December 2008 Archives

Happy New Year

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I apologize that I haven't posted lately or responded to comments.  But like our new president, I'm on a tropical vacation.  I'll be back in the New Year.

Polarization

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In the aftermath of the 2006 election, the era of polarization was declared over in such astute analyses as this one:

1101061120_400.jpg

The impetus behind such conclusions was the extraordinary success of "Red State" Democrats such as Jon Tester and Heath Shuler.  But few pundits took note of the fact the these Red Democrats were only moderate or conservative on a few social issues, but quite populist on economics and trade.   Even fewer considered the consequences of the extinction of "Blue State" Republicans for polarization in Congress.

But now that Congress has adjourned sine die, Keith Poole has fired up the NOMINATE machine, and we can look at what impact, in any, the 2006 elections had on the level of party polarization in the House and Senate.

This first figure is an update of the data presented in our book with Howard Rosenthal showing the average difference between Democrats and Republicans on the DW-NOMINATE conservatism scale.   

polarization.jpg

Do you see the dramatic collapse of polarization in congressional term beginning in 2007?  Me neither.  In fact, polarization rose in the 110th Congress just as it has almost every term since 1975.  The House had set a record for polarization in the 109th, but the 110th broke it.  The Senate broke its own record set in 1867.

So what might the future bring?  To get a prediction that is hopefully at least as accurate as Joe Klein's, I have forecast the average conservatism of Democrats and Republicans for the next congressional term in the following way:

  1. Assigned all returning members their DW-NOMINATE score from the preceding term.
  2. Assigned all new members the average DW-NOMINATE score for their party and region.  In other words, a new Democrat from the Midwest gets the average of all midwestern Democrats and a new Republican from the South is assigned the average of all southern Republicans.

Essentially, this procedure captures the effects of the regional distribution of partisan seat shifts.  A seat shifted from Republicans to Democrats in the Northeast increases polarization whereas a Democratic pickup in the South decreases it.  So here is what the House and Senate may look like next term.

house_fc.jpg

senate_fc.jpgIn each of the figures, the red line is the average conservatism of Republicans, and the blue line is the average conservatism of the Democrats for each term since 1969. The triangles are my prediction for the next term.   The Democratic average is expected to change very little, but the Republicans will be considerably more conservative.  This, of course, is due to their continued hemorrhaging of seats outside the South.   The net effect is again an increase in polarization.

All of this is predicated on the assumption that there will not be any major deviations from recent historical patterns.  Of course, things could change.  In the conclusion of our book (written in January 2005), Keith, Howard, and I speculate that a financial crisis triggered by a housing bubble might lead to a swing in the public's partisanship and ideology that might cause the Republicans to moderate.  So we have the crisis, a modest swing in public attitudes, but if the congressional votes on the bailouts are any indication, the Republicans haven't take that last step.

Progressives in the Cabinet

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David Lewis offers a very insightful response to my post on the composition of Obama's cabinet.  So insightful, in fact, that I want to re-post and respond here rather than the comments section.

One thing to remember here is that there arguably aren't that many progressives with resumes to easily qualify them for a top spot after 8 years of Bush and 8 years of Clinton. I suspect where you will initially see lots of progressives, if at all, will be in the White House and in the sub-cabinet. The appointments of the science advisor and the NOAA head yesterday were both progressives. You bring them in, you credential them, and then you elevate them later.

Another thing to consider here is that most of the people who have been pre-vetted are Clinton people who tended to be more moderate.

  • The point about the pipeline is good one, but not entirely persuasive since Obama went heavily to the legislative and gubernatorial wells and overwhelmingly chose moderates. There are certainly progressives in the academic and think tank worlds who are sufficiently credentialed.
  • One of the striking things about Obama's appointments is that each time he appointed a progressive he tended to balance him/her with a moderate.  Stephen Chu gets Energy, but Ken Salazar gets Interior.  Hilda Solis gets Labor, but free-trading Ron Kirk will be the U.S. Trade Representative.  But moderates aren't balanced off.  Where is the Joe Stiglitz to the Larry Summers? 
  • I agree that there may be more progessives in the sub-cabinet.  Clearly, the strategy of the Bush adminstration was to get movement conservatives into sub-cabinet positions and then coordinate them from the White House.  But I question whether, Obama could pursue a similar strategy.  After all, such high profile picks are not likely to be so keen to have appointments dictated to them from the White House.
  • I also agree that climate and the environment is one area where the new adminstration appears the most willing to push to the left.

