Election observations

A few observations on the election:

1.   Focus on the referenda.  Marijuana was legalized in Michigan, by a fairly wide margin.  This suggests that it’s only a matter of time before other Midwestern states follow suit.  Legalization failed in North Dakota, which doesn’t bode well for  . . .  South Dakota?  Voters approved medical marijuana in Missouri and Utah.  Minimum wages continue to be highly popular, even in red states, while expanded rent control failed in California by 62-38.  Go figure.   I actually voted for a tax increase (on gasoline), and it was approved.

2.  Conservatives continue to push for expanded Obamacare, as three more deep red states voted for Medicaid expansion, which was part of the original Obamacare. The GOP insists that Obamacare represented the socialization of health care, but somehow forgot to repeal it.  And now it’s growing with support from GOP voters.

3.  Colorado voters rejected progressive income taxes.  Voters in other blue states like Massachusetts and Washington had previously rejected progressive income taxes.  Progressives should just give up; it’s a bad idea.  Instead, institute a progressive payroll tax.

4.  The election was not actually a referendum on Trump, although it’s being interpreted that way.  The Dems won the popular vote by about 9%, which suggests the public opinion polls were broadly correct.  Betting markets don’t show much change in the odds of Trump being re-elected (currently 38%.)  I actually don’t think Dems should be all that pleased with those odds, as the leading Democratic possibilities at Betfair all look like losers to me.  (Except Biden—and I doubt he’ll get the nomination.  He would have won in 2016.)  They need to nominate someone who can win Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

5. I voted for a left wing Democrat in CA-45 district, who appears to have lost.  But I’m fine with that, as I only voted for her to get a House that would investigate Trump—the only issue that mattered to me.   I don’t like the idea of a President who is above the law, as has been the case since Trump took office.  I recall how the GOP was willing to hold Nixon to account back in 1974, and am disgusted by the spinelessness of the modern GOP.

It would actually be doing Trump a favor for Congress to subpoena his taxes, allowing him to fulfill his campaign promise to release the tax returns.  The Dems may pass some bad legislation, but if it becomes law I’ll blame Mitch McConnell, who now has tight control of the Senate.  After doing nothing to fix our country over the past 8 months, I’m expecting a bunch of foolish big government legislation from the GOP Senate.

6.  I was glad to see Brat lose in Virginia.  In retrospect, his upset win in 2014 was a signal of the GOP’s descent into Trumpism.  Sad to see Steve King re-elected by the voters in Iowa.  A state that voted strongly for Dukakis in 1988 (when California went for Gerald Ford Bush) is now so right wing that they elected a white nationalist anti-Semite with views too noxious for even the National Review.  Also glad to see the GOP’s most notorious Putin supporter (in my very own Orange County) likely went down to defeat.

7.  Only 13 districts voted for both Romney and Clinton, and I live in one of those districts.  I’m pretty sure that you’d find the more numerous districts that went Obama then Trump are on average dumber that the Romney/Clinton districts, even though both types are swing (purple) areas.  There’s a logical explanation for going Romney then Clinton.  There is no logical explanation for going Obama then Trump.

8. The Dems need to adopt a “patriotism, not nationalism” theme. I associate nationalism with European politics: protectionism, authoritarianism, xenophobia, and bigotry against Jews, Roma and Muslims.  In America, the bigotry is usually directed against Mexicans, Muslims, and blacks.  A true patriot supports Americans of all ethnicities, and favors free trade and expanded immigration.  Imagine where America would be today without all the immigration of earlier decades, which was opposed by the nationalists of the 19th and early 20th century.  David Brooks has a recent column where he claims to be a nationalist, but he’s actually describing patriotism:

Donald Trump says he is a nationalist, but you can’t be a nationalist if you despise half the nation — any more than you can be a good father if you despise half your children. You can’t be a nationalist if you think that groups in the nation are in a zero-sum conflict with one another — class against class, race against race, tribe against tribe.

Perhaps Brooks is not familiar with how the term ‘nationalism’ has actually been used over the past 100 years.  It’s all about zero-sum thinking, us vs. them.  Reminds me of millennials who say they favor “socialism”; you know, like in Denmark.  :)


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33 Responses to “Election observations”

  1. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    7. November 2018 at 11:35

    “A state that voted strongly for Dukakis in 1988 (when California went for Gerald Ford)”

    Gerald Ford in 1988, WTF?

    Re Dem challengers in 2020: agree Biden woulda won in 2016, but will be too damn old in 2020. Look out for Beto.

