Scott Sumner  

Final thoughts before the election

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President Obama has been campaigning hard in recent days. He's told his supporters that he needs them to vote, in order to preserve his legacy. That's probably because Donald Trump has promised to undo almost every single significant policy initiative of the Obama Administration.

In recent polls, Obama's approval rating has soared up to 56%, highest since right after Osama was captured killed. One poll suggested that he would beat Trump by 12%, whereas the same poll gave Hillary Clinton just a 4% lead. (That 12% margin is something to think about when reading Scott Alexander's excellent post.)

I agree that a Trump victory would immediately impact Obama's "legacy" (I'm assuming the GOP holds the Senate, which seems likely if Trump wins.) And that's one reason why I don't think it will happen. I don't think most voters want that.

FWIW, I'm going to predict that Hillary will win by 5.13%, a bit more than the polls show (roughly 3.5%). That's because I believe that she now has the momentum, and that some undecided voters, as well as third party supporters, will drift her way in the end. For this reason, I expect her to win almost all of the swing states, except perhaps Ohio and Iowa. But this has been an unpredictable year, so a Trump victory still seems possible (Brexit parallel, etc.) Indeed the betting markets give him a 20% shot at it.

I believe people overrate the importance of who wins the Senate, but I expect a narrow Democratic victory, with the GOP holding the House. I expect that the Dems and GOP will make a few deals next year, on infrastructure, corporate taxes, the minimum wage and illegal immigration.

I also believe that people get way too stressed out by Presidential elections. The President is not some sort of father figure who towers over you---he's simply a public servant. He works for you, just like the person that cleans your swimming pool. You are his boss, not the other way around. I don't think either candidate views the Presidency that way, which is why I don't care for them, and plan to vote for Johnson. Too many people view the President as an elected king.

Some people will push back, saying that the election is "very important", as a lot is at stake. That's true, although perhaps less true than we imagine. But lots of things are very important. If I got depressed every time something tragic happened, say a tsunami that kills 100,000 people, then I'd have to be put in a mental institution. Yes, lots of awful things happen all the time, but it's healthier to adopt H.L. Mencken's attitude, and try to view the world as a crazy, colorful spectacle.

A year ago, I said the 2020 election would be a lot more important than this election. That's the election where the country has to decide which direction it wants to move, just as with the 1932 and 1980 elections. By that time the Great Stagnation will be a well understood fact, not a hypothesis. We'll be too far past the 2008 crisis to keep blaming slow growth on the housing/banking problems of 2008-09. That's the election where the public will have to make a decision as to whether to make a bold change and go for growth, or resign themselves to managing stagnation, and trying to smooth out the rough edges of the economy.

Since the blog focuses on issues related to liberty, it's worth noting that the Democratic challenger in the Wisconsin Senate race (Russ Feingold) was the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He's in a close race. There are lots of issues where I don't agree with him, but that was a brave vote, which historians will look upon in much the way they now view the two Senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 (another bill rammed through with dubious arguments.)

I wish we'd adopt the British system and have 5-week election campaigns. A year is too long.

The stock market futures reaction will be interesting to watch. It could be very strong, particularly if Trump wins (in which case stocks will fall). Once again, it would be nice to have a subsidized, highly liquid NGP futures market. But America doesn't seem capable of producing nice things anymore, at least in the public arena.

How about this picture?

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 9.11.28 AM.png


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COMMENTS (19 to date)
Shane Leavy writes:

Incidentally I saw someone say she would protest the terrible choice of candidates by not voting. I suggested that not voting as a protest is indiscernible from the outside from laziness or indifference. Voting for a third party sends a message of discontent with the status quo and a willingness to engage in the political system. I'd encourage Americans who are unwilling to vote for Democrat or Republican to vote for someone else for this reason, rather than staying at home.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Scott Sumner,
"right after Osama was captured"
You mean killed, right?

Jeff writes:

FIFY:


I want gay married Mexican Muslim couples to be able to protect their wedding cake and marijuana plants with guns while using whatever bathroom they want.

Scott Sumner writes:

Shane, I agree.

David, Yes, brain freeze on my part.

TravisV writes:

Prof. Sumner,

If the Democrats take control of the Senate, would President Hillary have the ability to appoint doves to the FOMC despite Republican opposition?

Of course that assumes Hillary would appoint doves. But remember: Larry Summers has a lot of influence and has become more dovish in recent years....

