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Political Polarization vs Political Warfare

ted-cruz-reporters

Texas political scientist Sean Theriault makes a distinction I’ve made many times over the years but names and defines it more precisely than I have:

I have been studying party polarization in Congress for more than a decade. The more I study it, the more I question that it is the root cause of what it is that Americans hate about Congress. Pundits and political scientists alike point to party polarization as the culprit for all sorts of congressional ills. I, too, have contributed to this chorus bemoaning party polarization. But increasingly, I’ve come to think that our problem today isn’t just polarization in Congress; it’s the related but more serious problem of political warfare.

[...]

Parties that are divided over policy can have a serious and honest debate, which can even become heated. In the first half of the famous idiom, the opposing sides can “agree to disagree.” Quite apart from the serious policy disagreement, though, the debate between the opposing sides can degenerate into a shouting match in which the policy prescriptions are lost in a fight over legislative games-and in which the combatants question the motives, integrity, and patriotism of their opponents. Under such a situation, the second half of the idiom-“without being disagreeable”-is never realized.

This partisan warfare dimension is harder to quantify, though it most certainly exists. What I call “warfare” is what Frances Lee characterized as “beyond ideology” in her book of the same name. Lee argues that only so much of the divide between the parties can be understood as a difference in ideology. The rest of the divide-by some accounts, the lion’s share of the divide-is motivated by some other goal. I argue that it is this portion of the divide beyond ideology is what causes the angst of those participants and observers of today’s Senate.

[...]

Perhaps my home state of Texas unnecessarily reinforces the distinction I want to make between these two dimensions. Little separates my two senators’ voting records – of the 279 votes that senators took in 2013, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn disagreed less than 9 percent of the time (the largest category of their disagreement, incidentally, was on confirmation votes). In terms of ideology, they are both very conservative. Cruz, to no one’s surprise, is the most conservative. Cornyn is the 13th most conservative, which is actually further down the list than he was in 2012, when he ranked second. Cornyn’s voting record is more conservative than conservative stalwarts Tom Coburn and Richard Shelby. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz disagreed on twice as many votes as John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

The difference between my senators is that when John Cornyn shows up for a meeting with fellow senators, he brings a pad of paper and pencil and tries to figure out how to solve problems. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, brings a battle plan.

This strikes me as exactly right.

While, for a variety of reasons, I’ve genuinely become more ideologically moderate over the course of the almost eleven years I’ve been sharing my musings here, my political analysis has been relatively moderate all along. That’s because, with rare exceptions, I’ve tended to view political opponents as people of good will who fundamentally want what’s good for the country and simply have honorable disagreements about how to prioritize limited resources or balance liberty and security.

Increasingly, it’s hard to believe that.

The Cornyn-Cruz distinction is a perfect illustration of that. Most Democrats would, I think, privately concede that, while they disagree with Cornyn on practically everything, he’s an honorable colleague who’s there to do what’s best for the people of Texas and, more broadly, America. I’m not sure most Republicans honestly think that of Cruz.

Cornyn is very partisan and very conservative. He’s not averse to playing hardball to advance his political or ideological agenda. And that’s fine. He represents Texas and his views are in line with his the views—if not necessarily the interests—of his constituents.

Cruz goes a great leap further. He genuinely seems to view those who disagree with him in the least—including even by all reasonable counts conservative Republicans—as the enemy. And he’s willing to harm the interests of his constituents and his party–to say nothing of the country–in order to score political points.

The Cornyn approach is not only within bounds, it’s arguably healthy. The Framer’s designed a system that pit sectarian interests against one another and forced compromise among them. This satisfies no one but also precludes a thin minority from running roughshod over a large plurality that’s violently opposed to a change in policy. The Cruz approach, by contrast, inflames those parochial passions and tears the country apart.

The “agree without being disagreeable” formulation, then, doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. To be sure, there’s much to be said for simple civility. Respect for those with different positions is a necessary prerequisite to a functioning democracy. But it’s not simply a matter of language and tone. For the system—and therefore the society—to work requires going beyond being pleasant and actually working to resolve disagreements.

The compromises that the Framers reached in agreeing to a better Constitution for the Republic were less than ideal. The Great Compromise to this day radically under represents the people of large states—including both Texas and California. The 3/5 Compromise shamefully institutionalized slavery into our social compact. But these less-than-perfect solutions were necessary to form, to turn a phrase, a more perfect union. The end result, by no means perfect, were a genuine advance over the status quo.

It’s hard to conceive of getting something like the Constitution done with today’s representatives. Much less with a room full of Ted Cruzes.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Well I know that all Republicans are stinky poopymen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  2. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s because, with rare exceptions, I’ve tended to view political opponents as people of good will who fundamentally want what’s good for the country and simply have honorable disagreements about how to prioritize limited resources or balance liberty and security.

    Increasingly, it’s hard to believe that.

    Who would these political opponents be? Are these opponents to your left or your right?

    Edit: Might just be misreading the quote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. john personna says:

    Hate to say it, but this is part and parcel with the idea that everyone is a partisan, or a closet partisan, take your pick.

    There are people out there trying to distance themselves from this stuff.

    Anyone trying to rope them back in, is not helping. At a minimum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  4. stonetools says:

    I think that political polarization almost inevitably leads to political warfare. I think there is a reason why Ted Cruzes are being elected now where John Cornyns were elected earlier. The current political system rewards the warrior type. I think you have to change the institutional arrangements so that the diplomat type of politician is rewarded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. CSK says:

    Cruz appeals to people who mistake self-aggrandizing bloviation and theatrics for courage and patriotism.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the Cornyn – Cruz example is a good one but the real difference between the two is not mentioned. Cornyn is doing what he thinks is in the interest of his Texas constituents and the country while Cruz is only looking at what is best for Ted Cruz. Cornyn is a legislator while Cruz s an extension of the talk radio world. This is not an endorsement of Cornyn, I disagree with him on nearly everything, but his motives are pure. The same cannot be said for Ted Cruz.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  7. MBunge says:

    “The Cornyn approach is not only within bounds, it’s arguably healthy.”

    Except that Cornyn approach has either enabled the rise of Cruz-style politics or sat back and did nothing to prevent it.

    To wit…

    “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is standing by Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) after his Tuesday night comments that pregnancy resulting from rape can be “something God intended.”

    In a statement released Wednesday, Cornyn points out that Mourdock’s Senate opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), is also against abortion rights and calls Democratic attempts to attack Mourdock on the issue “irresponsible and ridiculous.”

    “Richard and I, along with millions of Americans — including even Joe Donnelly — believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous,” Cornyn said in a statement. “In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it’s comes to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life.”
    Mourdock is struggling to pull ahead of Donnelly in the heavily Republican state, and if Donnelly can win it would be a major blow to the GOP’s chances of retaking control of the Senate.

    Cornyn also attacks Donnelly for backing “ObamaCare, government bailouts, reckless spending and higher taxes” and calls Mourdock the “candidate to help get our country back on track.””

    Now, yeah, you can give Cornyn a break because it was his job as NRSC Chairman to get more Republicans elected to the Senate, but I’m more interested in that last sentence. I believe Cornyn voted for not only the Wall Street bailout but also for Medicare Part D, which was not paid for in any way. And, of course, the Obama Administration has done just about everything but spend recklessly and any higher taxes that have occurred did so because Republicans put a time limit on the Bush tax cuts because THEY KNEW that if they didn’t, the budget costs would be so massive that they couldn’t defend them.

    I would argue that it is the irresponsibility and demagoguery of supposedly reasonable men like Cornyn that is the real problem.

    Mike

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  8. michael reynolds says:

    This began with Republicans deciding to call abortion murder. If you believe your opponents are not just people who disagree with you, but actual criminals, murderers, then compromise is impossible.

    If you want to know who and what’s to blame, there it is. There are lots of points of disagreement over policy, but that was the point where someone pulled a knife and this went from fractious but manageable, to war.

    Abortion, guns, bigotry, these are they keystones of the current Republican Party. You take all the lovely stored-up rage of the abortion nuts, you add the violent paranoia of gun nuts, and you rest it all on a foundation of resentment, self-pity and contempt for anyone remotely different, feed that beast on Fox News lies, and you have the sickening mess that is the Republican Party.

    Now of course the GOP is in a destructive loop of its own creation, demanding ever greater rigidity, ever more perfect adherence, not to ideals, but to the war itself, to the emotions of rage and contempt, to nihilism and denial.

    We have two parties. The Democrats are what they’ve always been: gutless, disorganized, ill-defined, genial, soft-hearted and a bit soft-headed, ready to compromise. And solely by virtue of the GOP’s madness, they’ve become the grown-up party, the responsible party.

    The other party, the GOP, has followed a road from stick-up-the-ass, patriotic, green eyeshade-wearing old men, to foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics who actively try to harm the American people so they can glean votes from rage-fueled losers.

    But it all came by way of abortion. That was the inflection point.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 4

  9. C. Clavin says:

    When John Cornyn is seen as reasonable…you know the GOP has a problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  10. KM says:

    Prioritizing spirituality over science doesn’t help. When you have politicians being virulently and actively anti-intellectual and anti-science, its very hard to see them as decent opposition, not something worse. When you pander to a someone’s faith instead of appealing to their intelligence, you get some very bad laws and lawmakers indeed. Dragging us down to the lowest common denominator and making fun of smart people doesn’t help get smart people into the jobs where they are needed. As I once read, “I don’t want a President I can have a beer with, I want someone smarter than me in that chair.”

    We should be able to have political debates on the merits of a situation, not its emotional impact or religious implications. When you can’t separate your faith from your work, you tend to see everyone who doesn’t conform to your mold as an active threat to you and yours. As Micheal pointed out, when you are convinced you’re dealing with murderers, you’re not going to compromise. You can be a faithful adherent and a child of reason too – sadly, there is a strong strain of thought in this country that says no you can’t, you’re one or the other.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  11. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem is not partisanship, the problem is the nationalization of EVERY election, due to the fact that out of state money can decide elections, and specially primaries.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  12. ernieyeball says:

    @KM: Prioritizing spirituality over science doesn’t help…

    So does this mean that those claiming to be spiritual are “actively anti-intellectual and anti-science,..”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  13. ernieyeball says:

    @Andre Kenji:..the problem is the nationalization of EVERY election, due to the fact that out of state money can decide elections…

    Meet House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rogers.
    Serving Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981, Hal Rogers is currently in his 16th term representing the people of southern and eastern Kentucky, and is the longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected to federal office.

    Since I live in Illinois and can not vote one way or another in Kentucky’s 5th District, how do I influence the outcome of the election of one of the more powerful Representatives in DC? His actions have consequences for the entire country.
    I guess I could move to Pikeville and register to vote or I could send cash to the candidate of my choice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Andre Kenji says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Since I live in Illinois and can not vote one way or another in Kentucky’s 5th District, how do I influence the outcome of the election of one of the more powerful Representatives in DC?

    The election of Hal Rogers as House Representative in Kentucky is irrelevant. The real important election is the internal choice to be the Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House, where only House Representatives can vote. Unless you are talking about party control of the House you are talking about something that would resemble bribery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Tyrell says:

    There was a time when our leaders would meet at the golf club or other places to talk about things, usually over some good bourbon and cigars. That is how things got done, not in the glare of today’s media.
    “They’re probably drinking coffee and smoking big cigars”(“Folsom Prison”, Cash)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. john personna says:

    @this:

    I guess I have to guess what kind of idiocy this down-voter is supporting … but certainly anyone who hates (1) Republican extremism, and (2) that people are distancing themselves from that same extremism … has some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

    Either that or they want the punching bag that “all Republicans love Ted Cruz”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  17. john personna says:

    I mean, anyone with any sense is going to feel good that bizarre plots like government shutdown and threatened default would drive down popularity of, and identification with, the Republican party.

    The only sort who should “rationally” decry falling Republican support are those actually in the Cruz wing.

    For everyone else, this is a positive development.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Pinky says:

    I hate to be that guy, but the framework here seems to be that both sides are messed up, for example the Republicans. What does that help?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. john personna says:

    @Pinky:

    I think a two party system is a pretty poor fit for a large, diverse and changing population. For it to “work” the two parties themselves have to be changing, evolving, to capture roughly half the philosophy, dreams, and aspirations, of the the country over time.

    They can never be static.

    I’ve argued against the reverse view, that people must (or just do) fit the parties, whatever they are.

    What are the Republicans doing to capture half the mental energy or state of the country?

    Is Cruz it? Or did some people get swept along to support “their” party, only later to look back and say “whoops?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Grumpy Realist says:

    What was the comment about quarrels in academia? That the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small? Something like that seems to be occurring with our political parties.

    Also, politics has morphed into talk-radio entertainment. Which is better for the TV, a bunch of people negotiating quietly, or a bunch of tub-thumpers wildly pulling out all the rhetorical stops?

    Bring back the smoke-filled rooms….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Tillman says:

    @Grumpy Realist:

    Bring back the smoke-filled rooms….

    Heh. Bring back the pork-barrel spending, so we can bribe these f@#$ers into doing something again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    It helps if it’s the truth. We can’t pretend the Democrats are equally screwed up just to satisfy your sense of fairness. Reality is reality.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  23. Pinky says:

    @john personna: I think you’re introducing a third front into the discussion. Effectiveness is different from ideology and from nastiness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds: If you remember, the anti-war Left was calling the Right murderers years before Roe v. Wade, and they’ve called the Right murderers since then. If that’s your standard, then be fair about it. But if you ask me, the breaking point in our political history was the Bork hearing. And frankly, I don’t know if the country can ever come back from that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    No, sir. Bull. The anti-war demonstrations before Roe were aimed at Democrats first and only later at Nixon when he continued and expanded the war. 1968 was Dem on Dem violence and you people weren’t even involved until afterward.

    At that point the bulk of the Democrats in both houses of Congress continued to support the war, while a smaller but growing minority opposed it.

    I was there. So your Bill O’Reilly historical rewrite isn’t going to fly.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Pinky:

    I would also point out that Democrats supported a Republican president on both Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the fact that your party had spent the previous eight years trying to impeach Mr. Clinton, with one of your committee chairmen repeatedly retreating to his back yard to shoot watermelons in an insane attempt to prove that Mrs. Clinton was a murderer.

    I will not sit here and tolerate this rewrite of history. In case you’ve forgotten, the chant was, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” LBJ. Democrat.