  2. Gravatar of c8to c8to
    7. November 2018 at 11:37

    excellent critique of Brooks choice of words. Think he was attempting to undermine the use of nationalist, but ultimately failed, for the reasons you point out. It would just be easier and more effective to use the right word.

    On your point:

    ” There’s a logical explanation for going Romney then Clinton. There is no logical explanation for going Obama then Trump.”

    There is very much a logical explanation. You mean “policy logical” as opposed to just “politics logical”. Most people vote more along the lines of “who would I rather hang out with” or “who looks more like a president” and the answer to both of those questions for most people is obama & trump over romney & clinton.

  3. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    7. November 2018 at 12:04

    The Trumpists that the new GOP Establishment pushed over Mark Sanford lost in SC’s 1st Congressional District, which was gratifying.

  4. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    7. November 2018 at 12:08

    “There is no logical explanation for going Obama then Trump.”

    Well, I suppose you could have believed Obama when he said that he was going to renegotiate NAFTA. I don’t know how many such protectionist voters there are, though.

  5. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    7. November 2018 at 12:18

    You say the Dems should adopt a Patriotism theme. Sounds good to me. I wonder why they have not? I think its because they view that word like you view the word “nationalism”. I love your critique of Brooks because of its use over the “last 100 years”. Are you becoming a dog whistler”? When Trump describes nationalism, it does not sound like other ways the word has been used in Europe “over the past 100 years”. I prefer it when his critics just call him Hitler rather than arguing over the meaning of words as a way to imply he is “hitlerish”—Brooks insists that Trump “hates half the nation”. Sounds like Hillary and deplorables. Don’t you get tired of this? It sounds like you have a great life in Calif—I am happy for you—I don’t believe you believe this junk.

  6. Gravatar of David R. Henderson David R. Henderson
    7. November 2018 at 12:26

    Scott,
    You write: “It would actually be doing Trump a favor for Congress to subpoena his taxes, allowing him to fulfill his campaign promise to release the tax returns.”
    I saw someone on CNN last night saying that’s what the Dems would do. What they didn’t say was what the legal basis for subpoenaing his tax returns would be. Do you know?

  7. Gravatar of Russ Abbott Russ Abbott
    7. November 2018 at 12:49

    Like you I’m disappointed that Katie Porter Lost. I’m as puzzled as much by Mimi Walters’ win as I am by Trump’s win in 2016. Who could possibly support either of them? (I support Porter because of he positions, not just to give the Democrats control of the House.)

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. November 2018 at 12:59

    msgkings. Yikes, brain freeze.

    Michael, You might not know this, but there’s actually been a lot of nationalism over the past 100 years, all over the world. And Trumpian nationalism is alive and well in Italy, Poland, Hungary, India, China, Russia and lots of other places. If you can’t think of anyone but Hitler, that’s your problem.

    David, I assume they’d be investigating corruption. It’s not like there isn’t plenty of reason to look into the relationship between his business affairs and his decisions as president.

    Russ, I actually don’t like her positions on the issues, I assume that’s why she lost. This is a conservative district

  9. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    7. November 2018 at 12:59

    What about Amy Klobuchar?

    https://twitter.com/jbarro/status/1060041995798958080?s=21

    https://twitter.com/steventdennis/status/1060273266173116417?s=21

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    7. November 2018 at 13:08

    Perhaps Brooks is not familiar with how the term ‘nationalism’ has actually been used over the past 100 years.

    Very plausible. A sophisticated cultural pundit and intellectual like Brooks doesn’t know how to use the term ‘nationalism’ correctly but you do.

    @David
    Legal and libertarian ‘trifles’ suddenly do not matter to people like Scott if you act against the incarnation of ‘The Devil’.

  11. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    7. November 2018 at 15:11

    Good observations. And I agree with the opinions too. The only thing I’d maybe take another look at is this:

    The Dems won the popular vote by about 9%, which suggests the public opinion polls were broadly correct.

    How do they figure that? Does the fact that California cast over 6 millions votes for a Democratic senator (because only Democrats were on the ballot) factor in? I’d love that figure to be accurate, but I wonder about how it’s calculated. Also, across the nation more Democratic senators were on the ballot, so again, that’s naturally going to skew things towards Democratic votes (especially since the majority of them won), depending on how they factor that in.

  12. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    7. November 2018 at 15:12

    … to be clear, it’s the 9% I was wondering about, not the accuracy of the polls.

