Ben Shapiro’s Fallacy

Ben Shapiro, arguing against the use of emergency powers to fund the border wall, says this:

Proponents of President Donald Trump would like to see power centralized in the presidency; antagonists of Trump would like to see power centralized in the FBI.

Trump’s allies seem eager for Trump to declare a national emergency in order to appropriate funds for a border wall….

It’s good that the legislative branch checks the executive branch, and it’s good that the executive branch must remain in control of executive branch agencies.

Here’s the easy test: How would you feel if the situations were reversed?

I must note, first, that Shapiro badly overstates the case when he asserts that Trump’s proponents ” would like to see power centralized in the presidency,” and that “antagonists of Trump would like to see power centralized in the FBI.” Trump’s proponents would like to see power exercised responsibly, and most of the Democrats in Congress (as well as many Republicans) routinely fail to do that. Refusal to fund the border wall, merely to thwart Trump, is just a current and egregious example of that failure. Those same Democrats want the FBI to have power only when it comes to Trump; otherwise, they would prefer to emasculate the FBI. Democrats’ embrace of the FBI is a matter of political convenience, not principled conviction.

Now for the fallacy, which is implicit in Shapiro’s question, “How would you feel if the situations were reversed?” That question implies the following syllogism:

It is bad for the executive to use emergency powers.

The use of emergency powers is dictated by precedent.

Therefore, if Trump desists from using emergency powers, a future president (even a Democrat) will also desist and thereby avoid doing a bad thing.

The syllogism is logically valid, in that the conclusion follows from the premises. But the conclusion is arguably false because a Democrat — an Obama, for instance — is unlikely to be swayed by precedent in the matter of emergency powers.

Is “Trump Fatigue” Setting In?

UPDATED 01/07/19

Every week since the first inauguration of Obama, Rasmussen Reports has asked 2,500 likely voters whether they see the country as going in the “right direction” or being on the “wrong track”. The graph below shows the ratios of “right direction”/”wrong track” for Trump and Obama:

The ratio for Trump, after a quick honeymoon start, fell into the same range as Obama’s. But it jumped with the passage of the tax cut in December 2017, and rose (raggedly) until six months ago. After leveling off for five months, the ratio began to drop sharply a month ago.

I would chalk it up to “Trump fatigue”. Trump is still better than the alternative, but I suspect that two years of tweeted outrage — even though mostly justified — is wearing on people who otherwise support his policies.

Yes, I know all about the relentless anti-Trump campaign from the left and NeverTrump “conservatives”. The graph suggests that Trump did a good job of countering that until recent months. The graph also suggests that Trump has to claim new, substantive victories before the tide turns against him. Tweeting won’t cut it.

Trump (and the country) has a lot at stake in the several pending issues; for example, the showdown over the border wall, Syria, North Korea, trade talks, the state of the economy, and the perception that his White House is or isn’t in chaos. Looming over all of it is the Mueller investigation and a concerted effort by House Democrats to undercut Trump on all fronts.

The coming weeks and months could bring a steady stream of bad news — or some surprisingly good news — for Trump. But it will have to be genuinely good news, not bombastic tweets from the Oval Office. It is time for Trump to retire his Twitter account.

Keep your eye on the “right direction”/”wrong track” ratio.

Anti-Elitism

Anti-elitism has shown great strength in various places, including the U.S., Italy, Brazil, and France. The proximate causes of anti-elitist uprisings aren’t all the same, but the underlying sentiment is: We are sick and tired of being dictated to and victimized by the political-media-academic-managerial establishment and its pet groups and causes.

Will the phenomenon endure and spread, or will it fade away like the Tea Party?

The answer depends on the ability of anti-elites to move into positions of power, and to remain there while remaining anti-elite. Power is seductive and corrupting. So anti-elitism is most likely to succeed and endure where it is led by persons, like Donald Trump, who already have wealth and power and (seem) to have a sincere appreciation of the grievances that underlie anti-elitism.


Related: True Populism

GHWB

George Herbert Walker Bush (June 12, 1924 – November 30, 2018) is the new leader in the clubhouse. That is to say, he is now the oldest member of the Dead Presidents Club, at the age of 94.47 years.