    This extremism is at a bare minimum 90% on your side. We don’t shut down the government, we don’t default on debt. That’s you people.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  27. Todd says:

    @C. Clavin:

    It’s worse than that, some people were calling John Cornyn a “liberal”. The shark has seriously been jumped.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  28. Pinky says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I will not sit here and tolerate this rewrite of history.

    Come on. This thread is a perfect opportunity for you to drop the shtick. You’re right that the extreme, anti-civilization Left hated LBJ between hating Goldwater and hating Nixon. The fact remains that they called their enemies murderers even as the Weathermen and Black Panthers murdered people. Now they call Bush and Cheney war criminals. The tone on the Right has sunk almost to the tone that the Left has held for 50 years, but it’s not quite there yet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  29. john personna says:

    @Pinky:

    The thing that really gets me, a few days after the “partisan” discussion, is the absurdity of the idea that there are … just two kinds of people. Well, three right?

    We were told that there were Republicans, and Democrats, and fakers.

    Obviously there are constellations of people. The dynamic is just in place that the two parties try to capture them. And some, seeing the harsh decision voters face, turn it around, to say that “well, since you voted, you MUST be one or the other.”

    Like, there was some other realistic choice in a two party system.

    In light of that, “Effectiveness is different from ideology and from nastiness” … effectiveness at what? Just capturing votes from the constellation?

    Related:

    For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

    The big news is it’s starting to backfire.

    Not that I buy Reich’s whole argument, but it certainly fits my narrative, that it is about capturing votes that voters (many independent) are actually reticent to give.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. john personna says:

    @this:

    So which is it, dimwit.

    Do you support Cruz, or the people who abandon Cruz?

    It can’t be both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  31. KM says:

    @ernieyeball:

    So does this mean that those claiming to be spiritual are “actively anti-intellectual and anti-science,..”?

    Do you understand the word prioritizing? Did you bother to read further where I said you can be “a faithful adherent and a child of reason too” before you decided to demonstrate my point that people tend to get out of whack when their faith is questioned?

    There is nothing wrong with being a spiritual person as long as you understand that physical reality and faith sometimes don’t mesh. I can have faith Jesus will catch me if I jump off a roof but the ground’s not gonna care if I believe or not. Here’s a great example:

    “Most kids are Christian here,” Blair said, “and they believe that if you continue praying, there’s always a possibility. The students understand the debate. They’re just choosing spirituality over science.”

    When your faith says “A” and reality says “B”, you really shouldn’t be making laws based on “A”. God never said Turn Off Thy Brain and Thinkth Not – Science is not the enemy of Religion, only of those who are afraid what science tells them is not what they want to hear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  32. DrDaveT says:

    @Grumpy Realist: It’s not just the talk radio circuit, Grumpy. Don’t overlook the role the mainstream television and print media have played here.

    It is almost impossible to find a story in the press (with the possible exception of the Economist) that considers whether policy X or action Y or law Z is a good idea. Instead, the stories focus on whether it will be good for Democrats, or helpful to the Tea Party, or tending to favor Republican political agendas. The underlying reality is no longer considered interesting or relevant (read: entertainment that sells advertising).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  33. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    The tone on the Right has sunk almost to the tone that the Left has held for 50 years, but it’s not quite there yet.

    It is the height of hilarity to suggest the left has held the same tone in political discourse for fifty years, or more egregiously to think once you’ve hit a low that you’re forever defined by that particular low. Really, it’s worse that you think a comparison to a political movement half a century old somehow vindicates or makes less odious the acts of the present.

    Also, sure, let’s compare our political enemies (’cause really we’re engendering a congenial tone amongst ourselves, aren’t we?) to domestic terrorists. That comparison has never failed to persuade.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  34. Tillman says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I would also point out that Democrats supported a Republican president on both Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the fact that your party had spent the previous eight years trying to impeach Mr. Clinton,

    I would say because they spent those years trying to impeach him. I believe you mentioned in another thread how Democrats can be soft-headed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  35. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    Now they call Bush and Cheney war criminals.

    There’s plenty of what lawyers call “wiggle room” there, but Bush did declare a “war” on terror, and we can presume terrorists would count as “prisoners of war” once captured, and then we did “interrogate (enhanced) torture” them. That falls under a war crime to the average sensible person. They wouldn’t had bothered getting special memoranda from the Office of Legal Counsel examining the issue otherwise. Let’s not even get into how many people were imprisoned and tortured despite our inability to prove they were terrorists in court.

    And if Nuremberg taught us anything, it’s that leaders are culpable for the acts they make underlings do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  36. Scott O says:

    @Pinky:
    I think you’re missing an important distinction. The “extreme, anti-civilization Left” that you refer to were, well, hippies. People with no power. Also mostly extinct. On the right we have members of congress accusing the president of complicity in murder and as Michael mentioned shooting watermelons in their backyard trying to gin up support for their delusions. Sure there are crazies on the left but they don’t get elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  37. ernieyeball says:

    @KM:..before you decided to demonstrate my point that people tend to get out of whack when their faith is questioned?

    How did I do that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Robert Levine says:

    As has been said by others, what now passes for politics in this country feels more and more like antebellum politics, which is to say that the system seems to have lost the ability to resolve the questions which need to be resolved in a functioning state. I don’t know if that’s because of polarization or “political war”; perhaps it’s a question of what the polarizing issues are. As a Democrat, I’d love to think it’s the Republicans’ fault, but I doubt that’s the explanation the historians will end up with.

    Another example of political war from a recent story: Chris Christie’s Bridget Kelly replying, when asked if it was wrong to smile about the plight of the kids trapped in traffic for hours on the first day of school, replied “They are the children of Buono voters.” And this from a woman who had four youngish children herself, one with a serious heart ailment, and who is described by those who know her in terms that simply don’t jibe with that kind of take-no-prisoners politics. Maybe that kind of contempt, by non-sociopaths, for the children of those on “the other side” was equally prevalent 40 years ago, but I sure don’t remember it being that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    The fact remains that they called their enemies murderers even as the Weathermen and Black Panthers murdered people.

    Oh, please. The Weathermen killed three people total, and more Black Panthers were shot by the police than vice versa. How many civil rights activists, meanwhile, were murdered across the country by sheriff’s departments and white mobs?

    And there you’ll see the difference as well — the Weathermen, Panthers, and other assorted groups were opposed by the power structure, including by the Democrats. They were radicals, out of favor, powerless. The violence and murders committed by the right wing, by contrast, were often done either by police and National Guard themselves or with a wink and a nod from law enforcement. The lynchings and torture beatings were carried out by cops, hardware store owners, farmers, and other pillars of the conservative community.

    Now they call Bush and Cheney war criminals.

    Yes, accurately. Both Bush and Cheney are war criminals. It’s not a slur if it’s true.

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  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pinky:

    The fact remains that they called their enemies murderers even as the Weathermen and Black Panthers murdered people.

    It’s also simply historical fact that the US government, both under Democrats and Republicans, was indeed murdering large numbers of innocent people in Southeast Asia throughout the Sixties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  41. JohnMcC says:

    @Pinky: My friend Mr Pinky, I will say from the perspective of an AirForce medic who flew over great stretches of IndoChina in ’66 and ’67 that the VietNam War as conducted by the US amounted to murder. In pretty much the same way, I suppose, that Gen’l Sherman would say that the March to the Sea was murder. War is murder on a vast scale. I will also share that in VA talk-therapy groups, I’ve heard men who were Phoenix Program snipers declare that they are “murderers”.

    So Mr Johnson and in his turn Mr Nixon were murderers.

    That all this seems to be news to you indicates that you are an extremely fortunate person. You should thank whatever God you chose to worship for this.

    I was in an anti-war march during Mr Nixon’s Presidency, protesting the invasion of the sanctuaries in Cambodia. One of my fellow marchers turned to me and fiercely condemned the bombing of the HoChiMinh Trail — which was not why I was marching. I told him that the bombing of the HoChiMinh Trail would appear very different to him if he was the target of an 122 mm rocket that had been carried down that trail.

    I suppose that was the last day I considered myself a real ‘Leftist’ — as you might define it, my friend.

    And as the very perspicacious Mr Tillman explains above, Mr Bush and Mr Cheney have the distinction of actually having ordered war crimes to be committed. The efforts on the part of Mr Yoo to find legal excuses for what the entire world has agreed is torture is — if you give it one minutes thought — proof that they are in fact war criminals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  42. JohnMcC says:

    Dr Joyner, this post seems to be a proper place to mention to you — I assume you read the comments this late from the Original Posting because you seem a thorough and conscientious academic — that I’ve just begun reading Yuval Levin’s ‘The Great Debate — Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Left and Right’.

    From the first couple of chapters it seems like something to recommend to everyone who welcomes actual debate and passionately hates the war-fever-propaganda that passes for discourse in this sad political environment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  43. dazedandconfused says:

    “The spirit of compromise IS the spirit of democracy” said somebody.

    Our long-standing general prosperity creates an illusion that democracy is very resilient. There sure seems to be a lot of history that shows people only support it until dysfunction becomes intolerable though.

    The edge…? “…the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

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  44. ernieyeball says:

    @KM: God never said Turn Off Thy Brain and Thinkth Not…

    How do you know this?

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  45. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem did not began with the hippies. The problem began when Conservatives built large national organizations and began to target Conservative Democrats in the South. That´s why so many people sells the idea of the 80´s as a Golden Age of Bipartisanship, there were considerable number of Republicans elected to the Senate from New England and considerable number of Democrats elected in Alabama.

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  46. john personna says:

    @this:

    Do you cowardly down-voters have a rational argument, or is a -1 the only passive aggression open to you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  47. ernieyeball says:

    @JohnMcC: I told him that the bombing of the HoChiMinh Trail would appear very different to him if he was the target of an 122 mm rocket that had been carried down that trail.

    I met a guy not long after he had returned from Viet Nam. He was drafted into the Marines. When I asked him why he voted for Nixon in ’72 while he was still there he said: “Before Nixon bombed the Ho Chi Minh Trail we were attacked every day. After the trail was bombed the attacks stopped.”
    He was a year or so older than me (I am 66). The last time I saw him he was in a wheelchair and his adult son was helping him get around. He was talking about how he was in Viet Nam when Agent Orange was used to defoliate the jungle. He figured it was why he couldn’t walk any more.
    Fuk the Draft. Fuk the war. It still isn’t over.

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  48. stonetools says:

    @Pinky:

    Don’t want to pile on too much, but you should understand the right was not silent during the time of what you call over the top leftist rhetoric. On the contrary, they attacked liberals and the left with rhetoric of their own. The left were “pinkos, “comsymps”, “traitors” and “n!gger lovers”. Martin Luther King was referred to as “Martin Lucifer Coon.” Antiwar demonstrators were labeled enemies of “law and order.” Peaceful demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention were attacked by the Chicago police while the whole world was watching. Four more demonstrators died in Ohio -victims of National Guard fire. And of course, in the 1950s, there was Joe McCarthy, HUAC, and the Hollywood blacklist.
    I’d have to say that it would be a tendentious reading of history at least to say that polarizing rhetoric and actions all came from the left during the 1950s and 60s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  49. ernieyeball says:

    @stonetools: Don’t want to pile on too much…

    Why Not? This list of Republican Dirty Tricks starts in 1789.
    http://gopdirtytricks.blogspot.com
    And who can forget…
    http://www.enemieslist.info
    Thanks Dick. You dick!

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  50. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    The tone on the Right has sunk almost to the tone that the Left has held for 50 years, but it’s not quite there yet.

    LOL!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  51. Pinky says:

    None of this is piling on. It’s a testimony to how bad our political warfare has gotten, that people can think they’ve got perspective while fixating on only one side’s faults. It’s a self-demonstrating thread.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  52. KM says:

    @ernieyeball:

    @KM:..before you decided to demonstrate my point that people tend to get out of whack when their faith is questioned?

    How did I do that?

    @KM: God never said Turn Off Thy Brain and Thinkth Not…

    How do you know this?

    Right there. This is what I mean when you can’t have a rationale discussion with someone who seriously questions how we know we have the right to think for ourselves.

    I suppose if you believe the Almighty demands you to not engage in independent thinking and only in blind obedience, you should be able to prove it. Please quote where the “Turn Off Thy Brain and Thinkth Not” commandment exists. Not a pastor or megachurch, not a theologian, not biblical literalism – the actual source material if you can.

    Otherwise, your pithy little questions are nearly as clever as you think they are but rather are demonstrative of the problem I’m pointing out.

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  53. An Interested Party says:

    None of this is piling on. It’s a testimony to how bad our political warfare has gotten, that people can think they’ve got perspective while fixating on only one side’s faults. It’s a self-demonstrating thread.

    This is the same kind of nonsense that Doug uses in his “both sides do it” posts….this is the same kind of nonsense that so much of the MSM uses to be “fair”…the truth often is not fair and to point out how one side is worse than the other, particularly in the present day, is not “self-demonstrating” of anything nor is it a “testimony” to how bad our political warfare has gotten…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  54. Grewgills says:

    @KM:
    He’s just winding you up man.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  55. michael reynolds says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Abusers always want to pretend everyone’s doing it. I mean, doesn’t everyone beat their wife? And anyway, wasn’t she asking for it?

    No, this is not both sides. This is 90% one side. Pretending otherwise isn’t fairness, it’s dishonesty.

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  56. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Wouldn’t a psychologist find worry in the idea that “the problem is 90% ‘the other side’ and not me?”

    IOW, there may be dysfunction in the extremes of the Republican party, but there may be dysfunction in response to it as well.

    I mean, what do we ask of James?

    Is the only answer that he become a Democrat, and in that process, a good guy?

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  57. john personna says:

    Perhaps by becoming a Democrat, James could wrap himself in all the goodness and righteousness of “not being a Republican?”

    Certainly we know that being an “independent” (and therefore suspected Republican) does not help.

    After all, an independent is 11% more likely to vote Republican than Democrat!

    11%!

    I didn’t make that up.

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  58. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    After all, an independent is 11% more likely to vote Republican than Democrat!

    11%!

    I didn’t make that up.

