February 21, 2009


Well thanks to Sulla for posting over the period I was away. I am back now which probably means the quality of posting will fall! He seems to have done a good job bringing up some interesting issues especially in America and Israel. I haven't read anything in as much detail as I should have but it looks really interesting so thanks to Sulla and I hope the odd guest post will come through (I know he wants to finish off some stuff so there will probably be one over the next couple of days!). I'm back now for a bit- so will resume posting properly myself now (and apologies to people whose blogs I haven't visited recently- the absense will swiftly be made up soon!)

February 20, 2009

Israel and PR

Vilno in the comments thread has called attention to this excellent article on the invaluable Fruits and Votes website. It discusses First Past the Post (FPTP-ie if say the basic Israeli administration districts (shown in the map above) or more likely much smaller sub divisions became constituencies in their own right-and tries to theorzie what would happen
This article shows that given the same voting poatterns. even under a first past the post (FPTP) system Israel would have very considerable Parliamentary diversity. I think this is interesting but would make a number of points to qualify it.

Firstly I could easily see how FPTP would change the voters that mattered-obviously this would depend a great deal on the boundary. similarly I could easily see how it could change the balance between the large parties even if they all remained represented.

Secondly from the examples he gives it does sound as if some of the smaller parties such as National Union might be eliminated from the Knesset (though it does sound as if the effect might be surprisingly small).

Thirdly the small broad protest parties that pop up from now and again whether the Green's or the Pensioners Party would be in trouble .

Fourthly though and most fundamentally I just do not think that the party system would remain the same for long under PR-it's possible for big parties to dominate under PR-that is more or less what happens in Sweden (particularly if one remembers that the center, Liberals and christian democrats are closely aligned with the moderates/ conservatives) and the left and Greens only marginally less with the Social Democrats) . However what First Past the Post does (outside huge concentration of votes which appears to exist in Israel only in Arab and ultra-orthodox areas) is weaken small parties. It also provides an electoral incentive to combine before the election rather than after. Israel does indeed have a huge number of ideologically charged cleavages Jew vs Arab , secular vs traditionalist, hawk vs dove and so forth. Crucially also these cleavages overlap-that is there are secular ardent hawks and traditionalist etc. However the advantages that say Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu would have gained through merging (even if both lost a substantial strand of their support) in a FTPT system would create an enormous incentive to merge parties(this is even more obvious for labor and Kadima)

Similarly the risk a vote would be "wasted" would probably cause tactical voting and a leaching of votes whether secular dovish Ashkenazim from Meretz to Kadima or (now less likely labor) or hawkish traditionalist Sephardi from Shas to Likud.

Thus it strikes me just looking at the raw vote totals is a poor guide. One has to consider how the increased chance of a "wasted" vote would affect voter behaviour and the changed incentives for political parties to merge/ split. It seems to me this would have a big effect on political behaviour and then the tendency of FPTP to be rigged in favour of the winners would take effect.

IN other words what matters is not just the direct effect-but the incentives for voters and parties. These strike me as central to examing what the effect would be.

Red-State Blue State Rich State Poor State Why Americans Vote the Way They do-Part One Summary

This is a fantastic and powerful work of political science edited Andrew Gelman (with many contributors but I will refer to "Gelman" for convenience rather than to slight his colleagues) Gelman has also (with some of these colleagues) set up an excellent blog that deals with many of the same issues.

.This book I think it's fair to say is both a work designed to expose myths commonly held about US politics by laymen and a collection of a great deal of their own political science work.

This is obviously useful for experts in the field. I also think it or a similar work is essential to have a well thought out view on the US electorate in general. I should add it was written before the 2008 election though most of its conclusions will remain solid. Though having said that Obama seems to have actually won among voters earning more than $200,0000 unlike those earing $100,000-$200,000 (though frankly this may partly be due to sampling)-which cuts against quite a lot of their comments on US voting . I'd like to briefly point out some of the stuff they show so you can see why it's so valuable

Even though poorer states vote more republican ( a fairly well known fact) , at least till this election richer voters in every state voted more Republican (though often narrowly)