GHWB replaced Gerald Ford, who made it to 93.45. Ford replaced Ronald Reagan, who made it to 93.33.

Jimmy (now 94.17) will replace GHWB if he lives to March 25, 2019.

John Adams (90.67) and Herbert Hoover (90.19) are the other occupants of the club’s exclusive 90+ room. As many members of the club (5) lived into their 90s as lived into their 80s.

Will Jimmy make it 6 to 5, or will he become the club’s first centenarian? He already holds the record for having outlived his presidency. He’s almost at the 38-year mark, well beyond Hoover’s 31.63. The only president of the past half-century who was worse than Carter is Obama, who will probably break Carter’s miserable record for post-presidential pestilence.

For more in this vein, see the updated version of “Presidents: Key Dates and Various Trivia“.

Is There a Republican President in Our Future?

Ann Coulter doesn’t speak for me, though I often agree with her. She recently said this:

If either [Texas or Florida] ever flip, no Republican ever gets elected president again. Three out of four Hispanics in Texas are under the age of 18. So, each day Trump doesn’t fulfill the immigration promises — his voters are dying off and Democratic voters, Hillary’s voters are registering to vote. So, I hope he keeps his promise. This is why we wanted a wall.

There are also cultural and economic reasons to want a wall. But the electoral reason is good enough for me.

The flipping problem isn’t confined to States that are becoming more Hispanic, such as Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. There is the the southward creep of the Northeastern influence into North Carolina and Georgia (it has already vanquished Virginia). And there is the tenuous hold on States that flipped to the GOP column in 2016: Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

All in all, and despite my bold prediction about 2020 (tempered here), the GOP has much to fear. Consider the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016, both won by GOP candidates with less than half of the two-party popular vote. Bush garnered 270 electoral votes with 49.7 percent of the two-party vote; Trump took 304 electoral votes with 48.9 percent of the two-party vote. Trump’s greater margin of victory is due to his (mostly narrow) victories in States lost by Bush (Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) more than offsetting the loss of States won by Bush (Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia).

It’s entirely possible that the squishy center of the electorate will come to its senses and reject the party (Democrat, that is) which has aligned itself with identity politics, sexual deviancy, oppression, lawlessness, violence, and anti-Americanism. But I am not sanguine, given the dominance of that party’s minions in public education, the academy, and the “news” and “entertainment” media for so many decades.

I therefore offer this cautionary analysis of electoral trends. In the table below, electoral votes (EVs) are distributed according to Trump’s share of each-State’s two-party popular vote, and whether that was greater (+) or smaller (-) than Bush’s share in 2000. (Note: for simplicity, I have included in Trump’s total of 305, 2 EVs that Trump would have won from Texas, but for unfaithful electors. I have also ignored 1 EV awarded to Trump under Maine law, which awards an EV to the winner in each congressional district and 2 EVs to the statewide winner. I have included in Clinton’s total 6 EVs that eluded her because of faithles electors in Hawaii and Washington.)

I arbitrarily (but reasonably) sorted the 16 share/trend columns into 6 “solidity groups”, indicated by the color-coded values near the bottom of the table. Shades of red, from dark to light, indicate the degree of likelihood that the States in those groups will stay in the GOP camp. Shades of blue from light to dark, indicate the degree of likelihood that States in those groups will stay in the Democrat camp.

The two groups in the center — lightest red and lightest blue — comprise the at-risk EVs for the two parties. Unsurprisingly, there are far more at-risk GOP EVs than there are at-risk Democrat EVs: 155 to 24.

This isn’t to say that Republicans won’t win any more presidential elections. But barring a surge of (deserved) disenchantment with Democrats, the day may come when the GOP routinely selects a sacrificial lamb for slaughter every fourth November.


Related reading: Julia Gelatt and Jie Zong, “Settling In: A Profile of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population in the United States“, Migration Policy Institute, November 2018

Right Direction or Wrong Track?

UPDATED HERE.

Every week since the first inauguration of Obama, Rasmussen Reports has asked 2,500 likely voters whether they see the country as going in the “right direction” or being on the “wrong track”. The following graph shows the ratios of “right direction”/”wrong track” for Trump and Obama:

Figure 5

The ratio for Trump, after a quick honeymoon start, fell into the same range as Obama’s. But it jumped with the passage of the tax cut in December 2017, continued to rise well into 2018, and remains steady at a value about double Obama’s ratio at the same stage of his presidency.

