A House Divided

Nate’s forecasts remain remarkably consistent with one exception. He is now predicting a 50 seat gain for Republicans in the House instead of 48 that has been the general consensus. I don’t think this means agreat deal in the grand scheme. The magic number for Republicans has always been 39 and everyone except some guy on a desert island has pretty much come to terms with that already.

I suppose it’s a good thing that the Democrats will hold the Senate since that’s the last hurdle to jump before anything becomes law (or, alternately, where laws go to die). So the big challenge for the next two years will be to get things passed in the House. That’s assuming that congress does away with the retarded 60 vote thing when the next session begins.

Robert Reich has an interesting perspective in an article over at Huffington Post where gives historical examples of Democratic mandates to move to the center after Republicans gained political control. Bill Clinton in ’96 or Jimmy Carter in ’80. He also points out that when Republicans have a majority they move even further right. It’s like they declare home base in the game of tag and Democrats don’t get to have that rule.


So why the double standard? Why is a Democratic victory held to a different set of rules than a Republican victory. Are Democrats just too polite? I mean I like that we play nice on the playground until we keep getting handed our asses.

Also, check out this really clever ad from www.MoveOn.org. It depicts a dystopian future with the merger of corporations and the Republican party. It apparently works best if you’re on Facebook.


Well, we’ve got a week to go. I’ve already mailed in my ballot. How about you? Ready for it?

About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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33 Responses to A House Divided

  1. Todd Dugdale says:

    Everyone here knows I’m a big fan of Nate, but his predictions are only as good as the data he has to work with.

  2. Bart DePalma says:

    What double standard? If either party wants to stay in power at the national level, it must conform to the will of the center-right electorate.Contrary to Reich’s superficial analysis, Carter did not tack to the center after 1978. The man ran on national healthcare in 80. He lost and lost badly.Clinton is the only Dem I recall who completely abandoned his principles and tacked not to the center but all the way over to the right to get reelected.I suspect that Obama will instead do a bad imitation of Harry Truman and keep pushing left. Truman was reelected by a whisker in what was then a center-left country. Obama will lose badly in a center-right country as did Carter.

  3. Monotreme says:

    What does “center-right” mean, anyway?

  4. filistro says:

    Hey Mr U… I’m watching deFazio on Lawrence O’Donnell. What’s with this guy? Won’t vote for Pelosi… blames Obama for the bad economy… I’d almost be tempted to vote for Art Whatisname. At least he’s entertaining.

  5. shiloh says:

    @clairvoyant Bartles ;)Obama will lose badly~~~~~hmm, over (2) years to go and 538’s hyperbolic winger troll fool is stating categorically er not predicting w/out even knowing who the teabaggers are gonna nominate as their victim in 2012!One must remember Bartles is the same buffoon who said Hoffmann would win Ruby Red NY-23 in a cakewalk and the nation would go (((viral))). ;)Owens won NY-23.Oops !!!Bartles doesn’t one ever get tired of making a complete idiot of oneself …Rhetorical question.take care, blessingsapologies to buffoons …

  6. Realist says:

    @Bart,Given that the populace appears to be strongly bi-modal on a one-dimensional scale, it’s pretty hard to conclude that the country is “center-right.”I’d be interested to see what quantitative evidence you have that the nation is “center-right.”

  7. Todd Dugdale says:

    Yes, it’s a centre-right nation that elected Obama because they thought McCain wasn’t conservative enough. And, since the centre-right painted Obama as a terrorist sympathiser, secret Muslim, secret foreigner, tyrant, traitor and the Anti-Christ prior to the election, they voted for him because this is, after all, a centre-right nation. The alternative would be to have someone in the White House who isn’t conservative enough, so obviously the centre-right nation cast the ballot for the socialist. It makes so much sense.Cognitive dissonance…Either that, or it was illegal aliens employed by ACORN in a nationwide voter fraud effort so clever that no investigation has been able to uncover any evidence of it. Like most good conspiracies, the lack of evidence is the real proof.

  8. Todd Dugdale says:

    Speaking of MoveOn, check out this video of some brave, patriotic, centre-right Christians beating the snot out of a woman from MoveOn at the Senate debate in Kentucky. She’s in the hospital.I guess beating up women is part of those “conservative values” the nation is longing for.

  9. parksie555 says:

    Realist, here is your quantitative evidence that this remains a center right country.http://www.gallup.com/poll/141032/2010-conservatives-outnumber-moderates-liberals.aspxFurther quantitative evidence will be provided on next Tuesday when an electoral beat down is delivered despite numerous Dems running as far from Obama as possible.

