My impression of the election results, from a great distance

by on November 4, 2010 at 1:23 am in Political Science | Permalink

There is an anti-gay backlash in Iowa and I don't see marijuana climbing the legalization hill, if it can't make it through current-day California.  We're seeing the high water mark for pot, as aging demographics do not favor the idea.  Just 32% of the Tea Party candidates won; admittedly that figure should be adjusted by the rate of incumbency (a lot of Tea Party candidates were challengers).  In any case, there was not a Tea Party tidal wave.  Sarah Palin as nominee is up a few points on InTrade.com, although I do not see why.  Haley Barbour is also up and Chris Christie is down considerably (why?).  Given that the Democrats did better than expected in the Senate, Obama's reelection chances look better now than they did a week ago.  The Republican strategy is not dominating in broad constituency, MSM-reported, "lots of scrutiny" races, even with an abysmal economy and a not so popular health care bill.  My mental model of Obama is that he will cut deals with the Republicans, even on (mostly) their terms, if indeed any deal is on the table.  I would be pleased if critics of the Obama presidency would indicate their managerial background and expertise, yet few do.  How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success? 

Andrew November 3, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Just admit you're anti-gay already. Jeez

Dkr November 3, 2010 at 9:48 pm

He is probably hurt more by keeping the Senate than helped. Now he won't have them to run against.

Kat November 3, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Ilya Somin's VC post on the defeat of Prop. 19 is pretty good: The Defeat of Proposition 19

I found some of the studies cited interesting: most people's political attitudes solidify in their twenties, and it may even be true that the elderly become more socially liberal as they age.

David Wright November 3, 2010 at 10:48 pm

My mental model of Obama is that he will cut deals with the Republicans, even on (mostly) their terms, if indeed any deal is on the table.

There are some obvious deals to be made. For example, changing the Medicaid funding model from matching funds (which encourage states to expand benefits by making them pay only $0.50 for every additional $1.00 in health care benefits they offer) to block grants (which makes a state pay the full $1.00 for every $1.00 in benfits it wants to offer above the grant level). This is an effective cost control measure, and is likely to be politically tollerable because it is (a) back-loaded (it constraints future growth but need not reduce current spending), (b) affects primarily the indigent (who are unlikely to analyze the subtle effects of funding mechanisms on their benefits and are unlikely to vote even if they do), and (c) not particularly ideologically charged. I'll look to this as a test case to see how likely Obama is to accept market-oriented reforms that are likely to constrain the future expansion of government benefits.

RightKlik November 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm
Nigel November 3, 2010 at 11:36 pm

>>We're seeing the high water mark for pot, as aging demographics do not favor the idea. <<

Chopped logic, I think.
The next generation of old are going to be a great deal more rational on this issue than the current one. (For the record, I don't use MJ, and disapprove of its use, but think prohibition is an absurd policy – and the "war on drugs" downright insane.)

In any event, I suspect there will be a rerun in two years' time, and a version of Prop 19 will pass. And Texas will follow within a decade.

Nodoginthefight November 3, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Re: marijuana. Did something happen at the end with pot in california? Intrade had a contract at 60% for a long time but then I check the day or the election and it had plummeted. What went on there? (my willingness to believe prediction markets are predictive keeps getting challenged when it's so off like that). What new info came in to make those trades move so fast? One day mj is almost certainly to win then it's a longshot.

Ok aging demographics. One thing that works against mj legalization are those demographics. legal or illegal, mj consumption peaks in late teens or early twenties then gradually tapers off, even for boomers and gen x. There is no cohort for whom that mass who did it on high school or college kept doing it throughout their life; some do, but most move on. Compare that with alcohol where consumption continues throughout the life cycle. That's the real difficulty for mj legalization: the demographics who currently use tend to have low turnout rates in elections.

John Thacker November 4, 2010 at 12:05 am

I would be pleased if critics of the Obama presidency would indicate their managerial background and expertise, yet few do. How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success?

We know that Ron Johnson could. Or Tim Scott down in South Carolina, elected with 68% of the vote to be the first black Republican from South Carolina in over a hundred years, considering that he owns a small insurance agency and is a partner in a real estate firm.