The numbers suggest that the squishy center of the electorate is lining up behind Trump, despite the incessant flow of negative reporting propaganda aimed at undermining him and his policies. His base is with him all the way.

An Aside about the Cold Civil War

Imprimis has published a lecture by Charles R. Kesler, editor of Clarement Review of Books, about “America’s Cold Civil War“. It’s worth a read, but Kesler’s rendering of the subversion of the Constitution is on the skimpy side, as is his analysis of options for a resolution of the cold civil war. For a more complete treatment of those and related matters, see my page, “Constitution: Myths and Realities“, and the many posts listed at the bottom of the page.

One passage in Kesler’s lecture caught my attention:

Since 1968, the norm in America has been divided government: the people have more often preferred to split control of the national government between the Democrats and the Republicans rather than entrust it to one party. This had not previously been the pattern in American politics. Prior to 1968, Americans would almost always (the exceptions proved the rule) entrust the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency to the same party in each election. They would occasionally change the party, but still they would vote for a party to run the government. Not so for the last 50 years.

I decided to look at the numbers to see if Kesler has it right. In fact, the “norm” of divided government began in Eisenhower’s presidency. The GOP eked out a narrow hold on both houses of Congress in 1952, when Ike won his first term.. But the GOP relinquished that hold in 1954, and didn’t regain until 1994, during Clinton’s presidency. Since 1952 only JFK, LBJ, and Carter — Democrats all — enjoyed same-party control of Congress throughout their presidencies.

The real story, as I see it, is the unusual era from 1952 through 1988, when Republican presidential candidates outpolled their congressional counterparts. Here, for your entertainment (if not edification), is a graphical version of the story (right-click to open a larger image in a new tab):

A “Referendum” on Trump?

UPDATED 11/20/18

I was wrong when I predicted (here and here) that the Dems wouldn’t retake the House. They did, and in rather convincing fashion. Including three undecided races (two GOP leaders, one Dem leader), the Dems will have gained 39 seats. That’s a pretty good showing by historical standards:

So, was 2018 a “wave election” for Democrats, as many Democrats and pundits expected it to be? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. “Wave” is vague. (Pun intended.)

But I will say this: If there had been something like a “wave”, the Dems would have retaken the Senate, too. They certainly were in a position to do so, needing only a net gain of only two seats to go from a 49-51 minority to a 51-49 majority. (I’m counting two so-called independents as Dems because that’s how they vote.) But, instead, the GOP added two seats (assuming that Sen. Hyde-Smith of Mississippi retains hers in next week’s runoff), and will open the 116th Congress with a 53-47 majority.

Here’s how 2018 stacks up against previous mid-term results for the Senate:

Why the disparity between the House and Senate in this year’s mid-terms?

If the mid-terms had been a “referendum” on Trump, as often suggested (even by Trump), the House and Senate would have gone in the same direction. They didn’t because the election wasn’t entirely about Trump.

One story is that the Dems gained in the House because of a focus on health care. It is the Dems’ own creation — Obamacare — that has pushed health-care costs and premiums ever higher in recent years. But that matters not to ignorant voters, who are sucked in by promises to “get it right”. Dems are good at making such promises.

The Senate results tell a different story. It was possible for Trump to lend visible and vocal support to GOP Senate candidates in a way that he couldn’t for the vastly greater number of GOP House candidates. So, if anything, the “referendum” on Trump occurred in Senate races, and Trump won.

2020 Vision (II)

I made a bold prediction in “2020 Vision“:

  • Trump holds Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
  • He adds Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
  • Of the usually Red States that are sliding toward the Blue column — Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas — he loses only Arizona.

Bottom line, 318 electoral votes, and possibly even a majority of the fictitious “national” popular vote.

I will now temper that prediction by pointing out (unnecessarily) that the GOP candidate (probably Trump) will have a higher hill to climb than the Democrat candidate.

Here’s how the 2020 electoral vote looks to me, at the moment: solid Democrat, 235; solid Republican, 132; in play, 171. I am still confident that Trump (or his successor) can win in 2020 — the “Blue Wall” is a myth. But victory won’t come as easily as my earlier post implied.

