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The curse of the midterms


Dylan Matthews and Jerusalem Demsas are joined by Vox’s Andrew Prokop (@awprokop) to talk about the midterm elections. More specifically, why the president’s party almost always loses seats in Congress. They discuss the theories of this phenomenon and what, if anything, can work on the margins. Plus, a white paper about Obamacare and the 2010 midterm elections.


Why the president’s party almost always has a bad midterm

The political science of door-knocking and TV ads

White paper: “One Vote Out of Step? The Effects of Salient Roll Call Votes in the 2010 Election”

Dylan’s old, wrong article arguing that congressional position-taking doesn’t matter much


Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt), senior correspondent, Vox

Jerusalem Demsas (@jerusalemdemsas), policy reporter, Vox


Sofi LaLonde, producer

Dara Lind, engineer

Libby Nelson, editorial adviser

Amber Hall, deputy editorial director of talk podcasts

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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how low and welcome to another episode of the weeds on your hosting Matthews, and I am joined today in studio by my co host Jerusalem dumps us alone and by Vocs Senor correspondent Andrew broke up her love, we're gonna be talking about the mid term elections later this year and in whether Democrats are set for wipeout akin to those in twenty tenor internet before, but first Jerusalem has some news to share Jerusalem. Yes, hi everyone. So this is a bit better sweet, but I have accepted position at the Atlantic on me joining them on their idea section, it is, is Ben ten, coolest things I've ever done in my life, being apart of the weeds and going to talk to some of the smartest people I have read before I got here and I'm so glad to have been apart of it
and I'm sure there will be times or I'll be back fight here for a few more weeks, and yet he didn t falling my work wherever you did right now. so I and everyone else of oxen, of course, incredibly sad to see Jerusalem go, but I am very grateful for the time we got to work together at the time we got those the weeds together. I'm also selfishly very gratified that she once told me she applied to work if ox, because she saw me tweet about a job opening, which I think makes that the only good tweet I have ever so. Thank you for that year, Islam and have fun working over the Watergate. Yes, it's actually my new home, so this week We're gonna be time. At the mid terms, Andrew you ve been working on a piece about what we know about how President's parties performed during the mid terms. What have you found out when I found out well they tend to do very well yeah, breaking news. The President party tends to have trouble in the mid term elections, and that is obvious.
Not a surprise to anyone, but what is a little more interesting is to try and dig into why exactly. That is the case, because this is something political scientists have been kind of arguing about theorizing over for many many decades. You know some theories focus on the state of president, approval and how that might be connected. Others focus on the state of the economy and other shredded tease why certain mid term results are better or for worse than others, but, to start with, I think it's worth digging into the question of like Why this tends to happen so commonly in the first place, not not not. What are the really bad midterms explained by, but but why is this such a persistent pattern and it's not just in the United States presidency? This pattern has been seen internationally. It's been so
on the state level with governors and state legislators. Basically, whenever an executive, on the ballot in one election and not on the ballot in what is known as an off your election or midterm election. The president's or executives party on average does worse and I think to get to the starting point of explaining it. You have to sort of try to pick a part one reasons election result can change and to think about the difference between why certain election outcomes are different from others, and it can basically breakdown into suasion and turn out persuasion is when the same people are voting in the elections and act. Changing their minds about who devote for and which party to support but
now is a change in the composition of the electorate. Certain people voted in certain elections, but they are not voting and other elections, and perhaps new people have turned out to vote, but Finally, in the case of these off your elections, we're talking about a smaller electorate, we're talking about fewer people turning out in general, sometimes a lot smaller you know One theory about why the midterms could be so hard for the Presence Party is that the public has on mass, become persuaded that the president is bad and then you're going to support you. party. The other theory is that this is mainly a turn out thing and that the president supporters are turning out in the normal presidential election, but they're not turning out in the off your mental. Yeah, and it seems like I m, pretty charging police democratic party politics recently aiding the turn out. Verses
persuasion model seem to be like will aim to me. It seems like both of these things can be important and relevant and from your work and your, it seems like both play a role and a lot of what's going on here during the terms, but it's interesting to me that the types of people who are turning out. during mid terms, are seem to me that, though, be Blake who are less, persuade these are people who are like more diehards. Where would indicate- and so I would expect that to be people who are not gonna play that often first general elections. Is that what you're finding so generally in the mid terms, yes, I am, I think the voters who are less likely to turn out in the mid term are sporadic voters generally voters with less strong ties to the parties, often less ideological, their patterns among demographics, age, education, where voters in general are known, as was low, propensity voters or sporadic voters.
