Ms. McGargle Bargle has taken enough ridicule that she has decided to explicate her prediction (with 70% confidence) that the Republicans will control the House, Senate, and White House in 2017. For starters, the White House:

Since the Civil War, only two Democratic presidents have been succeeded by another Democrat. Both of them–FDR and JFK–accomplished this by dying in office.

Since World War II, only four presidents have been succeeded by a member of their party. As I mentioned above, two of them accomplished this by dying in office. One of them accomplished this by resigning in disgrace ahead of his own impeachment. Only one of them, Ronald Reagan, left office at the end of his appointed term and was succeeded by a duly elected member of his own party. Mostly, the White House flips back and forth like a metronome.

That’s one way of looking at it, but a better way would be to pay more attention to details. The metronome theory looks less meaningful when you realize that Franklin Roosevelt won four straight elections before Harry Truman took a fifth straight for the Democrats. If Obama were to win again in 2016 and 2020, and Biden (or another Democrat) were to win in 2024, then (in 2028) we’d be in an analogous situation to the 1952 election. Or, we would be if there were a figure with the stature of Dwight D. Eisenhower waiting in the wings for the Republicans. But, there is no such figure.

Another way of looking at things is that wars disrupt politics. The outbreak of World War Two made it possible for FDR to seek a third, and then a fourth, term in office. The Korean War destroyed Truman’s reelection chances just as surely as the Vietnam War destroyed Lyndon Johnson’s. Watergate interrupted what probably would have been long run of Republican presidents. In retrospect, Jimmy Carter’s presidency was a fluke that ran counter to the political currents of the time. More typical were the Republican landslides of 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988.

But, likewise, in retrospect, the two terms of George W. Bush were a fluke that ran counter to the political currents of the time. In 2000, he lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College (but for a poorly-designed ballot and an aborted recount). In 2004, an incumbent president in wartime barely won reelection. In fact, 2004 was the only time since 1988 that the Republican Party has won either the popular vote or the Electoral College. It’s true that this period of Democratic dominance is more balanced than the 1968-1988 period, but all signs point to a strengthening of the Democratic coalition over time, rather than a weakening. In order for the metronome theory to work, we must posit that something will happen, like an ill-advised war or a major scandal or a third-party candidate (as happened in 1912) that will temporarily interrupt the Democrats’ run of victories. But, while we can predict that something like that will happen, we have no justification for assigning a 70% confidence to the prediction.

Ms. McArdle thinks the metronome works because people “get tired” after eight years, and she uses Al Gore’s failure as an example. She elides the debate about whether Gore actually won and argues that the closeness of the race is good enough for her purposes. Okay, fine, but what about the l’affaire Lewinsky? Was that not damaging to Al Gore’s chances? The truth is, we must seek deeper understandings of why elections turn out like they do than that people “get tired” after eight years. People got tired of fighting wars in Korea and Vietnam. They got upset by the Great Depression. The one time that nothing in particular was galling them, they elected Poppy Bush to succeed a two-term president of the same party. And, even there, Bush overcome his involvement in the fading Iran-Contra scandal.

Next, McArdle moves on to an assessment of the likely candidates for office in 2016, and immediately dismisses Clinton and Biden’s chances on account of age. Her other observations are even more questionable.

Democrats who think they’re a shoo-in seem to be unaccountably banking on the GOP nominating some tongue-tied wingnut who will spend the campaign discussing the scientific evidence that women can’t get pregnant from rape. But as Joe Scarborough argued in 2012, this is wishful thinking . . . in his words, “The GOP doesn’t nominate crazy”. In 2012, out of an incredibly weak field filled with tongue-tied wingnuts, they nominated the moderate with the best public policy chops and solid debating skills. In 2016, they will have a much more attractive bevy of candidates from which to choose someone electable.

So I think that the chances that the GOP takes the White House are probably pretty high–maybe around 75%. This is not a Nate-Silver-style I-ran-9,000-regressions-and-here’s-what-I-got. It’s just my gut estimate of the odds. When Nate starts running his projections, I will revise accordingly.

I do wonder who she thinks will be included in this “bevy” of attractive candidates who have the best public policy chops and debating skills. Rand Paul? Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio?

But more importantly, Ms. McArdle makes no effort to identify the states that she thinks this hypothetical Republican candidate will win that will allow them to take 270 or more Electoral College votes. She just assumes that the metronome will do all the heavy lifting. She ignores demographic change completely. She ignores the regional weakness and general unpopularity of the GOP outside of the South.

And then she takes her unjustifiable presidential prediction to shoehorn a coattail argument to rationalize her predictions about the House and Senate. In other words, since a Republican will win the 2016 election, therefore, there will no momentum for Democratic congressional candidates even in blue states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, or Florida.

Doubling down on Stupid earns Ms. McArdle a Wanker of the Day prize.

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