Religiosity (in the sense of churchgoing) makes more of a difference t for better off voters-n - i.e. the gap in how they vote, between rich people who go to church and don't is much bigger than those who don't. This tends to be true in western democracies though not universally-including states as different from each as Sweden, France and Israel (obviously Israel it's synagogue going-but I’m using it generically as place of religious worship)

Linked to this and it should to the amazement of authors despite them being experts, when one cross references income and state-the big difference between "Red" and "Blue" states is between rich people in poor states vs. rich states. So in 2004 in Mississippi and Connecticut (the richest and poorest states) the people with the lowest income voted similarly. By contrast the gap among the best off in the two states state was colossal around 40% or so- The result was Bush easily won "poor" (by American standards adjusting for PPP it's income is probably around the same as the United Kingdom) Mississippi and easily lost rich Connecticut (as did Mccain)

Linked to this in poor states the better off you are the more likely you are to attend church in the. IN rich states the opposite is true- the poor are more pious. This makes a lot of sense of the above-It suggests essentially in states in the rural or South "moral" issues if anything increase the divided in voting created by economics while the opposite is true in the North East and Western Coast. So in State's like Connecticut poor people voting Democratic for higher benefits and rich people voting Democratic for legal abortion have the effect of almost cancelling each other out- that is a caricature but one with some truth.

It should be noted that the degree to which religion effects voting is different from which party it benefits more. I personally believe this has tended to help the Republicans more but this book doesn't really comment on that.

They also quote powerful evidence that church attendance actually is a better predictor of voting for the right in a large number of political systems than in the United States. E.g. Sweden, Germany .It's also worth noting that in every state they (briefly) examine, religious attendance is either essentially not a predictor at all or is correlated more right-wing voting behaviour. In contrast in a few countries such as Israel and Ireland being richer actually means you’re less likely to vote for the right.

Another interesting point -clashing with a forest of journalistic articles, America is actually a state where income is a better predictor of voting than most-in France and Germany for example it barely predicts at all.

In the United States. Among religious types in the United States overall Mormons are massively Republican, evangelical Christians fairly Republican (it's important to remember a very large % of evangelicals in the US are black so this is despite that), non-evangelical protestants very close to even. Catholics fairly Democratic and Jews as massively Democratic as Mormons are republican.

. All these groups are more likely to support Republicans if they go to church normally as opposed to virtually never. However the difference in effect is huge. For mainstream Protestants it makes next to no difference while for Catholics the effect is slight though significant (my understanding is it's much bigger for Hispanic Catholics. The effect is however huge for evangelicals- and even larger for Mormons and interestingly Jews.

While Jews vote about 7-2 for Democrats Jews who attend Synagogues every week is about evenly split. To look at it another way while among non attendees non evangelical Protestants are about 5 times as likely to vote republican as Jews there is virtually no difference between Jews and non-evangelical Protestants who go to church every week. This incidentally would seem to suggest problems for explanations of the left-wing behaviour of American Jews that root it in the influence of the old Jewish tradition.

I hope I have shown just a few of the ways this book is valuable. Anyone who has any real interest in the politics of the most powerful nation on earth should find it useful and informative. I will post some more on this invaluable book-including some of my problems with some of their conclusions but it really is a great work.

February 18, 2009

Dixie Looks Abroad Part 5- the Myth of a Martial Tradition?

One last thing Fry is highly sceptical of is the notion of a southern Marital tradition. Building on a growing and powerful secondary literature he shows that in fact at certain times the south has actually been underrepresented (for example in the military post war and with World War 1 Volunteers ) and of course his complex and well thought out account helps show many alternative explanations of Southern Foreign Policy.

However I do think he goes a bit too far. The exceptions of lack of marital zeal can be explained- was the military any less southern than other national institutions after the Civil war-and this was the military that was both over staffed and had crushed the white south in battle? There are genuine sociological characteristics whether a greater ante-bellum zeal for dualing or their greater enthusiasm for the death penalty today that are not simple or uni-dimensional but would seem to have implications for the use of punitive force. Finally when every major War in US history (except arguably the Civil War-truly the exception that proves the rule) has received disproportionate support in the south whether the War of 1812, the various Indian wars, the American-Mexican War, probably the Spanish-American War, World War 1 , World War 2, the Korean War, The Vietnam War and the Iraq war-it's very hard not to believe there is a general pattern.

