Not ready to make nice

4 05 2017

So this is floating around Twitter as an example of Dem perfidy:

Interpretation? Pelosi could have stopped it, but instead she chose to let Trumpcare sail on through just so she’d be able to increase the chances for a Dem takeover of the House in 2018.

That House Dems, following the vote, taunted their Republican colleagues (in the same way GOPpers taunted them in 1993, after they voted in favor of tax increases) with a round of na-na hey-hey goodbye seems to confirm this view: they’re singing over people losing health care because they think it’ll benefit them!

Such horseshit.

One, there’s nothing Pelosi or the House Democrats could have done to have prevented the vote. Unlike those of the Senate, the procedural rules of the House give the minority no power to stop the majority. It might have been possible to delay matters for a bit (which Pelosi, thinking this would give the Republican leadership a better chance to round up those last few votes, declined to pursue), but if the leadership wanted the vote, they were going to get it.

So: stop bitching about Pelosi’s unwillingness to stop a vote she was in fact unable to prevent.

Two, talk of punishing Republicans for this vote is exactly what Pelosi and other House Dems should be doing.

Corey Robin, for his part, seems to think the idea of looking to punish Republicans for bad policy  is the exact same thing as encouraging bad policy, that seeking an advantage after a shitstorm is the same thing as whipping up that shitstorm.


In fact, the Dems should be absolutely fucking ruthless about all of this. I and many others—including Robin—bitch about their tendency to collapse in a heap whenever they’re accused of not being nice; well, Pelosi don’t care about nice.

She stood on the floor of the House and warned Republicans against this vote, telling them “you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one. So don’t walk the plank unnecessarily.”

And when that failed, she came back and reiterated

Well, let me just say that they have this vote tattooed on them.  This is a scar they will carry.  It’s their vote.  It’s not the Senate vote.  It’s their vote they are taking.

So that is really a poor choice, cowardly choice, I might add.  Why would they vote for it if they don’t think it’s worthy of support, but because the Senate will change it?  From what I hear the Republican Senators saying, they don’t have any interest in passing this bill as is.

And by the way, whatever happens down the road, the Members of the House Republican Caucus will be forever identified with the worst aspects of the bill they passed.

She didn’t encourage a vote in favor in order to heighten the contradictions, she didn’t say “vote for this terrible bill to help Democrats”; she said “Don’t do this, because if you do we will make you pay.”

And yes, make them pay with their House seats. Elect Democrats in place of Republicans.

How is this anything other than common sense?

But no, the puritans among us would have us believe that looking to unseat Republicans is evidence of a sell-out, and Pelosi’s unwillingness to commit seppuku, bad faith.

The only knives we on the left are allowed, apparently, are those we are willing to wield against each other.


Circus Maximus MMXVI: Under pressure

8 11 2016

1:01: Time to go to bed and lie awake, stunned. Good night, all.

12:53: I’ve said before, for different events, that “I will no longer predict. . . .”

Adding presidential elections to that list.

I mean, I accepted the possibility that Trump, as the Republican nominee, had a shot, but I never believed it. I can say I was following the polls, which showed Clinton the likely winner, but, again, I didn’t believe he would end up the winner.

12:23: I’m sorry for Hillary Clinton, sorry for those modest gains I thought I could look forward to, and devastated with what we will lose with the Republicans in charge.

And devastated for all the people who have been targets, who will be targets, of the presumptive president.

12:16: All right, Republicans, this is on you. You’re in charge now, so let’s see if you can keep it together.

12:14: We’ll survive this, but not without pain, great pain and suffering.

12:07: President Donald Trump. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Speaker not-Ryan.

I was so, so goddamned wrong. Jesus christ. I ignored the polls showing Trump strength in the primaries, and paid attention to polls showing Clinton doing well. I thought I was being responsible.

But I also couldn’t believe that that many people wanted this intemperate incompetent to be president, that this many people hated Hillary Clinton.

I was so goddamned wrong.

11:36: Trump’s going to take Wisconsin. Goddammit.

11:34: They’re going to have all three branches of government. And an open Supreme Court seat.

11:27: I wrote a while ago that I didn’t think that most white people wanted to be racist, wouldn’t celebrate it.

I know, I know, #notallTrumpvotersareracist, but an awful lot of them don’t care that an awful lot of them are.

11:08: I’m ’bout ready to cry.

10:58: I’m going to be one of the wailers, aren’t I? One who’s going to have to recognize the legitimacy of a man who would be a terrible, terrible president.

10:43:Looking at that Times map, where Clinton needs 161 to get to 270:

  • CA-WA-OR will go Clinton, 74.
  • CO, leaning Clinton, 9 (83)
  • HI will go Clinton, 4 (87)
  • VA, leaning Clinton, 13 (100)
  • PA, leaning Clinton, 20 (120)
  • ME, leaning Clinton, 4 (124)
  • MN, leaning Clinton, 10 (134)

Possible pickups, too soon to tell:

  • MI (leaning Trump), 16
  • WI (leaning Trump), 10
  • IA (leaning Clinton), 4
  • NV (1% reporting), 6

She needs all of these to go for her. Jesus fucking christ.

