Any analysis of the political ramifications of the passage of health care reform probably needs to separate out the macro-level effects (the impact on the overall political environment for the Democrats) from the micro ones (the effect on individual races -- particularly in the context to each individual member's vote). One potential effect, for instance, is that the political environment for the Democrats will be somewhat improved nationwide versus the world in which the healthcare negotiations had collapsed, but that some individual members who voted for their bill are imperiled.
Here, in any event, is a rudimentary estimate of the Democrats that might be taking the biggest risk with their yes votes. I've built a risk index starting by taking the district's PVI -- for example, I'd score an R+3 district at 3 points, or a D+2 district at -2 points. Then, I add or subtract points based on the race ratings from Cook Political, CQ, Rothenberg, and Larry Sabato: +5 points for a toss-up (or lean Republican) race, -5 points for a likely Democratic hold, -10 points for a safe Democratic seat, and 0 points for leans Democratic, which is assumed to be the default condition. (In cases where the ratings sometimes differ from forecaster to forecaster, they are averaged together). Finally, I add 5 points if the vote is a flip from no to yes. Democrats who are retiring from electoral politics are not considered.
The gutsiest/riskiest yes vote appears to be from Betsy Markey, who is in an R+6 district that is rated as a pure toss-up by all the forecasters, and who originally voted no before announcing her intention to switch a couple of days ago. If she loses her seat, she will probably be the most deserving of comparisons to Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who cast the deciding vote in the Clinton budget in 1994 and lost her seat soon thereafter (and says she'd gladly do the same thing again.)
Obviously, the votes have not been cast yet, so these reflect my best guesses as to who will vote yes.
UPDATE (2:57 PM): Things look to be stabilizing a hair for the Democrats as the caucus made a smart decision not to use the "deem-and-pass" strategy to cast their health care votes, as pro-choice Democrats appear to be comfortable with the idea that Obama will issue an Executive Order on the abortion language (although it's unclear how many Stupak votes this will persuade) and as debates over Medicare spending levels appear to be resolved. I'd say odds for passage are up over 80 percent again -- but obviously this changes on an hour-to-hour and even minute-to-minute basis.
ORIGINAL POST (1:49 PM): As of about 5 PM yesterday afternoon, it appeared that the Democrats were well on their way to securing enough votes to pass health care reform. They had gotten commitments to vote yes from seven legislators -- Betsy Markey, John Boccieri, Alan Boyd, Bart Gordon, Susan Kosmas, Dennis Kucinich, and Scott Murphy -- who had voted no originally and most of whom (with the exception of Kucinich and the retiring Gordon) are in tough districts in which their switching their vote represents a significant political risk. It seemed highly unlikely that those Democrats would be willing to switch unless they were quite confident that the bill would pass -- since switching making a public commitment to switch from no to yes becomes an even larger risk for them in the world in which the reform effort nevertheless fails.
However, with 7 no-to-yes switches, the Democrats can afford at most 8 yes-to-no switches in order to retain the votes to pass their bill. And right now, Chris Bowers puts the number at 10 instead: the 8 most solid members of the Stupak block (Cao, Carney, Costello, Donnelly, Driehaus, Lipinski, Rahall, Stupak) and two (Arcuri and Lynch) who are prepared to vote against the bill for non-Stupak reasons (although Lynch is pro-life). Some people also put Marion Berry (Arkansas) in the Stupak group; I'm not sold on that that since Berry voted for the reconciliation bill in committee ("undecided" seems like a more appropriate tag).
Still, Pelosi has several ways to get to 216.
1) Convince the other two retiring Dems (Baird, Tanner) to flip and hold everyone else. It's surprising, given how many Democrats in tough districts have agreed to switch, that the retiring Brian Baird and John Tanner haven't, especially since Baird is fairly liberal. But neither has ruled out voting for the bill. The trick, of course, is that if someone is retiring, you don't really have that much leverage over them -- although things like Ambassadorships can sometimes be promised. In any event, these are the two "easy" renaming no-to-yes flips; there are maybe one or two other members that Pelosi could call on in a pinch, but most of the universe of potential no-to-yesses have either committed to voting for the bill or voting against it.
2) Pick off Lynch and Arcuri and hold everyone else. These are the two yes-to-no defectees who aren't members of the Stupak block. Both have resisted repeated calls to reconsider -- but the Democrats have the opportunity to play hardball with each, as Lynch could lose his committee and leadership positions and as Arcuri could be quite vulnerable to a primary challenge.
3) Pick off individual members of the Stupak block (and hold everyone else). The fact is that the Stupak block has never been totally solid, fluctuating between as few as 5 or 6 members and as many as 12 or 13. The statements that various members of the group have made about the bill involve varying degrees of equivocation. Someone like Carney, for instance, or perhaps a Driehaus, could still possibly be picked off. This may be one thing that Pelosi is trying to do by declaring that a Stupak deal is off the table -- a Carney has no incentive to compromise if he thinks that Pelosi will just cut a deal with Stupak anyway.
4) Cut a deal with Stupak after all. Risk-reward: you could get the yes votes as high as 220-223 (possibly including a Republican, Joseph Cao) -- or you could see massive defections among pro-choice Democrats and the whole thing collapse. Although Pelosi might claim that a deal with Stupak is off the table, it seems unlikely that it wouldn't revisit it if it's her only renaming option. (EDIT: There also appears to be an option #4b -- which is some sort of clarifying language on abortion via Executive Order.)
Obviously, none of these paths (except #4 to a large extent) are mutually exclusive -- nor are they necessarily sufficient if other undecideds and lean-yes votes (who have a number of unrelated objections) decide to complicate things for Pelosi. Still, the fact that there are several potential paths to 216 mean that the odds remain in the Democrats favor. On the other hand, the number of options also complicates things in another sense, since Democrats who might want to see the bill pass but don't want to vote for it might not be convinced that their no votes would in fact doom the bill.
You can also read Pelosi's statement that a Stupak deal is off the table in various ways: it could indicate strength (that she thinks she can get to 216 without him), or that such a compromise would be untenable to too many pro-choice Democrats, meaning that one of Pelosi's options is off the table.
