Marriage and Party Identification

A friend recently pointed out that there is a “Marriage Gap” in Party Identification and I went to look up more. This surprised me since I have a bunch of friends and myself who got married and haven’t seen much in political changes. Gallop does some analysis and find that even correcting for other factors (age, economics, etc) there is still a gap. They don’t however know which comes first the Marriage or the Party Identification:

There are a number of potential explanations for marriage’s impact on presidential vote choice. One might be that conservatives and Republicans, with their philosophical commitment to social traditions and customs, are especially likely to get married. Setting aside religious considerations and the innate desire to marry that apply to a broad cross-section of people, it may be that Republican voters also consider marriage an expression of civic responsibility that stems from their political beliefs. On that point, a Gallup poll earlier this year found that 45% of married individuals believed their views on social issues to be conservative or very conservative, while 30% of the nonmarried described their social beliefs similarly.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that marriage and the ensuing transformation of a person’s life that accompanies such an action have a profound impact on a person’s political philosophy. Such changes include a stronger interest in matters of importance to a household/family, such as a desire for greater security and stability, and that may alter a person’s vote preference.

Random Links for 2008/01/28

  • Can Conservatives Face Up To Their Dead Ideas?
    Commentary about a Bruce Bartlett piece in Politico specifically in the realm if a constant push for tax cuts is responsible and/or effective.
  • What Are Chicago’s Economists Thinking?
    Apparently the freshwater economists are going crazy. Brad in this article points to some of the reactions.
  • Apparently Obama is a Serious Player with respect to republicans on the stimulus package:  (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/us/politics/28obama.html)

    “This was not a drive-by P.R. stunt, and I actually thought it might be,” said Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee. “It was a substantive, in-depth discussion with our conference, and he’s very effective.”
    “He knows that the debt and the deficit are huge long-term problems as well,” Mr. Wamp said, “and he made a compelling case. He sounded, frankly, a lot like a Republican.”

    This only increases my concerned that Republicans are not participating in the process purely on political concerns.

Most punditry is pure entertainment

I’ve been claiming that pundits like Ann Coulter were a type of entertainer for a long time, but it was impressive the way Monday’s Daily Show nailed it home.

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random and incoherent

Responding to Misha’s post… I got too long, random and incoherent to actually leave this as a comment. So I’m just posting it on my own blog:

Actually most people I know who call themselves liberals are more interested in solving problems instead of the specific means of the solution; individualism, collectivism are each tools in the arsenal. I do agree with you to watch out for people who implement solutions and abandon metrics to see if it actually solves problems more effectively (or at all), or even worse, are proud of the numbers going south because it raises the consequences of "bad" personal behavior.

Since conservatives seem more dogmatic about how one solves problems (to use your definition) they tend to assume their opposition must be defined by solving problems the other way, collectivism. Every time they see other side use any form of collectivism, it just confirms their assumption. Of course they also seem to suffer from a giant blind spot when it comes to moral collectivism, in which case individual choice of behavior is no longer sufficient, and they back government coercion. To which I see the heart of the essay responding to. Those people aren’t real conservatives then.

This brings up one of my open ended questions that I’ve been pondering the world with since high school. Can you can judge a political ideology by it’s ideas alone, or if you have to evaluate it in the frame of how people have actually implemented them and the results. Of course this is a false dichotomy, you can’t evaluate pure ideas regarding human behavior and social patterns, and no idea is ever purely implemented. (Asmoiv wrote an entire science fiction series on the existence of  a general purpose scientific method of human behavior, it remains science fiction). This is a reminder to me that while you can try to define a movement all you like in terms of nice pat definitions, it is really the pragmatic behaviors of it’s self proclaimed followers that we must judge it by. Misha falls into this trap by defining the intellectually pure movement he wishes instead of the movement it is. He fights against labels that are not really there to be descriptive, but rather mealy serve as a commonly agreed upon label, which at best is aspirational and more typically ironic.

There is also some non-sequiturs that seem to claim that because he, personally, wasn’t convinced of a given governmental policy, it is therefore a delusional radical collectivist thing, instead of a policy adopted by the system of government we all implicitly and sometimes explicitly consent to live under. I also have to remind myself of that fact every now and then during this current administration.

In the end I see almost zero practical value in Misha’s exercise. The reality is that either side will say whatever it takes to sound appealing to some measured off groups of constituents backed by some semblance of an intellectual fig leaf (mostly formed in demonizing the other group and pseudo-science). This continues until the internal contradictions of the coalition can no longer be overlooked by it members, causing the group to implode until a new form emerges.

