Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Rethinking Fusionism

A couple links on the enterprise of mediating between conservatives and populists:

Robert VerBruggen argues that Trump's Cabinet picks represent a blend of populist and conservative tendencies.

On Twitter, Henry Olsen says that the Carrier deal underlines the need for conservatives to reinvigorate their thinking about economic policy.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Carrying Shibboleths

At the moment, I'm not going to get into a deeper discussion of the mechanics of the Carrier deal (though I will say in passing that announcing a deal to save 1000 jobs is better optics than standing around chanting "You did build that").  But it might be worth looking at a few of the attacks against this measure--and see how these attacks may fundamentally misunderstand some of the dynamics and history of manufacturing in the U.S.

Some critics note that the Carrier deal is just a drop in the bucket of the manufacturing jobs lost since 2000.  That's quite true, but small, incremental changes can be both a foundation for further change and a narrative rallying point.  Political messaging is in part about making the small example a sign of something bigger, so it's not clear why the smallness of this deal should invalidate any worth it might have.

But an even bigger argument made against the Carrier deal is that it's fruitless--any jobs saved will soon be eaten up by automation.  It's certainly true that automation is changing employment patterns and that some jobs have been lost--and will continue to be lost--to automation.  However, we should not turn automation into a shibboleth that freezes all thinking or that offers a comprehensive catch-all for explanations of the economy.

First of all, the huge U.S. trade deficit is not caused by automation.  For years now, the United States has supported a regime that incentivizes (often artificially) cheap imports from foreign nations.  Maybe this incentivization is in the broader interests of the American economy; maybe it isn't.  But, whatever its ultimate utility, this trade regime has caused some products that might be produced domestically to be produced abroad.  A reformed trade policy might cause some of these goods to be produced in the United States, which would in turn increase manufacturing employment.

Second, it's not clear how quickly--if at all--automation will ultimately devour all manufacturing jobs.  A chart in this Brookings Institution report is revealing: it shows that manufacturing employment (in terms of raw numbers of workers) was basically stable from 1980 to 2000.  The United States only shed millions of manufacturing jobs after 2000.  Interestingly, manufacturing gained far more in productivity in the twenty years between 1980 and 2000 (about doubling over that period) than it has in the years since 2000 (only increasing by about 25 percent).  Thus, the period between 1980 and 2000 saw huge gains in technology and productivity while not losing that many manufacturing jobs; the years since have seen a sluggish growth in productivity while also hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs.  This suggests that automation may not be a sufficient explanation for the loss of American jobs in manufacturing.

Third, even if automation will destroy many manufacturing jobs, there is no reason why policy-makers shouldn't take what responsible steps they can to ensure the survival of the manufacturing jobs that remain.  If more responsible trade, tax, and regulatory policies can help some manufacturing jobs stay even temporarily, that could be a not negligible win.  Human beings are not just economic inputs or outputs, so, if major economic disruption could be put off for even a decade, that could give older workers a chance to finish their careers before retiring while also providing space for younger workers to retrain.

The past eighteen months have shredded many Beltway political truisms.  There are some policy truisms that could also use reexamination.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding Middle Ground

The history of movement conservatism as a major political force reveals the electoral alliance between conservatism and vigorous populism. In recent decades, leaving aside the most recent example of Donald Trump, Republicans have relied on populist energies to power major electoral victories: Ronald Reagan, the Gingrich revolution of 1994, and the tea-party wave all depended on populist energies (even if these energies were less than they now are). While he didn’t deliver on many populist policy aims, even George W. Bush relied upon populist optics in 2000 and 2004. This conservative-populist alliance might not always be healthy, and there is no reason for conservatives to surrender their deeper principles in order to cozy up to a populist insurgency. However, conservatives might be wise to locate areas of sympathy between conservatism and populism and work to address the broader causes of this latest populist disruption.
For those interested in the theme of populism, Noah Millman has an interesting case for the necessity of populist energies as a way of informing the preferences of those in power:
Populists may be the only ones who truly understand what democracy really is for, and that is, fundamentally, for expressing dissatisfaction. Elections force leaders to turn to the people and say: How am I doing? — and to accept the people's verdict if the answer is: Not so great.
For a large swath of the country, the answer has been "not so great" for quite some time. This year, they rendered their verdict.
And I am thankful that they did. In the absence of populism, democracy becomes a competition between groups of elites to divide the people up with maximum efficiency, such as to lower the economic cost of bidding for a majority that will deliver power. Populist revolts of the left- or right-wing variety are the primary mechanism by which the electorate can punish elites for that strategy, and force them to consider the alarming possibility of losing control of the political economy entirely.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Virtue of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to outline briefly some of the reasons why gratitude is something very much worth celebrating.

