Calvin and Hobbes

by Kieran Healy on November 8, 2006

“Calvin from the outside.”: It ain’t pretty.

What when the tide goes out?

by Henry Farrell on November 8, 2006

Yesterday gave me a warm glow of happiness that I haven’t gotten from election results in a long while (not that I’m enthusiastic about some aspects of the Democratic party, but they’re vastly superior to the other shower on most things that I care about). Even so, it seems to me to be less a decisive victory than an important first step. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Michael McDonald and John Samples’ edited volume, _The Marketplace of Democracy: Electoral Competition and American Politics_ ( Powells link to be supplied, “Amazon”: )which is the most accessible and useful discussion of the increasing lack of competition in US electoral politics that I’ve come across, describing not only House and Senate races, but also primaries, state legislatures and so on. On first glance, yesterday’s victory looks like a refutation of claims that American politics is no longer competitive; we’re seeing what looks like a Democratic electoral blowout. But only at first glance. Gary Jacobson’s chapter describes the forces limiting electoral competition in the House and Senate. He argues that the importance of both gerrymandering and spending have been exaggerated. What best explains observed outcomes is partisan balance within Congressional districts (and to a lesser extent, states for the Senate). Congressional districts that highly favor one party in the Presidential election are far less likely to elect a candidate from the other party to Congress than in the past. Congressional districts (and, to a lesser extent, states) that favour Republican presidential candidates are _especially_ likely to reproduce this bias. This has given Republicans a key competitive advantage; Democrats’ ability to win Republican-leaning seats “has dropped dramatically since the 1980s.”

What does this suggest? If Jacobson is right, we’ve seen a Democratic tidal wave, but we can’t be at all sure that we’ve seen any underlying structural changes. Many of the Democratic gains are likely to be reversed again when the Republicans start to do better, _unless_ the Democrats cement them by reshaping the partisan balance within these districts, so that they start to favor Democrats systematically, not just when the voters want to throw the bums out. In Jacobson’s words:

A pro-Democratic national tide would, by definition, shake up partisan habits, at least temporarily, counteracting the Republicans’ structural advantage. But absent major shifts in stable party loyalties that lighten the deepening shades of red and blue in so many districts, after the tide ebbed the competitive environment would likely revert to what it had been since 1994

In other words, unless the Democrats can bring through a secular shift in party allegiances in the districts and states that they’ve won, they’re going to be left high and dry when the tide goes out again. How do you bring about this kind of shift? It seems to me that you do it by constructing a vigorous populism which speaks to the economic interests of voters in Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, while scooping up soft libertarians in the Rocky Mountain states who are disgusted with conservative hegemony. And there are pretty clear signs that some Democrats get this. But if this is going to happen, it’ll be no thanks to the DC punditocracy, or to senior Democrats such as Rahm Emanuel whose main concern is to shove Republicans away from the K Street feeding-trough so that they can get their own snouts stuck into the swill. This, it seems to me is going to be the defining battle among Democrats over the next couple of months. Are they going to try to create an agenda that can reshape politics in their favour in the long term? Or are they going to revert to a Democratic-tinged version of business as usual?

(see further “Rick Perlstein”: and “Ezra Klein”: )

Rumsfeld is gone

by Henry Farrell on November 8, 2006

CNN is saying that Rumsfeld is stepping down …

If It’s Not Close They Can’t Cheat

by Belle Waring on November 8, 2006

I was going to post this in a comment to John’s post below, but it’s just so funny that I have to put it up here. From the the one, the only Hugh Hewitt’s post-election reverie:

President Bush will not flag in the pursuit of the war, and Senator Santorum is now available for a seat on the SCOTUS [em. mine] should one become available. GOP senators will have the chance to select leadership equal to the new world of politics which, as the past two years have demonstrated, does not reward timidity.

Justice Santorum. That’s plausible (I mean, he’s got K-Lo’s vote, right?). Excuse me for a moment while I apply a Tiger Balm plaster to my side, which aches from laughing–but this is the man who went to the mat for Harriet Miers, after all.

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