  10. shortchain says:

    parksie,Polls where respondents self-describe are evidence of very little beyond the meaningless of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” after a decades-long effort by the right wing to demonize the term “liberal”.

  11. shortchain says:

    Oh, and all you “conservatives” who imagine that a repudiation in the polls next week means vindication for your political philosophy? That’s as laughable a case of wish fulfillment as ever existed.

  12. Monotreme says:

    @parksie:My point is, using any reasonable model for any particular issue, the responses tend to fall on a bell-shaped (Gaussian, normal) curve. Then the center is the center, mean, median, mode. Repeated assertions do not make this a “center-right” country. By definition, the middle is the center.

  13. Bart DePalma says:

    Monotreme wrote: “What does “center-right” mean, anyway?”Limited government with social insurance against unemployment and old age.

  14. Monotreme says:

    @shortchain said:”…repudiation in the polls next week means vindication for your political philosophy”=====Elections have unintended consequences. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in the — after the 2000 election, I earned some capital.” — President George W. Bush, Nov 4 2004.

  15. shortchain says:

    Bart,Absent the wishful thinking, though, what does “limited government” mean? — and please provide useful metrics on various issues, not the inane self-selected “liberal” versus “conservative” labels.I ask because it’s apparently fine with “conservatives” to provide absolutely no privacy from government surveillance and no protection from corporate greed — which represent both “unlimited” government and “too-limited” government.When your creed involves internal inconsistency, it’s fair to ask how you’ll resolve it.

  16. Realist says:

    @Bart,Monotreme wrote: “What does “center-right” mean, anyway?”Limited government with social insurance against unemployment and old age.Now we’re getting somewhere. Unlike parksie’s self-identification model, you’re actually providing at least the beginnings of a definition.I think the second half of your definition is far more descriptive than your first. What’s your definition of “limited government?”After all, I’m in favor of “limited government” by my definition, as well as social insurance against unemployment and old age. You don’t think of me as “center-right,” do you?

  17. filistro says:

    To Bart, “limited government” means that if a woman (or child) has an embryo the size of a grain of rice removed from her body, she and her doctor should be tried for homicide and punished accordingly.

  18. Realist says:

    @filistro,I don’t understand why you feel compelled to bring up the one area where Bart has perhaps the greatest example of lack of hypocricy.He believes that government should prosecute people who murder. He believes that this should apply to those who hire hits on others. He believes that abortion is murder. He believes that people who hire someone to perform an abortion are equivalent to those who hire hitmen, and should be tried and punished accordingly.Where you two differ is in the question of murder. A few weeks back, I pressed you on defending your line for when it becomes murder, and you became (understandably) upset. It’s a hard discussion to have and maintain internal consistency. There are no bright lines without being arbitrary.I don’t often find myself defending Bart, but his position on abortion, while very different from mine, is at least absolutely consistent.

  19. filistro says:

    Realist.. my position on abortion is absolutely consistent. I believe that as long as a fetus is dependent on its mother and cannot survive outside her body (up to 24 weeks) it is part of her body and her choice to make. Once the fetus is/would be viable outside her body, abortion should not be allowed.I became upset with you not because of the “murder” aspect, but because of your cavalier disregard for the welfare of the woman who is carrying the fetus.

  20. shortchain says:

    Realist,Well, there is a bit of inconsistency between “limited government” and “we’ll feel free to look over your doctor’s shoulder at your medical exam results”But I don’t want to do the “abortion” thread. I’d rather have some metrics we could use to judge whether government is “limited”. I strongly suspect that, by the time this is fleshed out, the “conservative” concept of “limited government” will more closely resemble the Ptolemaic model of the solar system than the Keplerian one.

  21. Mainer says:

    I wonder if it would be possible to do this by agency of the Federal government? You know some thing like Department of Education bad BLM good. FDA bad TVA good. Saint Lawrence Sea Way Commission bad Army Corps of Engineers good.

  22. Realist says:

    @filistro,I fear the “cavalier disregard” to which you refer was of your own creation. I mentioned many times the dilemma of balance when rights are in conflict, and the need to establish ground rules for those points of balance. In fact, the point of my having brought it up there was to have a discussion of how to establish those balance points.@shortchain,I, too, do not want this to be an “abortion” thread. I, too, would like to have a more concrete definition of “limited government.”

