Monday, November 07, 2016

Just Vote Dividist - 2016 Election Edition

All Four Realistic 2016 US Election Outcomes
 Choose Wisely 
Welcome to the sixth election eve "Just Vote Dividist" post. This blog was started in 2006 to advocate a divided government voting heuristic.  In this post we suggest a specific divided government vote for the 2016 election.

In light of the media angst surrounding our presidential choices this cycle, we'll begin by repeating one critically important and almost universally overlooked point. The President of the United States is not the government of the United States. The President of the United States is not even necessarily the leader of the government of the United States.

We're Not Electing a President -  We're Electing a Government
The executive is one of three co-equal branches of government. The government of the United States is led by the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader representing their respective democratic institutions, in concert with the President of the United States. The personalities, interpersonal relationships, communication skills, ideological motivation, partisan loyalties, personal ambitions, institutional obligations and dynamic interactions between those three leaders determine the domestic policy and international posture that governs the United States.

The President is also the leader of a political party. When we have a unified one party government, the President may function as the leader of of the United States government if the president's party demonstrate sufficient partisan discipline. When we have a divided government, leadership of the United States government is just as likely to reside in the Congress as it is in the Executive branch. We'll come back to this point, but first some context to explain why divided government is good for us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Haunting Specter of Divided Government

Divided Government Headless Horseman
It happens every election year. As the Halloween electoral landscape comes into focus, Republicans and Democrats stake out their positions on the prospect for a divided federal government. The usual partisan hypocrisy abides. Partisans who see an opportunity for Unified One Party Rule will decry the evils of divided government. Partisans who fear their party being shut out of power will extol the virtues of checks, balances, and the restraint on power found in a politically divided government. Neither party exhibits any shame when flip-flopping their feelings about divided government from one cycle to the next.

This year there is less partisan clarity about the prospects of either party regaining One Party Rule than is usually apparent this late in the election cycle. Some of this is fueled by delusions of grandeur on the part of Democrats indulging in Nancy Pelosi's bi-annual fantasy of retaking the House majority (see 2014, 2012 & 2010 prognostications of the Once And Never Again Speaker).

The Dividist staked out a position on the 2016 election in a pre-election post shortly before the 2014 midterms ...
"In 2016 Democrats will enjoy many of the structural advantages that favor Republicans in 2014. There is a high probability that a Republican majority in the Senate will not last beyond the 2016 election. If we go into that election with Republicans in majority control of both legislative branches, it makes the divided government vote easy to determine. There will be a greater risk of Single Party Republican Rule, so the 2016 Dividist vote will be for the Democratic candidate for president. A strong Republican presidential candidate could have the coattails to retain the Senate and usher in another era of One Party Republican rule. Even with a strong Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, the Republicans will be likely to retain the House and we get divided government for another 2 to 4 years. QED ... And yes, under those circumstances, the Dividist will gladly support and vote for Hillary Clinton for her third term as President."
 ... and never looked back. Two years later, nothing significant has changed. The Republican House majority is a lock, the Senate is a coin flip, and Hillary Clinton is poised to begin her 3rd term as President of the United States.

Under these circumstances, we would normally expect Democrats to be waxing eloquently on the virtues of divided government. We would expect Republicans to be fear-mongering the prospect of gridlocked government unable to deal with the dire threats posed to the American way of life by the Democratic Party. To some extent, this is exactly what is happening. But, like in so many aspects of this election cycle, Donald Trump changes the game. So instead, we now see principled Republicans and libertarians arguing against voting for Trump, preferring a vote for a Clinton presidency shackled by a divided government.  And we see some deluded Democrats arguing for an implausible return to One Party Democratic Rule hoping that Trump blowback will nationalize the House elections in their favor. In this case, it is the principled Republicans who are grounded in electoral reality.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Investors Love Divided Government
- Algo Enhanced 2016 Edition -

UPDATED: 02-Nov-2016 
High Frequency Traders Love Divided Government
 Algos For Hillary 
So this happened. Last week the stock market was percolating along with moderate gains on the back of positive economic news and earnings results. Then, on Friday (28-Oct-2016) FBI director James Comey released a letter to Congress indicating FBI investigators found additional Clinton private server e-mails. The new e-mails may or may not have any relevance to his prior testimony but, in an abundance of caution, Comey informed Congress. The DJ Industrial average immediately dropped almost 200 points. 
Stocks love divided government