less likely to turn out and off here elections- and you know, even in presidential years, there often less likely to turn out, but in these off years there particularly less likely to turn out- and that gets to a question of you know, turn out versus persuasion. It's often, as you alluded to in these Democratic party debates turn out is often framed as the progressive argument, like the Bernie Sanders argument. Or even on the republican side, the conservative argument like we need to motivate the base and the way to motivate the base is to take policy positions or political stances it will make the base happy that would be about fighting or checking ideological boxes or or so on. We need to get our base fired up and ready to vote, and you know the parties do need to get their base fired up and ready to vote. But,
going fully idiot logical. Is it necessarily the best way to do that? One? What we're talkin about here are the sporadic motors those often turn out to be not the purely ideological voters. Eighty one thousand and ten perhaps follow policy, less closely are less engaged by a generally and perhaps well bother to turn out in the presidential, but not the mid term, so appealing to Those voters and keeping them engaged is is kind of the key that the part of that this, sir argument from viruses or orders or base. Republicans is always confused. Me is this idea that there's large birds of the Nazis, the democratic yes, but like large numbers of love. Dear sir Progressive research lesser whenever who, just like don't bother, devote like believe very strongly in these things, but are not doing like one of the lowest cost actions that they can do to advance. That agenda. Is there any evidence that you ve seen that there is like dirt?
fires like reserve armies of odor head and hit the vase could be in upper aren't or people who are pretty much persuaded like also to people who were turning up under terms and other like lower turn out elections, but that this is the theory of the Bernie Sanders. Political revolution that you know was always bandied about in his first ran and, in his second ran, that there is a a silent already of further left voters who were disillusion in the political system and who weren't turning out, and I think you know, survey data shows pretty clearly that that's not the case. I think real world result
in elections where there is more socialist store. Further left candidate running also show that's not the case like that. There's not dislike secret electorate out there. The people who are more sporadic voters do tend to have a range of views, but is probably more common for them to be less illogical. I think one thing that did happen on the republican side was that Trump managed to mobilise in his presidential reds a base of sporadic voters who were often seem to be motivated by his was a pugnacious, nigh and dumb and or were attracted to his charisma as a candidate. or something like that, and you can see something like that with Obama as well and like the record black turn out that we saw under Obama, it's often the eye
entity and style of the president's who can suddenly transform or reshape the electorate's. But it's not necessarily so simple. As you know, they have certain views. I mean trumps of use could have played certainly a role and why working class white voters were more likely to vote for him. Compare to Mitt Romney Trump did Monterrey on some issues of entitlement incident, Wanna privatized, social security or do the Paul Ryan Plan for Medicare things like that, But when we're talking about the mid terms, I think the midterm electorate is often more mobilise by opposition to the status quo is what you happened to see like we're talking about turn out differentials here, like that, the people who are fired up in opposition to the President tend to be
were likely to turn out while supporters are perhaps disillusioned or disappointed, or they just rationally conclude that the stakes are lower because they know that the day after midterm election day, the president still gonna, be there like it's just factually true that the stakes are lower. They would be going from having you know it in this case of binding Democrats Democrats who are at risk of losing Congress, but they would still have the presidency and that perhaps it is just inherently more motivating for the opposition to say, oh well, we have nothing right now, but now we want to reclaim some power or like we want to check the power of the President's somehow and that might be more of motivating factor. But I think we should also talk about the role of persuasion here, because both of these are important and there
varying analyses that say that indifferent elections different cycles- sometimes it's more turn out. Sometimes it's more persuasion in explaining shifts by persuasion is a big deal and it's not all turn out. In every case. I think we can pretty clearly say, because a pen does shift during a present term and especially in the first two years, the direction of that shift tends to be downward. The president becomes less popular as his term in office stretches out so that would get at the persuasion component that there are you now. Perhaps some swing voters, perhaps some voters in the base that have become convinced how well the presence not doing such a good job. This time, I'm going to vote for the other party, but the other,
That this theory has to explain is the pattern that happens after the mid term, which is that often the president recovers. You know we saw for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama losing Congress in historic, mid term defeats in their first mid term and then recovering popularity and getting reelected right after that, even trump though he did not get reelected, he did recover some of his popularity since the mid terms enough to make it a close race when the terms were not close, and the eighteen Democrats, one them handily, but Trump managed to bounce back and and make twenty twenty a really close, especially when it came to the electoral college. So that is the tricky part of like you could say. Our presence, inherently always become less popular. Is more people become disappointed, but that doesn't really explain why they they become more popular as every election.
