Campaigns from a Fundamentals Guy

The GambleEd Kilgore provided a good rundown of, The 2012 Campaign Books. I am knee deep in this stuff. I’m trying to get my hands on all of the campaign books from 1976 onward for a book that I am working on. But I was around for the 2012 campaign and I think I have a very good take on what happened.

Now, I understand that there are lots of other people who paid just as much attention as I did. And they’ve come to different conclusions. Fine. But most of them are totally wrong and this is well on display in the books. Three of the books are the usual insider nonsense: The Center Holds, Double Down, and Collision 2012. But The Gamble is right in line with what I think—not just about 2012 but about pretty much all elections.

This is due to the fact that The Gamble is written by two political scientists: John Sides and Lynn Vavreck. I’ve written about both of them various times here because I am what people call as “fundamentals guy”: I believe that broad demographic trends determine elections, not clever campaign tricks. In fact, I probably take it too far because I don’t much care about anything else.

Apparently, they argue that the Republicans don’t need to make any fundamental changes for 2016. This goes along with what I’ve been saying. If the Republicans nominate a reasonable candidate and the economy tanks, the Republicans will win in 2016. In fact, even an unreasonable candidate would probably win. People don’t like to think this kind of thing. Neither do I! But what are you going to do? We didn’t elect Reagan because the country was suddenly conservative; we got him because the economy was bad. We could get Ted Cruz for the same reason.

Looking back, people want to think that there was lots of back and forth between Romney and Obama. It’s a myth. Obama led throughout the general election. What’s more, things like Romney’s surge after the first debate don’t mean what people think they mean. All that happened (and I wrote about this at the time) is that people who were going to vote for Romney but who had claimed to be undecided simply decided. People in the same position about Obama simply waited until later. As a result, it looked like had surged, but it had no actually effect on the election.

What Republicans need to worry about in 2016 is that the demographics will be so bad for them that even a bad economy and a good candidate won’t save them. And I wonder more and more if the Republicans aren’t smart to not change. Are blacks and Latinos and the young really going to get behind the Republican Party just because they start talking nice? A change is going to have to come from the base of the party. They are going to have to see California Republicans start to make sense. As it is, regardless what anyone says, Darrell Issa is still an extremist asshole who seems interested only in trumping up scandals. Who is going to look at that and say, “The Republican Party has changed!” So they might as well focus on the base.

Another thing: is someone like Chris Christie the savior of the Republican Party? I don’t think so. In a general election, his extremism would come front and center. He could certainly become president, but I don’t see his chances as any better than those of Ted Cruz. So there are two questions for 2016: How is the economy? And what is the demographic advantage of the Democrats? It may simply be hopeless for the Republicans in 2016. And no amount of Willie Horton ads are going to change that.

Insurance Companies to Blame for Old Canceled Policies

Dean BakerI am going to be out pretty much all day, so there won’t be anything up until tonight. However, I wanted to mention a really good article by Dean Baker, You Can Keep Your Insurance: Washington Post Fact Checker Assessment. It follows after Glenn Kessler’s assessment of Obama’s statement that if you liked your insurance you could keep it. Kessler gave the statement “four Pinocchios.” It’s all pretty pathetic, because he has to go pretty far out of his way to find the statement that misleading.

It does remind me that Politifact will undoubtedly use this as their “Lie of the Year.” It is so rare that these supposed fact checkers get an actual lie from the left side of the political spectrum, they are going to use it for all it’s worth. And more, as we see with Kessler.

Baker put the whole thing in perspective. The truth of the matter is that insurance policies that were in effect when the law took effect can, in fact, keep being sold. They were fairly restrictive about how they could change them going forward, but they were most definitely not required to end them. How it looks to me is that the companies preferred to end those policies. Given that everyone is now required to get insurance, why allow someone to buy a cheap policy when they could force them into a higher cost policy.

This gets down to the evil essence of the Affordable Care Act. Requiring everyone to buy overpriced and inefficient health insurance from a private company is the height of crony capitalism. From a constitutional or libertarian standpoint, straight government run single payer is actually a more justifiable system. Not that I expect any flavor of conservative to admit that. But we are, at least for now, stuck with this system and it is what it is.

The main thing is that although Obama was largely wrong when he said people could keep their existing insurance, it wasn’t especially a lie. It was more along the lines of what we’ve all come to expect from Obama: naivete. What’s more, it is the wrong way to think about this. We should be thinking in terms of people getting decent insurance. But the media system just can’t resist this story. For once the Republican Party has a talking point that has a real kernel of truth. It’s very much a kind of false equivalence, however. Since the Republicans are usually on about nothing, the media make a big deal when they are a quarter right. Hopefully we can get past all this and onto some real news this week. But it is unlikely.

The Best Possible Martin Balsam

Martin BalsamOn this day in 1879, the humorist Will Rogers was born. Of course, he was best known for his rope act. Overall, he was just an entertaining guy. Although he is thought of as a cowboy, he was over one-quarter Cherokee. But you know the old saying, “The only good Indian is an Indian who who can entertain the hell out of you on the vaudeville stage.” Although he was a big supporter of FDR and the New Deal, he is part of that long history that feeds the conservative narrative about constantly complaining that the government is useless. But how can you not love a man who said, “I never yet met a man that I didn’t like”—about Trotsky!

The great cinematographer Stanley Cortez was born in 1908. Among many other films, he shot The Magnificent Ambersons. I bring him up mainly because he lived to be 89. I’ve noticed that cinematographers tend to live long lives. I wonder why that is.

Actor Art Carney was born in 1918. He will always be remembered for the character of Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners. He did a lot of other things. He had a great career. But I most remember him from his great performance as the drunk Henry Corwin in The Twilight Zone episode “Night of the Meek.” Here he is:

Other birthdays: painter Guido Reni (1575); botanist Janaki Ammal (1897); actor Loretta Swit (76); actor Markie Post (63); actor Ralph Macchio (52); and actor Matthew McConaughey (44).

The day, however, belongs to one of greatest character actors ever, Martin Balsam was was born on this day in 1919. There are so many films I’ve loved him in: 12 Angry Men, Murder on the Orient Express, All the President’s Men. But it’s his performance in A Thousand Clowns that always stays with me. The following is the great basement scene where he performs his speech about being fine with just being usual. “I’m the best possible Arnold Burns.”

As usual, the clip has been taken down from YouTube. Go rent the film!

Happy birthday Martin Balsam!