  23. Mainer says:

    Until people sit down and figure out what government actually does they will never be able to define what size it actually is and what size and purpose it should have. I am appaled at how little people know of what our government actually does do both for them and too them.I am not willing to give up the even limited protections to our food supply that exist under FDA. Do most people even know what ag inspectors do or even that we have them. There is no way in hell this can be done effectively at the state level.I have huge issues with domestic spying. I know the value of good intelligence and I also know the capacity for abuse of such a system if miss applied. Should we have our eyes open so as to catch those that would harm us…..most people would say yes but we need to redefine who gets to do what and why….some of the blank checks of the Patriot Act just do not cut it for me.Then there is government dictating has the right to get married and or in what manner. That is huge big governmnet in the intrusive vein.How many people understand this so poorly that they even understand that the discussion of limited government versus big government isn’t just about size but scope. Firing 300,000 government workers isn’t going to improve a system if it doesn’t include some of the domestic spys and includes all of the meat inspectors.

  24. parksie555 says:

    @Shortchain – OK, if the Gallup poll actually featured the choices left/right instead of liberal/conservative do you really think the results would be significantly different? I think most people understand at least in a visceral way that left and liberal are roughly equivalent, as are right and conservative. Moderate/center is pretty self explanatory. Fully 77% of respondents classified themselves as conservative or moderate.I provided data at the request of Realist. Feel free to provide data supporting your assertion that “Polls where respondents self-describe are evidence of very little beyond the meaningless of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” after a decades-long effort by the right wing to demonize the term “liberal”.”And Monotreme – the Gallup results clearly indicate that the distribution of political self-identity in the US is not Gaussian. Clearly a “fat tail” on the conservative side, so to speak. Political orientation is not a scientific phenomenon, there is no reason to assume it must follow a Gaussian.

  25. filistro says:

    So, regarding the “House Divided”… if Dems lose the House but keep the Senate, it will be historic… the first time in, like 100 years that this has happened.So WHY are the Dems going to hold the Senate in the face of such a hostile climate? Nate seems to have addressed this in his latest (Dem Overperforming in Senate”) but for some reason I can’t access the “there’s more” function… all morning I’ve been getting an error message. It’s driving me NUTS. Anybody who’s read Nate this morning… does he think it’s because of the overall weakness of the Tea Party candidates, or is there something else at work?Thanks…

  26. shrinkers says:

    @parksieI personally suspect that a poll asking for self-identification of left/right would come out about the same as a self-identification poll of liberal/conservative. As shortchain pointed out, it’s because labels such as left and liberal have been pretty effectively demonized.A far better poll would be asking for the respondent’s stand on various issues. Last time the public was polled on, for instance, health care, something like 65% wanted a public option or a single-payer system. There is growing support for LGBT rights. Majorities want abortion to remain legal. Social Security and Medicare enjoy very wide support, especially when you consider the overwhelming percentage of people who are eligible and who take advantage of these programs.Judging by actual opinions on actual issues, there are far more “liberals” than there are people who identify themselves as “liberals.”@more generally everybody –On the topic of “center-right” — asking “What does that phrase mean?” There are two types of answers. One is to describe a position that the definer feels is a “center-right” position. So a “center-right” person then means, “someone who holds this political philosophy.”I’m more interested in the phrase itself. Saying “center right” like saying something is “vanilla kinky” or “cool boiling.” How can one combine those terms? “Center” is something other than “right.” (It is, of course, also something other than “left”). I do not understand what the two words together mean. Is it like “Peanut butter” and “chocolate?” Two great tastes that taste great together?Do you mean, “slightly right of center?” Or perhaps “in the center of the righthand spectrum?” Or what? Apart from the philosophy that may be attached to the phrase, what does the phrase mean all by itself?

  27. filistro says:

    Interesting question. I think a corollary is “high average” as opposed to “higher than average.”We are quite certain, I think, what those two mean… and that the latter is “higher” than the former.I think “center right” and “right of center” correspond to those two descriptions… and the latter is further right than the former.(I also think “vanilla kinky” is a description of adventurous sex for Republican couples 😉

  28. shiloh says:

    Cutting to the chase re: center rightAgain, elections have very little to do w/ideology as one party screws up and is replaced by the other party.The average American voter is just plain uninformed and this is where rhetoric ie advertising ie $$$ enters the equation. But it doesn’t always work eh Meg/Carly/Linda McMahon/Christine O’Donnell etc. as you can put a lot of lipstick on a pig and it’s still a pig!And of course superficiality counts for a lot also as Scott Brown’s Cosmo centerfold was an attention grabber for MA women! :)>The House of Representatives was controlled by the Dems from 1954 to 1994 (((40 years))) thru Nixon’s ’72 and Reagan’s ’84 landslides.Incumbency/Name Recognition/$$$/Superficiality = yesIdeology = not so muchcarry on

  29. parksie555 says:

    @shrinkers – I call BS on your healthcare poll. I can almost guarantee you that 65% of poll respondents when asked could not even describe what the terms single-payer and public option mean in reality.As for some of your other positions, specifically abortion, I would not argue legal abortions are a liberal position. I would describe the centrist position on abortion as “safe, legal, and rare”.For LGBT rights, I do think this is one area where the mainstream has moved to the left in the last 10-20 years. However there is a wide range of issues here, and the trouble that gay marriage initiatives have even in liberal CA are an indicator that the electorate as a whole is center right. Perhaps the centrist position here is things like DADT should be overturned, and the liberal position is that gays should be allowed to marry in the same fashion as heterosexual couples.And just ask Californians about their stance on legalizing marijuana :).

