Thursday, August 27, 2015

It Could Be an Interesting Election

A recent story claims that Bernie Sanders is planning to drop out of the Democratic race and run as an independent; he has denied it.  Donald Trump has said both that he would and would not consider running as an independent. If one runs and the other does not, that might well throw the election to the other side. The more interesting question is what happens if both run.

Sanders appeals to the left wing of the Democratic party, so the question is how many will vote their ideology at the risk of putting a Republican in the White House.  Trump is a more complicated case, with positions on the  right on some issues,  the center, even the left on others. His appeal, so far as I can tell, is not ideological but personal—he is a more competent demagogue than the other candidates, a point persuasively argued by Scott Adams of Dilbert fame. I would expect him to pull a significant number of votes from the Democrats although more from the Republicans.

If both run, how will the major parties respond? A Sanders campaign would pull Hilary left—arguably already has. A Trump campaign might give the Republican  an incentive to try to match his demagoguery, as some  are doing on the anchor babies issue. Or it might persuade the candidate that Trump's voters are a lost cause—and at least not voting Democratic. That could, to be unreasonably optimistic, improve the chances of Rand Paul or someone similar. And a Republican candidate Democrats only mildly dislike would reduce the incentive for Sanders supporters to vote for Hilary.

Commenters with better worked out ideas of the implications are invited to offer them.


At 6:10 AM, August 28, 2015, Blogger Ilíon said...

I think the real question is, if Sanders runs as an "independent", how many votes from the Deceased-American community will he manage to pull away from the Democrats.

At 1:16 PM, August 28, 2015, Blogger Josiah Neeley said...

Something like this happened in 2000. Pat Buchanan left the Republican Party to run as a third party candidate on a Trump-like platform, while Nader ran on the Green Party platform proposing Sanders-style policies. In that case neither candidate drew very many votes from the main parties, but the election was close enough that both Nader and Buchanan (due to mis-votes) probably cost Gore the election.

My guess is that if Sanders ran third party he'd get a comparable share of the electorate to Nader in 2000. Trump I suspect would do better than Buchanan since he could self-fund his campaign and is a more entertaining figure than Pat. I don't think he'd do all that well, though (maybe 5%), and for that reason I suspect he won't end up doing it. The ROI on ego-stroking just isn't worth it.

At 1:18 AM, August 29, 2015, Anonymous Max said...

Ross Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992, so it's definitely possible for someone like Trump (populist billionaire) to make waves.

To what effect? I don't think Democrats would modify their message much. They'll just accept losing some white lower class votes. The Trump effect would be much greater on the Republican side.

At 4:15 PM, August 29, 2015, Anonymous SomeRandomSpaniard said...

Please, someone explain how is it possible that you are
or 10,416 hours
or 434 days
or 62 weeks

away from the damned election day, and you already have managed to create so much steam.

Think about it: You guys have 10,416 hours of life ahead which you can use to do productive things: hugging, kissing, telling stories, reading some great book (something by Victor Hugo, for example), making money, spending money, traveling, mind-traveling, learning music, painting, cooking, baking a huge chocolate cake with too much white sugar (which is what today rebels do)... and some of you will waste that time with the "Election" thing. Please, go and live, and leave politics to the lost.

At 5:53 AM, August 30, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It can be fun or interesting to think about these things, notwithstanding what "SomeRandomSpaniard" said above.

A couple of things to remember:

(1) Do we have any reason to think Bernie Sanders would go back on an easily-verifiable, publicly-made, high-profile claim?

(2) Relatively anonymous state-level Secretaries of State can combine their executive discretion with restrictive ballot access laws that are made to keep non-major party candidates off the ballot or at least tie up their resources. (Cf: Libertarian Party)

I have no idea what to think about Donald Trump but I am convinced that Bernie Sanders will not run an independent/3rd party campaign.

At 6:39 AM, August 30, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"somethings happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear". Applies to both Bernie and Donald's surge in the polls and away from the elite political class in both parties. Are we seeing the beginnings of a true multi-party US?

At 12:42 PM, August 30, 2015, Anonymous Maxim said...

I would be willing to bet that Sanders does not run independent and that Trump does. Sanders clearly understands that 3rd parties just weaken the closest ideological ally ("I would not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican president.") Trump's ideology, on the other hand, is himself -- and he will want the attention that a 3rd party runs gets him.

