I have a question for all those folks who study elections: any democracy hold an election within a week or two of being announced?
Members of international institutions typically honor their commitments. But that does not, by itself, tell us much. States are unlikely to join institutions that require them to do things they have no intention of doing. Indeed, some argue that institutions merely act to screen out those least likely to comply. Others, however, have argued that institutions do in fact constrain states - that they are not mere epiphenomena. One prominent mechanism through which institutions are thought to alter state behavior is by mobilizing pro-compliance groups domestically. Institutions may lack enforcement capable, after all, but few governments are entirely insensitive to domestic pressure.
But, as Stephen Chaudoin cogently observes in this working paper, those who stand to lose if the government adopts the institution's preferred policy are unlikely to give in without a fight. And such groups virtually always exist; if they did not there'd be little need for institutions to promote cooperation in the first place. Put differently, while WTO rulings may raise awareness about the effects of tariffs and Amnesty International might draw attention to human rights abuses, the net effect of such efforts might simply be to increase the amount of effort those advantaged by the status quo invest in defending it.
Polling stations are opening in Zimbabwe, and, if one's Facebook feed is to be believed, some enthusiastic voters have already spent a few hours queueing (and winter mornings in Zimbabwe are *cold*). Today's elections are notable for a few reasons: they're the first elections since extensive state-sponsored violence in 2008; they mark the formal end of the coalition government inaugurated in the aftermath of that violence; and they are the first elections to occur under a brand-spanking-new constitution. Comparisons to Kenya's March elections have flown fast and furious.
So what's new? Very little. Indeed, elections in Zimbabwe seem to have taken on an almost eerily repetitive quality. Once again, opposition leader and former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai is facing off against Robert Mugabe, now 89 and with 33 years in power under his belt (as well as some great quotes). Once again, the ruling party, ZANU-PF, has instituted a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition activists and office-holders. Once again, there is evidence of planned electoral manipulation. Concerns center on the flawed voter registration exercise, which may have left hundreds of thousands of ghost voters on the voting rolls. And once again, conversation within Zimbabwe tends to find its way back to the interminable Mnangagwa-Mujuru succession struggle within ZANU-PF, now over a decade old.
Polls in Kenya closed 16 hours ago, but votes continue to be counted. Those familiar with Kenya and with the electoral crisis of 2007-2008 will know to distrust provisional results. In December 2007, challenger Raila Odinga seemed substantially ahead during much of the early voting, only to see that lead evaporate as returns came in from more remote districts. Despite this qualification, it does look increasingly likely that Uhuru Kenyatta will gain the presidency in the first round of voting.* In the past two weeks, there was some speculation that Kenyatta might struggle to meet new requirements for national distribution of the vote, but he’s already achieved the 25% votes bar in 32 counties. Kenyatta is currently under indictment by the International Criminal Court for his involvement in the 2008 post-election violence; if elected, he would be the first democratically elected leader to go on trial at The Hague.
I want to make one quick note before turning off the Twitter feed and going to bed. The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) gambled big with technology this election. The newly created IEBC instituted biometric voter registration, electronic voter rolls, and electronic transmission of polling station results via cellular network. It is likely that the slow pace of processing BVID accounted for some of the enormous lines during the first half of the day. After numerous problems, the IEBC eventually instructed polling agents to abandon the electronic voter roll in favor of the manual roll. Nor has the count proceeded without hitches. There were nail-biting moments earlier tonight, when a server failure and insufficient hard disk space caused the electronic transmission of results to IEBC to halt for several hours.
John Quiggin at Crooked Timber discusses the American right's quick shift to admitting a decline in U.S. income mobility. He then asserts that this is part of a process by which "objective truth, rather than political acceptability, should be the criterion against which factual claims are tested." (There's also a long discussion of The Overton Window, although I suppose he meant this one.
Quiggin goes further:
If this view is right, then the most important single development was probably Nate Silver’s successful prediction of the 2012 election. Silver was up against both the pseudo-science of the Republican “unskewers” and the faith of centrist pundits (historically exemplified by Broder) that their deep connection with the American psyche was worth more than any number of least-squares regressions. Given the centrality of horse-race journalism to the pundit class, their defeat by relatively straightforward statistical analysis of opinion polls was a huge blow.
My response to this is somewhat more tempered than Quiggin's--although probably warmer than the average CT reader's. First, I'm skeptical of the notion that Science and Progressive Politics will go through life merrily holding hands. There's no particular reason to think that liberal values are anything but orthogonal to the findings of most research, lab-scientific or observational-scientific. There are some nicely convenient findings for liberal values--the democratic peace hypothesis, for one--but would anyone be willing to give up democracy if we found incontrovertible evidence that democracies (not just Mansfield-and-Snyder-style democratizing countries) are more bellicose? Or, alternatively, would we give up democracy if the field coalesced around a consensus that democracies are less bellicose because they are more successful at using social pressure or other nonviolent forms of coercion to eradicate dissenting views? Social scientific findings rarely provide evidence that prompts us to revise our value systems.
This is a guest post by Brent Sasley. Sasley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix and Open Zion. Follow him on Twitter.
