Thursday, November 6, 2014

Messy post-mortem of the 2014 election

I was going to call this post "Learn or lose," but I'm not so sure what the lessons are. My first thought is that the Dems actually have to follow through on their sensible rhetoric about sensible budget restraint. They also have to pay attention to developments like the immigration crisis and how it changes public opinion.

Obstruct = Win ??

But perhaps the lesson from the election is that the GOP can obstruct, be irresponsible and uncooperative, not offer any sound alternatives, and they can still win. That's the message from this progressively-biased writer. If it's true that the GOP can get away with such behavior, what exactly can the Dems do about it? They've been messaging about the GOP obstructing non-stop for 6 years. That's an incredibly direct, simple message, backed up by loads of evidence, yet it made no difference in this election.

Incompetence = Lose ??

So pointing out the flaws of the GOP didn't help the Dems. Did the GOP win because it was able to make a coherent attack on the Dems? Perhaps to a certain extent. Obama's popularity has dropped into the low 40's, being especially hurt by the incompetence of the ACA roll-out. Obama hasn't been able to demonstrate strong problem-solving since. Conflicts in foreign countries have ramped up. It's not Obama's fault, but he didn't prevent or solve them. He didn't get to be the hero by quickly dealing with an Ebola outbreak here because we didn't have one. His reaction to the immigration crisis was to 1) ask for money, and 2) punt on his announced "big change" in immigration policy. Just what problem has Obama solved in the last 9 months? It's no wonder his popularity is stuck below neutral.

The Electorate is just plain tired ??

However, the popularity of the GOP in Congress is even lower. So how did they win? It could be that GOP voters were energized and went to the polls, while Dems were demoralized and stayed home. This often happens six years into a presidency. It happened in 2006, less so in 1986 (when Reagan remained popular) or in 1998 (when the electorate punished the GOP for its impeachment follies).

So in the absence of either party looking good, the out-party fared better because people blamed the in-party. Perhaps that's the explanation. Of course some die-hard progressives are again saying the president was too accommodating, and the Democrats will actually do better as a smaller, more ideological congressional caucus.

I disagree. I doubt there's a single shred of evidence that Democrats fare better at the polls when they're more liberal. Most of the evidence shows otherwise, including the long drought between 1968 and 1991 when only one Democrat was elected president.


Extras. Some exit polling numbers and analysis. Most interesting numbers: 45% didn't think the election was a referendum on Obama. A surprising number of people who are neutral or somewhat opposed to the Tea Party voted Republican. The Tea Party wasn't the boogeyman that it had been in 2012. Dems couldn't successfully run against Tea Party as they did in 2012.


Anson Burlingame said...


Glad to find your blog after you have provided thoughtful comments on mine of late. I will participate herein now.

The country is calling for leadership pure and simple. The last time we had a landslide type leader was 30 or so years ago in the form of Reagan. In hindsight Bill Clinton could have achieved that goal as a president but the rancor of the right impeached him

As Kissinger has long pointed out, Nixon was probably the best prepared president to be a great foreign policy president and he showed that ability in his opening to China. But he shot himself in the foot with Watergate, a self-imposed crisis, just as Clinton did by lying under oath to hid a frivolous affair(s).

Little doubt now that the Clinton(s) will be the voice of the Dem party in the next two years and unless something really strange happens Hilliary will ride Bill's coattails to the Dem nomination in 2016.

But who will lead the GOP now? Beats me but it will not be someone from Congress. But as well if the GOP led Congress fails to "show progress", actually leadership in general, no governor from outside DC will stand a chance against the Clinton juggernaugt in 2016, either.

If the GOP gets it right, we will see legislation out of Congress that plays to the center-right popular sentiment and Obama will be the man of NO with his vetoes. Or Obama can pull a Clinton and get Congress to really work with him to make progress but no "Great leaps forward" a la Mao tried to do long ago.

Should be an interesting two years.

Anson Burlingame
Joplin, MO.

Dangerous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dangerous said...

OK. It's clear that the media and the party faithful have a double-standard on this strategy, so I doubt the Dems could pull off block-and-blame, while the GOP gets a) rewarded for it from their base and b) not blamed by those not faithful to either party.

My home state of Pennsylvania is a notable exception. Incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett wasn't nearly as aggressively conservative as, say, Scott Walker, but got beat by 10 points anyway, and he had only served one term.

But just about everywhere else, if the GOP candidate has someone to blame that the unaffiliated casual voter was willing to accept -- President Obama -- it didn't matter that the GOP itself was in low regard.

If the Dems tried this strategy the same way, they would lose so many of their own faithful -- who want progress and compromise -- that they would not pick up enough other votes to make it work.

But MP has it right that the GOP is now committed close to permanently to block-and-blame because it worked TWICE. I could have told you it would. And I expect them to continue to do so but try to shift the blame for it to President Obama for the next two years. That is, they will pass things that they can make sound good, but contain poison pills. The Dems in the Senate will filibuster when possible, and the GOP will howl without any sense of hypocrisy.

And why not? Half the GOP voters in Louisiana blame Obama for Bush's horrible Katrina response!! Two years before he was elected!!

I think President Obama has to goad the GOP into impeachment to gain the upper hand with unaffiliated voters. Let them see just how uncaring they are except about political power, and Hillary can sweep into office and maybe bring enough Dems to create a counter wave.

