Thursday, November 8

Goodbye To All That. For About Two Months. [Now Updated With Math!]

George Eff Will, "And the winner is: The status quo". November 7

READER, consider the Dallas Cowboys. (There are two reasons why you might not want to consider the Dallas Cowboys: a) you aren't a football fan, or b) you are.)

The Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Ltd., is the most valuable sports franchise in the United States, and second in the world. It's owned by Jerral Wayne "Asshole" Jones, who made his money by being born wealthy and increasing it. Mr. Jones is therefore what is known, in some circles, as a "jobs creator", though he created neither The Dallas Cowboys, nor the search for natural resources, his other hobby, and cannot perform either highly remunerated function without assistance. No one I'm aware of argues that either pursuit would go unfunded if Jones did not exist.

And Jerry Jones is widely, if not unanimously, considered to be the worst human being to own a professional sports franchise. Even if you don't know anything about professional sports franchises, just imagine what the competition must be like.  He is also the General Manager of Cowboys football operations. As with everything else he touches, Jones has been highly successful at this. So long as other people were doing the work.

The Cowboys suck, but they're worth billions. The Cowboys are worth billions, but it's the taxpayers who built the largest domed stadium on earth so they'd have a place to play. It was projected to cost $650 million, and actually cost $1.3 billion, give or take a few fabrications.

Now, then, let's talk entitlements:
America’s 57th presidential election revealed that a second important national institution is on an unsustainable trajectory. The first, the entitlement state, is endangered by improvident promises to an aging population. It has been joined by the political party, whose crucial current function is to stress the need to reform this state. And now the Republican Party, like today’s transfer-payment state, is endangered by tardiness in recognizing demography is destiny.

Okay, look. I know the election was hard on you. I realize that you didn't predict "The Status Quo" was going to win the election, unless by "Status Quo" one means "The White Guy." But pull yourself together, man. If you're going to be the intellectual heir of William Fuhbuckley's Church Latin as a Grammatical Weapon wing of the party, then try to maintain the sacred tradition of Making Sense. That's either three institutions, the entitlement state, political parties, and the Republican party, making two in all, or the piece has an infestation of misplaced punctuation and And nows. Is the strain of insisting that 100% of whatever national debt figure you make up is due to social programs which are in fact trust-funds, not "entitlements", finally getting to you?
Perhaps Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election on Sept. 22, 2011, when, alarmed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s

[Full non-disclosure: with the assistance of your wife, which you didn't reveal until after Perry went down in flames, although, since you didn't do it ahead of time, that really only left you 25 minutes]
entry into the Republican nomination race, he rushed to Perry’s right regarding immigration, attacking the Dream Act.

Or, looked at another way, maybe he lost the 2012 election when your party went batshit crazy in 1964. Or 1946. Romney didn't try to flank Perry on immigration just out of the blue. He did so because Mitt was the guy with the money, the guy with the campaign organization, the guy with the entitlement to the nomination, being the highest-ranking loser from the previous campaign still standing, who had just one drawback: Republicans hated him.

And they hated him because he was a "moderate" or a Fellow Traveler. Yes, as the brilliant political thinker Chuck Todd pointed out yesterday, Romney chose to attack Perry on immigration. But that's because it was the only place Perry was weak with the Republican voter. He was Guns n' Jebus all the way otherwise. Blame Romney, but blame a Republican party where a collection of encephalopaths dominate your national stage. I'm not convinced Romney isn't one of 'em. But let's face it, he wasn't going to attack Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Jeb Bush, George Bush, or Ronald Reagan for being certifiably insane or moronically doctrinaire, was he?
He would go on to talk about forcing illegal immigrants into “self-deportation.” It is surprising that only about 70 percent of Hispanics opposed Romney.

No it isn't. If our domestic political life proves anything it's that you can buy off 30% of any demographic with a promise of potential job promotion. Except African-Americans, who have a slightly different historical take on that.
In 2012 — the year after the first year in which a majority of babies born in America were minorities — Hispanics were for the first time a double-digit (10 percent) portion of the turnout. Republicans have four years to figure out how to leaven their contracting base with millions more members of America’s largest and fastest-growing minority.

You mean "some way other than addressing the entitlement of the wealthy which is their core belief".
Romney’s melancholy but useful role has been to refute those determinists who insist that economic conditions are almost always decisive. Americans are earning less and worth less than they were four years ago; average household income is down $3,800;

Finally concerned about income inequality, are we?
under the 11 presidents from Harry Truman through George W. Bush, unemployment was 8 percent or more for a total of 39 months but was above that for 43 Obama months.