The States in play in 2020 (and the number of electoral votes for each) are:

Florida (29)
Georgia (16)
Maine (4)
Michigan (16)
Minnesota (10)
Nevada (6)
New Hampshire (4)
Ohio (18)
Pennsylvania (20)
Texas (38)
Wisconsin (10)

Visually (with blue for Republican, red for Democrat, and purple for in play):


Adapted from the electoral map for 2016 at Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Leip uses blue for Republican and red for Democrat.

2020 Vision

Trump confounded most expectations in 2016 by taking Florida, Iowa, and Ohio — all Blue since 2004 — and nudging two long-time Blue States — Michigan and Pennsylvania — into the Red column.

What about 2020? A lot of water will flow under the bridge and over the dam in the next two years, but at the moment I see it this way:

  • Trump holds Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
  • He adds Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
  • Of the usually Red States that are sliding toward the Blue column — Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas — he loses only Arizona.

Bottom line, 318 electoral votes, and possibly even a majority of the fictitious “national” popular vote.

A Bobo in Cloud-Cuckoo Land

Bret Stephens, one of the tame “conservatives” at The New York Times, has an op-ed to which my attention was drawn this morning: “Why Aren’t Democrats Walking Away With the Mid-Terms?“.

Stephens touches upon a thesis that has been enunciated by many. I will come to it by way of Arnold Kling — an unusually sensible economist (e.g., he calls standard macroeconomics “hydraulic economics” and derides the implicit assumption that the economy is single unit — a big GDP factory). Kling has written a book (now in second edition) called The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divide. Here are some relevant passages:

In politics, I claim that progressives, conservatives, and libertarians are like tribes speaking different languages. The language that resonates with one tribe does not connect with the others. As a result, political discussions do not lead to agreement. Instead, most political commentary serves to increase polarization. The points that people make do not open the minds of people on the other side. They serve to close the minds of the people on one’s own side.

Which political language do you speak? Of course, your own views are carefully nuanced, and you would never limit yourself to speaking in a limited language. So think of one of your favorite political commentators, an insightful individual with whom you generally agree. Which of the following statements would that commentator most likely make?

(P) [Progressive] My heroes are people who have stood up for the underprivileged. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to the oppression of women, minorities, and the poor.

(C) [Conservative] My heroes are people who have stood up for Western values. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to the assault on the moral virtues and traditions that are the foundation for our civilization.

(L) [Libertarian] My heroes are people who have stood up for individual rights. The people I cannot stand are the people who are indifferent to government taking away people’s ability to make their own choices….

I call this the three-axes model of political communication. A progressive will communicate along the oppressor-oppressed axis, framing issues in terms of the (P) dichotomy. A conservative will communicate along the civilization-barbarism axis, framing issues in terms of the (C) dichotomy. A libertarian will communicate along the liberty-coercion axis, framing issues in terms of the (L) dichotomy….

I do not believe that the three-axes model serves to explain or to describe the different political ideologies. I am not trying to say that political beliefs are caused by one’s choice of axis. Nor am I saying that people think exclusively in terms of their preferred axis. What I am saying is that when we communicate about issues, we tend to fall back on one of the three axes. By doing so, we engage in political tribalism. We signal to members of our tribe that we agree with them, and we enhance our status in the tribe. However, even though it appears that we are arguing against people from other tribes, those people pay no heed to what we say. It is as if we are speaking a foreign language….

The three axes allow each tribe to assert moral superiority. The progressive asserts moral superiority by denouncing oppression and accusing others of failing to do so. The conservative asserts moral superiority by denouncing barbarism and accusing others of failing to do so. The libertarian asserts moral superiority by denouncing coercion and accusing others of failing to do so….

In 2016, Donald Trump surprised many people— including me— by emerging as a powerful political force and prevailing in the presidential election. Trump’s success confounded many analytical frameworks that had worked well in the past, and the three-axes model is not particularly helpful, either.

Progressives certainly viewed Trump through the oppressor-oppressed axis, seeing his pronouncements and his supporters as tinged with racism and threats toward other victim classes. Libertarians viewed Trump through the liberty-coercion axis, seeing him as authoritarian and a danger to liberty.