Gratitude calls upon us to think about what is good in our lives.  Reflecting on the good is good for the heart, but it's also good for the head.  Attending to the good helps us better understand what is actually beneficial and really worth striving for.  Inside and outside politics, the continued inquiry into the good is essential.

Gratitude also helps us realize our own partiality and our dependence upon others.  For many religious believers, the ultimate entity toward which we should have gratitude is, of course, God.  However, there are other figures deserving of gratitude as well: our families, our friends, heroes past and present, kindly strangers, and so forth.  We can feel particularly keen gratitude for gifts that are unearned--that are given out of the fullness of the heart regardless of our own shortcomings.  We can feel gratitude knowing how much we depend on others and with hope that, despite our many flaws, charity and grace can still come upon us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016

The 14-Year Rule Lives

An unacknowledged winner of 2016 has been John McConnell, a veteran Republican speechwriter who served in the George W. Bush White House.  According to Jonathan Rauch, McConnell outlined the following rule in the early 2000s: "No one gets elected president who needs longer than 14 years to get from his or her first gubernatorial or Senate victory to either the presidency or the vice presidency."  As Jeffrey Anderson noted in The Weekly Standard last year, that 14-year rule holds for every presidential election since 1860.  Thus, once a presidential aspirant gets elected to the Senate or the governor's mansion, he or she has 14 years to make it to a winning presidential ticket (either as VP or president) if he or she hopes to be president at some point.  Obama had 4 years between being elected to the Senate and winning the White House, and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had 6 and 14 years, respectively, between winning their first gubernatorial race and the presidency.  George HW Bush had never been elected to the Senate or a governorship, so the 14-year rule did not apply to him.

There's obviously no metaphysical reason why this 14-year rule has to be the case, but Rauch and Anderson have some interesting reflections on why it is a trend.  It seems to suggest the American people's preference that presidents have some experience but also represent something politically fresh.

In 2016, Donald Trump (never previously elected to any government office) faced off against Hillary Clinton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2000.  Secretary Clinton was thus 2 years past the 14-year rule.  (Interestingly for Democrats, Joe Biden would also have been well past the 14-year rule; first elected to the Senate in 1972, it took him 36 years to make it to the vice-presidency.  Bernie Sanders, however, would not have run afoul of the 14-year rule; he was first elected to the Senate in 2006.  Nor would Hillary Clinton have been past the 14-year rule if she had been the Democratic nominee in 2008 or if Obama had picked her to be vice-president in 2008.)

When Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, the 14-year rule won again.

Do Not Press the Button

At NRO, I mount an old hobbyhorse and criticize yet again the nuclear option on the filibuster:

The nuclear option would lead to a situation where senators — the legislative voices of their states — would lose their independence. The challenges facing the nation are complex indeed, and the nation needs a multiplicity of voices and brains working to solve those problems. In recent years, the Senate has benefited from a variety of reformers — from Jeff Sessions to Mike Lee to Marco Rubio — working to propose solutions to both new and old problems. Detonating the nuclear option would help centralize and stiffen the Senate when the moment calls for decentralization and flexibility.
The results of last Tuesday remind us that seemingly permanent majorities can be anything but. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties will face some time in the electoral wilderness in the years ahead, and the minority protections of the Senate should be there for both sides. The Obama years have led the Democratic party into one political box canyon after the next, and Senate Democrats may yet come to rue Harry Reid’s use of the nuclear option for executive appointees (because of Senator Reid’s decision, removing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees would be far less of a shock to the congressional system than removing it for legislation).

