The myth of Independents

Apparently various pundits are at it again talking about the presumably monolithic bloc of "Independent" voters in American politics.  John Side is having none of it:

Jon Bernstein beat me to this, but he has other fish to fry with Bai. Plus, I want to yell.

INDEPENDENTS ARE NOT A “VAST MIDDLE GROUND.

INDEPENDENTS DO NOT COMPRISE MORE THAN “A THIRD OF AMERICANS.

How many DAMN TIMES must this be said before this MOST BASIC OF FINDINGS — first explicated at length almost 20 YEARS AGO! — sinks into the heads of pundits.

I will keep linking to this post
as long as it takes. To repeat: true, honest-to-God independents are
about 10% of the American population. Declining support for Obama among
independents accounts for less than a fifth of Obama’s overall decline
in support.

Follow that last link if you want a nice thorough explanation.  The book Sides links to actually was what inspired my dissertation research, i.e., why do so many people say they are "independent" if they are functionally partisans?  Answer (in abstract form) here.  

 

 

 

Quick hits

1) Daniel Gross' sub-headline says it all: "Oh, no! Scott Brown has incoherent and appalling economic ideas—just like almost all of his congressional Republican colleagues."

2) It is really pointless for North Carolina to keep it's death penalty.

3) Democrats who somehow think that trying to give in to Republicans will result in less political attacks are morons (sadly, there's many of them). 

Bail

Terrific story from NPR on the incredibly corrupt and wrong-headed bail system in Texas (focusing on the situation in my former home of Lubbock).  As with many policies, the Texas policies on bail are just plain dumb and inefficient policy, but very beneficial to a select group (i.e., bail bondsmen) so they're not going anywhere.  The bail bonds industry makes a ton of money off this stupid policy so they fight tooth and nail (and quite successfully) to keep it.  Those who lose are a) criminals– not a lot of political clout there, and b) the citizens of Texas who are burdened with this stupid system, but who largely unaffected for it but for their wasted tax dollars– i.e., not a concentrated lobby to fight against it.  When the interest groups section of class comes around, this will definitely be assigned.

Paraphrase of the day

From Matt Yglesias:

 If focusing on jobs created jobs, incumbents would never lose elections.

All this talk about Democrats and Obama needing to "focus on jobs" is so tiresome and Matt gets it all in his nice pithy quote.  The president and Congress can do something about health care, there's only so much they can do about jobs.

What to do now?

Tom Toles gets it pretty much right:


toles1

 

 

If you care about health care reform, read this

A tour-de-force column from Paul Krugman today.  Basically manages to summarize pretty much every aspect of the argument on whey Democrats need to pass this health care bill now in 800 words.  Read it.

 

Columbine

I just finished a terrific (as in, in will go on my all-time favorites list) book, Columbine by Dave Cullen.  It's about what you think it is.  I found it endlessly fascinating and found it incredibly hard to put down for the past few days.  Why did the killers do it?  What were they really like?  What role did their parents play?  How did the police get it so wrong?  How did the media get it so wrong?  So many interesting questions answered in a thorough and compelling manner.  Chances are, a lot of what you thought you knew about Columbine is wrong.  I found it especially interesting to learn that Eric Harris was almost a classic psychopath (and to learn exactly what that entails).  I realize this book is not for everyone, but if the subject piques your interest, you should definitely read it.  Until then, here's a couple of great excerpts in Slate on the matter.  And, even better, an essay by Cullen (not from the book) on the lessons learned from Columbine.  Read it

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