We don’t want to be wards of a powerful state, says pundit Michael Barone

Michael Barone
Michael Barone

Washington insider Michael Barone, who punditizes for Fox among others and created the Almanac of American Politics, brought the good news to the conservative faithful at a Center of the American Experiment event at Orchestra Hall Tuesday evening. The good news was that Republicans will make huge gains in the House this year (“very, very likely” to win a majority there) and have a shot at taking control of the Senate (although he seemed to think that the odds favored Dems to hang onto a slight Senate majority).

Barone is a numbers guy and a careful guy, and doesn’t go overboard in embracing any one measure of the political trend. But he did cite one that raised the possibilty of a big Repub wave. Gallup’s most recent effort to identify the likely electorate in November found that if turnout was high, Repubs held a national 53-40 edge, Barone said, and if turnout is low the Repub edge rises to 56-38.

“We can take comfort in something we couldn’t be sure about 20 months ago,” Barone said, “which is that the majority of our fellow citizens reject a culture of dependence. They do not want to be wards of a powerful state.”

As you’ll note, Barone wasn’t saying anything much outside the current conventional wisdom as far as the likeliest outcome in November, and he subscribes to the conventional view on the right that Democrats blundered since taking control of Congress and the White House by believing that the Dem successes of 2006 and 2008 represented an ideological swing to the left by the U.S. electorate.

Americans got a taste of big government policies “and it turned out, they didn’t like it,” Barone said. He gigged lefty pundit James Carville, who had said that the results of those elections prefigured 40 years of Democratic governance. It was more like 40 weeks into Pres. Obama’s term that the generic ballot began to reflect that Repubs were on the comeback trail, and that comeback has gathered strength all through 2010.

The Barone appearance headlined the annual “Fall Briefing” event of the CAE. A turnout in the low hundreds left most of the Orchestra Hall seats empty and, although audience liked Barone’s message, the response was surprisingly muted in such a time of conservative triumphalism.

Barone didn’t throw much red meat to the crowd. He’s from the quieter, more serious, number-cruncher end of the pundit spectrum. But he did, surprisingly, adopt the “gangster government” to refer to what he said was a feature of the auto industry bailout that took funds that should have gone to the secured creditors of the bankrupt Chrysler Corporation and transferred them to the UAW as a reflection of the Dems’ labor alliance.

The biggest attempt at a punch line came at the expense of Christine O’Donnell, the Repub Senate nominee in Delaware who has been trying to live down her confession that she long ago “dabbled in witchc raft.” Barone referred to the ad that I featured yesterday in which O’Donnell says into the camera “I’m not a witch.” (I called it the most effective I’ve seen this year.) Barone cracked that “I think throwing away the Wiccan vote is just dumb.”

Barone confessed that the one big race in Minnesota this year – the race for guv – seems to be an “outlier” from the national trend. He didn’t cite any numbers, but he clearly believes that DFLer Mark Dayton is ahead.

He was very cautious about the Repubs chances of winning the White House in 2012, and said he sees a situation that could produce a meaningful independent candidacy in the political middle.

ALDS opens tonight. Go Twins.



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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2010 - 12:34 pm.

    Did he happen to mention how big the government will be when we turn every fertilized human egg in the country into a ward of the state? That’s what will happen if/when we a supreme court that decides fetuses are people.

  2. Submitted by Josh Lease on 10/06/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    Eric: it’s spelled “Wiccan”. Just sayin’.

    Barone’s peddling the same retread philosophy of the last decade from the GOP. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s actually a pretty poor explanation for what’s going on. He’ll take anything that puts his preferred people back in power, and align himself with whomever gets them there.

    His comments don’t have a lot of basis in fact, but as the GOP has proven over and over this cycle: they’re not interested in facts, they’re only interested in winning.

  3. Submitted by Roy Everson on 10/06/2010 - 12:52 pm.

    It’s strange that such a “quieter, more serious” pundit cannot see 10 percent unemployment as being a factor in the GOP’s edge. Being quiet doesn’t equal intelligence.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/06/2010 - 01:33 pm.

    “They do not want to be wards of a powerful state.”

    With many of us living longer on average than any previous generation, and the levels of dementia and alzheimers among the aging, the chances are pretty good that a lot of us are going to end up “wards” subject to someone’s guardianship. We are going to have a “powerful state” no matter which party gets elected in November or in the future. That’s not going to go away. I’d rather get something out of it than be like the Central and South American peasantry who have powerful states which keep them in poverty.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/06/2010 - 03:57 pm.

