how things misfired

Two articles in the latest Economist, as the 2016 Presidential election campaign wavers into new grand territory.  First off

There is nothing immutable about the way the two parties currently line up. Republicans used to be the big-government progressive party, formed in opposition to slavery and pushing to remodel the South after the civil war; they have also been the small-government party, not only now, but in opposition to the New Deal in the 1930s. Democrats were once the small-government party, opposing those who wanted a more powerful federal government and defending the interests of white southerners against Washington; now they are famous as the big-government party, pushing federal anti-poverty programmes in the 20th century and government involvement in health care in the 21st.

This election could see the furniture rearranged again. Some Republicans wonder if a Trump candidacy might redraw the electoral map, winning over blue-collar whites who don’t normally vote in rustbelt swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin. If he loses, the party might still conclude that it needs to pay more attention to the economic anxieties of those who feel left behind.

… Yeah.  Well.  And the Democrats now do what?  Free Trade?

And this is something expressed I’ve been pondering, and been meaning to suggest something about this observation.

For much of 2015 they dismissed Mr Trump’s chances in the Republican primaries by relying on the book’s claim that parties usually guide voters towards “acceptable” nominees. But it was precisely by making such overconfident pronouncements, Mr Drezner argued recently in the Washington Post, that the authors sowed the seeds of their own demise.
Scientists are well acquainted with the “observer effect”, which, in physics, for example, stipulates that the characteristics of a subatomic particle can never be fully known because they are changed by the act of measuring them. Similarly, wrote Mr Drezner, “The Party Decides” has been “the primary theory driving how political analysts have thought about presidential campaigns. It seemed to explain nomination fights of the recent past quite well.” However, in previous elections, there were no crowds of journalists citing TPD. This time, says Mr Drezner, Republican decision-makers “read smart take after smart take telling them that Trump didn’t have a chance…so GOP party leaders didn’t take any action. Except that the reason smart analysts believed Trump had no chance was because they thought GOP leaders would eventually take action.”

Recall 2003  2004, and the rise and fall of Howard Dean — who, incidentally, was much more mainline a Democrat than Donald Trump is a mainline Republican.  Nonetheless the “Establishment” Democrats didn’t want him the nominee.  And granted, there are substantial differences beyond that — for one, the Democratic electorate then proved to much more small “c” conservative than the Republican electorate has been — but the Democratic Establishment helped bring him down, as did the other candidates.  Google “Dean” “Gephardt” and “murder – suicide” and I recall this

And what about all of the magazine cover stories and political reporters, including me, who predicted a Dean victory in Iowa?
The caller said the attacks from Rep. Dick Gephardt had hurt Dean in Iowa. Gephardt ran ads that questioned Dean’s record of support for Medicare and Social Security. Dean responded with ads attacking Gephardt for his stand on the Iraq war. Joe Trippi, who was still Dean’s campaign manager at the time, has called the exchange of negative ads a “murder-suicide” by Gephardt.

Then there was a negative ad brought out by some unidentifiable super-pac funding which, once they were disclosed, were from funding sources identifiable to Team Clinton.

… note these were BEFORE the primaries.  As opposed to the Republicans of 2015, who waited, and waited, and waited, and assumed, and assumed.  No actions taken until, you know, after New Hampshire.  Because no one wanted to be Gephardt, and candidates were planning an inevitable Trump collapse into their strategy.  (Cruz, I suppose, most “successfully”.)

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