Wednesday, August 27, 2008

on obama- the fundamental attribution error, median voter theorem, and my pick for president

Watching the Democratic convention now, reaffirmed my general attitude toward presidential elections. I like Obama, I just don't like the Democrats.

This is consistent with some basic political economy. Downs' median voter theorem argues that in order for a candidate to win, they must position themselves at the center.

I think that has been true in past elections. I think it is true the current one.

The first counterexample people point out is that Gore would not have invaded Iraq. My counter to that assertion is that Tony Blair (a Clinton clone) and Joe Lieberman, Gore's VP were staunch supporters of the war as were 79% of the Senate and an even higher percent of Americans. Not to mention Hillary, a partial proxy for Bill Clinton, also supported the war. It is easier for Al Gore to stand outside and claim he would have done something else, but I disagree.

People commit the fundamental attribution error and assume that a president's actions depends on his disposition rather than the situation he is in.

On the issues, Obama and McCain have predictably converged:
  • get out of iraq as expedient
  • close guantanamo and stop torture
  • invest in alternative energy
  • drill off shore
  • reduce carbon emissions
  • provide money to expand health insurance
  • etc.
I think by themselves, I would give Obama the slight advantage for the symbolic value.

The problem is that policy depends not just on the president, but also on Congress (and the Judiciary).

Imagine a continuum
(long readers of the blog will recall the same analysis 4 years ago)
1 25 50 75 100
  • Where 1 is the most left wing policy.
  • 100 is the most right wing policy.
  • 25 is the median Democrat.
  • 75 is the median Republican
  • 50 is the median American policy

I see Obama and McCain at 50. Which is roughly where I am. So I like both their policies.

My preferences are: 50 > 75 > 25

But the problem is that an Obama presidency coupled with a Democratic Congress would lead to policy outcomes closer to 25 than 50. And that I can't accept.

You saw this during the primaries, as Obama renounced his bipartisan rhetoric in favor of debating Clinton on who thinks Republican ideas are worse. The biggest attack each had on the other was that the other once said that Republicans might have good ideas.

Specifically, I remember when Obama gave into the teacher unions by renouncing his previosu position up on merit pay that best exemplified this move.

So that's where I stand.
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