as the Democrats did, especially if the alternative is oblivion as you predict.

Gary: So what was 1964? A small bump in the road?

Yes, compared to the 30s. Starting with Hoover in 1932, the Republicans lost 5 straight presidential elections. After Goldwater, they came on fairly strong in 1968.

superdestroyer: Have you forgotten that the Democratic party was the party of Jim Crow in the 1930's and 40's.

No, but they wouldn't do that stuff now. In any case racial attitudes are not that closely related to economic ideology or party identification, as witnessed by the ease with which the parties swapped roles on racism and civil rights in the 60s.

Instead, most of those cities have lost large percentages of the population since they became deep blue, one party states.

I'm most familiar with NY, which was a one-party (Democratic) city back in the days of Boss Tweed in the 19th century, and pretty much continually ever since, and yet seems to have increased greatly in population over that time. I expect the cities on your list have similar stories to tell.

I'm not sure how Boss Tweed fits into the red/blue scheme (a modern metaphor: I knew we were in a new millennium when the Republicans adopted the color of Communism as their own) but he did feed at the public trough and toss a lot of money at his friends. But he also aimed some at the voters, and they kept his machine in power for decades. He is different in that respect than Bush, who favored only his friends and led his party to the brink of destruction in a mere two terms.

In any case, (from memory) the population in the urban northeast peaked in the 60s and 70s as people went first to the suburbs (where you can have an actual lawn) and then to the south and west (where, at the time, jobs were more plentiful). Maybe you can explain why you think these cities became "deep blue" one-party states then rather than much earlier.

And maybe you can explain why you think the US in the 30s was a non-diverse country. Immigration was pretty much unrestricted until the 20s.

Maybe, one party state socialism works great in ...

Careful! If you even admit the possibility, you're halfway over to the dark side.

For the record, I don't favor one-party state socialism. Even the Boss Tweed variety is corrupt and inefficient. The Bush variety, with its massive tax cuts at the top, total lack of accountability in contracting, and simple evaporation of money sent to aid Iraq, is, as a more pure kleptocracy, even worse. Ironically, it may be less damaging on the long run because it is more quickly discredited.

But we can do better than either one. We could have a government that recognizes that we are individuals in a society, and that society, like an engine, runs best when it is running on all cylinders. Allowing people to suffer unproductive lives in poverty or jail, when they could escape it with help -- that hurts us all. Individuals have the right to the fruits of their labor, but those fruits would be much less without a government that provides us a relatively safe environment in which to get rich. Thus a certain level of taxation is legitimate.

This is the kind of political consensus I would like to see, with two parties vigorously contesting the details but in agreement on the big picture. Impossible? Ridiculous? But we used to have this kind of agreement. It was not the socialists or the Democrats that destroyed it. It was the conservatives. They took over the Republican Party, and then the country as a whole, and held the Presidency and both houses of Congress from 2002-2006. They implemented their vision and as a result we are now discussing the possible death of their party. It's time to abandon their failed policies and return to the idea that a government is a tool to make life better.

Technically, the whole red/blue thing was assigned by the media. If memory serves, blue used to be the incumbent party and red was the challenger. It wasn't until the excitement of 2000 that the red/blue divide was assigned to specific parties.

I'd have to look up years and details, but generally speaking, I hope I'm not on too unstable ground in recalling that the tv networks alternated red and blue for the parties on their maps each two years (or four?), during the brief span of time between when color tv became widespread, circa 1962 or so, and 1988 or so.

Historically, the Reds are the Reds are the Reds. Which is to say, communists and socialists.

It's the flag of May Day, and on and on and on.

When people refer to to conservatives as "reds," I tend to be baffled, because I'm a blinded by history type. I mean, millions of people died for being Reds. And they cared awfully that they were reds.

Not to mention the movie.

And they cared awfully that they were reds.

Yeah, I hated Cincinnati too...

Amos Newcombe,

It is hard to believe that the Democratic Party believes in the individual when in 2006, they were in front of the Supreme Court arguing that assigning students to schools based upon race is not only constitutional but good public policy.

When you look at the Supreme Court cases from Bakke in 1979 to Seattle/Louisville in 2006 it is hard to believe that the Democratic Party has really abandon its Jim Crow Roots. At every chance, the Democrats are in front of the Supreme Court arguing that treating different racial/ethnic groups different is legal, moral, and good public policy.

You also seem to skip over that one of the reasons of the growth of the Republicans is the multitude of failures of the Democratic Party in the 1970's. Look at the misery index in 1980 (combined unemployment, inflation, crime rate, and interest rate) and the Republicans have never come close to the stupidity of the Carter Administration.


It is also hard to believe that Democrats believe in the individual when the support 8A contracting, minority set asides, and seperate and unequal college admission standards.

Also, look up the populations of Baltimore, Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, St Louis, and DC. Baltimore, a one party city since the 1960's has lost half of its population since 1960.