Let me just conclude by saying that I think Obama's cabinet is one incredibly impressive group of individuals.  My only doubt is whether his "Dream Team" can function in such a way that most effectively pursues his agenda.

The Cabinet

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That Obama is set to nominate so many former legislators to his Cabinet and senior White House staff provides a rare opportunity for comparing the ideological make-up of the new administration to that of Congress.

With the nomination of Hilda Solis to be Labor Secretary and Ray LaHood to be Transportation Secretary, there will be six former House and Senate members in the cabinet (including Clinton, Daschle, Salazar, and Richardson).  Throw in Obama himself, Joe Biden, and Rahm Emanuel, we have a pretty good sample of former legislators to compare to the current composition House and Senate Democratic caucuses.

 

To gauge the differences between the administration and Congressional democrats, I use Keith Poole's "common space" measurement of conservatism.  This measure is an adjustment of DW-NOMINATE scores designed to facilitate comparison of the House and Senate.  Each legislator is given a single conservatism score for her entire career ranging from around -1 (very liberal) to 1 (very conservative).  One drawback is that these scores are only available up through the 109th Congress (2005-2006). So I can only compare the cabinet to the Democratic caucuses of that term.  Another is that Bill Richardson's score more than a decade old (but the rest continued to serve through the 110th Congress).

 

The following table list the conservatism scores for the administration as well as the House and Senate leaders and the medians of the caucuses.

 

Pelosi

-.455

Solis

-.451

Clinton

-.359

Obama

-.343

House Democratic Median

-.329

Biden

-.326

Emanuel

-.323

Senate Democratic Median

-.316

Daschle

-.278

Richardson

-.255

Reid

-.251

Salazar

-.220

LaHood

  .265

 

The evidence is pretty strong that the administration lies considerably to the right of the Democrats in the House, but is reasonably representative of Senate Democrats.  But only Solis comes from the most liberal wing of the party.  The center of the party is well represented in powerful positions by the president, vice-president, secretary of state, and WH chief of staff while the lower cabinet is filled with more moderate Democrats and a Republican.  No wonder Nancy Pelosi is worried about being triangulated.

 

Of course, maybe the table is misleading because it only includes cabinet-designates who served in Congress. Maybe liberals and progressives are better represented in the other positions.  Doubtful.  Gates is a Republican.  Teachers unions were disappointed with Duncan.  Geitner is a Robert Rubin/Larry Summers protégé.  Napolitano and Vilsack are red state governors.  Shinseki is a hero to the left, but probably not of the left.  Donovan appears to be a centrist who worked in both the Clinton and Bloomberg administrations.  Holder is a corporate lawyer.  So think I that leaves Stephen Chu as the only remaining cabinet member with views consonant with the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

 

There has been a fair amount of grumbling just below the surface about how poorly progressives have fared. Rick Warren's invitation didn't help matters.  It will be interesting to see how long Obama can keep the lid on it before it boils over. 

The Good Old Days

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Maybe it's a sign that I am finally getting old, but I seem to recall a quaint time in years past where governors seemed content to fill Senate vacancies with caretakers who served out the term and did not seek reelection. The norm against using the appointment to launch a Senate career was so strong that many serious politicians shied away from accepting.

 

Fortunately, the useful people at the Senate Historical Office have compiled a list of all appointed Senators since the adoption of the 17th amendment and whether they ran for and won election to a full term. So I can test my recollections against hard data.

 

The list contains 180 appointed Senators.  More than a third, 63 to be exact, chose not to run for election to a full term (one died in office).  And many of those that did run suffered an ignominious fate.  Twenty-two were not nominated by their party and 34 were defeated in the general election for a full term.  So only 60 appointees, less than a third, actually won a full term as senator.

 

So how have things changed over time?  To see, I have broken up the data by decade.

  

Decade

Total Appointees

Did Not Run

Lost Nomination

Lost General

Won

1910's

16

7

1

2

6

1920's

26

7

2

6

11

1930's

29

10

5

3

11

1940's

38

19

4

5

10

1950's

21

11

2

5

3

1960's

20

3

3

7

7

1970's

9

3

4

1

1

1980's

6

1

0

2

3

1990's

8

2

1

2

3

2000's

7

1

0

1

5

 

 Some interesting patterns emerge. The number of vacancies filled by gubernatorial appointment has fallen. I'm not sure, but I suspect it is some combination of the increasing use of special elections and increased longevity of senators (fewer die in office). There is also some evidence in favor of my recollections of the good old days. A greater percentage of appointed senators run for a full term over the past several decades than before (full discloser:  I'm actually not old enough to remember those good old days). The appointees have fared significantly better in elections over time (especially in the last decade). If Blago is right and an appointed Senate seat is "an f----ing valuable thing", it appears that its appreciation is quite recent.