    That’s because the majority of “independents” are Republicans who don’t like being called Republicans-which is what political science studies show.
    Of course, you don’t like that result so you’ve spent a couple of threads now fuming at the scholarly consensus that most independents are closet partisans. Why don’t you take that up with the scholars themselves, rather than continuing to complain about people doubting your independent bona fides?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  59. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Amen. The current climate of political warfare dates back to January 20, 2009, when the Republican Party decided to adopt a no-holds-barred, scorched-earth policy opposing any and everything Obama would propose-a policy promoted by those “reasonable” Establishment figures Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Its why the OP’s description of Cornyn as a reasonable problem solver is nonsense, IMO.
    The truth is also the Republican’s scorched earth approach worked, IMO. It laid the foundations for the Tea Party surge in 2010 and the subsequent lock-in of Republican gains through gerrymandering. In cold political terms, Obama “post-partisan “, kumba yah approach failed, as it allowed the Republicans to sabotage and thwart Administration domestic policy and to rebound from a disastrous 2008 defeat. IMO, the “diplomat” approach doesn’t work if the other side is waging war. That’s what the last 5 years have proved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  60. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    I am very confident in my position and my numbers at this point.

    An 11% “bias” is nothing.

    It is to laugh. In fact, that’s literally what I was doing as I wrote that.

    And, if you are hanging your hat, discovering something profound in 11% … I’d say you aren’t too strongly rooted in reality.

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  61. john personna says:

    Put differently, the last election results were 45% of independents voting Dem, and 50% voting Republican, 5% presumably other.

    That means for every 10 such independents, 4.5 voted Dem, 5 voted GOP, and 0.5 other.

    “Stonetools” sees in that that “a majority” are secret Republicans.

    Can i get a WTF here?

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  62. anjin-san says:

    Now they call Bush and Cheney war criminals.

    Did we or did we not execute Japanese officers who were responsible for waterboarding our troops?

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  63. john personna says:

    “Scholarly” or not, there is self-referential data mining going on.

    Imagine a simplified system, in which people, rather than having (as in real life) dozens of axes of political passion, only have 2, the old right-left.

    Take 100 people and radomly assign them on a 1-100 scale.

    Then select two candidates, each at fair extremes of the same scale. Say 20 and 80. Hold an election. Repeat.

    What happened? If the voters at 49 on scale were rational, they went with candidate 20. Similarly voters at 50 went with candidate 80.

    “Stonetools” is holding up the “scholarly” position that this makes Mr. 49 a “partisan” on one side, and Mrs. 50 a “partisan” on the other.

    [in actuality, Mr. 49 and Mrs. 50 would have been really, really, happy to have a candidate at position 49.5]

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  64. john personna says:

    And of course, my reminder that voters are actually on a continuum, and not starkly divided as partisans, is central to this discussion of “Political Polarization vs Political Warfare.”

    Bottom up studies of voters do show them to be diverse in interests and beliefs.

    It is the two party options that force a decision, a filtered outcome.

    If you only look at the outcome of a two party election, you will only see two party votes.

    Duh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  65. john personna says:

    Circling back, you can tie the NBC poll on the political center to Reich’s piece on a “Republican divide-and-conquer strategy.”

    The two are entirely consistent.

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  66. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    But John, we can either judge by intention or by action. The action is the vote (or donation.) Isn’t that the better metric rather than vaguely-formed preferences?

    Take Doug. He’s a Libertarian who votes for a party very much at odds with some of his beliefs. For practical purposes therefore, he’s a Republican. He’s enabling their set of policies.

    It’s as you point out, the inescapable logic of a two party system. Black or white, no gray.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  67. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If you don’t mind the reduced resolution of the binary choice, you can look at the vote, but I am saying you can tell more about the voter by asking him “100 questions.”

    Perhaps it is even better to use the outcome of those 100 questions to frame your pitch for the next election. Doug might love a Paul candidacy (or not), but that great moderate middle is going to see some red flags.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  68. john personna says:

    And certainly “those independents are mostly secret Republicans, and thus unreachable to us Democrats” is absolutely a losing strategy.

    No one can win an election without swaying significant independents.

    Independent Voters In Swing States Will Decide The Presidency (2012)

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  69. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Wouldn’t a psychologist find worry in the idea that “the problem is 90% ‘the other side’ and not me?”

    Only if it was untrue.

    Psychologists want their patients to accurately perceive the world. If it’s really 90% to 10%, then that’s what the patient should report. He shouldn’t lie to flatter the psychologists’s own delusions of balance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  70. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    BTW, where did “rather than vaguely-formed preferences” come from?

    Do strong partisans believe that moderates have “vague” beliefs?

    That is not what the bottom up data, the results of those “100 questions” show.

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  71. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You do know that polls show 73% disapprove of Republicans in Congress?

    That’s true.

    Of course, 64% disapprove of Democrats in Congress.

    Now, were you telling me that Michael’s impression of this 90% blame was real, and shared by voters far and wide?

    If it was true, shouldn’t Democrats have some wide margin of approval? Shouldn’t they at least be in positive territory?

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  72. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Look, the cold hard facts is that more independents voted for Romney than for Obama. WTF is that? Your dazzling footwork can’t obscure that. Good try, though. The scholars, looking at those same studies, conclude that most independents are closet partisans. Now you disagree with that conclusion. Take it up with them, and stop complaining that they actually saying that most independents are truly independents. Also too, saying that most independents are partisans is not the same as saying that they are unreachable. That’s YOUR gloss on what people are saying.
    Finally, there is the real world example of one of our resident independents – a real world example that I notice you skip over. Do you honestly believe that Doug is reachable by the Democrats? Because I don’t and I don’t think anyone here believes that he is.

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  73. john personna says:

    @Stonetools:

    A bare margin, 1/2 person in 10, created the difference you are celebrating.

    It is easy to think that 1/2 person in 10 would have gone the other way, in slightly different circumstances.

    At least it easy for me, because I don’t think people just “are” one thing or the other, especially at the margin.

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  74. john personna says:

    Oh gosh, look at how the middle swings (2008):

    While moderates have favored the Democratic candidate in each of the past five elections, Barack Obama gained the support of more voters in the ideological “middle” than did either John Kerry or Al Gore before him. He won at least half the votes of independents (52% vs. 49% for Kerry), suburban voters (50% vs. 47% for Kerry), Catholics (54% vs. 47% for Kerry), and other key swing groups in the electorate.

    Isn’t that “surprising” to you Stonetools?

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  75. john personna says:

    Let’s be be clear, if this bizarre idea that people are partisans of one type or another were true, then it would follow that the party votes would be rock solid, national election to national election.

    Part of the cognitive dissonance is that sure the country can swing in outlook, but swings in party loyalty are just “delusion” and “lies.”

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  76. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Thing is there are a lot more 1-45s and 55-100s that reliably vote one direction or the other than 45-55s that don’t reliably vote on one side or the other. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just that the majority that self identify as independent reliably vote for one party or the other. If you vote for one party 90% of the time you are a de facto supporter of that party, even if you don’t conform to your definition of partisan.

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  77. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    And certainly “those independents are mostly secret Republicans, and thus unreachable to us Democrats” is absolutely a losing strategy.

    That is a cartoon version of the argument. Both parties have lost self identifying members recently. Those people now call themselves independent. More of that rise in independents came from people that recently called themselves republicans and will in all likelihood continue their previous voting patterns. Thus, despite no longer wanting to call themselves republican, they are de facto republicans. Again, since more of that increase is republicans then the majority are disaffected republicans. No one is claiming that it is a large majority, more like 55:45.
    Certainly no politician is going to look at that 45% and count it unreachable, rather they will try to grab all their leaners and as much of the 10% or so of the actual middle as they can.

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  78. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I think you are better than that. You should see a difference between “when push comes to shove, I’ll vote X” and “I am a partisan and supporter of X.”

    I mean, seriously.

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  79. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Are you kidding me?

    I have been told in these threads that “independents” are “self-deluded” or “Republican liars.”

    You have a more nuanced view, but I think I’ve been hearing from quite partisan Democrats who consider anyone who does not also self-identify Democrat as “the other.”

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  80. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    And Grewgills, if you want the advanced course, talk to me about political views and human growth and experience.

    One of the stupidities here is everyone is stable in their lives, experiences, moral and spiritual development.

    No one ever changes, right?

    That is another thing necessitated by this idea that past-election voting defines the type.

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  81. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    When the winning side generally gets less than 55% of the popular vote*, of course the middle 10% is what is fought over. That still leaves 45% give or take that reliably support each side. A significant portion of those reliable voters like to call themselves independent for one reason or another.

    * You have to go back to Reagan’s landslide election to go over 55%.

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  82. john personna says:

    I mean, I can’t use the word “seriously” often enough here … your position is:

    “Tell me how you voted, that’s all I need to know.”

    To say that is a blinkered view is obvious, but it is more than mere reduction, it is an absolute rejection of human uniqueness and value. It certainly excludes that conversation and evolution of thought are possible.

    “You sir, are reduced to your 2012 Presidential vote, and sealed to that fate.”

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  83. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    People tend to be more small c conservative as they age. So they tend to be less progressive on social issues and look back on the time of their youth with rose colored glasses. That can effect voting patterns in the long term. That change tends to harden though and they generally stay switched if they switch. There is not a large population that really looks at each candidate independent of party and chooses the one that most closely aligns with them over a broad array of issues for each election. It would be great if that were the case, but the evidence runs contrary to that hypothesis.

    “Tell me how you voted, that’s all I need to know.”

    No. It’s more like, tell me how you voted in the last four elections (whole ticket) and I bet I’ll be right 9 times out of 10 guessing how you’ll vote in the next election.

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  84. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Again, voters exist on a continuum (or in a voter space).

    The goal of each party is to capture enough of them to win.

    We are now deep in an iterative game. Classic game theory. Parties subscribe to ideas, platforms, designed to hold their base and capture voters at the margin. Not all moves are open to them.

    That is the right-way-round view.

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  85. Tillman says:

    @Pinky:

    None of this is piling on. It’s a testimony to how bad our political warfare has gotten, that people can think they’ve got perspective while fixating on only one side’s faults.

    If your right arm hurts more than your left, you focus on your right arm. If only one side is causing the majority of the problem, it pays to focus on it more. Further, it is testimony to how bad the warfare is that one side can delude itself into thinking the other is equally at fault. Equally at fault. When people say “both sides do it,” they are casting judgment on the system as a whole and all actors within it equally. They are not exercising any sort of discernment.

    Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, the go-to scholars on the workings on Congress, agree that our current woes are primarily Republican-caused. I believe this quote is demonstrative:

    Democrats are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.

    No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking.

    You are comparing Democrats to radical leftists in the ’60s to illustrate your point. The absurdity of the comparison should be evident. The radical leftists fomented socialist revolution; the Democrats of today are trying to keep government functioning at a bare minimum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  86. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I don’t really care that you invented this datum that “people become more conservative as they age.” I mean the liberal oldies here disprove that. In fact, I’m pretty sure the mean age of OTB liberals is above that of OTB conservatives.

    What counts is that you recognized voter mobility.

    That is one of the things that shoots the “look at past elections and I shall know you” all to hell.

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  87. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    No. It’s more like, tell me how you voted in the last four elections (whole ticket) and I bet I’ll be right 9 times out of 10 guessing how you’ll vote in the next election.

    BTW: “abstain, Kerry, Obama, Obama.”

    One of the hilarious things here is that if you believe what you believe, I should be a partisan solidly in the Democratic camp.

    And yet all through this I am treated as a “closet Republican” because I self-identify as independent.

    You guys are so confused.

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  88. john personna says:

    (In reality, you better hope that the Republicans run another terrible candidate.)

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  89. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    No, by “vaguely” I was just addressing the fact that most sensible people (as opposed to us) have political ideas that they haven’t spent a great deal of time thinking about. It’s not a slam. I have vague ideas about all sorts of things, just not politics.

    But votes are concrete. They’re an action. You’re either materially aiding one side or the other. Don’t shoot the messenger, I don’t like this binary crap either.

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  90. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, let’s run the narrative a bit using my bottom up view. What if the downward shift in Republican identification is real? What if the increase in independent identity is real? What would that mean in 2016? It certainly is NOT good news for the Republicans, is it?

    Surely we can agree that they’d like the numbers to be running the other way. They have to know that this shift cuts them two was. First, their remaining members are more ideological and further from the center. This will make it harder for them to field a moderate candidate. Second, the Republicans (RINOs) who have left or were pushed out are going to feel no great love for the extremists left behind.

    The Republicans certainly should know that an ex-Republican is a less sure bet at the poll booth than an actual Republican.

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  91. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Going back, my question above is I think the big one:

    I mean, what do we ask of James?

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  92. john personna says:

    (Perhaps you think that since James is doomed to be a Republican forever, all you can hope is that another Democrat will be born somewhere.)

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  93. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    I don’t really care that you invented this datum that “people become more conservative as they age.” I mean the liberal oldies here disprove that. In fact, I’m pretty sure the mean age of OTB liberals is above that of OTB conservatives.

    It is rather an old saw, that people get set in their ways as they age, can’t teach an old dog new tricks etc. That is why I stipulated small c conservative, as in resistant to change that they have not already embraced. I think a fair number of the older liberals here were civil rights movement supporters when they were younger and continue on with that now. They are not embracing new for them change, they simply want society to catch up with their (mostly set) ideology. They are firmly in one camp and it would take something big to change that.
    Doug and James, from what I have seen them write, come down on the more liberal/progressive side of more issues, yet they still seem rather set in their support of the Republicans when it comes to elections. That is testament to how firm these associations can become. That or it is simply selection bias in what they write about or they prioritize taxation and business regulation considerably higher than those other issues they write about.

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  94. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Well, let’s run the narrative a bit using my bottom up view. What if the downward shift in Republican identification is real? What if the increase in independent identity is real? What would that mean in 2016? It certainly is NOT good news for the Republicans, is it?

    Not even knowing the candidates I’ll bet you that the winner of the 2016 presidential election gets less than 53% of the popular vote, which would mean that the shift was not real. Loser admits the winner was right and gives up arguing otherwise on this issue. What do you say?

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  95. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    That’s all very nice, but to put it bluntly it doesn’t tell us why we should discard a voter’s self-identification. [Indeed, you mostly refer to people you do believe "know their minds."]

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  96. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Well, coming at it from another angle, I’ll say that if the two parties are doing their jobs equally well, and fierce in adapting their policies to capture a majority, it should break very, very, close to 50:50.

    In fact, take 2000 as a model. What happened there was that both Bush and Gore campaigned so hard for the middle, as boring moderates, that they split the vote (and bored me into not voting.)

    Basically you get lopsided votes when one party does not or cannot adapt and change with the changing electorate.