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Still Counting

As I mentioned last week, it takes a long time for the votes for a presidential election to be counted.  This fact didn't stop many pundits from using early totals to say that Donald Trump got fewer votes than Mitt Romney or John McCain.

Dave Wasserman has a handy running vote total, and his figures now show Donald Trump with 60,961,967 votes (this number will almost certainly continue to increase).  According to figures I've seen, Mitt Romney got fewer than 60,940,000 votes.  This implies that Trump has now passed Romney's popular vote total.

The first task of coping with political disruption is to see where one's feet stand, even if (especially if) that can be a tricky enterprise at times.

(Update: If you're interested in votes, you might also enjoy this analysis of the shake-up of electoral coalitions in 2016.)

The Party of Sam's Club, Maybe?

Perhaps because of an indoctrination in identity politics, many in the media are obsessed with viewing the results of the 2016 election through a racial lens.  Exit polls (I know, I know) suggest Donald Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s margins with all ethnic groups.  In fact, he seems to have received a smaller absolute percentage of the “white” vote than Mitt Romney.

Even as pundits fixate on racial dynamics, the changes in income and education for partisan preferences might be far more revealing.  According to national exit polls, there was a decisive swing of voters without a college degree toward the Republican nominee and an appreciable movement away from him by college-degreed voters.  In 2012, Mitt Romney lost high-school dropouts by 29 points and high-school graduates by 3; those with some college but without a college degree he lost by a single point.  Trump, however, won those who had a high school degree or less by 6 points, and those with some college he won by 9 points.  While Trump substantially improved with those without a college degree, he lost ground with college graduates, with a margin that was 8 points worse than Romney’s with college graduates and those who held postgraduate degrees (he lost the latter group by 21 points).

Income tells a similar story: Trump still lost those making under $50,000 a year, and he only fought Clinton to an essential draw among the middle and upper classes.  However, compared to Mitt Romney, he did much better with the poor and working class and worse with the wealthy.  Romney lost those making under $30,000 by 28 points; Trump lost them only by 12.  Trump did 6 points better than Romney among those making between $30,000 and $50,000, losing them by only 9 instead of 15.  Conversely, he lost about 9 points relative to Romney among those making over $100,000 annually.

Polling has had some errors this year, and the early rounds of exit polling presented a mistaken picture of the electorate.  Still, county-level electoral data confirm these trends.  Working-class counties across the country--especially in the Midwest--swung toward the GOP relative to 2012.  Meanwhile, many wealthy inner-ring suburban counties trended more Democratic.  This trend was noticeable both around coastal metropolises like Washington, DC and in middle America; Romney won Johnson County, Kansas, the wealthiest county in the state and part of the Kansas City metropolitan area, by 17 points in 2012, but Trump only eked it out by 2.  The New York Times has a handy map showing the swing of each county in the Democratic or Republican direction; most counties across the country swung more Republican, but, often, the counties that swung more Democratic are among the wealthiest in a given state.  In Minnesota, for example, the only counties that swung more Democratic were those in Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

In many of the counties on the southern border, Trump received more votes than Romney.  For example, he improved upon Romney’s margins and absolute vote total (getting 19 percent of the vote rather than 13) in Texas’s Starr County, where Hispanics constitute over 95 percent of the population.  That may be evidence that Trump did indeed improve upon Romney’s numbers with non-”white” voters.

State results accentuate and at times exaggerate this national trend.  The Rust Belt was crucial for Trump’s victory, and huge swings can be seen in these states.  In Wisconsin, Trump did over 20 points better than Romney’s margin with those who had a high school degree or less and 15 points better with those with some college, but his margin with postgraduate voters fell by 18 points compared to Romney; he lost that demographic 26-69.  He did much better than Romney with workers making under $50,000 annually, losing them only by 4 points instead of 25.  However, he lost those making over $100,000 annually by 2 points rather than win them by 20, as Romney did.  (See this interesting thread by Jeff Blehar on the county-level results of Wisconsin.  That county-level analysis tracks in many ways with what the exit polls suggest.)