The downgrade in the chances of passage at Intrade (to about an 80 percent chance of passage at this writing versus the high 80s yesterday evening) clearly seems warranted (I might go closer to 75 percent myself). Fundamentally, however, it seems likely to me that Pelosi has at least 216 members potentially willing to vote for the bill if their vote makes the difference between passage and failure -- even without brokering a deal with Stupak. That she has 216 potential yes votes, however, doesn't mean she'll actually get them. This is a very complicated bargaining process. The greatest risk, perhaps, is that the negotiations start to break down on multiple levels -- i.e. she's having headaches with some members over Stupak, with others over deem-and-pass, with still others (like Pete DeFazio) over Medicaid equity, etc. If that happens, there could be a sort of "run on the bank" as wavering Democrats seek to distance themselves from the legislation. In particular, if some seemingly solid (but electorally vulnerable) yes votes start to equivocate -- particularly no-to-yes flips that Pelosi previously seemed to have in the bag -- that would be a sign of trouble.
First, let's start with a definition of inflation. This is from my econ text in college -- the 12th edition of Paul Samuelson's Economics Text on page 226:
Inflation occurs when the general level of prices and costs is rising....By deflation we mean that prices and costs are generally falling.
A little inflation is healthy because it indicates there is sufficient demand or cost push to increase prices. For example, if there are enough people who want a television, retailers can increase the TV's cost knowing someone will buy the item at a higher price. Think of this like a trading pit on the NYSE.
Deflation, on the other hand, is perhaps one of the scariest developments an economy can face, largely because of the impact of a deflationary spiral. This starts when people really slow down their purchases of everything. This leads retailers to drop their costs to attract shoppers. But lower sales and lower prices means lower profits for retailers and manufacturers which leads to increased lay-offs. Higher unemployment leads to lower consumer spending and the cycle continues.
Let's start with import prices:
All Imports: In February, import prices decreased for the first time since a 0.6 percent decline in July, falling 0.3 percent. The February downturn followed a 1.3 percent advance in January and was driven by a turnaround in fuel prices. Despite the February decline, import prices advanced 11.2 percent for the year ended in February after decreasing 12.7 percent for the February 2008-09 period.
Fuel Imports: Import fuel prices countered an upward trend in February, falling 1.9 percent following a 4.9 percent rise in January. A 2.2 percent decline in petroleum prices was slightly offset by a 2.6 percent increase in natural gas prices. Over the past year, the price index for petroleum increased 81.3 percent and natural gas prices rose 16.3 percent, driving overall fuel prices up 70.8 percent for the same period. The 12-month increase in fuel prices followed a 49.8 percent drop for the February 2008-09 period.
All Imports Excluding Fuel: Prices for nonfuel imports rose for the seventh consecutive month, advancing 0.2 percent. The increase was led by higher prices for nonfuel industrial supplies and materials. Lower prices for foods, feeds, and beverages, capital goods, and consumer goods mitigated the overall advance. Over the past 12 months, nonfuel import prices increased 2.0 percent.
Take a look at this chart of USO - the ETF for oil prices:
Note that a year ago prices were at extremely depressed levels which explains the 81% increase in fuel prices.
Here is a chart of the import price data:
These numbers are well-contained and don't point to any inflationary possibility. The year over year numbers are influenced more by the low readings last year.
Let's deal with the producer prices data by looking at the stages of production. The reason why is producer prices are best thought of as a time series. If prices increase at the beginning of production (crude goods) they typically work their way through to the end of production at some point. But it's also incredibly important to remember there is a tremendous amount of price arbitrage with production -- meaning, the price difference between inputs and outputs can be very large, giving manufacturers a fair amount of flexibility. Let's start with crude goods:
Note the fairly high rate of volatility in these numbers. The crude numbers increase at higher rates one month and then barely increase the next month. This is the result of fairly volatile commodity prices as seen in this chart of the DBC -- the ETF for the overall commodity price index:
Also note that the year over year numbers are high because of low year over year comparisons. This will exist with all the year over year data we're looking at.
Note the volatility with intermediate prices as well. This volatility is good as it allows manufacturers to "catch their breath" from a price increase. For example, suppose input prices at the crude production level increase .5% in January. Manufacturers will have to perform calculations to figure out how to deal with these price increases. But if prices only increase .1% in February, then they have an additional month to factor in the January increase.
Finally, finished goods -- which include by definition the previous month's crude and intermediate numbers -- have been bouncing around as well. Here is a chart of the monthly and 12 month change in the PPI. Note that negative readings are typically associated with large drops in either food or energy prices (which are explained by the commodity price chart above):
Here is a chart of the year over year percentage change in producer prices:
While the number has recently spiked, it has done so because of the incredibly low year over year reading earlier this year. Also note the year over year number is hardly extraordinary.
Finally, with PPI there is little chance of inflation increasing because of the current low levels of capacity utilization in the system. Here is a chart of capacity utilization from the latest industrial production report which shows a large amount of excess capacity that can absorb production increases and thereby prevent unwanted inflationary pressures.
Also note that with a high unemployment rate there is no inflationary pressure from wage increases.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the index increased 2.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.
The unchanged all items index was the result of a decline in the energy index being offset by slight increases in the indexes for food and for all items less food and energy. Within the latter group, declines in the indexes for apparel and household furnishings and operations were more than offset by continuing increases in the indexes for medical care and used cars and trucks. The 12-month increase in the index for all items less food and energy now stands at 1.3 percent, the lowest since February 2004.
The food index also edged up in February. The food at home index rose slightly, the net result of the major grocery store food group indexes posting a mix of modest increases and decreases. In contrast the energy index declined in February. Decreases in the indexes for gasoline, electricity, and fuel oil more than offset an increase in the index for natural gas.
Let's go to the charts:
Finally, let's look at possible monetary causes of inflation. Sometime over the last year, Art Laffer argued the explosion in the nation's monetary base would lead to unprecedented inflation. First, here is a definition of monetary base:
In economics, the monetary base (also base money, money base, high-powered money, reserve money, or, in the UK, narrow money) is a term relating to the money supply, the amount of money in the economy. It is highly liquid money and includes currency and vault cash. The monetary base consists of coins, paper money, and commercial banks' reserves with the central bank.
Here is the current chart of the year over year percentage change in the monetary base:
As the chart shows, at the height of the financial panic, the Fed injected a large amount of liquidity into the system. But, as the chart also shows, that number is also now decreasing at a substantial rate. In addition, here are the year over year percentage change charts of M1, M2 and MZM:
None of them show any inflationary pressure from the massive liquidity injection by the Fed. The reason is the decrease in credit which has occurred over the last year or so. A massive liquidity injection will become inflationary if it is turned into credit. However, credit has contracted:
The bottom line is clear: inflation is not an issue right now.
