Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hi Ho, Nate Silver

I was reading Nate Silver's last post at the Times and he went after low hanging fruit, namely the perpetually wrong Megan McArglebargle.  McArdle argued that the presidency switches parties every 8 years.

This - as Silver points out in his typically data heavy way - is a poor reading of the data.

I talk to my students all the time about confusing causation and correlation.  Yes, the office of the president has switched after Clinton and Bush 2.0 have been in office for 8 years.  But this is not a trend of any import.

Instead, it's helpful to look at eras of partisan domination.

From 1860-1932, there were two Democratic presidents.  You can plausibly argue that there should have been three as Tilden likely outpolled Hayes in 1876.  From 1932-1968, there was one Republican president.  From 1968-1992, there was one term of a Democratic president.

Since 1992, you have Florida 2000 and in 2004 the narrowest re-election margin of an incumbent since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Wilson was - like Bush 2.0 - a president who swam against the partisan stream and was elected under somewhat unique circumstances.

The Democratic party from 1860-1932 was tainted by its association with secession and Jim Crow.  Wilson and FDR broke that a bit by embracing the ascendant Progressive spirit.  The Republican party of 1932-1968 was the party of Hoover.  The Democratic party of 1968-1992 was the party of the welfare state.  The question is, how much longer with the GOP be the party of Dubya?

Namely, how much longer will it be a party dedicated to evangelical fundamentalism on social issues, militarism abroad and crony capitalism at home?

Ironically, of course, the strongest GOP candidate for President in 2016 might be Jeb Bush.  That is, if his last name was anything other than Bush.

While demographics is not destiny, the GOP has boxed itself into a narrow range of political options.  And that's not going to change before 2016.

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