    (I really don’t even get where you are coming from now. What do you think you are betting me? Do you actually think that Clinton v Christie and Clinton v Santorum would have the same outcome?)

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  97. john personna says:

    (This might be another point of cognitive dissonance. Some of you have told us that you’d love a Santorum nomination, because it would be a Clinton cakewalk. Now, you want us to believe that independents are “a majority” closet Republicans, who would jump onto the Santorum ticket?

    To reuse that word … Seriously?)

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  98. Grewgills says:

    On the both sides do it issue and its historicity:
    Both sides do do it and always have, but there are times when one side is worse than the other.
    Currently there are a number of issues driving this and making it less tractable. One is the current dominant political strategy of ginning up the base in hopes of winning via mobilization rather than winning over new or undecided people. Another is the fracturing of news media into partisan news machines whose only competition is a mainstream media whose primary bias is sensationalism and easy stories that don’t require much or broadcaster or viewer. Third, the rise of the internet as a primary source of information or close second for a wide swath of the public. These changes have allowed more and more people to live in a bubble of their own choosing where they needn’t be troubled by the potential validity of opposing views. When the only time you hear your political opponents is either through an ideological filter or when a group of your political allies are piling on them in a comment thread, it becomes easier to dehumanize them and to fail to rationally engage with their arguments. That is a recipe for a bitter partisan divide where compromise is viewed as treason.
    Both sides have these people. It doesn’t take much looking to find them on the internet or on TV. The difference in our current situation is that the Republicans have been electing these people more than the Democrats have. There is way more vitriol directed at so called RINOs than at DINOs. Democrats have not often of late primaried many sitting Congressmen or Senators from the left. The same cannot be said of the Republicans. Any step away from far right orthodoxy is likely to get even otherwise very conservative politicians primaried from the right. These ideologues once elected do what they promised to do regardless of the consequences to the country or even their constituents.

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  99. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    I’m not discarding their self identification. It tells us something. I just don’t think it tells us what you think it does.

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  100. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Santorum couldn’t make it through the Republican nomination. If he did, he would still get at least 45% of the popular vote and lose almost all of the 10% middle that is really up for grabs.

    Some candidates are so bad or so effective that they will push their own party away or pull members of the other party into their camp. Santorum is the former. Reagan was the latter, thus Reagan Democrats.

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  101. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Does it mean what the respondents think it does?

    Because that is kind of the crux, and casting it back on me as you do, is kind of a dodge.

    If you cannot take respondents at their word, you fall to those obvious rationalizations, that they are “deluded” or “liars.”

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  102. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    That’s what I’ve been saying, right?

    That voters have diverse values and politicians (and parties) succeed by capturing a majority of them.

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  103. john personna says:

    (BTW, I do actually think you do US voters a disservice in saying they’d go 45% for Santorum.)

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  104. john personna says:

    @this:

    Come on down-voter, the idea that independents are closet partisans has been chewed up six ways to Sunday.

    That I “should be” a partisan Democrat is just one example of the error in logic.

    The truth, the simple truth, and the big metaphysical truth, is that you should listen to people and give their self-identity respect.

    As should have been obvious long ago … this is a “do unto others” situation.

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  105. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Not exactly. You seem to think that the 45% who self identify as independents really are independent and thus are up for grabs with each new election. I think that number is much smaller, around 10% actually up for grabs and that the other 35% that self identify as independents are actually reliable voters for one side or another. Now something big can happen and sway some of those voters that are generally reliable, but those instances are few and far between.
    My back of the napkin guess based on recent polling is that of the 45% that self ID as independent now ~10% are up for grabs, ~20% are reliably R and the remaining ~15% are D. To be fair, that would mean that those who have said that most self identified independents are republican are wrong; it’s only a plurality.
    That still leaves us with a near even split of reliable voters for each party and a hotly contested but relatively small middle. You should be happy to be in the small minority that each party is desperately trying to win every four years. Your opinion matters more than ours when election time rolls around.

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  106. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    BTW: “abstain, Kerry, Obama, Obama.”

    I’d say, there is a 90% chance that you will hold your nose and vote for the Democrat in the next presidential election. That 10% allows for the Democrats making an exceptionally poor choice or the Republicans surprising me big and making an exceptionally good choice.

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  107. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Now you are just putting words into my mouth, and words that obviously contradict what I’ve said above.

    Me: “voters are actually on a continuum”

    You: “45% .. are up for grabs with each new election”

    Obviously not. When voters are on a continuum, each incremental move by a candidate or a party will capture votes at the margin.

    (I’ve used “at the margin” a bit above, right?)

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  108. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Ah, but would that make me a “partisan?”

    Isn’t that bait and switch one of the things I attacked?

    Seriously (that word again) the argument, repeated, is that these voting patterns make one a “closet partisan.”

    A repeated grudging vote is something else, isn’t it? Honestly?

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  109. john personna says:

    This is really boring now, because any real logical challenge to my argument is gone.

    Voters are on a continuum.

    Politicians and parties adapt to capture them.

    Even as voters themselves drift and change their views.

    It is an iterated game. [or repeated game]

    That something like pot legalization becomes a majority view means that it is not “left” anymore, it is “center.” And any politician who wants to be majority friendly, has to be friendly to it.

    We do not have a reality where most people start as “partisans” and then support which ever views their parties give them.

    It is, as it should be in a democracy, voters and their values first.

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  110. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Obviously not. When voters are on a continuum, each incremental move by a candidate or a party will capture votes at the margin.

    The margin that is actually realistically catchable by either party amounts to about 10%. That catchable margin are what I and I think most here consider independents. If you are not realistically catchable by one of the parties and you vote regularly (even if grudgingly) for one party time after time, then you are a reliable voter for that party.

    Ah, but would that make me a “partisan?”

    No, certainly not by your use of the term, but it does make you a reliable voter.
    I have been careful to say reliable voter, rather than partisan because I know you attach more significance to that word than most of us here do.

    We do not have a reality where most people start as “partisans” and then support which ever views their parties give them.

    There is a pretty high correlation between parents political affiliation and the political affiliation of their children.

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  111. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I think you’ve moved, Grewgills, and you recognize that all your predictions (10%, “a reliable voter”) depend entirely on the current landscape.

    Obviously if I remain the same, and the world remains the same, and my choices remain the same, I will vote the same.

    Any change to me, or them, reduces the certainty of your “prediction.”

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  112. john personna says:

    But to warn you about one “change,” you may recall from economic discussions that I think “the short run is over,” and thus I am less likely to side with economic interventions as I would in 2008.

    In your framework, this “past vote” thing that you’ve spent so much time defending, that could not happen.

    I would have to be reliable, come what may.

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  113. john personna says:

    So tiring … but apparently it takes that much work to put a stupid reduction to bed.

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  114. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    I think you’ve moved, Grewgills, and you recognize that all your predictions (10%, “a reliable voter”) depend entirely on the current landscape.

    I’m right where I started. That just may not be as far away from you as you originally thought.
    I still think that only about 10% in any given national election are actually swayable and thus fit my definition of independent. Your definition of independent seems broader than most here including myself. As your definition of partisan is more stringent.
    I still think that a large majority of self professed independents will vote in line with how they voted before and that means reliably for one party of the other.
    I would still bet that you will vote for the Democratic candidate in the next presidential barring something very unexpected happening between now and then. I would put the odds of that near 90%. That is partly because I put the odds of the Republicans choosing someone more centrist than Romney very low and the odds of the Democrats choosing someone much to the left of Obama almost as low.

    In your framework, this “past vote” thing that you’ve spent so much time defending, that could not happen.

    Nope, it just makes it unlikely.

    I would have to be reliable, come what may.

    I think you misunderstand me. Reliable doesn’t mean 100%. I am reliably punctual, that doesn’t mean I am never ever late, just very rarely.

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  115. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Right, Grewgills. Reliable doesn’t mean 100%, but you can throw around 90% confidences.

    My point is that there is a right way to hold the binoculars and a wrong way. The right way is to start with voters, the citizens, and their beliefs. You then recognize that politicians respond to those beliefs. Rand Paul did not invent Libertarianism, but he knows how to work it.

    I have my bundle of beliefs. Both parties may, in the abstract, compete for my vote.

    There is a reason I went back to the Obama big data effort. It is all about identifying small slices of the electorate and appealing for their vote. In the long run the Republicans will reorganize and plot their path to 51% (or more) of the vote. Perhaps when they do they’ll be helped by Democrats who at that point have “institutional belief” in unpopular things. We know that such role reversals happen. There is a reason we have words for parties “spending years in the wilderness.”

    .. but all that is a long way from the broken ideas that I contested, that “a majority” of independents were “closet partisans, self-deluded, or liars.”

    Those claims were actually at odds with what we know about the big political shifts and transformations.

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  116. john personna says:

    Again, going back, the CBS study tells you things you should know about the underlying voter preferences. It is what I’ve been calling the bottom up view.

    Reject it at your peril.

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  117. john personna says:

    From that:

    The new mainstream is deeply pessimistic about both but 2016 candidates take heed: The center is ready to swing. It leans Democratic but a majority agree with a mix of Republican and Democratic ideas, and about the same percentage self-describe as neither liberal nor conservative.

    The center wants a steady, self–sustaining, inward-looking America that neither gives nor takes too much from the world. Should America still be a superpower? Absolutely—but not an active one.

    The center supports gay marriage, legalized marijuana, and abortion, but it will take a nimble political platform to run through the center without missing the wings.

    I guess one of the bizarre things is that Democrats don’t know when they are winning.

    They are too busy blaming independents for a very slight GOP tilt in the last election (but not the one before that, or before that) to notice that on all those issues they have less distance to travel than the GOP.

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  118. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    John, do you know who believed that there was a free floating pool of centrist voters who would welcome a President who sought bipartisan solutions and who would punish a Party who engaged in partisan warfare against such a President? Barack Obama.
    He crafted this entire approach during his first term on being the “adult in the room,” on reaching out to craft bipartisan solutions, on “disagreeing without being disagreeable” -all the tropes designed to reach out to that big pool of free floating independents out there. He was confident that those independents would punish at the polls the party who rejected every attempt at bi-partisan compromise. The Beltway media agreed with him.
    Guess what, come 2010, those independents rewarded the “scorched earth” party and voted in scores of hyper partisan candidates dedicated to voting against anything Obama.
    Frankly, I think those folks who believe in the big pool of true independents should shut up until such independents actually show up to vote in “reasonable bipartisanism” candidates. Because they sure as hell didn’t show up in 2010 and in 2012 voted for the other guy.
    Until then I think any politician who relies on the big pool of free floating “independents” theory is an idiot who is destined to lose to the guy who understands that most independents are “closet partisans”.That’s how I see it.

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  119. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    Um, Obama won the independents soundly in 2008, with 52% to McCain’s 44%.

    So he lost them in 2012, 45% to 50%.

    How does that shift reinforce your claim? To be honest it sounds like “if I can’t have the independents EVERY time, I don’t want them at all.”

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  120. john personna says:

    (I certainly think a center shifting back and forth is fairly basic support for my idea that the center shifts back and forth.)

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  121. john personna says:

    God, how many disproofs do we have now? Independents are closet Republicans, except oops, they voted for Obama in 08, and yeah, Kerry in 2004.

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  122. Tillman says:

    @john personna: I take it you noticed those percentages fell within the 10% number of “true independents” Grewgills threw at you earlier?

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  123. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    Sure, but all he did was pull out a number that rescued his belief.

    It has no “origin,” right? It is a just-so story.

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  124. john personna says:

    Independents: There are 42% of us.

    Skeptic: No, I’ll accept no more than 10% of you, because that confirms my beliefs.

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  125. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    But to be clear, the Gallup poll IS consistent with the CBS/Esquire bottom up analysis.

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  126. Grewgills says:

    @stonetools:

    John, do you know who believed that there was a free floating pool of centrist voters who would welcome a President who sought bipartisan solutions and who would punish a Party who engaged in partisan warfare against such a President? Barack Obama.

    Depends on your definition of big pool. 10% is a big pool in a closely contested election and appealing to them won him the election twice.

    Guess what, come 2010, those independents rewarded the “scorched earth” party and voted in scores of hyper partisan candidates dedicated to voting against anything Obama.

    While Congress is a national institution, Congressional elections are much more local. Add in some gerrymandering and you’ve got your explanation.

    Frankly, I think those folks who believe in the big pool of true independents should shut up until such independents actually show up to vote in “reasonable bipartisanism” candidates. Because they sure as hell didn’t show up in 2010 and in 2012 voted for the other guy.

    In 2012 a small majority, or was it a small plurality, voted for Romney. That is not the same. Independents are not a monolith; some of them are reliable D votes, some are reliable R votes and some are bipolitical (can go either way). Currently more are reliable R than D because the Republicans are less popular. Not so long ago when liberal was a radioactive word, the reverse was true.

    Until then I think any politician who relies on the big pool of free floating “independents” theory is an idiot who is destined to lose to the guy who understands that most independents are “closet partisans”.

    Politicians that win or come close to it in national elections understand that they have maybe 45% of the electorate that is predisposed to vote for them and barring extreme circumstances will vote for them. They also understand that 45% is not enough to win. Politicians that win, figure out how to court the middle, more specifically the middle in swing states, because that is the relatively narrow swath of America that decides who our next president will be.

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  127. Stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Think you missed an election there. Funny that. The independents in 2010 helped elect a wave of Tea Party candidates implacably opposed to any compromise with the President who campaigned and governed on the theme of “reasonable bipartisan compromise” .
    By 2012 Obama had largely abandoned appealing to those mythical free floating independents and was campaigning on a message of “two visions”. I think he learned a lesson.
    I’d say politicians who actually have to bet their political future on whether there are lots of real independents have also learned that lesson, which is why you don’t hear too much talk these days of appealing to the free floating persuadable middle. It’s the people who want to believe in such a middle and who are not running for office who are the ones clinging to this idea.

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  128. Grewgills says:

    @Stonetools:

    By 2012 Obama had largely abandoned appealing to those mythical free floating independents and was campaigning on a message of “two visions”. I think he learned a lesson.

    In which election did he win independent voters and in which did he lose them?

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  129. ernieyeball says:

    @KM: I suppose if you believe the Almighty demands you to not engage in independent thinking and only in blind obedience, you should be able to prove it.

    Unless you mean Almighty Aphrodite I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

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  130. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: Killjoy!