Again I must repeat Dixie Looks Abroad is truly outstanding. My criticisms are a reflection of its richness not it's weakness. I strongly recommend anyone who wants a historical perspective on southerners and Foreign Policy to read it . Frankly the book would be worth it just for the footnotes-but it is so much more.

February 15, 2009

Israeli elections 2

To return briefly to the subject of Israeli elections I thought i'd provide a number of links. I would like to emphaise i'm linking because I find the articles interesting (particularly in the political analysis/ reportage)-not because I necessarily agree with them at all-as one can see from the degree to which they contradict each other.

Israeli politics is very polarized and virulent and Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem post(a right wing Likudnik) column's are an excellent example of that and that is one reason why I include her column- . I also think though that her two fold interpretation of the election is a very reasonable one (that it is a victory for kadima among the left and the right among swing voters). Her assessment that particular in Israel itself a government that includes "leftwing" parties can command more power to take hawkish stands strikes me as a very strong one. Both assessments are also supported by this Haartz column by Yitzak Laor. Laor's normative views are very far removed from Glick's but (with the exception of the disputable role he gives to the poltical power of "street action") his assessment of the election is very very similar.

A rather different take was taken by Shmael Rosner (of the Jerusalem Post but writing in the center-left New Republic- an american media outfit which tends to take centrist positions on Israeli elections). He see's the victory as a defeat for ideology- with likud being fundamentally a centrist party that shares a broad consensus of distrust of the Palestinian authorities and a willingness to concede peace. In a sense he disagrees with Glick/ Laor on the degree to which Likud is willing to compromise. My feeling is his right-but that does not mean he will not be proven wrong in practice in the sense the Likud may find any actually suggested deal unacceptable.

I think very powerful arguments are made by former US assistant secretary of state (and a big supporter of Israeli territorial concessions) Walker that in fact Netanyahu is far more "pragmatic" and willing to make concessions than the Glick/ Laor axis suggests ( on a factual note technically it should be noted Began was willing to hand over parts of the West Bank to "Palestinian" control just not Palestinian authority-but new local government authorities). Here incidentally is an article in 1999 (when Netanyahu was defeated for reelection) by Daniel Pipes- very much a hawk in Israeli taking Walker's view of the last Netanyahu government in a stronger form-as a leader whose tough rhetoric blinded rather than revealed his actual course of policy.

Finally one news story and one post. This interesting report by an Israeli (who I assume backs Kadima from Halevi's previous writings) on the Israeli city of Acre-where both Yisrael Beiteinu and the openly Arab Nationalist party Balad (which has seats in the Knesset) are very strong. I think the reporting sheds light on at least two things- firstly that leaders never mind voters on both sides are not necessarily simple stereotypes of bigotry but in fact can have a real appreciation of individuals on the other side and are motivated by fear more than anything else. Secondly it helps show the way in which Balad and Yisrael Beiteinu feed off each other politically.

Finally the power of Israeli hawks and other groups unpopular with the international media is often credited/ blamed on Israel's proportional representation system. I've always regarded this as a flawed analysis and I think Matthew Yglesais here gives some reasons why-the notion large minorities do not matter in a first past the post system is absurd. I think it should be noticed opposition to PR has often been a cause of the Israeli "hard right"!

Dixie Looks Abroad 4- Internationalism abandoned ?

Another area where I disagree with Fry is his notion that somehow the South's internationalism was not sincere, that the support for the Wilsonian project reflected partisanship and southern pride more than it reflected any sincere conviction of "internationalism".

Again as with the previous points Fry is not without powerful arguments. He is at his most persuasive when it comes to foreign aid - support already dropping a bit under Truman crashed under the Republican Eisenhower. This arguably reflects though a change in the nature of aid. Aid under Roosevelt served a fairly obvious military

purpose. Even under Truman it was sold heavily as stopping an imminent communist takeover (and allowing resources for western particularly British militarise). By the 1950's there is the beginning of aid as development model (which of course had roots in the Marshall Plan-but that was sold in the US in an urgent anti-communist way) with the anti-communist effects being much vaguer and much more long term. It's worth noting this drying up of aid support continued under Democrats (though of course changes in domestic policy arguably meant Kennedy and Johnson-ironically the first Democrat to be an unambiguous southerner since the 1840's were no longer the South's Democrats in a way even Truman was) -though in fact neither % of the southern vote was much different from Truman's in 1948.