The Israeli election results are far messier than anyone had hoped, leading to furious debates about who got what right about the Israeli electorate. This seems to be especially true among Western analysts and media that aren’t close Israel watchers but do comment on Israeli politics.
And it is messy. On the face of it, the religious (Shas, United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home) and rightwing (Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, and National Union) bloc did drop from 65 seats to 61 (a joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu list, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Jewish Home).
Yet United Torah Judaism increased from 5 to 7 mandates, while Jewish Home went from 3 to 12 seats. At the same time, the “soft” or center right also dropped: Kadima went from 28 seats in the previous Knesset to 2 today, while a new party, Yesh Atid, appeared with 19.
And the center-left and left did better at the same time: Labor picked up 2 seats (13 to 15) while Meretz doubled its representation from 3 to 6 seats. The Arab parties stayed the same at 11 mandates.
This pic is from the TV election coverage on the Korean version of CNN. That would be the two main candidates (the liberal Moon Jae-In on the left, and conservative Park Geun-Hye, who won, on the right) as dancing electronic cartoon avatars. Yes, they do look like boogying Nintendo Miis, and yes, they are the most bizarre, hysterical election graphics I have ever seen. Who says political science is boring?
So Foreign Affairs solicited me for a ‘snapshot’ essay on the Korean election. Here is the link, but I also thought it might be useful to post my first draft which is fuller:
“South Korea’s next presidential election will occur on December 19. The main candidates are Park Geun-Hye of the conservative New Frontier (Sae Nuri) party and Moon Jae-In of the liberal Democratic United Party (DUP). A third, unaffiliated liberal candidate, Ahn Chul-Soo, dropped out in late November. Ahn had no clear party identification, which was part of his attraction, although he was broadly center-left. A former hi-tech entrepreneur and professor, he was popular with the young who feel alienated by the closed, oligarchic character of Korean politics and for much of the year, he outpolled Moon. Because he and Moon were splitting the anti-Park liberal vote, they tried to merge their campaigns. But Ahn’s hasty, somewhat bitter withdrawal speech implied that old-style, backroom politics by the DUP had pushed him out. Post-withdrawal polls showed Park picked up around one-fifth of Ahn voters, a very strong showing.
Robert provides Foreign Affairs a "snapshot" on the South Korean election -- which Park won today. An excerpt:
For all the talk of the "pivot" to Asia in the United States, the idea is not widely discussed in South Korea. And South Koreans are not all that interested in containing China. Although Korea was a tributary state of China for nearly a millennium, China never terrorized it the way Japan did. A January 2012 poll from the Dong-Anewspaper found that more South Koreans disliked Japan than disliked China -- 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively. And the dispute over the Liancourt Rocks, a group of islets claimed by both Seoul and Tokyo, regularly sparks anti-Japanese fervor in South Korea. China and South Korea share obvious cultural similarities, and their sheer proximity means that Seoul and Beijing will inevitably engage on many issues -- most importantly, the fate of North Korea. All this means that, for South Korea, relations with China are now arguably as important as those with the United States.
"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." So spoke Winston Churchill, after the Allied victory in the Second Battle of El Alamein. We could say much the same of his defeat in the 1945 general election.
A core assumption underlying most of the work analyzing the impact of domestic politics on international relations is that leaders want to remain in office. Insofar as ensuring national survival, territorial integrity, and policy autonomy might help leaders retain power, focusing on political ambition often does not tell us anything more than we might get from a state-centric approach. But there are some important exceptions. For one, democracies rarely if ever fight wars against one another. The fact that different institutions create different incentives for self-interested leaders may have something to do with that. For another, we often attribute the occurrence (or continuation) of wars to electoral motivations. I myself argued for a long time that Obama was pursuing the same strategy in Afghanistan that Nixon pursued in Vietnam - don't lose the war until you're a lame duck.
Most of these arguments, however, assume that a leader's career ends once he or she leaves office. Yet this is not the case. Many leaders eventually make a comeback, returning to office after some time out of power. The British electorate deemed Churchill less suitable for managing the postwar economic recovery than international crises, and so favored the Labour Party in 1945. Yet they once more turned to the Churchill and the Conservatives in 1951 after the Labour Party had achieved most of what it set out to do. If we were to limit our attention to the 1945 election, we might conclude that Churchill did not benefit electorally from victory in WWII (as I myself once did), even though Churchill's wartime record contributed to his return to power.
In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I’d list the reasons why I voted the way I did. I know conservative media regularly accuse professors of politicizing the classroom, but an honest discussion of why one chooses the way one did can also be useful exercise of citizenship. (See Drezner for an example of what I was thinking of.) So with that goal, not demagoguery, in mind, here we go:
1. The Tea Party Scares Me
This is easily the most important reason for me. Regular readers of my own blog will know that I vote in the Republican primary and write regularly about the Republican party, but almost never about the Democrats. (Even in Korea where I live, my sympathies are with the conservatives.) I don’t see myself as a Democrat. I see myself as a moderate Republican, like Andrew Sullivan or (less so) David Frum. Unfortunately, the Tea Party has made the GOP very inhospitable for moderates.