This NPR story was typical of business media coverage: "The Stock Market Stumbles After Friday's Clinton Email News."
"Around the time that the email news broke, the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted from a peak of 18,255 to a trough of 18,097. That's not quite 1 percent, but the sharp drop, albeit small, is a sign of a broader storyline that has persisted through this election: that investors are scared of a Trump presidency."
Partisan bluster aside, after it became apparent that breathless mainstream and social media reporting was less than meets the eye or that can be supported from the actual content of Comey's letter, the market recovered most of the midday losses.
CNBC Kelly Evans - Markets move on Clinton Probe
 CNBC "Closing Bell" wraps it up:

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Stunning Gallup Poll Finds Voter Preference For Divided Government Slipping vs. Council Of Elrond

Gallup runs this poll every election cycle and every time the Dividist must explain why there is far less than meets the eye in any conclusion based on this poll. The headline conclusion in the 2016 edition of this Gallup Poll is "In U.S., Preference for Divided Government Lowest in 15 Years":
  • 20% of Americans say they want divided government
  • Fewer Republicans want divided government now than four years ago
  • Fewer Democrats want the same party to control Congress than four years ago
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in five Americans believe it is best for the president to be from one political party and for Congress to be controlled by another, the lowest level of public support for divided government in Gallup's 15-year trend. The remainder are evenly divided between those who favor one party controlling both the presidency and Congress (36%) and those saying it makes no difference how political power is allocated (36%)."
I am sympathetic to their plight. Gallup's clear intent is to use the same poll question year after year in order to divine trends over many election cycles. To do that, they must ask the identical question every time. The problem is that the question they've asked every year since 2002 is deeply flawed as it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual choice American voters make when they go to the polls.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What if I told you... You can choose red and blue.

Red or Blue
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if Neo took both the red and blue pills? What if I told you that you do not have to choose between red or blue? What if I told you that you can choose both?  Let's take a trip to political Wonderland and see "how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Voters Don't Like Their Choices
Amidst the Sturn und Drang of the 2016 presidential election, the dominant complaint is about choice. Many voters are profoundly unhappy with the binary choice they have been offered by our red and blue political parties. Part of the reason for this election malaise is that partisan voters feel compelled to vote for their party's standard bearer regardless of whether they like the nominee. The partisan voter's choice in a federal elections is always preordained.

Partisans Don't Have a Choice
The vast majority (80% +) of the American electorate are "light switch" partisan voters in all federal elections. Regardless of whether they identify as partisan Republicans, partisan Democrats, or whether they delude themselves by claiming to be "Independent", most Americans always vote a straight partisan ticket. They always vote the same party for President, Senator and Representative - without exception - every single time - over decades.
The Myth of the Independent Voter
FYI - "leaners" vote exactly the same as "partisans"
On or Off The only real choice for partisans (and leaners) is not who they vote for, but whether or not they choose to vote. They can only turn the switch on or off. Since partisans have limited choice, they can become particularly frustrated when the partisan options selected by their partisan tribe are not particularly likable, trustworthy, qualified, or even remotely competent as candidates. Like, for example, the nominees in the 2016 presidential election.*

In a presidential year, the crisis of partisan choice becomes even more acute. This, in no small part, due to the identity voters invest in, and the importance voters attach to the role of President. The President is, after all, "Leader of the Free World" and "Commander in Chief" of the most powerful military in the history of the world. But voters investing their ideological hopes in a Presidential candidate tend to overlook an important aspect of the role.  To whit - The President of the United States is not the government of the United States. The President is not even necessarily the leader of the government of the United States. The President is the leader of a political party. When we have a unified one party government, the President may function as the leader of of the United States government if the president's party demonstrate sufficient partisan discipline.  But even under unified government, it is not always clear exactly where the seat of the United States government leadership resides.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Trump or Clinton? You won't believe who is worse! Your 2016 Comparative Political Demonology™ Cheatsheet.

Conventional wisdom informs us that most voters do not pay attention to presidential elections until after Labor Day. It is after Labor Day. As public service, the Dividist is pleased to offer this handy cheatsheet to help my fellow Americans catch up.

The 2016 presidential election is the ultimate Comparative Political Demonology (CPD) election*. You may not be familiar with the term but you are probably familiar with the phenomena. CPD is where a partisan supporter of Candidate A from Party X explains that Candidate B from Party Y is unfit to be elected because of some heinous character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. At which point a partisan supporter of Candidate B explains that Candidate A is actually worse, citing a counter example of said character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. The discussion devolves into an argument of who is worse.