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  131. john personna says:

    @Stonetools:

    Again, that “independents swing” is evidence that independents swing, and not that they are in the tank for either party.

    @Grewgills:

    You may believe these 45/45/10 numbers, to the extent that you believe that “any” Republican can score 45% of the national vote … but Clinton v Dole was a 49:40 loss.

    Dole underscored your minimum.

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  132. stonetools says:

    @Grewgills:

    While Congress is a national institution, Congressional elections are much more local. Add in some gerrymandering and you’ve got your explanation.

    Wrong. The 2010 elections were clearly a national wave election. the candidates complained not on local issues, but on the national unemployment rate (“Where are the jobs?”) , on repealing Obamacare, and generally on stopping the crazy n!gger in the White House.

    In 2012 a small majority, or was it a small plurality, voted for Romney. That is not the same. Independents are not a monolith; some of them are reliable D votes, some are reliable R votes and some are bipolitical (can go either way).

    I think we agree that the true “either way” cohort is pretty small. It certainly isn’t the huge pool JP imagines.

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  133. stonetools says:

    @john personna:

    Well John, if you were right, we wouldn’t be talking about increasing polarization and political warfare, but politicians running on a centrist message aimed at appealing to that broad swathe of voters who are truly up for grabs. That’s not who politicians win races these days.
    Now maybe that SHOULD happen. But that’s not how it is.

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  134. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    It sounds like you are still misunderstanding the pool.

    42% of Americans now dissociate themselves from the parties. They have diverse opinions. As Grewgills says, they are not a monolith. If the CBS analysis has merit, they can be broken down into broad categories, some of which tilt right on economic issues, but pretty much all of which tip to what have been considered left social positions.

    Did you actually read those results?

    Which of them will be in play for a particular election depends on a lot of things, like the economic climate, and what social issues are buzzing, and of course what candidates they are actually offered.

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  135. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    It sounds like you aren’t following my logic.

    What if voters are on a broad continuum, but the parties are driven by internal factions?

    What if Republicans were more out of control in that regard?

    Would people start to defect?

    How could we tell?

    Decreasing GOP party affiliation?

    OMG, it all fits!

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  136. ernieyeball says:

    @KM: Please quote where the “Turn Off Thy Brain and Thinkth Not” commandment exists.

    Please cite where I claim that such a directive is recorded.

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  137. Grewgills says:

    @stonetools:

    Wrong. The 2010 elections were clearly a national wave election.

    Held in local gerrymandered pools*. The popular vote was about 52:45 in an off year election with about 41% turn out. With near even pools on both sides and a low turn out, whoever gins up the base best wins. In an off year election it is easier to gin up the opposition base.

    * 52% of the vote got them 56% of the House in 2010. Not as bad as 48% of the vote getting the GOP 54% of the House in 2012.

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  138. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    If they actually vote that way, then yes. If they keep voting for the GOP, then no. I’m willing to bet it will be the latter. You wanna take that bet?

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  139. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Perot queered the results. He pulled more R votes than D votes from a very unexciting establishment candidate. I think everybody sees that is rather atypical election.

    Honestly, I wish you were right and that there was a large pool of independents looking at each candidate in each new election and judging which one best represented them across a wide array of issues. I just don’t see it. I see a lot of apathetic, low information voters, most of which have picked a team for mostly emotional reasons, a sizable chunk of which are so disenchanted or lazy that they don’t bother to vote.

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  140. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: I see a lot of apathetic, low information voters, most of which have picked a team for mostly emotional reasons, a sizable chunk of which are so disenchanted or lazy that they don’t bother to vote.

    Some citizens think all these “apathetic, low information voters” should be dragooned to the polls for every election or be punished.
    If I am ever forced to vote in any election I will be sure to cast a ballot for the opponent of any legislator that would pass such laws.

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  141. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    Is that you on the right or the left?

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  142. ernieyeball says:

    Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, Stuck in the middle with you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8StG4fFWHqg

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  143. Kari Q says:

    @john personna:

    You may well be an independent voter who is engaged in the issues and votes for the best individual in the hopes of improving the system as a whole. You are a unique. There are so few voters like you that you are virtually a unicorn.

    The overwhelming majority of voters vote for the same party, year after year, election after election, their entire lives. Some of the voters call themselves “independents” but they are as functionally partisan as a delegate to a party convention.

    A distinct minority will switch from one party to another once over the course of their lives. An even smaller group will switch from one party to another frequently based not on candidates or issues, but on a vague impression of how they think the economy is (low information voters), if they bother to vote at all which they often don’t.

    Then there’s you, a well informed and politically engaged individual who votes not on party but on positions. You could hold a convention of all the voters like yourself in your state in a room with a maximum occupancy of 50. That’s assuming you’re from California. If you’re from North Dakota or Montana, the entire group could meet in a minivan.

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  144. Gary D says:

    I keep up with news about my senator Cornyn and disagree with him on every issue. But Cruz takes ignorance and disagreeableness and obstruction to a whole new level.

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  145. Moosebreath says:

    @Pinky:

    “It’s a testimony to how bad our political warfare has gotten, that people can think they’ve got perspective while fixating on only one side’s faults.”

    Clearly, you must be talking about the author of this post:

    “The tone on the Right has sunk almost to the tone that the Left has held for 50 years, but it’s not quite there yet.”

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  146. john personna says:

    @this:

    I guess what’s really exasperating is that something as simple as this gets a down-vote.

    The Republicans become more polarized, engage in more political warfare, and as a result their popularity drops.

    What’s not to like?

    What’s hard to believe?

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  147. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    If they actually vote that way, then yes. If they keep voting for the GOP, then no. I’m willing to bet it will be the latter. You wanna take that bet?

    Are you following?

    I’m quite sure either result can happen under either framework.

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  148. john personna says:

    @Kari Q:

    But I’m not just pulling “me” out of thin air, am I?

    I have that CBS/Esquire poll, which has the actual, bottom up, data.

    It is certainly true that at a certain distance from the middle people do start to act like genuine partisans, in the real meaning of the word. They do form tribal associations with their party, and view the opposing the party (and even as we’ve seen, independents) as the other.

    I don’t think the data show that some arbitrarily high percentage are partisan and tribal in that real sense.

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  149. john personna says:

    @this:

    Geebus, someone down-voted the reminder that politics is an iterated game!

    There is some real anti-cognition going on here.

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  150. Tillman says:

    @john personna:

    Sure, but all he did was pull out a number that rescued his belief.

    It has no “origin,” right? It is a just-so story.

    I believe it comes from a book written by political scientists on the topic:

    Truly independent voters do exist, according to Abramowitz and Petrocik, but they account for just 10 percent to 15 percent of the electorate. “And once you take away those people who aren’t going to turn out, you’re down to something like 6 percent or 7 percent,” Abramowitz says. In other words, the true swing voters are a pretty small group.

    They also haven’t been the deciding factor in tight presidential elections that many people might think. In the three most closely contested races of the past 40 years — 1976, 2000 and 2004 — the majority of independents backed the candidate who wound up losing the popular vote. (In 2000, George W. Bush won the independent vote and the White House even though Al Gore won the popular vote by nearly 550,000 votes.)

    They’re not arguing against your position or for Grewgills et al’s position, they’re just noting that the label “independent” should not automatically mean “nonpartisan.”

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  151. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    Are you suggesting a step function?

    Come on.

    There is something emotional going on here, resistance to this idea of a moderate middle. No one wants to acknowledge the CBS/Esquire data, and say “yes John, and that correlates with my views thus ..”

    Obviously “truly independent voters” represent someone’s arbitrary criteria: F(45) = “partisan” while F(46) = “independent.”

    It does NOT recognize what we must all admit is movement at the margin. There is not a step function from mr. partisan to mrs. independent one half step away.

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  152. john personna says:

    It is an innumeric simplification.

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  153. Tillman says:

    Also from that article, I can attest to this reason being the primary cause of my remaining independent, even though I have reliably voted Democrat in national elections:

    He also thinks there may be a more pragmatic reason why some voters remain unaffiliated: “They don’t want to get literature; they don’t want to be bothered; they don’t want to get phone calls.”

    I lived for a time after college with the parents, who were registered Democrat and Republican.* Late 2008 might have been the most annoying slice of recent memory to date.

    * Fascinating story there: they started off as Democrats, registered Republican as part of the protest against LBJ’s expansion of Vietnam, and then my mother registered back to Democrat after Watergate. My dad just stopped caring.

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  154. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    The challenge for you sir, is to explain a narrow view of independence in such a way that it is also consistent with the CBS/Esquire data.

    I have my answer, as I’ve said. “Truly independent” is an external and arbitrary judgement, selecting from a wider set. It creates the false impression of a step function, from “partisan” on one side, to “true independent” in the middle, to “partisan” again on the other.

    I guess it’s better than the claim “there are only two kinds of people.” After all, it ups the total “kinds of people” to three.

    Of course, a continuous function is a bit more sophisticated, mathematically speaking.

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  155. al-Ameda says:

    In our binary political system, to be “independent” and to vote independent of the Republican or Democratic parties is to be nearly irrelevant.

    I wonder how many people self-identify as “independent” and libertarian, and actually vote libertarian? I’m guessing that many such people vote with the major party that is a reasonable fit to their ideology and policy preferences, rather than vote libertarian.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  156. Tillman says:

    @john personna: Well jon, consider that you might be arguing for a more complex viewpoint on votes cast in primaries and elections (usually binary, occasionally a few outliers with third parties) and reading more into it than needs be.

    You have at least three axes to put a position in: economic policy, social policy, foreign policy. (There probably are more.) The parties have their staked positions on those axes, self-identified members can deviate from one or more positions with a little leeway. I don’t think anyone is suggesting self-identified independents are secretly linked position-to-position with the party members of a particular party. Rather, they are saying that most self-identified independents just deviate a little more than the average party member. Not far enough to be considered a “swing” vote, but far enough to want some distance from the party itself. However, their voting patterns in [mostly] binary choices like we most often have would simplify them into closet partisan. That’s just how the voting system’s record would come out. And frankly it’s the vote record that is the most important metric here.

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  157. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    When self-styled partisans, that is the people who genuinely self-identify as such, cannot claim a majority, it certainly falls to independents to decide an election.

    Probably much of the handwaving comes from not wanting to register that, to internalize it.

    @Tillman:

    That’s the right discussion.

    Of course I think so, because way up top I said:

    Imagine a simplified system, in which people, rather than having (as in real life) dozens of axes of political passion, only have 2, the old right-left.

    In real life we do have many axes.

    It only took 150 posts to get there.

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  158. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    I missed this:

    However, their voting patterns in [mostly] binary choices like we most often have would simplify them into closet partisan.

    The mathematical error there is to think that the selection function is constant.

    It is not. Each party may move its candidates in the “position space” also occupied by voters.

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  159. Tillman says:

    @john personna: The candidate’s “position space” (neat name) could by definition not stroll away from the party’s too far or he wouldn’t be a candidate for that party. The function is not constant, but it certainly has boundaries.

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  160. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    I’m sure we can both name issues that have drifted in and out of party favor.

    Romneycare?

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  161. john personna says:
  162. john personna says:

    Are we done?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  163. Pinky says:

    John – re political warfare and trolling in general, you should understand that every time you complain about down-votes, you inspire a certain kind of person to down-vote you even more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  164. john personna says:

    @Pinky:

    I know, ying and yang.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  165. ernieyeball says:

    Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!
    I got a Thumbs Down for posting a clause of the USCon. (Art. III Sec.3 if I recall.)
    Why do I think some posters here are just down thumbing randomly to see what reaction they can get?
    I confess to pushing that Red Button once or twice but not yet this year.
    Facebook shows the names of those who “like” something.
    I’ll bet James and the OTB Gang don’t have anything better to do and can set up a system that will reveal the names of the Thumbers. Green and Red.

    Just noticed that the Thumb Buttons on my posts on this thread and others are active and waiting for me to give myself a stroke!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  166. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    When self-styled partisans, that is the people who genuinely self-identify as such, cannot claim a majority, it certainly falls to independents to decide an election.

    Probably much of the handwaving comes from not wanting to register that, to internalize it.

    Fair enough john.

    All that I’m saying is that I will never believe, as Gallup’s polling data currently suggests, that 42% are somehow in play as “independents,” or independent ‘leaners.’ The closest we’ve come to that is the Perot vote (19%) in 1992.

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  167. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    It is certainly true that at a certain distance from the middle people do start to act like genuine partisans, in the real meaning of the word. They do form tribal associations with their party, and view the opposing the party (and even as we’ve seen, independents) as the other.

    They become reliable voters for one party or the other long before that. Once your votes stop swinging you aren’t independent in any meaningful sense.

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  168. ernieyeball says:

    Just posted Monday, January 13, 2014 at 12:45…The L D Thumbuttons are inactive and I can not vote for myself.
    All the other Up Dn Buttons on my posts in this thread are active.

    Voter Fraud at OTB? I don’t believe it!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  169. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Perhaps, but without a change in behavior it doesn’t really matter.

    If I say I support Costco’s business practices and oppose Sam’s/Walmart’s business practices, yet I do 90% of my shopping at Sam’s/Walmart whose business practices am I really supporting.

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  170. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    That has happened strongly enough to change people’s party affiliation on a large scale right about once in the lifespan of my parents and never in mine.

    Yes society changes over time and the parties positions move with it, yet affiliations remain remarkably stable.

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  171. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    I think James is a pretty good example of what you’re talking about. He’s no longer as comfortable with the GOP, clearly. But does that reach the point where he actually throws a vote to the Democrats?

    I think we should ask the NSA. Surely they know his voting patterns.

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  172. stonetools says:

    You know, this is not a matter of individual opinion or personal preference. The scholars have weighed in on this and they have been found that most independents are closet partisans. Now John seems to be personally affronted by this and he has marshaled a lot of arguments on several threads arguing that no, independents should be taken at their word on this and that 40per cent (!) of voters are truly independent and are up for grabs. Now I’m not seeing that but my opinion ( and John’s) is irrelevant. I’m trusting the guys with the Phds., who have studied the issue and who have gathered the data.