Mark Bahner writes:
I also believe that people get way too stressed out by Presidential elections. The President is not some sort of father figure who towers over you---he's simply a public servant. He works for you, just like the person that cleans your swimming pool. You are his boss, not the other way around. I don't think either candidate views the Presidency that way, which is why I don't care for them, and plan to vote for Johnson. Too many people view the President as an elected king.

Yes, absolutely: "Too many people view the President as an elected king." (Or queen.)

That's why you should be stressed. It looks like over 45% of the electorate is going to vote for a presidential candidate who thinks judges sign bills, and that a good way to deal with suspected terrorists is to murder their families. And over 90% of the electorate is going to vote for a presidential candidate who thinks the federal government should expand.

Andrew_FL writes:

"protect their wedding cake...with guns"

This is called "armed robbery" and I was unaware it was a libertarian principle.

Rick Bohan writes:

"The President is not some sort of father figure who towers over you---he's simply a public servant."

Father figure? "he's"?

Bob Murphy writes:

Scott wrote: "FWIW, I'm going to predict that Hillary will win by 5.13%..."

That precision is a joke, right? Or am I missing something?

Jeff writes:

@Andrew_FL, I'd hoped people would realize I was just poking fun at some of the overheated rhetoric we've all read the last year or so. I understand where you're coming from, but lighten up a bit.

And where do you get the "armed robbery" bit? I think you'd be on stronger grounds calling it involuntary servitude or something like that. No one was proposing to steal anything from the bakers, they were forcing them to create a cake. Like you, I think this and other "public accomodation" laws are wrong and violate the Constitution, but that boat sailed 50 years ago.

Jeff writes:

Actually, I'm torn between voting for Johnson or writing in Satan. Voting for the lesser evil is missing a chance to vote for the real thing.

Michael Rulle writes:

I agree with your general thread in this essay. I believe the "newsertainment" industry likes to gin up controversy, and frankly, I do find that entertaining. But most people manage to keep their political disagreements in check in real life and simply enjoy playing a little bit of Hunger Games every four years.

However, while I believe any individual election ultimately is not predictive of its impact on the public good over the next four years, over many cycles trends emerge which are significant and important and have the potential to be very good or not so good. But tonight I am just going to have fun and plan on screaming at Emmanual Goldstein most of the evening.

I am impressed you keep your political id well in check on Econlog---no negative IQ points here! But Johnson?. Don't know what that gets you. Not for practical "lesser of two evils" reasons---but have you really spent much time listening to him? That is an IQ killer :-).

Mark Bahner writes:
Like you, I think this and other "public accomodation" laws are wrong and violate the Constitution, but that boat sailed 50 years ago.

Yes, but we have the cruise missile of truth, which can blow that boat out of the water no matter when it sailed.

Seriously...I think some battles are worth fighting on principle no matter how long ago they were "decided." I don't see how there's any way someone with knowledge of the history of the commerce clause can ever say that a federal law forcing one private person to serve another private person is what the people who wrote the commerce clause had in mind. And "public accommodation" does in fact represent involuntary servitude.

Mark Bahner writes:
But Johnson?. Don't know what that gets you. Not for practical "lesser of two evils" reasons---but have you really spent much time listening to him? That is an IQ killer :-).

There is no doubt in my mind that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will blow up many innocent people in countries with which Congress has not declared war. That's what voting for Gary Johnson gets you. You're not voting for murder.

Maniel writes:

It's been fun, especially when I was watching the Jerry Springer show and a presidential debate broke out.
Johnson got my vote - after promising to assemble a meeting of world leaders at Aleppo - one of our choices for POTUS is rumored to routinely dodge ...

Andrew_FL writes:

@Jeff-Sorry, I agree. Though the idea of demanding a cake at gunpoint and then paying for it anyway is, kind of funny actually.

Lorenzo from Oz writes:

Well, electorally, Obama did not prove to have much of a legacy on the night ...

LD Bottorff writes:

The stock market futures reaction will be interesting to watch. It could be very strong, particularly if Trump wins (in which case stocks will fall).

Yes, the futures fell. I'm glad I'm invested in stocks, not stock market futures.

Scott Sumner writes:

Bob, The precision earns you undeserved kudos if you happen to be exactly right. And there's no cost.

Michael, Johnson wants to release 400,000 innocent people from prison for drug "crimes". That's good enough for me.

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