I don't necessarily believe that support for pot actually declines as people get older, rather than simply reflecting earlier mores, considering the various Gallup polls on this issue over the years. You may be making the type of mistake that implies that men turn into women as they get older, considering how much higher a percentage of older people are women than younger people.

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 12:29 am

Just 32%? First of all, "just 32%"? What should have been expected?

Second, on any ballot that has 3 candidates, 'just' 33.333333% of the candidates win.

Third, it's not about "THE tea party." They are just a mechanism for voter despair.

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 12:59 am

Would supporters of Obama also divulge their management experience?

To dislike him because he hasn't read any Deming, Drucker, Collins, Buffett, Graham, Fisher or Koch, has never occurred to me, although I bet he hasn't. When would he have had time?

Chris R November 4, 2010 at 2:11 am

I think that what this tells me is that the Republicans are currently not a coherent party. Voters loathe the party establishment and were willing to give the outsiders (tea partiers) a chance, but let's face it, political outsiders are political outsiders because they either have a life or are weird. The tea partiers may have handed the Democrats the Senate, and this is consistent with the idea that the tea party is a direct attack on the Republican establishment.

The longer term problem is that the Republicans have no narrative as to what they are as a party. They got much of what they wanted from the '70s through the '90s, so until recently they've been stuck making stuff up. I don't see this changing, unless an external event like a debt crisis or a collapse of the health insurance system occurs. Obama has outflanked the Republicans on security and has pulled close to them on the gay stuff while being ever so slightly more tolerant; in those respects he's like a more successful version of Clinton.

Jason (the commenter November 4, 2010 at 2:26 am

Chris Christie is down considerably (why?).

He's not the only rising-star anymore.

How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success?

I have to laugh at the idea Tyler thinks the President manages people. Obama has other people do that sort of think for him, just like he has other people write his speeches and determine his policy.

mmacc November 4, 2010 at 2:42 am

"repub strategy not dominating in broad constituency"? The repubs just became the dominant party in American politics for the first time since probably the 1920s- look at all the state races. The repub problem in the past was a very weak minor league system- now they dominate the states & will have a number of rising stars- plus do not over look the redistricting battle- in which the repubs are in the drivers seat. Democarts domination of the redistricting for the last few decades has been crucial to their strength in many states- that is gone. Medical marijuana shenanigans killed legalization- it was sold to the public to help terminal cancer patients & AIDS patients- but 90% of the prescriptions are for diagnosis that are very suspect and are not terminal diseases.

josh November 4, 2010 at 2:45 am

It should be noted that Cowen's objectivity has been entirely compromised.
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolut

J Thomas November 4, 2010 at 3:07 am

"Did something happen at the end with pot in california? Intrade had a contract at 60% for a long time but then I check the day or the election and it had plummeted. What went on there? (my willingness to believe prediction markets are predictive keeps getting challenged when it's so off like that)."

Intrade is a system of equations, one equation with 2 variables. Why would you expect it to give you the answer you expect for one of the variables?

Intrade is a betting game. It is not predictive, except sometimes by accident.

oblong November 4, 2010 at 3:24 am

"I would be pleased if critics of the Obama presidency would indicate their managerial background and expertise, yet few do. How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success?"

Interesting comment: Are you suggesting democracy is a ludicrous charade since the vast majority of a polity can have no 'real' understanding of the thing they are required to judge? Interesting – and of course you realize that given the terms of your complaint and his glaring lack of 'relevant experience' not even Obama would have been justified voting for himself in 2008.

The system does indeed seem farcical then seen from that perspective – I take it, like Friedman over at the Times, you therefore envy the Chinese?

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 3:57 am

I think Tyler's point on management is fine if you have a specific critique about how he manages. I'm just not sure I've heard anyone say that. Even then though, you have to have a 'philosophy of management' and if Obama is not adhering to one then it would still be fine to criticize that from a place of no experience. Even not presenting us with his philosophy of management to hold him accountable to is grounds for criticism.