It's not a new phenomena. CPD happened in every United States presidential election since George Washington. A  2010 Volokh Conspiracy post distilled the never ending "My Side Versus the Other Side" hypocrisy complaint, which was echoed in  2012 with Ramesh Ponnuru's column "I'm Right, You're Wrong and Other Political Truths", as well as  Barton Hinkle's "The Wrong Side Absolutely Must Not Win". While not new, it does seems that this election the CPD is worse than usual. When the Republican nominee Donald Trump explicitly and literally demonizes the opposition by calling Hillary Clinton "the devil" it's hard to see how we can sink any lower on the CPD scale.

CPD arguments are, of course pointless, unresolvable,  and a complete waste of time. However, since there is nothing else of consequence being discussed by mainstream and social media in this election, the Dividist will endeavor in this post to definitively answer the question "Who is worse?" across the full range of key character flaws disputed in this election. You are welcome.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Cognitive Madisonianism, splitting tickets, the 2016 Senate race, and why American voters are smarter than pundits and political scientists.

UPDATED: 1-Nov-2016 
The Dividist's new favorite phrase is "Cognitive Madisonianism." It's just another way of saying that American voters, in their collective wisdom, prefer and vote for divided government.

Based on election results in the modern era, the assertion would seem to be unassailable. Since the end of WWII there have been 34 federal elections in the United States. In 22 of those elections, Americans elected a divided government. We chose divided government for 44 of the intervening 71 years or 62% of the time. We are currently in the 6th consecutive year of our most recent iteration with indicators pointing to divided government extending it's winning streak for at least two and probably four more years.

Wait. Do We Do That On Purpose?
That is the question. It's a simple fact that we vote for divided government far more often than not. It's that "cognitive" part that political scientists and pundits have a hard time swallowing.  They just can't believe we are doing this deliberately.

Monday, August 08, 2016

♫ Daisy, Daisy give me your answer sure... ♫
♫ Trump's half crayzeee... ♫
♫ That's why I'm voting for her... ♫

 I fixed the 'Daisy Ad" for the Clinton campaign. You're welcome, John Podesta  
Our last post outlined some of the geopolitical policy ramifications of  an American president being "unpredictable" with nuclear weapons - as was suggested by presidential nominee Donald Trump. Spoiler Alert: It's bad policy. Really, really bad. Not quite as important, but just as interesting, are the political ramifications of Trump's loose nuclear talk in this election.

This is not the first time the American voting public is being asked to consider the suitability of a Presidential candidate to have access to nuclear weapons. Probably the single most influential political TV ad in history was the infamous "Daisy Ad" run by the LBJ campaign against Goldwater in 1964:

Friday, August 05, 2016

Trump Deals "The Nuclear Card" -
On The Table or Off The Table?

 Metaphor for the Trump campaign? 
On Wednesday MSNBC broadcast a Morning Joe interview with retired general Michael Hayden. In the course of the interview Joe Scarborough related a second hand anecdote from an unattributed international affairs adviser's presumably private conversation with Donald Trump four months earlier:

Scarborough's story set the twitterverse a-twitter, which is weird, given that Donald Trump said exactly the same thing in a very public televised MSNBC Townhall with Chris Mathews on March 30:

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Through the Looking Glass And What the Voters Found There - The Donald and The Hillary

Through the Looking Glass with Hillary and Donald
The Donald and The Hillary - with apologies to Lewis Carroll
The conventions are over. The nominees are chosen. The tickets are formed. The campaigns are underway. When the Dividist hacked Lewis Carroll last fall, he did not actually believe that Trump and Clinton would be the final choice offered by the major parties to the voters:
 "... it was obvious to the Dividist that Hillary Clinton's campaign was mortally wounded by her e-mail scandal, unfavorable ratings,  and other assorted Clintonesque baggage. A Joe Biden cavalry charge to rescue the Democratic Party was clearly in the works....  
If, for reasons that pass all understanding or any semblance of rationality, Donald Trump prevails and becomes the Republican nominee, there is a silver lining. The prospect of a Donald Trump presidency will make it very easy indeed to vote for Hillary Clinton and four more years of happily divided government."
This is what happens when you take a tumble down the rabbit hole.

