Democrats: Don’t Get Too Excited For 2014

Yes, the GOP is taking a bath in its poll numbers recently thanks to plunging the government into chaos due to a foot-stomping hissy fit. But Nate Silver (i.e., the dude who correctly called the electoral result in all 50 states last year) is on hand to throw cold water on anyone tempted to read too much into the long-term electoral effects of the shutdown, presuming it is, in fact, coming to a close sometime relatively soon. If you’re the sort currently salivating at the prospect of the Democrats taking back the House in a year, you should probably give it a close read.

I think what Silver has to say here is probably pretty close to reality, although I would branch off from his point six here to note that I think where the real action will be in 2014 is within the GOP itself, and whether the establishment GOP folks are going to finally attempt to punt out the Tea Party GOPers in the primaries. Whether or not the shutdown will have a large electoral impact in 2014, the actual constitution of the GOP’s legislative host (and how well they can be controlled) is going to matter to the people running the party, which is to say, the ones who would probably like a little organization in their organization.

I’m not going to lie when I say that’s probably going to be fun to watch, in the “get the popcorn, people whose politics I largely disagree with are thumping on each other” sort of way. I’m also not going to lie when I say that on balance I think it’s probably better for everyone if the GOP establishment does, in fact, shove the Tea Party types back into a hole. Regardless of their politics, their process boils down to destruction. Indeed, in a very real sense, it doesn’t matter what your politics are, if your process is to grind the world to a halt if you can’t get everything you want.

Which is to say that if what we end up with in 2014 is the House still in GOP hands, but the House GOP comprised of more people who understand and actually care about governance than exist in it today, that’ll count as a victory in my book. The GOP likes to say it’s the party of grown-ups, but unfortunately that’s not true, nor has it been for a while. It would be nice if it started walking toward that direction again, however.

97 thoughts on “Democrats: Don’t Get Too Excited For 2014

  1. Better for the Democrats than if the GOP wasn’t taking a bath on the shutdown. No guarantees, but as someone said about getting older: “it beats the alternative.”

    Note: this is solely a comment about the politics of this, as opposed to the unholy awfulness of the policy side, where the GOP is driving the nation off a cliff in a fit of rampant tantrumness.

  2. Scalzi, as a former Republican, the GOP hasn’t been the “Party of Grown-Ups” since they went all mystical bullshit and voted for Reagan! Nixon may have been History’s Worst President – but even he understood what it meant to be “President”, and in light of every Republican President (including Unelected President Cheney!) since him who seem to assume “President = Absolute Monarch” suddenly doesn’t look so bad (pathetic in letting his ambition ride him like a saytr, but not so bad).

  3. We can only hope the TeaParty goes away! I have asked this many times over 20 years and never heard anyone come up with an answer that made me stop and consider for a moment: Name one time in history when an ultra conservative society did ANYTHING to help its people and move the culture forward?

  4. Much agreement from me, Mr. Scalzi. I tend to be somewhere to the left of Asoka, but I know that no governance comes without compromise and synthesis, of opposite — not opposing — ideas coming together to find collaborative solutions. (The Five Nations Constitution has some excellent observations on governance.) I’m not ever likely to vote conservative, but there is something to be said for the injection of conservative ideas into policy discourse.

    Mind, what we have now, even without the Tea Party, is not quite this ideal….

  5. So what if they kicked those people out of teh GOP? Just say, you can’t call yourself Republican? And run their own party. Either A) we end up with a viable third party for the first time since Lincoln or B) We win with “Grown Up” Republicans

  6. Luna: I am not of either party, but I have a suspicion that the White House will also end up with a Republican again come 2014.

    Not particularly likely, since the next Presidential election is in 2016.

    And I think the Republicans have cleared their bench of ALL the moderates, even down to the local level. They might try again in 2016.

    vmink: I’m not ever likely to vote conservative, but there is something to be said for the injection of conservative ideas into policy discourse.

    Doubly agreed. I’m very much liberal, treading into progressive, but I’m pragmatic, too; if there are some good ideas, based on practical experiences, I have listen to them. (But none of this ideology only stuff; that’s a flaw whether you’re Republican or Democratic).

  7. NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Right, we need to get an army of ten million liberals, rent antique pitchforks, buy some torches, and overrun DC to ride Ted Cruz out on a rail and forcibly retire Congress. I see no other workable options at this point.

  8. Thanks for posting this, because Nate Silver is always interesting! BUT, John, how can you say this is going to be fun to watch? Whether one is Republican, Democrat, or whatever (That’s YOU,John.) , we are all affected by this dysfunctional political maneuvering, and it is not a pretty picture, whether it is my husband, who cannot get new recorded books for the blind, or the widow of a servicemen killed in the Mideast, or a family whose trip of a lifetime to see the Grand Canyon just was ruined, or a scientist whose potentially life-saving research has been interrupted, or______________(fill in the blank with YOUR story.). And it won’t stop when the government opens again.

  9. The main problem is that State Legislatures in Red States (like Florida) have been redistricting like crazy to gerrymander”safe districts” for Tea Party-types. My Representative (and I say that with a large, dejected sigh) comes from a district that used to be a bit more centrist, but because of some jiggering to include more conservative counties in the Panhandle, is now safely GOP for the forseeable future and he’s one of the crazies that don’t want any compromise.

    Before someone gets too eager to correct me, yes, Democrats have engaged in the same practice over the years, but they’ve never had quite the success (if you want to call what we’re going through now a success) that the current Tea Party-oriented Legislatures are having with it. Until someone can convince all these folks to go back to more evenly matched districts, the “safe” ones will probably create the same headaches in 2014 that we’re experiencing now. The funny thing about it is that the so-called “mainstream” GOP’ers are the one who have to deal directly with the Tea Party loonies and try to craft some sort of “unity” out of it, which is why we’re in the place we’re in today.

