Predicting George W. Bush’s Presidency

By: Inoljt,

More than ten years to this day, George W. Bush was inaugurated as president. Upon this event, The Onion – a famous satirical magazine – published an article titled “Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over.

The article humorously blasted Mr. Bush, predicting an array of disasters that would occur under his tenure. This was in January of 2000, when Mr. Bush had been president for less than a month and long before 9/11. In predicting these disasters, the authors were making educated guesses about a Republican president might do wrong.

Ten years later, it’s eerie just how accurate the authors were. For instance:

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

That sounds exactly like the Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis. The Onion even predicted exactly what type of war Mr. Bush would create – a “Gulf-War level armed conflict.” And he did!

There are other amazingly specific predictions, all of which turned out to be right. Take growing partisan conflict:

‘We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two,’ Bush said.

Or widening inequality:

‘Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there’s much more widening left to do.

Or the deficit:

We must squander our nation’s hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent.

There were several things which The Onion missed; it wasn’t able to predict Mr. Bush’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina, or his incredible unpopularity worldwide. All in all, however, the article’s accuracy is pretty impressive having been written just after Mr. Bush’s inauguration.

I look forward to reading what The Onion will write when the next Republican president is inaugurated.


Nobody knows nothing

Cross-posted at River Twice Research.

Everyday, my mailbox gets inundated with reports from strategists and economists. Two years ago, most were predicting a fairly rosy scenario for the global economy - and to be fair, so was I. Today, most are predicting a dire future of negative growth and economies mired in a deep and intractable recession. The predictions of the past were mostly wrong; there is little reason to believe that today's forecasts will be much better.

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Prop 4 and 8 predictions

The other social proposition on the California ballot, Proposition 4, which requires parental notification for a minor's abortion, is leading by just 46-44 in the latest Field poll.  That's a tightening from 49-41 a month ago.

I think Prop 4 will be defeated, but by a closer margin than in 2005 (5.6%) and 2006 (about 7%).  I also think 8 will fail but by only one or two percent (maybe even closer).

In California, there will be a lot of ballots that won't be counted on Election Night and the following morning.  These are late absentee and provisional ballots.  Results don't have to be
certified until December 2, four weeks after the election.

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The Map Will Tighten Before It's Over

Up until the Republican convention, observers of this election had been told that this election is going to be different, that the winner is going to "redraw" the electoral map.  After all, between 2000 and 2004, only three states switched sides (New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico).  It really was time for a change, and we heard some variant of this idea from really smart guys, like Chuck Todd and Larry Sabato.(1);You know the refrain: close elections are the exception, not the rule; and rarely has the electoral map showed so much long-term equilibrium.  The Cleveland-Harrison map of 1884-1892 was remade by McKinley in 1896; Truman's upset did not resemble the Roosevelt victories of 1940-1944.  So, the "theory" goes, we can discard our preconceived notion of blue and red states, as there are several states that can potentially switch sides.  

    Then came the selection of Sarah Palin, and the race tightened--primarily due to an energized Republican base.  Just like that, we were back to the traditional swing states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida.  This CW lasted about two weeks, until the onset of the current financial meltdown; in its wake, we are told that Barack Obama is once again poised to redraw the map.  The idea seems plausible--but it is probably wrong.  This essay will suggest that, in addition to polling data or economic statistics, there are four sociological factors to consider when modeling voter behavior in so-called swing states (including, of course, the potential for a Bradley Effect).  

Full Disclosure: I am a Democrat, but I know the first rule of the social sciences is to recognize the difference between normative and positive--between how we would like the world to work, and how it really works.  Which is another way of saying: the idea that Obama ever had a serious shot in Georgia, or that he still has a real shot in Montana, is seriously misguided.  It is one thing for pundits to engage in speculation; all it does is to annoy the informed reader or viewer.  But this lack of tough-mindedness can have serious strategic implications for determining where a campaign allocates its resources.  

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The Race is Already Over

I recently attended a lecture by Allan Lichtman (see here: man). Among other things he is a prognosticator of presidential elections and has developed a system "13 keys to the white house" that has correctly predicted the popular vote winner in every election since 1984. I believe his system also retrospectively predicted the winner in every election since 1860.

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