Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The divergent party, Part IV: The "counterfactual"

How is it that the Republican Party can be losing an election at the presidential level that, by rights, they should be winning, while cleaning up at the congressional and state levels with the same essential platform?  How do we explain the Republican Party's divergent levels of electoral success?  That has been the puzzle in the "divergent party" series.  In Part III, I addressed the midterm phenomenon, knocking down a favorite modern myth among Democrats, but here, let's just get to the heart of the matter.

Buzzword alert, buzzword alert.  "Counterfactual," as in, counter to fact.  As in, not true.  As in, a lie.  What if the world were otherwise?  What if Donald Trump weren't the nominee?

1)  Would the Republican platform be different?  Well, remember how John McCain was a pro-immigration reform type of guy?  Yeah, then in 2008, he had to run on this:

So, replace Trump with another candidate.  Would the "counterfactual" of a different candidate lead to a different platform?  Probably not.

That leads us to the second part of the counterfactual.

2)  Would another candidate do better in the polls?  Almost certainly.  I'm a statistician, so I won't say anything with absolute certainty, but Trump is underperforming.  Fence/wall, same diff.  Romney ran on a self-deportation thing, Trump is all about deportation, same diff.  What makes Trump different?  Not policy.  That's the point.  The predictive models, like Abramowitz's "Time for a Change" model, give the Republicans an edge in a year with two previous Democratic victories and only tepid economic growth.

During the DNC, Khizr Khan, muslim immigrant and father of a fallen veteran, harshly criticized Trump.  The smart move for a presidential candidate?  Ignore it.  Trump, however, is a moron with no self control, leading to a week-long feud with the grieving parents of a war hero, 'cuz that's smart.

What's important here isn't the Khan story.  What's important is that we are having a conversation about immigration and the Republican Party, not because immigration, as a policy issue is destroying the Republican Party via Trump, but because the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump.  Despite the fact that Donald Trump's policy platform connects directly to McCain and Romney with respect to immigration, he is underperforming relative to them.  In the counterfactual case of a Jeb Bush/Marco Rubio/Scott Walker/Any Republican Other Than Trump nomination, this wouldn't be a discussion.  This isn't about a party facing a structural crisis.  This is a story about a party with a lousy nominee.  Is the growing Latino population an issue for the Republican Party?  Sure.  But, as I've been saying, demography is not destiny.  Trump is just a lousy nominee.

And hey, look!  I mentioned Khizr Khan without making a Star Trek reference!  Must... not... post... clip...


  1. There may be something to policy hurting Trump, though.

    He's got ONE policy. Racism. "Self-deportation" and "dang fence" are NOT the same as "rapists and murderers."

    I think Trump's been hurt by his Trumpiness, but part of what Trumpiness is is total and complete policy ignorance. He's doing just about the worst among Republicans of anyone since Goldwater, and doing so in an era where our partisanship is actually ANTI-partisanship, so Hillary really is perfect to get party loyalty up on the evil side.

    And yet....he's doing worse.

    The Trump effect is BOTH about him AND about his policy "positions." It's MORE about him, but there still is the latter.

    1. I believe it was "rapists and drug dealers," not, "rapists and murderers," but that's still not policy. Nor is policy ignorance a policy. He doesn't have a well-defined policy separate from McCain or Romney, and that's the point.

      That mess about whether or not there will be a massive deportation force combing the country looking for people to round up? Will there be? How large, and funded how? Notice how there were no coherent answers? That's a lack of policy. We are left with deportation and walls/fences, and that's a distinction without a difference. The real difference is Trump's mouth.

      So, we are looking at a normal partisan division with an abnormal candidate overlaid on it. Or, perhaps in honor of Gene Wilder, an A.B. Normal one.

    2. Justin, you informed slut:

      The problem is that you're trying to parse him for an ACTUAL policy position, like a journalist. (Fun story: Julia Azari once took offense when she thought I called her a journalist) That's treating voters with WAY more respect than they deserve (which, is really surprising, coming from you).

      Voters don't know "policy positions." They are getting the signal, though: Trump hates brown people and will do bad things to them. It doesn't matter that Trump says nothing concrete if voters HEAR something concrete.

      And I looked it up. There's really two quotes. There's his announcement speech: " They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
      And then on CNN a bit later, asked to clarify, he said: "But you have people coming in and I'm not just saying Mexicans, I'm talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they're coming into this country."

      So, it was really "killers and rapists" "bringing drugs" and "crime."

    3. How dare you accuse me of giving voters credit. Take that back! And I'm blanking on Curtain's retorts to Akroyd at the moment, but anyway...

      I never said the voters knew or heard policy. I simply pointed out that Trump had none of any distinction. He just has bluster. Whether or not voters hear policy is a falsifiable proposition. However, that gets us into projection, which happens every year anyway.

      However, I forgot about the CNN thing, so I yield on that. Policy, though? No. This is about affect, not policy, and I give voters no credit. I demand that you rescind your vile accusation immediately. Also, the journalist thing. That's pretty sleazy too. What have I done to you to deserve these vicious insults?