  10. Fundamentally, munching on popcorn and watching a train wreck is only feasible if you’re a spectator; the situation’s a lot different if you’re on the train. And I think the only ones on the entire bloody planet who aren’t on the train for this one are the notional little green men in the scoutships from Planet Zygort.

  11. @ Bruce K: No, the little green men from Zygort think that this train wreck is a tragedy/horror movie. The Evil Gollarks from the Planet Zog are preparing to invade while we are weakened by infighting. The Avenging Mabels of Mopbucket are on their way to save us, but given that they look like Eosapiens from a Wayne Barlowe book, we’re likely to reject their help out of xenophobia.

    http://waynebarlowe.wordpress.com/artwork/expedition/

    The ones who think that this is funny are the Goa’uld, because they’re secretly running the show. NOW WE KNOW WHY SENATOR CRUZ IS SO OVER-THE-TOP!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. The problem is that the Republican Tea Party isn’t “practical” or “good” – they’re a bunch of raving ideologues who can’t be reasoned with!

    We need to DESTROY the current Right – so a True LOYAL Opposition can arise….

  13. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved the One-Party System.

  14. The more traditional factions within the party might finally be ready to accept that the tea party folks aren’t good for them as a party, but the question is “so what?” Maybe they’ll be able to redirect things. Maybe they won’t. The Cruz types may just have enough support within their crazily-drawn districts and on the national level to keep themselves from being booted out of the whole operation.

  15. One word: gerrymandering. It makes it almost impossible for an incumbent to be unseated, unless it’s from a challenger from within the same party. It’s why the moderate GOPers are so afraid of being “primaried”. They’re not afraid of the Democrats in Congressional races. They’re afraid of the far right tea party of coming in and unseating them.

  16. Eventually–no time soon, I pray–a Republican will be elected president; it’d be awfully nice if the GOP were to regain some of its sanity before then. If the 2014 election results in a Republican House that moves toward the center, that’d be a hopeful sign. As much as I hate to say it, a sane GOP is more important to the future health of the US than who wins the House in 2014.

    Unfortunately, I think the GOP has to hit bottom before it starts moving toward moderation, and despite all appearances, I don’t think it’s there yet. The GOP is dominant in lots of states, and hasn’t shown signs of reforming in states where it isn’t. Consider that the Republicans have been all but disenfranchised in the California state government, but that hasn’t stopped the Tea Party from insisting that further movement to the right is the cure for all the GOP’s ills. For historical precedent, consider how long it took the Democratic Party to regain some semblance of viability after its long-term partnership between working people and southern segregationists broke down. This regaining of sanity, if it happens, is going to play out across decades, during a time when we should be addressing other critical issues. The Republican Party picked a hell of a time to give up smoking crack.

  17. IMO, the GOP will continue to hold onto seats in the House, but if they think they can capture the presidency with a Tea Party type, they’re dreaming. Not one GOP president in modern times can really be considered ultra-conservative, and when they tried things that might seem so, they got slapped down. (Like W and his attempt to partially privatize SS).

    If they were get enraptured on too much oolong and nominate one, they’d find out the difference between a gerrymandered district and a nation.

  18. No surprises in Silver’s writeup and his third point is the most salient. Swing seats just aren’t in plentiful supply.

    While I’d like to retake the House, I think it’s unlikely though the Republican majority might be shaved back a bit. However, what I think the shutdown has done is to increase the chances of the Dems keeping the Senate and White House since it’s apparent that the Republicans continue to wallow in right wing dreamland and the shutdown has likely made the moderate Rs and moderate to conservative Ds wary of giving that party anymore power.

    However, 2014 is a ways off, 2016 even further and the electorate has a notoriously short memory. We’ll see.

  19. Regardless of their politics, their process boils down to destruction.

    Some people just want to see the world burn.

    (Preferably using fossil fuel extracted from ANWAR, haha)

  20. I’m still a little baffled at the heat being tossed the Tea Party’s way.

    For my lifetime, Washington has budgeted based on an assumed and automatic 3-5% annual increase. Then they would increase spending from that point onward.

    Any increase smaller than the 3-5% was considered a cut.

    And then there is the inability to close a government office and layoff the workers for programs that had either failed or completed their objective.

    It is reasonable to ask for “a little less government” please. It is reasonable to ask that long term spending strategies be limited by realistic economics.

    Yet that perspective was ignored for most of my lifetime. The current tactics…which do not please me at all…are the logical result of ignoring reasonable positions about limiting the size and scope of the federal government.

    If folks don’t want to respond to reasonable positions, then unreasonable ones will follow.

    The football field really is 100 yards long and all of it is available for use.

    Government can get smaller every year for a while. Or at least, it can get no larger for a while as the economy catches up.

    As with 1994, the 2010 elections were a response to the arrogance of the left in using only half the field. Gerrymandering has been done for decades by the left. Why wouldn’t it be used by the folks on the right? Questioning the humanity of their opponents has been used for decades by the left. Why shouldn’t the right start using similarly hard-balled tactics?

    Sauce for the goose and all that….

    Regards,
    Dann

  21. This is definitely true. It’s unlikely we’ll take the House. That said, Nate’s predictions are pretty far out, and he’s been wrong before, especially when the prediction requires more guess work than basic poll aggregation and modeling.

    For another look, here’s Princeton Election Consortium’s Sam Wang (a pretty baller election statistician in his own right) arguing that the Dems taking the House is more likely than some are perhaps considering.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/08/republicans-could-lose-their-house-majority-because-of-the-shutdown/

  22. As one of the handful of self-identified Republicans around here I have a briefly bit of throat-clearing to get out of the way, so this comment can be taken for what is intended: (a) I’m 100% for gay marriage/gay adoption; (b) I think the current tactic of shutting down the government is stupid and I’m against it; (c) although I’m no fan of this President and am opposed to almost anything he’s suggested, I do not buy into any of the illegitimate/birther nonsense.