  13. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    7. November 2018 at 15:16

    Regarding Democratic chances in 2020, what about Sherrod Brown? He won a comfortable victory in increasingly red Ohio. People must have been splitting their votes there between senator and governor (since the Republican governor also won a comfortable victory).

  14. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    7. November 2018 at 15:25

    The Democratic candidate for 2020 that would most grate on Trump might be Tester. Didn’t Trump spend considerable amounts of time in Montana trying to boost the Republican challenger’s chances? … to no avail? If Tester were the Dem nominee it might rattle Trump a bit. Plus Tester voted against Kavanaugh in a red state, and lived to tell about it. Was he the only one?

  15. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    7. November 2018 at 15:54

    Regarding Republican 2020 chances, I think it’s too early to count this guy out: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/election-2018-dennis-hof-dead-brothel-owner-reality-tv-star-wins-nevada-assembly-seat/

  16. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    7. November 2018 at 16:02

    http://lenkiefer.com/2017/05/28/housing-supply-house-prices/

    The above link is interesting as it looks at new housing stock minus that which becomes obsolete.

    So the US produces less than 1 million net new housing units per year.

    Scott Sumner has opined that the US is so bad at building infrastructure, that it should not even try.

    Okay, so we have limited new net housing stock and we hold infrastructure steady. But as a patriot and not a nationalist, I am supposed to clamor for more immigration?

    In fact many US cities are beginning to look like Third World cities, in particular Los Angeles. Not because of the people, but because of the crowded run-down infrastructure and living standards.

  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. November 2018 at 17:16

    Travis, Minnesota nice would be a good contrast to Trump. Hillary could not pull that off.

    Christian, So libertarians now believe that presidents should be authoritarian-type leaders who are above the law?

    Tom, The 9% figure refers to House races.

    Ben, Check out my Econlog piece on LA’s wonderful new mass transit system.

    I’m not against building infrastructure, but let’s do it right.

  18. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    7. November 2018 at 18:12

    Scott,

    Christian, So libertarians now believe that presidents should be authoritarian-type leaders who are above the law?

    You talked about subpoenas regarding his taxes, and you talked about forcing him to release his tax returns. I think both measures are unworthy of democracy and the rule of law.

    But to answer your new question: I think that certain members of government and certain government officials should be immune, at least during their time in office. That’s pretty standard in other countries as well.

    You might need ways to deal with this immunity if there are extreme criminal activities but I think only under strict control, for example through Congress. More control than it’s the case now.

    The Mueller investigation seems absurd to me in many ways. There seems to be no limit. Fair procedures must never work that way, that’s just absurd.

    Or consider the intense use of witnesses who get absurd incentives. Mueller threatens his witnesses regularly with decades in prison, and is then surprised when they tell him everything he wants to hear.

    It has been known for decades from research that one should never influence witnesses like this. We know that humans are willing to alter their behavior in big ways for even small incentives. If threatened with decades in jail, they simply tell every truth and every lie that exists. It’s grotesque that the US still uses these methods. In this way you can not get the truth out. You only get to hear what the witness thinks that you would like to hear.

    I think thousands of innocent people are being tried every year in the US because the US still uses this bad method. It is not a good method. Just stop doing it that way.

    My criticism goes on. But I think it’s a waste to continue here. You can not really see the situation neutrally / objectively right now. You only look at Trump through a political lens and influenced by TDS.

    Many people are currently in delusion. I can only hope that they recognize their mistakes in 10-30 years. But if I look at the absurd persecution of Bill Clinton, the US has learned NOTHING since then.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. November 2018 at 19:48

    Christian, Comparing Trump to Clinton? Really? Did Clinton encourage the Russians to interfere in US elections? Did he fire the FBI director to stop him from investigating Russian interference? You compare Clinton’s trivial crimes to Trump?

    Trump’s tax returns are very relevant if they show financial links to Russia. If not, no big deal. Trump promised to release them anyway, as all other candidates do.

  20. Gravatar of BC BC
    7. November 2018 at 20:29

    “There is no logical explanation for going Obama then Trump.”

    One connection is that they both reject American Exceptionalism. (No, Obama saying that he believes America is exceptional, just like many other people may think their countries are exceptional, doesn’t count.) Obama viewed America’s proper role as one of 20 equal G-20 countries, leading from behind. Similarly, Trump doesn’t just want to shrink America’s global leadership role for selfish reasons (America First). Like Obama, Trump doesn’t view America as particularly worthy of leading the world. For example, when asked about Putin’s killing of journalists, Trump responded that we kill people too. He has also emphasized in his inaugural address and other comments that the US should not try to spread its values to other countries.