I do think his broader point fails- or rather it in a sense Misses the point. It seems to be based on the notion that buying into the Grand Alliance/ existence United Nations/ NATO/ Marshall Plan necessarily implies the internationalism of the 1950's and 1960's with its large permanent foreign aid budgets, treaties about internal treatment of ethnic groups, agreed international limitations on arms and so forth. It just strikes me the former does not really imply the latter as a logical proposition.

And in fact for example the UN as a body as it was operating in the 1950's received a great deal of scepticism of Dean Acheson perhaps the most important architect of the system If any major foreign policy initiative of the post 40's era was like the earlier form of internationalism it was support for aid and US troops in South Vietnam (which again is not to say one could not logically support the earlier moves and oppose Vietnam-or indeed with more of a stretch vice-versa)-and there the south remained the most "internationalist" part of the United States . It's at least as ridiculous to deny opponents of the Genocide Convention the title of "internationalist" as opponents of the Vietnam War.

Again it strikes me it's perhaps best to think of the 1940's as an era where whether the US was to be integrated into the international state system and binding alliances or not was being decided- with by the early 1950's a huge consensus ( even the likes of Robert Taft accepting this) that it was. The South was a leading light for all these measures . McCarthy's personal appeal can in a sense be seen as a reflection of these debates and the Confederacy again was rather resistant to it (every confederate Senator voted to condemn McCarthy-the only Democrat who managed to absent himself was John F Kennedy of Massachusetts-whose Democrats as well as JFK's dad had been very dubious about aid for Britain).

From the early 1950's onwards the debates have been very different-and in my opinion internationalist is the wrong way to discuss them very few US politicians -there is the odd exception are opposed to the internationalist paradigm I've outlined above. The differences have come down very broadly down to two types. Firstly whether to support the use of military force where the South has remained about the most enthusiastic region in the United States (with the odd exception ) . Examples would include the Vietnam War, The first Gulf War and the second Gulf War. Secondly whether the US should agree to treaties or agreements that limit it's actions and/or internal behaviour / and or requite the US to give some resource. Examples of this would include the Panama Canal Treaty, the various test ban treaties,the genocide convention and Detente with the Soviets.

Here the South has been a lot more sceptical even hostile(and after all as already suggested it's opposition to agreements that effect internal policies e..g the genocide convention can be linked to it's anti-imperialism of the early 20th century) . It's perhaps notable that those wars the south has been most relatively sceptical of (for example Kosovo) have been those that have been sold most in strictly humanitarian ways-and in the US obeying an international system (however ridiculous you may feel that is as a representation of the reality of these wars).

All these debates have happened in a context where the international system set up in the 40's has been a given . The rare deviations have been fairly fringe (the most notable being George McGovern the Democratic presidential candidate's desires to withdraw many troops from NATO) and partial-McGovern was a big fan of the UN and foreign aid , while most Right wing Republicans who support withdrawal from the UN are big fans of NATO. This commitment could be seen as early as the early 1950's where the South was even more opposed to General MacArthur's firing than the rest of the United States.

Indeed looking at realignment over foreign policy in the United States-one could say that what has happened (in small part- domestic politics has a ton to do with this) has been the hawkish South has allied with the north more anti commitment form of nationalist sentiment (a major force in "isolationism) into a new "conservative" school of internationalist politics. Whatever this is it is not isolationism-but rather one of the heirs to the interventionist of the 1940's.

Dixie Looks Abroad Part 3 - the 20th century the south with Wilson and Roosevelt partisan or principled?

I'd now like to examine some ways I disagree with Professor Fry on in terms of the era of the two World Wars. In this era the South has generally been seen as a stronghold of internationalism Fry brings powerful ammunition to bear on this concept-but i think takes it too far.