I also think some folks are missing Tyler's point on Intrade. Even if the end result is not correct, the trend is your friend. That's ironically why I think Tyler misses the point of the Tea Party (if he does that is). The total number who won or lost doesn't matter as much as the fact that they won more this time than last time. Liberals are always less excitable and more pragmatic than conservatives, but even they are getting irritated.

Our problem is not contentiousness so our solution is not compromise. We don't not have good public works projects and real coordination solutions not because of a lack of bi-partisanship. We haven't had good government because we have bad government.

George November 4, 2010 at 4:37 am

Tyler – what the hell did Obama run before he became POTUS? According to an academic, people need to have managerial experience before they criticize the guy who was a "community organizer" prior to becoming POTUS? Please. And don't try to sell me this garbage about Obama "running" his campaign as evidence of his managerial skills. First of all, Axelrod and Plouffe ran it, not Obama. And secondly, when people resort to claiming that running for POTUS qualifies you to be POTUS, they are defining qualification downward such that it ceases to have meaning.

I have a BA, MS and JD in History, Finance and Law, respectively. I've was a middle manager for 5 years at an institutional investment management firm's compliance department and am now a senior manager at the same firm/department. Does that "qualify" me to critize Obama, or do I need to jump through another hoop or two? Just let me know.

I can tell you one thing, if some kid put "community organizer" on his resume I doubt I'd hire him or her, even for an entry level position.

Academics are bad enough in general, but academics who get a little press are unbearable. This blog used to be good, but Tyler is quickly becoming a cartoon character.

T. Shaw November 4, 2010 at 4:45 am

haha

CLUELESS

HAHAHA

professor

HAHAHAHAHA

ELITIST

bwahahahahahaha

Us stupid, probably-insane, traitors were allowed to (gasp) vote . . . Should have REFORMED that early in 2009 . . .

George November 4, 2010 at 4:47 am

Our problem is unsustainable government spending and regime uncertainty. Period.

Paul Zrimsek November 4, 2010 at 4:58 am

I don't know how to sweat-solder a pipe joint any more than I know how to manage a team of ten people; does that mean I have no right to demand that my plumber know how to do it?

Peter November 4, 2010 at 5:26 am

Mitch Daniels's Indiana, and it seems likely that Daniels– who occupies a similar space to Christie-

Daniels actually occupies about half the space that Christie does.

Rob November 4, 2010 at 5:45 am

"my willingness to believe prediction markets are predictive keeps getting challenged when it's so off like that"

Intrade is predictive, but perhaps you're misreading the prediction. 60% intrade price means a 60% chance of something happening. But, improbable things happen. Here, MJ legalization should fail 40% of the time; that is not much better than a coin toss. You can't read a 60% pricing as "60 > 50 therefore MJ will pass." Even a 95% prediction should be wrong 5% of the time.

Cliff November 4, 2010 at 6:04 am

Worst set of predictions by Cowen ever.

Jeff November 4, 2010 at 6:17 am

Does anyone feel that it the last two sentences are totally incongruous with this normally well-written blog?

It's almost like he's been hacked…

tom November 4, 2010 at 6:27 am

1. Tyler has no informational or analytical advantage in commenting on elections. "Anti-gay" is weirdly simplistic and ignorant for Tyler. So is the idea that Obama's effectiveness as a manager was even in the top 3 of issues the led to the Dem-bacle. And so is the idea that you can't criticize someone's management abilities unless you yourself have managed.

2. Tyler is shoring up his bona fides with the young socialists he wants to help grow in the right direction(Klein, Yglesias).

Ed November 4, 2010 at 6:57 am

A few random comments:

1. I crunched the numbers off of the Guardian's spreadsheet and got 50.0% for the Republicans and 46.7% for the Democrats for the House. The Guardian doesn't give raw vote data, and the actual split is more like 52% to 46% given the Democratic advantage in low turnout urban districts. This is a good result for the Republicans, but not as good in terms of the popular vote as 1994 or 2002, or 2006/8 for the Democrats. The Republicans basically won just about every closely contested race for the House.

2. With the Senate, its the opposite, the Democrats did better than expected in the closely contested races, plus they had a huge advantage in seats not up for re-election. Still, I think with better candidates the Republicans could have gotten to 50 Senators plus Nelson or Lieberman.