    Having said all that, I think most Obama-Trump voters were mainly drawn to celebrity personality rather than a desire to resist what they perceived as American Imperialism.

    “Dems need to adopt a ‘patriotism, not nationalism’ theme.

    Unfortunately, Dems usually define patriotism as willingness to impose high taxes on one’s fellow citizens.

  21. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    7. November 2018 at 21:16

    Of course this brings to mind the quote from Johnson; “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. My view is similar in that nationalism and patriotism are too similar to each other – basically you are selecting one group of people and arguing that they are worthy of special privilege because of where they were born. It an argument to manipulate people – often by people looking for status. As a moral argument it seems pretty silly to me – how can being born one side of an arbitrary border make someone more worthy of your charity?. I get the practical argument that people like Steve Sailor make which is that actually nation states have been part of the success in recent times of improved human welfare. Creating and making a nation work, and ensuring it’s institutions are enduring probably needed a bit of this nationalism. But using it nowadays is similar to the arguments that people used to make against atheism – without public belief in god we will have lawlessness. Well most countries in Europe are now majority atheists and we don’t see them descending into savagery. So we probably don’t need nationalism or patriotism now either to ensure functioning nations.

  22. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    8. November 2018 at 02:12

    Ben, Check out my Econlog piece on LA’s wonderful new mass transit system.

    I’m not against building infrastructure, but let’s do it right.–Scott Sumer

    Yes, I posted a comment. We agree.

    But a city cannot effectively build mass transit without lots of eminent domain, and ramrodding through huge increases in density (that is, wiping out property zoning around subway-rail stops).

    Let’s face it—the US will not get rid of property zoning, and we fritter our money away on disability programs and unimaginable military waste.

    So–the US will not build more housing or infrastructure in the next 25 years.

    Where do the immigrants go?

  23. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    8. November 2018 at 09:28

    “I saw someone on CNN last night saying that’s what the Dems would do. What they didn’t say was what the legal basis for subpoenaing his tax returns would be. Do you know?”

  24. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    8. November 2018 at 09:30

    Whoops, I hit “post” before I had finished composing that last submission. The answer to the question is 26 U.S.C. §6103(f)(1), which provides that “[u]pon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives…, the Secretary [of the Treasury] shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request… .”

    I hope that helps.

  25. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    8. November 2018 at 09:35

    “I think that certain members of government and certain government officials should be immune, at least during their time in office. That’s pretty standard in other countries as well.”

    Immune from what? If you mean immune from prosecution, I agree that this seems a sensible idea. If you mean immune from investigation, however, that strikes me as a terrible idea. If there is one person from whom we all—as a body politic—have a right to expect honesty (and whose honesty we have therefore a right to verify), it is the president of our republic. Not only should our president not be immune from investigation, there should be at all times a running investigation of that person’s finances. It should be as difficult as we can practically make it to bribe the president secretly.

    I would favor a law that makes voluntary disclosure of one’s financial records a precondition for running for for the presidency. If that requirement were to prevent some folks from running, well, no one is so perfect for the job that we should be willing to tolerate some financial chicanery from that person.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. November 2018 at 17:29

    ChrisA, Nationalism is a selfish ideology. Patriotism need not be.

    Greg, Interesting. So they don’t even need to ask Trump for his return, they can request it from the Treasury.

  27. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    8. November 2018 at 19:59

    “[T]hey don’t even need to ask Trump for his return, they can request it from the Treasury.”

    That is correct. There are limitations here. The Supreme Court explained in Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 187 (1957) that “[n]o [Congressional] inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the Congress. Investigations conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated are indefensible.” However, I do not think that Congress would have a hard time in this case making a showing that the request for tax returns was “in furtherance of a legitimate task of the Congress,” so it should be a fairly straightforward business to enforce the subpoena to the Treasury should Mnuchin try to resist.

  28. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    9. November 2018 at 05:10

    My theory of midterm elections is that

    (i) The President dominates the news, and voters get to know him pretty well.

    (ii) Senators get much less news coverage, but they still get enough for voters to know at least something about them, like whether or not they voted for Kavanaugh. So Senate midterm elections have a lot to do with both the quality of the candidates and their issues.