    Because independent voters do not have strong affectional ties to political parties, scholars who adhere to the self-identification method for measuring political independence theorize that independents may be more susceptible to the appeals of third-party candidates. It has also been suggested that the more independent voters, the more volatile elections and the political system will be.[9] Others hypothesize that the amount of ticket-splitting will increase, leading to greater parity between the strongest political parties, an increase in the number of minor political parties (particularly “down-ballot” in state, county or local races), or possibly even a breakdown in the political party system.[2]

    However, scholars who hold to the behavioral measure of determining political independence point out that there has been little change in the level of ticket-splitting since the initial upsurge in the 1950s. They also point out that, when independents who strongly lean toward one party are included in the same group as that party’s strong partisans, there has also been little change in party loyalty since the 1950s. For example, partisan Republicans and independents who lean Republican tend to vote for Republican candidates just as frequently in the 1990s as they did in the 1950s.[3] Indeed, in the United States, the tendency of both strong and weak partisans to vote a straight ticket in down-ballot races is even stronger than it is for presidential and congressional races.[2]

    LINK

    Now if John wants to go over to the scholars websites and argue the point, great. But I’m going with scholars. Again, this is not a personal thing. If the scholars change their mind, I’ll change my mind.

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  173. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: The scholars you’re thinking of are working from a psephological viewpoint where jon is coming from something like a sociological one. Neither of these viewpoints is wrong per se; the emphasis on what matters differs.

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  174. john personna says:

    When we consider this as an iterated game in an n-dimensional space, all the things we see in a single election, and in big political swings, make sense.

    Stonetools is still hung up on simplifications, and that people can and do make that “space” simpler for their own purposes.

    Parties do it too. A political “wedge issue” may be described as focusing attention on a particular axis, to split the electorate, ideally on favorable terms.

    When the Republicans made gay marriage a wedge issue they were doing that. At the time it mobilized the base and took advantage of the then majority support for traditional marriage. That’s one that’s turned in a very short time though, right? The majority have moved in the space and now support same sex marriage. If anyone now wants that issue as a wedge, it is the Democrats, and that is why they push on it harder in 2013/2014 than the Republican do.

    It’s pretty simple, really.

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  175. john personna says:

    @Tillman:

    Even they should be doing higher order math. In this day and age “grouping” is dead.

    It is about big data, and big data can handle more than one axis of affinity.

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  176. john personna says:

    One way to think about it is as a parallel to the transition from Mendel’s heredity, based on gross phenotype, to modern gene sequencing.

    Mendel could say there were a few types of peas.

    A modern sequencer can discriminate between a million individuals.

    Mendel may have been doing the best he could in his day, but we don’t insist that there are still a few “Mendelian types” to the genome.

    We accept the big data and the complexity.

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  177. john personna says:

    (Speaking of “what do political scientists really believe,” how many times have I reminded you that Obama won with a big data effort, and not cardboard files and a voter registration list?

    If anything, Romney lost with the old view of registration and affinity.)

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  178. ernieyeball says:

    @john personna:If anything, Romney lost with the old view of registration and affinity.)

    Let’s give some credit to the Killer Whale!

    The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA
    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/334783.php

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  179. john personna says:

    @ernieyeball:

    Exactly.

    The entire purpose of this project was to digitize the decades-old practice of strike lists.

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  180. Kari Q says:

    @john personna:

    And what that big data collection was primarily used for was to identify voters who were going to vote Democratic if they voted, and make sure that they voted. It was not to identify ‘swing’ voters, but to make sure that Democratic voters got to the polls.

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  181. Kari Q says:

    Oh and John, in that CBS poll you keep talking about, (which is actually an NBC link) the positions line up very closely with liberals on almost all issues. That points to another problem with identifying someone by their ideology: if your positions on energy, taxes, gay marriage, religion, gun control, and the roll of government are all the same or very close to the liberal position, but you support a few restrictions on abortion and a slightly more active foreign policy, are you really a moderate? Or are you a liberal with a few areas of disagreement?

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  182. Pinky says:

    @Moosebreath: No, quite the contrary. If anything, I’m fixated on my side’s faults. It bugs the daylights out of me when we play as dirty as the competition. Andrew Klavan puts it this way: we’re the good guys. We have to be restricted in our actions. We have to beat the opposition, not become it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  183. Moosebreath says:

    @Pinky:

    “It’s a testimony to how bad our political warfare has gotten, that people can think they’ve got perspective while fixating on only one side’s faults.”

    “Andrew Klavan puts it this way: we’re the good guys. We have to be restricted in our actions. We have to beat the opposition, not become it.”

    Comic gold. And next I’m sure you will tell me that Reagan never supported the Southern Strategy, that Bush the Younger was entirely truthful and above board in recommending the War in Iraq, and that Nixon was framed for Watergate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  184. ernieyeball says:

    @Pinky: Andrew Klavan puts it this way: we’re the good guys.

    By what measure?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  185. john personna says:

    @Kari Q:

    And what that big data collection was primarily used for was to identify voters who were going to vote Democratic if they voted, and make sure that they voted. It was not to identify ‘swing’ voters, but to make sure that Democratic voters got to the polls.

    That actually self-contradicts.

    The big data effort was about finding prospects in the n-dimensional space who could be induced to vote for the Democratic candidate.

    I remember one amusing anecdote from that. They identified some demographic which had a slight Obama preference. They went out to talk to them, and discovered in the process they made them *less* likely to vote Obama … so they backed off and left them as they were.

    That’s a good example of how the big data effort deals with much smaller sub-groups than “partisan, independent, partisan.”

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  186. john personna says:

    @Kari Q:

    Remember one of my mathematical rules:

    A population may never be left (or right) relative to itself.

    Its center IS its center.

    (And I did note above the the current center seemed more reachable by Democrats, on those social issues.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  187. John D'Geek says:

    @KM:

    Prioritizing spirituality over science doesn’t help. When you have politicians being virulently and actively anti-intellectual and anti-science …

    Repeat after me: Spiritual != Religious != Faithful Adherent of a Western Religion != Anti-Science

    @john personna: Sorry, my upvote click finger seems to be malfunctioning. I’m sure I owe you a few more …

    @JJ: This speaks to something that I’ve been pondering for quite some time: why is it that I get along just fine with “classic hippies”, by all (most?) accounts more “liberal” than mainstream, but so many “mainstream progressives” drive me nuts?

    When viewed from the perspective of “Warfare” vs. “Beliefs” then it makes sense. Can’t remember the last time a Hippie yelled at me, insulted me, or used degrading labels to refer to me … in fact, I’m pretty sure it never happened …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  188. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Most of those down votes are amazing to me, because they are denials of mathematics, continuous functions, changing selection criteria.

    Stubborn people have in their head this idea that you can draw a clean line between “true independents” and “partisans,” which is patently absurd.

    The distinction you draw between classic hippies and mainstream progressives illustrates that. For me, they just occupy different places in the position space. Of course they’d behave differently. They are different sorts of people.

    You can’t just lump them in the “left partisan” bucket and call it a job well done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  189. john personna says:

    Good and related: Sensible data

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  190. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    Because it’s us… and we have white hats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  191. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    But we’re a center right nation. I’ve read it a lot, so it must be true

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  192. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    The distinction you draw between classic hippies and mainstream progressives illustrates that. For me, they just occupy different places in the position space. Of course they’d behave differently. They are different sorts of people.

    You can’t just lump them in the “left partisan” bucket and call it a job well done.

    Who is making that argument?

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  193. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills:..and we have white hats.

    Thank You Mask Man!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tjWYEMQ70w

    Thank You Lenny Bruce RIP.
    Thank You John Magnuson

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  194. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Who makes that argument?

    Anyone who makes an explicit or implicit case for the step function.

    Should you say that there are only 10% “real independents” and then “closet partisans,” you are making an argument for the step function.

    On the other hand, should you admit the continuous nature of human variation, you pretty much yield the whole argument, variation at the margin, and unpredictable results.

    Put differently, you admit that you’d need a good model and a lot of Monte Carlo simulations to even arrive at “10%”, and if you did you’d have no idea of how to quantify the uncertainty in that number.

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  195. john personna says:

    BTW, I hope you see how claims from past elections become like the LTCM problem.

    LTCM falsely believed that one pass through history, one segment of one possible history, could be used to quantify future risk.

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  196. Mikey says:

    @john personna: You can vary continuously along the entire range of American political thought, but there are still only two parties that matter.

    Hippies and modern progressives may differ a great deal, but both groups will vote Democrat with 99% reliability because the only other valid choice is drastically more different from both of them than they are from each other.

    This is why we get 42% self-declared independents and 5% variation between elections. Almost nobody is so variable that they end up falling into the other party camp, and very few Americans are politically aware or motivated enough to come up with good reasons to split their ticket three ways.

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  197. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    A two party system has been central to my analysis as well.

    I’ve said that in such a system the two parties must work very hard, both seeking a majorithy of the assorted voters.

    I’ve said that if they are both doing their jobs equally well, the split should be very close, very close to 50:50.

    This does not change the nature of the voters themselves.

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  198. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    This does not change the nature of the voters themselves.

    That’s true, I think. I believe the two-party system often forces true independents to vote as if they are “closet” partisans.

    That’s not to say I wholly disagree with the assertion many self-declared independents are in fact “closet” partisans, but I think there are more true independents than we can determine by simply looking at voting patterns. Many may feel their vote “won’t matter” if they vote their conscience and go third party, so they do a lot of nose holding.

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  199. john personna says:

    “Repeat voter” is a phrase that works, and stands by itself.

    No one ever needed to claim that “repeat voters” were the same thing as “partisans.” Sometimes they are, but sometimes they are not.

    The equivalence was not supported by the underlying data, and did nothing to expand understanding of decision-making at the margin.

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  200. john personna says:

    If you look at it in terms of our whole, rich, world … if either party discovers an issue, or a few issues, that split the electorate on their terms, they will use that lever as long as they can.

    That working lever means a repeat voting pattern, for as long as it holds up.

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  201. john personna says:

    Here is my definition of a “closet partisan:”

    Someone who claims not to be a member of party X, but defends the candidates and positions of party X every time, and opposes the candidates positions of party Y every time.

    It’s pretty silly to expect that “many” independents are that, because not even loosely connected members of the parties are that.

    Partisans, who toe the party line, are out there on the fringes of both parties.

    In politics, a partisan is a committed member of a political party. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents.

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  202. john personna says:

    Oh, neat. Here’s a little factoid that supports my view. Some states have this thing called STV, which allows the voter to check once, and vote a party ticket on the ballot:

    In New Mexico, 23 percent of the ballots cast in 2010 were straight ticket votes for the Democratic Party , while 18 percent were Republican STVs. Despite the difference, the GOP still won control of New Mexico’s governorship and the secretary of state’s office.

    It looks indeed like the people who are genuinely partisan are on the minority fringes of the parties.

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  203. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:
    Regarding this:

    In New Mexico, 23 percent of the ballots cast in 2010 were straight ticket votes for the Democratic Party , while 18 percent were Republican STVs. Despite the difference, the GOP still won control of New Mexico’s governorship and the secretary of state’s office.

    Would you restrict a definition of “genuine partisanship” to 100% party-line voters only? What about ballots in a statewide election where a person voted, say for 90% Republican and 10% Democratic (or vice versa)? Do you consider those type of voters to be “independent”? Where is the cutoff point there – 90%, 80%, 70%?

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  204. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Of course I wouldn’t use an artifical filter, a step function, but I think I am the one using the word “partisan” correctly.

    Surely you recognize the agenda in converting “repeat voters” to “closet partisans.” It is a rhetorical trick, to make you group them in your mind with real, live partisans.

    More from that excellent STV article above:

    In short, for most of U.S. history, straight-ticket voting was the rule, not the exception. However, since the 1960s and 70s, the tide has turned against party loyalty. Today, over one-third of voters identify as independents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  205. john personna says:

    The STV article in turn references this one, with:

    Party identification is another thing entirely. Most fundamentally, it is an attitude, not a demographic. To put it simply, party identification is one of the aspects of public opinion that our surveys are trying to measure, not something that we know ahead of time like the share of adults who are African American, female, or who live in the South. Particularly in an election cycle, the balance of party identification in surveys will ebb and flow with candidate fortunes, as it should, since the candidates themselves are the defining figureheads of those partisan labels. Thus there is no timely, independent measure of the partisan balance that polls could use for a baseline adjustment.

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  206. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Here is my definition of a “closet partisan:”

    Someone who claims not to be a member of party X, but defends the candidates and positions of party X every time, and opposes the candidates positions of party Y every time.

    So what is someone who claims not to be a member of party X, but defends the candidates and positions of party X 90% of the time, and opposes the candidates and positions of party Y 90% of the time?

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  207. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Mostly partisan? Whatever.

    If you have followed my conceptual framework, of a position space, and voters and candidates in it, you know there are no hard boundaries for what we call things.

    But yeah, I’d say someone at 90/90 support is going to be pretty far into that party’s volume in the idea space.

    To repeat though:

    Particularly in an election cycle, the balance of party identification in surveys will ebb and flow with candidate fortunes, as it should, since the candidates themselves are the defining figureheads of those partisan labels. Thus there is no timely, independent measure of the partisan balance that polls could use for a baseline adjustment.

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  208. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    If you have followed my conceptual framework, of a position space, and voters and candidates in it, you know there are no hard boundaries for what we call things.

    It just keeps popping up in my mind that our de facto two-party system thwarts expressions of true political independence as actual votes. We can place voter thinking at many points along a very broad spectrum but the eventual choice is entirely binary.

    Rather frustrating, actually.

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  209. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    I agree. A parliamentary system might allow more political adaptation more quickly, but we have what we have.

    In our system we are stuck with two parties, who will probably have the same names for the next 50 years, and the only question is what they will “be” in those 50 years.

    Both parties will angle for a majority, and if they do their job equally well, they’ll be near deadlocked. Maybe in 50 years the Republicans will be running a gay, pot-smoking, black man … and “partisans” will be supporting him.

    Such is life in a two party system.

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  210. john personna says:

    Note that the parties do have a choice about what they’ll “be” as soon as 2016.

    This was one of the threads of conversation after 2012. What should the GOP be to not-be the party of old white men?

    Not much movement on that, from what I’ve seen …

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  211. john personna says:

    Note also that he who must not be named believes in a “permanent minority” because he doesn’t believe that parties change, and become what they must to contend for 51% of the vote …

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  212. john personna says:

    Thus, picking some number like 7% or 10% “real independents” is innumerate bullshit.

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  213. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    Today, over one-third of voters identify as independents.

    Yet, most “independents” have no truly viable place to go, so they align generally with one of the two major parties., and you’re right, that alone does not constitute a pure partisanship, rather a practical ‘satisficing,’ if you will.

