The Tea Party and partisan asymmetry

I’d like to blog a bit more on the Tea Party today, but I don’t have much time, as I actually have to prepare to give a presentation on the subject tomorrow.  That said, EJ Dionne, today, hits on one of my favorite bugaboos– the idea that everything in politics between the parties is symmetrical. It is not!  Here’s EJ:

The conventional Washington talking point holds that as Republicans have moved right, the Democrats have moved left. But this is patently false — just count the number of moderate Democratic House members. And one politician who sees no equivalence is Castle. The domination of a party by its most ideological wing, he said, “is a more extensive problem right now in the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party.”

Dionne continues:

But the larger question is whether the country is ready to deliver a majority to a Republican Party that now holds problem-solvers like Castle in contempt; is scared to death of a well-financed right wing that parades under a false populist banner; and, in primary after primary, has aligned itself with Sarah Palin, who anointed O’Donnell one of her Grizzlies.

Will moderate voters take a chance on the preposterous proposition that this Republican Party will turn around and work in a calm, bipartisan way with President Obama?

Ummm… that’s an obvious “yes” on these questions.  Though, as I mentioned earlier today, that’s short-term in a bad economy.  Long term, no way is this good for the Republican party.  And, since the parties are not symmetrical, though essentially playing a zero-sum game, this will be good for Democrats.

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Quote of the day

From Daniel Gross on raising taxes on Americans making more than a quarter million a year:

You’re rich.  Get over it.

Lest you doubt, Gross brings the data:

Here we go again. Whenever the subject of taxes comes up—and it’s come up in the debate over the Obama administration’s decision to let many of the Bush-era tax cuts expire this year—we’re treated to a chorus of complaints that people who make $250,000 a year aren’t really rich. Raising taxes on these people, we’re told, would be raising taxes on the middle class. Media Matters has assembled a few choice quotes on the topic.

To a surprising degree, feeling rich or poor is a state of mind. There are people who pull down $3 million a year who are miserable and feel strapped for cash and people who make $30,000 a year who believe they have everything they need. But income data can surely tell us something. And they tell us that $250,000 puts you in pretty fancy company, especially after the collective pratfall the economy took in 2008. The Census Bureau last summer reported that real median household income was $50,303 in 2008, down 3.6 percent from 2007. It’s likely that figure fell further in 2009. So a household that’s making $250,000 today is making about five times the median. In fact, as this chart shows, only 2.476 million U.S. households, the top 2.1 percent, had income greater than $250,000 in 2008. (About 20 percent of households make more than $100,000.)

Somehow America and these poor beleaguered rich folks will survive if their marginal tax rate goes up from 35 to 39%.

Want a better doctor? Choose a woman

Here’s a nice summary of some recent research on factors which appear to make for better physicians.  In short: all else being equal, you’re better off having a doctor who is female, board certified, and went to medical school in America.  Certainly nothing at all surprising by those last two.  It’s also worth noting that the differences, while statistically significantly, were substantively quite small.  If you’ve got a good, non-certified male physician who attended Med school in another country, by all means stick with him.  The Greene family has seen lots of doctors between the two of us and our kids.  We actually had one pediatrician who had been trained in Egypt.  I really liked him.  As far as gender– we’ve had terrific male and female doctors.  My guess, though, is that the slight advantage of female doctors comes from having a better bedside manner, i.e., being a better listener.  Our kids’ pediatrician (a man) is a fabulous listener and all of Alex’s specialists, of both genders, are likewise generally excellent in this regard.

Sowing the seeds of their own destruction

Big night for tea party candidates last night.  In the most stunning result, Republican Christine O’Donnell, the tea party candidate, defeated Deleware’s at-large House Representative and former governor, Mike Castle.  Castle was considered very likely to turn this blue seat red.  Now, Republican chances of taking a Senate majority drop considerably, as O’Donnell is not going to win the general election.

Nate Silver argues, and I think quite reasonably, that the Tea Party, although clearly having some negatives, has been more of a net positive for the Republican party.   That said, I think he gives them too much credit:

Undoubtedly, in my view, they have done the party more good than harm over the past year-and-a-half, bringing it back from what pundits assumed was the brink of irrelevance (but may instead just have been the nadir of a political cycle), to a position where they are poised to make electoral gains that could rival or exceed 1994.

I’m pretty sure the state of the economy has more to do with brining back the Republican party, than anything the tea party has done.  And here’s an important question: are there seats that the Republicans are now likely to pick up because of the tea party that they otherwise would not have been likely to pick up?  There may be, but I certainly cannot think of any.

The tea party has helped the Republican party, but only in the short term.  They are still shaping up to be a long-term electoral disaster.  Heck, even most Alaskans or Utahans would likely find the tea party agenda to radically conservative if there was any chance they could actually implement it into policy.  The current economic conditions are allowing for a lot of short-term tea party success, but at the same time, hiding what cannot possible be a good long-term trend for the Republican party.  There simply aren’t enough voters out there, in normal economic times, who will be on-board with eliminating the Department of Education, fully privatizing Social Security, etc.  Whenever the economy bounces back (let’s all hope sooner, rather than later), the tea party element of the Republican party will be in for a huge reckoning.

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