  30. shrinkers says:

    @filistro I get your “high average” analogy. It makes sense, but I think there’s a subtle psychological distinction to be made.In English grammar, the modifier usually comes first, to be followed by the thing modified (“big dragon”). In “high average”, the norm is “average,” and “high” signifies a minor departure from it. For “center-right” to be analogous in the way you suggest, the phrase would have to be “right-center” (which actually makes a certain amount of sense, since “center” and “average” are near-synonyms).But I think the term “center-right” was coined specifically to imply, perhaps subconsciously, that the norm is “right” and the modifier is “center” — the implication being that something like “center-left” is actually quite far away. Much farther away than “low average” would be from “high average”.I could be wrong here, but in puzzling out the philological and grammatical and psychological implications of the phrase, that is what it seems like to me. I don’t recall hearing that phrase more than a few years ago, certainly within the political lifetime of someone like Luntz or Rove. I am convinced the phrase was intentionally coined, to a great extent becaue of its propaganda value.

  31. shrinkers says:

    @parksie — Call anything you please. I just report. If you want to maintain that people didn’t understand what they were being asked (“public option”, “single payer”), that’s fine too — but presumably you have some evidence for your assertion.Aren’t the people on the right usually the ones to accuse the people on the left of calling voters “stupid” and of being elitist?

  32. filistro says:

    @shrinkers: I am convinced the phrase was intentionally coined, to a great extent becaue of its propaganda value.Oh, I certainly agree with that. Whenever I hear somebody blandly assert that “America is a center-right nation” I’m reminded of the old joke…Where was Coca Cola when Pepsi claimed a whole generation as its own?

  33. Monotreme says:

    Parksie said:

    And Monotreme – the Gallup results clearly indicate that the distribution of political self-identity in the US is not Gaussian. Clearly a “fat tail” on the conservative side, so to speak. Political orientation is not a scientific phenomenon, there is no reason to assume it must follow a Gaussian.

    I disagree. We do not have enough data from the Gallup distribution to support or refute my hypothesis.

    You cannot construct a Gaussian curve based on a three-choice Likert survey, in the same way the distribution of “male” and “female” is not Gaussian.

    (For statisticians out there, we’re talking about the difference between parametric and non-parametric statistics.)

    Your definition is not the same as my definition. I’m not talking self-identification (which is poisoned by an inherent bias in any case) but rather some externally measurable, quantifiable characteristic.

    In my world, almost everything is Gaussian: height, IQ, blood pressure, you name it. So, I’d say the burden of proof is on you, parksie, to prove it’s not Gaussian. Just saying, “look, there are two sexes” or “look, there are three political identifications” is not going to cut it.

    I think identifying oneself as “conservative”, “liberal” or “moderate” is about as valid as definining oneself as “a good driver” or “having a good sense of humo(u)r”. See the Dunning-Kruger effect for why that doesn’t wash with me.

    That is, if we assume that “conservative” is now equal to “socially desirable” because of exposure to a constant stream of “Reagan is God” messages, then the Dunning-Kruger effect as defined in the original paper now applies:

    We focus on the metacognitive skills of the incompetent to explain, in part, the fact that people seem to be so imperfect in appraising themselves and their abilities. Perhaps the best illustration of this tendency is the “above-average effect,” or the tendency of the average person to believe he or she is above average [or “center-right” — Monotreme], a result that defies the logic of descriptive statistics (Alicke, 1985; Alicke, Klotz, Breitenbecher, Yurak, & Vredenburg, 1995; Brown & Gallagher, 1992; Cross, 1977; Dunning et al, 1989; Klar, Medding, & Sarel, 1996; Weinstein, 1980; Weinstein & Lachendro, 1982). For example, high school students tend to see themselves as having more ability in leadership, getting along with others, and written expression than their peers (College Board, 1976-1977), business managers view themselves as more able than the typical manager (Larwood & Whittaker, 1977), and football players see themselves as more savvy in “football sense” than their teammates (Felson, 1981).

    All the abilities cited above follow a Gaussian distribution if we use objective measures. By self-report, they don’t.

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