    I believe that where one sometimes can gauge political independence is in the area of Statewide or Local Ballot Initiatives. While it is true that some initiatives seem to align strongly with a partisan agenda, others can be interesting and point toward a different approach – Legalization of Marijuana, School Vouchers, Land Use Restrictions, and so forth.

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  214. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    So, think about what you mean when you say “they align generally with one of the two major parties” …

    What if they split their ticket? Are they aligned?

    What if a registered Republican splits his ticket, and votes for one or two Democrats that he likes? Surely he is not fully aligned.

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  215. john personna says:

    Basically this is an argument against reductions which are not useful, not when data and phrasing is available which does fully describe the situation.

    Maybe most people support gay marriage, but Obamacare is destined to be the big wedge issue in 2016,.

    There you can talk purely about (1) how many people rank Obamacare as a top issue, and (2) their feelings for it now.

    Of course, as we’ve said there is a feedback loop between party (or candidate) position and identification. I presume that the Republicans are going to run a “fix Obamacare” candidate of one sort or another. That gives them an opportunity to make a case that they are “better to fix it.”

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  216. john personna says:

    Related:

    Ticket-splitting is actually a process that takes place at the level of the individual voter, so survey data constitute a more appropriate test. Has the number of ticket-splitters changed? According to the American National Election Studies, not very much. In 2008, ANES found 17 percent of voters splitting their tickets between president and House (the chamber they track). That is down from a high of 30 percent in 1972, when Dixiecrats still abounded and George McGovern topped the ticket. But the 2008 level matched that in 2004 and 2000 and was higher than in any year from 1952 (the start of the time series) through 1968. No evidence of a clear, sustained downward trend.

    Note that this doesn’t count other splits, like President vs Governor.

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  217. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    So, think about what you mean when you say “they align generally with one of the two major parties” …

    What if they split their ticket? Are they aligned?

    What kind of split-ticket are we talking about here? If on a ballot I (or anyone else) vote for 8 Democrats and 2 Republicans, I’d say there is an alignment with the Democratic Party. Yes, of course it is subjective.

    What if a registered Republican splits his ticket, and votes for one or two Democrats that he likes? Surely he is not fully aligned.

    Again, if that is 1 or 2 out of 10, I agree that he is not fully aligned, but as a practical matter I’d certainly consider him aligned with the Republican Party. If it is 1 or 2 out of 4, then not being fully aligned has much more meaning to me – I’d probably consider that person to be an “independent.”

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  218. john personna says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Again, we are talking about reductions, and the usefulness thereof.

    I actually think it was a much more interesting question to think about how Obamacare could play out, and change both voter identification and actual votes in 2016.

    The pollster analysis I’ve quoted certainly fits my framework:

    Particularly in an election cycle, the balance of party identification in surveys will ebb and flow with candidate fortunes, as it should, since the candidates themselves are the defining figureheads of those partisan labels.

    What use is it go go back and define what “independent” means to you?

    Seriously, where I started was that self-identification was useful information, and something someone was telling you about themselves, not something to be reduced and discarded.

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  219. john personna says:

    Don’t forget what I was told in the other thread … that self-identified independents were “self-deluded” or “liars.”

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  220. Grewgills says:

    @john personna: @john personna:

    Here is my definition of a “closet partisan:”

    Someone who claims not to be a member of party X, but defends the candidates and positions of party X every time, and opposes the candidates positions of party Y every time.

    Thus, picking some number like 7% or 10% “real independents” is innumerate bullshit.

    Yet defining down partisan to the point that it applies to less than half of the people actually elected to the House and Senate is entirely reasonable?
    The 10% give or take represents swing voters, you know the ones who are actually up for grabs by a member of either party in an election. If someone votes 85%+ for one party isn’t meaningfully independent, ie they do not exhibit behaviors of someone not tied to one party or the other.

    “Repeat voter” is a phrase that works, and stands by itself.

    No one ever needed to claim that “repeat voters” were the same thing as “partisans.” Sometimes they are, but sometimes they are not.

    I am curious why you are comfortable with ‘repeat voter’, but seem rather upset with my formulation of ‘reliable voter’. Is it because it acknowledges the reality that the voting patterns of ‘repeat voters’ have a strong predictive value for future votes?

    At this point, it seems much of the argument has boiled down to two major breaks, one semantic and the other aspirational vs operational identification. You much more narrowly define partisan than anyone arguing against you and those arguing against you more narrowly define independent than you do. No one here has argued that any group: republican, democrat, or independent are a monolithic block. The other major sticking point is that you are taking people at their word, despite behaviors. while those arguing against you think that behaviors, particularly repeated behaviors, tell us more than what people answer to survey questions.

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  221. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    By that 100% formulation I’m not sure even a John Cornyn would qualify as a partisan. Can you see why that definition is problematic now?

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  222. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    Don’t forget what I was told in the other thread … that self-identified independents were “self-deluded” or “liars.”

    Yes, I was the one who said that I believe that many people are lying to pollsters when they say that they are “independents.”

    Seriously, where I started was that self-identification was useful information, and something someone was telling you about themselves, not something to be reduced and discarded.

    I agree, self-identification is certainly useful information. That recently mentioned figure – 42% independents – tells me that a lot of people are unhappy with the current parties. Whether or not that translates to a sea-change in our politics is another matter.

    By the way, thank you for your contribution to this thread. It has been interesting.

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  223. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Dude. I have been arguing against step functions all along. But certainly we have moved from 7-10% truly independent BS.

    We know that twice that percent split the ticket between House and President.

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  224. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    That long comment has just too many things I did not say, in attempt to move goalposts, I think.

    Are we done yet?

    I mean do you want to go on arguing that an external observer can look at a few election returns, and can reclassify independents, based on that small sample and imperfect question to be “closet partisans?”

    I think we’ve seen not, six ways to Sunday.

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  225. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    That long comment has just too many things I did not say, in attempt to move goalposts, I think.

    What part of your argument did I misrepresent?

    I mean do you want to go on arguing that an external observer can look at a few election returns, and can reclassify independents, based on that small sample and imperfect question to be “closet partisans?”

    What people in this thread and the other threads that touched on this issue meant when saying most independents are closet partisan was that a large percentage of people that self identify as independent have behaviors (donations and voting) indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.
    You have focused your view of independent on answers to survey questions (particularly the CBS poll) rather than by behaviors (donations and voting patterns). Both tell us something. I think actions speak louder than words.
    When looking at how people have voted in the past several elections one can with a high degree of confidence predict how they will vote in the next election. Those patterns tend to stay constant as a variety of studies referenced above have shown. Whether you choose to call that a closet partisan or a closet reliable voter or simply a repeat voter is a semantic issue rather than a substantive one.

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  226. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    What part of your argument did I misrepresent?

    Well, if you said this below, you were obviously not following my arguments:

    Yet defining down partisan to the point that it applies to less than half of the people actually elected to the House and Senate is entirely reasonable?

    And this:

    What people in this thread and the other threads that touched on this issue meant when saying most independents are closet partisan was that a large percentage of people that self identify as independent have behaviors (donations and voting) indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.

    Seriously, a step function?

    That’s what it takes to be “indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.”

    And we certainly know something more now. We know that in New Mexico there are really, authentic partisans that DO vote a party ticket:

    In New Mexico, 23 percent of the ballots cast in 2010 were straight ticket votes for the Democratic Party , while 18 percent were Republican STVs. Despite the difference, the GOP still won control of New Mexico’s governorship and the secretary of state’s office.

    Such partisans are not truly rare or imaginary. They are however a minority, 20% at each end, 40% of the total … leaving 60% to be various shades of non-partisan.

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  227. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    When looking at how people have voted in the past several elections one can with a high degree of confidence predict how they will vote in the next election. Those patterns tend to stay constant as a variety of studies referenced above have shown. Whether you choose to call that a closet partisan or a closet reliable voter or simply a repeat voter is a semantic issue rather than a substantive one.

    This suffers a couple problems that we’ve mentioned above. Analysis is seldom on the whole ticket. It typically reduces to a single-office view (like President) for just a few cycles.

    Ever hear the expression “You could not step twice into the same river”?

    You need the same river for your predictive assertion.

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  228. john personna says:

    @this:

    BTW, since this keeps getting lost, I’ll expand on the meaning of this:

    leaving 60% to be various shades of non-partisan.

    If we believe in continuous functions then that 40% which voted a straight ticket would be a full partisan, P=1.0

    Someone who voted 90% with a party would be a “Mostly partisan” (as stated above), P=0.9

    And so on, until we get to P=0.0 which would have to go to someone absolutely random in their loyalty.

    At no point do we find an “independent” that is “indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.”

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  229. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Well, if you said this below, you were obviously not following my arguments:

    Yet defining down partisan to the point that it applies to less than half of the people actually elected to the House and Senate is entirely reasonable?

    You said:

    Someone who claims not to be a member of party X, but defends the candidates and positions of party X every time, and opposes the candidates positions of party Y every time.

    Most members of the House and Senate do not defend their party’s position every time, neither do most oppose the candidates position of the opposition party every time. Certainly if we are looking back over more than the past couple of years this evident. 100% compliance is not a reasonable standard. Perhaps that’s not what you meant, but it is what you said.

    Seriously, a step function?

    That’s what it takes to be “indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.”

    No, it does not, no matter how many times you say it. There are self professed Democrats and Republicans that occasionally contribute to and vote for the opposition (my mother and step father to name two). There are self professed independents that vote and if they contribute do so to a single party (Tillman to name one). There is enough overlap in the voting and contributing behaviors of a large portion of self professed independents with self professed partisans that you would not be able to statistically disentangle them. Thus, they are behaviorally indistinguishable from the Democrats or Republicans that they side with repeatedly in elections.

    This suffers a couple problems that we’ve mentioned above. Analysis is seldom on the whole ticket. It typically reduces to a single-office view (like President) for just a few cycles.

    Ever hear the expression “You could not step twice into the same river”?

    You need the same river for your predictive assertion.

    Yet, somehow those predictions bear out time after time. Amazing, isn’t it. I’m still betting you’ll vote D for president in 2016, unless you pull the other lever to spite me ;-)
    @john personna:
    Unless we add to that what each person professes to be (your metric). Then if we see self professed Democrats at say 0.8 and self professed independents also at 0.8. There we have people that claim different political stances, yet are indistinguishable by the metric that matters most, their votes.

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  230. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I did not follow your digression to “people actually elected to the House and Senate” at all. Certainly no argument I ever made involved them, other than to say that voters reside in a position space, and politicians and parties may position themselves within it too.

    No, it does not, no matter how many times you say it. There are self professed Democrats and Republicans that occasionally contribute to and vote for the opposition (my mother and step father to name two).

    Prove that.

    Remember, an output of a probability function is not a probability.

    Remember Heraclitus — ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’

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  231. john personna says:

    Note on this:

    There is enough overlap in the voting and contributing behaviors of a large portion of self professed independents with self professed partisans that you would not be able to statistically disentangle them.

    That is actually a restatement of my claim, that at the margin voters are very similar. That is NOT a restatement of your position that:

    a large percentage of people that self identify as independent have behaviors (donations and voting) indistinguishable from Democrats and Republicans.

    When you use the plural form you are arguing medians, that independents are like who Republicans or Democrats, who often vote straight tickets in party loyalty.

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  232. john personna says:

    Perhaps you do not understand basic probability.

    If you have a sack containing white and black balls, and you draw out 3 black balls in a row, what is the chance of the next ball being black?

    Human nature tends to rate it high, when in fact the mathematical answer, the true answer, is that you have no idea. The problem is unbounded.

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  233. john personna says:

    By the way,

    The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday, 359 to 67, to approve a $1.1 trillion spending bill for the current fiscal year, shrugging off the angry threats of Tea Party activists and conservative groups whose power has ebbed as Congress has moved toward fiscal cooperation.

    This is exactly what we’d expect to happen if we believed that the GOP believed the falling voter identification numbers.

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  234. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    I did not follow your digression to “people actually elected to the House and Senate” at all. Certainly no argument I ever made involved them

    You gave a definition of closet partisan that required 100% agreement on all points with the party they were a closet partisan for as well as 100% disagreement with candidates of the opposition party. I assume that your definition for an open partisan is at least as stringent, it would be ridiculous for it to not be. People elected to office for their parties are open partisans. Your definition of partisan is so stringent that even open partisans are not as lock step as is required for your definition.

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  235. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    When you use the plural form you are arguing medians, that independents are like who Republicans or Democrats

    The independents are like the group they vote with. You are for some reason assuming that Democratic partisans vote straight ticket Democrat every time and Republican partisans vote straight ticket Republican every time. That is simply not the case. There are substantial numbers of self professed independents that vote as lock step or even moreso than professed partisans. Those self professed independents are not distinguishable in BEHAVIOR from self professed partisans.

    You seem to be operating under the assumption that these voters probable behavior follows their professed label of independent. The data in the studies referenced runs counter to that claim.

    My disagreementt with you isn’t that there is some distribution of probable voting habits, but that SELF IDENTIFICATION as an independent doesn’t tell us near so much as you think it does. A sizable chunk and given the data it looks like a majority of independents have voting habits that are not distinguishable from the people who self identify with the party that they vote with repeatedly.

    *nested within your definition of closet partisan

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  236. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Voting is not drawing a random lot. It is not that I misunderstand probability, but that you seem to misunderstand human nature. You assume for purposes of your argument that all self professed independents fall more to the middle of the probability distribution and self professed partisans fall to the tails. In reality there is not likely a nice bell curve but a very clumpy distribution and the clumps on either end contain both self professed partisans and self professed independents.

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  237. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    That would mean, by your definition of partisan nested within your definition of closet partisan, that those Republicans were not partisan. Maybe only mostly partisan.

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  238. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    A couple of real world examples on this clumpy distribution of voters:
    Most tea party groups and tea partiers self identify as independent.
    Southern Democrats self identify as Democrats.
    Which of those two groups do you think would be more likely to split a ticket?

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  239. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    This rejects my continuous appeal to the continuous function. Thus it is an unserious or deceptive argument. Yes, there are full partisans, but in your original argument you did not distinguish between full and slight partisans.

    In fact if you had opened with the idea that people toward the center were partisan in a smaller degree than people further out, this would have been over.

    You would not have made crazy claims like independents being indistinguishable from party members.

    You would have immediately understood that loosely attached voters are less partisan than straight ticket voters.