...see also archives
The anger out there is understandable. But what's irrational is the idea that there is some sort of "permanent" Congress that needs to be replaced immediately and all at once. It's just not true.
Yes, re-election rates are higher than during earlier moments in American history. And congressional incumbents certainly have wired the system--through the use of franking privileges, earmarks, organizing the congressional calendar to allow them time to get back to their states or districts to campaign, and so on--to provide themselves many valuable electoral advantages. Campaign money flows disproportionately to them, and a self-feeding loop emerges in which invulnerable incumbents raise most of the cash, thereby deterring potential challengers, making them more untouchable, and so on. And then, every 10 years they use their political clout to carve up favorable districts that make them demographically unbeatable.
So these corpulent, corrupt and complacent reps are in office forever, growing more out of touch with real Americans every day, right? Not really.
Keep in mind that even if, say, 95 percent of House incumbents run and 95 percent of them win, that implies a net return rate every two years of about 90 percent. That's very high by historical standards, of course, but it also means that over the course of a decade only a little more than half of House members still there at the end were there at the beginning of that 10-year stretch. After all, a 90 percent return rate raised to the fifth power--i.e., after five election cycles--is about 59 percent.
And sure enough, if you look down the list of 431 current House members (there are four vacancies) sorted by seniority, only 198 of them, or 46 percent, have served in House consecutively going back to before January 2001, when the class elected in 2000 five cycles ago was inducted. Since then, 227 entered Congress by election or special election, and there are six other current incumbents who have greater total seniority but only because of interrupted service that began again at some point after January 2001. (Reps. Cooper, Harman, Lungren, Inglis, Bilbray and Rodriquez.)
But here's why the instinct to just throw all the bums out seems rational but is potentially counter-productive if not irrational: Even with significant turnover, the notion that members of Congress will be independent of the influence of special interests is a fantasy. In fact, just the reverse is likely to happen: In a Congress full of rookies, the interest group community will have greater influence because it has longer institutional memory and control over information. That's not just speculation: Studies of state interest group communities tend to show that they are more influential in so-called "citizen legislatures" where members serve part-time (see , and that states with term limits only tend to further strengthen interest groups.
There are no term limits on the interest group community, and no way to throw all those "bums" out at once. Sure, there are problems with having too much seniority in the legislature. It's also problematic when members become so insulated from electoral threat they lose touch. But the impulse to throw them all out of office should be tempered by consideration of the alternative.
Let's look at this case, because it turns out to be pretty instructive. I can think of at least three fundamental differences.
First, the unions were worried about something -- a tax -- that was more linear in nature than something like a public option. Although there were certainly quite a few versions of the public option that emerged throughout the debate -- some much weaker than others -- it is a lot more on/off and therefore less easy tweak than something like the excise tax, on which is it relatively easy to slide around any of a number of thresholds. Nor did the unions get major concessions -- they got relatively minor ones like a $1,000 increase in the threshold at which the tax was applied, some of which have since been rescinded. Had progressives focused on something which was more granular in nature, such as the subsidy levels for working-class Americans, they might also have gotten some concessions, rather than coming away empty-handed.
Secondly -- and this is the much more important point -- the unions could make a much more credible threat to walk away from the bill. This is because, with a sufficiently cumbersome excise tax, the health care bill could reasonably be seen as a bad deal for unions, particularly for unions in the AFL-CIO family who tend to have older members with good health insurance benefits in the status quo. The unions were acting out of naked self-interest: threatening to walk away from a deal that would have been bad -- for them. Progressives, conversely, were threatening to walk away from a bill that would nevertheless have accomplished objectives of enormous magnitude and for which they've traditionally advocated. To claim that you'll walk away from a deal that would provide insurance to tens of millions of disadvantaged Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assistance to millions more is not credible -- it would be the rough equivalent of a conservative legislator arguing that she wouldn't vote to lower the capital gains tax unless the IRS's budget were also slashed by 50 percent. Why would anybody take such a threat seriously? Even if you were able to make the case that a bill without a public option was worse than the status quo -- and the kill-billers always struggled greatly with that -- it would be such a counterintuitive one (from the standpoint of "traditional" liberal values) that the counterparty in the negotiation would have trouble believing that you were arguing in good faith.
Finally, the unions actually had the more, rather than the less, nimble position. It's not clear that they directly threatened to kill the bill, for instance; they simply made clear to the White House that they would be very unhappy if the excise tax was not scaled down and let the White House fill in the blanks. The notion that the most daring, highest-stakes negotiating position is necessarily the best one is wrong in both theory and practice.
Progressives would do well to realize that their batting average in these situations is going to be pretty low. To assert that there should be an equivalence between those people on the left and Blue Dogs is wrong, because the position of the Blue Dogs is usually closer to that of both the median voter and (more relevantly) the median Congressperson. There are certainly exceptions -- particularly as political space is not always unidimensional. But in a two-party, plurality voting system like that in the United States, the ability of those on either end of the political spectrum to exert direct influence over policy is inherently going to be limited.
That's not to argue that progressives should just give up or cheerlead for the least-bad alternative. Certainly they have some leverage, most of which is not the product of any clever strategy but because of their importance (via fundraising, advocacy, etc.) in electing Democratic/progressive candidates. A more credible position, for instance, would have been to threaten not to donate to Democratic candidates if a public option were not included in the bill, something like what gay-rights activists have done over their dissatisfaction with the Administration's halting progress on those issues. This strategy does not rely on the trapeze act of enlisting members of Congress as proxies. Primary challenges -- although I sometimes disagree with progressives on their choice of targets -- are another promising pathway, and one of the most time-tested ways by which the "far" right has exercised a check on the Republican Party.
It feels good to assert that progressives just need to be tougher -- perhaps even to the point of feigning irrationality. These arguments are not necessarily wrong -- a reputation for being tougher bargainers would help at the margins -- but it misdiagnoses the problem on health care. The progressive bloc failed not because of any reputational deficiency on the part of the progressives but because their bluff was too transparent -- they claimed to be willing to wager enormous stakes (health care reform) to win a relatively small pot (the public option). That would have been beyond the capacity of any poker player -- or activist -- to pull off.