Firstly he see's the switch during World War I to a more "interventionist" / internationalist stance as being very heavily driven by partisanship. I should emphasise he does not take this to a ridiculous level-he certainly quotes other factors. He also provides some powerful evidence. In the 1920's when Republican presidents suggested their own "internationalist "proposals they got huge opposition from Southern Democrats (which is to say southern congressmen) who tended to actively oppose foreign aid and showed much higher levels of opposition to the World Court than they had to the (more radical) League of Nations. Similarly in World War 2 the fact Roosevelt was a Democrat who had won again and again overwhelmingly victory in the South clearly helped support - republican congressmen in the United States were much less likely to support aid to Britain before entry to the war despite having been if anything the slightly more Teutonophobic party historically. So there is a great deal of truth in this analysis.

I think however he takes it too far. In Several of his examples I think he gives to much weight to partisanship . For example he says partisan motivation (including a love for Wilson as the "southern president") is shown by the reluctance of southern senators to pass the Versailles treaty with amendments to the League of Nations ( the League of Nations and the Versailles Treaty was killed in part by hard-line league supporters the "battalion of death" who combined with opponents of any League to vote down a modified league). However this can equally be seen as a hard-line interventionist position- often measures fail in part because they are seen as too moderate by some people who'd prefer them to the status quo. Similarly he fails to give sufficient weight to the fact that while foreign aid southerners might have voted against in a partisan way they gave much more support to the likes of the World Court (and many of their reasons given for opposition were discontent that it was an alternative to full league membership). And by the late 1930's Southern Senators were happily opposing their party's changes on race- and even siding with Republicans on Some Labour issues- why the likes of Senator Walter George of Georgia who had clashed so bitterly with Roosevelt would back him out of strict partisanship I do not know.

An alternative way of looking at it (which works well for the Wilson administration) is that from the Civil War til the 1930's the south was the Democratic party's core-and with the odd rare exception (1928 presidential election comes to mind) defined their stance-in other words up to a point Wilsonian anti-imperial nationalism and internationalism was the product of the southern political consensus (and much else about Wilson's politics-it was he who killed the anti racism part of the League of Nations Covenant).

And there are many ways it can be tied together. After all Wilson was the one who emphasised self determination famously as a principle in the post war settlement and influenced large parts of the settlement with this principle. He also significantly modified and to an under appreciated degree achieved serious reductions in the harshness of the peace terms for Germany. There is incidentally a reasonable case this was very destructive in the post war era. These themes of self-determination and reconciliation after war (particularly the emphasis on keeping military occupation to a minimum) powerful evoke Southerners of his generation's understanding of key lessons from the Civil War and Reconstruction ( the era after). So Wilson offered a nationalism distinctively different at least in principle from that of a Theodore Roosevelt-an anti imperialist nationalism

At the same time this principle like such fairly vague foreign policy principles can lead to a very partisan spin on particulars. For was foreign aid for Latin America imperialist or internationalist in motive ? This same problem can be seen in the use of partisan cues by Labour mps or Democratic members of congress in determining whether the Iraq or Kosovo wars were "humanitarian" or not - in mattes of judgement the strictest of ideologues can easily end up taking a partisan position. Of course many would argue such distinctions are an absurd one to this day-but that does not rebut the sincerity of such beliefs or the difficulty in operating on the basis of them.

I think this legacy of this ideology can be seen in the speed with which the South backed intervention for Roosevelt (the South supported most aid to Britain by factors of over 8-1 , other regions rarely went over 2-1 in support)-a war which could more easily than World 2 be seen as a simple case of resisting imperialist aggression by Germany. Moreover there was an obvious ethnic factor. White southerners are heavily English in background- by contrast the Midwest the most German-American region was an isolationist stronghold. This helps explain why Southern Democrats were actually more solid than northern in support-and thus the south as a whole massively more supportive of aid for Britain (this of course also feeds to the enthusiasm for the South in World War 1).

Or to put it another way Fry argues against seeing the south as internationalist but with slavery dead and buried there is a strong case that it was naturally inclined to a pro British but anti-imperialist "internationalism"-and this fits well with the record of the South in the early 20th century.

In a latter post I hope to talk about some of the ways this era has implications for Fry's views on the post World War 2 era.