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October 21, 2010


Interesting analysis. I'm curious how much overlap there is between the districts that you treat as competitive in your analysis (n=106?) and the districts that Nate Silver's model treats as non-safe, i.e., having less than a 95% probability of victory by the leading candidate (n=144, I believe). Unfortunately, getting the answer to that question probably involves a bit of of not very productive labor, unless you or one of your colleagues has a research assistant sitting idle.

Yeah, I don't know. One problem is that you don't want to adjust by current competitiveness because that's in part a function of candidate quality. That's why I used the presidential vote instead.

I think all you've proved here is how partisan-Republican the Tea Party really is...


Jersey -- yes the Tea Party candidates are almost entirely Republican. That's because they stand for restricting the growth of government and few Dems hold that position.

However, I think Brendan demonstrated something else of importance. Due to the media focus on certain hapless Tea Party candidates -- particularly Christine O'Donnell -- many people may have the impression that Tea Party candidates in general are politically weak. Brendan's analysis shows that's not the case.

BTW poor Christine O'Donnell gets blased by the media even when she's right. During a debate she accurately pointed out that the phrase "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. Her opponent was unaware of this fact, nor could he name the other freedoms protected by the 1st Amendment. The media nevertheless blasted O'Donnell for supposedly being ignorant of the Constitution.

Nice work Brendan.


Amendment 1 states - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Which is the separation of church and state by definition.

To imply anything else is simply indefensible.

It's like saying the Bible doesn't explicitly say "Jesus rose." Instead, the apostles gave testimony. The fact is, Jesus rose.

You can't defend O'Donnell - she's a dumb as a rock and is trying to cover up the fact that she's a born again Christian.

The fact is - as a Conservative - O'Donnell, Angle and Miller make me cringe. Buck and Toomey do not.

And, unfortunately, by putting up these weak candidates, guys like Toomey may go down when they really shouldn't.

This isn't the Yankees vs. Red Sox or the Gators vs. Bulldogs folks - it's the future of the country.

We need to nominate WORTHY, CREDIBLE candidates in ALL races. And to foresake the NE & Far West, which will NEVER nomindate anyone but social moderate, fiscal conservatives just plain ignores the electoral math.

Hot Air: The myth of the lousy Tea Party candidate?

You seem to have forgot about the calendar. The fact is the primaries were the first political effort for most the TEA parties and they were late to the gig and not that well organized. This is a second job for most of them they were not politically active before and it is a big learning curve.

They were inexperienced in the process as it is a very complicated and clubby process. They are better prepared for the current election but thier choices generally speaking are the default conservative??/RCC picked people. The next primary should be a better indicator of how effective the TEA parties are. They better understand the electoral process and are and will be working it from the next primaries on thru the next Presidential election. They are starting already. I know because I am very involved with this effort.

The TEA parties efforts are to get rid of all these crooks in both parties one way or another. The real question is where is the effort of the pure Dems to clean house on thier side? Or are they satisfied with such mountains of ethics like Charlie Rengal, Barney Frank and many others who have hyjacked thier party into some Socialistic front group. Maybe we should all join the unions and close down all greedy business in this country, take the owners money and distribute it using social justice.

If something doesn't change soon we are headed into social chaos, bankruptcy. Both parties agree current policies are "unsustainable" yet both parties continue to spend and enslave us all to the ever mounting national debt.

See you at the polls.

Drew, interpreting the Establishment Clause to require Separation of Church and State is one reasonable interpretation, but it's not the only one. Nor is SOCAS the interpretation understood by the Founders.

Originally, the Establishment Clause prohibited an explicit State religion, like Judaism in Israel, but it wasn't understood to prohibit all religious activities by the government. E.g., President George Washington declared two separate explicitly religious Days of Thanksgiving.

In fact, I believe originally the Establshment Clause allowed an individual state to have an official state religion. The Supreme Court changed that when they extended the 1st Amendment to apply to the states.