Conservatives, however, were divided. One faction, represented by a number of writers at the conservative publication National Review, viewed Trump negatively along the civilization-barbarism axis. They saw Trump as scornful of important traditional institutions, including civil discourse, the U.S. Constitution, the Republican Party, and the principle of free trade.

The other conservative faction saw Trump’s opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, as a greater threat to civilization. Writing under the pseudonym, Publius Decius Mus, an essayist on the Claremont Institute website described voting against Clinton as analogous to the passengers on one of the planes hijacked on 9/ 11 who managed to storm the cockpit and keep the hijackers from hitting their intended target.

In my view, Trump opened up a new axis. He accomplished that by appealing to people who differ from those with whom I am most acquainted. Some have termed this new axis populist versus elite, or outsider versus insider….

Perhaps the main dividing line is best described in terms of cosmopolitanism. The sections of the country that most strongly supported Hillary Clinton were large cities located along the coasts, where affluent people are used to engaging with foreign cultures, either locally or by traveling abroad. The sections of the country that most strongly supported Donald Trump were rural and small-town areas located away from the coast, where interaction with foreign cultures is much less frequent.

To describe the cosmopolitan outlook, recall the expression “bourgeois bohemians,” coined by journalist David Brooks almost two decades ago. Brooks was describing a cosmopolitan elite, one that enjoys foreign travel and celebrates cultural diversity. The Bobos, as Brooks dubbed them, probably feel more comfortable in Prague than in Peoria.

As I see it, Donald Trump’s supporters were the anti-Bobos. They distrusted foreign people and cultures. But above all, they distrusted and resented the Bobos, and the feeling was mutual. Thus, the axis that I believe best fits the Trump phenomenon is Bobo versus anti-Bobo.

I think this is right. Bret Stephens is a Bobo who believes that “the real threat of the Trump presidency isn’t economic or political catastrophe. It’s moral and institutional corrosion — the debasement of our discourse and the fracturing of our civic bonds.”

Stephens seems not to understand that — in the view of anti-Bobos — civic bonds were fractured long ago by the Bobos who championed school busing, affirmative action, and all that followed under the heading of identity politics, including “open borders”. The anti-Bobos of the North were taken for granted as reliable Democrat voters, largely ignored (by both parties), and then sneered at by Democrats. Hillary Clinton’s characterization of the anti-Bobos (of all regions) as “deplorables” was merely confirmatory, and probably enabled Trump’s victory by putting him over the top in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump’s genius has been to speak the language of anti-Bobos and make them feel as if they are valued.

It is unclear to me what “deeper threat [Trump’s] his presidency represents”, as Stephens puts it. Trump, as I argue above, is not divisive. Bobo policies — shared by “establishment” politicians of both parties — have been divisive. Stephens and his ilk (of all parties) simply want the anti-Bobos to shut up, get back in the fold, and accept the crumbs that fall from the Bobos’ table. The “deeper threat”, in other words, is an end to the Bobos’ long reign of error in Washington.

Stephens’s Bobo-ism is fully on display in the final paragraph of his op-ed, where he writes that “The tragedy of Pittsburgh illustrates, among other things, that the president cannot unite us, even in our grief.” What I saw was an immediate attack on Trump for having created an “atmosphere of hate” (shades of Dallas 1963). Trump’s personal behavior — which reflects his long-standing pro-Jewish sympathies — was exemplary, as was the behavior of Rabbi Myers. How, precisely, was Trump supposed to “unite us” when there are tens of millions of Americans — goaded on by the mainstream media — who despise him for the sheer enjoyment of it?

Trump and Election 2018

This was a final update before election day. The Dems won a majority in the House, though  a narrow one. Meanwhile, the GOP has increased its majority in the Senate. That is the better half of the loaf because control of the Senate means that Trump can continue to remake the judiciary in a conservative image. Further, the House will be perceived as the obstructionist body for the next two years, setting the stage for a GOP restoration there. Barring the unforeseeable, a largely successful Trump presidency will set the stage for Republican dominance in 2020.

How is Trump’s popularity these days? And how will his standing with voters affect the outcome of tomorrow’s elections?