Very hard to say how the Republican nominee will react to Trump running, but it will likely make it hard to win.

At 7:17 AM, August 31, 2015, Blogger Josiah Neeley said...

Are we seeing the beginnings of a true multi-party US?


At 6:02 PM, September 01, 2015, Blogger Lliam said...

Pleased to see you back among the land of the blogging! I stumbled upon your blog just before you took a two month hiatus, so I'm glad there's going to be new content.

As to whether we'll see the emergence of a multi-party system in the US: I doubt it. The US electoral process favours two parties. Generally speaking, that militates against the emergence of multiple parties. Countries with multi-party systems tend to have electoral processes that support more than two parties. The most obvious exception is the UK system which allowed the LibDems to become a viable third party.

At 10:20 AM, September 02, 2015, Anonymous Daublin said...

Random Spaniard, I salute you!

People should repeat your motto every time they are about to post on a political thread. Commenters should be required to click "I agree" and then type it back in for good measure.

At 1:12 PM, September 04, 2015, Anonymous Power Child said...

Is there anything about Steve Sailer's, John Derbyshire's, et al's take on the Trump campaign that still leaves you baffled?

Last week, I entered a random McDonald's in rural Pennsylvania to make a rest stop on a long trip. Some old guys were sitting around (I could tell they were regulars, retirees who probably sat around there every day) watching a TV in the back that was tuned to the news.

I overheard them talking about Trump, and they all nodded when one of them said something to this effect: "I've always considered Trump a buffoon, but since he's ran for president, darned if he hasn't said exactly what we regular Americans are thinking--things no politician has said in a long time."

At 6:55 AM, September 11, 2015, Anonymous NOTA said...

It's important to remember that most people aren't very interested in politics. Even most registered voters don't pay much attention this early.

Trump is following a strategy of saying outrageous things to get media attention, and also speaking his mind in areas where all the professional politicians feel like they have to equivocate and hedge every sentence to avoid alienating some bloc of voters. My guess is that this has gotten him a lot of return early in the election. and perhaps more importantly, it's deprived most of the other candidates of the oxygen they need to become serious challengers.

My best guess is that Trump can't actually win an election by following his current strategy, and that every outrageous comment he's made will be available for his opponents' attack ads in the general election. If I understand his arguments, Scott Adams thinks Trump is a master at manipulation and marketing and is using a strategy that the others would like to do, but aren't skilled enough to carry off. By contrast, I think the existing politicians are following a different strategy because the one Trump is following is good at getting a big following early in the primary season, but isn't very good at winning the nomination or the election. I think his comments so far probably impose a limit on how many voters will ever support him. That is, the reason Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are carefully sculpting their public comments so that they sound much less authentic than Trump is because that's a good strategy--otherwise, your honest expression of your beliefs or of obvious reality starts alienating voters and other supporters.

Where I might be wrong here: perhaps other politicians face different constraints--the need to keep the press and donors sweet on them may limit their ability to make frank, non-PC, non-hedged statements. Trump presumably doesn't need billionare backers the same way as Rubio or Paul or Christie, and Trump is already a pretty established media-magnet--he can probably keep getting media attention (hostile, but still it keeps him on the TV screen) just by being Donald. So maybe Trump is actually running a strategy that's available to him and isn't available to most or all of his opponents. (If Joe Biden had a huge pile of money, he'd probably be capable of running a comparable strategy.)

The question is how these outrageous or non-PC or non-hedged statements affect voters. Trump's comments so far would probably lose him my vote, but I'm not much of a guide to the median voter, who probably knows little more about Trump right now than that he's on TV a lot and seems to have pissed off a bunch of unsavory media talking heads. Fast forward to a general election, where it's Trump vs Hillary. The question is whether Hillary can run attack ads quoting Trumps comments that will either get out a lot more of her voters, or keep a lot of Trump voters home (or get them to vote third party).

At 3:07 PM, September 20, 2015, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A question for you, Dr. Friedman - if, against all the odds, Trump ended up the Republican candidate and Sanders the Democrat candidate, who would you prefer to win?

At 5:24 PM, September 20, 2015, Blogger David Friedman said...

Interesting question. Probably Sanders, but I would want to pay more careful attention to both at that point.

My feeling after Bush won for the second time was that it would probably have been better if he had lost. He would do about the same bad things as his opponent but we—people who actually believe in the free market and limited government and such—would get blamed for the results.

Similarly here.


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