Friday, August 20, 2004

toward a unified theory of ann althouse

While I was off in San Francisco, another blogger was examining Ann's voting record and announcing that, despite her professed undecidedness, she was likely to be voting for Kerry. This person is wrong; their error is paying too much attention to the party of the candidate Ann supports. If you look at Ann's electoral-biography, it would seem more reasonable to predict that--and quite apart from whatever eventual rationale she might provide for doing so--she's likely to vote for Bush. Consider her lifetime history of support in incumbent elections:

Supports incumbent: Ford, Carter, Clinton
Against incumbent: Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I

Plain as day: Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more unpopular the incumbent has been upon the time of their re-election campaign. She's a contrarian independent. The only instance that doesn't really fit the pattern well is her vote for Clinton over Bush in 1992. One explanation for this would be, if one looks back to Ann's various posts about Clinton, it's clear she thinks he's a hottie. Apart from the "hottie" theory, however, one might suggest that Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more she feels like the political discourse is unfairly maligning the incumbent (a discourse-contrarian independent, then). I don't think it's that hard to make the case that, even though Bush lost his incumbent race and Clinton won his, Clinton was the more unfairly maligned incumbent during this first term (Clinton being the one, for example, accused of having an aide murdered and of secretly being a puppet of his wife).


Tom Bozzo said...

I think Clinton was sufficiently popular at this point in '96 (approval in the 50s, disapproval 30s IIRC) as to cast doubt on the contrarian theory. The text of her rationale (as linked by Prof. Bainbridge) seems to support a version of the 'hottie theory' -- i.e., she's drawn to Bush's seeming steadfastness notwithstanding the content of his actual accomplishments. I may elaborate over at my nascent blog, time permitting, but otherwise the Medium Lobster has beaten my mere linear self to the punch at Fafblog.

jeremy said...

Yeah, but take the longer view, and compare Clinton's midterm congressional election spanking to that received by Bush I.

Tom Bozzo said...

Granted, Clinton's first term was rough going. Now, her post seems to support the 'discourse contrarian' theory, though I don't think her perception of the criticism of Bush as unfair is very well-founded. Indeed, between the flip-flopper 'script' in the media, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (sic), and so on, I'd argue that Kerry is actually the discourse-contrarian candidate.

Gerry said...

I think that Johnson was pretty unpopular before deciding to not run again, so that would be two exceptions to your rule, while my theory only had one (when she voted for Ford). :-)

I like your theory well for the specific case involved. Prof. Althouse's own statements since your post about how she does feel protective of the incumbents backs it up.

But I was talking in general; the vast majority of 'swing' voters are not actually swing voters. They end up voting the same way they usually do, with about the same consistency as true partisans.

So perhaps calling them "Althouse Independents" does not work since maybe the specific case is not an example of the general case. And maybe 9/11 has changed her pattern as she also has suggested.

And maybe, the unified theory of Ann Althouse will remain an elusive goal, tempting bloggers left and right to risk their reputations on a fruitless task...