10:37: I’m obsessing over the NYTimes live update map. Come on, Wisconsin and Michigan! COME ON!

10:24: I am freaking the fuck out.

~10:00: Jesus Christ, this thing is far too close.

Jesus Christ.

A man looks up on a yellow sky

24 06 2016

As I watched the ticker on the BBC website tilt “Leave” I kept murmuring You stupid bastards.

Not that my opinion matters, of course. David Cameron gave the peoples of the United Kingdom The Clash’s choice, and choose they did.

I have no idea what this means, for the UK, for Europe, or for the US. There are smart people who can game out possible scenarios, but, at this point, the pieces are all still jumbled.

The leftist and partisan in me was, for reasons of pessimism, the murmurer; the political scientist was, in considering the jumble, more Well, isn’t this interesting.

Both, however, agree that voting to go while wanting to stay is a bad, bad tactic:

But many voters have since spoken out saying they are shocked at the poll’s outcome and did not believe their Leave votes would actually count.

One voter, named only as Adam from Manchester, told the BBC: “I didn’t think that was going to happen.

“My vote – I didn’t think was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain.


Another voter, Mandy, said: “I was very disappointed about the result, even though I voted to leave, this morning I woke up and the reality did actually hit me.

“But if I had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay.”

This person, however, really takes the tea-cake:

One said: “I personally voted leave believing these lies and I regret it more than anything, I feel genuinely robbed of my vote.”

I feel genuinely robbed of my vote. You stupid bastard.

That’s really super, supergirl

5 11 2014

Did you vote today?

I did not.

I theoretically feel bad about this—civic duty and all that—but as a practical matter, I do not. I live in a blue blue district in a blue blue city in a state that is certain to re-elect its jerk governor. There was not even the tiniest chance that my vote would matter more than my not-vote.

That’s not a great reason not to vote, actually, given that I’ve voted for president in states where my vote/not-vote also wouldn’t matter, but, I dunno, it seemed like it might matter in a larger, non-Electoral-College kind of way.

But these mid-terms, in my district in New York? And in an election season which was damned-near certain to go to the Republicans overall? Not only did it seem like my vote wouldn’t matter, but that voting would be futile.

Futile is worse, somehow, than not-mattering, as if instead of feeling numb, I would be actively inflicting pain on myself. Why go out of my way to do that to myself?

I don’t know. It could be laziness.

But, really, I wanted all of this over with, wanted all of the bad—which I could do nothing to prevent (see: blue blue district in a blue blue. . .)—to just crash down already, so I could get used to the next couple of years of suckage.

Because it is gonna suck, even more than usual. It’s gonna, as I texted a friend, super-suck.


Piss & moan, piss & moan. Win some, lose some is what I ought to be telling myself, what anyone who cares about politics ought to tell themselves, regardless of outcome.

Tomorrow, maybe, or next week. But do give me tonight to sulk, won’t you?

Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Stop me oh ho ho stop me

27 09 2012


I almost feel bad for him by the end.



There’s a discussion over at Crooked Timber on the morality of leftists voting for Obama (here, here, and here), both in terms of the specific policies of Obama and the general policy approach of the Democrats.

I don’t necessarily disagree with either Henry or Daniel on the consequences of lesser-evilism, but it seems to me that you can’t just compare the lesser-evil to the not-evil, but to the greater-evil as well. They both get that, even if they do, ultimately reject it—largely by erasing the distinction between the greater and lesser evils, and leaving only that between evil and not-evil.

Which leads to one of my peeves regarding this debate: What the hell does morality have to do with politics, anyway?

It’s too late to get into a real discussion of the issue—and I have softened somewhat to the point that I allow the possibility that there just maybe might be some sort of connection—but I can at least ask: What role does one’s own moral stance have to play in voting? Are you meant somehow to be cleansed by voting? Not dirtied?

Shit, I got distracted by a misbehaving cat (Jasper!) and don’t have time properly to set up the issue, but is voting primarily about you, the voter—your complicity or contribution or whatever—or something else?

My gut reaction to all of this is a kind of contempt, but then again, I think guts are stupid. In other words, the issue of the morality of voting for a lesser evil isn’t something I should dismiss out of hand, even if I think that framing the issue as such is wrong.

Dammit, shoulda dealt with this earlier in the evening. . . .

Libertarians suck (part nth-mplth)

15 10 2011

Yes, I read Marginal Revolution, and no, I’m not able to restrain myself from reading the comments.

But this post—yeesh!

Por ejemplo:

8 October 14, 2011 at 7:28 am

Universal suffrage is a bad idea.


msgkings October 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

It’s incredibly elitist and non-pc to say so, but I agree.

And it doesn’t have to be as complex as evaluating for ‘bad’ voting behavior. Simply apply intelligence testing to voting rights. Not every dumdum is a ‘bad’ (disengaged, useless, etc) voter, but obviously the smarter your voting electorate, the better your outcomes.