    That said, the establishment GOP doesn’t want to the Tea Party to go anywhere. It’s the price of power. If the GOP Establishment is trying to distance itself from the Tea Party, it’s only going to do in narrow constraints (going after Ted Cruz personally), it’s not going to go after the whole thing because the Tea Party folks will stay home in 2014 if it comes to all out fratricide. Boehner is trying to thread the needle here and is probably doing about a good a job as he can of trying to limit the worst excesses of the Tea Party while trying to keep the Tea Party voters showing up at the polls.

    No political party would ever — probably never has — hack off an effective 15% of their base when that base has shown it can deliver seats in Congress. (Sure, the gerrymander of states in the South has helped a lot on this, but there are lots of marginal seats where the Tea Party has probably made the difference). But if the Dems were to get that kind of a boost from the worst excesses of the Occupy movement, Nancy Pelosi would be doing the same thing, trying to figure out how to shut down the noisiest or most obnoxious of them while trying to keep the core part of that constituency happy. Pelosi would never purge a slice of the party if it was going to keep her in power no matter what the underlying message of that wing of the party was. Not because she’s evil or wrong, but because she’s the head of an institution.

    And trying to read much more than an institutional level of wisdom (i.e., very very small) into the internal debates of a party is probably not much of a useful exercise. The Party (the GOP here, but pick your party) will make the choices it has to make to stay in power. And unless the Dems make huge gains in a lot of purpley states in 2020, picking up governors and legislative houses, this is likely the general position of the GOP until 2022. Try to carefully titrate the perceived involvement of the Tea Party all the while jonesing for as much of a hit of main line Tea Party involvement as it can find.

  23. “Nate Silver (i.e., the dude who correctly called the electoral result in all 50 states last year)”

    Gah, et tu, Scalzi? He put out probabilities, and some coin flips went the way he had set a very slight probability for. The way you put it makes it sound like, if the coin flips went the other way, he’d have less credibility, which isn’t how probabilities work. Obviously, this doesn’t matter for the past since it worked out, but I twitch a little every time I see something like this. It makes it sound like his future credibility hinges on coin flips going the right way again next time.

  24. One word: gerrymandering. It makes it almost impossible for an incumbent to be unseated, unless it’s from a challenger from within the same party

    It’s not clear that gerrymandering is what is doing it. I know that’s the popular conception, but political scientists are particularly sure. See here for a discussion:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/10/09/gerrymandering-didnt-break-the-house/

    and here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/10/09/did-republican-gerrymandering-cause-the-government-shutdown/

    I’m still a little baffled at the heat being tossed the Tea Party’s way.

    You know what? There’s a discussion potentially worth having about spending and debt. It’s not a discussion worth having when the Tea Partiers have pulled the pin on the grenade and demanded concessions in return for putting the pin back.

  25. I have to chuckle when someone compares the Tea Party to OWS. Tell me, where is the OWS Caucus in the House? Oh right…THERE ISN’T ONE!

    Where are the cops macing and brutalizing peaceful Tea Party gatherings? What’s that? You say it never happened?

  26. Agreed on all points. I’d love to see the GOP being reasonable again. The incredible fury that fills the Tea Party’s sails is rather disconcerting in a wow-I’m-worried-about-civil-unrest-for-the-first-time-in-my-life way.

  27. Any increase smaller than the 3-5% was considered a cut.

    Given the population growth (1% per year) and inflation (2% per year), any increase under 3% is a cut in real dollars per person.

    It is reasonable to ask for “a little less government” please.

    Of course it is. But after you’ve asked for that, and people have voted for slightly more government (at least in regard to health care), it is unreasonable to shut down everything until you get your way.

    It is reasonable to ask that long term spending strategies be limited by realistic economics.

    The tea party isn’t saying, “let’s work to reduce the deficit”. They’re saying, “reduce spending in the ways we want or else.”

    If folks don’t want to respond to reasonable positions, then unreasonable ones will follow.

    The tea party members of congress are wealthy, educated people in positions of power. They are acting in ways that are hurting less wealthy people who don’t have any power. And your justification for this is that people didn’t listen to their ideas sooner?

    Gerrymandering has been done for decades by the left. Why wouldn’t it be used by the folks on the right? Questioning the humanity of their opponents has been used for decades by the left. Why shouldn’t the right start using similarly hard-balled tactics?

    Even if it were true that the left did those things first, I don’t really think “well they started it!” should be the basis for governing the most powerful country in the world.

  28. During the Roman Republic uncompromising, perversely unyielding positions in politics sometimes resulted in riots and open civil war. I can think of nothing better to represent the absence of compromise than the single word “Rubicon.”

  29. The reason a 3-5% increase was considered “a cut” was mostly inflation. And there are, economists tell me, sound technical reasons to prefer slight inflation to no inflation or deflation. But… Thing is, people who escalate from reasonable to unreasonable? That’s actually not reasonable. Framing it as an escalation from being ignored just tells us that we were probably right to ignore them, because we now know that they are at some very fundamental level unreasonable people.

    To put it another way: If you can’t convince people of the justice of your cause, and end up escalating to taking hostages, the chances are your cause is not actually just.

  30. “And then there is the inability to close a government office and layoff the workers for programs that had either failed or completed their objective.”

    And exactly which would those be?

  31. Important point on Nate Silver’s predictions is in December 2011 he was predicting Republicans were in good position to retake the Senate.

    This is not to cast aspersions on his (obviously high) predictive prowess. It’s only to emphasize the point that until we see a. what kind of farther right challengers incumbents have to face before facing a Democratic Party challenger or b. what else the Republican Party/Tea Party do to shoot themselves in the foot between now and late 2014 we’re still in “anything can happen” territory.

    I’m not optimistic the Democratic Party has the bench to effectively challenge GOP incumbents, or that disgust with incumbents will keep conservative voters home (as they’d never vote for a candidate who’d help Obama, even if said candidate was personally endorsed by Jesus and Ronald Reagan), but the many recent examples of jaw dropping fuckwittery among house members and the GOP does make things a tad more interesting.

