Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Wrapping up the "Assessing democracy..." series

With confirmation hearings starting up and Obamacare votes in the works, I can stop stalling, so it's about time to wrap this thing up.

The whole point of this series has been the basic observation that the framers were actually pretty nervous about what happens when voters make decisions.  They didn't trust voters with too much power.  The president wasn't supposed to be directly elected, nor was the Senate.  Why?  Damned, stupid voters...  That really was what the framers basically thought.  Go read The Federalist Papers.  The House of Representatives was supposed to be directly elected to respond to the will of the people, and the Senate and the President were supposed to be indirectly elected, chosen by more sophisticated people, but just not inherited positions.  Why?  Partly to keep things from responding too quickly to the fickle, whimsical people.

And 2016, well...  It is sort of unique.  Voters recognized that one candidate was grossly unqualified.  They voted for him anyway.  Those decisions could not be rationalized with other conventional "valence" characteristics, nor really with a well-defined location in the liberal-conservative policy dimension that political scientists often use in spatial models.  Really, the decision to vote for the unqualified candidate (aside from his own co-partisans) occurred to maintain the sanctity of the DDRRDDRR pattern which has mostly characterized presidential election voting patterns in the post-WWII era.  This has led to the election of someone that the electorate knew was unfit for office.  If nothing else, this must be characterized as a failure of rationality unless we abide by the most strict form of the axiom of revealed preferences, in which case there is no point evaluating the rationality of any action.

And yet the very uniqueness of 2016 leaves us in a puzzlement.  This hasn't happened before.  Despite the bizarre and arbitrary nature of DDRRDDRR, it has never resulted in a president who so closely resembles President Camacho, having actually appeared in both wrestling and even a Playboy movie (yes, really), but never having been involved in policy-making at any level.

So, yeah, that happened.  But, this series is about "assessing democracy."  So, um, compared to what?  This was actually the theme of the first couple of posts.  Yes, that matters!  A lot!  How many elections do we count?  Just the ones since the Voting Rights Act?  The ones since McGovern-Fraser, because of the new winnowing mechanism?  Then, in contrast, what system is more likely to avoid giving power to someone like Trump?  I still don't have any answers there.

DDRRDDRR is a stupid way to pick a president.  But, well, I'll let the good Colonel handle this one...

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