Even though my forte is macroeconomics, what works and why, I’ve spent a lot of time lately analyzing politics, what works and why. These are my final thoughts on the 2012 election.
So I’m not going to waste a lot of time and effort on what could very well be an approaching Republican civil war. I’m also going to stay away from commenting on the horrible human and property destruction of Hurricane Sandy, the analytic nightmare facing the GOP, or prospects for the 2016 Iowa caucuses which are now just a short 1,000+ days away.
There are plenty of places for you to find that if you want that. But Tuesday night produced other news that I hope are worth your consideration.
California’s Way Back Post Arnold
- California voters made two assessments that could have a sagacious impact on the state’s fiscal and political life. They approved Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to increase sales taxes and income taxes on the affluent to ease the state’s perennial budget dilemma. (California’s 34-year-old Prop 13 requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature to increase taxes, an all-but-unreachable level.) If Prop 30 had failed (“pundits” said it would) , the already drastic cuts in California’s schools, public universities and other services would have been just a prologue to further cuts.
- In another decision, the state’s electorate cast off Proposition 32, which would have banned labor unions and corporations from raising money for state political purposes through paycheck deductions. Because corporations rarely use this tactic, Prop 32’s real impact would have kept tens of millions of dollars from aiding Democratic Party candidates in the state (a primary motive why business interests contributed over $120 million in a wasted effort to pass the proposition).
While Democrats might applaud the result, it also means that labor unions will continue to hold enormous power with the party. This essentially means that Brown’s efforts to rein in pension benefits for public employees may have gotten a lot harder, but democracy was served. And that can’t be a bad thing.
Good Sense’s Way Back
Also accomplished on Tuesday, November 6th was :
- Courtesy and respect in the U.S. House of Representatives took a leap forward, as two of the more bloviated, blow-hard, combative members lost re-election. Allen West, a hateful, disrespectful, Florida Republican and tea party favorite who once declared that “there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party,” lost his seat. So did deadbeat dad Joe Walsh. Despicable those two.
- Across the aisle, and I mean way, way, way across the aisle, Pete Stark of California, an old, crotchety, “get-offa-my-lawn” 40-year veteran, whose conniption fits are legendary, was defeated by a much more mellow, but fellow Democrat.
- Conversely, bat-crap crazy, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota narrowly survived re-election. This will be great for late-night comedians, but it also means at least two more years of her, umm, eccentric approach to history (i.e., situating the battle of Lexington and Concord in…New Hampshire?) and medicine (vaccines cause mental retardation because someone she had just met told her so? Really? Really?).
- And Florida’s Alan Grayson, one of my personal favorites, (who once said the on the floor of the House of Representatives that the Republican “health care plan” was for older people to die quickly), will return to the House of Representatives.
The ability of the Obama campaign to target supporters and get them to the polls and the ability of analysts like the New York Times’ Nate Silver to predict the outcome of a race with near uncanny precision, (he got every state, and federal election correct to the complete dismay of Joe Scarborough and every Republican in the country that disparaged a man simply doing his job damn well) means that those pundits who got into politics because they were told there’d be no mathematics involved really need to shut the hell up.
Anyone who revels at all in the political process, your compulsory reading should include Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise.” Despite Joe Scarborough’s on-air dismissive taunts about political predictions being more than (mockingly) S-p-r-e-a-d-s-h-e-e-t-s, Silver explains why forecasts from the world of sports, finance, and politics fail, and should offer a permanent admonition to those pundits (read: Joe Scarborough and all of FOX Noise) who write and articulate in terms of “gut instincts” to determine the non-scientific forces that will compel elections. Yeah. Sure. Horsefeathers!
This campaign established forcefully that if you do not comprehend this new ee-lek-tron-ick world, you will not understand politics, no matter how well you know the history of the Electoral College.
I made a conscious effort not to watch the election returns. I did not turn on my television, I avoided my computer, and I powered down my “smartphone”. I wanted to be surprised the day after. I wanted to read all the websites, check all the “news” channels, revel in the pundits who were saying both “I told you so” and the ones saying “How the hell did this happen?!”
I specifically wanted to spend today searching the websites of all of those who so boldly asserted why and how Obama was predestined to lose. I was above all enthusiastic to read the astuteness of Dick Morris, the most consistently, hysterically birdbrained pollster/prognosticator, who penned just a few days ago “Here Comes the Landslide.” This man’s continued employment is an inspiration to all who opine that a career should in no way be constrained by a complete lack of competency.
But at least Morris can admit when he’s wrong (Joe Scarborough, you too can feign humility and apologize to Nate Silver).