 

It seems to me that the changing expectations about how this appointment power is to be used calls further into question the continuance of this practice.  Back in the day when most appointed senators were placeholders and caretakers, granting this power to a governor seemed okay.  Now that the norm is that appointed senators are expected to run for reelection and hold the seat, the practice creates more opportunities for corruption and conflicts of interest than we really ought to tolerate.

Politicians in the Cabinet

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With the announcement that Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, will be nominated to be Secretary of Agriculture and that Colorado Senator Ken Salazar will be nominated to be Secretary of the Interior, six of the fifteen cabinet departments are likely be headed by individuals who have reached the top rungs of electoral politics by serving either as governor or senator (the others in this category are, of course, Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Janet Napolitano, and Bill Richardson).  This seemed like a large number to me, so I thought it would be worthwhile to compare to recent presidents.  For comparability purposes, I'll focus only on the first appointments to each position.

 

George Bush's initial cabinet had only three former governors or senators  -- John Ashcroft (Gov & Sen, MO), Tommy Thompson (Gov, WI), and Spencer Abraham (Sen, MI) --  in the 14 departments that existed when he came to office. Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge was added when Homeland Security was created.

 

Bill Clinton also appointed three high-flying politicians to his cabinet -- Lloyd Bentsen (Sen, TX), Richard Riley (Gov, SC), Bruce Babbitt (Gov-AZ) -- while George H.W. Bush held over Dick Thornburgh (Gov, PA) from the end of the Reagan administration but didn't appoint any of his own.  Ronald Reagan appointed Richard Schweiker (Sen-PA) and James Edwards (Gov-SC) to head departments he didn't care much for (HHS and Energy).

 

So six is a big number. Moreover, big-name politicians will be running many of the departments that will be crucial in developing and implementing President Obama's agenda and may determine the success of his presidency (e.g. State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security).

 

So what are the pros and cons of so many politicians in the cabinet?  One argument in favor is that cabinet appointments are useful for building and maintaining coalitions and avoiding party factionalism. This may explain the Clinton appointment, but it is not so obvious that this can account for the others most of whom supported Obama in the primaries.  It is also curious as to why avoiding party factionalism is so much more important to Obama than it was for the other presidents of the past 30 years. The second benefit is that senators and governors bring strong ties to Congress and the states. Legislative relations will be obviously important to Obama as he tries to ensure that the "most liberal Congress in history" does not get too far out in front of him. Harmony with the states will be crucial on health care, the environment, and a host of other issues.

 

But politicians in the cabinet create problems as well. Unlike the career civil servant who ascends to the position or the Washington newcomer, former senators and governors have power bases and networks that are independent of the White House. So it will be considerably harder for the administration to control and manage what happens in the agencies.  Second, senators and governors are usually generalists without deep expertise about the policy jurisdiction or culture of the departments that they are to lead. Such a lack of expertise may lead to policy failures or to capture by careerists or both. My former colleague David Lewis has produced ample evidence that careerists do a much better job running sub-cabinet agencies than do political appointees. It would be troubling indeed if his findings were to apply to cabinet departments as well.

 

More on Balancing

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Boris Shor, Andrew Gelman, and I have had a couple of exchanges about the role of "balancing" in the Georgia Senate runoff.  Gelman is skeptical of balancing and stresses the importance of low turnout in runoff and special elections.  The problem with turnout explanations (as I pointed out in my original post) is that it is hard to predict who benefits from a low turnout election.

 

I thought it might be useful to bring in a little bit of data on special elections.  Fortunately, someone has compiled a list of special House elections and put it on Wikipedia.  From WWII onward, the list contains 163 special House elections with the name and party of the winner and the previous holder of the seat.  Of these elections, 95 were won by Democrats and 68 by Republicans.

 

The "balancing hypothesis" would predict that the president's party would do worse in these elections than the out party.  Looking at all of these elections, the president's party lost 97 of the 163 (about 60%).   For those of you who care, the p-value for the hypothesis that the president's party does no worse than the out party is just .03.  