In Pennsylvania in 2012, Romney lost high-school graduates by 21 points, and those with some college by 4 points.  Trump won them by about 13 points and 3 points, respectively.  College graduates and those with graduate degrees swung against Trump relative to Romney, who won college grads by 16 points and lost postgraduates by 8 points.  Trump, however, only won college graduates by 4 points and lost postgraduates by 22 points. By massively improving his standing with voters without a college degree, Trump more than made up for his slippage with college grads and advanced degree holders.  Trump also considerably improved upon Romney’s performance with mid- and lower-income voters.  While Romney lost voters making under $50,000 annually by 36 points, Trump only lost them by 12 points.

Michigan in many ways follows the trends of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin: Trump gained with lower-income voters and with voters with less formal schooling but also lost ground with upper-income and degreed voters.  In Ohio, he did better overall than Romney in many categories.  Tracking union voters sheds light on this dynamic.  In Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Trump did at least 20 points better than Romney among union voters, which helped him secure those states.

These trends could also be seen in states that Trump did not win.  For instance, in Virginia, Trump did better in 2016 than Romney did among lower-income voters, but slipped with the middle and upper classes.  The educational swing in New Hampshire caused the Granite State to become more educationally polarized than racially polarized; the gap between “white” and “non-white” voters was smaller than the gap between high-school-only voters, who backed Trump, and postgraduates, who overwhelmingly didn’t.


Again, exit polls are imperfect vehicles, but the magnitude of those swings suggests that there was likely some shift in the electorate based on income and formal schooling.  Peggy Noonan has proposed that one way to view the 2016 election is a clash between the “protected” and the “unprotected.”  In Coming Apart, the social scientist Charles Murray noted a similar divide between the secure Belmont, a fictional embodiment of white-collar wealth, and the more precarious Fishtown, an imagined locus of blue-collar struggles.  It seems as though Trump drew some of the traditionally Democratic “unprotected” to him while repelling some “protected” voters who usually lean Republican.

These results suggest great opportunities and equally great dangers for Republicans. If Donald Trump and the GOP Congress are able to govern well (by avoiding international crises, behaving ethically, and successfully responding to economic anxiety), it would seem possible that they could expand their majorities in 2018 and 2020 by winning back the college-educated and upper-income voters who used to favor them more.  Trump’s 47 percent, then, could be a foundation for a majority in 2020.  In addition to locking down the states he has already won, a marginally better performance with Belmont voters could help Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota (where Trump won voters making under $100,000 a year), and even potentially Colorado  and Nevada tip into the Republican column.

If, however, Republicans disappoint the working class and prove the fears of many white-collar voters to be well-founded, they could be in for a massive electoral repudiation.  Blue-collar voters could desert them while college-educated voters continue to shake their heads in disgust.  Trump’s Electoral College majority seems robust, but, absent continued working-class enthusiasm, it could also prove tenuous.

A further difficulty might face Republicans hoping to build on Trump’s coalition: There might be such tensions between Belmont and Fishtown that any gains with one group would be offset by losses with the other.  If that’s the case, expanding the current Republican majority could be troublesome.  However, while there are conflicting interests (and ideologies) here, statesman-like behavior in the White House combined with prudence in legislation, which meets at least some of the demands of both groups, could establish some common ground.

With a base that is more economically anxious and more blue-collar than in the past, Republicans will need to keep worker-oriented policies at the front and center. Trade could prove an especially tricky topic; many embattled Republican senators campaigned against or were conflicted about TPP, and a majority or plurality of voters in key Rust Belt states agreed with the idea that international trade “takes away U.S. jobs.” The GOP will need to be very cautious about introducing new trade compacts and might need to embrace a more proactive case for trade reform. On immigration, Republicans could increase federal enforcement while working to implement changes to the legal immigration system so that it better encourages opportunity and fosters national belonging. Tax reform would be wise to focus on improving the condition of working families. The Affordable Care Act’s many deleterious effects could be rolled back and a more inclusive and flexible health-care reform could be passed. Regulatory reform could provide more opportunity for workers while also improving business vitality. As president, Donald Trump would be able to put a halt to the administrative culture war launched by the federal bureaucracy during the Obama years. Trump’s judicial appointments could also shore up his support with the traditional Republican base and with voters who view governing through judicial fiats as another embodiment of unaccountable political power.

