Generation gap and electoral volatility

Having been blogging much because I’ve been working a ton on trying to finish off my conference paper on the generation gap (should be done tonight), but I thought I’d take a break from working to check the blogs and see that Chait has a post that is remarkably similar to what I was just writing in the conclusion:

The 2010 election was largely a result of the generation gap. To oversimplify, the old (conservative) portion of the 2008 electorate showed up, and the young (liberal) portion stayed away. Democrats borrowed a lot of seats in 2008 with a swollen electorate filled with young voters who weren’t likely to stay engaged in 2010. But the corollary of that is that Republicans borrowed those seats right back in 2010 with a disproportionately old electorate that doesn’t reflect what 2012 will look like. The mere fact of having a presidential race will make the House electorate substantially more Democratic.

Indeed, it’s entirely possible that, if the age gap continues, the Congressional vote will continue to swing back and forth like this, with Democrats picking up seats in presidential election years, and losing them in off-years. Obviously, those swings could be obscured by swings going the other way — Democrats could gain seats in a midterm election if the president is a really unpopular Republican, etc. Anyway, my main point is that the salience of age is a new and very important factor in American politics, and it provides some reason for caution in using history to forecast future results.

I especially like it when Chait and I have the same ideas independently, rather than him just making me think about something in a way I previously had not, which is the usual course of things.

Just read this

Apparently, someone has been prosecuted for mortgage fraud, it’s just that the government spent big resources going after a small fish while all the sharks responsible for the financial bubble and collapse have skated off scott free. Absolutely disgusting.

Bachman for prez

Very busy day in the non-blogging world, so one quick wholesale borrowing from Yglesias:

Department of Fake Contradictions


Not sure why popularity with Republican voters means someone’s not a kook.

Exactly.  The general electorate, though, would surely be onto her.  I’d love to see Bachman run just so that more of America can see just what’s become of the activist elements of the modern Republican party.

That’s a lot of salt

I found this article about the next phase of potential problems at Japan’s troubled nuclear plant to be quite fascinating.  This bit really caught my attention:

Western nuclear engineers have become increasingly concerned about a separate problem that may be putting pressure on the Japanese technicians to work faster: salt buildup inside the reactors, which could cause them to heat up more and, in the worst case, cause the uranium to melt, releasing a range of radioactive material.

Richard T. Lahey Jr., who was General Electric’s chief of safety research for boiling-water reactors when the company installed them at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said that as seawater was pumped into the reactors and boiled away, it left more and more salt behind.

He estimates that 57,000 pounds of salt have accumulated in Reactor No. 1 and 99,000 pounds apiece in Reactors No. 2 and 3, which are larger.


Say whatever you want

There’s really just no accountability, and once you get a reputation (no matter how ill-deserved) as an intellectual, people will still think you are smart despite all evidence to the contrary.  Exhibit A: Newt.  Via Drum:

ThinkProgress has a post up today that shows Newt Gingrich unequivocally supporting a no-fly zone over Libya two weeks ago and then equally unequivocally opposing it today. The only thing that’s changed in the
meantime is that two weeks ago President Obama opposed a no-fly zone and today he supports it. So Gingrich is consistently taking the anti-Obama position, whatever that happens to be…

Back in the day, I remember a lot of people saying that it was getting harder for politicians to shade their positions — either over time or for different audiences — because everything was now on video and the internet made it so easy to catch inconsistencies. But that’s turned out not to really be true. Unless you’re in the middle of a high-profile political campaign, it turns out you just need to be really brazen about your flip-flops. Sure, sites like ThinkProgress or Politifact with catch you, and the first few times that happens maybe you’re a little worried about what’s going to happen. But then it dawns on you: nothing is going to happen. Your base doesn’t read ThinkProgress. The media doesn’t really care and is happy to accept whatever obvious nonsense you offer up in explanation. The morning chat shows will continue to book you. It just doesn’t matter.

And that’s got to be pretty damn liberating. You can literally say anything you want! And no one cares! That’s quite a discovery.

Depressing and true.  Of course, I blame the media for continuing to treat people like Gingrich as if they actually had any intellectual credibility.  Just pretend you do, and they’ll believe it.

Chart of the Day

Has America moved beyond race?  Look at this and you tell me (via Ezra):

Umm, wow.  Not all that surprising, but still somewhat depressing.  Here Ezra excerpts the PS paper it’s from:

The chart above this post comes from a more recent research paper (pdf) by Tesla and Sears that concludes:

Very little has changed since Barack Obama became president. More specifically, we show:(1) Obama’s early presidential job approval ratings were influenced considerably more by racial attitudes than was the case for previous presidents, (2) support for Obama from white racial liberals had much to do with those highly racialized presidential approval ratings, (3) the effect of racial resentment on evaluations of Obama remained remarkably stable from early 2008 to November 2009, (4) President Obama continued to be evaluated not just as an African American but as someone who was distinctly “other,” and (5) Obama-induced racialization spilled over into issues on which the White House took visible positions, such as health care.

Interestingly, race may be a net benefit:

Another way to say this is that far from marking the end of us-vs.-them elections associated with Richard Nixon’s infamous Southern strategy, the 2008 election was arguably the beginning of its inverse: an electoral campaign where race, because of the skin color of the Democratic nominee, was a central issue, but this time, the “racially progressive” coalition proved larger than the racially conservative coalition. Call it the Northern strategy.

Still, I’d be much happier when a candidate’s skin color just isn’t a big deal.  Obviously, we’re not there yet.

Really dumb quote of the day

I really don’t want to leave Sarah facing the back in her car seat for two whole years, because in my experience, babies are much happier when they get to face forward and see what’s going on.  As a result, most parents look forward to turning their child around at about the age of 1, as has been recommended.  Alas, the latest safety recommendations say we should probably wait until the age of two.

Toddlers are usually switched from rear-facing to forward-facing car seats right after their first birthday — an event many parents may celebrate as a kind of milestone.

But in a new policy statement, the nation’s leading pediatricians’ group says that is a year too soon.

The advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, issued Monday, is based primarily on a 2007University of Virginia study finding that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a crash if they are facing the rear.

Okay, so, that’s pretty clear.  I guess we’ll see what Kim thinks on the matter in another 8 months.  One thing is for sure, though, anybody dumb enough to make the following statement most definitely should not be a go-to person for quotes on this issue:

The academy’s previous policy, from 2002, said it was safest for infants and toddlers to ride facing the rear, and cited 12 months and 20 pounds as the minimum requirements for turning the car seat forward. But Ms. Baer, a certified child passenger safety technician, said parents tended to take that as a hard and fast rule.

“A lot of parents consider turning the car seat around as another developmental milestone that shows how brilliant and advanced their child is,” she said, “and they don’t realize that it’s making their child less safe.”

Seriously?! Really, this has to be one of the dumbest things about parents I’ve ever read.  The child-less Kevin Drum even flagged this.  Oh, I know, parents can be really stupid about their kids, but turning them around is a car seat based on their age and weight as an indicator of brilliance??!  Let’s find somebody a little smarter to comment on car seat safety issues.

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