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October 22, 2008

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I agree with you on the nonsensical talk about mandates, but I think that's a very different point than a realignment. That has less to do with whether a voter is liberal or conservative and more to do with whether they believe the Democrats are better at governing than the Republicans.

We're seeing evidence that the Democrats could pick up 20-30 seats in the House which is remarkable considering that they already made major inroads into red-state territory 2 years ago. Those freshmen Democrats should be struggling to hold their seats, but they aren't. Likewise Democrats could end up with 56-60 seats in the Senate (plus Bernie Sanders), which would be a huge turnaround from 2004.

Whether this is truly a realignment is something we won't know for years. But it's a tremendous opportunity for Democrats. To capitalize on it, they'll have to prove that they can lead where Republicans failed.

Brendan accuses Drudge of using a "loaded picture" of Obama. It's apparently okay for Obama's website to link to Obama's Flickr photostream with numerous recent pictures of Obama's African-American supporters (see, e.g., here, here, and here), but not okay for anyone else to use those or similar pictures. I'm sure glad Obama's candidacy has ushered in a post-racial era in American life.

I'm confused as to why anyone would think that a huge Democratic swing would be a permanent thing. For one, even Democrats mistrust the Democratic Party, given the lackluster performance of the last two years. Obviously, the public would be giving the Democrats a chance with a blowout win. It's more than obvious that future elections will be based on their performance.

The closest analogy to realignment that I think of is my car. When I get the tires realigned, I don't expect it to be permanent. I expect it will need realigning at some point in the future.

I'm confused as to why anyone would think that a huge Democratic swing would be a permanent thing.

They think it might be a permanent thing because they've seen permanent majorities before. Democratic dominance (particularly of Congress) lasted decades beginning in the 1930's. They only started losing the Senate in the 1980's and didn't lose the House until 1994. Kennedy, Johnson and Carter each had over 60 Democratic Senators and nearly 100 vote advantages in the House. At one point Johnson had 68 Senators and 295 Reps and that was at the height of the civil rights struggle (when Democrats were more divided than they've ever been).

That's what Karl Rove wanted to replicate when he spoke about a permanent Republican majority.

I guess I have a different definition of permanent. The dictionary says "continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change."

Politics is always changing, and you gave several examples in your comment, Jinchi. Brendan is predicting that people will talk about permanent realignment, not long lasting or even historical. There are bombastic pundits out there, but I see more people obsessed with the moment.

IMHO Dems mostly controlled the Federal Government from the 1930's to the 1970's because they stood for the government taking on more tasks, and that was popular. Goldwater was too early, but by the time Reagan ran, a majority felt that the government was doing enough.

The Republicans blew their Congressional majority by continuing to increase the scope of government. I think a majority of Americans still feel that the government is doing enough. So, the Democratic position of continuing to increase the span of government does not command majority support today.

However, today's Dems can build a long-term ruling coalition by putting together enough special interests to add up to a majority. They will give the unions "card check", which means ending the secret ballot in union elections. They'll give amnesty to illegal immigrants, but won't call it that. They'll give plaintiffs' attorneys more ways to sue. They'll increase preferences to various minorities. They'll give the poor more welfare, even though welfare reform was terrifically successful at reducing welfare dependency. They'll please the education establishment by leaving the No Child Left Behind money with the schools, but removing the requirement that schools demonstrate improved results.

With all these groups behind them, and with the support of most of the media, I foresee many years of Democratic rule.

I thinks that we need to move beyond coalitions of special interest groups...and I think that we can.

Why don't you promote that, David, with your elected representatives? They represent you, regardless of your party affiliation and theirs.

Here are some suggestions -

1) dont't advocate against a group - advocate for outcomes.

2) don't attack a policy or program because you think it is based on faulty premises - find areas in implementation that need to be improved or negative results that need to be considered and guarded against. Advocate that steps are taken to address these short comings.

3) if you have a better plan, share it.

4) tell your legislators to work together toward a common goals (or goals) - goals they agree on. If you can come with some goals to share with them that would be a good start.

5) tell them not to compromise without reaching a consensus on the key issues. We shouldn't have compromise that just benefits two apparently opposing interest groups (say, the teachers union and pro-voucher advocates). Those compromises may end up being two poor policy decisions (or two poorly designed programs). Compromise of that sort may be inevitable but tell your representatives to take responsibility for these bills in their entirety, not just the portion of it they support.

If we can't get rid of special interest groups or partisanship at least we can try to keep it from hurting us too much.

Howard Craft, the sad reality is that if one is going to get involved in lobbying or working toward some governmental goal, it's more feasible to gain some special advantage for oneself or one's group than it is to work for the general welfare.

In my case, I have zero influence in preventing the enactment of, say, card check legislation. I do have some influence in securing legislation and regularions favorable to actuaries. At least, my actuarial association to which I pay dues has had success in that direction.

I think the best hope for trying to hold down the amount of special interest legislation is divided government. Even that doesn't necessarily work. However, I think the combination of Clinton and Gingrich did very well in holding each other back.

The Republicans blew their Congressional majority by continuing to increase the scope of government.

I disagree. The Republicans blew their majority by failing to govern effectively. They presented a view of the world that simply didn't add up in the end. Tax cuts didn't pay for themselves. Deregulation didn't lead to a capitalist utopia. Putting an oil man in charge didn't keep energy prices low. New job creation didn't even keep up with the increase in population. Deficits exploded. Republicans didn't even keep their promises to social conservatives of banning abortions, ending gay marriage, stopping corruption, or restoring Christian moral values to society.

OTOH, I don't think the Democrats have a "mandate" for anything more than not doing what Bush did. Voters are running from the Republicans. Democrats haven't done much with their majority to date.

Republicans used to claim that the economic expansion under Clinton only happened because Republicans were there to check his excesses. Democrats have blamed the last two years on Republicans obstructionism. If Obama wins with a Democratic Congress, he has the opportunity to prove Republicans decisively wrong. That's the sort of thing that would create a long-term majority, but it will depend on the the results over the next few years.

Hey David - Actuarial shout-out from a Fellow Actuary!

Jinchi -

"Republicans used to claim that the economic expansion under Clinton only happened because Republicans were there to check his excesses. Democrats have blamed the last two years on Republicans obstructionism."

Republicans still claim this, by the way, and a whole philsophy of voting for a divided government has sprung up it this claim's wake. Of course, it can never be proved, since we don't have the alternative universe to test out the inverse.

However, I am not sure what the second line in your statement above has to do with the first. The Dems have had a solid majority to pass whatever they wanted without any Republicans, but it appears to me the leadership has been too pre-occupied with being "not Bush" that they managed to pass very little - which is OK with me since I probably wouldn't have liked it. :-)

In any case, not sure how why you think these two items are related.

MartyB -

One way to take it is that a divided government (Executive vs. Legislative) doesn't automatically result in a generally positive balance (it may just be grid-lock).

Another way to take it is that people can make up excuses (or explanations) to explain anything. Jinchi may be agreeing with your comment, and is saying that the Dems were ineffectual and have used the inverse of the "a divided government is positive" argument to excuse themselves.

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