Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Why do Americans vote for divided government?

Cartoon ripped from Jim Morin of Miami Herald 
Since the end of WWII there have been 34 federal elections in the United States.  Over that time Americans chose to install divided government 21 times. As a consequence, we have lived under a divided government state for 42 of the intervening 69 years or 61% of the time.

Today, we are in the fourth year of our most recent iteration of federal divided government. We have a Democratic President, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Democrat Barack Obama will be our President through 2016.  History and recent polls tell us there is no realistic probability that Republicans will lose majority control of the House in the 2014 mid-terms,  so we will continue to “enjoy” divided government for the rest of President Obama's term regardless of any shifts in the makeup of the Senate.

 One of the more interesting political science questions about divided government is the question of why the American electorate continues to vote for divided government. It is a fact that in the modern era we elect a divided government far more often than not. Why we choose divided government and whether we choose it consciously or accidentally is a subject of analysis and speculation. Is it truly a preference? Is it a statistical artifact?  Is it the result of conscious strategic voting?  Or is it the expression of a subconscious preference from an inchoate confused electorate?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Investors Love Divided Government
CNBC 25th Anniversary Edition

Amanda Drury on CNBC 25th Anniversary
This week CNBC celebrated their 25th anniversary on the air. The Dividist finds a higher signal to noise ratio at CNBC than most cable news networks, so it has often served as a primary source on this blog. We would be remiss if we let CNBC's 25th anniversary pass without taking note and highlighting a few of the Dividist Paper's Greatest CNBC hits.

CNBC 25th anniversary

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It takes two to obstruct.

Obama picks his poison.
Image hacked from The Economist 
Brett Logiurato at Business Insider cites a Washington Post/ABC poll and invokes the specter of an all Republican Congress for the last two years of the Obama administration:
"Democrats are at risk of losing control of the Senate this November, after a new poll found that voters prefer a Republican-controlled Congress to check President Barack Obama's agenda when his approval rating is at its lowest point ever."
Democrats are looking for a silver lining, but with no "wave" election in sight, we're likely to have a classic Tip O'Neill "all politics is local" midterm.  This is good news for dividists like your loyal blogger, but there may be even better news lurking in another finding from the poll:
"Democrats, however, do enjoy an overall advantage on voter trust. Voters say they prefer Democrats' stances on health care (43-35), immigration (40-34), and the economy (41-38), among others.  By a 40-34 margin, voters also say they trust Democrats to "coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years."
The Dividist interprets this apparent contradiction as indicating voters are no more inclined to trust Republicans with all the keys to the castle than they are Democrats. Which implies that losing the Senate in 2014 will actually help position Democrats to keep the White House in 2016 and extending divided government into the next administration.  It's a good thing.

But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Some Democrats are thinking about what the post mid-term environment on Capitol Hill might look like if the Obama administration is faced with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate. While Republicans in the House usually get the majority of the blame in mainstream media for obstructionism and the "least productive Congress in history", it's instructive to take note of which party is in a panic that Congress might actually "get things done" in the waning years of the Obama administration:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review of The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan and a Meditation on Third Party Politics in America

The Centrist Manifesto by Charles WheelanCharles Wheelan is the latest in a long line of would-be political reformers who have looked at the two party duopoly in the United States, found it wanting, and proposed the creation of a new third party as the solution. He outlines his strategy for a Centrist Party in his 2013 book  The Centrist Manifesto and continues to beat the drum on his website/blog The Centrist Project.

There is much to like in Wheelan's Centrist Manifesto. First and foremost, he does not fall into the usual trap befalling most third party fantasists - challenging the Republican/Democrat duopoly by running a candidate for President of the United States as a means to popularize and organize the party. Wheelan notes some of the historical challenges facing third parties:
"Conventional wisdom suggests that the American political system is hostile to all third parties. That is wrong. The system is hostile to third parties emerging from the political fringe—the Green Party, for example. These parties do not win elections because they represent relatively small, deeply ideological segments of the population. In fact, they often have a counterproductive effect. Ralph Nader almost certainly cost Al Gore the election in 2000, the pathetic irony being that the Green Party he was supposedly representing ended up worse off as a result of his campaign. When these fringe parties appear, potential supporters must choose between making noise and making a difference." - Charles Wheelan - The Centrist Manifesto (p. 25) - Kindle Edition 
True enough, as far as he goes, but Wheelan does not quite connect the dots on just how truly hostile the American political system is to third party efforts. In particular, he fails to note the pointless futility of third party presidential campaigns. If third party presidential efforts are not completely irrelevant, it's only because of their potential to be spoilers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dividist "10" - Senate Update
Angus King Edition

The Dividist "10" - Starring Angus King
With apologies to "10" and Angus King.  
Maine Independent Senator Angus King opened the door to potentially switching teams after the midterm results are in (H/T Doug Mataconis):
By Alexander Bolton 

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats, will decide after the midterm elections whether to switch sides and join the Republicans. He is leaving open the possibility of aligning himself with the GOP if control of the upper chamber changes hands.  “I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” King told The Hill Wednesday after voting with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure at the center for the 2014 Democratic campaign agenda. King’s remarks are a clear indication that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle will have to woo the 70-year-old senator in order to recruit him to their side.