Given Romney’s propensity to blow with the ideological wind rather than stake a claim somewhere, I think it is likely he’ll get bullied by the hard right once in office. Following Kornacki, my problem with Romney is not his ideology – because I don’t know what that is – but the party from which he stems, run, as it is, by increasingly radical, Christianist, southern right-wingers. I find it simply impossible to vote for a party so contemptuous of science, so willing to violate church-state distinctions, so committed to a heavily armed citizenry, so obsessed with regulating sex, so strutting and belligerent toward the rest of the world, so unwilling to compromise on taxes to close the deficit, etc. Hint to the RNC: the rest of the country is not Dixie; please stop dragging us down this road. This southernization of the GOP in the last 20 years has made it harder and harder for me to vote for national Republicans, even though I vote for them a lot in Ohio. Not surprisingly, I find Andrew Sullivan’s conservatism quite congenial.
|On Interstate 71, south of Columbus; Ohio’s most famous sign|
So it’s election time, which means CNN, etc. will be filled with pundits with only the vaguest credentials – never any PhDs - telling you why the outcome inevitably had to be such-and-such. (Retrodiction is so insufferably smug.) And they’ll explain it as if these tired clichés are real insights and not the same flim-flam they pedal every November.
So let me predict the future: here are the five worst clichés you’ll hear Tuesday – the lamest, most recycled, simplistic, and least analytically useful (because they’re so flexible they can explain almost any outcome).
Save yourself hours of Donna Brazile and David Gergen right now; just roll these out at Thanksgiving dinner to impress the relatives:
1. Ohio, or the white, blue-collar voter theory of everything
Every four years the media runs the same easy, generic storyline about my state (Economist 2004, 2008, 2012; FT) that goes something like this: ‘these grizzled veterans of America’s economic dislocation cleave to their guns and religion but increasingly live in suburbs and see their kids work in tech plants outside Columbus or Dayton. The large urban populations of Cleveland and Cincinnati are balanced by the church-going rural voters in the god’s country of southeastern Appalachia…’ Yawn. And it goes on like that for pages. Most of these articles make sure to cite the above picture. And yes, that sign is for real; I’ve seen it. It’s on the same road that leads to the Creation Museum (no joke either – I’ve been there), but thankfully that’s over the river in Kentucky. I guess they go to the dentist even less often than we do.
The thing is, we get all this attention for 3-4 months before every election – but then nothing afterwards. So how much can they can take us seriously as a swing state? In 2004, Rove drove up GOP turnout with the Defense of Marriage Act ballot issue and terrorism. In 2008, Clinton and Obama told us they were going to amend NAFTA and reduce illegal immigration to save our jobs. This year, Romney and Obama promise to defend us against China. If you’re keeping score, that means there should be no homosexual Mexican terrorists driving NAFTA-certified trucks on Chinese tires around Ohio. Ah yes, Ohio, that clichéd, right-wing blue-collar paradise!
Did anyone else find the third presidential debate just appallingly narcissistic and self-congratulatory? Good lord. Good thing America is around to show you bubble-headed foreigners the way to freedom. I could run through all the offensive, ‘America-is-tasked-with-upholding-the-mantle-of-liberty’ patronizing condescension, but why bother? (Nexon does a nice job here.) I told my students to watch it, and in retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have. It was so embarrassing, and in class this week I kept trying to explain why we talk down to the rest of the world like this while my students rolled their eyes in disgust.
I keep saying this – running around the world telling people how exceptional and bound-to-lead we are is a great way to alienate the planet and convince them of exactly the opposite – to not to follow us. We’d have a much easier time with the world if we could back off the blustery, Fox News nationalism and actually speak maturely. But Americans couldn’t give a damn about the rest of the world, no matter how much we posture about our world historic role to lead it. Our ODA totals are disgrace for a coutnry as wealthy as we are. We don’t learn languages much. The only time we worry about casualties in the war on terror is when they are own; our clear disinterest for all the collateral damage we have done since 9/11 speak volumes to the rest of the planet.
So instead, here is the debate foreigners heard:
To the best of my knowledge, no prominent peer-reviewed article in political science has reported a difference in the frequency with which the United States
I got bogged down with NK for awhile, so I missed a chance to comment on the RNC and the US election more generally. I
<img src="http://lh3.ggpht.com/-lXf905vas9I/T4Zfu5yVCwI/AAAAAAAAAJg/Cgr7ZRk41Cg/videoefa933ead93d%25255B3%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800" style="border-style: none" galleryimg="no" onload="var downlevelDiv = document.getElementById('6321b8cf-9761-4208-8fea-48b2a79cce22'); downlevelDiv.innerHTML = "";" alt="" />Dancing for Votes in Dongnae! Because I work for a public
Haven't had time to form serious thoughts on the matter, so outsourced to the Power Vertical.
If you're that rare sort of person who doesn't avidly follows political machinations in South Caucasus breakaway republics, then you're missing some surprising developments in
Cry the beloved country.Well it’s been just over two weeks since the Canadian Election – and I am much overdue for the long promised third installment of