Archive for the ‘political science’ Category
Source: RealClear Politics.
A lot of people have wondered how Bernie Sanders will prevail over Hilary in the upcoming primary. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were planning to attack Hilary in much the same way that Obama did. First, indirectly attack Hilary’s framing as a candidate. Frontal assaults seem to fail. Obama offered a counter-frame of “newness.” Sanders, probably, is trying a counter framing strategy that focuses on inequality, which resonates with the Demcoratic party electorate.
Second, focus on tipping points. As the chart above shows, Obama did not became the national favorite until after he won Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina. In other words, don’t worry about national averages and focus on early states. If you win, then worry about national polls. Third, should you actually win a few early states, you need a deep on the ground strategy that maximizes delegates according the DNC’s arcane rules. This is how Obama won despite falling behind in the popular vote count when he lost big states (like California).
It is clear that Bernie is working on the first two points, which makes sense. You won’t dent Hilary’s national numbers so there is no point in trying. The goal isn’t winning national polls or even decreasing Hilary’s popularity, but boxing in Hilary’s support in between 40% and 50% and attracting all undecided voters. Currently, he’s succeeding in that Hilary is still in the low 40% range in the RCP rolling average. He’s also making gains in Iowa.
The problem for Bernie is that he might not have the infrastructure needed to fight in later rounds. Astute readers know that the Clintons have done poorly in early states only to make up ground in large states where you win through media and name recognition (see 1992 – Bill Clinton lost nine out of ten early primary/caucuses before steaming ahead in the March round). I suspect that Hilary 2016 will replay like Bill 1992 and Hilary 2008. The only question is whether the Bernie can win Iowa and then pad the delegate count before Clinton’s machine picks up steam.
You see the occasional article about how we are now in a “libertarian moment” or that the GOP has been captured by libertarians. It is true that libertarians are getting more publicity than before, but it truly hard to argue that libertarianism – a consistent demand that the state scale back across the board – is actually here. For example, in the Real Clear Politics average of presidential primary polls, Rand Paul, the most libertarian candidate, has a huge 2% of support from GOP voters. Gary Johnson, the libertarian GOP former governor of New Mexico, could barely register support above the margin of error of polling, also gaining 2%. Ron Paul has done the best with an enormous 8% of polling in 2008 – and he ran against only two other people! And of course, the Libertarian Party itself has done very poorly at the polls and has shown no ability to pull a significant number of GOP votes.
Why does the media periodically report that libertarians are having a “moment?” Why does Salon think that libertarians run America? Three hypotheses: (a) Republican voters and politicians conveniently co-opt anti-state rhetoric when it suits them, even if they clearly do not have libertarian sympathies; (b) Some libertarians, like Ron Paul, are charismatic and have more media presence than the average GOP politician; and (c) libertarians are disproportionately drawn to the GOP due to demographic or cultural factors. An alternative version of (c) is that the GOP is a coalition of high-SES groups who have populist grievances, which would attract libertarians. My hunch is that (a) and (c) reinforce each other, while (b) has little explanatory power. Add your own thoughts in the comments.
You will read a lot of insightful and nuanced discussion of Scott Walker’s campaign for president. Here, I want to offer an additional analysis – the “entertainment” theory of the GOP and its primary process. Normally, what you’ve seen in American politics is that various factions, or coalitions, put up candidates and that each coalition gets a fair share of the vote (e.g., liberals have Bernie Sanders now) and primaries are fought between a small number of candidates.
What happened so that the GOP has now fielded 16 contenders? The answer is that one of the major coalitions inside the GOP (the populists) has abandoned normal political practice, which usually entails vetting a small number of candidates from the ranks of the party elites. Instead, they are directing attention at candidates for their entertainment value. In other words, a significant chunk of the GOP now judges candidates not on what they’ve done or their political connections, but how amusing they are on television.
Why does this matter? It matters because the dynamics of entertainment are very different than the dynamics of traditional politics. In traditional politics, people spend a career building a reputation and social capital. You help people and they help you back. That means a certain level of stability. In contrast, if you judge people on entertainment value, then you create an unstable environment. Candidates get stale, and you move from one to the other.
The entertainment theory of the GOP does imply that eventually establishment candidates have the upper hand because entertainment does not get people out to the polls and caucuses. Organization and personal attachment to the party and candidate gets people to the polls. Scott Walker was victim of this dynamic. Tough talk got him attention, boredom set in, and now we have Fiorina, Trump, and Carson.
I am a big believer in social science. For example, I believe there is a lot of evidence supporting the view that elite endorsements do predict party nominations, as documented in The Party Decides. So how does one explain Donald Trump’s current popularity?
The answer, I think, is simple. Normally, politicians need party elites because they don’t have the money, name recognition, organization, or media presence to run for office. Trump has all of these:
- A billion dollar fortune he is willing spend from.
- Decades of media presence.
- His own business organization.
- Name recognition from books, tv, and even a board game.
Add to this that Trump is charismatic, then it is easy to see what the issue is. The Party Decides model is mainly about people who need parties for help. If you need a party, and it doesn’t like you, you’ll loose. Trump has his own resources and he’s great at projecting himself on tv. Thus, he has a chance at bucking the system.
This doesn’t mean that he’s a shoe-in. He could easily turn out to be one of the many also-rans in presidential races. But this reasoning does increase my small belief that he could win a state, or run a Ross Perot style campaign and get 10% or 20% of the popular vote. The deeper lesson here is that politicians, relatively speaking, are poor and need parties. That is why most people have to play by the party’s rules. If you have your own bank account, and you’re good on tv, you can write your own rules.