Saturday, November 10, 2012

Expecting a Learning Curve?

Should we expect the Republicans to learn from their losses this week?  No.  Well, maybe.  Ok, some will learn but will it change the behavior of the party?  Well, the first bit of evidence would be no.  John Boehner is claiming that the GOP win in the House, keeping control, is a mandate.  Given that more folks voted for the Democrats but successful gerrymandering meant that the GOP got more seats, this is a thin mandate indeed.

But my doubt about GOP learning/reform is more driven by my Marxist understanding of politics.  That is, who controls the commanding heights of the Republican political economy?  That is, who has the money, who controls the institutions, and what are the incentives for change?   Reality-based conservatives, an increasingly rare species, are noting that FOX and other GOP outlets are somewhat to blame.  Is it like that FOX and talk radio and other conservative outlets will moderate their tone as they realize that the center of the political system is to the left of where they stand?  Unlikely.  So, the agenda-setting and issue-framing on the right will still be on the waaaay right.

Will the Koch brothers and other deep pockets who support the farthest right folks learn?  Hmmmm.  I am not an expert on these folks, so I cannot say for sure.

Gerrymandering has also created some incentives for always heading to the right.

My vote, as always, is also for cognitive closure.  People can and will draw out whatever lessons they want, such as:
I am sure we will hear more excuses.  Sure, some of the fundamentals that political scientists care so much about pointed to an Obama re-election, so perhaps the GOP and its fans can take solace in the idea that no candidate would have won.  But there are a few problems with this:
  • the vote distributions of ethnic groups, where even Cuban-Americans voted more for Obama than for Romney, an historic reversal;
  • the losses by the rape boys and the victories of the female Democrats for a number of Senate seats;
  • the passage of a pro-tax proposition in California; the passage of pro-same sex propositions elsewhere.
So, yes, Obama only won the popular vote for a few million votes (which kills the whole non-mandate thing), but he did so when unemployment is quite high, where the popularity of the Afghanistan war has declined, a month after a messy foreign policy crisis (Benghazi), and when the average family is just treading water as post-recession growth has been weak.  Seems like ripe conditions for a one-term presidency.  But no.  The GOP lost.  Given that they are sore losers, I doubt that they will take it well and learn.  It took a long time for the Democrats to learn, and they didn't really have to fight the folks controlling the key resources and institutions in the same way.

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