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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don Rickles' Final Message to Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell


On a related note, here's a quick test to determine whether or not you are a part of the problem.

Read the following statements:

The filibuster was justified, but the nuclear option was unacceptable!

The nuclear option was justified, but the filibuster was unacceptable!

If you agreed with either one of those statements, then yes, you are a part of the problem - and you need to go away.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trump's Unnecessary Travel Ban Simply Repeats Our Past Mistakes

I've noticed a lot of folks on social media have taken to posting images and memes of 9/11 as "justification" for Trump's travel ban. So I think it's important to point out that the countries that the 9/11 hijackers came from are not included in the ban and no one from the country's covered by the ban have ever attacked anyone in the United States.
I am reminded of a quote offered by General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command during WWII, in which he defended the forced internment of Japanese Americans. It was a policy driven by racial prejudice and ignorance masquerading as national security. It is also considered to be among the greatest injustices ever perpetrated by the U.S. government.
DeWitt said, "The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have be come ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.
…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today.
The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken."
Pay especially close attention to that last sentence - the lack of any hostile actions was portrayed as "proof" that such hostile acts will happen. Today, we're banning refugees from Syria and travelers from several majority Muslim countries and the justifications is very much that the lack of any hostile acts committed by folks from those countries is simply proof that such hostile acts will happen.
We can choose to learn from our past mistakes or we can ignore those lessons and repeat our past mistakes. Trump appears to be committed to repeating past mistakes. History will likely be very unforgiving in its assessment of the choice he made.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Democrats Cannot Win By Employing Republican Tactics

I understand the urge among Senate Democrats to oppose all things Trump and make most of his nominees party line votes. They are replicating the GOP strategy under Obama. But Democrats need to be cautious when using Republican tactics. Republicans made major legislation under Obama appear to be very partisan by turning most votes into strict party line votes. Republicans filibustered Obama's lower court nominees to the point that Democrats decided to eliminate the filibuster.
But Republicans had a clear strategy - undermine confidence in government. Make people question the legitimacy of Obama policies. As the party of small government, the anti-statists, Republicans improve their electoral chances when confidence in government is low. Voters doubt government so they look to candidates that share their doubts and advocate limited government.
But Democrats are the pro-statist party. They believe in the positive power of government. As such, they suffer when confidence in government is low. Democrats need for people to have confidence in government. It was an upsurge in confidence following the 2008 financial collapse that delivered unified control of Congress and the presidency in 2008. Republican obstruction of the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, and Cap and Trade very effectively undermined confidence in government - leading to their victories in 2010 and again in 2014 and 2016.
So when Democrats employ Republican tactics they actually imperil the electoral strength. People will not vote for a pro-statist if intense partisanship, party line votes, and attacks on the legitimacy of Trump actions convince voters that government is still ineffective and broken. As contradictory as it may sound, Democrats would actually improve their electoral chances by finding areas of common ground where they can vote to support some policies and nominees. Unfortunately, that's not what the party's activist base wants them to do.So in the Senate, Chuck Schumer is in a real bind - does he look to bolster Democratic prospects in 2018 or does he give in to the demands of "the resistance?"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Will the Women's March Become a Sustained Movement?

I'm seeing a lot of folks asking "will the Women's March" be more like the Tea Party and have a sustained impact or be like Occupy Wall Street and quickly fade. There is of course no way to tell. Certainly Trump will exist as a catalyst for a sustained movement, but Trump being Trump wasn't enough to keep the Obama coalition together for Clinton. The numbers yesterday, in DC and in other cities around the world, were incredibly impressive. Amazing. To dispute that would be folly. But one of my first thoughts was not of Tea Party v Occupy Wall Street. It was of the February 2003 anti-war protests that took place in over 600 cities and involved roughly 30 million participants. The invasion of Iraq came 5 weeks later and President Bush was re-elected in 2004 and Tony Blair in 2005. The protest never became an influential political movement. When I looked at the posters at the protest I certainly saw indications of the challenges it may well face when trying to influence politics. Much like the Democratic party, the protest was clearly an alliance of different groups with different agendas - unified by opposition to Trump. Yes there were folks there for equal pay and for reproductive rights. But there were also folks there for Black Lives Matter, immigration reform, refugee relief, and in support of Muslims. Can such a coalition remain unified? Trump won because many of the white working class voters who had been part of the Democratic coalition decided that they no longer fit in. The challenge for Democrats has always been the agenda diversity of their coalition. It's true that opposition to Obama helped to unify factions within the GOP, but the GOP has a much less diverse coalition. And the political geography of 2018 suggests that even a sustained movement may not be enough to change the balance of power. So would the movement survive an electoral defeat? So much remains to be seen.

