Friday, October 22, 2010

Election 2010: You Fail Civics Forever

Over at the site TV Tropes, you'll find a whole mess of stuff. Nominally, at least, it's about storytelling tropes. It's ended up containing that, and a whole lot more. Some of my favorite lists on the site are along the lines of "You Fail (blank) Forever", containing examples of epic failures of understanding in such diverse fields as Engineering, Nuclear Physics, History, and Biology.

They do not yet have a You Fail Civics Forever page. They should start one:

How anyone with a functional reading knowledge of the English language can read, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion" and NOT see a clear separation of Church and State is, quite frankly, beyond me. But that's the Tea Party for you: volkisch religious populists pretending to be libertarians. They're already showing the signs of learning the wrong lessons from November, and November isn't even here yet.

In any case, the election is upon us. It's still eleven days off, but I'm comfortable enough with the tools we have to make a few predictions. Last time, the numbers were pretty solid as far as three weeks out, after all. Courtesy of Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight, and the bettors at Intrade, here are the numbers:

Senate: Democrats keep the Senate, 52-48, 58% chance
House of Representatives: Republicans win control, 230-204, 90% chance

Which means that nothing much is going to get done on the legislative front, unless it's got true, broad bi-partisan appeal. Gridlock is the way to bet, I think. The House Republicans may feel bold enough to play political "chicken" and risk a government shutdown by stalling spending bills. That won't work any better for them than it did for them in the '90s, but they'll probably try anyway.

Still, gridlock isn't the worst thing in the world that could happen. Consider this from a business person's perspective. The last few years have held nothing but upheavals. The rules have been totally re-written in terms of health care coverage, and in rules governing financial markets. While it's true that good and valuable legislation doesn't get passed under gridlock, it's also true that the rules stop changing, and that can be a good thing. It removes uncertainty. It allows you to plan ahead with more confidence and certainty. At least, slightly cynical small-L libertarians like myself tend to see things that way.

And things are primed for a recovery. The news we hear out of Wall Street these days are full of really good earnings reports. You may grind your teeth when you compare this with the pretty lousy job reports ... but remember, this is how it was playing out in the early '90s, too. This is the last step in the economic cycle, right before the recovery and expansion really get moving. All that's needed is a bit of respite from horribly bad news.

And here's where I think that the Tea Party is going to learn the wrong lesson from the election. They think the election is a referendum on Obama's policies, when it's really a referendum on current economic conditions, which still pretty much stink if you're looking for work. And they think that 2012 will be more of the same, when it'll really be a referendum on prevailing economic conditions twenty-four months from now. It's all about the economy. Ideology has nothing to do with it. But ideologues will never, ever understand that. Which is why, come 2012, the Tea Party is liable to run the wrong campaign for the wrong election.

With that in mind, I'll make a long-range prediction for the next election cycle. Come Spring 2012, if unemployment is significantly down, if business is doing well, and if there aren't any horrifying disasters on the foreign front, Obama wins re-election in a cake-walk. If we're still in the doldrums, he gets turfed ignominiously.

1 comment:

Jack Jodell said...

"...that's the Tea Party for you: volkisch religious populists pretending to be libertarians." I think you've nailed them petty accurately, Tim, and I salute you for what I view as a very sound and well-reasoned post. Thank you for this.