Monday, July 11, 2011

Where Cantor Sits

There's been a lot of stuff today and over the weekend about how little sway John Boehner has within the Republican conference. I do think that there's one thing Boehner has going for him, though, that I haven't seen mentioned: the last thing that Eric Cantor should want would be an insurrection right now that would leave him Speaker.

As I've said, one way or another, eventually, the debt limit is going to be raised (I suppose the exception is if Barack Obama invokes the 14th amendment, but I think that's relatively unlikely). Could be after a technical default, or a market cataclysm, but it's eventually going up, and with the support of whoever is Speaker at that point.  I'll add: one way or another, there will be spending bills passed to allow the government to stay open in the next fiscal year. Just as with the debt limit, it's going to take cutting a deal of some sort with the Democrats, and the Speaker is going to have to endorse the deal. Could come after a government shutdown, but eventually it will happen.

And yet important segments of the GOP, at the elite and the mass level, just reject the entire notion of compromise. In general, and with our Kenyan anti-colonialist socialist president in particular. Whoever is Speaker will have to compromise (and given the situation, it's going to be the Speaker who is the most visible GOP compromiser).

The odds are very good that the differences between John Boehner and Eric Cantor have nothing to do with policy positions or ideology; the differences have to do with where they sit. Indeed, I think Cantor is going to have to wind up supporting the debt limit deal and the FY 2012 spending deal, but at least he'll be able to blame Boehner for it, and allow the crazier GOP Members of the House (and the rank-and-file) to maintain an illusion that they would get whatever they wanted if only their leaders didn't sell them out.

If, that is, Boehner is still around.

And so it's very much in Cantor's interest for now to keep Boehner right where he is.


  1. I suspect Boehner will have a heart attack over this and resign (he does smoke at least 3 packs a day). Then Cantor will have to suck it up. How many in the leadership will go down over this?

  2. Thanks. I was having a pretty nice day, until I read this. Now I'm depressed al over again.

  3. I'm beginning to suspect that the GOP/TP intransigence is based on their realization that time and demographics are running against them . . . that it's now or never.

  4. Yeah, because people never BECOME conservative, and Latinos and African-Americans are going to support Democrats just because they're Democrats forever. Uh-huh.

    Limited government is not going out of style because of demographic shifts. Dream on.

  5. @Anon#2:
    the demographics ARE stacked against the GOP. While Latinos or any other group might move towards the GOP in the future, I would think the GOP would rather not have to hope for that.

    People do change their ideologies somewhat, mostly because most people don't actually have an ideology. People don't change their partisanships much at all, absent a realignment.

    I know, it'd be nice to believe that everyone will eventually come to know "the truth" as you know it. But the simple truth that decades of survey research tells us is that partisanship is relatively fixed.

  6. Yes and no. Partisanship is relatively fixed, but not necessarily across generations.

    It would be no surprise if the next generation of Latinos has different partisan leanings than the current one.

    OTOH, it's certainly not happening as of now. And in the short term (next dozen years, say) IMO the most likely flip would be Cuban-Americans starting to vote like other Latinos. But over a longer time frame, I wouldn't necessarily project Latinos to stay as Dem as they are now.

  7. As Jonathan says, there's a clear difference between partisan affiliation for the current generation and across generations.

    And really, it doesn't even pass the smell test. For one, it assumes that people are born into ideologies. For another, it plays with demographics selectively, because it ignores the fact that older voters are more conservative. And growing old isn't going out of style, either.

    It's wishful thinking, pure and simple.

  8. Anon:
    There is a slight tendency amongst people to become more conservative as they age. This is different, of course, from a cohort effect (that is, people born earlier are more conservative, which you can find on some issues (social, mostly) but not on others (taxation)). For example, Boomers have voted mostly Republican their entire lives, ranging from 47-59% in most years (it drops to 42% for the Clinton elections, but that's a 3-way vote thing). They've also gotten more conservative, by about 15 points. (by contrast, the generation prior to theirs hasn't changed their ideology a bit since we started asking the question in 1972) But ideology is not partisanship

    However, there is not a tendency for people to become more Republican. Rather, they tend to become more partisan: Dems become stronger Dems, and Reps become stronger Reps. Indies tend to move towards weak partisanship. There are also strong cohort effects here: people who came of age in the 1920s were much more Republican than those who came of age in the 1930s, and my own cohort (came of age in the 80s) is more Republican than those that came before or after us.

    It's not an assumption that people are "born into ideologies." It's an assumption that people are politically socialized by their families, and that partisanship is part of that socialization. Only about 1/6 of children born to Democratic parents become Republicans and the same goes for the opposite side of the aisle. While those numbers are growing in recent years (closer to 1/5 or 1/4 in recent studies).

    Look, I'm not saying that the Republicans won't become dominant in the future, maybe even a few years from now. Events can radically change people's partisanships. And right now, the numbers are relatively tied; for the last 20+ years, either party really could win most presidential elections if the economy broke their way. However, IF the people of the near future identify similarly to those of the recent past, the demographics are not favorable to the GOP. Voting alignments have shifted in the past, even rapidly, but those rapid shifts are usually response to giant events, like the Great Depression. I can't say that something big won't happen and cause groups to change their affiliations. Most change is glacial. The biggest changes I can find in partisanship amongst major demographic variables in the last 60 years are the realignment of the South (which is more than people changing their minds, as the South has seen massive migration there). The biggest, enduring "shock" is the 10-point(ish) gain the Republicans made across a number of demographics in the 1980s, leading to the current rough parity situation.

    Anon, I'm not wishing this; it's what political science research says. It also says that, if the economy doesn't improve a good bit in the next year, Obama is toast. I really don't like that last one, but it's true.


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