In the aftermath of 2012, it seemed clear that Republicans needed to improve their standing with the working class.  Trump's election may be a sign that they have made some headway in that goal.  But it will take success in governing to solidify and to expand that coalition.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Costs of Executive Supremacy

Many commentators--including Marc Thiessen--have noted a major policy consequence of President Obama choosing to push much of his agenda through executive action: because all of these policies depend upon the whim of the president, Donald Trump could easily remove most of Barack Obama's actions with the stroke of a pen.  This renders the president's policies, ranging from the Paris climate accords to actions on immigration, about as permanent as a block of ice left outside-- seemingly solid during one political season but melting away during the next.  Conservatives might rejoice at the impermanence of President Obama's legacy on many issues, and some on the left might lament this same impermanence.  The president chose to push constitutional norms to their breaking point, and now the Left must reap the whirlwind.

On a deeper, structural level, however, there's something troubling about this highly mercurial policy situation.  The more the federal government concentrates policy power in the hands of the president, the more unstable government policy becomes.  Elections are in part about forcing change into the political system, but wild swings in government policy can also threaten the overall stability of the nation.

The executive does have considerable power, especially on foreign policy, but the legislative process sets limits on how much one president can diverge from the policies of his or her predecessor. When a bill is passed through Congress, the system of checks and balances gives the resulting law some permanence.  Changes can be made, of course, but those changes have to go through a multi-part process in order to be realized (winning majorities in both houses of Congress and then, barring a veto-proof majority, the president's signature).  Laws are rigorously passed, and their modifications have to undergo a similarly rigorous process.  That's not the case with policies adopted according to executive whim.  Governing by executive supremacy means calling for the nation potentially to careen wildly from one policy extreme to the next every four or eight years.

In establishing the Constitution, the Founders realized the importance of some level of stability for the overall architecture of the nation.  The project of executive supremacy in part threatens constitutional norms by allowing the president to dictate policy, but it also threatens that broader project of stability.  Hopefully, folks on the right and left will learn from Barack Obama's unfortunate excursion into executive supremacy.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Market Aims

George Will's columns are always thoughtful and always worth reading (even if one doesn't always agree with them).  In the Washington Post, he outlines what he takes to be some of the challenges facing conservatism.  In addition to noting that anger alone is not enough to ensure good government, Will turns to the topic of trade, which has been a decisive issue this campaign:
People who have been conservative since before 2015 should, in considering how to relate to the president-elect, ask themselves some questions, such as: What are we saying if we say we are against free trade? Protectionism is comprehensive government intervention in economic life. It supplants commercial calculations with political considerations. Using tariffs, which are taxes imposed at the border, government imposes its judgment of what Americans should be permitted to purchase, in what quantities and at what prices. If conservatism can embrace such statism, can it distinguish itself from progressivism — the doctrine that government experts are wiser than markets in determining individuals’ choices and directing the efficient use of labor and capital?
To answer the final question first: Calvin Coolidge was a big proponent of what many would today call "protectionism," but he was very capable of distinguishing his political vision from that of progressivism.  Unless conservatives want to read Coolidge (and Lincoln and Hamilton many others) out of the pantheon of conservatism, it's hard to say that support for "protectionism" disqualifies one from being a conservative.

However, there's a more fundamental complexity here, and it relates to the idea of "supplant[ing] commercial calculations with political considerations."  Many of the United States's trading partners (most notably, the People's Republic of China) use political energies to distort the market through massive subsidies, demands of private-public partnerships for American firms to have access to local markets, etc.  The system of globalized accords often called "free trade" agreements, then, often increases the ability of foreign nations to dictate economic outcomes to the United States through these politically-motivated market distortions.

One could argue that this increased foreign intervention is a good thing taken as a whole or that it is a necessary step on the way to a free-market nirvana.  But one should not discount the political (and economic) doubts some might have about the risks of such a policy.  Tariffs are a government policy, of course, but it would be a mistake to deny that many of the outcomes of the current "free trade" regime are themselves a product of government policy (and often of policies set by governments that are not accountable to the American electorate).

