Our growing gaps

I don’t know who Bruce Mehlman is, but I love this very empirical analysis of the 2018 midterm elections full of interesting charts.  Here’s my favorite, as it shows the many increasing gaps that divide us:

I mean, sure, we’ve always been divided urban/rural, but wow!  And a pretty nice demonstration of our growing age gap, too (though, what was going on in 1990?).  Plenty more cool charts at the link, but I think this chart of growing gaps captures a lot of key features of present-day politics.


How Trump saved the Senate for Republicans

He didn’t.

Love this analysis from Alan Abramowitz at Crystal Ball:

Perhaps no president in the modern era has put more effort into campaigning for his party’s candidates in the run-up to a midterm election than Donald Trump. But did Trump’s campaigning actually have the sort of positive impact on the results that he claimed?

There are reasons to be skeptical of Trump’s claims about his huge impact on the results of the 2018 Senate elections. For one thing, his statement that Republicans might have lost “five or six or seven” Senate seats without his intervention is obviously overblown. Republicans only had nine Senate seats at stake in 2018, and seven of those were in deep red states. Only two GOP-held seats were in swing states — Arizona and Nevada — and Republicans ended up losing both of those contests…

n order to measure the impact that President Trump’s campaigning had on the 2018 Senate elections, it is necessary to control for two other factors that strongly influenced the results of those contests: the normal partisan lean of the states where those contests took place and the advantage of incumbency. These two factors by themselves explain 88% of the variance in the Republican margin across the 34 contests held this year that featured two-party competition (California is not included because two Democrats faced each other in the general election).

In order to estimate the effect of Trump’s campaign rallies, I conducted a multiple regression analysis of the results of all 34 contested Senate contests. The dependent variable in this analysis was the Republican margin in the Senate race. The independent variables or predictors were the Republican margin in the 2016 presidential election in the state, the incumbency status of the race (+1 for a GOP incumbent, 0 for no incumbent, -1 for a Democratic incumbent) and the number of campaign rallies held by President Trump for the GOP Senate candidate during October and November. The results are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1. Regression analysis of 2018 Senate election results

The results in Table 1 show that after controlling for the normal partisan lean of a state and the advantage of incumbency, Trump campaign rallies had a negligible and statistically insignificant impact on the outcomes of these races. Rather, the outcomes of the 2018 Senate contests were overwhelmingly determined by the partisan lean of each state and incumbency. [emphasis mine] Moreover, an analysis using the total number of Trump rallies during 2018 instead of just rallies during October and November produced almost identical results — in this case, the estimated effect of Trump rallies was slightly negative but statistically insignificant.

This table above made me very happy.  I love seeing SPSS output directly in a post.  And I love regressions with an r-squared of .87.  And I love very simple regressions that make an important point.

Anyway, so much for the magical powers of Trump.

Republicans against democracy (?)

Seth Masket’s recent comments about Wisconsin was so good that it made the sub-theme of a recent David Leonhardt, column, “Where are the Republicans who like democracy more than they hate Democrats?”

Republican legislators in Wisconsin yesterday approved a naked partisan power grab, removing authority from the governor’s office for the simple reason that the new governor will be a Democrat.

It’s ugly stuff, and I think it’s crucial that other Republicans try to halt the bill. (The governor, Scott Walker, has yet to sign it, and the bill is likely to be challenged in court.) One prominent Republican businessman in Wisconsin, Sheldon Lubar, spoke out against it, as Meg Jones of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“We rely on norms of mutual toleration and forbearance to ensure the peaceful transfer of power. Violating that compact undermines democracy,” the political scientist Brendan Nyhan wrote yesterday. “Scholars of democratic erosion know how dangerous this situation can be.”

Yes.  One of the most frustrating aspects of all of this is the general silence of other Republicans.  Really enjoyed this Bloomberg column Wisconsin and NC’s election fraud:

Speaking of election results in California, where Republican candidates were wiped off the map of traditionally Republican Orange County, Ryan called the results “bizarre” and in defiance of “logic.” He said:

We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race. This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is.

Ryan has run a longstanding, uncannily successful con in Washington, where he has voted for trillions in debt under Republican presidents while making an obstreperous, high-dudgeon ruse of fiscal hawkishness. But Ryan has side-stepped the seediest elements of his party’s moral collapse. Unlike his even more cynical Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, Ryan occasionally voices objection to some grotesque display of racism or moral turpitude by his party’s leader in the White House.

When I asked Ryan’s office why he was joining in the efforts of his party’s least credible members, including President Donald Trump, to undermine confidence in the integrity of the vote — without a shred of evidence that something’s awry — a spokesman pointed me to a previous statementdelivered to the Hill newspaper, saying Ryan “did not and does not dispute the results of the election.”

Good to know that when the speaker of the House pours kerosene on conspiracy theories, he’s not rooting for the republic to burn down…

The daily crisis that is Trump’s presidency often obscures the extended crisis that is the Republican Party. In Michigan and Wisconsin Republican legislators are seeking to steal not votes but their meaning. Having lost statewide elections in November, the Republicans, many representing intricately gerrymandered districts, intend to rob incoming Democrats of the powers of their offices, voters be damned. They are smashing the peaceful transition of power without which democracy instantly fails.

The Trump era combines the criminality of Watergate with the demagogy of McCarthyism.

And, while we’re at it, I enjoyed Emily Badger on how Republicans somehow justify all this to themselves through the mental gymnastics of believing that people who live in rural areas are more worthy of representation than people in urban areas:

In much of Wisconsin, “Madison and Milwaukee” are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different: The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks.

That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics — and the will of voters — in a state.

Thomas Jefferson believed as much — “the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,” he wrote, “as sores do to the strength of the human body.”

Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs…

Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Statehouse, drew this distinction even more explicitly after the midterm election.

“If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority,” he said. “We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature.”

This is most likely true, depending on how you define Madison and Milwaukee. But it’s an odd point to make, given that Madison and Milwaukee can’t be removed from Wisconsin. Nor Detroit from Michigan, nor Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from Pennsylvania, nor Raleigh and Charlotte from North Carolina.

“It just is incredibly frustrating and really nonsensical to think about representation in those terms, especially when you’re talking about statewide results,” said David Canon, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin.

True democracy means not believing that your side gets to have power no matter what.  Alas, right now far too many Republicans seem not to understand that.

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