Recall that what we have here is a collective action problem. The overwhelming majority of Democratic members believe that this bill would be good for their party politically. They may very well be wrong -- but that's what they believe. And something close to 100 percent, I'd imagine, must think that it would be good policy. However, some number less than 216 would in a perfect world want to vote for it themselves. The optimal outcome for a lot of these guys is that the bill passes in spite of their objection -- box 'C' in the table below.
With that paradigm in mind, I'd think a well-run whipping operation would proceed in essentially two phases. The first phase would consist of counting the hard no's. These are the people in box D: they're not prepared to vote for the bill even if it causes the bill to fail. There's a big difference between these Congressmen and those in box C, who would rather not vote for health care but probably would if they absolutely had to.
The second phase would be to sort out the Cs: which of them are going to have to make good on that promise that they'd help you out in a pinch, and which of them get a pass? Instead of counting noes, you're now starting to count yesses. This phase is not easy -- not at all easy -- but it's where Pelosi and the floor leadership get to exercise their home-court advantage, employing all the carrots and sticks at their disposal as well as their ability to determine the timing and floor procedure for the vote(s).
It appears now that the first phase is over, and that the hard no's do not number 216 and may indeed be a ways from it. David Dayen puts the number of hard no's at 207; his is the smartest whip count out there but I'll bet there are errors there on both sides, since someone who's really a C might want to disguise themselves as a D and vice versa. In any event, we haven't seen very many categorical statements against the bill from people who voted for it originally, which would be the surest sign of trouble. And some of the statements that seemed categorical -- Luis Gutierrez, say -- have (predictably) turned out not to be. Even Bart Stupak hinted that he wanted the bill to pass -- might Stupak be a closet 'C'? I wouldn't place a high probability on Stupak voting for the bill, but if the leadership found some way for him to save face, I don't think it would be out of the question.
By the way, I think you explicitly do want to be knocking on doors of members who seem like hard no's, but might in fact not be (even if this leads to panicky stories at Politico) -- some people who you thought were D's might turn out to be C's, like Dennis Kucinich did. And when you're herding up the C's later on, you'll be more credible when you've done your due diligence. Someone who's in a tough Midwestern R+7 district but prepared to take a leap of faith is going to wonder why John Adler got a pass in a cushy, suburban R+1 -- these are the sort of things that can cause the process to break down. Even if you can't get an Adler to flip, you're going to have to be able to articulate his excuses.
Over the last 24-48 hours -- coinciding with the release of the CBO score -- we've now moved into the second phase, which is counting up the yesses. And so far, Democrats are doing a pretty good job of it. Firm-seeming yes votes from different people representing different constituencies -- Kucinich (wavering liberals), Markey (swing-district), Gordon (retirees), Gutierrez (Hispanics) have been unveiled, with one or two others looking likely to follow. As Dayen pointed out earlier today, if you take the seeming yes votes and add them to the people who are uncommitted but voted for the bill last time around, they add up to 217. This math isn't foolproof but by any means but that's a pretty important threshold to pass.
The question is what could cause the process to unravel. There's some intrinsic, nonspecific instability in the process, certainly, which will not completely be resolved until the vote is actually taken on the floor. (If Pelosi says she has the votes, and schedules a vote, I'd still build in a 5-10 percent hedge against something going wrong during the roll call.) But I'm not sure if there are any specific things that could interfere with the process: the CBO hurdle has been cleared, the polls are getting better rather than worse -- Congress is getting a lot of phone calls, and the impact of constituent feedback should never be dismissed, but what they're getting now pales in comparison to the Town Hall protests that they survived over the summer. The one exception might be this whole business over deem-and-pass. You seem to have at least one or two Democrats who won't vote for the bill if the deem-and-pass strategy is employed and a couple others who won't for the bill unless the deem-and-pass strategy is applied -- so maybe you have 216 members between the two groups but not quite enough to endorse any one strategy. On the other hand, if these angels-on-pinheads problems are the worst thing that Democrats have to contend with, you'd have to consider them a favorite to get their bill passed. (Not that the discussion should be that hard to resolve -- deem-and-pass is the manifestly inferior option politically.)
I'm not sure if you should particularly care about the little 5 or 10 point hedges (usually to the pessimistic side) that I've periodically been recommending around the Intrade contract on the chances of reform passing. Even if you staffed a whole room full of the smartest vote-counters, modelers and analysts and had them work 24/7 on trying to beat the Intrade contract, I'm not sure if they could come up with anything sufficiently rigorous to provide them with a real advantage. (That doesn't necessarily mean the market is "efficient", but we'll save that conversation for another day.) But for what it's worth, the Intrade contract, which is trading at 75 percent right now, now looks about right to me or perhaps even a hair pessimistic.
UPDATE: Stephen Lynch is apparently still a firm no in Massachusetts. I'll believe it when I see it since everyone in his inner circle wants him to vote for the thing, but that would nullify the effect of picking up Kucinich.
In any case, in this first of what will probably be two posts—based on data collected and reported here by my colleague Michael McDonald of George Mason University, one of the nation’s leading experts on voting turnout behavior—let’s look at some general patterns that merit attention:
1. First, and not surprisingly, although every state and the District of Columbia experienced higher turnout in 2008 than 2006, there is quite a bit of variation in the levels of increase. In absolute terms—which is how I sorted the entries in the figure above—the increases range from South Dakota’s low of 6.0 percent to North Carolina’s 34.8 percent; in relative terms, they range from SD’s 10.4 percent to the DC’s 114.1 percent. To put those extremes in context, the national averages—see the vertical line in this crowded figure—were 21.3 percent in absolute terms and 52.7 percent in relative gains.These general trends aside, the pattern of political-electoral import that jumped out at me the most when I first sorted and charted the result is this: There are a surprising small number of presidential swing states at the top end (or right, in the figure) of the list. Of those 20 states with above-national-average absolute gains--that is, to the right of the US in the figure--at most you could classify nine of them as swing states, in order: Nevada, Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. And that's with Georgia, which the Obama campaign harbored notions of flipping, included in the list, as well as Indiana and North Carolina which, of course, became swing states thanks in part to voter surges there.
2. Notice that DC, along with North Carolina (112.3 percent), Louisiana (109.4 percent) and Mississippi (107.8 percent), are the only jurisdictions in which the turnout rate more than doubled between 2006 to 2008. Pretty amazing. Although there are some other big gainers, none come even close to these four. Though I will talk more about this in a follow-up post, also notice that all four (and many of those toward the right side of the bar chart) are states with either significant African American and/or Latino populations.