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Votes Are Still Being Counted

A trap some pundits seem to be walking into is thinking that the vote totals that we see on Wednesday or Thursday will accurately represent the complete vote totals for 2016.  They don't.  Votes are still being counted (especially mail-in and absentee ballots).  These votes won't change the results of key states, but they will have an impact on the number of total votes cast in 2016, which will continue to rise.

Because those totals will continue to rise, we can't compare the totals we have now to the results from 2008 and 2012.  Trying to do that leads to some mistaken narratives.  For instance, the Washington Post published an article yesterday saying that Donald Trump got fewer votes than John McCain and Mitt Romney.  Vote totals on Tuesday night might have shown that, but they no longer do.  According to the latest count at The New York Times, Trump has 60.1 million votes.  Senator McCain got 59.9 million, and Governor Romney got 60.9 million.  Trump is not yet at Romney's totals, but many votes remain to be counted.  (Incidentally, that same mistake was made in analyses of vote totals in 2012: looking at early vote totals, some pundits claimed that Romney got fewer votes than McCain, a claim that was disproved by later, more complete results.)

Along the lines of pundit misperceptions, this piece by Nate Silver on polling and 2016 is well worth reading.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Comparing Margins in Senate/Presidential Races

As I noted the other day, in 2012 and 2008, the GOP presidential nominee did about 7 to 8 points worse, on average, than incumbent Republican senators.  So I thought it might be helpful to compare the margins between Trump and some closely watched Senate races featuring incumbents (results are still coming in, so these might shift a little):

Arizona
McCain +11.9
Trump +4
Difference: McCain +7.9

Florida
Rubio +7.7
Trump +1.3
Difference: Rubio +6.4

Illinois
Kirk -14.2
Trump -16
Difference: Kirk +1.8

Missouri
Blunt +3.2
Trump +19.1
Difference: Trump +15.9

New Hampshire (still undecided)
Ayotte -0.1
Trump -0.2
Difference: Ayotte +0.1

North Carolina
Burr +5.8
Trump +3.8
Difference: Burr +2

Ohio
Portman +21.3
Trump +8.6
Difference: Portman +12.7

Pennsylvania
Toomey +1.7
Trump +1.2
Difference: Toomey +0.5

Wisconsin
Johnson +3.4
Trump +1
Difference: Johnson +2.4

A couple things jump out: It seems as though, in many swing states, Trump did not do substantially worse than many Republican incumbents.  Portman was the only candidate in these close states who did appreciably better than the +7-8 incumbent advantage of 2008 and 2012.

It also seems as though creating a radical distance from Trump might not have delivered that many votes for Kelly Ayotte and Mark Kirk (Portman also distanced himself from Trump).  In New Hampshire, both Maggie Hassan and Senator Ayotte received more votes than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but Ayotte's margin is only a tenth of a point better than Trump's.  The New Hampshire Senate race is very close, so those few votes might matter (currently Hassan is up by about a few hundred votes).  But there's also a chance that a more unified GOP in New Hampshire could have pulled both Trump and Ayotte across the finish line in the Granite State.

President Trump

What more is there to say?

(Actually, there's a lot more to say, but just a few quick thoughts for now...)

Donald Trump looks like he's heading to the biggest Electoral College majority of any Republican since George HW Bush in 1988.

Trump's victory is a sign of massive dissatisfaction with the status quo and the alternative offered by Hillary Clinton.  Folks on the left who are upset with this result should realize that it is in part a response to their policies.

One of the biggest losers of this election is the theory that shaming voters is an appropriate substitute for listening to them.

Great challenges lie ahead--and great opportunities.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Tuesday Thoughts


I have no grand predictions about the outcome of tomorrow's vote.  The polls this cycle have been inconsistently inconsistent.  At times, right on target; at other times, way off the mark.  In perhaps one of the largest divergences of polling from election results, polls of the Democratic primary in Michigan had Hillary Clinton up by 20 points on the eve of the election, but Bernie Sanders ended up winning.  Now, most of the primary polls were more accurate than that, but the Michigan result should perhaps give some pause to pundits who want to project the election with supreme confidence.