  32. I think guessing at election results is a bit like throwing dice. With so many doing it, at least one person is likely to make the correct prediction each time. Doesn’t mean that person’s system is any more brilliant than anyone else’s or that they’ll be right next time.

    I’d like to see the Republicans lose large numbers of seats because of this, but I suspect the ones who pay the price may be the more moderate ones who sit in districts that are less polarized. Whether or not this shifts the house back to Democratic control, he Republicans who are left will likely be the most conservative and entrenched, as there is a core of Americans who are anti government, anti social justice and anti social program of any kind, and they’re backed by rich people (like the Koch brothers) for whom politics is some kind of twisted game.

  33. It is reasonable to ask for “a little less government” please. It is reasonable to ask that long term spending strategies be limited by realistic economics.

    You mean like agreeing to the budget numbers requested by House Republican members for the FY 2104 budget? Because, if you looked it up, you’d know that’s exactly what the Democrats in the Senate did. The Senate said “we want the government to be funded at this level”, and the House said “we want the government to be funded at this lower level”, and the Senate agreed. Back in March.

  34. “Nate Silver (i.e., the dude who correctly called the electoral result in all 50 states last year)”

    Gah, et tu, Scalzi? He put out probabilities, and some coin flips went the way he had set a very slight probability for. The way you put it makes it sound like, if the coin flips went the other way, he’d have less credibility, which isn’t how probabilities work. Obviously, this doesn’t matter for the past since it worked out, but I twitch a little every time I see something like this. It makes it sound like his future credibility hinges on coin flips going the right way again next time.

    As I recall, Nate Silver assigned Romney a 5 or 10% probability of victory. If Romney had won the election, which Silver’s model said could happen, Silver would not now currently be held in the same high regard that he currently is, even though it wouldn’t necessarily mean that he is a worse prognosticator than he is currently believed to be. It would just mean that the lower probability event happened after all. I’m not saying that Silver isn’t a good prognosticator, but we should keep in mind that we may be tempted to read a bit too much into our perceptions.

    I’m reminded a bit of the chapter about stock market gurus in John Allen Paulos’ A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

  35. I wish I believed that the less-crazy GOP members would kick out the Tea Party, but I’m not sure they can or would dare to. They all seem to be terrified of the Tea Party, and to be fair, their constituents do seem to like the extreme folks. Or to vote for them, anyway.

    I worry that the shutdown may actually help the crazier Republicans at the polls. These are the people who want less government, and by gosh, they got it – and they don’t seem to notice that it’s bad. These are the people who are now saying “see, we don’t need gov’t!” and declaring that it’s GOOD that biomedical research, the CDC, the FDA, etc. are suffering “because gov’t shouldn’t be doing that anyway.” These are people capable of voting for some seriously destructive policies.

  36. Dann —
    I am a pragmatist who was a Republican until the Christianist crazies took over in 1992. Now I am just disgusted. Other people have pointed out why 3-5% increases makes sense when you factor in inflation and population growth. I would like to point out that the explosion in the debt came about largely because Shrub and Cheney decided two unfunded wars, and an unfunded giveaway to Big Pharma (Medicare Part D) were a wonderful idea.

    TAXES, both personal and corporate, are at historically low levels. That is pretty much why we are running deficits. If the President had bit the bullet and simply let the Bush tax cuts expire, estimates were that we would be running a surplus in a very few years. So, let’s go back to the Clinton tax rates. Better, let’s go back to the St. Reagan tax rates!

    Instead, we have Very Serious People claiming that Social Security (which can be fixed for 75 years simply by eliminating the cap on FICA taxes) and Medicare are the source of our problems, rather than the bloated Pentagon budget, or the corporate welfare being given to some of the most profitable corporations on earth. And that allowing poor people to participate in health care by buying it from the same insurance companies who really DO have death panels, will somehow destroy the Republic.

    Sorry, reality bites, and there are fairly simple solutions to this if only we weren’t constrained by worshiping Grover Norquist’s butt.

  37. The pendulum always swings back to the center, but with gerrymandering and the current success of the Tea Party, there’s no reason to expect it to start in this next election. Until somebody figures out a way to counter the myth of the job creator, and point out that it’s middle-class spending that actually drives the economy, running to the right will continue to be successful.

  38. Jack M. – one of the earliest Welfare state setups was that introduced by the well known Communist, Otto von Bismarck in Germany in the 1840’s and after.

    Oops, my mistake, he was an imperialist conservative sort of aristocrat, but even he could see that it was a good idea to involve the workers in and give a slice of the profit to a welfare system. The basica idea was to head off all the socialists and suchlike who were agitating for decent pay and conditions.
    Of course the likes of Bismarck actually believed in society and the nation and the importance of (almost) everyone in it.
    A later example was in the UK, after the Boer war, Conservatives became more interested in welfare for poor people when they found that starved poor people suffering from rickets were oddly unable to fight properly to defend their country.

    (Those were also the days when the owning class, then mostly titled aristocracy, actually believed in sending their own sons off to war, for a whole host of reasons which are alien to the members of the modern owning class. In WW1 the British army ran out of posh people to be officers and had to promote plebs to the job instead, but oddly enough they could do the job just as well as the posh people who had thought it their birthright)

  39. On the theory of negotiations. The reason I know that the GOP is not serious about negotiating anything is when Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and the rest state frankly and up front. “No revenue increases will be considered.” That is simply another way to say, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is up for grabs.”

    You want to have a serious negotiation about the deficit and the debt? In my mind, you both sit down at the table, and start by agreeing at a yearly budget number. And also agree on where you want the debt to be in 10 years. THEN, once you have both agreed on the goal, which is policy neutral at this point, you sit down with the actual functioning of the US government, and start horsetrading on policy and programs. Revenue AND spending are part of the discussion.

    “OK, we’ll go along with chained CPI for SS increases, but you have to drop oil company subsidies. ” and so on.

    “We’ll lower the top corporate tax rate to 25%, but the carried-interest loophole goes, and we raise the estate tax to 50% on estates worth more than $50 million.”