3. The Democrats will probably lose the Senate in 2012 when they have more seats up, but the two year respite is going to prove to be a huge factor. For the White House, it means bills passed by the House can be strangled in the Senate without having to resort to a veto, or even a filibuster in most cases. For Democratic regulars, this limits the ability of the White House to do deals with the Republican leadership, for example on social security, over the heads of other Democratic leaders.

4. Other commentators have noted the difference between 1994, when the Republicans came in with an a program, and this election, and between Gingrich and Boehner. They also will have a problem that many of their committee chairmen will be retreads from the Hastert years.

5. One more difference with 1995-7 is that there is less scope for "triangulation". The Republican House majority is simply less interested in governance, the Senate results mean that you can't cut deals over the heads of the other Democrats, and unlike welfare, social security, the likely subject of a deal, is quite popular. There is a chance this time of an attempt at triangulation provoking a primary challenge. But the Republican leadership might tacitly agree to run a non-credible candidate against Obama; it happens all the time with lower offices.

6. The effect of the election on redistricting is surprising muted, despite massive Republican gains in the state legislatures. The states that they can gerrymander tend to be the same states they gerrymandered after 2002. They also tend to be the states that have elected very few Democratic congressmen, so there are in many cases simply no Democratic seats to squeeze. But they do get an advantage potentially from a non-partisan process in California, the Democratic gerrymander there seems to have helped them particularly this year. Also, the legislatures have one more election to go through, alot will depend on what happens in Illinois and New York which had bipartisan gerrymanders last time but where the Democrats could get full control, which would offset losing full control in California.

7. I was surprised by the extent of the Democratic losses around Chicago, in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, but this is explainable by the bad shape the Midwest is in economically.

8. The problem with the pot legalization is that there is simply no conceivable reason to make pot illegal, and alcohol and tobacco legal. Americans have had a bad tendency to indulge in brain-dead policy making because, well, its a rich country and people want to do that. And it may no longer be a rich country in the future, partly because of this (even in the case of pot given the money sunk in enforcement and eradication efforts).

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 7:10 am

Obama has chosen the right underwear because the critics of his underwear haven't shown me their underwear.

Michael Foody November 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

"The people" certainly want to complain, beyond that they don't know what they want. If Obama's sole goal was maximizing electoral success he would have been better off passing more stimulus and less healthcare reform (assuming stimulus is capable of creating short term bennefits). Instead his goal was to pass healthcare reform because whatever he did he would lose enough seats to make passing that legislation impossible.

A lot of of criticism of Obama and Democrats is contingent on the view that accumlation of power is the end goal of those who would govern. Power is there to be exercised the Democrats did that and can be judged (in time) by the quality of the results. I'm far from dazzled with the end product but I think it is an important improvment over our terrible status quo.

DK November 4, 2010 at 7:14 am

Nice disclosure of all of your biases, Prof. Cowen. Now go and bet some real money on Obama reelection and/or against chances of tea party candidates. And learn how to manage at least 10 people.

J Thomas November 4, 2010 at 7:27 am

"Intrade is predictive, but perhaps you're misreading the prediction. 60% intrade price means a 60% chance of something happening."

It would mean that if everybody thought this was a fair bet. If it's a 60% chance that something happens, and so you can buy a bet for, at 60 cents or buy a bet against, at 40 cents and either way if you win you get $1, that's fair.

But it does not mean that. It does not show that everybody thinks this is a fair bet. It shows only that nobody wants to bet enough money to deflect the odds from this ratio. Not the same thing at all.

Yancey Ward November 4, 2010 at 7:40 am

Christie is likely down this morning because the overwhelming Republican victories occurred in the Midwest- states like Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin (and Pennsylvania, if you break the state between Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern). This argues for a presidential candidate who is from the Midwest. This would argue for Mitch Daniels or Tim Pawlenty. Christie might well make a good VP candidate for whomever the nominee is, however.

Thomas November 4, 2010 at 7:54 am

My mental model of Tyler is underdoing some changes.