I know this could be a pipe dream.

Anson Burlingame said...

Dangerous and Moderate,

Is it not instructive to see "impeachment" becoming a useful political tool for someone!! If nothing else it reflects the despicable divide in America today.

I for one could care less whether a Dem or GOPer gains the White House in 2016. I just want a LEADER that will unify the country, not divide it.

THAT, I believe is the message from voters in 2014, hoping for just such a man or woman to arise from current political ashes leading up to the election in 2016.



ModeratePoli said...


You write: "The last time we had a landslide type leader was 30 or so years ago in the form of Reagan."

We aren't going to get leaders like that very often. It would be great if they arose like clockwork, but they don't. We need to continue functioning even when we don't have a great leader.

I agree that it should be an interesting two years... maybe. It depends on whether McConnell follows through on his promise to go back to regular order in the Senate. I hope he will, but I won't believe it until I see it.

ModeratePoli said...


I think the GOP get away with obstruction because the Democrats don't offer a consistent, well-thought-out alternative. They've mostly offered the status quo, and the status quo right now is snail's pace growth and no additional budget restraint.

That worked OK in 2012 when the GOP was so vague about what they would do. But Dems remain very vulnerable if the GOP actually puts together some reasonable proposals. They're also vulnerable if the electorate gets fatigued with the status quo, and finds vague change appealing.

My point is that Democratic wins have depended not on their very sound proposals, but on the GOP bungling it in one way or another. They are winning by default. That's not solid ground, and it's going to cave sometime.

You, unlike the general electorate, vehemently want to punish the GOP for their tactics. Most people just don't think that way, and they never will. Neither party is clean, and they both deserve punishment, but as a voter you still have to choose.

One final note: both parties contain and appeal to a lot of stupid, low-info voters. If I'm going to get outraged by one group, I've got to get outraged by the other group too. It's a wash complaining about dumb voters.

Anson Burlingame said...


You and I share a mutual and strong dislike, "dumb voters".

The key to gaining political power in America today is "mass voting". I suggest giving a High School government quiz to such masses from both sides. 80% (or more) would flunk the damn test in my view.

"Masses" caused the French Revolution. Look what that got the world. "Masses" caused the Russian Revolution. Mao generated "masses" to create the People's Republic then sent a lot of "people" to reeducation camps!!

The good news for America is that our masses are still restricted to voting booths. But that sure as hell does not make them, either side, any smarter.


ModeratePoli said...

@anson, I don't think we agree in disdain for dumb voters. I actually think the meme is mostly used to demagogue against people on the other side. People who do this ignore the idiots on their own side.

I'm not for limiting the franchise to voters who are smart enough to pass a test, wealthy enough to pay poll tax, or only propertied white men.

I've thought about how to eliminate dumb voters, like having a 3rd grade reading test. Except that the issue would inevitably be demagogued until it was a 10th or 12th grade reading test, which are skewed against the poor and minorities. The best idea I've had, and I'm not sure it's good, is to require someone to solve a relatively simple arithmetic problem. That's the kind of minimal cognitive test that would eliminate the really dreadful voters, but not be a slippery slope.

Mostly I think we are stuck with stupid voters because any system to weed them out will be gamed. We have enough swing voters to swing elections, so no one has a lock on too much of government. That's good enough.

I'm not fearful or disdainful of the masses. Mobs are trouble, but I haven't had any issue with the masses turning out to vote. When have voters rioted and started burning things down? Hey, they're better behaved than college students or sports fans!! Yes, let the masses vote.

(An earlier post on this topic here.)

Anson Burlingame said...


I continue to feel we agree on some voters, many in fact, voting without understanding the issues, pro and con. Dumb voters, stupid voters, mass voters, call them whatever you like, I think we both want informed voters, informed and having thought about both sides of an issue and reaching a rational conclusion.

So who is to judge rationality? Beats the hell out of me. I do find that discussing big issues with liberals, such a dangerous herein and my "friend" in Joplin gets very redundant. I hear the same "stuff" and don't consider it rational.

But they both think I am irrational as well I suppose.

Even dangerous said back to me that I appeared to be "informed". Well considering my reading and writing list I agree with him.

But rational, knowledgable, etc., I suspect he has other things to add to that list!!

That's fine as well. I enjoy the "tussle" as an old man with the time to do it.


Anson Burlingame said...


Not sure if you have a limit on comments herein. I am trying to reply to dangerous again. Please post this if you can.


I was careful to say you "sounded like" my local liberal opponent who just happens to also be a rather loud "average liberal". You both use the same arguments. But given an Ivy League education, I am sure you are not an "average" liberal of any sort and I respect that.

I don't even know if you are a liberal, much less of the hard core sort. We are justing getting to learn more about each other's views herein, our only contact for sure, though you do have my blog address now. Weigh in whenever you like. That is how Moderate and I got to know something of each other and it is constructive, in my view.

The Bush II legacy is very early in its formation. Only careful history will reveal the real success or failure of his presidency. Hell we are still arguing over the Reagan legacy!! But will you agree that the Nixon legacy has some real achievements, as now viewed from a distance? He was more than just a crook.

More later as we get to understand each other better. And I too crashed and burned in the GR in 2008!! Damn Democrats!!!! ( a joke, of sorts)