    “We’ll drop the medical devices tax, but we’ll add a public option.”

  40. The GOP dug this hole by gerrymandering districts until their people could only be challenged from the right, because the Republican nominee will certainly win the election, removing any considerations of electability in the general. If every district were purple nationwide, this would push candidates on both sides to be moderate (because they’d have to get votes on both sides of the center to win in the general).

  41. The GOP dug this hole by gerrymandering districts until their people could only be challenged from the right

    The thing is, that’s not what folks do when they gerrymander. They stuff opposition politicians into safe districts by concentrating all the opposition voters there, and then build a lot more districts that are favorable to their side, but not completely safe. I.E. in North Carolina in 2012, the Republicans had changed the districts so that there were 3 reliable Democratic districts (better than 70% Obama voters) and 10 strong but not unassailable Republican districts (55% McCain voters or thereabouts). That’s how they were able to take a state that had barely gone Obama (in 2008) and would barely go Romney (in 2012) and turn it into a Republican stronghold. But the Republicans in those districts aren’t safer than they were before 2010; they’re more vulnerable and vulnerable to Democrats as well as being primaries by other Republicans.

    See Dave Weigel for an analysis of NC here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2013/10/09/beware_of_gerrymandering_denialists.html

  42. I don’t see how it matters if the Republicans manage to hide their crazy uncle in the basement. There’s not actually any policy difference between the so called sane Republicans and the crazy ones.

    If they put forward identical policy positions and vote in lock step, it only hurts the United States if it is less obvious how insane they are.

  43. Watching this whole mess unfold has been eye opening. My conclusion is neither party is good for me. Being solidly middle class is rough these days. GOP taking my money to support the rich (see devaluing of property so rich can buy it all) and the democrates taking my money to support welfare. I am left with nothing. To much income for subsidizes, to little to actually buy luxuries.

    In the end I am starting to swing democrate. I have a much better chance of becoming poor and needing their help than becoming rich and needing the GOPs help.

  44. What is the definition of a crazy Republican and a sane Republican?

    I can accept that using the appropriation process to defacto repeal a law without expectation that someday a house run by Democrats won’t someday do it to a Republican president has a whiff of crazy about it.

    I can accept that voting more than 40 times to repeal a healthcare law when there is no chance that the President would ever sign the repeal bill, even if the Senate went along, could perhaps be characterized as crazy, though I suspect it has more to do with being able to crow about it back home. It was certainly a waste of time.

    Beyond that, I think to a large degree, lots of people in this thread are using crazy to refer to someone who embraces a policy with which they disagree, and are using sane to refer to someone whose position is more to their liking.

  45. @wagnerel: I think guessing at election results is a bit like throwing dice. With so many doing it, at least one person is likely to make the correct prediction each time. Doesn’t mean that person’s system is any more brilliant than anyone else’s or that they’ll be right next time.

    You have a reasonable point, but a faulty assumption. Silver’s reputation is based on the point that election prediction, like the successful sports prediction he built his system from, isn’t like throwing dice. Unlike a dice throw, there’s plenty of information available before the event that relates to the result.

  46. @Dann and Aaron Pound:

    “And then there is the inability to close a government office and layoff the workers for programs that had either failed or completed their objective.”

    And exactly which would those be?

    I know, I know! The DoD. The US department of defense is the single largest employer in the world, with about 3.25 M employees and a budget over $5.5B. When Truman created it (1947-1949) the point was to streamline the various military departments, save money, and eliminate redundancy.

    Instead, the DoD has become a fat hydra that has institutionalized graft and corruption, and financed terrorists and brutal dictatorships.

  47. @Dann – It is reasonable to ask for “a little less government” please.

    Sure, as long as you realize you have to reconcile your desires with those of over 300 million other people. That tends to be the pesky little step most folks ignore.

  48. @mike: What is the definition of a crazy Republican and a sane Republican?

    Anyone who uses the word “Socialist” to describe Obama is bug fuck crazy.

  49. Hi Eric,

    I hope you will appreciate my 30 years of frustration. Every time we have asked for some commonsense reforms like means testing for Social Security or privatizing it so that it becomes an individual savings based program instead of a “tax your kids” based program, the immediate scaremongering included all manner of suggestions that the objective was really to kill seniors. Instead of a rational discussion of the issues, scare tactics are used to motivate voters.

    That isn’t exactly the sort of situation were voters are making a rational choice based on the facts.

    After decades of playing that particular game where fear-mongering precludes rational discussion, I have a hard time mustering any significant concern about the current irrational behavior on the right.

    “Well they started it” is truly an awful way to govern. Seeing no effort on the left to rein in the irrational segments of their extremists, why should I care about a few noisy Republicans?

    Hi Aaron,

    Let’s start with the DEA. Does anyone really think the War on Drugs is being won? Legalize ‘em, regulate ‘em, and tax ‘em.

    Then we can start shutting down Social Security Disability. That program has been so abused that it no longer fulfills its primary function. At least, if you can trust CBS’ “60 Minutes”, that seems to be the case. When the abuse and fraud go away, then we can stop cutting.

    Then the Department of Education. The federal government has zero role at regulating education.

    One of my personal favorites is the former Rural Electrification Administration. That job was done by the 1970s. All they needed was one manager and one secretary to collect the loan payments. Instead of laying off the rest of those employees, they folded them into some new agency.

    I might also suggest the complete works of Martin L. Gross. His Government Racket books may be a little dated, but the problems in D.C. have only gotten worse since then.

    There are tons of fat to be trimmed in the DoD. We could focus less on the next generation fighter jet and spend more attention on technologies that will help us win the War on Terror. Having spent years in the military, I can tell you that there are lots of areas that could stand to be trimmed.

    [My current personal bugaboo is the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent planning machine tool installations. Private industry spends tens of thousands...or less...to accomplish the same thing.]

    Means testing Social Security….