–I don't see the vote in Iowa as much evidence of an anti-gay backlash. It's not anti-gay to think that the Iowa court acted lawlessly, and that Iowans had at their disposal only a limited remedy, which they seized.

–I think we're at the beginning of the marijuana legalization effort, not the end.

–I'm not sure what the "Tea Party" is, other than an idea. There was a "Tea Party" event a block from my house last year, which I learned about in the newspaper two days later. Some guy called a few friends. I'm not sure who he endorsed in our local Congressional race–we're an Obama +3 district which replaced a Democrat with a Republican by a 60-39 margin.

–InTrade…really? I don't understand the fascination.

–The outcome for the Democrats in the Senate was "better than expected" largely because the expectations for Democrats by election day had become so low. If we were to have measured expectations in 2008, or early 2009, or late 2009 or even early in 2010, we'd say the Democrats did much worse than expected. A few months ago, Robin Carnahan was even odds to win in MO, and yet she lost by 13 points. When did expectations move in OH?

–My mental model of Obama is that he thinks he's already cut deals with Republicans, on health care, taxes, energy, etc. You know, with the reasonable ones.

–I'm sure there are managerial issues in the WH, as there so often are. I suppose Meg or Carly would be in a position to criticize, and they don't have anything to do, so perhaps they should run things. But I think that most critiques of Obama focus not on his managerial failures but on his ideology. When I hear him say that we we'd be more competitive if we were more like China and Singapore, with new airports and high speed rail, I can't help but think that what he knows about the economy he should quickly try to unlearn, for the sake of the rest of us.

Gen X November 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

Tyler, you are simply wrong about MJ. The improving public opinion of MJ legalization has everything to do with younger generations' familiarity with the drug compared to the oldies. In particular, the younger generations are very clearly able to see the disconnect between what they are told in school about MJ versus what their personal experience tells them. And with pills getting more popular, and actually killing people, it's getting harder and harder to justify to parents that the one recreational substance we have that has no acute toxicity should be verboten.

George W. Bush November 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

Quite a few comments on here resoundingly repudiating some bizarre thinking on Tyler's part, George's and Thomas' particularly. What's going on, Tyler? You're signaling some sloppiness here

KML November 4, 2010 at 10:17 am

I'm fascinated by the vehemence with which readers have pounced on Tyler's management comment. Whatever the flaws of that particular remark, he is clearly on to something that merits further consideration.

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 10:31 am

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/The-Most-Important-

The Republicans even picked up even more than would have been expected based on the relevant economic indicator, in addition to adding a radicalized wing to the party.

Frankly, I don't know what anyone is talking about.

Bill November 4, 2010 at 10:42 am

Andrew,

Re Your comment: "The actual comparison for the Tea Party results is how well a Tea Party candidate would 'normally' do. We don't have that alternate reality…."

Yes we do have that alternative reality. See my earlier post above. Look at the voting for state legislative districts that are within the House of Representative district. My observations are that Tea Party candidates did poorer than Republicans in state legislative districts within the House of Representative district.

BPO November 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

"Clearly Obama learned to ignore the deficit because if he were to balance the budget like Clinton, it would be undone in two years by Republicans."

You mean like it was going to be undone shortly anyway. HTH.

J Thomas November 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

"Clearly Obama learned to ignore the deficit because if he were to balance the budget like Clinton, it would be undone in two years by Republicans."

You mean like it was going to be undone shortly anyway. HTH.

You expect Republicans to reduce the deficit? When was the last time Republicans did that?

Here's one thing that could help — We currently spend about 4$ of GDP for the military, plus 2%+ of GDP for the two wars we are fighting. Get out of those wars and that's 2% of GDP available right there.

Cut military spending by 1% of GDP and it starts adding up to some real money.

Paul Johnson November 4, 2010 at 12:13 pm

It's not the end of statism yet. Not even the beginning of the end. But…

Andrew November 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm

"My observations are that Tea Party candidates did poorer than Republicans in state legislative districts within the House of Representative district."

I have no idea what this means Bill.

