Showing posts with label House of Representatives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label House of Representatives. Show all posts

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Further Reading.

Regarding Monday's post, three articles caught my eye in the past few days touching on some of the particular points made in that post.  The first is from the Economist, the second from Time Magazine, and the third from the New York Times.

Angela Ahrendts

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Starting with the Economist, this will be among the few times this blog ever mentions Burberry.  Angela Ahrendts, its CEO, has quit to run Apple's retail operations. In six paragraphs, the Economist's editors managed to miss (or chose to ignore) the significance of the fact that Ms. Ahrendts is a woman. Apple's executive suite is composed of CEO Tim Cook and eight male senior vice presidents. Ahrendts will be Apple's ninth SVP, and first female SVP since 1992.

Why should Ahrendts quit as a CEO to play second fiddle to Tim Cook?  There's a lot of things that Tim Cook's been responsible for, but amongst his biggest achievements was the move from PowerPC to Intel chips for the Mac line; that's an engineering, not a design function.  The Economist correctly notes that Ahrendts is very effective at fusing design and technology, but I have a strong suspicion that Ahrendts is willing to make the jump because she has confidence she has a shot to run Apple if she's successful, and that she's risen as far as she practically can in the UK, although perhaps not in California ...

The second article, from Time Magazine, notes that the end of the government shutdown was, in many ways, attributable to a group of female senators.  The U.S. Senate has been called the ultimate men's club, with, "unspoken rules, hidden alliances, off-hours socializing and an ethic based at least as much on personal relationships as merit to get things done."  But the article instead drew attention to the success that the group of female senators, regardless of party, have managed to achieve:
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"Most of the Senators say they feel they speak not just for the voters in their states but for women across America. Over the years they have pushed through legislation that has vastly expanded funding of women’s- and children’s-health research, testing and treatment. They’ve passed the Lilly ­Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and other anti­discrimination laws. And they’ve won federally mandated maternity and family medical leave. While most of these efforts were driven by Democrats, the women are strongest when they unite on legislation like the Homemakers IRA, which allows tax-deductible contributions to retirement plans by stay-at-home parents."
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The final piece, from the New York Times, concerns California's government. Noting that the State has long been "the national symbol of partisan paralysis and government dysfunction," the article points out that a sunny assessment of changes in the State have been voiced by people inside and outside the government:
"... [T]he new atmosphere in Sacramento also offers the first evidence that three major changes in California’s governance system intended to leach some of the partisanship out of politics — championed by reform advocates — may also be having their desired effect in a state that has long offered itself as the legislative laboratory for the nation." 
"Lawmakers came into office this year representing districts whose lines were drawn by a nonpartisan commission, rather than under the more calculating eye of political leaders. This is the first Legislature chosen under an election system where the top two finishers in a nonpartisan primary run against each other, regardless of party affiliations, an effort to prod candidates to appeal to a wider ideological swath of the electorate."
"The turnaround from just 10 years ago — striking in tone, productivity and, at least on fiscal issues, moderation — is certainly a lesson in the power of one-party rule. Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly and Senate and the governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat. The Republican Party, which just three years ago held the governor’s seat and a feisty minority in both houses, has diminished to the point of near irrelevance."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nate Silver on the House of Representatives ...

So, Nate Silver has picked up on the House of Representatives result, arguing the Democrats underperformed.

Democrats Unlikely to Regain House in 2014
"Nate Silver's Political Calculus," Nov. 16, 2012
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This contrasts with Paul Krugman's "The Democrats are the party of government" argument.  Nate Silver seems to catch on that, in an equally split vote, the Republicans will tend to control the House.  This seems to support the Republicans as the party of government, but that's really a minor argument compared to the bigger issue, which is the fact that it is unlikely the Democratic Party will recapture control of the House until 2022 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post continues to analyze the House of Representatives result (they are all over the issue, running their first article on Nov. 9), and their rough results indicate that the Democratic vote for House Members will exceed the Republicans, despite the Republicans maintaining control.

Aaron Blake, "The Fix"
Washington Post, November 9, 2012
available at
There are some oddities that are affecting the final result.  For instance, in a number of House districts in California the election was between members of the same party (six D v. D, two R v. R), and thus all votes cast in those races were either for the Democrats or Republicans.  When adjusting for those anomalies, it appears the Democrats will still maintain their overall popular vote majority in House elections.

The question I have is, what would the likely national popular vote have to be for the Democrats to emerge with a similar majority to what the Republicans now enjoy?  This is hardly scientific, but in 2006, they did have a similar majority in the House, but the popular vote for House was 42,082,311-35,674,808. Just doing an extrapolation from those results indicates that the Republicans can expect to get substantial majorities by merely battling to a draw, while the Democrats need to outpoll the Republicans by 8% to get a similar majority in the House.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Democrats Are The Natural Party Of Government?

Paul Krugman gets me thinking once again.  This time, he's thinking that the Democrats are now the natural party of government, because they've won the popular vote at every presidential election since 1988 save one, and that was a wartime election.
Paul Krugman, "Death by Epistemology"
New York Times, Nov. 12, 2012

Well, he sort of makes his point, and he sort of doesn't.  The Presidency, as far as elections are concerned, is disconnected from the national popular vote by the presence of the electoral college, which encourages tactical behavior in vote seeking by the candidates.  So, it's a poor proxy for determining who the "party of government" is, as far as the U.S. is concerned.  