    “I’d rather get something out of it than be like the Central and South American peasantry who have powerful states which keep them in poverty.”

    Some people never have to duck…those clues go flying by with room to spare.

  6. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 10/06/2010 - 05:33 pm.

    I trust Barone with the numbers bit on elections quite a bit. Right up there with Nate Silver. I’ve never heard anyone that was even close to as smart as he is on the district by district stuff.
    Having said that, I think he’s over interpreting the thumping that Dems are going to get next months. This will be the third election in a row that’s based less on ideological grounds and more about regular good government practices. Voters rightfully thought that the GOP had grown fat and lazy with power. Unfortunately the Dems have been just as bad. That’s why some long term incumbents are in trouble right now.

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/07/2010 - 02:28 pm.

    “We can take comfort in something we couldn’t be sure about 20 months ago, which is that the majority of our fellow citizens reject a culture of dependence. They do not want to be wards of a powerful state.”

    Its not clear to me how he could draw such a conclusion. Rather, its not clear how he could logically draw such a conclusion. While nobody ‘wants’ to be a ‘ward’ of a ‘powerful state,’ people who are on unemployment want to keep receiving it. People who receive Medicare want to keep receiving it. People who receive Social Security want to keep receiving it.

    Perhaps people who both desire continued reliance on government programs and are planning to vote for Republicans this year are merely venting their frustrations at the party in power, rather than making a principled statement about the size of government.

    Indeed, this blather about the wards of a powerful state reminds me of recent talk about permanent majorities in government. Some people read more than they should into the meme of the day.

  8. Submitted by John Clawson on 10/08/2010 - 09:44 am.

    No, I imagine Americans DON’T want to be wards of a big state……but they won’t mind that big state when it comes to the question of who’s going to pay for Mom’s nursing home in her later years, because I choose not to care for her and I want to make sure I get the proceeds from her home and money (lotta lawyers who presumably don’t want a big state either earn nice livings teaching elders and their families how to make SURE the big state pays for her care)…..they won’t mind that big state either when cattle fecal matter shows up in their hamburger, or when a tornado/flood/hurricane/chemical spill visits their home or community…..that big state is the only thing that can take us into stupid, unwinnable, expensive, pointless wars (and maintain the gorgeous cemeteries that our children soldiers are buried in) so that we can create legions of millionares who profit off that stupid, pointless, expensive war…..and they won’t object to that big state when six guys on wall street can sink the entire economy of this country and their houses go into foreclosure and they need a lifeline to state afloat….or when those 99 weeks of checks come in to help their families eat and make the mortgage when those six guys on Wall Street have caved in the economy again………that big state looks pretty good when your kid wants to go to college but can’t afford Harvard, St, Olaf, Rutgers or Stanford….and they may rail against it, but there isn’t a “anti-big-stater”, or his wife alive that wouldn’t accept (maybe even call on) the highway helper or state trooper if they ran out of gas/had a breakdown on the road late at night…….No big state has made us its wards …. that’s all fantasy and demogoguery….meant to dissuade us from realizing that our wardship by polluting manufacturers, cheating bankers and lenders, constant-warfare promoters, over-promisers and under-producers in the private sector are the real threat to our lives and safety and independence.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/09/2010 - 01:18 pm.

    Nice post John. That’s the problem Americans love “big government”, they just don’t want to pay for it.

    OK, now I’ll bite the troll bait.

    Tom, let’s have an interesting conversation. I’ll agree with two premises:
    1) there is a very short list of things that are more efficient regulated.
    2) nobody should be allowed to impose their worldview on anyone without demonstrating its efficiency.

    But I’m surprised by your critique. A lot of people have pretty efficient ideas, and I don’t let them impose them on me either. If the administration could prove the efficiency of its healthcare reform, should they be allowed to impose it? To go an indifferent step back towards the topic. Whenever I hear complaints about government inability/incompetence I wince. I have in the past contracted to work for a government and I am quite an efficient guy, and I try to rub some smarts on my skin from my private sector experience.

    However, from my relatively short experience with the government, the rot comes always from the top which is represented by political appointees or politicians, or high level technocrats that are more attuned to the political currents than to doing a better job serving the public.

    But so far I didn’t find evidence of better competencies in the private sector compared with government or public sector enterprises or academia. What I found is just more pretense (in the private sector) used to justify higher salaries.

    On another note, too bad that many in businesses don’t understand business either or otherwise the economy wouldn’t be in such bad shape.

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