Cleveland has rejoined the 19th Century, and yesterday was a bad day for me to be without electricity. I'm going to take a break from the "Political science and craziness" series to talk about Donald Trump saying something crazy and my own research on, well, politicians saying crazy shit.
As everyone knows by now, Donald Trump basically encouraged gun owners to shoot Clinton if she appoints judges who support gun control, sounding remarkably like Sharron Angle, who challenged Harry Reid for his Nevada Senate seat in 2010. Reid was supposed to be toast in 2010, but then Angle got the Republican nomination, started talking about "second amendment remedies," if conservatives didn't get their way, and Reid won reelection in a race he had no business winning.
And now Trump is doing the same thing.
And I have research! Actual, peer-reviewed, published research!
The paper is call, Going Off The Rails On A Crazy Train: The Causes And Consequences Of Congressional Infamy. (Ungated copy here). Yes, I was once a metal-head. What, you never had embarrassing tastes?
Anyway, the paper came about as I was screwing around with Google's auto-complete. I started typing legislator's names into Google to see what came up as suggested searches, and the results were fun. So, I put together a list of generic epithets to see if Google would suggest them for any given legislator's name: idiot, stupid, moron, insane, nuts, crazy, and my personal favorite, batshit crazy. Unfortunately, Google seems to have changed their algorithm to disallow such auto-completes, but it was fun while it lasted, and I got a paper out of it. Anyway, I put together a data set of Google's suggested epithets associated with Members of Congress' names, and crunched the numbers on them. Who had epithets, how many, and what were the implications?
For a trip down memory lane, you can look at the paper, and see who made what I informally called the "batshit list," and incidentally, Mike Pence was on the list! Although, to the surprise of no one who remembers the era, Michele Bachmann topped the list. She will always have a special place in my heart.
The basic point is this, though: candidates who say and do provocative shit raise a lot of money, but they help their opponents raise money too. In congressional races, incumbents wound up hurting themselves because challengers need money more than incumbents. That doesn't matter here, though, because we are at the presidential level where money doesn't really matter for anyone. What matters is that there is a direct, negative effect on vote shares for being a provocateur. In my paper, focusing on the 2010 election, there weren't enough observations for Senate elections to find an effect, but for House elections, there was an effect. It was detectable on the Republican side because, well, there just weren't as many true provocateurs on the Democratic side. Michele Bachmann (pause for swooning) lost around seven percentage points, by my estimate, in her 2010 race for being batshit crazy, although that was combining the money and the direct effects.
Donald Trump's "second amendment people" line puts him clearly in Sharron Angle territory, and he is entering Bachmann territory overall, although never in my heart. (Yes, my wife is aware of my Bachmann obsession. Somehow, I don't think Marcus would really mind either...)
I love/hate to be the guy who says, "I wrote a paper on this!," but I did. Candidates who regularly say crazy shit like this lose votes. Donald Trump is sounding like the crop of people I studied in 2010, and they lost votes for what they said. For what it's worth, the betting odds over at PredictWise currently have Clinton as a 4-1 favorite even though, as I keep saying, the Abramowitz "Time for a Change" model should put the Republicans at a slight advantage.
This is the year of craziness.