Archive for March, 2010

A big jump? More like a mental leap.

March 25, 2010

Andrew Sullivan’s loose grasp on reality is well known even by his own colleagues, but it’s even nicer when his errors are mathematically provable.  Case in point: HCR passed the House on March 21st and today (March 25th) Andrew Sullivan wrote this:

Since HCR passed, a big jump in Obama’s approval ratings. Maybe a fluke. But he remains more popular than Ronald Reagan was at this point in his term of office – and has been ahead of Reagan now for three months. The approval graph closest to Obama’s has been Reagan’s in recent history.

Surprised that I’d not heard about this “big jump”  I did what Sullivan must not have done and looked at the data, which is in 3-day rolling averages:

Date Range Approve Disapprove
Mar 12-14 49 44
Mar 13-15 48 44
Mar 14-16 46 47
Mar 15-17 46 48
Mar 16-18 47 47
Mar 17-20 50 43
Mar 18-21 50 43
Mar 20-22 51 43
Mar 21-23 50 44
Mar 22-24 51 42

Since HCR passed late at night on March 21st and Pelosi did not have the votes until that afternoon (that is, the public would not have assumed passage) it seems like the window for “since HCR passed” would be March 17-20 (50% Approval) versus March 22-24 (51% Approval).

For the record, I think it will take at least a week or two to see the true impact of HCR on The One’s approval rating.  But while I can’t recall ever hearing Sullivan refer to Obama’s descent from 69% (Jan 22-24 ’09) to 46% (Mar 8-10 ’10) as a “big slide”, his criteria for a “big jump” is now pegged at 1%.  I wonder what he’d call it if Obama went up 2%?

Date Range Approval Disapproval
Mar 12-14 2010 49 44
Mar 13-15 2010 48 44
Mar 14-16 2010 46 47
Mar 15-17 2010 46 48
Mar 16-18 2010 47 47
Mar 17-20 2010 50 43
Mar 18-21 2010 50 43
Mar 20-22 2010 51 43
Mar 21-23 2010 50 44
Mar 22-24 2010 51 42
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Game Theory and the HCR vote

March 21, 2010

We’ll know in a few hours whether Pelosi has the votes to thwart the will of the people.  Clearly they’ve been doing everything they can publicly to give the impression they do, and they’ve been doing everything they can privately to buy and bribe the votes they need. But there’s one element of game theory that leaves me doubting whether it will happen.

Imagine you’re a Democrat from one of the swing districts whose voters overwhelmingly hate this legislation.  You know that voting for it will cost you your job. You really like being a Congressman, you make $174,000 a year, and you really don’t want to give that up in this economy.

You’re hoping that the legislation never comes to a vote, and you’re confident that if the 216 votes are not there, Pelosi would not bring it for a vote (pride and all). So you could express your intent to vote against the bill and keep her from becoming confident in the 216. As a result, you’d get the approximate treatment Bart Stupak is currently receiving from all those open-minded liberals. He’s had to disconnect his phone, his wife has received obscene threatening calls and leftist nutjobs from across the country are promising to fund primary challenges against him. So maybe you don’t want to go that route.

Then you think, I could tell them I’m a yes so that they’ll leave you alone with the added benefit that if it never comes to a vote (oh please oh please) then you get credit for being a team player without ever having to cast a vote. Sure, you’re contributing to Pelosi’s count and making it slightly more likely that it comes to a vote, but that’s a small matter compared with the threat of being Stupak’ed.

From a game theory perspective, you’re best off calling yourself a yes vote for now.

But if it comes to a vote, you’re facing a different game. Switching on the floor to a “no” means you’ll invoke the wrath of Pelosi and your colleagues. Staying “yes” means you’ll be ending your Congressional career. Do you really need Pelosi as your friend if you’re not going to be a Congressman next year?

Before the vote it was clearly in your interest to say you were a yes and hope it never comes to the floor. But is it still in your interest to follow that up with your vote? It sure doesn’t seem like it to me . . . We’ll see.

Update: Well, it turns out they didn’t have the votes until Stupak caved, but in the end Pelosi and Obama engineered what will hopefully turn out to be one of the largest mass suicides in political history, forcing 219 of their members, not all in district like the Speaker’s, to vote in favor of a bill that most Americans did not want to pass.  And so it begins . . .

Revealing words

March 10, 2010

With politicians so willing to adjust their “principles” according to what’s polling well back home, the most honest views we often get to their core motivations come from listening to what they project onto their adversaries.  It was therefore a rare moment of honest reflection which Tom Harkin shared yesterday when he spoke to a Roll Call / CQ Weekly event:

“If Republicans really believed that the Democratic party was courting electoral disaster if a certain bill passed, they would probably keep their mouths shut, stand aside and let things unfold.”

Through projection Harkin is admitting that if he (and his fellow Democrats) believed something would simultaneously destroy the country and the Republican party, he would “stand aside” and accept the societal loss for the sake of electoral gain.

I would argue that Democrats are doing exactly that — hobbling America’s medical system, not for the short-term political outcomes which have been and will be disastrous, but for a long-term progressive objective of creating a majority that is dependent on the government for their very lives.

It’s revealing that Harkin, in spite of the overwhelming voice of the American people, still can’t imagine that Republicans are acting in the interest of the people.  He can only imagine some elaborate reverse psychology whereby Republicans, knowing how wildly popular government medicine be, are trying to trick Democrats into believing the opposite so they won’t score this huge win.  You might call this a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy™.