Time to update our Adventure in Wonderland:

The Donald and The Hillary

Hillary was shining up the Progs,
But her case was not yet made.
And Bernie did his very best
To throw a lot of shade.
So it was not so very odd,
Deb made sure the Progs were played.

Cruz was moping sulkily,
Because throughout the run
Donald had no business to be there
After the polls were done -
"It's very rude of him," he said,
"To spoil all the fun!"

"No one believed I'd do it!"
The Donald was quick to chide.
And mainstream media said nothing more, 
looking for a place to hide.
Not even Roger Ailes spoke,
Since there were no more blondes to ride.

The time has come - the blogger said -
To talk of many things:
Of polls and pols and caucuses,
And candidates with bling.
And when the voters will get smart
And whether pigs have wings. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

No, the GOP will not lose the House. Not even if Trump loses in a landslide of biblical proportions.

UPDATE: 1-Nov-2016
2016 Trump GOP House of Cards
A recent Cook Political Report (among other articles) excited Democrats and terrified Republicans by invoking the specter of a wave election flipping the House of Representatives majority control - "House Republicans Staring Into the Abyss: 10 Ratings Changes Favor Democrats":
"So many assumptions have been wrong this cycle that it's difficult to be definitive about another: that the House majority won't be in play in 2016.  Republicans are sitting on their largest majority since 1928 - 247 seats to 188 - meaning Democrats would need to pick up 30 seats, a daunting challenge given the GOP's immense redistricting advantage and the vaporization of swing districts. But all cycle, Democrats have daydreamed about Republicans nominating an extremely polarizing presidential candidate, and suddenly it's almost certain they will get their wish...   if November does turn into a Democratic rout, it's impossible to know just how bad it could get for Republicans sharing a ballot with Trump or Cruz."
The primary evidence offered by columnist David Wasserman was a shift in the Cook Report Rating for 10 seats (5 D, 5 R) with each seat ratcheting one notch in the Democrats direction. But, there is far less here than meets the eye.

Friday, April 01, 2016

United Coalition of the Divided - 2016 Edition

UPDATED: 7-Nov-2016
Divided Government
The Dividist initiated this exclusive club during the 2008 election cycle and recycled it in every federal election since. It was an ignominious start, with the Democrats seizing unified control of the federal government. The 2010 edition was barely 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 managed an earlier start on the 2012 membership drive, and that worked out fine with the reelection of Barack Obama and divided government. In 2014, it was just a question of how divided we were going to get. The Democrats accommodated by digging themselves an even deeper hole in Congress, much to the delight of our 2014 Midterm United Coalition of the Divided

Now it's 2016. We know why we should vote for divided government. We know how to vote for divided government.  We just need enough of us to actually vote for divided government. 

This cycle we'll be voting for a new President with the Republicans in majority control of Congress. At the time of this writing, Republicans and Democrats are focused on eating their own. Soon Democrats will realize that a divided government state is the best they can hope for in this cycle. As always, the Dividist will welcome with open arms all disingenuous, insincere, and hypocritical partisan Democratic and Republican Party pretenders to the 2016 United Coalition of the Divided!

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 2016 election.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The new normal since President Obama declared "We will not accept attacks like Paris as the new normal."

 Attacks targeting civilians linked to or inspired by ISIS - from NYT

Declaring War On The New Normal

Last fall, in the wake of the October ISIS bombing in Ankara (103 dead), ISIS destruction of an Russian plane over Egypt (224 dead), the November ISIS bombing in Beirut (43 dead) and ISIS massacre in Paris (130 dead), President Obama said"We will not accept attacks on civilians in places like Paris as the new normal."

After the December ISIS inspired massacre in San Bernardino (14 dead), we wrote a post analyzing  President Obama's speech outlining his strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS. After reading the Graeme Wood Atlantic article entitled  "What ISIS Really Wants" we concluded the Obama strategy would do absolutely nothing to change the "new normal" terror dynamic until and unless the ISIS "Caliphate" was dislodged from Syria and Iraq:
The simple fact is this -  only ground troops can remove an enemy from territory they hold. And if we don't remove them - despite the President's platitudes - Paris and San Bernardino and the downed Russian Airliner are the new normal, and nothing will change that. 
We have a choice. We can continue a low grade war of attrition against ISIS (think "body counts" and Vietnam), with no firm timetable or strategy to decisively destroy ISIS and wait for ISIS and the Caliphate to wear down and collapse.  Or we can adopt a more focused assertive military posture and decisively remove ISIS from the territory they claim as a Caliphate. It does not have to be our ground troops, but is has to be a significant, overwhelming force. In either case, for whatever length of time the Caliphate is permitted to exist, Americans, Europeans, moderate Muslims and "infidels" the world over will continue to be gunned down, bombed, stabbed and massacred in these random "soft-target" attacks launched by True Believers in the Caliphate. Welcome to the New Normal."
Current Status Of The New Normal - President Obama talks the talk.