Trump’s approval ratings have been fairly steady since early in the year, with a recent uptick that bodes well for GOP candidates:

FIGURE 1
Derived from Rasmussen Reports approval ratings for Trump.

Lest you believe that those numbers are weak, consider this comparison with Obama’s numbers:

FIGURE 2
Derived from Rasmussen Reports approval ratings for Obama and Trump.

In this age of polarization, it’s hard for any president to routinely attain high marks:

FIGURE 3
Source: Same as figure 2.

The good news, again, is that Trump’s strong approval rating has been significantly higher than Obama’s for the past several months.

Ratios of the ratios in figure 2 yield enthusiasm ratios: the strength of strong approval ratings relative to overall approval ratings:

FIGURE 4
Source: Same as figure 2.

Since the spike associated with the Singapore summit, Trump”s enthusiasm ratio has settled into a range that is comfortably higher than Obama’s.

There is a different poll that is more revealing of Trump’s popularity. Every week since the first inauguration of Obama, Rasmussen Reports has asked 2,500 likely voters whether they see the country as going in the “right direction” or being on the “wrong track”. The following graph shows the ratios of “right direction”/”wrong track” for Trump and Obama:

FIGURE 5
Source: Rasmussen Reports, “Right Direction or Wrong Track“.

The ratio for Trump, after a quick honeymoon start, fell into the same range as Obama’s. But it jumped with the passage of the tax cut in December 2017, and has remained high since then, despite the faux scandals concocted by the leftist media and their concerted attack on Trump.

Figure 5 suggests that the squishy center of the electorate is lining up behind Trump, despite the incessant flow of negative “reporting” about him and his policies. (See “related reading” at the end of this post.) His base is with him all the way.

Trump’s coattails may be be decisive in November. Based on an analysis of the relationships between Obama’s popularity (or unpopularity) and the outcome of House elections, it looks like the GOP will hold the House while losing about 10 seats. (This is a very rough estimate with a wide margin of error.)

Rasmussen’s generic congressional ballot affords a similar view. The polling data, which are behind a paywall, span April 2007 to May 2015 (when the poll was discontinued), and January 2018 (when the poll was resumed) to the present.

This graph compares the polling results to date with the actual nationwide vote shares compiled by House candidates in the general elections of 2008, 2010, 2010, and 2014:

FIGURE 6

Taking a closer look:

FIGURE 7

Rasmussen advertises a 2-percentage-point margin of error, which is borne out by the results for the elections of 2008-2014. In fact, the generic congressional ballot was spot-on in 2010 and 2012, while the GOP under-performed slightly in 2008 (the year of the financial crisis) and over-performed slightly in 2014 (a mid-term referendum on Obama).

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that this year’s polls are spot-on. The latest poll (figure 7) gives the GOP 51 percent of the two-party vote. How does that translate into House seats? Recent history is probably the best guide:

FIGURE 8

A 51-percent share of the vote would give the GOP about 52 percent of House seats; that is, the GOP would hold the House. In fact, two years ago the GOP won more than 55 percent of House seats with 50.5 percent of the two-party vote.

There’s more evidence against the loss of the House:

1. I correlated measures of Obama’s popularity (or lack thereof) with with the outcomes of House mid-terms during his presidency. I then applied those correlations to measures of Trump’s popularity (or lack thereof), which is markedly higher than Obama’s at this stage of their respective presidencies (according to Rasmussen, at least).

2. I correlated the outcomes of post-WWII mid-terms during GOP presidencies with the GOP presidents’ shares of the 2-party vote in the preceding elections. I then applied that result to Trump’s share of the 2-party vote in 2016.

Both methods yield the same result for 2018: a loss of 4 House seats by the GOP (yes, four seats, not 4 percent of seats). The estimates are surrounded by a wide margin of error. Given that, the results support the view that the GOP will hold the House.

In the end, the outcome will depend on turnout. Are Democrats more charged up than Republicans? I don’t think so.

Stay tuned.


Related reading:

Alex Castellanos, “How Trump Has Managed to Defy Gravity“, RealClearPolitics, July 31, 2018

Selwyn Duke, “Media Collusion: 100-Plus Papers Agree to Simultaneously Run Anti-Trump Editorials“, The New American, August 14, 2018

Dennis Prager, “The Greatest Hysteria in American History“, RealClearPolitics, July 24, 2018

Ned Ryun, “None Dared Call It Treason … When It Was a Democrat“, American Greatness, July 24, 2018

What Happens Next?