 

But looking at all special elections may underestimate the president's disadvantage.  After all, many House districts are not competitive so the incumbent party will win easily no matter who is president.  Ideally, I would collect data on district partisanship to use as a control.  But that is too much work for a blog.  So let's just look at the pattern of districts that switched from one party to another.   In such cases, the president's party lost 29 seats and only picked up 11.

 

So I'm not wedded to the balancing hypothesis, but it seems to me any explanation about special and runoff elections ought to account for how poorly the president's party performs.  Maybe there is a theory of turnout that does that, but I am unaware of it.

 

The Politics of Bailouts

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Tom Edsall quotes me and several other political scientists at the Huffington Post.  My take away:

A carefully modulated analysis of likely trends by Princeton political scientist Nolan McCarty suggests modest gains for proponents of intervention.

"Whether intervention changes attitude toward government more broadly depends whether the public perceives that intervention primarily benefits 'haves' or the 'have nots.' Free markets and deregulation have long been justified by the notion that markets will provide discipline by punishing bad decisions. If it appears that government is stepping in only to protect those responsible for those mistakes, Americans could become even more cynical about government and trusts it less," says McCarty. Conversely, "government intervention that tries to hold bad executives accountable has its own problems. It generates huge incentives for companies and executives to cultivate political favoritism to avoid punishment -- pay-to-play writ large." The net outcome, according to McCarty, is likely to be "somewhat more support for macroeconomic intervention and broad forms of regulation, but continued skepticism about government ownership and microeconomic planning."

Not sure how "modulated" my analysis was, but I do come down squarely between Gary Jacobson and John Ferejohn. 

 

No Consistency in Politics

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For eight years now, congressional Democrats have been (rightfully) criticizing President Bush for abusing and expanding his exective powers.  So how ironic is it that they now call upon him to violate the expressed will of Congress and use TARP funds (i.e. the first $700 billion) to bail out the automobile industry?

The Senate Vote

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I would like to take credit for exactly predicting that there would be only 52 votes for cloture.  Unfortunately, it is not the same 52 votes that I predicted.  More Republicans voted in favor and more Democrats voted against than my quick-and-dirty projection based on the House vote.  But ideology still seems to have been a major factor.  Democratic moderates Baucus, Lincoln, and Tester voted against (Reid did also to preserve the right to bring a motion to reconsider).  Republican moderates like Collins, Snow, and Specter voted in favor.

The factor I didn't consider in the House vote was the behavior of lame ducks (too much work), but defeated and retiring Senators tended to vote in favor  (e.g. Domenici, Dole, and Warner).

Regardless of how one feels about the bailout, it is really disturbing that 12 senators didn't even bother to show up to vote. 

The Bailout

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Although it passed the House easily, the status of the bailout bill negotiated between President Bush appears to be in jeopardy of death by Republican filibuster. The patterns of support and opposition on the House vote make clear how difficult it will be to get enough votes for cloture and passage.

 

The same principle that purges atheism from foxholes might be thought to drive ideology from an economic crisis. But that appears not to be the case with the auto bailout as ideological differences were the main determinants of voting on the House bill (the maxim may not be true for foxholes either). 

 

Using the DW-NOMINATE measures of conservatism, I can compute the average conservatism of supporters and opponents of the bill from each party.

 

 

Democrats

Republicans

Supporters

-.422

.413

Opponents

-.198

.556

 

Within each party, the opponents are considerably more conservative than the supporters and these differences are statistically significant. This pattern, at least among Democrats, is considerably different from the financial sector bailout this fall.  That bill faced significant opposition among liberals. But on the auto bailout bill every member more liberal than the median Democrat voted yes. The strong union backing of the auto bill and provisions appealing to environmental groups probably account for these conversions.

 

Also unlike the financial services bailout, campaign contributions do not seem to have mattered much. According to data from opensecrets.org, Democratic opponents of the bill got more auto cash than supporters. Republicans who supported the bill did get more cash. But eight of the Republican supporters were from big auto states Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Ignore them and there is no systematic difference in campaign contributions.

 

So what will the Senate vote look like if ideology dominates the way it did in the House? Assuming the same statistical patterns, I predict that the bill will get only about 52 votes in the Senate. I suspect enough arms will be twisted to get a few more, but it's a long way to 60.

Dynastic Politics

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Froma Harrop, one of my favorate political columnists, nails the case against Caroline Kennedy.

