Archive for the ‘political science’ Category
A lot of people have slammed The Party Decides for not getting this year’s primary completely correct. But I take a different view. The Democratic primary is going as planned, so that supports the theory pretty well. Even on the GOP side, there is some evidence that party dynamics are working as expected.
So let’s get the stuff that doesn’t fit the theory out of the way. Yes, Trump’s impending victory doesn’t fit but that’s not hard to understand in my view. And yes, the two major establishment candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both massively failed.
But there is one important feature of the GOP primary that does fit the Party Decides model – the elites successfully blocked Ted Cruz from becoming president. There is a great deal of evidence that the GOP elites actively hate Cruz:
- Even though he’s the sole remaining viable contender to Trump, Cruz has very few endorsements – only 7 of 31 GOP governors have endorsed, only 6 of 54 GOP senators have endorsed, and about 30 of 234 GOP representatives have endorsed.
- Mitch McConnell hates him.
- John Boehner hates him, too.
Let’s be clear here: party leaders hate Cruz and only about 20% of the national leadership will endorse him over an egomaniac billionaire and a second tier regional politician. It’s clear – the party decided they hate Ted Cruz.
The 2016 Democratic primary is a mirror image of the 2008 primary. In 2008, Hillary Clinton fell behind in delegates on Super Tuesday and required blow out victories to regain the lead. Even though it was extraordinarily unlikely that she could do that, Clinton continued to run until the very, very end. Now Hillary has done the same to Sanders in 2016. He got a big win in New Hampshire and a tie in Iowa, but did very poorly in South Carolina and never recovered. He can only climb back into the lead if he gets big wins in big states to offset Clinton’s lead, which didn’t happen this week and is unlikely to happen over the next month. Yet, Sanders is still running strong. Why?
A few reasons:
- By basing his campaign on small donors, it is possible to continually raise money. He can bypass the party establishment who would normally yank support for a campaign at this stage.
- He’s an ideological candidate. Sure, he’d love to win and is trying his best, but he wants to change policy and the terms of debate. That doesn’t require him to win the most pledged delegates.
- It’s fun. If the support is there and you’re winning a bunch of states, even small ones, why quit? It’s gotta be more interesting than Vermont.
- A Clinton indictment: Let’s say there is a 1% chance that Federal prosecutors will indict on a misdemeanor or felony. If Sanders places a strong second in the nomination contest, he’d make a strong case that he should be the back up. And if he gets the nomination, there’s a good chance he’ll win the presidency since the economy is relatively strong. So a 1% chance of becoming president is easily worth the time and effort.
Clinton will likely get the pledged delegate majority in May, but the primary will continue to Bern.
Marko Grdesic wrote an interesting post on why modern economists don’t read Polanyi. He surveyed economists at top programs and discovered that only 3% had read Polanyi. I am not shocked. This post explains why.
For a while, I taught an undergrad survey course in sociology with an economic sociology focus. The goal is to teach sociology in a way interesting to undergraduate business and policy students. I often teach a module that might be called “capitalism’s defenders and critics.” On defense, we had Smith and Hayek. On offense, we had Marx and Polanyi.
And, my gawd, it was painful. Polanyi is a poor writer, even compared to windbags like Hayek and Marx. The basic point of the whole text is hard to discern other than, maybe, “capitalism didn’t develop the way you think” or “people change.” It was easily the text that people understood the least and none of the students got the point. Nick Rowe wrote the following comment:
35 years ago (while an economics PhD student) I tried to read Great Transformation. I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it. I remember it being long and waffly and unclear. If you asked me what I was about, I would say: “In the olden days, people did things for traditional reasons (whatever that means). Then capitalism and markets came along, and people changed to become rational utility maximisers. Something like that.”
Yup. Something like that. Later, I decided that the Great Transformation is a classic case of “the wiki is better than the book.” We should not expect readers to genuflect in front if fat, baggy books. We are no longer in the world of the 19th century master scholars. If you can’t get your point across, then we can move on.
