Sep 24, 2022Liked by James J. Heaney

About the midterms I can do little but wait to be devastated, elated, or bored. So let me turn to the more interesting soul-sickness of the Marvel Comic Universe, on full display in No Way Home and other recent films obsessed with "the multiverse." Spencer Klavan has a fascinating article on this in the Summer 2022 issue of the Claremont Review of Books. It seems we live in a universe where nothing ultimately matters, where no act has lasting consequences for the hero or the universe as a whole, because there's always another hero and another universe where it's different. Tony Stark died, so what? We've got a million of him. Klavan also discusses the way some physicists have leaped to the multiverse idea to avoid the embarrassing fact that our universe is governed by a number of physical constants that are apparently independent of one another, each of which would make life (or matter as we know it) impossible if it were a tiny bit different. If there are infinite universes, we just happen to be in the one that makes possible the existence of people who talk about universes. One problem is that this idea is at least as unprovable, at least as much a leap of faith, as belief in an intelligent Creator.


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Oh, now I HAVE to find time to write my Spider-Man review, because I think the multiverse is only the surface-level problem with No Way Home -- though, as you (and Klavan) observe, a very big and telling one.

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Is pulling away the filibuster as much of a given as you’re presenting it here? Or would that still be a battle even within the ‘Blue Wave’ scenario? Just wondering if the odds there are closer to 50% of 1/3 or 100% of 1/3

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Sep 25, 2022·edited Sep 25, 2022Author

President Biden thinks that he can guarantee the fall of the filibuster with only 52 senators, and just vowed that to the nation: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/23/biden-promises-to-codify-roe-if-two-more-democrats-are-elected-to-the-senate.html That article does not say the word "filibuster," oddly, but the promise is predicated on its elimination.

Nancy Pelosi was more explicit: https://mobile.twitter.com/TeamPelosi/status/1572958899149238272

Most Dem candidates in close races have all committed to abolishing the filibuster; it is, for the most part, a requirement for winning a Democratic primary in 2022. (I say "most", because I haven't thoroughly checked, but I think it's actually "all.")

And *all* sitting Dem senators have committed to filibuster abolition, except Manchin and Sinema (hence the need for two more Dem senators who aren't named Manchin or Sinema): https://battleborncollective.com/filibuster-tracker/

However, that was a show vote. Everyone knew it would fail. There is always some possibility that, when push comes to shove, some Democrats who voted for filibuster reform when it couldn't pass might get cold feet. Many of them have an excuse, at least a bit of one: they technically voted to abolish the filibuster only for voting-rights bills. That's a distinction without much of a difference in terms of Senate precedents, but it might be enough of a rhetorical thread to give a hesitant senator an out. We have seen politicians from both party run on things that couldn't pass, then balk when they had a chance to actually pass them, like Obamacare repeal (GOP) and a national $15/hr minimum wage (Democrats).

So I think that, if the Democrats actually get 52 Senators, as Biden/Pelosi have promised, they only have maybe a 65% chance of killing the filibuster, because all it would take is ONE more defector to save the filibuster.

But if they get 54, I think it's more like 90-95% sure. They would need THREE defectors to prevent the nuclear option, at that point. Given the promises made and votes already taken, I don't see too much chance of that many senators breaking ranks.

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Your own scenarios point out that there isn't a truly equal three-way in potential results. The polls have missed Red voters more than Blue.

Also, "National DeSantisism", what a ridiculous concept. DeSantis is simply doing his own spin on Trump's America First platform, and it's Trump who is successfully reshaping the GOP to be more Populist than Neocon.

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The polls have missed Red voters more than Blue (in the past 11 election cycles), but by a narrow margin. Looking at the distribution (3-3-5), it seems like it's probably a tossup between the three outcomes. The higher number of errors against Republicans is most likely statistical noise (although it *could be* real, it doesn't *seem* to be based on the data we have).

There's a second, related-but-not-identical argument that looks only at the past four election cycles (2014, 2016, 2018, 2020) and notes two things (1) the error was against Republicans fully 75% of the time in those elections, and (2) the realignment of white working-class voters during that time period provides a plausible explanation for *why* we would start seeing greater errors against Republicans. The argument goes that we should therefore expect the error to go against Republicans again here in 2022.

I think that argument is overconfident. First, it's working off a very small sample (4 elections is just not enough to establish a pattern). Second, pollsters hate being wrong and will work very hard to correct errors legitimately. Third, the "polls always err against Republicans" idea has gone mainstream. RealClearPolitics has reworked its Senate projections (very sloppily) with this idea in mind. Nate Silver talks about it regularly. Trafalgar gloats about it. Jezebel whines about it. The man on the street *expects* Republicans to do better than polls report, at this point. This conventional wisdom is much, much stronger than the actual data we have to support it.

This kind of ubiquitous conventional wisdom tends to corrupt polls. Pollsters that get a strong pro-Republican result say, "Okay, yeah, that looks right, that's what common sense says it should be," and release it. Pollsters that get a strong pro-Democrat result say, "Hang on, that can't be right, that goes against common sense," and spike the poll. The result is that polls end up biased toward Republicans, because only the Republican-favoring polls get published. (This is called herding.)

There is a healthy chance that this herding is happening right now. Combine this with a lot of potentially new and hard-to-reach voters driving to the polls because of Roe backlash, and there's a real opportunity for pollsters to miss in the opposite direction of what everyone expects.

Of course, they might also miss in the direction everyone expects. Or they'll get it just right. I don't think this is easily predictable. So I think that the odds of a polling error in either direction remain roughly equal.

That being said? Republican polls have improved so much in the past month since I wrote this article (and especially in the past week since I wrote the Big Penguin article) that Democrats would need a very substantial polling error to win this. The odds are no longer roughly equal. Republicans have a clear edge and are highly likely to take at least one house -- or, failing that, at least to hold Democrats below 52 seats in the Senate.

As for National DeSantisism vs. National Trumpism: they are two peas in the same populist conservatism pod, yes. But the difference between DeSantisism and Trumpism is that Trumpism is mostly about projecting a certain kind of image. You project the *image* of populism, the *image* of reining in wokeness in the military, the *image* of stopping illegal immigration. But you mostly don't actually *do* anything about them.

DeSantisism is the evolution of that program, where you don't just project an image; you actually make concrete progress toward the stated goal. That's why the Left is more scared of DeSantis '24 than they are of Trump '24. To be sure, Trumpism was a necessary step; conservative populism had to establish itself as a movement before it could start actually advancing its goals. President Trump was the only person in the 2016 primary capable of accomplishing that. Perhaps he is even capable of taking up the mantle of DeSantisism and accomplishing things like firing U.S. attorneys who refuse to enforce the law. But that is what I mean by the label.

Thanks for your comment and welcome to De Civ!

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