As Sean Trende argues, there are many reasons to doubt that early voting offers a perfect window into the electorate, either.  That's one of the reasons I'm skeptical of the claims advanced by Jon Ralston (a very astute Nevada political observer) and others that early voting in Nevada conclusively proves that Hillary Clinton will win the state tomorrow; without definitely knowing the breakdown of independent voter preferences, we can't project how much of a lead Hillary Clinton has in Nevada going into tomorrow.  The Silver State may already be decided, but we'll only know that after the votes are counted.

If you are looking for projections for tomorrow, you could do worse than Henry Olsen's extensive projection over at NRO.  Olsen thinks that Hillary Clinton has the edge but that this election could be closer than many anticipate.  One of the more helpful aspects of Olsen's projection is his use of ranges for the popular vote and the Electoral College:
Popular Vote
Clinton 48 (range 46–48.5)
Trump 47 (range 44–48.5)
Johnson 3 (range 2–4)
Stein 1 (range 1–2)
Others/Write-ins 1 (range 0.75–1.5)
Electoral College
Clinton 278 (range 248–323)
Trump 260 (range 215–290)
Whether one agrees with the precise breakdown here or not, the ranges seem relatively sensible.  They also capture something of the dynamic of the race: in terms of the Electoral College, Clinton's ceiling and floor are higher than Trump's.  For instance, I doubt there's a plausible scenario where Clinton falls under 200 Electoral Votes, but Trump could definitely go underneath 200.  Likewise, Trump scoring over 300 EVs would be a tremendous surprise; Clinton getting over 300 EVs wouldn't be that striking.  This difference in their floors and ceilings suggests, I think, Clinton's advantage heading into Tuesday.  But it's still possible to see how Trump could still get to 270, as Nate Silver has argued.

Once the results start coming in, there could be some telltale signs.  Polls close in North Carolina at 7:30 pm EST.  If Hillary Clinton is declared the winner shortly afterward, that's probably a dire sign for Trump; barring some earthquake in the Rustbelt, North Carolina is pretty close to must-win for him, and an easy Clinton victory there could be a sign that he'll be in trouble in other swing states, too.  On the other hand, an early call for Trump in Ohio should probably make Brooklyn, the site of Clinton's campaign HQ, nervous.  Polls close by 8 pm EST in most of the major swing states.  If Trump wins Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina (or if those states are still too close to call) while Michigan and Pennsylvania remain in the Democratic column, the nation will turn with increased interest to Iowa (10 pm), Colorado (9 pm), and Nevada (10 pm).

In the battle for the Senate, here's a range to keep in mind: 7-8.  With the exception of Nevada, most of the closely contested Senate races this cycle feature Republican incumbents.  According to my calculations, incumbent Republican senators outperformed the GOP presidential nominee by, on average 7-8 points in 2008 and 2012 (technically, it was about 7.8 points in 2008 and 7.2 points in 2012).  If 2016 is anything like 2008 and 2012, that precedent suggests that, if Trump can be within 7 or 8 points of Hillary Clinton in crucial states, the Republican incumbent has a good chance of winning.  So pay particular attention to Trump's margin in Wisconsin (Johnson), New Hampshire (Ayotte), North Carolina (Burr), Pennsylvania (Toomey) and Florida (Rubio).  Again, that's 7-8 points on average; some senators will outdo that margin, while others will fall short of it.  It looks at the moment that Rob Portman is going to outperform substantially Trump's margin in Ohio and so seems likely to win no matter what.  Conversely, Roy Blunt represents Trump-friendly Missouri and is still locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Jason Kander, his Democratic challenger.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, the challenge of civic rejuvenation and restoration remains to be faced.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Crisis and Conservative Intellectual Renewal

Matt Continetti's "Crisis of the Conservative Intellectual," published last week, has set off a bit of a conversation.  In recent days, Ross Douthat, Ben Domenech, and Conor Friedersdorf have responded to it.  While I posted some of my own thoughts on Continetti's piece at NRO, I thought I might add a few more observations here.