3. Of course, a big relative increase can be a function of an abysmally low turnout baseline from the 2006 midterm in the first place; and conversely, some of the states with small absolute and/or relative increases are not so much civic laggards as they are simply those states where voters already turned out at high rates in 2006, and thus there was far less room for growth. The latter include many states from New England, the Midwest and Mountain West; Minnesota was below national averages in absolute increase (18.0 percent, ranked twentieth smallest gain nationally) and relative increase (30.0 percent, seventh smallest nationally), but that’s because MN had a whopping 60.1 percent turnout in the 2006 midterm and a 78.1 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential.
4. Two outliers among the bunch—those with both small absolute and relative gains between 2006 and 2008 that cannot be attributed to already high turnout rates—would be Hawai’i and Arkansas. Turnout in HI increased only 33.2 percent relatively between 2006 and 2008, from 37.9 percent to 50.5 percent in absolute terms; for AR, the respective figure is 38.0 percent, going from 38.7 percent to 53.4 percent. That these happen to be home states of sorts for the two major contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2008 is a bit of a puzzlement. I suppose AR’s low presidential turnout rate makes sense in terms of the lack of enthusiasm among working-class Appalachian whites in 2008. And maybe Hawaiians didn’t show up at higher rates for their native son because they knew Barack Obama’s victory there was never in doubt. (He carried it by a larger margin than any of the other 49 states; only in DC was his margin greater.)
Looking at the other 11, notice that many of them also have significant non-white statewide populations, which testifies to the fact that Obama's surge electorate was, more than any other feature (including age), non-white. The total number of white voters between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections increased but one percent, whereas the non-white number grew 19 percent and 23 percent among the subset of non-whites who are African American.
In a future post(s) I will consider what the potential impacts of the expected 2010 disappearance (or potential last-minute re-emergence?) of the so called "Obama surge voters" might be in specific states featuring key congressional and/or gubernatorial contests this November.
These aren't my ratings per se, but instead a compilation of six different sources: simulations based on computer ratings from Ken Pomeroy (source), Jeff Sagarin and Kvam/Sokol; a meta-simulation from WhatIfSports; Vegas (actually dodgy offshore casino) odds -- these need to be adjusted to take out the "juice" the casino builds in -- and the composite picks in Yahoo! Tourney Pick 'em (not technically probabilities but just the number of people who picked each team).
Quite a few differences of opinion! All of the models are way down on Kentucky, which is the second-favorite selection in Vegas. The computers, on the other hand, have several funky darkhorses like Wisconsin, BYU (very dangerous if they make it to the Sweet 16 since the regional is held in Salt Lake City), and Baylor. They also like Duke a lot, in part because their region is very weak through the Elite Eight. BTW, I don't think the computer models are foolproof -- it would probably be advisable to take into account things like how well a team plays away from home, free-throw shooting (definitely important in close games), travel, and injuries -- but they should provide for a good general guide.
If you're still filling out your bracket, you probably want to tend to bet against the Yahoo! picks, since there's definitely some incentive to be contrarian in a winner-take-all pool where high-variance strategies are rewarded. This is especially so if your pool has a lot of entrants, weights late-round games disproportionately, and does not give a bonus for picking upsets. If you pick Baylor or something and get it right, odds are that just one or two other people in your pool will have them as the winner and unless you really screwed up everything else, you should be in the money. But if you go with a Kentucky or a Kansas, you need to get a lot of other things right. In the one pool where I took Kansas, I had three relatively low seeds along with them in the Final Four, figuring that if I get Kansas and any of the longshots right, I should have a pretty good chance to money.
This should be a good tournament from a gambling perspective. Lots of the 4/13, 5/12, 6/11 games have serious upset potential -- check out that West regional in particular.
Actually, it's pretty hard to say. You can point toward the implicit or explicit endorsements made by various liberal thought leaders -- Markos Moluitsas, MoveOn.org (which surveyed its members and found 83 percent in support of the bill), the unions, Michael Moore, etc. But that's more a symptom than a cause. I can assure you, contra Glenn Beck's darkest fantasies, that there is no Secret Liberal Cabal at which Andy Stern is doing tequila shots off Michael Moore's jiggling belly while Markos and Dennis Kucinich eat vegan hors d'oeuvres and share notes on messaging strategy. (Or if there is, I haven't been invited.) This appears, rather, to have occurred somewhat spontaneously. And it has occurred in spite of the fact that the bill hasn't really gotten any more liberal. Whatever might come out of the reconciliation process will be marginally more liberal than what the Senate passed on its own, but still lacks a public option or a Medicare buy-in, and suffers from most of the same flaws that some liberals were critiquing in the first place. It might have helped a little bit to get the Senate bill off the front pages -- but the differences between the "Obama"/reconciliation bill and the Senate's December bill are fairly cosmetic.
Perhaps the loss in Massachusetts served to galvanize liberals and unite them around the bill? That's an important precondition of the story, surely -- but if it were the sole cause, we'd have expected the increase in support to have come between January and February -- not, as PPP found, between February and today.
Personally, I think the reason for the increase in support is mostly this: the Democratic leadership, and particularly President Obama, are now fighting for this bill tooth and nail. They didn't necessarily have to do this; they could have thrown in the towel, passed off some bipartisan crap that didn't do much to help the uninsured, and called it a day. That's what Rahm Emanuel wanted to do, as Chris Bowers points out. But that isn't what Obama did: instead, he's gone all-in on the thing, potentially staking his Presidency on the outcome. Liberals like the idea of being the scrappy underdog -- being the fighter -- and Obama, after a strangely aloof performance on the health care bill throughout 2009, has been fighting the good fight.
Nor is it a fight that Democrats are necessarily bound to win: the odds are probably not much better than 50:50. Before Scott Brown's victory, I think a lot of people assumed -- wrongly -- that a health care bill was inevitable, and that it wasn't a question of whether a bill would pass but which one would pass. Many of the liberal criticisms of the bill are valid -- but the argument that the bill was worse than the status quo (in terms of accomplishing any of the objectives that liberals normally care about) was never persuasive. Now that it's been made clear that the status quo really is the alternative, indeed, we see just how unpersuasive that argument was: if PPP's numbers are correct, then only about 3 percent of liberals still buy it.