    Means testing (or using higher payments for the wealthy) for Medicare…

    Hi TechGrrrl,

    Sorry. Social Security cannot be fixed by lifting the cap on taxable wages. That assessment only works if you consider the current federal bonds held by the trust fund to be repaid. But we do not have the money to pay off those bonds. It is one of the most significant fiscal problems we have.

    annnnndddd this has drug on long enough. Many thanks to Mr. Scalzi for his patience.

    We are taxed enough already. It’s time for the feds to do a better job with the money we already give them.

    Regards,
    Dann

  50. Let’s start with the DEA. Does anyone really think the War on Drugs is being won? Legalize ‘em, regulate ‘em, and tax ‘em.

    In which case we will still need the DEA, for the reason that we need the ATF, even though tobacco is legalized.

    Then we can start shutting down Social Security Disability. That program has been so abused that it no longer fulfills its primary function. At least, if you can trust CBS’ “60 Minutes”, that seems to be the case. When the abuse and fraud go away, then we can stop cutting.

    I see that you’ve been watching some television. I see that you also think that a $4.5 million fraud in an $80 billion program is “widespread”. I’m not thinking much of your analytic capabilities right now.

    Then the Department of Education. The federal government has zero role at regulating education.

    But that’s not what you claimed. You claimed that we couldn’t get rid of government workers and agencies after they had “failed or complete their objective”. The Department of Education has done neither. You may not like the Department of Education, but it doesn’t meet your chosen metric for getting rid of it. I’m not even sure you understand what the Department of Education (the smallest cabinet agency by the way) actually does. There’s almost no “regulation of education” done by the agency. On the other hand, is compiling national education statistics something the government should do? That’s one function of the agency. How about managing programs to provide federal student aid? That’s another.

    One of my personal favorites is the former Rural Electrification Administration. That job was done by the 1970s. All they needed was one manager and one secretary to collect the loan payments. Instead of laying off the rest of those employees, they folded them into some new agency.

    The Rural Utilities Service, which still has a function. Imagine that, those workers that you said has completed their objective were given a different objective which is still valuable.

    You seem to know very little about how the government operates, and yet you consider yourself qualified to talk about how terrible it is that federal agencies still exist.

  51. The thing that frightens me is the feeling that the House of Representatives accurately represents the US voters thoughts. Most of the people I know or interact with seem reasonably intelligent and sane. Most is not all. There is an easy 10 to 20 percent who do not fit that description. An even higher percentage on my less optimistic days.

  52. Dann, why stop with Social Security? If you’re gonna means test, means test every government check to a person. if you make over, say $75K, why should you get a government pension? Why should you get military retirement benefits?

    However, there would be one thing stopping you – millions of registered voters.

    Okay, let’s be honest about Social Security. The SS trust fund always has been a convenient accounting fiction. ALL the money that the government disburses comes out of its various treasury accounts. For as long the US lasts, it will be that way. We create these buckets labeled SS and Medicare and Defense and other things, but they are accounting creations. All federal revenues, whatever their source, flow into one place, and all federal expenditures, whatever their destination, flow out from that one place.

    Now you can argue that the trust fund will run out of money, but Congress could simply appropriate money into it from general revenues. It’s all a fiction.

  53. @ Dann:

    Seeing no effort on the left to rein in the irrational segments of their extremists, why should I care about a few noisy Republicans?

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

    You have NO IDEA how fucking crazy and stupid that sounds. Do you see communists in the streets preaching revolution and working-class revolt? No, only Tea Partiers in stupid hyperpatriotic flag suits. Any socialist/Green Party senators or Congressroaches calling for a total government shutdown to avoid having a law that they don’t like go into effect, while that law has the support of the Supreme Court, the President, and the American people? No? Didn’t think so.

    Then the Department of Education. The federal government has zero role at regulating education.

    WRONG. If we didn’t have government to keep the creationists out, they’d overrun public education in a week. They are organized, they are reactionary, and they are out of touch with reality.

    Also, if you say that public education is bad–then fuck you. That’s like saying that the society Victorian England was a good thing, instead of the gaping, festering sore of human rights abuse it was.

    There are tons of fat to be trimmed in the DoD. We could focus less on the next generation fighter jet and spend more attention on technologies that will help us win the War on Terror.

    Dude, I was pulling for you until that last part. The war on terror is a giant, expensive, inefficient way of paying attention to Wahabiyya-Islamist extremists. A much better move would be to just ignore the fuckers, send in more aid to poor countries to undermine jihadist support, and ensure that said aid was going where it’s supposed to by helping prune out corruption in impoverished countries. Let the little nutcases go die paranoid conservative nuts in caves in Afghanistan–if the people hate them, they won’t have anywhere else to go.

    Otherwise correct, though.

    We are taxed enough already. It’s time for the feds to do a better job with the money we already give them.

    No and yes, respectively. There is a lot of waste (F-35, anyone?), but also, we have stupidly low tax rates on the wealthy. Bump up the top tax bracket, split it and raise the top half of the former top tax bracket again, raise the capital gains tax, use the funds to slice a little off the sales tax (which hits the poor too hard), and reverse Citizens United. Easy-peasy.

  54. ” and especially the “experts” who write about the issues for a living”

    I.e. : paid opinion spewers.

  55. Dann,
    By any sane metric (ie the standards of the rest of the developed world) the USA is not taxed enough.

  56. Floored:

    “You have NO IDEA how fucking crazy and stupid that sounds. ”

    Dial it back just a little, Floored. Stuff like above is a way to have your otherwise perfectly reasonable points dismissed due to hyperbole.

  57. @ Mr. Scalzi: Yes, sir. A little too passionate and angry after a four hour “car ride”, sir.

  58. “Then we can start shutting down Social Security Disability. That program has been so abused that it no longer fulfills its primary function. At least, if you can trust CBS’ “60 Minutes”, that seems to be the case. When the abuse and fraud go away, then we can stop cutting.”