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  240. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I explicitly did not say all party members are straight ticket voters. I fact I gave actual results from the field which are not that.

    I did say straight ticket voting is as partisan as you can get, voting. By definition.

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  241. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    You miss the point of the questions.

    The output, the vote, cannot tell you the probability unless you have a very constrained system and sufficient samples to characterize that system.

    A President election is different every time, and only happens every four years. That’s the reason no one can make distant predictions.

    That’s the reason Nate Silver put out new numbers every week in response to new data. He wasn’t predicting the far future, he was tracking changes right up to election day.

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  242. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    This rejects my continuous appeal to the continuous function. Thus it is an unserious or deceptive argument. Yes, there are full partisans, but in your original argument you did not distinguish between full and slight partisans….You would have immediately understood that loosely attached voters are less partisan than straight ticket voters.

    Because those were not the labels I was using. I referred to reliable voters because of how narrowly you were defining partisan (100% compliance 100% of the time).
    Part of the confusion is because three ways of grouping people have been used here: self identification, behavior, and issue polling. In the self identification classification we had Democrats and Republicans making up the partisan ends and small i independents making up the supposed center. Then in the behavior camp we have voting patterns. Finally in the position polling we have another more complex metric. All of those measures have some value. I haven’t taken issue, or not much issue, with that final metric. Where I have taken issue is with the value you seem to place on self identification vs behavior. Yes people have a variety of personally held views and yes some of those may not fit neatly within party platforms. What matters most at the end of the day is how they act on those beliefs. Several studies linked in this thread and others show that most voters have consistent voting patterns regardless of whether they tell a pollster they are affiliated with a party or independent. Those same studies show that just because someone calls themselves an independent, does not mean they don’t vote like either a Democrat or a Republican. Expanding on my tea party example: we have a large group if tea partiers that self identify as independent, yet make up the most partisan tail of the Republican party. Can you not see how their self identification is in direct conflict with their actual behaviors? On the other hand you have Southern Democrats, that self identify as Democrats (thus they are by common usage partisans), yet they are much more likely to compromise and as voters much more likely to split a ticket and so behave more independently than the self professed independents of the tea party.
    Why people choose a party either openly or operationally is a complex process. It is partly based not only on gross numbers of positions they hold that are in party platforms, but by which of those positions they hold most closely. This is the part that you seem to elevate to primary importance and assume rational calculations based on this going in to each election*. There are other factors that confound these and make predictions based thereon dicey. People are creatures of habit. The political preference of the parent, at least early in life, is a much better predictor of how they will vote than answers to issue polling. Those voting patterns once established, tend to be pretty constant unless there is a major upheaval, such as what happened with civil rights legislation and the adoption of the Southern strategy by the GOP. Absent such major upheavals society changes more gradually and the political parties are carried along with the rest of us, leaving largely unquestioned voting patterns intact.

    * I wish this were the case. Our democracy would be a much healthier place if people actively evaluated their positions on a wide variety of issues and voted for the candidates that most closely aligned with that rational evaluation. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the world we live in.

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  243. Grewgills says:

    You miss the point of the questions.

    The output, the vote, cannot tell you the probability unless you have a very constrained system and sufficient samples to characterize that system.

    A President election is different every time, and only happens every four years. That’s the reason no one can make distant predictions.

    Yet predictions based on exactly that provide results that correlate very strongly with that supposedly unpredictable outcome. People are creatures of habit, not coins to be flipped or marbles to be plucked from a sack.

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  244. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Each time that I asked if we are done, I reminded that this was about the assertion that most independents were closet partisans.

    Over many posts I reminded that this was not a step function, it was continuous, and the accepted definition of a partisan was a high bar.

    I have also explained the limits to prediction given both a small sample and an unconstrained system.

    Perhaps finally we are done.

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  245. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Each time that I asked if we are done, I reminded that this was about the assertion that most independents were closet partisans.

    and each time I remind you that despite self identification the voting behavior of most independents overlaps nearly completely with self identified members of of one party or the other. Self identification as an independent means less than you think it does and past voting behavior tells us more than you think it does.

    Over many posts I reminded that this was not a step function, it was continuous, and the accepted definition of a partisan was a high bar.

    and I reminded you that your definition of partisan was not the one being used by those you argued with and even changed terminology to accurately reflect their behaviors as reliable voters for a particular party (sometimes moreso than declared members of that party) despite claims of being independent.

    I have also explained the limits to prediction given both a small sample and an unconstrained system.

    Yet the predictions of future voting behavior based on past voting behavior are born out time and again. Why do you think that is?
    To help you along:
    1) Our political parties rarely change rapidly
    2) Each individual’s choice is not a lot (random pick)
    3) Choosing one party’s candidate for president three or more elections in a row indicates a preference
    4) Taking this back to the black marble, white marble analogy: If one blindly reaches into the bag** and pulls a marble then one cannot with any reliability predict what the next marble will be regardless of the length of the streak* and to say one could is not rational If, however, the bag is open and the person chooses the color of the marble they grab and proceeds to choose three black marbles in a row*** that is a different situation. In that situation, the longer the streak, the greater the predictive value, particularly if the availability of the chosen marbles doesn’t diminish with each choosing.

    * Assuming we don’t know how many marbles of each color are in the bag.
    ** that is the unstated assumption of your model
    *** or three white marbles in a row

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  246. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    We are probably the last two here and the only ones stubborn enough to keep this going, so perhaps we should just agree to disagree.

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  247. john personna says:

    I remind you that despite self identification the voting behavior of most independents overlaps nearly completely with self identified members of of one party or the other.

    You have claimed that, but you have never shown that, from data.

    Do you have information on what percentage of independents do Straight Ticket Votes for one party or the other?

    Since the number of Straight Ticket Votes is below the number of registered party members it seems straightforward to me that these would be members, of the most dedicated type.

    We also know that there are a high percentage of ticket splitters. Do you have data to show that registered party members do this as often as independents?

    Again, the number of ticket splitters looks reasonable, pulling mostly from independents, but also from loosely connected party members.

    The whole argument is nothing but your personal assurance that independents are just like party members.

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  248. john personna says:

    Yet the predictions of future voting behavior based on past voting behavior are born out time and again.

    There I’ll just refer any interested party to Tetlock and Taleb.

    I, and I think most informed observers, would call the record of political prediction, especially at non-trivial distance into the future, very very poor.

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  249. john personna says:

    I on the other hand do have data to illustrate the diversity and nonalignment of independent voters, from Arizona:

    Arizona’s independent voters have eclipsed Democrats in number and are rapidly gaining on Republicans, but those expecting this group to wield political influence are likely to be disappointed, a nonpartisan research group contends.

    That’s because independents are a diverse group that doesn’t fall in line with one political party or have a consistent set of beliefs, according to Thinking Arizona, a Tucson-based organization run by Richard Gilman, former publisher of The Boston Globe.

    “It’s very hard to design a position or a platform or an approach that’s going to appeal to all of these people,” Gilman said in a telephone interview.

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  250. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    What you quoted re Arizona is opinion, not data. The only nugget of data in there is that self reports of independent status is on the rise in Arizona.
    The data you have presented from the CBS poll does not contradict my hypothesis. The links provided by Tillman and others supports my hypothesis better than it supports yours. Unfortunately there isn’t any smoking gun data available to incontrovertably prove things one way or the other.

    I notice you didn’t address the nominally independent tea party voters and the nominally partisan Southern Democrats as a real world example of self identified independents being more partisan than self identified partisans. These are non trivial sized groups that provide support for my hypothesis.

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  251. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    It is a report from data. Which is better than bland assurance.

    There is also this Pew Study, which is complicated, but I think it ultimately supports my case. They think they can divide independents into groups independent of party registration (or non). They then say how those groups map to party identity.

    A Libertarian is different than a Post-Modern in their system, and they have different ratios of Republicans, independents and Democrats in the groups.

    Thus the contention that:

    Those self professed independents are not distinguishable in BEHAVIOR from self professed partisans.

    Is both false and not a useful reduction.

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  252. john personna says:

    That should have been:

    They think they can divide [voters] into groups independent of party registration (or non).

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  253. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    Notice how they put the self identified independent tea party in the staunchly conservative mostly republican camp. Doesn’t it bother you that they put those self identified independents, into the camp of one political party? They are your peeps and it seems they are saying that large group of self identified independents are deluded or liars and shudder to think indistinguishable from partisan republicans in their behavior.

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  254. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Actually, that’s not a fair question to me, since none of those sets are pure. Teas are not all independents.

    In Sept. 2013 this poll found that Teas identified as 38% Republicans, 25% Independents, and 6% Democrats.

    In fact, more Teas identify as Republicans than identify as independents.

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  255. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    They are your peeps and it seems they are saying that large group of self identified independents are deluded or liars and shudder to think indistinguishable from partisan republicans in their behavior.

    Dude, seriously?

    I can say calmly that you haven’t shown that from the data, at all.

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  256. john personna says:

    Let’s try some math. 8% of voters identify as Teas. Of those 25% identify as independent. I think that means 0.08 times 0.25 or 0.02 of the whole population are “independent teas.”

    2% of the overall population are “independent teas.”

    Did I do that right?

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  257. john personna says:

    The high water mark for Tea identification was 24% in 2010. Assuming the ratios were the same, then 0.24 times 0.25 or 6 percent of the whole were independent Teas.

    That’s a pretty small slice to use to lambaste independents in general. At the same time there were 38% nationally of independents.

    6/38 * 100 = 16 percent of independents were Teas.

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  258. john personna says:

    Those numbers are all self-consistent with self-reports, aren’t they?

    No one needs to be lying or delusional.

    We don’t need to make that up.

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  259. bains says:

    James, I think the distinction is appropriate. However, far too often this site, and the media focus upon the Ted Cruz’s while ignoring all those of the left who also do not seek accord, who in fact enter every event with a “battle plan.”

    As your contributor Steven Taylor noted, when referencing Conor Friedersdorf’s article mocking Rush Limbaugh in the Atlantic (a left of center libertarian writing in a left wing publication), “This [my team right or wrong] is a microcosm of how far too many view politics.” To blast the Ted Cruz’s of politics without acknowledging that there is an equally divisive and combative counterpart on the left leaves you, and this site, open to the wholly accurate critique of political favoritism.

    Admittedly, rehashing the political equivalent of chicken verses egg may be a good parlor game – especially when your parlor is filled with your choir – it still is politically fruitless. Taking down the Ted Cruz’s will not eliminate the rancor until your side is equally willing to call out the Debbie Wasserman-Schlutz, the Nancy Pelosis, the Harry Reids, and yes the Barack Obamas.

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  260. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    Actually, that’s not a fair question to me, since none of those sets are pure. Teas are not all independents.

    Most tea party groups claim to be small i independent. Surely you recognize that they aren’t really small i independent, rather they are the right wing of the republican party. The ‘staunchly conservative’ category in Pew survey you linked are classified as “highly engaged tea party supporters.”
    From the Pew poll 25% of self identified independents support the tea party and 21% of self identified independents actively oppose the tea party, so nearly half of independents have a strong opinion one way or another on the group that most strongly guided the republican party at the time of the polling. That is stronger support for my hypothesis than it is for yours.
    The level of R/i/D that had no opinion or neutral opinion on the teas was 55/54/43.
    The 6% who claim to be Democrats and support the tea party is odd. To actually support both requires a rather startling level of cognitive dissonance or ignorance of what one or both stand for.

    2% of the overall population are “independent teas.”

    Did I do that right?

    Short answer no. Longer answer: 38+25+6=69 leaves 31% unaccounted for. That raised a red flag. Going to the survey I see why. Those numbers are the percentage of Republicans, independents, and Democrats that support the tea party. So 25% of independents support the tea party. The tea party represents the far right of the republican party, therefor you have 25% of independents supporting the far right wing of the Republican party. That leaves them either deluded (not understanding what the tea party actually represents) or claiming to be independent for some reason other than what party they actually support.

    As the movement has aged and it has become increasingly obvious that the tea party is the right fringe of the republican party, party identification has shifted more to republicans. Yet even at this late date 40% of the membership of the tea party self identify as independent* and most tea party organizations are nominally independent. Again, this is more supportive of my hypothesis than it is of yours.

    * from CBS news poll

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  261. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Huh? The poll you quote ALSO says most Teas are Republicans.

    Republican 54%
    Democrat 5
    Independent 41

    It does NOT say most independents are Teas.

    Some basic logic here.

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  262. john personna says:

    At this point I have no expectation that you respect data.

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  263. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:

    It does NOT say most independents are Teas.

    Sigh, neither did I.

    I see you entirely ignore that 25% of independents support the far right wing of the Republican party (the tea party). You also conveniently dismiss 4 of 10 tea party members (far right Republicans) being self identified independents. Then you have the nerve to say I’m the one failing to respect the data.

    The tea party is transparently partisan. A large cohort within the tea party (40%) are self identified independents. A large cohort of self identified independents (25%) support this nakedly partisan far right organization. This shows that, as I and others have stated, a large cohort of self identified independents are indeed closet partisans. You have vehemently denied this repeatedly.

    Self identification as independent means less than you think it does.

    PS you have still failed to acknowledge your entirely wrong reading of the polling data.

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  264. Grewgills says:

    BTW now that it is a long weekend I decided to dig into the numbers of the groups in the Pew poll you linked. I went through all the groups and pulled out partisans and leaners. The results across all of the Pew groups is:
    Republicans and leaners = 42.43%
    Democrats and leaners = 48.12% (close to Romney’s 47% unreachable number)
    independents (no lean) = 9.45% (damn close to 10% ‘true independents’)

    Who is ignoring the data now?

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  265. Grewgills says:

    More from the Pew poll you linked:

    In recent years, the public has become increasingly averse to partisan labels. Pew Research Center polling over the first quarter of 2011 finds 37% of Americans identifying as independents, up from 30% in 2005 and 35% last year. Over the past 70 years, the only other time that independent identification reached a similar level was in 1992, the year when Ross Perot was a popular independent presidential candidate.

    The growing rejection of partisan identification does not imply a trend toward political moderation, however. In fact, the number of people describing their political ideology as moderate has, if anything, been dropping.

    and

    While a majority of New Coalition Democrats identify with the Democratic Party, many consider themselves independents (though most say they lean toward the Democratic Party).

    and

    The voting behavior of the typology groups in the past two election cycles is consistent with each group’s underlying partisan leanings

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