There is a lot of punditry about Bernie Sander’s inability to make a dent in the Black vote. This is crucial because a lot of Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead comes from massive blowouts in the Deep South. Even a small movement in the Black vote would have turned Sander’s near losses in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Missouri into narrow wins.
My approach to this issue – Sanders’ poor performance among Blacks is entirely predictable. Post-Civil Rights, the urban black population became heavily integrated into the mainstream of the Democratic party. The connection is so tight that some political scientists have used the African-American vote as a classic example of “voter capture” – a constituency so tightly linked to a party that there is no longer any credible threat of moving to another party and the party takes them for granted.
If you believe that, then you get a straight forward prediction – Black voters will overwhelmingly support the establishment candidate. Why? Black voters are the establishment in the Democratic party. As a major constituency, they are unlikely to vote against someone who already reflects their preferences. Here’s some evidence:
- 1976: No establishment candidate, but Williams and Wilson (1977) report that Carter solidly won the black vote in every primary state save one.
- 1980: Carter gets about 68% of Black votes overall and even squeaks out a 52% majority of the Black vote in New York, which swung hard to Kennedy.
- 1984: Mondale gets about 60% of the Black vote – against Jesse Jackson.
- 1992: Clinton I gets anywhere from 50% to 75% of the Southern Black vote and ties Jerry Brown with 40% of the Black vote in New York.
- 2000: Gore gets about 80% of the Black vote vs. Bill Bradley.
- 2004: Kerry gets over 80% of the Black primary vote.
- 2016: Clinton II gets over 80% of the Black vote in South Carolina and other states.
The pattern is exceptionally clear. Black voters overwhelmingly support establishment candidates. The only exceptions are when you have an African American candidate of extreme prominence, like Obama the wunderkind or Jesse Jackson the civil rights leader. And then there’s a tipping point where almost the entire voting block switches to a new candidate. So Bernie is actually hitting what a normal challenger hits in a Democratic primary but that simply isn’t enough to win.
A common question – should Trump win the nomination, would he beat Hillary Clinton? There are two contradictory answers:
- According to decades of political science research, incumbent parties do well if the economy is doing well. Unemployment is low and GDP is positive, though modest. We also have few casualties in foreign wars. And Trump has really, really bad negative ratings. Conclusion: Hillary Clinton will win.
- The bungler – Hillary Clinton is not a very effective campaigner. Her infamous campaign of 2008 was bankrupt and chaotic. She lost to a first term Senator with no name recognition. In 2016, she’s pulling ties in big states against a geriatric commie after spending hundreds of millions. One can imagine her losing the entire South, maybe even Florida, and some how screwing up a big Midwestern state. That would be enough for a Trump win.This is similar to Gore winning the popular vote in 2000 and screwing up by losing his *home state* of Tennessee.
Use the comments to spin out other fanciful tales.
Right now, it is clear that the Republican party is experiencing internal conflict. But I believe that there is a coming blow up in the Democratic party. Maybe not this cycle, but definitely by 2020. Right now, the Clinton-Sanders competition is being framed as Clinton’s successful defense against a challenge from the base.
There’s a good chance that this narrative will turn out to be correct. But it overlooks some serious trends that indicate the DLC coalition, Bill Clinton and other centrist Democrats of the 1990s, is slowly losing its grip on the Democratic party, in much the same way that the Nixon-Bush establishment lost its grip in 2016.
For example, look at the Massachusetts’ 2016 Democratic primary. Correctly, it is described as a much needed, but narrow, win for Hillary Clinton. But look at the long term trend:
- In 2000, Al Gore beat Bill Bradley with almost 60% of the vote.
- In 2004, John Kerry beat Howard Dean with 72% of the vote.
- In 2008, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama with 56% of the vote.
- In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders with 50% of the vote.
In sense, 2016 is even worse than it appears in that Hillary Clinton got only 50% of the vote against a single far left candidate. But the pattern is clear. Massachusetts, the bastion of Democratic party liberalism, is slowly sliding away from the establishment and toward challengers.
I don’t know why. It might be cohort change or a Tea Party style anger toward the establishment. But the trend is clear – the progressives aren’t going to take it anymore. The only question is how long it will be until the storm arrives.