As Women March on Washington, It's Also a Great Time for them to Run for Office

Of the many explanations offered to explain Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump, few are as ubiquitous as the belief that she lost due to the electorate's unwillingness to elect women. Yesterday, millions of people participated in the Women's March so I think today is good day to explore the question of gender's impact on electoral success in American Politics. The answer to the question is likely to surprise a lot of people, but it should inspire them as well.  A landmark study by the National Women's Political Caucus issued in 1994 determined, based decades of evidence from state assembly races and a decade of Congressional races, that gender had no impact on electoral success in US elections.

In state Assembly races, incumbent women won 95% of the time, while incumbent men won 94% of the races. Women challengers won 10% of the time and men challengers won 9% of the time. Women and men running for open seats each won little more than half the time.

In state Senate races, incumbent women won 91% and incumbent men 92% of the time. Women running for open seats won 58% of the races; men won 55%. Female challengers won 16% of the time; men 11%.

The findings were essentially the same for U.S. House races as well as U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. A 2003 study by Fox and Oxley, published in the prestigious Journal of Politics, confirmed that women likelihood of victory does not vary based on the office sought.

A 2006 study of Congressional races by Kathleen Dolan at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee upheld the findings of the 1994 study - gender does not impact vote choice or election outcomes. In 2010, Dolan surveyed 3,000 voters across 29 states to determine extent of bias in candidate choice, and she found no evidence of gender bias. In her award winning book, He Runs, She Runs, political scientist Deborah Jordan Brooks found that it is no more challenging for female political candidates today to win over the public than it is for their male counterparts. And in “Women on the Run: Gender, Media, and Political Campaigns in a Polarized Era,” George Washington University professor Danny Hayes and Jennifer L. Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, found that female candidates are treated the same as men in the press and evaluated in the same way by voters.

So what does impact vote choice? Incumbency and partisanship - male and female incumbents are just as likely to win and male and female challengers to incumbents are just as likely to lose. Male and female partisans are just as likely to receive the same level of support from fellow partisan and opposing partisans.

So no, Clinton didn't lose because of society's reluctance to vote for female candidates. In fact, there is ample evidence that Clinton lost for many of the same reasons that prior candidates have lost. Exit polls shows the over two-thirds of the electorate were either dissatisfied with or angry at the federal government. Trump won those voters by 21 points. Nearly two-thirds of the electorate said that the American economy was in poor shape and Trump won those voters by a two-to-one margin. Nearly two-thirds of the electorate said the country was headed in the wrong direction. Trump won those voters by nearly three-to-one. These are very similar to the factors that led to John McCain's defeat in 2008.

History is also instructive. In the roughly 200 years of presidential elections there has been a clear and consistent shift in the vote toward the party out of power in post incumbent elections. In other words, in elections that follow a two term presidency where no incumbent candidate is on the ballot, there is a sizable shift in the vote toward party that was out of power. It is extremely rare for voters to follow a two term president by electing a candidate from the president's party. George H. W. Bush in 1988 is the only recent example. So Hillary Clinton suffered the same fate as most post incumbent partisan, including Adlai Stevenson in 1952, Richard Nixon in 1960, Al Gore in 2000, and John McCain in 2008.

None of this challenges the reality that women continue to face discrimination in the workplace and in their daily lives. It simply means that in the area of electoral politics, our society has more successfully combated sexism. This may reflect the fact that women hold tremendous power through there vote, power that they do not have management positions or boardrooms across the country.