And under FDR it was over 14% for eight years. I'm reminded of the time in the old Batman teevee series when the Penguin ran for Mayor of Gotham City against Batman, and won after pointing out that every time one saw his picture in the paper he was surrounded by police, but every time one saw Batman he was surrounded by criminals. The national voting population has not been quite so easy to fool. Make a note of it.
Yet voters preferred the president who presided over this to a Republican who, more than any candidate since the Great Depression, made his economic expertise his presidential credential.

Funny how that never gets listed as his big mistake.
Voters littered the political landscape with contradictions between their loudly articulated discontents and their observable behavior.

"Dog Bites Man".
Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals 2-to-1 in a nation that has reelected the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson and his mentor Franklin Roosevelt.

Okay, first, again with the language thing, George. It's "since Lyndon Johnson".  In fact, it's never "since x and y", unless those items were chronologically linked. If you wanted to bring up FDR the time to do so was with those "inexplicable" unemployment numbers, though, agreed, that risked tipping off one or more of your readers that previous Republican administrations might bear the responsibility for having thrown those millions out of work in the first place.

Second, we've already entered the Realm of Historicalisms with the unemployment numbers, and it's going to be our recurring theme. Assuming we could quantify Barack Obama's "liberalism"--he's a fucking centrist Democrat, aka a Rockefeller Republican--that little insight compares him to exactly two Presidents: Jimmy Carter, the centrist alternative to Good Sense that Democrats were profoundly hoping for after George McGovern, and Bill Clinton, leader of the post-Carter Let's Move Right and Win Elections movement. And Carter was "more liberal" than Obama, in many ways, but I guess you've pretty much exhausted the possibilities of running against him again. [Full disclosure: I've been wrong about that before]
After three consecutive “wave” elections in which a party gained at least 20 House seats, and at a moment when approval of Congress has risen — yes, risen — to 21 percent,

1) It couldn't have fallen, not without employing integers, anyway, and 2) it's from the simple expedient of remaining invisible during a national election. You think it's on an upward trend? Go ahead and be obstructionist again, then. Dare ya.
voters ratified Republican control of the House, keeping in place those excoriated as obstructionists by the president the voters retained.

Funny how there's no "wave" in the first even-year election since the 2010 Census. Just a coincidence, probably.
Obama is only the second president (Andrew Jackson was the first) to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote, and the third (after Madison and Woodrow Wilson) to win a second term with a smaller percentage of the electoral vote.

So what? Elections are elections, not sports records books. We could spend time pointing out that Madison was elected under the old electoral college rules, that Wilson was the electoral benefactor of a three-way Republican split in 1912, or that George W. Bush couldn't possibly have been reelected had his percentage of the popular vote dropped even further below even. Barack Obama was elected--by mandate proportions--in 2008 due to a massive rejection of the Republican party. He wound up in a somewhat closer race in 2012 due to a masterful rear-guard action by the excoriated obstructionists of the Republican party. But he won. Full stop.
A diminished figure after conducting the most relentlessly negative campaign ever run by an incumbent,


For crying out loud, George. If you've got to cry in your beer, at least use a fucking coaster.
he has the meager mandate of not being Bain Capital.

For a lot of Americans that's a major accomplishment. I'm guessing it wouldn't have been a meager mandate had Romney won on it.
Foreshadowing continuing institutional conflict, which the constitutional system not only anticipates but encourages, Speaker John Boehner says of the House Republican caucus: “We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will.”

Lemme just say this: one can either celebrate the obstructionist nature of the Federal system, or bemoan it. What one cannot do, and remain an honest public figure--not that it isn't too late for you, George, by three decades--is bounce between the two depending on whose ox is getting gored.
The electoral vote system, so incessantly and simple-mindedly criticized,

Uck-fay oo-yay.
has again performed the invaluable service of enabling federalism — presidents elected by the decisions of the states’ electorates — to deliver a constitutional decisiveness that the popular vote often disguises.

Says the man who, one paragraph ago, was trying to wish away this year's results.
Republicans can take some solace from the popular vote. But unless they respond to accelerating demographic changes — and Obama, by pressing immigration reform, can give Republicans a reef on which they can wreck themselves — the 58th presidential election may be like the 57th, only more so.