    There’s a very useful concept in statistics, and more broadly in science, called Type I and Type II errors. A Type I error is a false positive, where you see a correlation where there isn’t one, while a Type II error is a false negative, where you don’t see a real correlation.
    The problem is that Type I and Type II errors are inextricably linked. You can’t reduce the probability of one kind without increasing the probability of the other, and you can’t totally eliminate either kind.

    Think about a medical diagnostic test like a mammogram, which can either show a suspicious result that turns out to be nothing, or a real but small cancer can be missed. There’s no such thing as a perfect system, so there’s never going to be a perfect mammogram which finds all the cancers and ignores all the non-cancers. In medicine, it’s generally better to have false positives, because you can always use another test to confirm the results — we set mammograms to be really sensitive, and we do biopsies to determine if it’s a tumor or a false positive. In security, though, it’s really bad to have false positives, where you accept counterfeit credentials. It’s better to lock your bank account and make you call customer service over a forgottten password than to let a hacker sit there and try a bunch of passwords until he guesses right. Your grocery store splits the difference by putting most items out on the shelves, knowing that shoplifting will happen, but by implementing annoying security measures for frequently-stolen and higher-priced items.

    For SSDI and other programs, you can either make sure that you don’t ever let any scammers get benefits, or you can make sure that everyone who needs help gets benefits. If you focus on eliminating abuses, you’re going to deny legitimate people benefits as well. If you make sure that everyone gets help, there’s going to be some unavoidable level of fraud. You’re never going to eliminate it all, and eventually you’ll reach a point where it costs more to try to prevent it than you’ll save by catching it, and where you’re denying too many people who genuinely need help. We may or may not be at that point now, but if we tighten up the system, we’ll inevitably get there.

    How many people like them are you willing to impoverish in order to prevent a single scammer from getting benefits they don’t “deserve”? Hundreds? Thousands? Because that’s exactly what is at stake. If you think it’s worth doing, you need to own up to the human costs, and say that you’re willing to hurt a lot of sick people who depend on SSDI for the sake of preventing others from abusing the program.

  59. Oy! Such vitriol…..politics does bring out the bile does it not? I can’t decide whether the tea party nut bags or woeful Boehner is more full of shit. I am hopeful that the threat of lost elections in the not too distant future will correct the cephalo -rectal inversion that the house seem to be suffering from of late. If not, we are in for a rough few years.

  60. Reposting something I said on FB when I heard about the USCOC (!) balking at the shutdown:


    Horrible as all this is, I’m darkly pleased that my prediction is coming true. Ages ago, when I realized the GOP was pandering to the reality-challenged crowd, I predicted that eventually, said crowd would want more than lip service and start running for office themselves. Lo, and behold they’ve now primaried out the moderates and taken over the party entirely, and will own some House seats for some time to come. However, since that crowd is only 20-25% of the population (and shrinking as they die out), they’ll never be able to muster up enough votes to win the White House or control of the Senate with one of their fringe candidates. The best the mainline GOP can hope for now is holding on to the few seats they still have in conservative-but-not-TP areas. In the meantime, enough Democrats have Blue Dog cred that they look like a decent alternative for the fiscal conservative/social liberal crowd. So, essentially, the GOP has pandered itself into irrelevance. They lay down with the dogs, and now their party is 75% fleas, and they’re out of a job. Unless they divest themselves of that wing somehow–and I don’t think they can–they’re toast.

    Of course right now, the radicals are doing everything they can to be a monkey wrench even if they’ll never be a majority, and a lot of people are hurting because of it. But long-term, I think we’ll look back on this as the day the GOP died–by its own hand.
    —-

    Honestly, the folks who are losing out the most with this TP nonsense are the Libertarians. They’ve already bled off many of the sane people with that ideology to the Blue Dogs, and the wild-eyed sorts are now TPers who think building border walls, bombing brown people and setting up Uterus Police is fiscally responsible. If true Libertarians want to have any legitimate voice in politics going forward, they need to do some serious house-cleaning of the xenophobes, paranoids, and Bible-fondlers. The generational trend is toward progressivism, and if they want to have a shot at countering that, they need to relegate the bitter, old racists and spendthrift warmongers to the basement

  61. There’s a very useful concept in statistics, and more broadly in science, called Type I and Type II errors. A Type I error is a false positive, where you see a correlation where there isn’t one, while a Type II error is a false negative, where you don’t see a real correlation.
    The problem is that Type I and Type II errors are inextricably linked. You can’t reduce the probability of one kind without increasing the probability of the other, and you can’t totally eliminate either kind.

    SCIENCE, bitches!!

    Ah. Sorry. But the point is well made that from a pragmatic standpoint, you reach a point of diminishing returns quite quickly. You can quite easily argue that for a lot of goverment programs we have sailed past that point with a cheery wave and a ghoulish enthusiasm (say, for sex education, drug testing welfare recipients, abortion, etc.).

    Which raises the question of WHY so many people are so easy at going past that point….

  62. I have a great deal of respect for Nate’s past work. I read and enjoyed his book “The Signal and the Noise”, which was (with some exceptions), excellent. His take on the effects of current events on the 2014 elections seems to me to have more than a grain of validity to it. Nevertheless, I think it’s undoubtedly true that the Democrats are in a noticeably stronger position today than they were 2 weeks ago. It may or may not be enough for them to win the House next year, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility.

  63. Don’t expect gerrymandering to go away any time soon. Britain in the 1830s had
    “rotten boroughs”, areas where the people had mostly left but parllamentary representation
    remained. (The population had mostly shifted to the new industrial towns, which had
    no representation.) It got to the point where 10-100 people could elect a couple
    of MPs before anything was done to redraw the boundaries.

    Depressing.

    Will

  64. Anyone telling us we need to just cut off SSDI because someone abuses it can also be in favor of government annexing any bank that’s broken trading laws and using that bank’s profits to fund actual deserving people who’re unable to work.