I’ve come to believe that the democratic system set up here in the late 18th century worked so well for so long because suffrage was NOT universal. You had to be a landowning white male to vote in the early years. This didn’t guarantee that each voter was of a higher caliber, but it undoubtedly made the average or median voter of greater quality and intelligence. In this day and age of course you wouldn’t need to restrict based on race or gender, or wealth. But I think restricting voters AND candidates to IQs of 100+ (sorry Perry and Palin!) could only help outcomes.

It goes without saying that this will NEVER EVER happen.

Or how about the commenter who cites Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers approvingly:

Thoma Hawk October 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

This veteran agrees with you. As I state later in this post, I think suffrage should be given only to those with demonstrable responsibility, education, service, maturity, and loyalty.

Robert Heinlein’s vision in Starship Troopers was one where only discharged veterans had the right to vote and hold public office. It’s a move in the right direction.

Age is an arbitrary determinant. There are incredibly mature and intelligent 19 year olds. There are incredibly immature and uneducated 30 year olds. But age and maturity are strongly correlated. And certain experience are worth many times as much as a year of education.

So how about raising the voting age with a military service exception? I’m open to all suggestions for improvement, including persuasive arguments the franchise age should be lowered. I think lowering the voting age was a political ploy and not much thought went into it.

No, they’re not all nuts, but Dasher, Donner, and Blitzen, it makes me want to take away their rights to comment on blogs.

(Okay, okay, I know: I have to make the argument on why libertarianism-as-governing-theory is bad, and not just snark on libertarians, but it’s Saturday night and I’m drinking wine, so gimme a break. The argument will have to wait until coffee.)


3 11 2010

I am not a pundit.

And yet, as a political scientist (however mediocre), I am nonetheless required to say something about the first Tuesday in November in an even-numbered year.


[[[[[[[Loooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggggggggggg pause]]]]]]]]]]

Aw, shit, you want punditisms, you know better than to check here. So how about some real political science?

There’s a rationality problem in voting. No, not in terms of does-my-vote-count sense—there are reasons beyond that of affecting in an absolute manner the outcome of an election—but in terms of the intransitivity of the vote.

To wit: Voters may prefer A to B and B to C. So far, so good. But it is often the case that voters may also prefer C to A.

Transitivity would lead one to expect that A > B > C, but the possibility (and in many cases, actuality) of A > B > C > A renders voter preferences irrational. There are any number of variations on intransitivity, but this is the basic set-up.*

This is hardly always the case, of course. A > B > C  (w/A > C) happens often enough; that we live in a (largely) two-party polity and that those parties hold primaries arguably erases the third option, such that one must choose either A or B.

But the argument could also go the other way: If your preferred candidate loses the primary, you might decide to vote for the opposition party’s candidate rather than your own. So you support Mike Castle in Delaware  who loses to Christine O’Donnell  in the Republican primary, and are so unhappy with O’Donnell that you end up voting for Chris Coons.

On the naked-individual level, this isn’t necessarily irrational: Castle > Coons > O’Donnell, such that the loss of Castle’s candidacy simply moves you to the next step.

But on the party-member level—and this is how the primary system can work against transitivity—it makes no sense. You vote in a primary because you support that party, but in the end vote against your party.

And as you move up levels, the transitivity problems increase, not least because you’re aggregating not only within districts, but aggregating across districts. Add in winner-take-all seats, and the interpretation of results is a muddle.

Oh, and add in people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing—don’t understand even the basics of policy and legislating—and good night, Irene.

Now, this is not just sour grapes. I’m not happy about yesterday’s results, but the muddle holds in almost every damned election.

Does this mean elections are useless? Nope. They do provide a kind of check on those in power, and marked preferences clearly do emerge at some levels. Whatever the problems with electoral representation, it is better than having no say in one’s representation.

Elections > no elections. Full stop.

Still, elections are simply the ticket to the show—terrifically important, insofar as one needs to get into the arena before one can play—but the play is the thing.

And here I think of George W. Bush’s first term. Here’s a man who clearly lost the popular vote and only won the electoral college after a lengthy (and still disputed) legal process, but who nonetheless sought to govern as if he had won overwhelmingly. (Which, come to think of it, he arguably did win ‘overwhelmingly’: he didn’t have to share the Oval Office.)

I like almost nothing about GWB’s administration, but I give him credit for the boldness of his moves in the years 2002-2006. He was the president and he governed as president—disastrously, from my perspective—but he was very effective in rolling past and over any opposition.

Was this because Bush was so strong or because the opposition so weak? Both, likely.

But both Bush’s presidency (the strong and the weak parts) and Obama’s first two years demonstrate that if you want to get something done—war in Iraq, health care reform—you have to keep moving, keep rolling past and over any opposition.

Stop moving—see Bush and Social Security reform—and you lose.

Of course, it’s all so much more complicated than all of this, and many more dimensions than can be captured in any regression or mathematical model; even Machiavelli recognized that boldness was not always enough to overcome Fortuna. Or a determined opposition.

So, Mr President, how determined will you and your party be?

(*See William Riker’s Liberalism Against Populism and his discussion of ‘the paradox of voting’ for a more elegant discussion of in/transitivity. And for real wonky quantitative pol sci discussions, check out The Monkey Cage.)