I believe you need to simply hop on a bus that you think it heading in the right direction without wrapping your identity up with in the vehicle you are riding on that day.

Slate on the pledge

From the Slate Daily podcast, I learned something (with the risk of  invoking Godwin’s Law) about the origins of the Pledge of Allegiance controversy:

For those who may have skipped that day in your constitutional-law class, it’s worth repeating that the pledge controversy began in Hitler’s Germany when the Nazis sent thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses to concentration camps to punish them for refusing to make the Hitler salute to the Nazi flag on the grounds that they don’t believe in swearing allegiance to any worldly government and didn’t recognize Adolf as a semi-demi-divinity.

As a result, the American leader of the Witnesses denounced the hand-over-heart flag-salute American Pledge of Allegiance on similar grounds. The flag as false idol. It would seem to me other religions should have joined in.

Just to reminds us what we mean by false idol; Cue Exodus 20:4-5:

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

Maybe the point of having the “under god” line added, to make sure it’s clear that country is second before religion, although I think there are some wouldn’t like that interpretation. Of course if one believes that the American government is fundamentally supposed to be a religious organization, then that might be a way out  of the contradiction too.

Just Don't It

I’ve never quite understood how economic conservatives deal with the cognitive dissidence of supporting abstinence-only education. Aside from being a wasteful use of tax money, the position runs counter to what makes free markets work; individual choice and information. Abstinence only education is on the wrong side of the equation; limiting choice and reducing available information. Why should anyone be surprised it is less effective at producing good outcomes?

Modern National Politics

Robert Reich recently passed through Seattle and one of his engagements was recorded on the KUOW Speakers Forum podcast. He had earlier that day been by Microsoft and I unfortunately missed the event, I will have to see if it was internally recorded and skip to the Q/A. He is currently out on a book tour for his new book “Super Capitalism”. The premise of the talk seems to attempt to explain the change in American politics from the 40s and 50s where people were widely involved and optimistic about democratic politics and organizations.He sketches out a model of how he feels the relationship between democracy and capitalism should work. In so many words he describes the idea the prisoner dilemma for consumers. You want to support some random cause such as not supporting companies involved with terrorist states or using child labor, but you rationally believe that your individual choice to not get the bet price/quality mix won’t really matter. Specifically that you can’t trust others to make the same buying choices. The solution is to control to common rules of the game via laws. However this runs into two major problems.

First, corporate lobbyist control a lot of the campaign cash flow and potential get a lot of stopping power against rules they don’t like. Reich shows this by pointing out how common Congressional chastising is without any legislation. The appearance of concern without doing anything about it. A dog and pony show that works for both the companies and the politicians. Reich avoids blaming the companies for being in Washington because the primary reason they are in Washington is that their competitors are. (Proving the point, he mentions Microsoft and Yahoo for why Google has a large presence, when it was companies like IBM, Novell and Sun is why Microsoft has its presence).

Second, The effects of globalization (Reich calls it the technology inheritance of WWII). The transportation improvements meant that more companies could compete and putting a lot ore pressure on prices. The same technology boom enabled a huge growth in investment. These two pressures build up and give companies a lot of incentive to cut cost every way possible, leading to his point that you can’t expect a company to be moral. Shame is a PR problem and it is responded to with more PR, not real change. He takes the PR shame approach to activism as a fundamentally flaw methodology. He doesn’t adequately address the next problem, with laying down laws as the approach to corporate behavior change, globalization and very weak world government means that many such laws only hurt the country passing them. He makes two counter arguments. The extra-territorial affect of the US is really large and second that doing the right thing will cost something.

This last concept that there is a cost and benefit to such actions resonates deeply for me. All to often I’ve seen otherwise smart people rely on a form of wishful thinking to believe that you can’t take actions like lower taxes or build roads and not have to pay for it somehow. Yes, yes, sometimes the system is so off that there is such an effect, but it’s bizarre to me that people believe it is the common case. This brings us to Former President Bill Clinton’s visit to campus. (You can catch roughly the same speech at slate). Clinton made almost the opposite argument from Reich. He basks in the glow of how many new non-governmental organizations now exist and how much money and affect they have. He also sells fixing global warming as something that actually benefits one’s economy instead of hurting it.