draws near before I talk about that. One of these, I would just point out with wiser Bernie Sanders theory kind of fields I think more intuitive to people. Is that sixty seven percent of citizens, agent, older, voted in the twentieth election, and I was record high for the twenty first century so like there is obviously a lot of people who could vote not voting end it. I guess it's theoretically possible that a lot of them have positions. I mean a lot of things that brain tenors stands for, nominally, obviously are things that are generally popular. People do want more affordable health care, they want they like Medicare and things like that to be expanded and medical specialists extremely popular, but we don't see it happening, and so a lot of what's complicated here is like because voters aren't super ideological, the things that they may say to pollsters that they actually like actually often translate, especially amongst people who are less likely to or never vote are less likely to answer to their actual partisan positions or how they end up. Actually voting,
do. I know you wrote a low, but about this a while ago about the kind of lack of translation between a logical positions and end of voters actual it is yeah. No, I wrote a piece like four years ago I think they have. One was the do it. You want theory of politics. There is just one of arguing that that position taking didn't seem to matter much. I think that is like a represent wrong, enriches the thanks, and I will explain why so I think at the hi. There is this movement in in political science to Sir Point out, Conway your pointing out here is that there is huge chunk of the population there, just like very ignorant and don't care a lot about politics. I finally, a natural conclusion from that is that your position taking shouldn't matter very much, there's a famous, piracy in political science over whether shark attacks in New Jersey, her Woodrow Wilson in the nineteen sixteen election, if you think that sharks, if you vote for president based on shark
acts like that would want to stop the sharp resumed her again, oh yeah. Maybe it's a will. You write about it. I assure Jaws, related policy issue, but they needed a bigger boat, it was an infrastructure question, but if it back voter rationality was that prevalent then serve always. Do dallying around positions than seems important. I think since then, I have read a lot more political sign oh, I would use, is at the time- and I just was ignorant of it- suggests, serve Putin taking matters a lot. we're going to find out why those white papers later in this episode, but this so a number of states, look at roll call votes suggest that voters who are served ideologically miss aligned with their representatives to punish them. For that there is a really great paper of actually few papers by Andrew Hall and his co author Thompson. His first name. I forget, I'm sorry and paid that looked at
primaries ever really close between four, more extreme and less extreme candidates, and so compared ones where stream candidate, barely one ones where the extreme candidate, though lost and found that serve ideological, extreme nestling, really does her view that the ones were more extreme really did worse, it was interesting to me about that is to two interests point. If they found a turnout affect more than a persuasion act. It wasn't that there is a mass of people who are constantly voting, who would have voted for The party of the extreme candidate, if there were less extreme, was that there was a counter mobilization in response to that, like perceived extremity. So thinking of cases here, like Delaware in twenty tat, you were proud.
We in kindergarten Jerusalem? By the fifteen knowledge, we think there was a woman named Christine O Donnell. I'm gonna tell you stories about the past. There was a lady lady, no dialogue in which she has the which lady I'm not a wet and nothing you, heard. She was very rightly to rightwing for Delaware, and, I think, like part of what happened was there is a big democratic counter mobilization against her, because she was perceived a silk outside the mainstream, and so I think the HOLLAND. And research suggests to me that that might be a fairly prevalent occurrence. They also they're looking at a narrow, serb subset of races, end there are almost certainly cases where persuasion and the more classical sense where you have specific voters, swapping as opposed to differential turn out, seems, seems quite important as Andrews saying the next step in persuasion, theory or the the term that has been
a floating around through lighted. This discourse is was called the thermos static. Public opinion theory ends This really is, I would say, more about suasion, though it could affect turn out as well. The the idea here is that the public tends to function like a thief Lestat and you know like firms that, if the temperatures little too hot it'll cool the house to make it go down to the prefer temperature or the other way around So this idea that if policy or the state of the country or your feelings about the state of the country are that things are too liberal than the public will swing to the other side. So this would explain why there is a swing again. The President in MID term elections, because them in general, if a new president who is either a democrat or Republican, would come in there
and voters who are moderates are in the middle would say: ok they're, going too far. If, if there are true swing, voters whose whose positions are in the middle of the spectrum, they would tend to conclude that any new president is probably going too far in in one direction, and they would therefore be more inclined to try to counterbalance them and and support. You know the opposing party in the mid terms, but then, once the opposing party gets in like say, the Republicans take over Congress for Clinton or the house for a bomb. Or the house for Trump Democratic over the house, then the thermostat would swing again. They would say well now Republicans or doing bad things, or you know, Democrats in the house during trumps term and
and now we're going to move a little back toward the middle and like that. That explains both parts of the swing in as compared to a theory of, like you know, general presidential decline, which does not explain that. That second part. So this is interesting because it is just if this is kind of baked in two opinion, and it's not necessarily totally baked and where we're going to talk about some of the exceptions later on. But if this is the rod general comment trend to how these elections work. Then it's just very difficult for her president's party to really be able to do much about that, like they're they're, playing sort of against a stack deck so to speak. I think there is to put your one mackerel here is, I think, one of the more the things that you realise during this literatures at one people normally say persuasion in real life. What you think of his like! Oh, like someone,
something smart or made a good argument. They, let you change your mind and like persuasion here, is like changed their minds for like where many for reasons, and also like often what I think is useful to think about the electorate, not as oh, Joe and may and they change your mind Blake as an electorate like how is this group of people swinging, because people are making a lot of russian decisions in zero in any individual persons, knocking to look the same, but like the look and see how these macro trends change? And the second thing is just like- there's been a lot of media coverage, bottle decline of the swing voter, anything that has informed the lot of people's expectations around. Why people? Why do think people are me persuadable am, I should go more towards. I turn out as a model of of winning elections, whether your democratic republican and one things, I think, is a good levels that, while of course, has declined, are still like a good among people, horsemen voters and there's a pew trusts article about between sixteen,
action that showed ten per cent of people us, which parties during twenty sixteen. These are often less politically engage people than people who stated their parties for the GNP The young people who were likeliest leave their party, but essentially fifteen per and of less engaged indulge who initially and five as republican or leaned Republican became Democrats and less than twelve percent of less engaged Democrats became Republicans in that one year and did not like over the course of physics election. Obviously, it's not clear like was a specific argue. Black people are changing their minds, no way that, obviously the margins of these are small but like margins, elections are small and that's what's irrelevant when I think of its very tempting to dismiss the because people tend to be more informed. Serve. The higher up the education ladder you go, a white people are very strata fighting their social circles by education, and so you get a lot of these discussions. Bouncer back to this thing, tinkers whatever, who all have advanced degrees in hangout with other people,
fans degrees were very well informed about politics. Air, like why don't know anybody who thinks about this, like a swing voter, think they know enhancing constantly eggs equally wrong? We all just modular where people of the people, but but in all seriousness like they are genuinely, are many more straightforward. Democratic partisans than there are swing. Voters it's just that there are banned there, many more swiftly republican per since it's just that the small minority of people who swing like really matter a little hut like, even if it's just two to three percent of the electorate like that swing, many, if not most close elections, but the other important point to make here is that China and persuasion are often posited as being at odds in these debates, but they often tend to move in the same direction, not always, but you know this aid here, that turnout is all about ideology and persuasion is all about appealing to the moderate swing. Voter is not necessarily the case because turn out can be
you know. The same underlying reasons for the president's unpopularity or political struggles could be causing lowered. out among his side higher turn out among the opposing side and swing Theirs to move to the opposing side like it could be the economy, rather than necessarily like people on the far laughter, far right being disappointed that the president's not executing the whole agenda that they campaigned on or whatever. I also think it useful to bring in some specific examples here, so the twenty fourteen, Midterms Obama second term, went very badly for Democrats. A statute that I find interesting is midterm turn out
the percentage of the previous presidential elections turnip. So in that year, sixty seven percent of the number of the of turn out in NAM Toil turned out in twenty fourteen, and that was the lowest in well over half a century. It was. It was like a catastrophic turn declined so when the democratic, consulting firm catalyst looked at this day, calculated that of prove it was lower there were. There was a persuasion effect by the turn out drop, explain most of of Democrats woes that year by then they looked at twenty eighteen, which was
MID term and turn out. There was actually remarkably high for mid term about eighty seven percent of the people who turned out in twenty sixteen turned out in twenty eighteen and in part, that's also because twenty six things turn out was rather low, but still there was a lot of turn out and part of that story is that Trump was actually kind of successful. In keeping is bases turn out up, but there was just also a counter veiling turn out effect on the democratic side, where they were far more supercharged to turn out and even more important than that, was a persuasion effect. So catalyst found that about two thirds of the twenty eighteen May terms was people who had voted for Trump in twenty sixteen switching their votes and backing Democrats that time around, so it can vary from election tool
action is talking to one political scientist who told me that it looks to him like the twenty. Twenty results are in part, turn out affects trump doing well in turn out, but persuasion being just good enough forbidden to overcome that, and so you know it's just important to keep both of these in mine. There's no one, perfect theory that explains all of it, but this is basically the challenge that the President faces facing what will likely be engaged turn out from the opposition, how to keep their own turn out up and how to stop swing. Voters from swinging to the other side of things I was Lila Tune, pirating, Andrews, great article, which is gonna come out. Sometimes league is, is that, like obviously as as inrush explained, like turnout and persuasion or not like a damage, we opposed in all cases. But you know
and if they were for some reason, you would have to believe that it's like its twice as good to focus on persuasion, because the net effect of removing the vote from one party and giving it to the other is to and the effective taken. Someone who wasn't voting and now is voting is just one and so like I mean it you're doing this kind of matter. You have to believe that, like the persuasions, basically impossible like much much harder, then turn out would be so good as to set up a macro, no thrown into to put up totally we're gonna. Take a break But when we come back out, we're gonna talk about or what Democrats can do on the margins to maybe make them it midterms less disastrous than some other, maybe bore things than the overall there most says of american elections that might be driving things here, so stay with us, business owners tend to perk up that sound salesmen growth and growth means everything if you're interested in scaling your business,
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And we're back, I saw it looks like thousand range. You is gonna, be a bit of a blood bath for Democrats, but how much of a blood bath? It is is allowed in. A lot depends on that question, I went ass before we dive into that Andrew View been looking both at particularly bad the terms, and particularly good ones, ones like one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight two thousand and two where the party in power get blown out or sometimes even gain, seeds is Israel's repair. Too bad or what might differentiate a good new term from a bad mid term. Yes, at the good mid terms are pretty rare and they are often not, good their essentially a draw. So you know it's a very lopsided pattern. There are a lot of really bad.
Add outcomes for the presents party. There are a bunch more pretty bad outcomes and the decent outcomes. There are just a handful of them, but a technical point here is that while this broad pattern is clearly visible in the data like any way, you look at it just how
I brought it is kind of depends of exactly what metric you use and exactly how you slice it up. So, for instance, the presence party lost how seats in seventeen out of nineteen mid term elections since world war. Two by that metric, there are only two exceptions: the ninety ninety eight May terms and Bill Clinton second term when he was fighting back. The impeachment effort in the economy was roaring and the two thousand to first term Midterms for George W Bush, which happened about a year after nine eleven. So you know you can look at the specific situations of those two president's. They didn't really have a tongue in common other than that. Their approval rating was quite high that they were both at the sixties in approval rating, which is something that Biden who is in the low forties is very far away from Trump never got close to.
oh bomber, only at the very beginning of its term was close to it. So it seems like a one way for a president who at least lake come close to being even is to become extremely popular thought about yeah yeah. I would simply and George W Bush achieve that by presiding over a little thing, I have to say in Bush sheathed that eleven did that well, but a lot of presidents do face crises and the particular nature of that crisis can either benefit or hurts and incumbent. President, and also you know the president's response odds and both how they are seen as responded to the crisis and also other objectively responding to the crisis can all matter. So you know Bush, maybe any president doing anything probably would have seen a
big approval bump after nine eleven because appear patriotism and rally around the flag, and so on I don't know. Maybe I'll Gore would not have. Maybe conservatives would have blamed Al Gore for it and he would have not been able to unite the country so effectively. We, we don't really know, but in any case, George we managed to defy the trend, not only picking up a few seats in the house, but also his party won the House popular vote, which is actually something Clinton did not do in ninety. Ninety eight, he merrily lost the popular vote, but he picked up. few seats in the house and the standard narrative is that the economy is going well. So clean was popular and there's a backlash against Republicans foregoing too far with impeachment, so that could fit with the firm, a static theory.
But another way to look at the data. That is, if you look at, which party actually wins the House popular vote. And if you look at that, you see actually few more exceptions to the trend you see for democratic presidents, Harry remain. In his second term, J, F K, L B, J and Jimmy Carter all managed to hold the house and win the has popular vote during at least one mid term while they were president and so that kind of cuts against the trend. and one explanation for that is just at the house- was democratic for forty years between one thousand nine hundred and fifty four and one thousand nine hundred and ninety four. So perhaps that just reflects a deep on structural advantage for Democrats in the house. The south was effectively one party for some
this time, only sporting Democrats and they took a while to get like genuine competition throughout the house. Perhaps incumbent effects used to be more important back, and played a role in a shielding these Democrats from the national backlash by another thing that jumped out to me. As I started. Looking at this data was um four of those made terms that listed Truman in nineteen fifty J, F K, nineteen sixty two I'll be J and sixty six and Carter and seventy eight. They occurred at a time of pretty decent economic, MAC situation, as measured by the real income growth on average experienced by Americans, and that
feeds into another looming structural factors explaining why some of these raises some of these elections are different and others, which is the influence of the economy and there's long debates in political science about how exactly the economy affects elections. Is it that our voters, responding to the objective state of the economy, are just their perceptions of the economy? What are the best metrics to use to two track? That? Should we look at unemployment? Should we look at GDP? The political scientist, Seth Mascot, has a metric that I like, because it's sort of splits the difference between those like it's. A real metric is not just about voters perceptions, but it also gives pretty close to how voters experienced the actual economy, which is real, disposable income growth over the past year. So that is how much have your incomes gone up, adjusted for inflation over the past year and he found that
tracks house election results in the mid terms for the President's party reasonably well, so by that metric that that could help explain why Truman, J, F, K, L, B, J and Carter managed to hold the house during their mid terms, because they all did perform quite well on this economic metric in that would imply very bad things were biting, given that adjusted for inflation and either down for most Americans. Yes, it's the standard is for real disposable income growth to be increasing by a couple percentage points. That's what most presence have been an even if it has been increasing one to two percent that has often been matched by big mid term defeats again: twenty ten four Obama. Nineteen. Ninety four four Clinton
that was about one percent or so on this metric in the positive direction, but not positively apparently binding would actually be negative. There have only in three big terms where a presents party has faced where this economic metric has been negative, and that was one nineteen, fifty four and fifty eight for Dwight Eyes, how're birds, bad for Eisenhower, very bad for him and nineteen. Seventy four. Historic Watergate, influenced the US fifty famously worst mid term, for any reason, which is interesting because by the house, popular vote, that was by far the worst mid term performance for any party since world war- two, but that's often left off the match. Metrics, because Democrats already held the house, they didn't lose the house. What happened there was
that's red. The republican minority shrunk far smaller than it already was, but the overall seat swing was not as big as it was for two thousand and ten or one thousand nine hundred and ninety four, but by the popular vote. This election result was far worse than those regional, but towards the kinds of things that central people could do if they were worried about a massive mid term wipeout, it seems pretty like simple you're we're talking out here. You're kind of dislike, oh, like you, should try to balance tween being too extreme and and making sure you showing of your base and then also like trying to make sure that you seem kind reasonably in the middle here and then when we look at the actual what that would mean for people to actually do it's really hard as an actual prescription for candidates or where their campaigns- and I think part of that is because its often not like there's a set of opinions that everyone has classified as too
liberal, and you can pick like one or two of those two have and then you have to be like the median voter in your district. Outside of that is that a lot of things have come to play That issue has become very salient for people in need to be communicated to voters and away where they heard either because it be communicated by the opposite party or your opponent, or its being communicated via the media, because you know, for whatever reason, friends I'm gonna stand. I was obvious installation of the media is committing a lot about that issued voters and then also has to be not just that the person codes, that is laughter right in some way, but also that that, like changes, their perception of you as like a liberal or too conservative out of out of out of step with what they think is reasonable, and so like I love you guys, think of it, like I know, Dylan, you also have written about like canvassing and use of like phone call things like that like there's something to do here or is this kind of just like things? Use must resign yourself, too a third. There definitely is heated debate and democratic circles about the most effective ways to reach and persuade and turn out, voters- and I think I come down
we have on the phone. Banking is about as good as the scene tv ads be a little more cost effective, but the devil in space always publicly a shaky. This is a kind of hard topic to report on, because the vast majority special in the democratic side, but but Democrats do more of this asking the Republican. So I think that a majority of all studies on the dot on tactics are housed in something called the analysed institute which, of Democrats, only research firm, the does randomize tests of different campaigning tactics, and they sensibly do now make those results. Public health Republicans can learn from them, which makes it also hard for us as reporters to serve figure out what the whole literature means when so much of his private. But then they got talking to you to consultants, and things is that that seems like what, but many of them bleeding edge, analyse thing, but the manages here I'll, just pretty small lakes were talking about. Think half a percentage point per
server, reasonably sized, add, drop and small does not mean irrelevant, especially in a close race. Like Democrats, guinean half a point in the national generic ballot means number of seats, Donna, precisely how many, but it matters by it does all swamped by these big structural factors? Of dealing Joe Biden do like where the country's heading? Do you think the economy is doing well and so I wrote the began this year in future. Perfect, always start the year with some predictions. Until one of my predictions, which I put with ninety five percent certainty, was the Democrats will lose the house and on it, and I saw a bunch of serve democratic organisations tree not we might see, really got a volunteer and go in and do it and sign up and people to do whatever they want. I dont know I dont know how to expressed that the absolute best serve organizing fuelled operation. I don't think he's gonna be enough to swing the outcome in this one, but it could make the outcome
less catastrophic on the margin. One thing, though, is that the reason I candidates do field and investments in field may not just because they don't understand this literature, but also because there are, like other, costly things that happen. If you would like talk to invest in your programme- we saw during twenty twenty hours, with more invested heavily in her feel programme to like a pretty insane degree relative to what the other candidates were doing and you know there was a media heads than other Kenneth we're taking in states like in South Carolina, for instance, where Joe Biden was kind of slow to ramp up his field operation and then, of course, famously when the state quite handily, there is The many stories that we're like you know, whereas the field operation here and like they Other candidates have like all these people are knocking. They have these like parties in things like that, just the urn media, which obviously has a massive effect. I mean especial we're talking about in presidential races, where often national media is pulling from like just one or two local me sources at this point on two things, what's going on on the ground there they don't have like a ton of people just stationed in liked all over
in order whatever it is, but also because law. Of local elected officials, have their own personal stake in you're being a lot of investment in their state, because what we know It also that these two things like field or phone calling are actually pretty influential when you're talking about local officials who don't have any mighty and to religion into like get people to hear about them, like twenty, more p short, maybe to the poles to vote for them, and so when the candidates invest at the state level from them genocide. They excite a lot of volunteers who, when they drop literature, adores it's not just for Joe Biden or for Kamel Harrah's or whoever it is also for down ballot democrats. It's also just mobilizing in general terms like nobody would in turn out publishers, vote D or are down democratic ticket, and so there's like a political cost two to not engaging to get the local officials with an angry and called campaigns and say? Why am I see Russia Field offices in my area? Why did you pick this city, verses? That city and so like? I think it's hard because it does seem
a rational and you'll. Get literature see how much money is being spent on this, but like the inertia too doing it would be and be. The first mover on this would be very, very costly for for a campaign. I think yeah really have any advice for, like Lord people can do? As far as for what present bite in, like democratic leaders, can do I've, Americans easier there, you go it's easier to to diagnose the problems than it is to actually get solutions, but if you look at the violence approval raving around forty one percent and the Declining real I'm growth average. That's a bad situation here he takes. He simply leads to approve those things. He you know there, there has been a lot of debate. I saw some back and forth in Peru, I recently about em democratic theories that have maybe the midterms would actually be good for them, which basically
as follows the pandemic, is hopefully over now. That's what, in this theory, that's so quick to make that presumption, but if the and ethnic is receding if the economy starts to bounce back, then Biden Wilson, looking better his approval will increase inflation while get under control and so on and voter perceptions. Abiden will change, there's also a debate about whether Democrats need to bring trump and dad. You know, threats to democracy and trams, behaviour, more into the mid terms that there are strong feelings on both sides about it. There's an argument that the best way to appeal to the
when voters is to focus on the economy and pocket book issues and stuff that's closer to their concerns. But you know with Trump bringing tribe. They would be more of a base. Mobilization issue, like Democrats are worried that it all like a clear villain to motivate their voters to turn out and go to the polls and I don't really know d you're too that it's just a tremendously difficult problem their present binds going to have to solve it. I think that There are a few reasons to be at least cautiously optimistic. This general pattern is and in Senate results in that they tend to be worse when the president's is empower during a mid term, but it's not a uniform pattern. It went the other way in twenty eighteen, it's very much affected by which seats happened to be on the ballot and dumb and which candidates are in those seats. So the Senate Map is not horrible for Democrats this year, but it's not like what
full for them either like it was for Trump in twenty eighties. If bite and approval recovers in the Senate, then it is not possible to believe that they would get the upper hand in enough key centre races to hold on which has to be all of them on that, because they cannot afford to lose even one seat. The house is just a little harder because as their majority is so thin and like there's, the house seems to be less determine by individual races, because there are so many contests and and they're all up every two years that the the general structural factors tend to be more important So we're gonna talk about one other thing. That Democrats can do to make things better or worse for themselves, which has passed legislation and we're gonna talk about it through a white paper, so stay with us and we'll be back with that. In fact,.
this episode of our show is brought to you by the things that go boom podcast, which is launching a season looking at everyone's favorite, absolutely thrilling. Subject the United States Congress and look yes, I'm joking a bit about that, but the things that go boom, podcast friends way to make deep dives into the most important congressional questions legitimately interesting and engaging which is no small feet. Now, let's face it, no matter how you feel about the job congresses doing right now, we're certainly stuck with them. They have the power to declare or decide how many zillions of dollars to put towards the military supposed to oversee how the Department of Defense handles troops in conflict zones. If you think I has taken a back seat of late than the things that go boom. Podcast is exactly what you need to hear. If we take a look at what is going to change as the mid term approach, you don't need to be an expert to tuna and support yourself. A toasty cup of your favorite confiscated beverage and settle in for a pot cast about our Congress that won't make you want to read your ears, offer
her head, find things that go boom wherever you listen to your part chemists. This protest is sponsored by better help online therapy. We talk about better help. A lot in this show in this month were discussing some stigmas around mental health thereof. People who dismissed mental health, but those people might really be struggling that might describe to you to the deal There is that you might risk waiting until you hit rock bottom to talk to a professional there's a better way. It's called better help and it can help you start feeling better today. Better help makes it easy to get proactive help. They can ease a ton of needless future suffering Can I put an online therapists and less than forty eight hours in video chat, phone or text with them as needed? It's a lot more affordable than in person therapy in way more convenient
the two million people already using better help and take care of your mental health. Today, right now, he's listeners get ten percent off their first month at better help. Dotcom, slash beats that's better hd lp, dotcom, slash weeds and were back our white paper this week is titled one vote out of step the effects of brilliant roll call votes in the twenty ten election it was published about a decade ago in its by whose who of political scientists with blogs and in my hand, Eric Magee. Side sat Mascot and Stephen Green. I think those green is the only one wife, never read a blog post from anyway champion posters champion political scientists. The point of the paper
is to analyse the effect of a bomb care and some other things that Congress did early and abolish term on the twenty ten. The terms so the others find the Democrats who supported healthcare reform did significantly worse than Democrats, who opposed it and they find similar, but smaller effects offer votes in favour of climate change legislation. Interesting, we of for the stimulus didn't seem to hurt people so because supporters and opponents of this bills are likely to differ in some other ways. The authors or try to control for those differences by matching up prison opponents were ideologically similar and represent similarly competitive districts. So that way, you're not comparing say: Stephen Luncheon, damn within ski who are too Democrats who represented safe seats and voted against Obamacare Turkey like Tom Parry, lower anchored Patrick who both represented swing seeds and voted for it. That analysis, which show the supporters doing worse, but it will really be tiny a whole lot but the others find that even after you would just four factors like how democratic meaning the seated
is the ideology of the representative, their level pretty Kennedy in General, in their voting record Obamacare supporters stilted worse by about five point, eight points and voting for climate change legislation, specifically that the Waxman, Our key cap and trade bill met? You did three point. One points worth so the others also documents and survey of it, from Obamacare supporters, suggesting that the underpin one, because their voters perceived them has been distant from themselves. The voters, Photoshop we are voting for Burma CARE in their conclusion, was these guys are alot more liberal than I am, I'm not gonna sport may more, and so, when they saw them getting further way, they were likely to attack them. So this has big ramifications for this year and seems to see that any lobbying groups saying we desperately need to pass voting rights. Are we desperately need to pass passport back better for Democrats to survive these midterms?
probably not exactly on it, but I'm crazy how you to interpret evidence in this paper in a right after twenty tat, there are a lot of quick cut analyses that looked at who lost what did they vote for and found that? Yes, members of Congress in Combat Democrats who voted for Obamacare and perhaps cabin trade were more likely to lose their seats. So the contribution this paper makes is that it it's sort of follows the causal chain using survey data to kind of go from ok. They have a theory for why this is happening. They have, they have certain controls and em. You know that their theories is that its actually about the median voter that this or in a district, at least that this, these high profile votes, changed perceptions of these members of Congress among voters who then responded by King M out of office. I think it's a good contrast to a lot of what I ve been talking about,
I'm working out of my article, because this is is kind of a member centric theory of what going on here, rather than a macro or structural or or president centred theory I viewed as about essentially you know, national environment is kind of sad and how can these members best survive and who manages to survive and what they found. Is that your more likely to survive, if you're, in a tough district? If you vote against these big priorities by, but it was mostly the case for one of these issues- Obama care which towered, above the others in importance and media coverage throughout the years cap trade to chronic The history was was voted on in June, two thousand nine in the house, but then it never even came to a vote in the Senate and just kind of fizzled out after that, so a lot of members
representing, like coal, heavy areas or or areas were fossil fuels are important, did kind of get hammer. but like as a general thing it it just never to the level of a care which, for which that debate kind of dominated national news coverage for months and months and months, so I think yeah, it's not necessarily the case. It like you, know, voting rights or energy, Hey stimulus, didn't matter like it will depend on which bill is which bill we're talking about here. But in this, in this case the theory that Democrats had throughout the year was kind of like well it's unpopular now by then we will pass it and then the controversy well kind of fate and what they found was that it didn't fate, maybe it eventually faded eight years down the road by the time of trumps may terms and then, when Trump and Republicans try to take it away
My voters said I'd kinda like to keep it and that could reflect status quo buyers. It could have reflect actually getting accustomed to the benefits and so on. But what happened here was that this is essentially a telling member of Congress that you out taking a boat. I'm like a hot and unpopular top priority of the president like this and voting. Yes, may well mean your substantially less likely to keep your seat as compared to somebody else in a similar district who votes? No say here is that take the big question here is what kinds of things are worth losing seats over, because obviously there are things like worth losing seats over, like are you will that Obamacare was worth losing seats over that a lot of people got healthcare, that medikit expansion save a lot of lives, and I think that the thing is it. Feels like sometimes this. This entire discourse is around like Will you lose you? Do we not just like there's? Something
That you're gonna, like are gonna, be unpopular that are worth doing. He shovelled series conversation about which ones of them are worth doing, and I think that also mean there, is monsieur translation around. What is the purpose of my kind of the room? of messaging bills, which cut seem too with none of the actual benefits of getting policies pass, but all the potential costs of creating controversy for at risk, members of Congress or presidents or any officials- and I think everything is just one thing that I was kind of lingering in my head wives regions paper- is idea. Like ok, some controversial in hindsight, it seems pretty clear to us right that, like a well this controversial in this direction, but look at the time like it wasn't that unreasonable that you know that's big healthcare bill would pass a bunch of people, get access to health care that you know Communist we're gonna die down. Republicans had been Madame things before we move on to combat about something else, but that's not what happened that they stuck with it. There's pre serious message, but other public inside and it's hard to like really forecast you're doing policy in their all these other variables, given moment and so the question I had a kind of like
in the moment is a kind of like you, either direction could kind of lead you towards that. Bad end, or were you lose your seat for whatever reason Anders evidence? They cite in this paper that you know in ninety four. Ninety six, ninety eight that Democratic chose to be tough on crime, actually did better in their seats. So I think, it's clear that, like there's some things, you can sort of forecasts and not you know what Thank you. I mean voters on impossible, but it's not a simple things and clear cut his as some people can make it out to be one Quibble I wanted to have with this paper is that at the end they have the they take it up further, and they say that ultimately, we estimate that help. care reform, reduce the democratic, has delegation by twenty six seats, which may have cost them control of the chamber. So basically they they sort of projects like ok. So what if Ben
More of these members voted against about care and they said well, therefore, that probably would have been enough of a swing for them to keep the house, and I think that is where you it's a leap from becoming a member centric, fury in fixed structural conditions to actually changing those structural conditions like because, if a lot of Obamacare Bear past, and so, if, if it lost a bunch of votes, then we're talking about a different national invite The environment we did have was one where Obamacare past there's another alternate reality where Obamacare failed in a high profile way, and so how would that have changed the national environment? I don't think so. necessarily would have been better to have a big high profile. Failure by the presidency Party voting for maximum Marquis, also her you yeah, that was of big high profile failure yet
tried to do it, so they don't get points for moderation necessarily of these individual members. Might it could help save their seats? But then you have like the larger conditions that that still disadvantaged this then there's another counterfactual reality where Obamacare ever tried at all and the President Obama instead remain focused on, say the economy, which was sir in the midst of the great recession, and there was a lot of criticism at the time that he had kind of too quickly moved on from the ECB. Was to pursue the big progressive agenda of Obamacare, and so what, if he had remain focused on the economy, was it within his power to actually improve the economy significantly more, back then that that's probably beyond our purview here. But you know that there are sorts of of of different reality
he's here that that could lead to different overall structural or national level conditions and inside. I wouldn't necessarily be so quick to be persuaded by the idea that if these members voted, no one Obamacare Democrats would have saved the house well on that extremely murky, complex no reserve probably wrap up today's episode. Thank you so much too, to enter broke up into Jerusalem Dems this coming on the panel, our producers so if you, along this episode, was engineered in studio by our very own DORA, wind master of many many trade and a woman, instant, a woman in stem we'd be Nelson. Is our editorial adviser Amber how's the depth at editorial director for talk podcast- and I am your host Dylan Matthews, if you
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Transcript generated on 2022-02-15.