Monday, November 03, 2014

Just Vote Divided

Divided Government is Better Government

Welcome to our fifth election eve "Just Vote Divided" post since starting this blog in 2006.

In 2006 we advocated a straight ticket Democratic vote to break the four year stranglehold of One Party Republican Rule on the federal government. In 2008 we advocated a vote for John McCain to avoid a return to the fiscal irresponsibility, inadequate oversight, and bad legislation endemic to One Party Rule in Washington D.C. In 2010, we argued for a straight ticket Republican vote to restore divided government and begin to undo the damage from One Party Democratic Rule of the prior two years. In 2012 the Dividist voted early and for the reelection of President Obama. Not because we thought he was a good president. Just because there was no chance of the Democrats retaking the House, and there was a small but realistic chance that Romney could win with sufficient coattails to restore One Party Republican Rule.

The rationale, supporting scholarship, and core arguments for divided government have not changed. Each election cycle presents unique problems facing the country and more evidence of how the moderating influence of divided government is the right mechanism for our government to address those problems. Neither party can be trusted with all the keys to the castle. Not ever. Not under any circumstances. No matter how much you want to fetishize "getting things done".  If our elected leaders cannot find and agree to a compromise policy that satisfies (or dissatisfies) our major factions/parties equitably, we are simply better off with less "getting done". There are worse things than gridlock and a "do-nothing" congress. One worse thing is efficient and productive One Party Democratic Rule. Another worse thing is efficient and productive One Party Republican Rule.

Which brings us to the 2014 midterms.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Flotsam - The "Midterms And End of Unified Government As We Know It" 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 only days away, the looming reality of divided government continuing indefinitely into the future is beginning to sink in for partisans and independents alike. The prospect of President Obama facing a unified GOP Congress with majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives have Republicans giddy and Democrats checking off the stages of grief on the Kübler-Ross  Index - Denial... Anger... Depression... Bargaining... I guess we'll have to wait a while for "Acceptance".

A good time to go beachcombing and look for any shiny bits of divided government flotsam we previously overlooked. Submitted here for your reading enjoyment...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The United Coalition of the Divided - 2014 Edition

The United Coalition of the Divided Wants You

The Dividist started this exclusive club during the 2008 election cycle and simultaneously initiated the "Coalition of the Divided Blogroll" - which may or may not be found in the right sidebar somewhere. It was an ignominious start, with the Democrats seizing unified control of the Federal government. Since then we've had better luck rolling out a new membership list in each election cycle. The 2010 edition barely got posted in time for the midterms among much angst and gnashing of teeth. Can't complain about the result though, as divided government was emphatically restored. We had a bit of an earlier start on the 2012 membership drive, and that still worked out fine with the reelection of divided government along with Barack Obama. It's a midterm again and for 2014 we are late again. Why mess with success?

Membership is open to anyone writing anything in any form in any media in a vaguely positive way on the subject of divided government. New recruits will be added to the ranks, updating this post and blogroll from now until the 2014 election. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Divided Government With Unified GOP Congress -
The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

The Good Bad and Ugly of Divided Government

Nate Cohn's enthusiasm for this election notwithstanding, the big decision to come out of the midterms is a foregone conclusion. After four consecutive and six of the last eight years, the midterms will lock and load at least two more years of divided government.  The Republican hand will be strengthened in both the House and Senate, but there is still some drama in determining whether the GOP will take over majority control of the Senate.  Most pollsters are giving it to them...

Will GOP take the Senate


... but the Dividist never underestimates the Republican's capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Our best bet is that the Senate will finish close to 50-50, and the GOP will flip a couple of Independents to take control. If the Republicans do take narrow majority control of the Senate in 2014, the recommended Dividist vote for 2016 will be to elect the Democratic candidate for President, as it is unlikely the GOP will lose control of both the House and Senate in 2016.

 With divided government a fait accompli through 2016, both new and main stream media are weighing in on what we can expect from our divided leadership over the next two years. For your reading enjoyment the Dividist has assembled recent wit and wisdom of the punditocracy on the subject of divided government. To bring some semblance of order to this compilation, we've divided our selections into a Sergio Leone taxonomy - The good, bad, and the ugly.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gallup asks the wrong question about divided government (yet again), and gets the wrong answer (yet again).