Also, NYC depends upon unlmited immigration to make up for the lost of U.S. born residents. If you look at the county map of the U.S, the easiest way to find the deep blue counties, they are the ones without middle class whites. the problem is what will the U.S. be like when it becomes a one party state and no longer has a place for middle class whites? What will the U.S. be like when national politics resembles the current day politics of Maryland where they are doing everything they can to drive out middle class whites?

But they are the bloody red meat throwers/eaters while the Dem mood has been quite blue for quite some time ;-)
Also the reds are the enemy and blue is our side (can somebody hand me a partisan please!) ;-)

There seems to be some kind of celebration going on today that my family wants me to participate in, so forgive the brief reply.

In general, just showing that Democrats are sometimes wrong does not show that Republicans are right. Not that I am admitting that affirmative action is wrong.

Jimmy Carter was the victim of bad economic luck, just like Herbert Hoover was. Real stupidity is taking your party from triumph to "can they survive?" over the course of a single Presidency. Remember the topic of discussion here.

If you think than affirmative action is, for whites, like Jim Crow was for blacks, I just have to ask what planet are you living on?

I'll defer to middle class white Marylanders around here about the political environment there, but my cousins in suburban Baltimore (who are in that group) are not feeling driven out.

My own county in upstate NY, mostly middle class and white, formerly Republican, is now solidly Democratic, thanks to the corruption and stupidity of Republicans at the county and the national level. It has nothing to do with race or economic ideology.

I believe you about populations. I lived for a while in Pittsburgh, which has also lost half its population. I don't believe you about the cause, or about when a city like Baltimore became solidly Democratic. I am not certain on this last point, and can't research it today, but I am willing to stand corrected. Anybody know for sure? My impression is that northeastern cities have mostly been solidly Democratic for many decades before the 1960s.

the problem is what will the U.S. be like when it becomes a one party state and no longer has a place for middle class whites?

I really think this fear is way overblown.

When you look at the Supreme Court cases from Bakke in 1979 to Seattle/Louisville in 2006 it is hard to believe that the Democratic Party has really abandon its Jim Crow Roots.

When you look at how the Republican Party has treated minorities, it's not.

Really now...the Republican Party had a golden chance pber the past few years to make great inroads into the black, Asian and Hispanic communities (particularly the upper and middle class) and they've been throwing it away with great glee and gusto.

Iirc, a lot of the demographic changes involving cities took the following form:

enormous improvements in transportation allowed people to move to suburbs

when segregating schools and neighborhoods became illegal, a lot of people who minded integration, meaning whites, used this ability to move to suburbs, which were largely white

given concentrations of poverty among blacks, this hit the tax base hard, while increasing the numbers of people who needed help

the hit to the tax base, in particular, meant that cities had to raise their taxes, while suburbs to which people were moving did not

the tax differential reinforced the tendencies of people with means to flee cities

rinse and repeat.

It was white flight, combined with the fact that the Democratic party was by then the overwhelming favorite among blacks, that produced one-party cities where they did not previously exist, not vice versa.

G’Kar: …but over the longer term it seems likely that one of two things will happen: the Democrats will overplay their hand…

Just the opposite IMO – the Democrats underplayed their hand. The R’s were not voted out over the war. It was about corruption. The D’s had their chance but didn’t fix that. If they had focused on that they would be golden right now IMO. Instead, what was once certain gets iffier by the day.


Hilzoy: the hit to the tax base, in particular, meant that cities had to raise their taxes, while suburbs to which people were moving did not

I don’t know anything about Baltimore and I know it is likely much different than Philly. So to qualify, your (city) experience is most certainly different than mine. So I am not arguing against your experience, just the generality.

As I recall in the Philly region, it was the propensity of local government to just increase taxes at the drop of a hat, rather than ever addressing the underlying problems, that led to people (of all races) fleeing the city. There was no “white flight” – anyone of any race with the means got the heck out…

See the city wage tax in particular. This didn’t just impact residents, it was at least a 4% tax on anyone who worked in the city. And (at least in Philly), local rail (anyway) was not all that effective for commuting. The city raised taxes on anything that moved, up to the point that businesses, then employees, then anyone of any color who could fled the city…

It is pretty much the opposite IMO to what you suggest. The inability to deal with problems came first, followed by blindly raising taxes to ‘fix it’, then blowing that money on useless things. Rinse and repeat. Then businesses left the city and the tax base decreased. Instead of addressing that, they noticed that many people commuted into the city to work, so they came up with the city wage tax. Then those people got tired of commuting 4 hours per day to work hard and pay the city 4+% of their money for the privilege of working in the city.

Meanwhile, the city looks around and scratches their head and wonders what the heck happened to their tax base and why they just can’t tax something else to make it all better…

The result was a nice inter-racial base of middle class tax-payers in the suburbs that could be targeted. It took about 1-2 years for most suburbs to realize they could raise taxes, for no real reason, just because… Real-estate was hot and many people were moving in. Then the suburbs got in on the tax-raising gig. There was no racial component to this in my experience – just the greed of various local governments.

