Threading the Needle (Updated)

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It’s instructive in a “compare and contrast” sense to read today’s NYT columns from David Brooks and Paul Krugman. Brooks is contemplating the Trumpocalypse and what it all means for professional plutocracy apologists like himself. He warns us to gird ourselves for more Applebees salad bar stories, as Doug points out downstairs, dog help us.

Brooks attributes Trump’s rise — and Sanders’ too — to a broad sense of American decline:

This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.

In the morning thread, sharp-eyed commenter Jeffro noticed Brooks’ rhetorical switcheroo there, speaking of Sanders and Trump voters and then citing a poll result exclusive to the Trumpenproletariat, as if Sanders voters share the exact same concerns. And it is a sly form of both-sides-do-it-ism.

Krugman has a different take on why the Trumpites are angry as well as an explanation for why the GOP establishment candidates went down to humiliating defeat while Clinton is prevailing on the Dem side:

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-­and-­switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

Krugman is right. But Brooks isn’t 100% wrong when he says there is pain on both sides of the political divide, even if he is dishonest in how he frames it. There is real pain out there, and it’s not all attributable to aggrieved white men who are finally getting a taste of the economic insecurity the rest of the world has been swallowing for decades.

Ostensibly middle-class families are one outpatient surgery deductible away from financial catastrophe. Students are graduating with crushing debt. Parents have no idea how they’ll ever retire. The unemployment rate is at a 40-year low, but try finding a decent job if you’re a 50-something woman or a 17-year-old black kid.

These things are real. And what Hillary Clinton is going to have to do is thread that needle – highlighting, protecting and expanding what President Obama and his Democratic predecessors have accomplished on the one hand while at the same time communicating that she understands how much further we have to go. It won’t be an easy task.

Yesterday, Bernie Sanders gave a speech in which he allegedly dialed back the criticism of Hillary Clinton a bit but lambasted the Democratic Party instead:

“The Democratic Party has to reach a fundamental conclusion: Are we on the side of working people or big-­money interests? Do we stand with the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor? Or do we stand with Wall Street speculators and the drug companies and the insurance companies?”

When I heard that, my first thought was, gosh, that’s not particularly helpful. How about at least acknowledging that there’s exactly one party that recently expanded healthcare coverage to 20 million people, passed Medicare, Social Security and CHIP and imposed any regulation at all on Wall Street and Big Pharma? And over the screaming intransigence of the only other party that is relevant in US elections?

But aren’t Sanders’ remarks a perfect segue for Clinton to deliver the message she must communicate? I still think Sanders will come around to endorsing Clinton and urging his supporters to support her and elect the Democratic Congressional majority she’ll need to get shit done. But in the meantime, maybe starting this conversation will do. If Hillary is going to sew it up, it’s time to thread that needle.

ETA: A piping hot new version of Cleek’s pie filter has just come out of the oven. Lay claim to your slice here.



Good news everybody: ACA cost edition

So under budget and on projection for the target uninsured rate even with Chief Justice Roberts enabling sociopaths and assholes to stop Medicaid Expansion in 20 states.

Not bad at all….

UPDATE 1: The next time there is a massive social program passing Congress with uncertain costs, we need to put in mechanisms to take advantage of success instead of safeguards against massive cost overruns. The ACA has triggers where if the total federal cost of the advanced premium tax credit and the cost sharing reduction subsidies were more than .504% of GDP, future year individual shares would increase and the thresholds for federal subsidies would decline.
There were no mechanisms in place to say if subsidies were significant below budget that either subsidies for currently qualified individuals would get richer so their out of pocket premium expense would decline OR more people would become eligible for subsidies.

This is just a note to self to find again in 20 years.



Good news everybody

Just some more good news:

and the good news will probably continue for the first quarter of 2016:

So in 3 years, all of the data sources suggest that we’ve cut the uninsured rate in half and slowed the cost curve. There are another couple percentage points of easy gains once the rest of the Confederacy and the everyone between the Mississippi’s left bank and the Columbia’s south bank expand Medicaid.

Then we’ll actually need to take another whack to get the last 5% of the population covered AND get better coverage for 25% to 30% of the currently covered population.



Dean 2004, Obama 2008, Sanders 2016 and white liberals

Just a few quick notes on the current campaign through the eyes of a white liberal who has never felt the Bern.

On fundraising through February 2016:

Sen. Bernard Sanders may have lost a majority of states on Super Tuesday, but he continues to pull ahead of Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton in the money race.

The Sanders campaign announced Tuesday it raised $42.7 million in February, and the Clinton campaign announced Wednesday morning it raised $30 million during the month.

On the primary campaign demographics in 2016:

There are three times as many nonblack voters as black voters in the Democratic primary electorate. To cancel her strength, Mr. Sanders would need to win nonblack voters by about 20 percentage points, since Mrs. Clinton leads by more than 60 points among black voters.

And now backing things out a bit.

The Dean campaign in 2004 was overwhelmingly white liberals who were looking for a cause.  The Dean campaign was the first time I showed up on an FEC report.

The Obama coalition in the 2008 primary was a combination of white liberals and the African American community plus not getting crushed among the other major groups within the Democratic primary electorate.  The Sanders coalition is primarily white liberals and rural Democrats.  The Clinton 2008 coalition was moderate and conservative Democrats, Latinos and a bit more female then the party as a whole.  Her coalition in 2016 is her 2008 coalition plus the African American bloc.

What we are seeing is the limit of white liberal power within the Democratic coalition.