In what direction will leftists move after next month’s elections?

1. Will they be chastened by defeat and tone down their verbal and physical violence?

2. Will they be frustrated by defeat and keep it up?

3. Will they tone it down if broadly victorious?

4. Will they keep it up if broadly victorious, in the belief that more of the same will yield more of the same.

5. Or will they just keep it up because leftism and violence are intertwined?

The left isn’t monolithic, of course. The loony-left fringe — which is much more than a fringe — will choose #5.

Most left-wing politicians, on the other hand, will probably tone it down — win, lose, or draw. That is, they will choose #1 or #3.

I expect that it will come down to #1. This is from a recent article (behind a paywall) at Rasmussen Reports:

Republicans are madder about the Kavanaugh controversy than Democrats are and more determined to vote in the upcoming elections because of it.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of all Likely U.S. Voters say they are more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections because of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Only nine percent (9%) say they are less likely to vote. Thirty-four percent (34%) say the controversy will have no impact on their vote.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans are more likely to vote because of the Kavanaugh controversy, compared to 54% of Democrats and 46% of voters not affiliated with either major political party.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of all voters are angry about the U.S. Senate’s treatment of Kavanaugh, with 42% who are Very Angry. Fifty-six percent (56%) are angry about how the Senate treated Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, including 35% who are Very Angry.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Republicans are Very Angry about the Senate’s treatment of Kavanaugh, a view shared by 30% of Democrats and 34% of unaffiliated voters. By comparison, fewer Democrats (48%) are Very Angry about the Senate’s treatment of Ford; 28% of GOP voters and 30% of unaffiliateds agree.

Democrats’ five-point lead on the weekly Rasmussen Reports Generic Congressional Ballot has vanished. The two parties are now tied with less than a month until Election Day. We’ll be watching to see if this is the beginning of a post-Kavanaugh trend.


Related posts:

Trump Defies Gravity
The House Hangs in the Balance

Election 2018 — Latest Updates

Trump Defies Gravity” — Note especially the “Right Direction”/”Wrong Track” ratio in figure 5 (and in the sidebar). It’s near its post-honeymoon peak for Trump. And it’s about twice as large as the ratio of eight years earlier, when BHO was running ruining the country.

The House Hangs in the Balance” — Signs that the House will remain in GOP hands.

The Mid-Terms: A “Referendum” on Trump?

Mid-term elections are always about the incumbent president — at the margin. That is, some voters (probably “swing” voters in the general elections), cast their House and Senate ballots in protest against the presidential candidate for whom they had voted in the preceding general election. (It’s like having a tantrum when the tooth fairy doesn’t leave as much as one had expected.)

The post-World War II record for the House, where all seats are on the line in every election, tells the story. The GOP usually fares worse in mid-terms when there’s a Republican in the White House than it does when there’s a Democrat in residence.

In the first graph below, you can see that Republicans have won more than 50 percent of House seats in only 6 post-WWII mid-terms, and 5 of those wins occurred during a Democrat presidency. The mirror image view is similarly lop-sided: Democrats have won more the 50 percent of House seats in 12 post-WWII elections, and 8 of those wins occurred during a Republican presidency.

In the second graph below, you can see that Republicans gained House seats in 9 mid-term elections, and 8 of those elections were held when a Democrat presided. The mirror image: Democrats gained House seats in 9 mid-terms, 8 of which occurred during a Republican presidency.

So if the GOP loses the House in 2018, it will be in line with history and not necessarily because of Trump — though the pundits will play it that way.

The American Electorate’s “Squishy Center” vs. Liberty

I have invoked the electorate’s “squishy center” in several posts; for example:

If a left-wing Democrat (is there any other kind now?) returns to the White House and an aggressive left-wing majority controls Congress — both quite thinkable, given the fickleness of the electorate — freedom of speech, freedom of association, and property rights will become not-so-distant memories. “Affirmative action” will be enforced on an unprecedented scale of ferocity. The nation will become vulnerable to foreign enemies while billions of dollars are wasted on the hoax of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and “social services” for the indolent. The economy, already buckling under the weight of statism, will teeter on the brink of collapse as the regulatory regime goes into high gear and entrepreneurship is all but extinguished by taxation and regulation.