More Blagojevich

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Boris Shor of the University of Chicago has an interesting post at redbluerichpoor.com based on our collaborative research on how the Blagojevich indictment might effect the Senate appointment.

Absolutely Shocking (not)

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Illinois politics has never been a font of civic virtue, but (if true) the charges that Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Obama's Senate seat may represent a new low.

 

Not to absolve Blagojevich, but much of the problem lays in the anachronistic powers that allow many state governors to fill U.S. Senate vacancies.  This may be one of the most unfettered and unaccountable powers vested in most governors.  Even pardon and commutation powers are often subject to more procedural openness and limitations.  While I'm unaware of an abuse as extraordinary as the one Blogojevich was allegedly perpetrating, recently we've seen the appointment of family members  and speculation about the appointment of semi-qualified celebrities.  (Can someone explain why other than the fact that she can pay for her own reelection Caroline Kennedy is the most qualified New Yorker to serve in the Senate?).

 

It is not clear why most governors still retain the unilateral power to fill Senate vacancies.  The typical argument is that states are at a large disadvantage if they are even temporarily underrepresented in the Senate.  But this argument seems very weak.  Why is Senate under-representation so much more disadvantageous than House under-representation that special elections are okay for the House but not for the Senate?  Second, the delays associated with a special election need not be that great. After all, in the time Blagojevich has taken to create a market for the Illinois Senate seat, the state of Georgia has already successfully completed a runoff election for Senate.  Of course, running statewide special elections are expensive.  But it is hard to think of anything as expensive as the debasing of the public trust that appears to have happened in Illinois 

The Most Liberal Congress in History?

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There has been a lot of discussion about whether the "liberal" Congress will push President Obama's agenda to the left.  Clearly, Republicans raised this fear in the Georgia senate run-off and will certainly run against the liberal Congress in the midterms.  But others can point to the fact that the Democratic caucus is diverse and many members can hardly be called liberals or progressives.  So the big question is how liberal will the next Congress actually be.  Using the standard measure of congressional ideology, DW-NOMINATE scores, I can take a whack at this question.

 

DW-NOMINATE scores, which are based on roll call voting records, run roughly from -1 to 1 where -1 is a very liberal score and 1 is a very conservative score.  So to gauge how liberal a given House is, I simply compute the fraction of members with scores that fall beneath certain thresholds.  The thresholds I chose were -.3, -.4, and -.5.  To give the reader some context, Charlie Rangel and Nancy Pelosi score at approximately -.5, Rahm Emanuel clocked in just below -.4, and Dan Lipinski is just a little more liberal than -.3 (sorry that part of the ideological spectrum is devoid of household names).

 

The figure reports simple percentages within each of these categories from the beginning of the New Deal to the last congressional term.  Obviously I do not have scores for new members and cannot project into next term.  There isn't much need to go back before the New deal, because the pre-New Deal Democratic caucuses were small and overwhelmingly southern.

 

     

    liberals2.gif        

  The results are somewhat striking.  The 110th House was not only the most liberal since the New Deal, but the percentage of liberals has been increasing for some time. The patterns do not vary much with the threshold used.

 

At first blush, this may seem surprising.  But it is worth remembering that the proportion of liberals is directly related to both the percentage of Democrats in the House and how liberal the Democrats are.   Before 2006, the percentage of Democrats had been on the historically low side.  But because the party has been losing its more moderate and conservative members from the South, it has become a considerably more homogeneous and liberal party in the House.

 

So what can be said about the incoming 111th House.  Unless the Democratic party's 20 seat gain in the House is composed of almost exclusively moderates and conservatives (highly doubtful), the next House will be the most liberal in history.     

 

Socialism on the Radio

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Rick Valleley (Swarthmore) and I recenty appeared on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane to discuss the spectre of socialism in the 2008 presidential campaign.

http://www.whyy.org/rameta/RT/2008/RT20081024_20_2.ram

Georgia Senate Race

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Saxby Chambliss won reelection in the Georgia Senate run-off by a somewhat surprising margin 57-43% margin over Democrat Jim Martin.  Some random thoughts:

 