    Really, if your focus on better governance is 80% “lets cut everything any poor person once abused SSDI” 10% “End the war on drugs” and 10% “War on terror oooooh” I know who you are. You’re a Tea Party glibertrian.

    You’re Ted Cruz crossed with Rand Paul. You talk a good game, but what you’re really about is cutting taxes on the wealthy and paying for it by blaming poor people for the abuses of a few on the social safety net, which you’d burn to the ground in a heartbeat even if no one ever abused it.

    This shows in where you focus your calls for cuts. You want to eliminate SSDI, but don’t talk one bit about eliminating things like restricting algorithmic trading, bank capitalization, or even the LIBOR scandal. To you, a few people bilking SSDI is worth a mention, but an actual international banking conspiracy to manipulate world markets isn’t. I use that as an example, it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of other case of financial institutions costing us far more than a few SSDI scammers ever will in 1000 years.

    It Tea Party types really cared about people ripping off America, they’d focus on the biggest threat. They don’t. Ask yourself why.

  65. Boehner is starting to look more and more like Mitt Romney every day. Romney was supposed to win the primaries by running to the right and then win the election by moving closer to the centre. Except that he wasn’t allowed to do that because his ultra-right party members would howl like dogs when he tried it. Boehner is finding out how that feels right about now.

    The variable you don’t mention, John, is the large donor class in the GOP. There are far too many GOP representatives talking about how a default would be no big deal, and probably even a good thing, too openly and the business media is starting to cover the reaction of the business community. And that reaction is quite agitated that this time the lunatics are serious and that the establishment can’t rein them in. And when they see that the crazy has infested the Senate (looking at you Ted) then I’m sure there are lots of angsty phone calls being made.

    So the real repercussions might be behind the curtain right now but could emerge in the coming months, depending how this plays out.

  66. Hi Josh,

    FTR, I wasn’t much in favor of the bailouts and/or TARP either. I’m disappointed that no one from Goldman Sachs is sitting in prison right now. And I agree that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was an important component of the 2008 fiscal mess.

    Thanks again to Mr. Scalzi for letting me offer my perspective. I’ll not bother the echo chamber further with contrarian thoughts in this thread.

    Regards,
    Dann

  67. John,

    The teabag faction of the GOP is the equivalent of the giant bug in Men In Black. They are running around in Edgar suits trying to cause as much chaos and destruction as possible under the belief that it is a win for them. Remember when he is warned he could incite a war and lots of deaths, “GOOD! More food for my family!”

  68. Frankly: Yep.

    Also, I have to wonder how much the people who sell survivalist gear are making in the middle of all this. I think all those people who prepared for Y2K are kind of sad that they’ve not yet had a chance to use the garage full of freeze-dried food they bought.

    Though, that does make me wonder about one of the motivations behind the “burn it all” crowd: I think some of them are people who feel left behind by the march of modern progress, and feel that the only advantage they have left is being able to survive in a low-tech world, where brawn and firepower matter more than, say, cleverness with software code. Macho and muscles simply don’t count as much as they did a few generations ago, so folks who spent their time building up that instead of learning physics and chemistry are panicking about their ability to survive. It’s in their best interests to dismantle civilization as we know it so they have the upper hand again.

  69. Thanks for justifying my effort to be mindful that this is Mr. Scalzi’s home and to behave accordingly

    Dude, if you’re going to have flounce, you have to stay flounced. Otherwise, it just makes it worse.

  70. To get back to John’s original point, two things:

    1. He may well be right that the Republican Party, particularly in the House, will not suffer electorally for their collective misbehavior, but

    2. If so, I grieve for the loss of our long experiment in democratic self-governance. If we have so arranged things that a major political party can behave this badly and to suffer for it, we no longer live in a representative democracy. I don’t know what we have, but it isn’t that.

  71. David, I figure Dann was just trying to finish out his contrarian magic trick: first the Challenge, then the Flounce, ending with the Return.

  72. David, I figure Dann was just trying to finish out his contrarian magic trick: first the Challenge, then the Flounce, ending with the Return

    Fair point. I wonder what the judges’ scores were?

  73. @thepatheticEarthling #511534:

    No political party would ever — probably never has — hack off an effective 15% of their base when that base has shown it can deliver seats in Congress.

    The democratic party once did exactly that. They even called it at the time — “I believe we have just lost the South for a generation.”

    They felt their principles were important enough, so they paid the price.

    And the GOP promptly sold their principles down the river and courted the southern racists to get a majority.

    What we’re seeing now is essentially where that particular decision invariably leads.

  74. I think Nate underestimates the psychological impact. I agree with his numbers, but his first statement is about not counting on people remembering enough to be pissed off. If this were purely a political arena that was affected, I might agree with him, but it got people in the pockets and hearts.

  75. @ DAVID: I give him a -7 out of 5. It was kind of pathetic, to say the least.

  76. The shutdown, unless it continues long enough to do more damage to the economy than the last shutdown did, won’t do serious damage to the GOP in 2014. But a failure to increase the debt limit is another matter entirely. It will almost certainly damage the economy enough to where the effects will still be being felt a year from now. That just might cost them some Senate seats and if not lose them the House it just might both cost them some seats and result in some Tea Party candidates losing to actual conservative Republicans.

  77. I’ll not bother the echo chamber further with contrarian thoughts in this thread.

    You didn’t offer any contrarian thoughts. You offered up a mish-mash of half thought out slogans, tried to back them up with some fairly ignorantly supported talking points, and when called on it, you flounced. And then failed to stick the flounce.

  78. Dan: “ou know what? There’s a discussion potentially worth having about spending and debt. It’s not a discussion worth having when the Tea Partiers have pulled the pin on the grenade and demanded concessions in return for putting the pin back.”

    We would not be having that discussion anyway; the Tea Party was not in evidence when they controlled the government. The GOP Iis pulling the same trick that they did last time, running up th debt and then telling us that we have to sacrifice to reduce it. And then running it up again, laughing at the fools who spent so much time and effort dealing with it.

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