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October 01, 2010


1. Markos isn't guilty of a fallacy so much as (allegedly) inadequate evidence for his view. He has presented evidence for his view, which may be wrong, but it's not logically inapplicable, as the term "fallacy" would suggest. Particular interpretative problems with polling data would be the result of other well-identified failures (poll wording etc.). I suspect Markos has thought of this sort of objection--besides, on your reading, nothing really polls well. Maybe I'm wrong about this reading of your piece, but you don't seem to give any evidence that you have considered the particulars.

2. It's silly to say "insufficient extremism" when something more moderate would be called for: "insufficient committment to party platform." There does however seem to be some causal relation between a person's political commitments and electability. O'Donnell may lose Rhode Island when Castle could have won.

Correction--O'Donnell may lose the Senate race in "Delaware." Apologies.

I didn't claim it was a logical fallacy. Fallacy has a more general meaning of a "false or mistaken idea": http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fallacy

I'd argue that the Dems are losing because they were not liberal enough, because more liberal policies (for example a larger stimulus) would have led to better economic growth/employment growth, and thus a better electoral outlook.

I understand that it's not a logical fallacy in a narrow sense. But "fallacy" implies some kind of diagnosable or repeatable structural error (a la sunk costs fallacy rather than straw man fallacy).

On your account, this doesn't seem to be instance of that sort of fallacy. I'd also suggest that you have a very general account for the problems Dems are having in this election. This has good predictive power, perhaps, but it doesn't explain particular results very well.

So perhaps you should walk back the strong claim that Markos is "grasping at straws." He might just be wrong. But you haven't tried to show that he is.

Not sure what Kos means by this, but IMO, I'd have preferred more liberal positions because they would have resulted in better policy outcomes. It's not a matter of ideological purity. A bigger stimulus, which liberals advocated, would have done a better job reducing unemployment. A simpler healthcare plan with public option or Medicare buy-in would have broadened coverage and reduced longterm costs more than what we ended up with. In both cases, if Obama had stuck to positions preferred by the left, he'd have gotten better results and the politics would take care of themselves. As a pragmatic progressive, I'm more frustrated at the failure of Obama to fight for sound policies than any idiocy about ideological purity.

Adrian - I agree that the economy would be better with a larger stimulus - but I don't think the Dems would be winning anything if they'd ran a $2.5T deficit last year instead of $1.3. Americans are flaky - and have short term memories - that pretty much explains all electoral results for the last 30 years :)

Other posters above hit the nail on the head. People aren't angry because the president wasn't liberal enough, but because he hasn't done enough to fix the economy. Had he asked for a 1.2 trillion dollar stimulus and gotten it, we'd be much better off. Had he asked for a 1.2 trillion dollar stimulus and been filibustered by the republicans, he'd have someone else to blame. Instead, he got the insufficient policies that he asked for and they weren't enough, so he's taking the blame.

Same thing with the health care bill. Had he asked for a public option, he could have said you no longer have to pay your greedy insurance company. Instead, you are now forced to pay them, and he doesn't have anyone else to blame.

Conservative self-identification is up by five points since 2008 and Jim Stimson's measure of public mood shows movement in a conservative direction in 2009, though the estimate is noisy.)

One could say you make the same mistake Kos does. What does Conservative self-identification tell us? Nothing. According to Gallup, the numbers have stayed somewhat steady for the last 30 years. Haven't Democrats won 4 out of the last 5 popular votes in the Presidential race?

People don't care about the deficit when unemployment is 10%(and likely a lot higher). And to the extent they care, a lot of it has to do with the PR campaign waged by Pete Peterson. The TradMed isn't going to ignore someone like him after all, no matter his credibility.

"Not sure what Kos means by this, but IMO, I'd have preferred more liberal positions because they would have resulted in better policy outcomes. ...

+1 to all that. Brendan, you even quote Kos: "If anything, it’s been failure to act on popular legislation that helped put them in this hole" and then go right into talking about "ideological positioning." Well, I think Kos (as quoted) is talking about actual outcome, a.k.a. results. To me there is a huge difference between ideological positioning (which suggests something purely political) and results (which suggests something that can be judged on its face).

Then you dismiss the polls Kos cites while writing, "Other results would likely find substantially lower levels of support..." which is pure speculation. Do you have a poll of your own that shows otherwise? I'm not saying it's a bad theory, but simply saying "that poll doesn't represent reality" is entirely unpersuasive without data to back it up.

KOS is an idiot. His site is just a "Drudge Report" only for the blue team.

I am so tired of red and blue cheerleaders. I want reason, ideas, creativity and solutions. Alas, these are tragically hard to find on political blogs.

