Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Whoopi Goldberg, 57.

Plus a bit of good stuff:

1. More on how Team Obama used social science insights, reported by Benedict Carey. I'll keep linking to this stuff, because it is interesting...but be careful; there's a strong tendency to want to attribute election results to campaign actions, and stuff like this has an enormous appeal to people. Especially people who are reporters. We don't know how important any of it turned out to be.

2. More discussion of pollsters, pundits, and how Team Romney could have been so wrong, from Henry Farrell. Same caution as before: we only know that Romney's campaign is saying that they were sure they were going to win; we don't know whether that's true, and if so exactly how.

3. And a defense of the Electoral College from Richard Posner. I tend to agree with his first and fourth reasons, and perhaps his fifth. My more general feeling about it is that even if you buy the argument that the flaws of the EC method exceed it's virtues, it's a close enough call that reform energy should be directed elsewhere.


  1. Whether or not "shellshocked" is just Romney's spin, I wonder about the effects on the average Republican voters that their guy lost after months of their media telling them that he was going to win big/that Obama couldn't win. There's been some interesting articles about average Republicans dealing with the loss, but I wonder how it'll effect the party over the longer term. Is it comparable to how Democrats felt in the Reagan years?

  2. On Posner and the EC, the problem with his reasons #1 and #5 -- which extol "certain" and "decisive" outcomes -- is that they depend entirely on the attitude that the losers take toward the EC. Yes, it's a political "norm" to recognize that the EC vote is final, but we already know that the Bush campaign was planning to push back on that in 2000 if the pop vote / EC split had gone the other way. In general, we've seen how much Republicans care about norms that get in the way of their desired immediate outcomes. In a case where an Antichrist Dem president like Obama won the EC while losing the popular vote, I have no doubt whatsoever that his opponents would treat that as a constitutional crisis, thus preventing the EC from playing the legitimizing role that Posner -- naively and wrongly, I think -- assumes is somehow inherent in having an EC.

  3. I notice that Posner repeats the common assertion that the EC did not give the victory to the loser in the popular vote between 1888 and 2000. This is questionable because whether JFK really got a popular plurality in 1960 depends on how you count the Alabama vote. (Alabamans voted for Democratic electors, but some of those electors were unpledged and voted for Harry Byrd for president.)

  4. Number 5 in Posner's list would be easier to swallow if the procedure for when no candidate wins an EC majority were saner.


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