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Douglas Muir
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Carlos, you're right that parties aren't particularly democratic organizations. In the case of the GOP, the current mess is the result of a behind-the-scenes transformation that took place over a generation or so. Broadly speaking, a new class of unelected GOP operatives -- congressional staffers, executive branch appointees, political consultants, RNC and state-level political bureaucrats and organizers -- arose in the late 1970s and 1980s, replaced or pushed aside their predecessors, and came to dominate the party. It was a startlingly fast process, mostly completed in just over a decade; when it was done, the outside face of the party had changed only a little, but its internal wiring had been dramatically reconfigured. That said, I do think there are benefits to expanding the least-screwed tail of the party. Especially right now. Doug M.
David, I demur. I agree that the US economy may be in deep trouble in 2010, but I have trouble seeing how this translates into a 40-seat swing for the GOP. The last swing of that size was in 1994, and it only happened because a large block of Southern and Western seats had been slowly sliding into the red over the last decade. That couldn't happen today, because a surprising chunk of today's Democratic majority is in safe or safe-ish seats. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight sums it up nicely: "[T]he Democrats have a pretty strong buffer against Republican gains at the margins, which might be pretty useful to them since parties taking over the White House typically lose seats at the next midterm election. For example, suppose that Republicans gain 5 points across the board in 2010 (so that, for instance, a district which they lost by 3 points in 2008, they'd win by 2 points in 2010). If the Republicans managed to do this, the Democrats would lose just 15 seats, still holding 242 to the Republicans' 193. Suppose instead that the Republicans gained 10 points across the board. Surely that would give them back control of the chamber, right? Not really -- it only nets them 7 additional seats, giving them 200 to the Democrats' 235. Finally, suppose that the Republicans gained 15 points across the board. Even then, the Democrats would retain possession of the House by a narrow 219-216 margin. Put more succinctly, an outright majority of the House is now controlled by Democrats who won their elections by 15 points or more." This doesn't present an unbreakable lock on the House by any means. But it does give an advantage that it will be rather hard for the GOP to overcome in just a single cycle. Doug M.
Standards, Will -- I called the post "Visiting the /Planets/". And if I included missions not launched yet, well, where does that stop? (Though I suppose Dawn could squeak in on the grounds that if Pluto is included, Ceres should be too -- apparently now they're both "dwarf planets". Hum.) Doug M.