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Pundit’s Fallacies Are Dumb


Eric Levitz on the futility of cherry-picking results to show that your ideological preferences are always political winners:

Last night, an openly gay supporter of single-payer health care, marijuana legalization, and forcing corporations to put workers on their boards — who was a top target of the GOP donor class — won a Senate race in a pro-Trump state by nearly 11 points, dramatically outperforming the moderate Democratic gubernatorial candidate with whom she shared a ballot. Meanwhile, a staunchly pro-labor Democrat, who opposed a bipartisan bank deregulation bill last year, won reelection to the Senate in an increasingly red Rust Belt state — while a business-friendly Democrat who supported that banking bill lost badly in a neighboring one.

In Newt Gingrich’s old district in Georgia, a gun control activist who supports “a robust public option” for health insurance (appears to have) won where the aggressively nonideological Jon Ossoff lost — despite raising a miniscule fraction of the latter’s campaign funds; while in an Orange County House district that has never elected a Democrat, a supporter of Medicare for All and universal pre-K is expected to unseat a three-term Republican incumbent. And when voters in red states were given the opportunity to weigh in on progressive policies — unmediated by partisan conflict — they decided to expand public health-care provisions for the poor, restore voting rights for former felons, and raise taxes to support public education.

Also, last night, a right-wing Democrat who supported Brett Kavanaugh and border walls won reelection in a state that went for Trump by 40 points; Democrats who won primaries by claiming the mantle of anti-Establishment progressivism lost ostensibly winnable House races; most of the Democratic candidates who loudly championed Medicare for All in battleground races were handily defeated; and when voters in blue states were given the opportunity to weigh in on progressive policies — unmediated by partisan conflict — they refused to impose a tax on carbon emissions to save the climate, or to raise taxes on the rich to fund public schools.

All of which is to say: If you are a Democrat with strong feelings about where the party should be moving ideologically, last night did not prove that Team Blue can only win by adopting all of your policy preferences (it merely provided scattered data points ripe for cherry-picking).

Having said that, if Democrats in every jurisdiction publicly advocated for my policy preferences using catchphrases I find sufficiently hip, they would plainly never lose a competitive election.

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