Bryan Caplan  


The Technofuture... Election Pre-Mortem...
Tomorrow is my first of ten chances to win my bet against one-party democracy with Arnold:
Republicans will regain control of at least one branch of the federal government at some point between now and January 20, 2017 (two inaugurations from now).
According to intrade, I can already start gloating: 95% probability for Republicans to win the House.  Republicans even have a 12% chance to control the Senate - and the modal outcome - 47% - is for a 50/50 split.  And even if I lose, I have nine more chances to win.  I like those odds.

To be fair to Arnold, he's already admitted that he expects to lose our bet.  But he still thinks that he's basically correct:
2010 will be the last stand of the WORST [white, older, rural, small-town]. That is, thanks to the tea-party movement, the turnout rate will be disproportionately high in the Republican base. On average, though, demographic trends still favor Democrats.
My view, in contrast, is that demographic trends move at a glacial pace - more than enough time for both parties to re-invent themselves in time to stay in the running.

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Michael Stack writes:

Median Voter Theorem. It might not hold in the shortest of runs (political parties are brands that are slow to change), but in the medium to long run, both parties will each move along with the electorate.

Douglass Holmes writes:

Arnold assumes that groups will continue to vote as ethnic blocks. I don't buy it.

From my point of view, Arnold suffers from pessimistic bias.

Elvin writes:

Michael Stack is right. Competitive politics will make losing parties jettison losing platforms.

Also, there is a sort of winners curse. Assume that 10% of all politicians, irrespective of party, are corrupt. Winning means that you have more corrupt politicians than the other party and they are pulling the levels of power. Inevitably, they overreach, become exposed, and the brand is tarnished for an election. The losing party has fewer corrupt politicians and they have little to no power, so they appear cleaner.

Henry writes:

The problem with demographic arguments is that they have always been true to some degree throughout history. There are always groups that are growing faster than other groups, and it is highly likely that these groups differ somewhat in their political preferences from the population. Yet they have never resulted in "permanent majorities" (although there have been fairly long stretches of one-party dominance, it is not clear how much of this was due to non-demographic factors or just basic randomness).

Some think that current anti-immigrant GOP rhetoric will permanently hurt the party with Hispanics. I point to Japanese-Americans, who despite not just being demonised but interned by a Democratic administration, favour Democrats today.

Hugh Watkins writes:

Like you I am unmoved by demographics.

I think the big story is that whilst unemployment and the resultant poverty may be Dem issues, there are no Dem solutions for those issues. At least none that we have seen to date.

DeForest writes:


Perhaps this is a good time to double down in some way on your bet with Arnold. Seems like more easy money to me.


Colin K writes:

We have seen one-party dominance for great lengths of time at the state and local level. I voted this morning in Boston, and the House, county AG, and state house races were all uncontested. The fact that there was a GOP challenger for state senate was slightly surprising. The state legislature has gone from a Republican minority 15 years ago to a Republican super-minority that's treated with only slightly more respect than Guam and American Samoa are in the US House.

While we do elect the odd Republican, I can't remember the last time a Democratic incumbent lost an election, and I'm doubtful that Deval Patrick or Barney Frank will break that trend.

AMW writes:

Uh, unless I'm forgetting my high-school civics, the house of reps isn't a branch of the federal government. Congress is a branch, but it includes the Senate. Bryan has only a 12% chance of winning his bet today. Or, more accurately, a 0.95 * 0.12 = 11.4% chance.

I wouldn't say it's time to start gloating.

John Fast writes:

I'm confused by the terms of your bet. Does a single house of Congress count as a "branch of the federal government"? I'd assume it would have to be both houses.

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