Overall I was very happy to start to feel some of architectural underpinnings of our current political system and some views of what it should be like. Reich sounded fundamentally backwards looking in approach, but was able to diagnose some malfunction, Clinton seems to be proud of some of the aspects of where we are today, but I’m not convinced that the new system works better.

Prop 1 – Not the Hospital One

I first learned the name of the big Seattle area roads and transit package at a Microsoft Hosted Forum regarding the package. Microsoft had gathered together a republican King County Council Member, the President of the Cascade Land Conservancy, the Executive Director of Transportation Choices and our Sr VP of LCA, Brad Smith. The made sure to be clear that they were talking about the Roads and Transit prop 1, and not the hospital prop 1 (apparently there are name collisions on the ballet). While this wasn’t an “all sides” group, they represented a wide span of interests who believed in the compromise as exactly that, compromise.

It seems like on the surface that no one likes this package. My more conservative friends who have been arguing for roads for a long time balk at actually have to pay for more roads. Generic liberals (I haven’t talked about prop 1 with my liberal friends) think that any roads are bad for the environment and unnecessary. Plus they will have a chance to try to get the transit package voted in without being tied to roads. The problem I have with the conservative position is that the longer they wait to approve a roads package, the more expensive it will be. They seem stuck in the “I want a pony, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it” mentality. The problem I have with the liberal position is that all they are going to do is devalue the Seattle area, by letting the problems get worse. If they truly cared about the environment, they would understand that growth happens and they are just shifting the problem to somewhere place in the region/country.

I’ve looked at the big projects involved in the package, and I have to say that the priorities seem right. Fix 520 bridge, fix the mess between 169 and 520 along 405. Get 9 better. Get light rail north and get light rail to the east side (and to Microsoft). I also don’t believe that the transit package will pass alone. After giving the finger to eastsiders, a big Seattle focused transit package isn’t going to do well.

We will have to see how this one plays out.

It's about the Issues?

As someone who enjoys watching politics (maybe in the same way that people enjoy watching car wrecks or the show Cops). I have to admit I’m annoyed with the finding discussed in a recent Science Friday piece that quick (in the ms) views of politician’s faces can enable people to predict the winner with 70% accuracy. The accuracy goes down dramatically once people know anything about the candidate.

Thought 1: Does simple face based judgement lead actually do a good job in selecting people for office?
Thought 2: If not, what sort of simple or bizarre rules could one introduce to minimize or eliminate this effect? 🙂

How will history remember Bush?

The Washington Post has a series about how Bush will be remembered:

  • He’s The Worst Ever 
    …somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.
  • Move Over, Hoover
    Bush has two more years to leave his mark, he argued. What if there is a news flash that U.S. Special Forces have killed Osama bin Laden or that North Korea has renounced its nuclear program? What if a decade from now Iraq is a democracy and a statue of Bush is erected on Firdaus Square where that famously toppled one of Saddam Hussein once stood?
    …truth is, after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it’s safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder. The reason: Iraq.

    His presidential library will someday be built around two accomplishments: that after 9/11, the U.S. homeland wasn’t again attacked by terrorists (knock on wood) and that he won two presidential elections, allowing him to appoint conservatives to key judicial posts. I also believe that he is an honest man and that his administration has been largely void of widespread corruption. This will help him from being portrayed as a true villain.
  • Time’s on His Side
    … Perhaps Bush can take solace in the case of Harry S. Truman, who was reviled at the end of his presidency, with approval numbers hovering around 30 percent. Too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals, Truman was saddled with an unpopular stalemate in the Korean War and accusations of corruption at home. Many saw him as a belligerent rube, too unsophisticated for the White House.

    Today, however, many historians have revised their estimate of his presidency upward. There certainly are echoes of Truman in the current carping about Bush.

    No one expects historians to be perfectly objective. But history should at least teach us humility. Time will cool today’s political passions. As years pass, more documents will be released, more insights gleaned and the broader picture of this era will be painted. Only then will we begin to see how George W. Bush fares in the pantheon of U.S. presidents.

  • At Least he’s not Nixon
    Bush has two years left in his presidency and we don’t know what they’ll hold. They may be as dismal as the first six. Future investigations may bear out many people’s worst fears about this administration’s violations of civil liberties. And it’s conceivable that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq may prove more destructive than those of Nixon’s stubborn continuation of the Vietnam War. Should those things happen, Bush will be able to lay a claim to the mantle of U.S. history’s worst president. For now, though, I’m sticking with Dick.