The major thing next week’s elections will prove is that hard-core cultural conservatism is simply unsellable in Virginia anymore. I mean, if Ken Cuccinelli couldn’t sell himself to an off-off-year electorate–which is to say, the most conservative possible general electorate in the state due to well-documented turnout patterns among young and minority voters in off-year elections–then it can’t be sold. In fact, not only could it not be sold, it’s become a deep negative in the state to the extent of helping turn the election, which is sort of a new development.

Gotta say that McAuliffe has turned it out in spite of my initial doubts. You don’t win what should be a close race on paper by double-digits without doing something right, even if that something is merely stepping out of the way. It’s looking like that outcome is almost certain, the only question left is how big the coattails are. It ought to be a way to remind people of the shutdown again as well, since that issue appears to be what doomed Republicans here.

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  1. Dead or In Jail says:

    Lev -- I know that you and I share an interest in structural issues in politics and the way they affect substantive outcomes.

    So I have a question for you regarding one of Virginia’s “peculiar institutions.”

    No, I’m not talking about the off-off year election.

    As you probably know, Virginia has a one-term Governor. (I think that the Governor would be permitted to run for two non-consecutive terms but I’m not sure.)

    In any case, I have had a hunch for a while that this would be a beneficial and reasonable reform for the US Presidency. My proposition for reform would be to switch the term(-limit) for POTUS from two four-year terms to one six-year term.

    What do I suspect would be the benefits of this scheme?

    The main one is that I think that the two-term presidency comes with strange incentives: basically, presidents are judged automatic “losers” if they lose reelection while arguably “winners” if they attain a second term. I think that if the President could be liberated from that sort of electoral pressure, s/he could focus more intently on beneficial policy outcomes and this would likely benefit all Americans. For example, every President would try to deal with our eventual entitlements crisis instead of just putting it off until their second (lame-duck) term.

    I also think that this would shift the focus of the electorate away from “horse-race” politics and towards policy considerations. This would be good.

    One potential drawback, however, is that this would have (negative?) implications for the composition of the Congressional electorate.

    I’m interested to hear your view on this issue. (Unlike my idea to expand the House to 1000 members, I am not 100% sure of this proposal.)

    Part of the reason that I think that this would “work” (what does that even mean in this context?) is that I think that Virginia is a rather well-governed state. But I know that it is far too direct to draw a line from the one-term governorship to a decent level of governance.

    • Lev says:

      Virginia’s system has worked pretty well for Virginia, seems like. However, the problem with potentially scaling it up to the presidency is that the latter is a much bigger job, even from what it was two or three decades ago. It’s unsurprising that most presidents these days take a few years to get fully up to speed to where they are able to operate and “pull the levers” effectively. Under a single four-year term, you’d most likely sacrifice quality of governance as presidents would have to leave by the time they get everything figured out, and in all likelihood increase partisan polarization if every election cycle is an open seat. Which is not really something that bothers me, though it does for many…

      In general I oppose term limits because I don’t like restricting the options of who the public votes for. I’d prefer to use legislation to limit the length of the campaign season and the amount of advertising that could be run instead, as well as who could pay for it, how much, etc. None of which is particularly likely to come top-down given that current successful politicians owe their success to the current system. Absent that, a single six-year term is something I might give serious thought to, plenty of democracies (like Mexico and the late unlamented Confederacy) have employed that system. Additionally, this country has way too many elections, and 1.5 times less presidential elections (as well as an expanded four-year term for House members) might be a reasonable compromise if it were actually achievable.

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