So why is it so important to dispel the belief that women are less likely to win elections as a result of sexism? Because there is an area of electoral politics where gender inequality stubbornly persists -  women are far less likely to run for office. When women run, they are just as likely as men to win, but women are much less likely to seek elective office. And Hayes and Lawless found that one of the reasons they are less likely to run is because of the pervasive, and incorrect, belief that women are less likely to win.

I want my daughters, and all women, to know that their probability of winning an election are same as any man. But if women are routinely told that they face a higher bar and that they are more likely to lose then too many will simply decide to just not run. That's just not acceptable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trump and Clinton Risk a Crisis of Legitimacy

There is great cause for concern regarding electoral legitimacy in the US moving forward - and once again Clinton and Trump are revealing themselves to be the awful candidates that they truly were. The Clinton camp has signed onto the ridiculous recount efforts in WI, MI and PA. By doing so, Clinton has set a precedent for any losing candidate to challenge results that are overwhelming - and yes a 10,000 vote margin is overwhelming. And because this recount effort was inspired by a shoddy analysis done by a computer security expert with no political science or elections training, the recount efforts has established that recounts can be demanded based on the most ridiculous evidence.
Then, Trump decides to claim that he actually won the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally - but since he called the recounts a scam I guess none of those illegal votes were cast in WI, MI, or PA. Just as there is no evidence of fraud or hacking in PA, MI, or WI there is no evidence of millions of illegal votes. Trump has once again misquoted a PEW study and a debunked story on illegal voters. But when the winner of an election decides to declare that the vote was illegitimate then the message for future losers is clear - there is no need to ever accept the outcome as legitimate.
From this point forward, whether by Clinton's embrace of bogus recounts or Trump's ludicrous claims of fraud the precedent has been set for future election results to be simply dismissed. If you thought it was bad when folks dismissed Obama or Bush as "not my president" then just consider a future where the losing side simply refuses to accept the legitimacy of the winner. There is a very thin line between that and the arrival of non stop protest and politically motivated violence after an election.
American is not an authoritarian state. Our system of government is not propped up and maintained by the threat of force from the government. America exists solely based on the combined faith of the people in a simple piece of parchment. If that faith is lost there is little holding us together. I am truly worried about that faith and whether it will survive Trump and Clinton and 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump Won, but Nothing Re-aligned

Donald Trump shocked the political world by winning the 2016 presidential election. There has been much talk of his victories in several Blue states as well as his improved margins among white working class voters. But did Trump really "change the map?" Has he found a new coalition? There is a straightforward way to test this.

Gerald Pomper (1967) first examined continuity and change in presidential elections via linear correlation of state-by-state election results in paired presidential elections.  Pomper was interested in identifying realignments. According to Pomper, realignment would be evident via a “change in the parties’ bases of support… the geographic distribution of each party’s vote would be different from the past: traditional strongholds would fall, while new areas of strength would become evident” (1967, p. 539). Such changes or shifts in support would be evident in statistical analyses of the correlation between sequential elections. In short, a break in continuity, as demonstrated by a low level of correlation with preceding elections, suggests realignment.  Pomper (1967, p. 540) compared the Democratic party’s share of the total vote by state from 1824 to 1964  and identified five “electoral cleavages” in American history, cleavages that correspond to prevailing scholarship on American party systems.  

Like Pomper, I paired successive elections by comparing the Democratic share of the total vote by state to generate correlation coefficients. The state-by-state comparison generates a Pearson correlation coefficient with a low or negative value indicating a disruption or cleavage point and a higher positive value indicating continuity or electoral stability.  Figure 1 presents the results. The changes taking place in the parties' coalitions in the late 1970s and early 1980s are evident as is the rather stable electoral period that emerged in 1996 - a period marked more narrow election victories and the emergence of the familiar Red and Blue states.

Donald Trump pieced together an impressive electoral coalition in the 2016 election, a coalition that included traditionally Democratic states like PA, MI, and WI - yet Figure 1 shows the 2016 election demonstrated a high degree of correlation with the election of 2012 – no fundamental changes took place in 2016. Rather Trump was able to achieve narrow victories in otherwise Democratic states. The results suggest that the present path to 270 electoral votes remains both stable and competitive.

Pomper. 1967. Classification of Presidential Elections. The Journal of Politics.