  1. I wouldn't yet call it an "Iron Law," but there seems to be an emerging pattern of the newly elected president's party losing in run-off elections.   Of course, the closest parallel was in Georgia in 1992 when republican Paul Coverdell beat incumbent Democrat Wyche Fowler following Bill Clinton's presidential victory.  Of course, there are big differences between the two cases.  First, Chambliss, unlike Coverdell, won the plurality of the votes in November.  Second, Clinton, unlike Obama, won Georgia's electoral votes.  So Chambliss's victory is not nearly surprising as Coverdell's was.
  2. Political scientists and economists such as Alberto Alesina, Howard Rosenthal, and Mo Fiorina have offered a "balancing" explanation as to why the new president's party performs poorly in these special elections and in midterm elections generally.  The basic idea is that most voters are more ideological moderate than the two parties and therefore would like to balance them through divided government.  Such balancing is hard to do during a presidential election due to the uncertainty surrounding the presidential contest.  If a voter splits her ticket to obtain balance but guesses wrong on the presidential race, she's only made matters worse.  But in a special or midterm election, voters have a clear opportunity to promote balance by voting against the president's party.
  3. There may be other explanations as well for the presidential slump.  Perhaps there is buyer's remorse.  Probably not the case here.  Obama seems just as popular now as when he was elected.  Perhaps winners get lazy and losers get fired up.  Because it was a fairly exhilarating victory for the Democrats and a very disheartening loss for the Republicans, this doesn't seem that plausible either.
  4. Much of the focus on the runoff centered on its potential to create a "filibuster-proof" Democratic majority in the Senate.  I've been fairly skeptical that getting to 60 is somehow magical.  Yes, 60 is better than 59 and 60 may be more better than 59 than 59 is better than 58.  But I don't think there was nearly so much riding on this race as some have suggested.  First, the academic literature on the Senate has failed to find a discontinuous advantage in reaching the filibuster margin.  The best book on the subject (written by Eric Schickler of Berkeley and Greg Wawro of Columbia) finds that many important piece of legislation pass with a less than 60 vote margin (in other words, the opponents of legislation often fail to fully exploit there opportunity to obstruct).  Second, it seems plausible that Maine's Olympia Snow and Susan Collins will be almost as reliable a vote for Obama's initiatives than the southern moderate Martin.   
  5. A lot of heavy hitters campaigned in Georgia during the runoff (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Sarah Palin, etc).  But the heaviest hitter of them all, President-elect Obama, sat this one out except for making some radio ads.  This contrasts to Bill Clinton's extensive activities on behalf of Fowler in 1992.  I have lots of hypotheses (but alas little data) as to why Obama stayed in Chicago.  The first is that he believes the "balancing" theory and didn't want to remind voters of this opportunity.  The second is that he agrees with me about relative unimportance of the 60th vote in the Senate (or he knows something about the Minnesota recount that I don't).  The third is the most plausible.  He's worked very hard in his transition to live up to his post-partisan promises.  Travelling to Georgia in the midst of an economic crisis to give a partisan political speech would have undone much of this.

Polarized America

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In 2006, I published Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches with my colleagues Keith Poole of UC San Diego and Howard Rosenthal of New York University.

Here's the cover blurb:

The idea of America as politically polarized--that there is an unbridgeable divide between right and left, red and blue states--has become a cliché. What commentators miss, however, is that increasing polarization in recent decades has been closely accompanied by fundamental social and economic changes--most notably, a parallel rise in income inequality. In Polarized America, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal examine the relationships of polarization, wealth disparity, immigration, and other forces, characterizing it as a dance of give and take and back and forth causality.

The authors find that polarization and income inequality fell in tandem from 1913 to 1957 and rose together dramatically from 1977 on; they trace a parallel rise in immigration beginning in the 1970s. They show that Republicans have moved right, away from redistributive policies that would reduce income inequality. Immigration, meanwhile, has facilitated the move to the right: non-citizens, a larger share of the population and disproportionately poor, cannot vote; thus there is less political pressure from the bottom for redistribution than there is from the top against it. In "the choreography of American politics" inequality feeds directly into political polarization, and polarization in turn creates policies that further increase inequality.

Links to several reviews and discussions of the book follow the jump.

Welcome

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The impending inauguration of a new president seems like as good a time as any to inaugurate this new forum for the discussion of American politics and policymaking.  

I hope to keep the scope fairly broad.  Of course, there will be the daily lure of current events as President Obama puts together an administration and pushes a legislative agenda (and perhaps Congress pushes back!).  But I also hope to share some thoughts and stimulate discussion of broader issues about the current state of American democracy.   And as a working political scientist, I hope this will be a forum for the discussion of important political, social, and economic research on pressing public problems.

To tide readers over until I can get some new stuff up, the next few posts will link to some of my recently published opinion pieces.

 

My official bio is after the jump.