Lemme say that this "demographic change" routine is a fine one, assuming one has no desire to examine just how the Republican "message" is playing, or what the Republican "program" is accomplishing.  Hispanics didn't swing Ohio, or Virginia, to Obama. It's not a voting bloc which suddenly became liberal when Mitt Romney spoke without foresight. You can't demonize working people, demonize minorities, demonize liberalism, and make your entire program the reduction of taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and still compete for those votes. I'm sorry this is apparently something you're congenitally unable to fathom. Nevertheless, it is.
This election was fought over two issues as old as the Republic, the proper scope and actual competence of government. The president persuaded — here the popular vote is the decisive datum — almost exactly half the voters. The argument continues.

Okay, then. I look forward to you treating the question as an age-old argument, as opposed to the usurpation of "Real America" by foreign ideas and collectivist envy. Just as you look forward to your party convincing the Hispanic population to vote your way. It's a nice, clean kink, isn't it, George, to wish for something that ain't fucking gonna happen?

[Update: I was a bit rushed this morning; I glanced at Will's second-term vote math, found it a bit fudged (imagine), but had to leave it for later. It's later. First, under no accepted definition of the terms was Obama "only the second" man to win a second term with a reduced percentage of the popular vote; Grover Cleveland joins Andrew Jackson as having previously earned the distinction. Yes, Cleveland's terms were not consecutive, but I missed the disqualifier if Will intended it. FDR also won two terms with a smaller percentage of the popular vote (and Electoral College totals) than he received in his first term, or than he received in the term previous, but got higher totals for his second term than his first. We could quibble there about his third and fourth terms not being his "second", but they otherwise fit the argument; which way of doing things skews the view?

So: Barack Obama is the seventeen man elected to more than one term as President, a feat which has actually been accomplished nineteen times, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times. Jackson, Cleveland, Roosevelt (twice) and Obama did so with reduced percentages of the popular vote from the previous. That's 26% of the total. Madison, Wilson, Roosevelt (twice), and Obama won with decreased percentages of the Electoral College total. That's 26% of the total. Not the usual pattern, but not so rare as hen's teeth. Barack Obama is the only man to win election a second time with both totals reduced; perhaps the next Republican majority in both houses of Congress will pass a Constitutional amendment voiding the occurrence in the future, the way the Twenty-second amendment closed the barn door after Roosevelt died. And just like that one they can try to repeal it when Zombie Android Ronald Reagan runs afoul of it thirty years later.

Obama's the only left-handed Kenyan ever to win two terms, as well. I suppose Will's also got a problem with that. ]


synykyl said...

Even better than usual, and the usual is pretty damn good.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

It could also be pointed out that Obama's margins in the EV AND the PV, in both elections exceed EITHER one of Dubya's elections.

But GWB has been memory-holed, so I guess we have to compare to FDR or something.

Dean Booth said...

The only good thing about the Cowboys is that they give me something to cheer against in otherwise nothing games.

I enjoy seeing all the gray-haired Texans suffer (sort of like yesterday).

Anonymous said...

News flash for George Will: Yeah, the House didn't turn over. But that has more to do with GOP district gerrymandering than with the will of Americans, who cast about half a million more votes for House Democrats than for House Republicans. That might be a victory for stasis, but I wouldn't call it a mandate.

Anonymous said...

I was just apprised that poor old Mitt lost in the states in which he was governor, owned homes and also where he was born. Oops.

Secondly, and this goes more to yesterday's posting but Dr. Bennett (I'm being polite) did not lose because his changes came too fast but because a lot of them were flat out wrong primarily starving the public schools to help fund private schools. But taking away all decision power from teachers and incessant testing didn't help much either.

Vega said...

This whole mandate thing for the House is ridiculous. Gerrymandering, as noted above, and the fact that you vote for one local district official have nothing to do with which party you want leading the country.

Anonymous said...

Funny how George Will didn't make that argument about a mandate for the House when the original Android Ronald Reagan won re-election!

James Stripes said...

When Republicans say, "most relentlessly negative campaign," do they believe they are addressing an audience that was always in the loo when the Right-Wing PACs ran their commercials?

Anonymous said...

"It couldn't have fallen, not without employing integers, anyway..."

I think you meant "not WHILE employing integers". Other than that, I enjoyed the post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Either 'not WHILE employing integers' or 'not without employing single-digit numbers'. But yes, hilarious.

Anonymous said...

A mark this will leave on Mr. Will's buttocks. Unfortunately, he will continue to be paid large amounts of money to publish his fabrications and speculations. Also, too, I'm sure they are keeping his seat warm for the Sunday shows. Plus ca change, and all that...a typically great column, Mr. Riley. Thanks, as always for your work.