Domenech makes a solid point in his argument that a loss of faith in American institutions and a broader collapse in social trust paved the way for Trump.  One thing we might take away from Domenech's piece is the importance of conservatives working to restore that public trust and rebuild the various civic and political institutions of this country.  Part of that restoration and rebuilding will involve encouraging virtue, tolerance, empathy, and competence (something that Friedersdorf and Douthat also talk about).  This enterprise is not just about policy, but it will in part require some hard thinking about how various policies can strengthen our communities (and also how to avoid policies that weaken them).  Some promising work has been done along those lines, but more, I think, will be needed.

I'm not as confident as Friedersdorf that a more temperate version of Trump would have lost the Republican primary.  Still, the penultimate paragraph of his essay offers a provocative take on the challenges facing the right:
So long as a significant faction on the right is driven by ressentiment to embrace adversarianism, so long they’d rather see their enemies attacked than achieve anything constructive, and they choose their champions based on their stridency more than their virtues or competence, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible for anyone to win a Republican presidential primary and a general election. And so long as the Republican establishment fails to grapple with the failures of its foreign policy ideology, to purge its hucksters, and to construct policies for its base more effectively than it does for its donor class, it will fail to win back enough voters from adversarianists, whose grievances have some truth to them.
One thing worth saying in passing is that a disconnect between the Beltway GOP and its voters' preferences actually contributes to a kind of adversarianism.  If one wants to muster populist energies without actually delivering on populist policy priorities, invoking the language of radical adversarianism might--in the short term, at least--seem a promising avenue.  It rallies the populist base without actually making any policy concessions.  Over the long term, though, a party that employs such a strategy ends up feeding an ever-swelling shark of rage, which imperils the party's ability to institute a governing agenda.  As Friedersdorf suggests (and I might not agree with all the details of the picture he paints above), more directly addressing the key concerns of many Republican voters would be a way of lessening adversarian tendencies, which would give the party more flexibility in crafting and implementing a policy agenda.  Trying to address the real concerns of voters both inside and outside the GOP coalition could also lead to some good policy outcomes, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fighting for What?

Some seem to be laboring under the misconception that Mitt Romney lost in 2012 because he didn't "fight" hard enough.  In reality, Governor Romney ran a disciplined campaign and  launched a number of attacks against President Obama.  Where the governor struggled was his ability to convince working-class Americans that his agenda would help them; exit polls suggest that his underperformance with working-class and middle-class voters likely cost Romney the election.

This has implications for the current presidential race.  Donald Trump is fighting hard--and not just with Hillary Clinton.  Yet, despite all this fighting, he continues to sink in the polls.  Clinton's 3-point lead in early October has grown to a 7-point one, according to RCP.  Trump's major polling deficits are in questions about his temperament and judgement; the groups he struggles with are women and college-educated votes.  Without improving his standing with those voters, it's hard to see how he wins the White House.  Lashing out at all comers might provide a momentary frisson, but it's unclear if such a strategy provides that many electoral benefits.

Anger is rarely a foundation for a national political coalition.  For those seeking elected office, fighting is less important than working to build a winning coalition.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Contra Radicalization

At NRO, I argue that we need to beware indulging in radical despair in response to the upcoming election:
There’s something troubling about a presidential candidate’s openly championing the idea that he or she alone is the last defense against the apocalypse or tyranny. It might help rally a candidate’s base, but it also sows the seeds of alienation: In a presidential contest, someone is bound to lose, which means that tens of millions of that person’s supporters are likely to be disappointed. In a healthy political system, those disappointed millions take the loss in stride, return to their daily lives, and work for victory in the next electoral cycle. When presidential campaigns trumpet their candidate as the only hope, they risk causing this disappointment to curdle into a political radicalization. To court this radicalization is to play with fire.
If Donald Trump loses on November 8 by five points (about how much he is down in the polls right now), it would not be because of a rigged system, vote fraud, or a sinister globalist cabal operating from the shadows. He would lose because of his traits as a candidate and the choices of his campaign. Nor would his loss be the final nail in the coffin of the American republic. We would muddle through, as we always have. A Clinton presidency – especially if backed by a Democratic Congress – could take a toll on the nation and set back many hopes of limited government. But, with hope and prudence, the nation would persevere.