    (iii) Candidates for the House get almost no news coverage and (aside from incumbency advantages) voters decide on a House candidate based on how they feel about the President. And Presidents get so much media coverage that people eventually get sick of them. When that happens, their party loses heavily in the House midterms. Presidents who constantly draw attention to themselves, like Clinton, Obama and Trump, end up losing heavily in their first midterm. If a President is more restrained in his publicity-seeking, like Nixon, Carter and both Bushes, the heavy losses are delayed until their second midterm.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. November 2018 at 12:20

    Greg, Of course Trump has no respect for the law, so look for him to resist.

  30. Gravatar of JMCSF JMCSF
    9. November 2018 at 15:02

    Another take – the country is more partisan than ever. All seats/districts with a PVI of +15 are likely out of reach for the other party regardless of circumstances.

    Democrats did quite well in the House all things considered (structural disadvantage, gerrymandering, etc) looking at a 37-40 seat gain (biggest Dem gain since Watergate)

    Thinking about Democrats 2020 prospects, a ticket with midwestern support (they need WI, MI, and PA) as well as sunbelt appeal (NV, AZ, FL, NC,) is key. Progressive candidates did not do so well, but Klobachur improved a lot on her ‘12 margin. She is the antithesis to Trump, maybe she deserves a stronger look?

  31. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    9. November 2018 at 19:02

    I voted for a left wing Democrat in CA-45 district, who appears to have lost. But I’m fine with that, as I only voted for her to get a House that would investigate Trump—the only issue that mattered to me.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    TBF, I also voted for a left-wing Democrat in a GOP-held seat Democrats flipped, but partly because of my anti-semitism and general dissatisfaction with Trump. If the Dem was a Jewess (as she was in a neighboring district), I would have voted GOP.

    I was glad to see Brat lose in Virginia.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    You are far, far less “libertarian” than I am, Scott (meaning, you’re not). Brat was among the most libertarian representatives in Congress.

    I associate nationalism with European politics: protectionism, authoritarianism, xenophobia, and bigotry against Jews, Roma and Muslims.

    All of this (yes, even protectionism has its proper place) is both good and necessary.

    A true patriot supports Americans of all ethnicities, and favors free trade and expanded immigration.

    Not true.

    Imagine where America would be today without all the immigration of earlier decades, which was opposed by the nationalists of the 19th and early 20th century.

    It would be awesome; a lot more awesome than America is today.

    Only 13 districts voted for both Romney and Clinton

    23.

    There is no logical explanation for going Obama then Trump.

    Yes, there is.

    I’m pretty sure that you’d find the more numerous districts that went Obama then Trump are on average dumber that the Romney/Clinton districts, even though both types are swing (purple) areas.

    Same.

    Donald Trump says he is a nationalist, but you can’t be a nationalist if you despise half the nation

    Yes, you can; it makes you even more of a nationalist. Look at Bolsonaro.

    anti-Semite

    Anti-Semite???? King is a staunch friend of Israel, a big fan of Bibi Netanyahu, and even supported the commutation of f*cking Sholom Rubashkin’s sentence (which I did not). Apparently, Sumner thinks all Russophobes are Russophiles, and all lovers of Zion are anti-Semites. Note that I am not a Russophobe and am not a huge fan of America being an Israeli colony. For the record, two actual neo-Nazi GOP House candidates won over 25% of the vote in very blue districts. Focus on them!

    Also glad to see the GOP’s most notorious Putin supporter (in my very own Orange County) likely went down to defeat.

    So Sumner hates liberty (i.e., free trade with Russia) so much that he votes against one of the strongest pushers of marijuana liberalization in the Republican Party. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. Figures. Sumner, you’re stupider than I thought.

  32. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    9. November 2018 at 21:14

    “Trump has no respect for the law, so look for him to resist.”

    I am sure that you are right about this. On the other hand, neither he nor any of his legal team appear to be what you might call competent. I expect him to resist, but in an embarrassingly ineffectual, close-the-door-only-once-the-horse-is-out fashion.

  33. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    10. November 2018 at 19:57

    Scott,

    If Trump engaged the Russians to win the 2016 election then he either covered his tracks extremely well OR Robert Mueller is complicit in allowing Trump to persist as President. For if Mueller had a sniff of Trump / Russia collusion why would he hold it back?

    So what is your explanation? Is Trump a better crook than Mueller is an investigator? Or is Mueller complicit in keeping Trump in power? Or is Trump / Russia collusion a fiction?

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