I've seen people turn to governorships, to try to figure out which party is closer to the heartbeat of the nation, but that has similar problems (we're weighting California and Texas the same as Rhode Island and Delaware?). 

It seems to me that the very idea of the "party of government" is a Parliamentary one, specifically, the party controlling the lower house, the Commons.  If we really want to apply the concept and try and see which American party would correspond, it makes more sense to look to the House of Representatives, to our lower house of the legislature, and try and get a sense of which "party" the American "popular vote" goes for by aggregating the votes for the representatives of the different parties. 

In the old days, that would be hard.  But the Clerk of the House has thoughtfully put PDF results up with exactly those totals, dating back to 1920.  I took at look at the totals from 1988 to the present; I've inferred the 2012 vote totals by taking the popular vote and subtracting 5 million -- that's about the percentage of votes that go to third parties in House elections; the final tally of seats is not complete yet (four elections yet to be called) but they're close enough to done for these purposes.

The Republicans, of course, win control of the "American Commons" much more frequently, starting in 1994. But 1994 isn't an outlier -- 1992 is.  The turnout in 1992 was enormous; it wasn't decisively exceeded until 2004.  The Democrats held a big majority going in to the election (270 seats) and came out with 258; no party has had as big a majority in the House since.

Then the 1994 "Republican Revolution" took place, and the Republicans picked up 54 seats, and they've been in control of the House constantly, with the exception of 2006-2010, since.  There's one odd situation in there, 1996, where the Republicans lose the "popular vote" for the House, but still ended up in control, and 1998 and 2000 were whisker-close. Nevertheless, I think that, if you wanted to pick the "party of government," at least in the English sense, I think you would still go with the Republicans.

But the data supports some other conclusions,  too.  No House of Representatives has had more support in the country in absolute terms than the Democrats of 2008; the number of votes they received went up  by nearly 50% over 2006.  It seems like ~15 million more people show up, for both sides, in a Presidential year, but not 2008; that year 22 million more people showed up for the Democrats, but only 16 million for the Republicans. I don't think anyone is surprised to learn Obama had pretty big coattails in 2008.

The other thing that's interesting is how many votes the Republican Congress will have received, in 2012, when the final tally is done.  The Republican majority of 2004 was the first Congressional majority to receive more than 50 million votes nationally; the Democratic majority of 2008 was the first to receive more than 60 million.  One would think that this election, from a Congressional perspective, may very well be more like 1996 than 2008, with a very close vote despite the Republicans continuing to control the House.

So is Krugman wrong? No -- I think he's identifying something that's real, but is drawing the wrong conclusion.  His column is full of references to how the Democrats are now better organized than the Republicans.  I think he's missing the fact that the Democrats have become the party of the Executive branch; of the last six presidencies, four have been Democratic.  Parties that control the Executive branch tend to be better organized--after all, they have a leader.

However, It's hard to control both the Executive and the Legislature--for instance, Republican candidates in different regions can argue divergent positions, but both can point to the President as a counterexample.  They are not saddled with the positions of the leader of their party. All this is probably little consolation to Mitt Romney, but by the same token, Democratic presidents are probably going to have to get used to a series of Republican Houses for the near future.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brooks and Krugman.

David Brooks and Paul Krugman both publish columns in the New York Times on Friday.  I usually read Brooks first, due to habit and nostalgia; Brooks' columns remind me of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page between 1991 and 1997, and while his ideas don't always resonate any more, they're familiar. 

Reading Krugman's column, on the other hand, reminds me of the fourth opera in Der Ring des NibelungenGötterdämmerung. Today, his argument is that Obama should "[j]ust say no, and go over the [fiscal] cliff if necessary."

As a negotiating strategy, I can see where Krugman's coming from.  The party with the more stubborn constituency tends to obtain the better results in a negotiation, and Krugman is definitely considered a voice for the Democratic intelligentsia, if not the party as a whole. Thus, his demand for no compromise is likely to be taken seriously, at a minimum, by media observers, if not Republicans.

The problem, though, is that Krugman's argument is that Obama's BATNA is a world where the country will fall off the fiscal cliff, and that the fall won't be that bad.  This is untrue and I think Krugman knows it.  Krugman all but concedes that another recession would be the result, but somehow he (Krugman) thinks the damage that would be inflicted is worth it.

Allowing a recession to occur flies in the face of nearly everything Krugman's been arguing for over the last four years.  He and Brad DeLong have essentially said that the damage to people's lives from the current Lesser Depression could have been avoided by more comprehensive government action. For Krugman to now advocate shutting down the government is not just unbelievable, it's frankly not believable at all.  At best, Krugman's trolling.

Obama, since the earliest days of his presidency, has been willing to reach out and forge compromises. The voters know that (I think), and I think Obama's victory is in part due to his ability to strike deals.  To start pushing the President to abandon that strategy now is a recipe for turning Obama into a lame duck in the first 90 days of his second term (another thing I think Krugman knows).

The Republicans' BATNA is hardly better than Obama's. When the alternatives to a deal are dire for both parties, deals get done, no matter how angry the supporters may be. I wouldn't expect this situation to be any different.