Sunday, February 28, 2016

Clinton, Sanders and the Democratic Party

I just discovered this, but did you know that there is another nomination contest going on right now, and Trump isn't in it?  Weird.

For all of the attention I have been paying to the Republican contest right now, one might think that the Democratic contest was over long ago.  And that's because it was.  Hillary had this thing locked up long ago, and Sanders never stood a chance.  Her victory in South Carolina yesterday just clarified it to members of the press and commentariat who have professional incentives to pretend that there is a story worth writing.

So, there's this book I've been bashing:  The Party Decides.  Basically, it says that party muckety-mucks control the nomination process by endorsing their chosen candidate, and signaling the proper party choice to the voters.  Party Decides apparatchiks might even think that I am being too hard on that blessed book, because the Democratic contest looks very much like party elites rallied around Hillary by giving her an overwhelming lead in endorsements, and got their way, just as prophesied.  And in fact, it is worth taking some historical perspective.

In 2000, Republican muckety-mucks decided that a relative of a former president, who won two state-wide elections in safe party territory, was their choice.  They rallied around him, endorsed him, etc.  However, not everyone in the party was quite ready to get on that train.  An aging Senator who presented himself as a "maverick," even if he didn't go so far as to identify as an "Independent," challenged the muckety-mucks' anointed one.  He built a platform on campaign finance reform, won New Hampshire, and got crushed in South Carolina, leaving the anointed one the last candidate standing.  Sound familiar?  And wasn't this one of the motivating cases for The Party Decides?

Yup, but this time, the Democratic muckety-mucks had an even lower hurdle to overcome.  It is worth comparing Hillary's position going into this race to Dubya's from 2000.  She doesn't just have a familiar name-- she has been a central figure in the Democratic Party since 1992.  She ran a nearly-successful presidential campaign in 2008, and while many Hillary-supporters resented Obama's victory (remember the PUMAs?), the resentment didn't run as much the other direction.  Obama made her Secretary of State, keeping her in the national spotlight for several more years, during much of which she was a figure of bipartisan popularity.  And, of course, the Clintons have historically had strong connections to the African-American community, which is a critical demographic among Democratic Party primary voters.

Compare that to Sanders, who isn't even a Democrat.  He has been elected to the House and Senate by Vermont as an "Independent," but merely caucuses with the Democrats.  He self-identifies as a "socialist," and runs a campaign on the issue that overwhelming majorities of voters always consider the absolute least-important-- campaign finance reform.

Now, show me a model that predicts Sanders as the winner.  I'm waiting...

What?  You can't?  That's because such a model doesn't exist.  Take away all of Hillary's endorsements, have the muckety-mucks stay completely neutral, and I'll still predict Hillary crushing Sanders.

So, is Hillary's victory what The Party Decides would have predicted?  Yup.  But, it is also what we would predict with a neutral party establishment.  You don't get points for predicting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow using a ground-breaking new model.  You get points for predicting something that other models don't predict.

Yes, Hillary crushed Sanders.  Yes, that's what The Party Decides would predict.  But, it is what any model would predict.  Enough of this Party Decides nonsense.


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