Since the San Bernardino massacre in December, the Obama administration has been repeatedly questioned by the press and Congress about the status of the President's strategy to defeat ISIS. Administration flacks and the President himself cite bombing sortie statistics, body counts, and incremental territorial gains as evidence that the strategy is working. More recently the President continued to talk the talk, as exemplified by his comments during his historic visit to Cuba in the first minutes of an exhibition baseball game. Here he is interviewed by ESPN on the very day of the ISIS attack in Brussels ...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

In Praise of the Smoke Filled Room
- or -
How I Learned To Love The Idea Of A Brokered GOP Convention

Image ripped from WSJ
As an undeniably lazy blogger, there are few things I find more satisfying than quoting myself while repurposing an old blog post. Why not? I often find my previously published blog posts to be insightful and profoundly moving.  Mitt Romney provided the catalyst for this particular exercise in self-plagiarization with his call for a brokered convention to stop Donald Trump from securing the nomination:
"If the other candidates can find some common ground, I believe we can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism. Given the current delegate selection process, that means that I’d vote for Marco Rubio in Florida and for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state."
In other words, everyone stays in to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention. Trump may arrive in Cleveland with a plurality, but not a majority. Denied a first round nomination, another candidate could be selected at the convention, presumably built out of a coalition of the majority of delegates that support Rubio, Kasich, and Cruz.  This seems like an eminently reasonable strategy to avoid nominating a megalomaniacal authoritarian with zero understanding of our constitutional protections who is afflicted by narcissistic personality disorder and delusions of grandeur.  But that's just me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Krugman and Klein on how the Scalia Supreme Court vacancy battle will destroy America.
Because "divided government."
Or something.

 Let's start with Paul Krugman and his usual understated dispassionate analysis...
Once upon a time, the death of a Supreme Court justice wouldn’t have brought America to the edge of constitutional crisis. But that was a different country, with a very different Republican Party. In today’s America, with today’s G.O.P., the passing of Antonin Scalia has opened the doors to chaos...
In his opening paragraph, in around 50 words,  Krugman manages to blame the GOP for "chaos", a "constitutional crisis", and losing America. All because the GOP controlled Senate may delay confirming a Supreme Court appointment for 9 or 10 months. Even by the standard of Krugman's usual vitriolic, polarizing, partisan hyperbole, that is an impressive pile of horseshit.

Of course this is nothing new for regular Krugman watchers. Who can forget his 2010 classic meltdown on the eve of the Republican takeover of majority control in the House of Representatives:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

State Of The Union - The Musical!
"Bye Bye Barry" Edition

Welcome to the Dividist's annual coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress - aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging toddler, the Dividist despaired at finding a unique approach to the SOTU when so many other bloggers would be traversing the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. In an on-line Washington Post forum the Dividist asked whether the SOTU had any real relevance. Woodward responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU, media and blog reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

The game is to start with a Broadway song then find blog posts, news stories, tweets, essays and commentary that can be vaguely referenced in the song and link them to the lyrics. It keeps the Dividist awake and blogging throughout the speech and mandatory drinking game.

The program so far...
2007 - "Comedy Tonight" 
2008 - "Georgy Girl Boy"
2009 - "Razzle Dazzle" from "Chicago" 
2010 - "The Wizard of Oz" 
2011 - Intermission 
2012 - "Do you hear the people sing?" from Les Miserables" 
2013 - "I don't know how to love him" from "President Obama Superstar" 
2014 - "How to Succeed as President Without Really Trying" 
2015"Let It Go" from "Frozen"
And now, for 2016, despite being pointless political theater, this SOTU holds out hope for a couple of interesting wrinkles. 1st -  It is President Obama's last State of the Union, and 2nd - The administration is hinting at something "different" for this edition. Based on the teaser, the President is going to be backed by a heavy handed organist...