For over 150 years, Americans didn't understand the Establishment Clause to require SOCAS. Only in the last few decades has the Supreme Court made that the official interpretation.

>In fact, I believe originally the
>Establshment Clause allowed an individual
>state to have an official state religion.
>The Supreme Court changed that when they
>extended the 1st Amendment to apply to the

That wasn't the Supreme Court. It was the 14th Amendment in 1868 that applied the Bill of Rights ("No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States"). Which is why when challenged, such as the recent gun cases, the Supreme Court rules a state can not violate the Bill of Rights which prior to the 14th only restricted Federal action.

At the time of the adoption of the Constitution it was the model of the New England states that the other states feared; they already disestablished state religions (such as the Virginia Bill of Religious Freedom of 1785) and wanted to similarly restrict Congress.

Connecticut disestablished the Congregational Church in 1818, and Massachusetts in 1833, which ended official ties between church and state in America. It was a decades long fight, the original opposition first organized as anti-establishmentarians, a movement which coalesced with other political and financial interests as the Anti-Federalists in New England.

Any reasonable interpretation of the 14th amendment means you must read "Congress" more broadly then the original construction to mean any legislative body since it now applied the 1st to states, thus assuring no state could establish in the future.

When the Congregational Church was established in most New England states it received tax support of the government -- if you didn't pay ecclesiastical taxes or qualify for an exemption by showing you financially supported and attended another church your property could be seized and sold like any other tax debt. Other denominations which wished to open a church would need the permission of the Congregational ministers of that county (and if I believe in some cases the Congregational ministers would go as far as to disapprove the hiring of particular preachers by churches of other faiths if they were especially disagreeable to the Congregationalists).

An established church was a far more dangerous and powerful thing they we envision today in our fairly petty battles over school prayer and ten commandments at the courthouse.

This isn't something the Supremes just pulled out of their hat in 1960-something. The concept of separation of Church and State was a battle that existed and was being fought by those who wrote the Constitution, but like slavery they could not simply abolish established churches at the time the Constitution was adopted -- even though that was clearly the direction the nation was moving.

To the previous commenter with the unpronounceable name, your comment makes good points about the history of established churches in the United States, but it's incorrect in saying that the Bill of Rights was incorporated against the states by virtue of the Privileges or Immunities Clause. There are some who make that argument, but it's not one that's been accepted by the Supreme Court. (Clarence Thomas's concurrence in the recent McDonald v. Chicago case argued for that proposition with respect to the Second Amendment, and many scholars wished the Supreme Court would take that approach, but they've been disappointed so far.)

Instead, the protections of the Bill of Rights have been incorporated against the states on a piecemeal basis, using the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Though one could say that all such provisions that have been incorporated were incorporated as of the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, it wasn't known that they were incorporated until the Supreme Court ruled that way in a series of 20th and 21st century cases. Accordingly, I think David's statement on that subject is accurate.

The body of your analysis is quite good, the title threw me off a little, I was expecting a negative piece on the Tea Party.

I think a more appropriate title would be "Is the Tea Party Really Hurting the GOP?" I realize that title might not attract as many readers, but that is the real question you are answering.

One thing that is currently hard to quantify is the impact the Tea Party is having on playing down emotional, social wedge issues? This is where the long term impact of the Tea Party will be measured.

Stressing fiscal conservatism and limited government against the backdrop of debt-driven social unrest in Europe strengthens the Tea Party message. If a coalition of voters is formed that include Democrats, Independents, and even Libertarians that value fiscal conservatism and limted government over sensitive social wedge issues, the U.S. political landscape will be redefined.

As a member of a voting coalition comprised of rank and file Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians, all focused on fiscal responsibility and limited government, Libertartians will be making the largest philosophical contribution.

My unfortunate use of "even Libertarians" referred to their relative size as a voting block, not the impact they are having on this election. Indeed, the minimizing of social wedge issues which permits Democrats and Independents to focus on fiscal issues and limited goverment principles over social wedge issues is very Libertarian.