It is more than sufficient to fund campaigns but it is insufficient to create a durable national majority.  White liberals by themselves are a much larger, and far less crazy analogue to the Paulbots of the Republican Party — more then sufficient to generate a lot of money and advance ideological arguments.  It is well connected to to privileged positions within the media and discussion ecosystem and due to its demographics plus committment of its members, it can fundraise efficiently on the internet at small to medium donor levels.  Internet fundraising allows for a fairly low burn rate on the part of ideological and aspirational campaigns to tap this set of small donors.    These are two very strong political assets.

However white liberals alone or with minor coalition partners, are not able to form a majority within the Democratic Party.  .  White liberals get a whole lot closer to forming a majority than libertarian dude bros but they cap out significantly short of a majority.

 

 



Different electorates, different results

One of the dumbest arguments of the 2008 Democratic primary season was the extrapolation of primary results to general election results.

“Obama rolls up big margins on the Plains, he can win there in November…”

“Clinton winning the Democratic primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania means she and only she can win the industrial Midwest”

Both sides of that argument are stupid.

And we’re seeing the same stupid on Iowa:

 

Repeat after me, primary electorates and caucus selectorates are not random samples of the general electorate.

It is perfectly plausible in 2016 for a 23 year old Democratic activist in Iowa to have the following preference order: Sanders>Clinton>Chlamydia>Republican Nominee.

In last night’s contest the only part of the preference order that was under examination was how Sanders and Clinton related.

In November, the relevant preference order is either Sanders and Republican nominee, or far more likely Clinton and Republican nominee.

The same logic applied in 2008.  In Pennsylvania, the primary preference order was usually Clinton-Obama, but the general election preference order was Obama over McCain.

The people who take part in caucuses are highly unlikely to flip parties in the general election.  They are self-identified intense partisans.  Trying to generalize caucus results into general election results is obtuse.



Krugman Ain’t Feeling the Bern (Updated)

Paul Krugman kinda sounds like many commenters on this here blog on the topic of transformational rhetoric vs realpolitik in today’s NYT column. Like all Krugman columns, it’s worth reading in full, but here’s excerpt:

[O]n the left there is always a contingent of idealistic voters eager to believe that a sufficiently high-minded leader can conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions. In 2008 that contingent rallied behind Mr. Obama; now they’re backing Mr. Sanders…

But as Mr. Obama himself found out as soon as he took office, transformational rhetoric isn’t how change happens. That’s not to say that he’s a failure. On the contrary, he’s been an extremely consequential president, doing more to advance the progressive agenda than anyone since L.B.J….

Yet his achievements have depended at every stage on accepting half loaves as being better than none: health reform that leaves the system largely private, financial reform that seriously restricts Wall Street’s abuses without fully breaking its power, higher taxes on the rich but no full-scale assault on inequality.

There’s a sort of mini-dispute among Democrats over who can claim to be Mr. Obama’s true heir — Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton? But the answer is obvious: Mr. Sanders is the heir to candidate Obama, but Mrs. Clinton is the heir to President Obama. (In fact, the health reform we got was basically her proposal, not his.)

Krugman closes by reminding readers not to “let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence,” which is sound advice. But I’m not sure his assessment is fair to former candidate Obama or current candidate Sanders, both senators and intelligent men who surely have/had some inkling of what they would face when trying to implement their agendas as president.

Maybe it’s more about what’s appropriate for the times. A couple of days ago in the “Town Hall” thread, valued commenter MomSense posited a theory of why a transformational campaign might be wrong for this particular election:

Part of the problem for Sanders this election is that this year isn’t a change election on the Dems side. The polls say 80-87% of Dems depending on demographics approve of the job the president is doing and think we are going in the right direction… It’s the flip side of the problem Clinton had in 2008… Her 2008 election was far too status quo than the mood of the Democratic base. 2016 is a guard the change and expand on reform election for the Democratic base. I just don’t think there is an appetite among the Democratic base to risk what we’ve gained on unrealistic promises of revolution.

The part about “change” vs. “guard-the-change” elections sounds about right to me. It’s not that Sanders is wrong to be aspirational about addressing wealth inequality, etc., now — even with the knowledge that Republicans will obstruct him at every turn — any more than it was wrong for then-candidate Obama to run on breaking down partisan divides and then paring down his goals and adjusting his strategy to accommodate GOP recalcitrance when he became president. But it may be that there’s too little demand for a revolution right now, at least among Democrats. We’ll see.

ETA: There’s a site maintenance thread downstairs to report bugs and comments about the design update.



PPACA and PVI

The Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index is an attempt to categorize how much more red or blue a state is compared to a national average.  It works by taking the average national two party vote share of the past two elections and calling that the zero index value.  States with vote shares for the Democrats that are above that index value are considered to have a D+x PVI.  States that vote more Republican than the index value are considered to have an R+x PVI.  It is very closely related to the hypothetical uniform swing.

It is a decent indicator of partisan lean of a state although it lags on fast changes (The eastern mountain states probably have an actual PVI above the reported PVI).

I want to point out some of the states whose Senators voted for PPACA and what their 2010 PVI was as a public service announcement:

Alaska R+13

Nebraska R+13,

North Dakota R+10 *

North Dakota R+10

Louisiana R+10

Arkansas R+9

Arkansas R+9

South Dakota R+9,

West Virginia R+8

West Virginia R+8 *

Only two of those seats are still held by Democrats.  None of those seats are on the top tier of the Democratic target list for 2016.

These ten seats were a minimal majority blocking coalition.  Another 8 Democrats were sitting in Republican leaning seats and plus the asshat Lieberman as a massive opportunity cost in Connecticut.  That is 19 Democrats in the Senate including any plausible majority combination where fulfilling major liberal policy goals was either personally distasteful (at least 1) or  politically challenging giving their home turf.  The actual policy space was severely constrained.