Voice

Why John Bolton Makes Me Jolly

In Politico, Maggie Haberman reports about a possible new foreign policy super PAC on the scene: 

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is forming a super PAC to try to prod candidates on foreign policy issues during the 2014 midterm elections.

“I am going to test the hypothesis of the political operatives who say ‘Americans don’t care about foreign policy.’ ‘It doesn’t touch their daily lives.’ ‘They don’t care about it,’” Bolton told WABC radio host Aaron Klein.

“I don’t believe that,” he added. “I think it’s the political operatives who are wrong. I think it’s critically important we get more effective spokespeople for American national security in the House and the Senate. I want to find them. I want to support them. I want to get them elected. I want to strengthen their hand on the floor of the House and the Senate.”

Now, on the one hand, there is something very admirable about this.  John Bolton clearly has deeply-held beliefs about American foreign policy, and it's clear that he's willing to put other people's money where his mouth it.  That's what democracy is all about. 

On the other hand, this was pretty much my immediate reaction after reading Haberman's story: 

Let's list the ways in which I find this funny:

1)  There is zero, repeat zero evidence that Americans place a significant priority on foreign policy in their voting choices.  So either John Bolton is right and millions of Americans are lying to pollsters to cover their secret shame of really caring about foreign policy... or John Bolton is wrong. 

2)  Now, to be fair, there is a recent counterexample to this larger narrative, which was the extent to which Americans were interested in Syria as the Obama administration contemplated the use of force.  The thing is, any glance at the polling on that issue showed majority support for the anti-neoconservative position on Syria as possible.  [Doesn't this mean Bolton is right to form a super PAC to counteract this public opinion trend?--ed.  Bolton's comments suggest otherwise.  He thinks there's this silent majority of super-interested foreign policy hawks in the United States.  That's just nuts.]

3)  There are still rich people in the United States who think it's a swell idea to give John Bolton large sums of money.  Now in some ways this isn't surprising -- as Chrystia Freeland noted over the weekend, "having your own policy-oriented think tank is a far more effective status symbol among the super-rich than the mere conspicuous consumption of yachts or private jets."  Still, there comes a point where I would imagine the super-rich would actually want, you know, results -- and there's no way John Bolton is going to deliver on that.

So, thanks to John Bolton -- I needed a good laugh to start off the week.

Am I missing anything?    

Daniel W. Drezner

You Can Find Political Science Research Topics Everywhere -- You Just Have to Know How to Look

So this happened last night:   

As a diehard Red Sox fan, this worst-to-first season was particularly sweet.  However, not all political scientists have been thrilled with this October playoff season: 

 

 

I must say I'm disappointed with my political science colleagues. A good political scientist can find interesting research questions in any sphere of life -- and the Monkey Cage is populated by good political scientists.  So, as my way of saying goodbye to a wonderful 2013 baseball season, here are three suggestions for more in-depth research: 

1) "Does the Eastern Establishment Still Exist in Politics?  A Social Media Analysis." As their first tweet suggested, the Monkey Cage was sick and tired of the baseball tweets littering their Twitter feed.  One wonders though -- was this a function of the baseball playoffs, or the fact that the Boston Red Sox were in the playoffs?  It shouldn't be that hard to cull the Gang of 500 Twitter feeds and compare their content during this World Series with last year's, which featured the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers.  Are DC politicos and journalists more likely to be fans of East Coast teams?  Is there an East Coast bias in the American body politic as well as sports?    

2)  "Does Soft Power Matter in Baseball Success?  A Statistical Analysis of the 2013 Boston Red Sox."  If I have to read one more story about how Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington re-stocked the Red Sox roster with "character guys" and how that was the difference this year, I might vomit as well.  That said, even 2013 World Series MVP David Ortiz told reporters that, "We probably didn't have the talent we had in 2007 and 2004."  This is dying for a John Sides/Lynn Vavrek reunion book. Did the Red Sox win because they had better talent, or because they somehow lulled other teams into rolling over and wanting what the Red Sox wanted? 

3)  "Creative Destruction or Mimetic Isomorphism?  Examining Hot Stove Strategies in 2013-2014."  Social scientists ranging from Joseph Schumpeter to Kenneth Waltz have argued that failing actors will copy the winning strategies of successful actors.  Sociological institutionalists like John Meyer, however, would argue that these strategies are copied in form rather than content.  The dominant narrative of the Red Sox success was "dumping high-priced free agents and signing mid-level 'character guys' to short-term deals."  This is pretty much the opposite of, say, the 2008 New York Yankees strategy that enabled them to win the 2009 World Series and lash themselves to Alex Rodriguez for the rest of this decade.  We're already seeing dubious essays about how investors can use the Red Sox strategy to make more money.  Will the 2013/14 off-season show genuine adaptation by baseball GMs -- or merely superficial adaptation.  An excellent crucial case:  whether Willie Bloomquist is in high demand. 

Readers are strongly encouraged to suggest additional research topics -- the social effects of a beard subculture in urban politics, the 'natural experiments' created by an entire region staying up way too damn late for an entire month -- in the comments.