I disagree with Ben Smith, by the way, about his contention that this would "seem to vindicate the White House's fundamental approach ... to take the left for granted as much as possible and focus on courting marginal members of the Senate." Of course, messaging always needs to be slanted toward the median voter: there are a lot more people in the middle of the political spectrum than at the tail ends of the Bell curve. But, even that small percentage of liberals who had doubts about the bill -- maybe a quarter of liberals, meaning about 4 percent of the electorate overall -- can move the numbers at the margins. A Congressman is going to have a much easier time swallowing a bill that's polling at 43-47 -- too close to call, he might tell himself -- than one that was at 39-51. (Nor is he likely to check to see where the opposition is coming from, even it's been clear enough for some time that some of the opposition was from the left.) The lukewarm reaction among many liberals to the bill may therefore have contributed to the delays in enacting the legislation -- which in turn meant that it was still a couple yards short of the goal line at the time of Brown's surprising win in Massachusetts. The lesson for the White House, I think, is that liberals (like any other voters) react as much to tone as to substance. A bill might not meet every objective on the liberal checklist, but so long as you're Fighting Like Hell for it, liberals are usually going to be willing to fight for you too.
These counterfactuals on negotiating strategy are hard to prove -- or to disprove -- and one's opinion of them usually correlates strongly with one's overall position on the health care reform bill. Those, like me, who consider the even the "compromise" bill to be a reasonably important and impressive accomplishment will usually conclude that liberal constituencies did about all that they could reasonably do. But those who are dissatisfied with the outcome are likewise dissatisfied with the tactics.
It certainly is worth pointing out that negotiating "harder" is not a universal good. There are potential costs to taking an inflexible negotiating position in a complex, multi-party negotiation. Most obviously, people may conclude that you're wasting their time and you'll find yourself looped out of the negotiation. Although I would guess that people, as a rule, being social beings who want to please others, have somewhat of a bias toward being too accomodating in negotiations, they can certainly find themselves on the other side of the ledger with ample frequency.
Recently, I've had several conversations with NYU political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita in preparation for my book project. Bruce, in addition to being a Silver family friend, is a really brilliant guy who is trying to lend some much-needed rigor to the political science community. He is best known for a model he designed (as documented in his book, The Predictioneer's Game) to predict the outcomes of complex negotiations from relatively simple inputs. There is a scaled-down version of his model available at his website; I decided to run the numbers for health care and see what it came up with.
Let me caution: although Bruce's algorithm has a very good track record, this is mostly for fun. His model is not a "black box". It requires the specification of several variables for each party to the negotiation and a significant amount of expertise may be required in selecting those variables. It provides for an unbiased way to evaluate this information, but the choice of the inputs may introduce bias.
In particular, for each party to the negotiation, the model requires the selection of their policy position (on a 0 to 100 scale), their relative degree of influence, their flexibility (how eager they are to compromise), and their engagement (how focused they are on facilitating their desired outcome). A party may also be deemed to have veto power over the negotiation, meaning that it may unilaterally reject any settlement.
I defined the possible outcomes on healthcare as follows:
100 - Single payer
70 - House bill with strong public option
60 - House bill with weak public option
50 - Senate Finance bill (no public option)
20 - Incremental reform
10 - No reform (status quo)
0 - Complete deregulation
In turn, I defined 12 parties to the negotiation with the following characteristics; the score in parenthesis represents each group's desired policy outcome.
- White House (70). Very highly influential but distracted (lower engagement). Extremely flexible; wants deal done. Veto point.
- Nancy Pelosi (75). Influential, highly engaged, quite flexible. Veto point.
- Harry Reid (67.5). Modestly influential (less than Pelosi), highly engaged, very flexible. Veto point.
- Progressive Democrats (85). Modestly influential, engaged, modestly flexible.
- Moderate Democrats (67.5). Modestly influential, reasonably engaged, very ambivalent/flexible.
- Blue Dogs (52.5). Influential, engaged, fairly inflexible. Veto point.
- Committee Chairs (60). Modestly influential, highly engaged, reasonably flexible. Veto point.
- Olympia Snowe (42.5). Low influence (although high relative to other individual members of Congress), but engaged. Modestly flexible.
- Republicans (20). Low influence, modest engagement. Completely inflexible.
- Insurance Lobbiysts (0). Comparatively low influence, but very engaged. Modestly flexible -- not totally averse to compromise.
- Liberal Activists/Unions (100). Low influence, engaged, somewhat inflexible relative to policy-makers.
- Voters/public sentiment (45). Highly influential, but very distracted/disengaged. Position somewhat amorphous/flexible.
Note that this is a very complex negotiation. At least five different parties effectively have veto power over the process, including the White House, the Blue Dogs (who cast the decisive votes in both chambers of Congress), and both the Floor and Committee Leadership.
When I ran the negotiation the first time through, it came up with a score of ... 52. That is, it predicted an outcome just slightly to the left of the Senate Finance Committee's bill, but which would probably lack even a weak public option. That actually looks like a very good prediction, given what is likely to come out of the reconciliation process (if the Democrats get a bill at all).
The real value in this exercise, though, may be in the scenario testing: we can tweak various parameters and see what influence they have on the model.
-- What happens, for instance, if we reduce the flexibility variable for the Progressive Democrats in Congress? That is, we make them more intransigent and demanding, as many bloggers suggested that they should have been? It turns out that nothing happens; the outcome of the negotiation is still a 52. Nor is there much change if we make the progressive position more flexible; the model comes up with a score of 53. (We can increase the score slightly if we make the progressives more influential -- to a score of about 56. But influence is not easily obtained and should probably be regarded as exogenous to the model.)
-- The White House also had somewhat marginal influence, although more than the Congressional Progressives. If we make the White House more engaged, we increase the predicted outcome of the negotiation to 55. If we make them both more engaged and less flexible, we increase the score further to 59. The model suggests, then, that if the White House were both less eager to broker a compromise and very actively involved/engaged in the negotiation from the very beginning of the progress, it might have been able to broker a public option, but probably only a weak one.
