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November 04, 2010


Interesting analysis Brandan. Nice job on testing the narratives now floating around out there in left-leaning land.

James Tranto has some snippets of "interesting" narratives from left leaning pundits from just the past year and a half that add to the sense that liberal pundits and politicains really didn't realize that their legislative priorites might produce any sort of backlash:


Carville; May 2009: "Republicans have no hope of making serious inroads into Democratic advantages in 2010, or likely in 2012 and 2014 and so on."

Mark Halperin; April 2010, "the President is on a path to be a huge success by the time of November's midterm elections."

Ryan Grim and Amanda Turkel / Huffington Post; Sept 2010:
"Tom Perriello in Virginia, Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, Alan Grayson in Florida, Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio and John Hall in New York have locked down support among their base and are winning over independents".

Of course anybody can be wrong, but these are spectacularly wrong. Makes you think twice about whose analysis to listen to.

One thing you still haven't accounted for in your chart is the fact that a different subset of the population turned out in 2008 compared to 2010. I have little doubt that supporting liberal bills makes a candidate unpopular among conservatives, who apparently turned out in larger numbers Tuesday. But I also expect opposing liberal bills would make you unpopular with liberals.

The problem is that candidates don't know beforehand whether their vote will demoralize their own voters, energize their opponents or have no effect on turnout at all.

My guess is that your chart would be shifted well into the positive column if you ran the same test of the Marginal Effect on Vote Percentage against the candidates running in 2008.

But that doesn't mean those votes were motivators. It simply means that they weren't liked by the voters who showed up on this particular election day.

Jinchi, you're right that the electorates differ. This is the estimated marginal effect for the most recent election, not a claim about all potential electorates. It's certainly likely that things would have been different with the '08 electorate, but that was always unlikely to be repeated -- I'm not sure we've ever had a midterm wave election in favor of the party controlling Congress and the presidency.

With certain liberal elements finding ways to not believe that their agenda was unpopular, how do they explain their big loss? Some attribute it to a fantasy version of what conservatives want:

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when children could be made to work in mines and factories, when workers had no legal rights to speak of, when the skies in every major city were heavy with industrial soot that would gather on sidewalks and windowsills like volcanic ash.

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when women could not vote, or attend any but a few colleges, or get loans in their own names, or start their own businesses.

There were those who wanted to take us back to a time when blacks “had no rights that the white man was bound to respect,” – this being the official opinion of the Supreme Court before those awful days of judicial activism, now decried by the likes of you – and when people of color could legally be kept from voting solely because of race, or holding certain jobs, or living in certain neighborhoods, or run out of other towns altogether when the sun would go down, or be strung up from trees.

It's quite possible that a larger stimulus would have helped the Democrats

It's surprising that people believe in the effectiveness of stimulus, when stimulus has failed over and over. Obama's failed by his own standards -- that it it would keep unemployment under 8%. Bush had IIRC two stimuluses, both of which failed. And, FDR's failed. Henry Morganthau, Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin D. Roosevelt and one of FDR's closest advisers, said in 1939:

"We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work." ... "after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . And an enormous debt to boot!"

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