Gallup 2014 Divided Government Poll

Gallup released the results of their annual governance poll with this headline:
In U.S., No Preference for Divided vs. One-Party Government
Thirty percent prefer one-party government, 28% divided government
by Jeffrey M. Jones
"Americans lack consensus on whether it is better to have one party holding the presidency and the majority in Congress, or better to have control of each branch of government split between the two major political parties. Currently, 30% say it is better to have a one-party government, 28% say a divided government is better, and the highest percentage, 37%, say it makes no difference."
Over the years, this Gallup poll consistently shows little or no preference for divided government, yet the result is at variance with the way Americans vote. As the article goes on to say:
"Divided government has been the norm in U.S. politics for most of the last 45 years, with one party controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency for only 12 of those years -- 1977-1980, 1993-1994, 2003-2006 and 2009-2010, as well as part of 2001. As such, Americans may simply be used to divided government and do not see it as better or worse than the alternative. But Americans have also seemingly rejected one-party government in the midterm elections that took place in 1994, 2006, and 2010, when a single party controlled Congress and the presidency and the public was dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country."
The problem is in the way Gallup asks the question. Presumably, to make the poll comparable year over year Gallup must ask the same question in the same way, so they are stuck with this wording. Unfortunately the way they ask the divided vs. unified question every year obscures the actual voting preferences of Americans and creates this paradoxical result. 

This a pet peeve for the Dividist. I've written about the problem with this survey before and therefore have no qualms about plagiarizing myself with the same explanation to the same problem question in the same problem poll.  To whit:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Senators Dilemma
- or -
Why it doesn't matter whether Nate Silver or Sam Wang is right about the GOP winning the Senate.

The Senators Dilemma

In case you missed it, there was an interesting  geek-fight between election prognosticators Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight Blog, and Sam Wang of Princeton Election Consortium over the last few weeks.

Nate Silver has long been the darling of progressive poll watchers as he wears his liberal sensibilities on his sleeve. However, he does not let his personal political preferences affect his quantitative analysis.  His accuracy in predicting political outcomes in recent cycles has been nothing less than exemplary. Which explains the cries, lamentations and rending of garments among Democrats when, last March, he predicted that Republicans had a 60% chance of taking the Senate. Notable among the critical cognoscenti was Paul Krugman, who is the opposite of Silver in the sense that he never lets facts, rationality or reality get in the way of his particularly progressive view of the world.

Silver's Senate prediction of a Republican takeover has remained consistently in the 60% range since that March prediction. Which goes a long way to explaining why the left-o-sphere lurched for Sam Wang's recent prediction that the Democrats would continue to control the Senate like a drowning man grabbing for floating debris. Since then Silver critiqued Wang's methodology, who responded in kind by explaining what Silver was doing wrong, leading to another Silver rebuttal, and a Wang counter-tweet...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Toast To Scotland On The Occasion Of Their Independence Referendum

A toast to Scotland. Whatever you decide.
As the polls open in Scotland, I am sitting a world away on the left coast of the United States. I am not of Scottish descent. Still, I raise my glass in their honor.  I ration this 18 year old Laphroaig for special occasions. A wee dram seems appropriate now. Here's to you Scotland...
May you choose the right path for your country, your people, your future.
 Damn - that whiskey is good.

I won't pretend to know what the right choice is for you or your countrymen. Honestly, I don't even really care which decision you make. I just like the fact that you are having this referendum. I like the excitement and passion and panic it has generated.

The polls say the outcome is too close to call. While the "No" vote has a narrow lead, the difference is within the margin of error and well within the undecided vote. That said, I expect those who want independence made their minds up some time ago. The undecided tend to break for the status quo.  They are, after all, somehow still undecided.  So you'll probably still be part of Great Britain when the polls close, and it won't be that close. No matter. Don't regret your decision.

Robert Frost was an American poet of Scottish descent. His most famous and widely misunderstood stanza seems a fitting signpost to mark the occasion:
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference.
Keep in mind that Frost was not extolling the virtues of forsaking the crowd and choosing an independent path. His narrator finds the two paths virtually indistinguishable and equally attractive. He just ruefully concludes that he will ultimately regret his decision, regardless of which path he takes. Such is the perverse nature of free choice. We always wonder about the path not taken.  Don't look back Scotland. Revel in your decision.

Perhaps I'll have just two fingers more, and we'll conclude with a few interesting and amusing referendum links that caught my attention.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

We are engaged in a very significant counterterrorism operation with ISIL.
We have always been engaged in a very significant counterterrorism operation with ISIL.

The Ministry of Truth explains our war policy.
"We at war with ISIL... In the same way that we are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe...”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest
"At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia..."  George Orwell 1984
"First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists. Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense. Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq."  - President Barack Obama - 9/10/14
So now we are at war with the ISIL Sunni terrorist rebels in Syria and Iraq in support of the Post-Maliki Iraq government (after we helped pressure him out),  which aligns us with the Shia Iranian regime, Syria's Assad regime, and Russia.
"In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge, which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened..."  - George Orwell 1984
"... after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out."  - President Barack Obama - 9/10/2013
And one year ago, we were aligned with Sunni Syrian rebel in opposition to the Shia Assad regime and their allies Iran and Russia.

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