This is a fisking? Really? Really weak. Kos is right. More Liberal policies would have helped the economy and helped the Democrats. A Stronger health plan would have closed the enthusiasm gap.

Really? Take a look out at the Mall in Washington tomorrow morning and see all the folks who wanted and deserved a more progressive Congress and Administration. What Markos is truly saying is not that progressive policies poll well, but that more progressive policies, pursued doggedly by this Democratic Congress and Administration, would have made for real improvements in people's lives. And, at the very least, a more passionate presentation of, and contrast to, the GOP. Instead of fighting for the lowest common denominator (if you can call begging and pleading for just one or two GOP votes in the name of bipartisanship 'lowest common denominator' - I call it negotiating against one's own interests), they could have been building a movement.

This is a pretty weak argument. For beginners, you're pretending more "liberal" policies would have appealed to only leftist extremists. Stronger regulations on the bailout recipients; price controls in the health reform bill; faster withdrawal from foreign wars; closing Guantanamo. These are policies that are supported by a large percentage of the population, not just Kos and the Professional Left. Obama, and the Democrats, tried again and again to appease the Right by creating milquetoast policies that weren't moderate, they were just less overtly lobbyist-friendly than the Republican ones of the past 15 years.

Cross posted to both Sullivan and Kos.

Nyhan's rip fails. Kos' critique -- and had Nyhan been reading him for an extended period he would know this -- is not simply that the Dems didn't push hard enough for so-called liberal goals; it's that they didn't really push for anything at all, particularly in the Senate (abetted by the White House). They consistently caved and made excuse after excuse after excuse. Americans don't want excuses in times like these; they want action. What type of action can certainly be debated, but Dems consistently fled from debate. They routinely ceded the field before the battle had even begun.

This isn't about 'liberal' or any other ideology. This is all about timidity. Kos certainly has an agenda -- one which I largely share. But his anger, and mine, isn't primarily about Dems failing to push that agenda. It's about ultimately failing to push any agenda at all. It's about Harry Reid et.al. consistently crying 'Uncle' every time Mitch McConnell looked in their direction.

Exchange the word 'liberal' in Nyhan's rip with the word 'bold.' That's Kos' point, and that's what will dearly cost the party, and the nation, on Nov. 2.

Rod Proctor

Mike: It isn't so much that Americans have short term memories as it is that Americans, like all humans, are very susceptible to propaganda and band-wagonning, particularly in regards to issues which they have little interest in or which they find "complicated". Few people would want their pastor, with maybe only a seminary degree, acting as their heart surgeon, but when it comes time to choose between the heart surgeon's complicated explanation of how life works and his pastor's uncomplicated and flattering explanation, most folks will choose the pastor's every time.

As to the article, I would like to know how Mr. Nyhan explains why so few self-identifying liberals have any desire to go to the polls this year. Does he think the simple fact of a Dem being in the White House has magically changed their political affiliation without changing their poll responses? Are they all secretly now conservatives and simply unwilling to admit it? As polls consistently show, what races the Dems lose, they will be losing because progressive, liberal, and Hispanic voters feel no desire to come out and vote for Democrat candidates, and that has everything to do with their dissatisfaction over policy. The Obama White House and their savvy-worshiping apologists may think it hilarious and right to mock the Amy Goodmans, Paul Krugmans and Glenn Greenwalds of the world as thugs, dirty hippies and unpatriotic apologists for foreigners; but those of us who actually voted them into office, those of us that largely agree with the world-view of those commentators, do not. Refusing to even fight for the policies we elected them to enact; like the public option, like a more open immigration policy, like financial re-regulation, like a end to military adventurism, like a competent stimulus, was annoying enough. To then be lampooned for supporting those policies and hectored for not being sufficiently thankful to them for that betrayal is infuriating enough to keep us home on election day.

You guys are prone to what I refer to as the "Try Harder Fallacy". This line of thinking says that we could have the public option, stronger regulation, cap and trade, comprehensive immigration reform, AND a bigger stimulus that would have saved us all.. if only Obama would "fight" for them. There is a better term explaning why our every dream hasn't been fulfulled, math. The Dems have rightly created a big tent that allows anyone to put a D next to there name if they want to. This is great way to make a majority but is like herding cats when you want to get things done. Add in the 60 vote requirement for any bill in the Senate and things get syrupy slow.

Obama is pragmatist that uses up his prez power coupons sparingly, only getting behind what he views as possible. He's a get what you can guy. This may or may not always be the ideal strategy. But to make him out to be a sell-out is to misunderstand the unfortunate comprises of governing.

er.. comprimises

The majority required was 51 till november 2008...

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