Bill November 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Andrew, perhaps I can explain by example. Take the geographic area os a US house of representative's district; identify the state legislative districts within that geographic area (assembly, senate, house or whatever your state calls them), and then look at how the state races went compared to the federal race for US house of representatives. You can also do this on statewide races in comparison
To US senate races.

Jon November 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

What's unsustainable about our middle class? Unless you are referring to stuff like Peak Oil and resource depletion, in which case the whole American lifestyle, for all classes, is not sustainable. (Ditto, the rest of the world)

William Jameson November 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I am stunned by the implications of your "managerial background" comment. Unless you meant something that you completely failed to convey I have to admit that it is a far dumber comment than anything I ever imagined I'd read on this blog. The flaws in the logic are so gaping that it is of little use to point them out. You can take the economist out of the …

John Dewey November 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm

"I would be pleased if critics of the Obama presidency would indicate their managerial background and expertise, yet few do. How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success?"

What were you possibly thinking when you wrote this, Tyler?

Of course, Obama has millions of critics in the U.S. Many of them are successful business owners and executives. Many of them have been military leaders. A number of them have held high-ranking executive positions in government. But why should it matter if a critic of Obama has any managerial experience at all? In my opinion, any citizen and/or taxpayer in the U.S. has every right to criticize the president of the U.S. Do you believe otherwise?

astonerii November 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm

"I would be pleased if critics of the Obama presidency would indicate their managerial background and expertise, yet few do. How many of them could manage a team of ten people with any success?"

What a pathetic argument you have there. So I guess Jimmay Carter, GWHB and Clinton and GWB are really the only people alive who have any authentic ability to have credibility to say the president is doing a bad job? All of us out here who are criticizing the Obama presidency have every right to criticize him on his performance without having to describe our managerial background skills. What kind of neanderthalic mental condition have you come under to think that American voters cannot critic the president? What a pathetic human being you must be to think that the only people allowed to critic the President of the United States of America are some select group that you or someone else anoints to the cause. The fact is that it does not take a MLB pitcher to determine if a pitcher is doing a good job. Same for coaches, actors, weathermen, plumbers and every other activity humans endeavor in. It is quite easy to say that the job is hard to do, it requires a person with a great ability to lead, and that Obama is doing the best he can. That is completely different than saying that because the job is so hard that no one in the world has the right to say he is doing it badly! Obama auditioned for the job, said he was ready, asked for votes, used every above the table and below the table and below the belt trick to get the job, and it is plainly obvious no 20 months in that he is well beneath the position he got himself elected to.

George November 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Tyler rocks!

You hit the nail right on the head, Most of these so called Tea Party types who take such extreme and idiotic positions on Obama are the same ilk that did the same to Clinton. Clinton was one of the most conservative Democrats to be elected in a long time and he was derided as a Socialist by people too uneducated and dim to be able to define socialism. I know it is politically correct to fail to mention the uneducated, unsophisticated "ideas" of the Tea Party but it is time that real conservatives quit apologizing for being smart and quit allowing idiots to define the debate. It might not be a crime to be an uneducated, rural reactionary who thinks car racin should be a Olympic sport but it is not great honor either. Lets not let the lowest common denominator frame the debate just because they have the loudest mouths. There are a lot of good reasons to oppose positions taken by the President but to do so because you think he is a "Marxist, socialist, islamicist" is just to betray your ignorance.

Andrew November 5, 2010 at 3:35 am

George, I think you are incorrect. Again, people can only focus on the Tea Party and the Rep/Dem paradigm. You need to look at the demand side. Ignoring the demand side is what is sinking the Democrats, the moderate Republicans and all the experts.

They make statements like this:

"Not a single Tea Party pick-up in the House would not have gone to any old Republican this year."

But doesn't that really mean the Tea Party had a great night? You basically swapped out a centrist for a more right-wing individual while at the same time gaining seats. How can people think this isn't significant?

Andrew November 5, 2010 at 4:38 am

Ha! I get the 100th comment again. It is incredible how people can make up statistics to fit their agenda. "Just 32% of tea party candidates won."

Try this one. 100% of Tea Party candidates won. There were no Tea Party winners before, there are 40+ now, that's 40/40=100%. Sounds ridiculous, but that is actually the relevant statistic.

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