All of that will be secured by courts dominated by left-wing judges — from here to eternity.

And most of the affluent white enablers dupes of the revolution will come to rue their actions. But they won’t be free to say so.

Thus will liberty — and prosperity — die in America. Unless … the vast, squishy center of the electorate takes heart from Trump’s efforts to restore prosperity (and a semblance of constitutional governance) and votes against a left-wing resurgence. The next big test of the squishy center’s mood will occur on November 6, 2018.

How big is the squishy center? I estimated here, based on popularity ratings for Obama and Trump, that about one-third of the electorate is hard left and about one-third is staunchly conservative; thus:

Figure 3
Derived from presidential approval ratings compiled by Rasmussen Reports for Obama and Trump.

I concluded on this note:

Left and right — the hard left and staunch conservatism, in particular — are irreconcilable. They are in fact locked in a death-struggle over the future of America. The squishy center is along for the ride, and will change its tune … and allegiance opportunistically, in the hope that it will end up on the “right side of history”.

As for the size of the squishy center: It may comprise about one-fifth of the electorate, rather than one-third, judging by electoral oscillations since the advent of the modern Republican Party around 1920. Hyper-active Teddy Roosevelt captured the party upon his ascendancy to the bully pulpit in 1901. Though TR’s presidency ended in 1909, the GOP remained in his thrall through 1916. TR’s “Bull Moose” (Progressive) candidacy in 1912 swung the election to Woodrow Wilson — the father of the administrative state. Charles Evans Hughes, the GOP nominee in 1916, was a TR man.

The GOP returned to “normalcy” in 1920, with the election of Warren G. Harding and his running mate-cum-successor, Calvin Coolidge. By “normalcy” I mean that Harding and subsequent GOP nominees have paid lip service, and sometimes actual service, to the project of limited, constitutional government. In any event, GOP presidential candidates, whatever their platforms and programs, have been consistently to the right of their Democrat opponents.

Given that, the division of the popular vote between the two major parties gives a first-order approximation of the ideological divide:

(I attribute the dampening of the fluctuations since 1984 to the generally uninspiring character of the post-Reagan candidates. Clinton’s weak surge in 1992 and 1996 reflects his GOP opponents — Bush I and Dole. Obama’s weaker surge in 2008 reflects McCain’s bumbling performance, and a temporary burst of enthusiasm among blacks and misguided whites who wanted to send a “message” to George W. Bush.)

A similar but more precise estimate of the ideological divide can be obtained by counting the votes cast for third parties. Drawing on Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, I assigned votes to two camps, which I call Federalist and Nationalist. Federalist for the idea of a confederation where States are co-sovereign with a limited, central government; Nationalist for the idea of a strong central government of almost unchecked power, ruling over subservient States.

On the Federalist side are the GOP; the Southern Democrats of 1948 and 1968; and the Libertarians of 2016. (I count the Southern Democrats as favoring the Federalist side because of their stance on States’ rights, however ignoble the cause it served. But their inclusion does not taint the GOP, as I explain here.)

On the Nationalist side are the Democrat Party; the Socialists of 1920 and 1932; the Progressives of 1924 and 1948; the Independent/Reform parties of 1980, 1992, and 1996; and the Greens of 2000.

There are other third parties, of less consequence, that could be labeled Federalist or Nationalist — the Libertarians before 2016 and the Greens of 2016, for example. But assigning them wouldn’t make a significant difference in the picture of the ideological split, which looks like this:

The Federalist surge in the 1920s is less impressive than the GOP surge of that decade, while the Nationalist surge in the 1990s is more impressive than the Democrat surge of that decade. But the bottom line remains the same: The electorate swings between 40-60 percent in the GOP/Federalist camp and 40-60 percent in the Democrat/Nationalist camp.

That is to say, there’s a hard core Republican/Federalist vote of 40 percent and a hard-core Democrat/Nationalist vote of 40 percent. The other 20 percent can’t make up its collective mind. But it’s the decisive 20 percent.

Democracy is the enemy of liberty.