In an earlier post, Brendan described a Tea Party conference that was held yesterday at UC Berkeley. A report on that conference from Slate is here.

IMHO this report shows that the academics represented here have little clue as to what's going on. Some participants found lots of bogus evidence supposedly demonstrating that the Tea Parties are teeming with racism. One used statististical hypothosis testing to demonstrate the obvious conclusion that pre-existing beliefs in economic and political individualist ideology impacted levels of dissatisfaction with government policy.

IMHO this conference demonstrates that some fields of supposed academic studies do not deserve a place in the academic world.

It's difficult to know whether to be amused or alarmed by Weigel's report on the Berkeley conference. That some academics would regard as a proxy for racism agreement with "the proposition that blacks ought to work their way up without any special favors" is unsurprising but still troubling; apparently the notion that there is a principled argument against affirmative action is something these academics are unable to accept.

For comic relief, we have University of Michigan political science and women's studies professor Lisa Disch proclaiming, "You're not allowed to just say no to everything the president wants." What can we conclude other than that news of the U.S. Constitution hasn't yet reached Ann Arbor? I had to confirm it myself. There she is, a tenured full professor--and one whose trip to Berkeley was almost certainly paid for out of departmental funds. The mind boggles.

BTW Prof. Disch isn't the only Obama-supporter to argue that Republican resistance thwarted Obama's agenda. Apparently that's a standard talking point.

I find it amazing that someone can make this argument with a straight face. After all, Obama had such large majorities in both Houses that he could pass legislation with little or no Republican support. Furthermore, he did enact laws of enormous impact (for better or for worse), such as Health Reform and the trillion dollar Stimulus.

I can't get my mind off Professor Disch's statement, "You're not allowed to just say no to everything the president wants." Of course she's wrong. In the United States, you are allowed to say no to everything the president wants, unless you're a member of the military in which case you're obliged to follow lawful orders. So let's consider the possibilities:

(1) Is Professor Disch suffering under a huge misperception about what you're allowed to do in the United States? That forces us to ask the question, which elites fostered that misperception?

(2) More ominous, is Professor Disch herself one of those elites, pressing the myth that you're not allowed to say no on hapless members of the public? If that's the case, we need to name her and shame her and get together to deny her an opportunity to spread her malarky through elite media.

(3) Did Professor Disch actually not believe what she said, but said it out of rage and frustration and impotence? (Similarly, many who respond to pollsters that Obama is Muslim may not actually believe it but are speaking out of rage and frustration.) If that's the case, maybe all she needs is for Dr. Phil to give her a spa weekend.

(4) Did Professor Disch mean not that you're not allowed to say no, but that you shouldn't be allowed to say no. That would smack more than a little of a penchant for totalitarianism--what we might otherwise call fascism except that if you're a card-carrying member of the left, you can't be guilty of fascism.

(5) Did Professor Disch mean not that you're not allowed to say no, and not that you shouldn't be allowed to say no, but that it's a very bad idea for you to say no to everything the president wants? In that event, she's not guilty of a misperception so much as an inability to express herself clearly.

Perhaps this is more attention than Professor Disch's undeniably foolish statement deserves. But for fun, imagine if the statement had been made not by a full professor at the University of Michigan but rather by Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell or Sharon Angle. What sturm und drang there'd be! What gnashing of teeth! What solemn pronouncements that they were unqualified to hold office! Of course, Professor Disch isn't running for any office; she's merely teaching young people at one of the leading state-run universities in the country, and because she has tenure her job is 100% secure. So no problem!

One bizarre aspect is the existence of a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. Naturally, to this Department the Tea Parties appear right wing.

IMHO this is a mistake. Support for the Constitution and opposition to Health Reform and other recent expansions of government are hardly out of the mainstream. Opponents of Tea Parties who make the mistake of thinking that Tea Parties are some kind of extremists will not be effective in opposing the Tea Paarties IMHO.

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