-- I also tested the strategy of the group that I call unions/activists. The model seems to think that the groups that define the endpoints of a negotiation can play a reasonably important role in determining the outcome (the same is true of lobbyists), even if they aren't terribly influential relative to other parties. What's interesting is that, if I give the activists a less flexible position, the score increases to 58, meaning that a weak public option might have been obtained. But if I give the activists a more flexible position than the one I assumed them to have in the status quo, the score also increases, to 56. Although this is highly speculative, what the model seems to be suggesting in that the activist community might conceivably have gotten the worst of both worlds. Had they been more willing to compromise on a good-but-not-great bill (better than the one they got), they might have expedited the process toward that outcome rather than letting other (less liberal) groups influence the outcome instead. But had they dug their heels in even more, they might have succeeded in applying enough pressure to move the outcome (somewhat) to the left. The frustration that a lot of activists feel, I think, stems from the fact that they put a lot of money into the pot but then had to fold. It sure sounds good to say: oh, we need both pragmatists and idealists in the liberal community, but it's also possible that activists would have done better had either of these groups unilaterally dictated the strategy.
-- I also tested what happened if certain groups were removed from the process. For example, the projected outcome increases from 52 to 58 if the committee chairs are bypassed, and from 52 to 57 if Olympia Snowe is ignored. It appears that dealing additional groups into a negotiation can have potentially unpredictable and deleterious consequences; even if those groups are not influential initially, they have a chance to accumulate influence once they're seated at the table.
This is fun stuff to speculate about. Still, perhaps the most important finding of the model is that the outcome was relatively robust. Although there are a number of things that Democrats could have done a bit better, essentially all of the scenarios that I tested produced a score between a 50 -- a bill something like Senate Finance Committee's -- and a 60 -- a weak public option. It would probably not have been possible to get a strong public option (much less anything resembling single payer) even if a number of variables were changed within reasonable boundaries.
This squares, in any event, with my intuition. No matter how clever progressives and activist groups might have been, they were enmeshed in a complex negotiation that:
(i) necessarily required the approval of a certain number of Blue Dogs;The influence of any one group in what is essentially a 10- or 12-way negotiation is liable to be fairly limited, no matter how wisely they select their strategy -- and to suggest otherwise probably reflects a certain amount of self-importance.
(ii) featured some parties -- Republicans and lobbyists -- who had limited but nonzero influence and who were actively trying to do undo any settlement;
(iii) was overseen by a series of party leaders (Pelosi, Reid, Obama) who have institutional incentives to broker a compromise, regardless of their (fairly liberal) personal preferences and,
(iv) was constrained by an ambivalent public.
Unions, activist groups and Democratic thought leaders are all starting to urge primary challenges against Democrats who vote against the health care bill. In many cases, it's an idle threat. Want to primary Dennis Kucinich, for instance? It's too late: Ohio's filing deadline passed in February.
I identified 10 Democrats, however, for whom all of the following criteria are true:
1. In a state in which the filing deadline for primary candidates is April 1st or later. I assume that at least some lead time is required to launch a primary challenge. This eliminates a number of important states, including California, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
2. Not yet committed yes votes on health care. According to David Dayen's whip count.
3. In districts with a PVI of R+4 or bluer. This is a critical threshold because Nancy Pelosi could permit all non-retiring Democratic members in districts with PVI's of R+5 or redder to vote against the bill and still have (barely) enough votes for passage. Everyone in a district of R+4 or bluer would have to vote for the bill, however.
4. Been in office for less than 10 years. It's very hard to primary incumbents who have a decade or more of service time in their districts, except in the case of gross misconduct, etc.
5. Are not retiring.
Here is that list:
Six of the ten vulnerable Democrats are in New York State, which offers a number of advantages to primary challengers: it has a very late filing deadline, and it has a lot of mobilizing infrastructure between strong unionization, the presence of the Working Families Party, and the number of activist groups working in and around New York City. It's hard to imagine that the threat of a primary challenge wouldn't be at least a little bit persuasive to NY-24's Mike Arcuri, for instance, who has just $400,000 in cash on hand and voted for the health care bill originally. The unions have also explicitly threatened a primary challenge against NY-13's Mike McMahon, although he hasn't moved off his no vote so far.
I don't have much doubt that, if Nancy Pelosi scheduled a floor vote on health care and it failed, Democrats would be out for blood. The influence of the kill-the-bill crowd (perhaps always overstated) seems to have eroded further in recent weeks, with some 83 percent of MoveOn.org members now wanting the health care bill to pass. These people aren't just going to sit on their hands if health care fails. I got in a couple of friendly debates with some folks after my mildly skeptical post about the primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas; what they emphasized to me is that, whatever abstract questions there might be about the wisdom of particular primary challenges, they tend to go out the window when people are angry enough.
But it's hard to identify good primary challengers, especially on short notice, and so there's more than a small element of bluffing here. Still, most of these Democrats have fewer excuses than others in their party to oppose the bill, and even modest pressure could move one or two of their votes -- which might make the difference between its passage and failure.
I’d like to start by asking you to give our readers a brief history of how you, using Facebook, came up with the idea to form the Coffee Party.
It was actually a very simple idea, or a hypothetical idea. Right after the Massachusetts election, leading up to Tea Party convention in Nashville, it seemed like there was non-stop coverage of the Tea Party movement. There was a growing narrative that the Tea Party represented the real America or a majority of Americans. And I thought that was completely wrong. I know they don’t represent me and I found the narrative alienating. And I just felt that was a shared opinion among many people.
So I kind of just started ranting on my Facebook page on late January 26. “Oh, God, I’m just so sick of the Tea Party. We should just start our own party, call it the Coffee Party, or the Smoothie Party—anything but Tea.” Friends of mine online bonded immediately. Within about a half an hour of that rant I created this fan page, Join the Coffee Party Movement.
What is it about the Tea Party movement that got you so agitated? Is it their ideological orientation, or is it what you complain about on the website in terms of misinformation? Is it tactical? Or is it all of that?
If I had to pinpoint I’d say it’s their methodology for social change. I think that some of the things they’re trying to achieve actually a lot of Americans would support. But it’s the way they’re going about it and how they’re being used by obstructionists in Congress that I troubles me.
From their platform, they say they are for limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. Well, if you break it down, you know, who wants unlimited government? Without limited government we have totalitarianism. No one wants that. We all buy into some version of limited government. Fiscal responsibility is the same thing. I don’t know anybody who’d sign up for government waste. We all want fiscal responsibility. And most Americans agree that we want a free market system. There are some differences over to what extent it should be regulated or what sorts of enforcements should be in place for fair play. Those are just American ideals.