That lobbying battle could be especially intense if King’s decision determines which party will control the chamber in the next Congress  If Republicans pick up six seats this fall, they will be running the Senate in 2015. But a pickup of five would produce a 50-50 split and Democratic control, with Vice President Biden breaking the tie. King could tip the balance..."
Where have I read this before? Oh yeah. It was me:

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Flotsam - Divide (the government) And Conquer (the deficit) Edition

Time once again for the Dividist to stroll down our metaphorical beach and take note of the detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered this little island of rationality in the great big blogospheric ocean.

With the midterm election on the horizon, the looming reality of divided government continuing indefinitely into the future is beginning to sink in for partisans and independents alike.  While beachcombing, we stumbled across a few shiny bits of divided government flotsam we previously overlooked. Submitted for your reading enjoyment...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

On the inevitability of divided government and the emergence of parliament envy.

The dawn of divided government.

Political pundits, columnists, bloggers and others of that ilk are coming to terms with the realization we will have divided federal government for the foreseeable future.

The Dividist is, of course, delighted by this prospect. We find divided government to be the last best hope for limiting bad legislation, containing explosive growth in federal government spending, protecting civil liberties, and moving incrementally toward other preferred policy objectives. Or, at least, moving away from them at a slower pace than under unified one party rule. But not everyone is so sanguine about this state of affairs.

Many Republicans have yet to work through the stages of grief over the 2012 election outcome. They are still in denial and angry over failing to take the White House and Senate and restoring the glory days of One Party Republican Rule from '03 - '06.

During the government shutdown last fall, Democrats bought into the delusion that they could sweep the discredited Republicans from the House in the 2014 midterms and restore the era of One Party Democratic Rule, much as they enjoyed during the first two years of President Obama's administration. They are only now coming to terms with the realization that, not only is the House majority a virtual lock for Republicans, but there is a very real probability that Democrats will also lose majority control of the Senate.

The range of reactions to the inevitability of continuing divided government are instructive and, dare I say - offers a teachable moment.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Return of The Dividist "10"
Wherein we disagree with Nate Silver.
Sort of.

With apologies to "10" 

Note to Pundits: It's Still 2014
With all the speculation about the 2016 presidential election prospects of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Elizabeth WarrenChris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, et. al. ad infinitum, something important has been overlooked. We have a very important election in 2014.  Nate Silver informs us that majority control of the Senate hangs in the balance:
FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecast: GOP Is Slight Favorite in Race for Senate Control 
"When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast — way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.  Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions."
Given we are still early in the primary season... Given the Republican penchant for nominating clown candidates in winnable Senate races...  Given the hole the Republicans dug for themselves in the Senate in 2012... the Dividist is a bit dubious of Nate Silver's prediction.  We'll come back to that. But first, let's consider one 2014 outcome that is not at risk in any meaningful way - the continuing status quo of our happily divided government.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That wasn't Vladimir Putin's first tweet. This is Vladimir Putin's first tweet: "...good intentions cannot justify the violation of international law and state sovereignty."

Putin Russian Twitter Account Profile
This week twitter released a new service to view anyone's first tweet. Vladimir Putin's first tweet garnered a lot of attention. Sent in November 2012 it commemorated the occasion of President Obama's reelection:
Vladimir Putin's first English tweet

The tweet was characterized in MSM and blogs as ironic and an indication of how badly relations have degraded in subsequent years. Examples include WaPo, NBC, CBS, The Independent, TPMHuffington Post, etc, etc, etc. I'm not sure how truly "ironic" that tweet is. Certainly banal. Probably perfunctory. Maybe sarcastic. But not ironic.

Regardless, there is a bigger problem with the the reporting on that tweet. Despite the media assertions, that was not Vladimir Putin's first tweet.  Not even close. That was Vladimir Putin's first tweet from his English language twitter account.  Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet was sent from his Russian language twitter account over 10 months earlier in January 2012. Vladimir Putin is, after all, a Russian.

This was Vladimir Putin's actual first tweet, and it is one hell of a lot more interesting than the pablum with which he inaugurated his English language twitter account:
Putins 1st Russian tweet

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crimea is like Texas. Or something.

 Russian Crimea like Mexican Texas? 

She takes the long way around with a comparison to Texas, but a smart take from Rachel Maddow making a very good point about the repercussions of Putin's annexation of Crimea on Ukraine, Russia and the West. We recognize her very good point as insightful,  since it is the exact same point we made three weeks ago.

Maddow 3/19: