This week, Republicans have had to face reality. A Democrat handily wins a special election in a reliably Republican district in New York. In Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, approval ratings for newly elected Republican governors are plummeting. The president's approval rating is creeping back up. Commentators often attribute these trends to the wrong foreces. For example, Jonathan Chait sees a realignment among disaffected Republicans:
Given the ideological chasm that has developed in American politics between people who pay attention to such things, it's worthwhile, in my view, to take careful note of how liberals criticize other liberals, and conservatives other conservatives. Writing in the Claremont Review of Books, this is how Ramesh Ponnurucriticizes two recent books that allege to know what lurks in the heart of the 44th president:
I think it's a good rule of thumb to never use public opinion data as evidence that your conception of American politics is the correct one, if only because it's far too tempting and easy to cherry-pick results. This new Kaiser Family Foundation poll [PDF], for instance, has excellent data about how Americans feel about the welfare state, broken down demographically, with generally well-designed questions that help one form a good impression of how the public sees the government's role in this sphere.
With Haley Barbour officially out of the presidential race, a pair of libertarian candidates in, and what appears to be a slow winnowing process underway for the Republican nomination, it's worth asking how a long-shot candidate would actually claim the prize. Jonathan Bernstein games out a possible scenario, and it seems to rely less on strategy than it does luck:
Amateurs can read individual minds. Pros can read the minds of a country with 300-plus million inhabitants:
These supremely accomplished blowhards offend some but also arouse intense loyalty in others. Their followers enjoy the brassiness of it all. They live vicariously through their hero’s assertiveness. They delight in hearing those obnoxious things that others are only permitted to think.