I do take issue with how they are interpreting or distorting these concepts and how aggressively they’re pursuing it. It's difficult to take their level of rhetoric, the lack of fact-checking in some cases, and how their activities embolden people in Congress to obstruct the process.
In the end, I think that’s what we have to focus on: How do we improve our political process? Because we’re seeing all sorts of vulnerabilities and loopholes.
We have a democracy, but there are loopholes. It seems that the most organized constituents have disproportionate influence over our government. Corporations pay thousands of people to spend all of their time trying to influence government, but the majority of us are too busy to spend our time influencing the government. We could go through a list of possible reforms, such as campaign finance reform, term limits, killing the filibuster, etc.
Democracy is the fundamental value that all Americans share. Yet, we have a democracy that is really fragile and inert because we don’t have a critical mass of people participating on a regular basis. We are calling on Americans, regardless of their political disposition, to participate in the political process. That is the only way we can have a government that represents the will of the people.
Regardless of what you think about Tea Partiers, from a small-d democratic standpoint, you can’t say they’ve been uninvolved. You can’t say they’ve been ineffective, right?
Right. I’d say they’ve been disproportionately effective.
Do you think because of the media narrative, with a Democratic Congress and White House, that your group will get less attention as the Tea Party movement. Is that your suspicion?
I’d say it’s kind of unpredictable. We’re in uncharted territory right now. I think the Tea Party people in a way are responding to the same frustration that Coffee Party people are responding to, which is dysfunction in our government.
They identify the solution to that differently from us. From what I understand of their rhetoric, they think that the federal government is inherently a problem. It's as if they've declared war on the federal government. Our relationship to the federal government is different. We just want the federal government to do a better job representing and serving us.
We look at the federal government like it is a patient that needs care. You do not abandon the patient because it’s diseased. We have to remedy it, we have to treat it. We can 't abandon the federal government because it’s the only apparatus we have for collective decision-making.
Apparently, in just the past few days the number of Coffee Partiers signed up on Facebook surpassed the number of Tea Partiers. Is that right?
Yes, we have. But it’s kind of hard to interpret what that means. At least it says that people want an alternative to the Tea Party.
Speaking of alternatives, some of your Coffee Party people are showing up to counter-rally at Tea Party rallies. Is that something you’re trying to organize through the website?
Not at all. Some of the people are taking individual initiative to do that. But that is definitely not something we are organizing or encouraging. Because our mission is not to counter the Tea Party. It’s about reforming our government.
There was a rally recently on the National Mall supporting passage of health care reform. Were Coffee Partiers involved in organizing people to participate in that?
No we weren’t because we’re not ready yet. We have to practice democracy first internally and go through a deliberation process together to determine what kind of action plans we will have.
There’s some evidence that the Tea Partiers are dominated by or have a plurality of disaffected Ron Paul supporters. Do you have a sense of what the typical Coffee Party person is like?
It’s really hard to say. I’m trying to take some time to get to know people personally. So I went to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Atlanta last weekend to meet with people.
I don’t want to make assumptions and give you a profile. We do have this tool up on our website called The Sphere which gives us an overview of where people stand on political issues. It’s a great tool for seeing where we’re at, where we agree and disagree, and provide a roadmap for our dialogue. Unlike other groups that start with a platform or list of agenda items, we want to make it a bottom-up process.
Have any politicians or activists reached out to you to ask for support or encourage you to mobilize Coffee Partiers on behalf of some cause or issue, or just to encourage you?
We have had some candidates and staffers come to our meetings and reach out to our chapters.
Like state legislative candidates or US House candidates? What kind of candidates?
All kinds. Many of the chapters are getting approached because their fan numbers are going up. For a candidate it would be stupid to ignore that because it’s a pool of potential voters and volunteers.
Do you think Washington Democrats are taking you seriously?
I think last Saturday was a turning point because we had over 350 parties across the country with thousands attending. There were events in nearly every state including Wasilla, Alaska. These are real people and our movement is real. They also need to know that we are not going to just talk. We are going to fight for representation.
You’re an organizer but you’ve also been involved in Democratic politics in the past, working on Jim Webb’s Senate campaign in Virginia. That said, what’s your sense of how well the Obama White House, the Democratic National Committee and Organizing For America have fared since Obama came to the White House in terms of organizing all the people who supported him in 2008?
I really don’t know what to say. First, I want to clarify that I’ve only volunteered for campaigns, never been paid.
Secondly, I think it's hard to turn a grassroots movement for change into an extension of the government.
Do you think they [Obama Administration, the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America] have lost their organic touch?
Well it would be difficult to be organic when you're part of the party machine.
I don’t know. I just know I don’t feel inspired by OFA. I don’t know why. I just don’t feel any desire to be part of their efforts.
Do you think Obama should let his inner community organizer come out a bit more?
I don't know what Obama should do exactly other than to keep pointing out the opposition's tactics and communicate directly to people. I personally think that he may be a good driver and I see him trying, but the fact is we are asking him to drive a broken car.
I see there’s a donor link on the Coffee Party USA web page. Can you tell me how much you’ve raised thus far online? Online or otherwise, have you received any major contributions?
No, not major. [laughs] It’s just individuals donating $20 or $50 at a time. I think we’ve raised $5,000. So far we’re a completely volunteer organization. We’d like to keep it strictly volunteer, but it’s a lot of work. A lot of people have had to quit their day jobs to do this.
There’s really no overhead right now. But we need to raise money to buy office supplies and to prepare for our convention this summer.
Long term, do you think anything permanent will come of what you’re doing?
Well, I hope so, at least at the level of cultural change. You know, we’re not trying to start a third party. We’re trying to get people to have a different relationship to our government and to one another. We want to get people to participate with the understanding that we’re a community, and that we’re all here trying to advance the common good.
We want to move away from this paradigm of politics as a football game with two teams. That’s a zero-sum game situation: one team wins, the other team loses. That’s not a democracy. We’ve kind of inherited that, but that’s not a democracy. We need to change everything about that way of understanding at politics because right now it’s not even a football game, it’s like ultimate fighting. People are acting viciously.
That’s why it was important for us to first of all call for civility and to connect each other. We’re going to enter this discourse as a community and leave as a community. Just because you and I don’t agree on something like, say, public option, that doesn’t make us enemies. We’re still part of the community. And so that experience of participating has to be positive and empowering. And that’s what we’re focusing on right now.