We ended up with a very diverse mix of very p*ssed off taxpayers who fled the city only to be taken advantage of in the ‘burbs. Many of them, like me, ended up fleeing that as well. And saying ‘screw them all’… Not the people suffering there, but the local governments that want a big bite of every dollar that moves, and then walking away with all that money rather than making life better for anyone, anywhere.

It seems not many commenters read or were familiar with the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis. It was *not* in response to 2006; it's from 2002, the height of the Rovian system. The thesis is that the Republican core is a subset of white Christians while all ethnic and religious minorities are firmly Democratic. White Christians are becoming less numerous while the various minorities are becoming more numerous and the result is that in a generation or so the Republicans will face an insurmountable uphill struggle from demographics.

The way out for the Republicans would be to hive off one of the minorities. Rove - not being stupid - targeted the Latinos and was making some headway. In 2004 the Latinos shifted markedly towards the Republicans and the "emerging democratic majority" kind of disappeared from the ideosphere.

The problem is the core of the Republican party is racists and Christianists and they will not stand for any of the minorities being allowed under the tent. We saw this in 2006 when a grassroots backlash forced the Republicans to shift from their immigrant-tolerant position to a fairly offensive racist/nativist position that the current Latino immigrants are lazy shiftless Anglophobic bums only here to sponge off our generous public services (actually, the bit about "generous public services" is almost as ridiculous as the stereotypes).

As a result, the (rightfully) offended Latinos went back to the Democrats in 2006 and now the Emerging Democratic Majority mechanism looks likely to grind the Republicans into dust nationally. I think Rove was right in that the Latinos were their best shot. Seculars and Jews are pretty liberal by American standards and the Republicans have slapped around the blacks so hard and so long they won't even listen. Frankly, the racists would be even more hostile to that particular accomodation anyway, which at a minimum would require denunciation of the mass murder and brutal oppression that lay at the heart of the post-Confederate Lost Cause. Southern whites have forgotten what that was about - but the blacks haven't.

The Emerging Democratic Majority does *not* say the Dems are home free as of 2010 or so. It just says the nation will shift to the Dems by 1% or so per election. In a decade or so the Republicans can win nationally only with 9/11 events or an inverse of the 2010 scandals. By midcentury even that won't do. Based on the blue states, we'd still see moderate Republican presidents fairly often but the Dems will still run the show, as they have under Romney, Schwarzenegger, and Rell.

curt,

You massively over estimate the ability of a Republican Party of remain relevent enough to elect a President. Since a Presidential Election is really 50 state elections and if the Republicans are irrelevant in most states, the idea that a Republican candidate can raise enough funds and recruit enough people to remain viable if very unlikely.

However, you skipped over the prospect of what will happen when all of the former Republican voters start voting in the Democratic Primaries. Since those middle class white voters turn out to vote at a much higher rate than blacks or Hispanics, the chance that the Democratic Party will become more moderate is very high. Candidates running for state wide office will risk alienating too many former Republicans and moderate whites if they appeal to much to low percentage voting blacks and Hispanics.

And last, you can count of political corruption to massively increase in the future. If is highly likely than when the political system can no longer be used to make changes in the future one party system, that corrupion of politicians and voters will increase. If people cannot vote for lower taxes they will just start cheating on their taxes more. The same will go for regulatory compliance. Also, if crime goes up due to the U.S. being a one party state, people will seek other alternatives to protecting themselves.

@Gary Farber:

Your counterpoint is a good one, but one I think I can answer. In my view whereas the ossification of the US political system occurs for reasons that are directly related to our form of first-past-the-post, the instability of Italy or Israel isn't directly attributable to PR itself. It might be to those countries' forms of PR, i.e. setting a low threshold for representation, although even then I'm not so sure.

So that's the difference, and why I'm less inclined to write off our political malaise as just a historical accident. There were problems with the vast majority of Congressional elections being uncompetitive long before the present Republican mess.

I'd love to continue this further, but I don't think many people read and participate in old threads, do they? Anyone know of a good message board on topics like these?

superdestroyer: Your ideas about Dem moderation and Repub irrelevance are very plausible, but they haven't happened in blued-out states like CA, MA, RI, IL, and CT. The ex-Republican voters don't join the Dem party, they pretty much drop out of the primary system. So the Dems tend to nominate fairly liberal candidates and those voters are still around in the general to vote in Repub candidates when the Repubs nominate a moderate. Not saying it couldn't happen your way, but it hasn't.

One-party rule is very bad for corruption (just look at the Bush administration) but crime is otherwise not a big problem in the blued-out states. CA is moderate crime and the New England states are generally low-crime. Corruption does not trickle down to street crime and the anti-poverty policies of blue states help too.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad